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A Look At What Kensington Has To Offer

Nov 1, 2007
This is a mundane name for a prestigious district, but the High Street is the spine of this walk. Kensington Palace is tucked away with astonishing modesty (compared with Buckingham Palace) and is all the more enjoyable as a result.

There are fine residential streets, two fascinating small museums of the 19C, a particularly leafy and underestimated park and some good shops. These ingredients add up to one of the richest (in two senses) walks in this guide. Note that Leighton House is closed on.

Travel on the Circle and District Lines can be frustrating but is necessary to reach High Street Kensington station, the start and finish of this walk. You emerge from the station through a modern shopping mall to blink in the High Street, with shops stretching away left and right. Opposite, the Bank Melli Iran occupies a compact, very domestic-looking 19C building, it was the Old Vestry Hall, a reminder that this was once the village centre, with the church towering behind.

Turn right. The first main block of shops you reach is the former Derry and Toms now divided into the usual chain stores but once second only to Barkers as one of the great department stores of High Street Kensington. It still has a roof garden, originally a popular feature and still worth visiting for its planting, views and protected birds. It is open occasionally via a separate entrance at 99 High Street Kensington.

Cross Derry Street and behold an even bigger emporium, John Barker and Co now divided up but still to be read as a single building in Parisian Art Deco style by Bernard George. The two thin towers with vertical glazing seem both confident and vulnerable, still conveying a past glamour.

Opposite is a nasty heavy Classical store, also built for Barkers but ten years earlier and certainly devoid of any glamour whatsoever: this is equally true of Richard Seiferts Royal Garden Hotel next door (1965), a slab and podium which manages to make Modernism seem vulgar. There are some interesting blocks on the south side.

Cross over into Kensington Gardens to visit Kensington Palace. There are two reasons to see the palace. First, it is important historically and architecturally with work by Sir Christopher Wren and William Kent, and the state apartments provide a fine tour. Second it is enjoying a growing reputation as a museum of royal dress, with both permanent and changing exhibitions.
About the Author
Archy Ash writes for Property Helper ltd. a site aimed at where people should buy property and their Kensington property needs at http://property-helper.co.uk
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