London Parks & Gardens Trust

Self-guided Walks and Rides

Anticlockwise Kensington Walk


Directions

Photos

Background

This is a circular walk around some of the gardens of Kensington, starting and finishing at South Kensington station. It also passes Gloucester Road and High Street Kensington stations.

On foot, the tour, including visits, would probably take more than a whole day, and most people choose to follow a part of it. However there is a let-out: the C1 bus passes close to many of the most interesting gardens, and its route is marked out in red on the map.

Please be aware of your personal safety and security when walking. Use this text in conjunction with a detailed street map and use designated road crossings where possible.

Start Magnifier

Most of the gardens in this walk are private, but can be enjoyed at any time of year, as there are views into the gardens from the street of most of them. Many of the gardens are open to the public during Open Garden Squares Weekend.


Leaving South Kensington Station, a right turn along Thurloe Street leads you to Thurloe Square.
Thurloe Square
Thurloe Square Magnifier
This private communal garden was provided for residents of Thurloe Square, which was built on the Thurloe Estate. The Estate had passed to John Alexander in 1799, who began house development on the land from 1826. His son Henry Browne Alexander undertook the second phase of building from 1840, which included Thurloe Square. The south-west corner was demolished to make way for the underground railway in 1867. The garden has lawn, shrubberies, borders and flower beds, numerous mature trees and original railings.

On the corner between Thurloe Square and the Cromwell Road lies the Ismaili Centre, with its Islamic-style roof garden.
Ismaili Centre
Ismaili Centre Magnifier
The Ismaili Centre Roof Garden is one of London's best-kept secrets. The serene setting of this beautiful garden reflects Islamic precedent, drawing from the traditions of a faith that has inspired outstanding buildings for many centuries throughout the world. The chahar-bagh (four-part) garden, delineated by a central fountain, draws inspiration from the Qur'anic Garden of Paradise. Sheltered yet open, it combines granite and greenery with geometry, symbolism and the sound and flow of water. Visitors are treated to a sanctuary of calm amidst the bustle of the city below.

On the opposite side of Cromwell Road from the Ismaili Centre lies the entrance to the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of the most famous collections in the world of painting, ceramics, costume and sculpture. The John Madejski Garden is in the centre of the building.
Victoria & Albert Museum
Victoria & Albert Museum Magnifier
The Victoria & Albert Museum, now the largest museum of decorative arts and design, has its origins in 1836 and was established here as the South Kensington Museum in 1857, on part of the site of the Great Exhibition of 1851. As its collections grew, museum buildings were added and by 1883 formed a quadrangle surrounding a central courtyard garden. In 1890 a competition for new museum buildings was launched, which created the new main façade on Cromwell Road. The foundation stone was laid in 1899, and it was on this occasion that the museum's name changed to the Victoria and Albert Museum. In 2001 a major renovation programme was launched, which has included re-landscaping of the central court garden, named the John Madejski Garden after its benefactor. Opened in 2005, it has a formal layout, with an elliptical water feature that can be drained so the area can be used for events.

Carry on along the Brompton Road until you reach the Oratory, one of the principal Catholic churches in the UK, and the home of the gentle and much-revered Cardinal John Henry Newman, whose statue stands beside the forecourt. Turn left up Cottage Place, which will lead you past a quite different sort of church, Holy Trinity Brompton, the seat of the Alpha Course, a charismatic evangelical branch of the Anglican faith.
Holy Trinity Churchyard
Holy Trinity Churchyard Magnifier
Holy Trinity Churchyard was once a burial ground of St George's Hospital. The church of Holy Trinity Brompton was built in 1826-9 set back from Brompton Road with an avenue planted in 1831 leading to the church. The churchyard at the rear of church is now public gardens, where a few memorials remain The garden is predominantly grassed, with a small area of ornamental planting, and has shrubs and mature trees.

At the end of Cottage Place, turn right under an archway, and you will reach Ennismore Gardens. The entrance is on the east side.
Ennismore Gardens
Ennismore Gardens Magnifier
Ennismore Gardens was built on the site of the former paddocks and gardens of Kingston House built in 1770. Named after William Hare, Viscount Ennismore and Earl of Listowel, in former times the gardens stretched the whole length of Prince's Gate. The Victorian garden was planted in 1870 and since the 1980s has been extensively restored and replanted. The garden has a central lawn edged with serpentine paths and dense shrubberies, and is enclosed on 3 sides by cast-iron railings, punctuated by 3 pairs of C19th Portland stone gate piers and four C19th corner piers. An ornamental urn commemorates actress Ava Gardner, who lived here.

