Kensington High Street in London – a history of shopping


Also called ‘High Street Ken’ it was the site of a medieval church forgotten for centuries and rebuilt in the 1700’s. In the 1600’s Kensington was a country place, practically a village.

King William III bought what was called Nottingham House and turned it into Kensington Palace and went to live there. Obviously the whole area around began to fill up with people and personnel close to the royal court.

Kensington High Street it was built in 1700 and the buildings were in Georgian style, which was the fashionable style during the reign of King George (of which there were three) then it became an unhealthy place and always clogged by traffic.

In 1860 Kensington High Street was widened, the worst buildings demolished and the tube station opened. This led to the opening of several shops. Still in the 1930s the remaining buildings from the 1700s were demolished and replaced by large condominiums.

Kensington High Street in London dates back to the 1700s

In the first decades of the 1900s three large stores opened: Barkers, Pontings and Derry & Toms, later all bought by Barkers. For years they dominated Kensington High Street and by then the street was the main place to be shopping in London even more than Oxford Street.

Purchased in 1957 by House of Fraser, they are now all closed and the Art Deco-style high-rises leased to various chains.

The magnificent roof gardens of Derry & Toms have been purchased by Virgin and can be still admired.

It also opened the popular Kensington Market which closed in 1999. Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church was built in 1869.

It was rebuilt in 1958 after damage caused by bombing during the Second World War.

After the 1970s all of Kensington High Street, gradually losing its big stores, became a less popular destination for shopping. On the positive side, this facilitated the arrival of independent and alternative retailers.

In recent years, Kensington High Street in London continues to be reinvented. It is now attracting the big names in retail but making rents too expensive for the often forced to close independent shops.

The new street refurbishment is also to face competition from the new Westfield shopping centre. In Kensington High Street there are also many UK offices of well-known record companies such as Sony Music, Warner Music Group.

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