26 June 2018
Start time:16.45 South Kensington tube station
Finish time: 18.30 Hand & Flower
Royal Kensington is London at its best – picturesque, stimulating, and full of character. Its parts are as delightful as London can provide: everything from warmly handsome old Kensington Palace (home to the late Diana, Princess of Wales) to Kensington Gardens (all meadows, shaded walks, bowers, and flower gardens, it might be the grounds of a stately home in some rural shire) to cobbled little soigné lanes and mews, girt with pretty cottages and charming old shops; and from millionaires’ row and regal avenues to beautifully kept squares and a clutch of the world’s greatest museums; the secluded town house of the greatest Londoner of the 20th-century, an American president’s flat, the most remarkable small literary house in the world, acres of gentility, a secret trap-door into a hidden world, and more history and colourful characters than you can shake a stick at.
Albertopolis is the name given to that part of South Kensington, London which contains a number of leading educational and cultural institutions. It was named after the husband of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, who was passionate about technological innovations of the era. More than 160 years ago the area known as Albertopolis was open fields and market gardens but it was the dream of Prince Albert and Sir Henry Cole, a leading civil servant of the day, to create a centre for Victorian achievements in science and the arts.
The highly successful Great Exhibition of 1851 was held in Hyde Park to the north of the area was the first international exhibition of manufactured products and was influential on art and design. The profits from the exhibition were used to purchase artefacts from the exhibition, the founding collection for the V&A, and the land to develop the area. Prince Albert and Sir Henry were the major force behind the Great Exhibition and Prince Albert was the President of the Royal Commission of 1851, the body that purchased the land.
A number of leading institutions were then built in this area including the Royal Colleges of Art and Music, the Royal Albert Hall, Imperial College, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. A number of older institutes were later incorporated into those we know today including, the Royal School of Mines and the Royal College of Science are now both subsidiaries of Imperial College and the Geological Museum is now a subsidiary of the Natural History Museum.
Exhibition Road forms the central axis of Albertopolis, running from the Albert Memorial and the Royal Albert Hall in the north to the Natural History Museum in the south. It commemorates the Great Exhibition and is the main thoroughfare off which most the area is set. The Royal Geographical Society is also found at the northern end of the road while the V&A is situated at the southern end. The road was completely redesigned in the early 21 century to make it one of the most accessible cultural thoroughfares in the world. It was completed in June 2011 with all kerbs removed and a minimal amount of road furniture allowing pedestrians and traffic to flow in harmony and providing a spacious and safe walkway to access many of the world-famous institutions.
Not only is the product of this region world class but also the magnificent buildings are monuments to Victoria grandeur in design and architecture. To enjoy the history and importance of this most special area of London, sign up for the walk before the Ice-Breaker session.
South Kensington Underground Station