History and Locality of South Kensington
Kensington was a small hamlet well outside London for hundreds of years after the city of Londinium was founded by the invading Romans, eager to establish a reasonably secure trading and supply route through the readily navigable River Thames. Even in the times of Henry VIII and Elizabeth 1, London had extended west only as far as Marble Arch – close to the site of Tyburn, the traditional spot for public executions in those days – and Hyde Park, which was established as a Royal Park by Henry VIII, when it was wild country and he loved to hunt there.
There is a Milestone in Kensington Gore, outside the Milestone Hotel, directly north of Harrington Court Apartments, which illustrates the remaining distance the traveller must ride to reach the growing city of London ahead to the east. In Stuart and Hanovarian times, London was growing rapidly as the economy grew along with the growth of the British Empire and it became increasingly fashionable to build townhouses on what were still the outer reaches of London – establishing areas such as Mayfair, Belgravia, Knightsbridge - and the outer reaches of Kensington were established during this time.
Kensington really came into fashion and was established as a clearly defined area in Victorian times. Prince Albert, the much adored husband of Queen Victoria, was looking for somewhere where he could develop a variety of cultural and educational establishments for the good of the people and Kensington caught his eye. The Royal Albert Hall is the most obvious example, along with the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, with its magnificent gothic frontage and the Science Museum were all established under Prince Albert’s lead prior to and after the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851.
When her husband, Prince Albert, Prince Consort, died prematurely in December 1861, the distraught Queen Victoria built a magnificent memorial to her beloved husband and consort on the south side of Kensington Gardens, opposite the Royal Albert Hall. The educational and cultural development in Exhibition Road prompted local landowners to develop their land for residential property in the 1860. New roads were being built and, in 1868, the London Underground – now affectionately “the tube” – arrived at both South Kensington and Gloucester Road Stations and linked these two directly with the main rail termini.
South Kensington is noted as an wealthy and affluent area but is also host to a sizeable student population. Imperial College, London, is located in Exhibition Road and there are a large number of language schools in the area. However, the immediate area of Harrington Court is more typified by a wide range of restaurants, coffee shops and small shops of many kinds as well as by the flashy showroom of Lamborghini and the Christie's auction house in Old Brompton Road.