From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
It is hard to define notional boundaries for South Kensington, but a common definition is the commercial area around the tube station and the adjacent graceful garden squares and streets (such as Thurloe Square, opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum). The smaller neighborhood around Gloucester Road tube station can also be considered part of South Kensington, as well as the institution area around Exhibition Road, which includes such famous names as the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Royal Albert Hall, Imperial College London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal College of Art, the Royal College of Music and Baden-Powell House. Although the postcode SW7 mainly covers South Kensington, some parts of Kensington and Knightsbridge also fall under this postcode.
Neighboring the equally affluent centres of Knightsbridge, Chelsea, and Kensington proper, South Kensington covers some of the most exclusive real estate in the world. It is home to large numbers of French expatriates (mainly employed in the financial City centre), but also Spanish, Italian, and Middle-Eastern citizens. A significant French presence is evidenced by the location of the consulate, the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle - a large French secondary school opposite the Natural History Museum - and the French Institute, home to a French cinema. There are also several French bookshops and cafes in the area.
The nearest Tube stations are South Kensington and Gloucester Road.
The area was largely undeveloped until the mid-19th century, being an agricultural area supplying London with fruit and vegetables. However, following the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, an 87 acre (352,000 m²) area around what is now Exhibition Road was purchased by the commissioners of the exhibition, in order to create a home for institutions dedicated to the arts and sciences - resulting in the foundation of the museums and university here. Adjacent landowners began to develop their land in the 1860s as a result of the creation of new roads and a boom in the development of areas around London, and the absorption of South Kensington into London was sealed by the arrival of the Underground to Gloucester Road and South Kensington in 1868, linking the area directly to the main railway termini and to the political, commercial and financial hearts of the city in Westminster, the West End and the City of London.
Notable residents have included:
- Sir Henry Cole (1808–1882), Campaigner, educator and first director of the South Kensington Museum (later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum) lived at 33 Thurloe Square.
- Charles Booth (1840–1916), Pioneer of social research lived at 6 Grenville Place.
- Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1853–1917), Actor-manager lived at 31 Rosary Gardens.
- Sir J M Barrie (1860-1937), playwright and novelist, author of Peter Pan, and his wife Mary née Ansell, actress, at 133 Gloucester Road
- Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), British author and artist, spent her early life in Bolton Gardens.
- Virginia Woolf (1882–1941), British writer, and her sister Vanessa Bell (1879–1961), painter and interior designer, lived at 22 Hyde Park Gate until 1904.
- Francis Bacon (1909–1992), Irish-born British artist lived at 7 Cromwell Place and 7 Reese Mews.
- Benny Hill (1924–1992), British comedian lived at 1 & 2 Queen's Gate.
- Nicholas Freeman, OBE, (1939–1989) Controversial Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea lived in Harrington Gardens, near Gloucester Road.
- Sir Isaiah Berlin (1909–97), liberal philosopher
- Sir Francis Galton (1822–1911), English Victorian polymath, anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, psychometrician, and statistician.
- Robbie Coltrane, actor, comedian, lives close to the area
- Charles Crichton English director and script writer.
- Dakota Blue Richards actress
- Mika singer
- Jason Orange singer (Take That)
- Bono, singer