The history of West Kensington, London

Lucy Rolla
Author Lucy Rolla
Collection History

West Kensington - the London suburb with a fascinating history

West Kensington in West London has existed in one form or another since the Middle Ages, but has gone through many changes before it became the West Kensington we know today. The area, located between the boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea, is now mainly residential, with a mixture of Victorian houses and more urban developments, but it has gone through both good and bad times to get to this point. In this article, we explore the history of West Kensington.

West Kensington in the Middle Ages

Up until the late middle ages, the area we now know as West Kensington was mainly made up of fields used for archery. However, in the early 17th century, the land was sold for building homes and the area starting taking steps towards becoming the mainly residential area it is today.

West Kensington 1745-1835

In 1745, West Kensington was a village on each side of North End Lane. In 1814, a chapel was built in the village, so the population of West Kensington (then known as North End) grew quickly. The chapel became St Mary's Church in 1835, but was sadly destroyed by a bomb in June 1944. Its replacement was consecrated in January 1961.

In 1876, builders William Henry Gibbs and John P. Flew from Dorset, who had found fame and fortune developing Kensington, set their sites on North End and intended to develop it into 'South Kensington'. However, a property slump in the 1880s meant many of the houses they build stood unsold – to deal with this and save their business, they renamed the area 'West Kensington' and built a bridge to link West Kensington with a fashionable part of Kensington across the river. The name change worked, but the plan to build the bridge failed and the pair went bankrupt and ended their partnership.

West Kensington 1938 - today

In 1938, residents took up a campaign to finish Gibbs and Flew's bridge and, in 1942, West Cromwell Road Bridge opened. After World War II, the council built lots of properties in the area, which became known as the West Kensington estate in the 1970s.

Today, West Kensington is home to a thriving community, with many interesting things to do, such as the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush.Despite being mainly a residential area, there is plenty for tourists too – when it comes to Hotels Shepherds Bush has many excellent options, including the K West Hotel & Spa.

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