Retrace your steps to Ennismore Street, turn left into Rutland Gate and go north on the west side of the Rutland Gate; you will reach Kensington Road, which runs alongside Hyde Park.
 

From here, you might like to take a bus (No. 9, 10, 52 or 452) as far as Palace Gate. Or, if you are prepared to walk for some twenty minutes, you can enter Hyde Park at Prince of Wales Gate, and pass along the south side into Kensington Gardens, past the Albert Memorial (where there is a pleasant open-air café) and emerge at Palace Gate.
Kensington Gardens
Kensington Gardens Magnifier
Kensington Gardens is the former gardens and park of Kensington Palace, established when William III purchased Nottingham House in 1689, incorporating land from Hyde Park. The westernmost strip is in Kensington & Chelsea and contains Kensington Palace and its gardens. Remnants of the early C18th landscaping designed by Bridgeman and Switzer and subsequently by Kent, include the Broad Walk, Round Pond, Long Water and Serpentine. Some of the built structures remain including the Palace and Orangery. In the later C18th and early C19th the formal layout was progressively softened, leaving largely open areas crossed by paths between entrances and features, and numerous mature trees. The Italian Garden dates from 1860s; the Albert Memorial was built in 1863-72. Among formal gardens around the Palace is the sunken Dutch Garden of 1908-9. The Princess Diana Memorial Playground opened in 2000.

Leave Kensington Gardens at Palace Gate and go down the street named Palace Gate, opposite. Where the road swerves to left, you come to Kensington Gate on the left.
Kensington Gate Gardens
Kensington Gate Gardens
The private communal gardens were provided for residents of houses of Kensington Gate, which was developed in 1852 on the site of the old workhouse, demolished in 1849. The land was owned by the Trustees of the Campden Charities estate, one of the three estates in this area, the largest and also the first to be built on. The garden square has mature planes and ornamental trees and shrubs.

Go down Canning Place, the small street opposite Kensington Gate. At the end, after the street bends to the left, turn right into Victoria Grove, which continues into St Alban's Grove, at the end of which is the Builders' Arms pub. Turn right here into Kensington Court Place and then left into Thackeray Street. The poet T S Eliot lived in a flat on the right side. This leads you into Kensington Square.
Kensington Square
Kensington Square Magnifier
This is one of the earliest of London's garden squares, providing private communal gardens for residents of Kensington Square, which was laid out from 1692 in the centre of Thomas Young's development at Kensington. Originally called King's Square after James II, Kensington Square was largely surrounded by fields until 1840. Among famous residents were the painter Edward Burne-Jones, philosopher John Stuart Mill and musician Sir Charles Hubert Parry.

Leaving Kensington Square at the northwest corner, you enter Derry Street and on the left is the entrance to the Roof Gardens, which are on the sixth floor of the building labelled '99 Kensington High Street'.
Roof Gardens
Roof Gardens Magnifier
The Roof Gardens, among the earliest in England, were built for the new Derry and Toms Department Store, which opened in 1933. The Gardens were conceived by Vice-President of Barkers Trevor Bowen, who employed landscape architect Ralph Handcock to realise his vision and comprised 3 gardens from the outset: Spanish Garden, English Woodland Garden and Tudor Courtyard. Opened in May 1938 by the Earl of Athlone, the gardens became a popular attraction. Owned by Biba in the 1970s, and by Richard Branson since 1982, the Gardens are now part of Virgin Limited Edition and host a members' club, a private function venue and, since 2001, the Babylon Restaurant on the 7th floor, which overlooks the gardens. They were extensively replanted in 2008/9 and are still home to exotic wildfowl including pink flamingos. The Spanish Garden is now planted in the style of the 1950s, while the Tudor Courtyard is based on the Biba ethos and planting from the 1970s. The English Woodland is being managed as a C21st environmental and wildlife garden.

Return to Kensington High Street and head west (turn left). Continue for about 700 metres. After the junction with Earl's Court Road, take the first left into Edwardes Square. To reach the entrance to the garden, you will need to go round the square in a clockwise direction until you reach a pedimented building known as the Temple, on the south side.
Edwardes Square
Edwardes Square Magnifier
Edwardes Square is a late Georgian square built as part of the development of the Edwardes Estate, owned by William Edwardes, 2nd Lord Kensington. The private central garden was provided for the use of residents, and has a gardener's lodge in Greek Revival style, known as The Temple. The gardens were laid out in 1820 and have paths, shrubberies, lawns and many fine trees. Today there is an extensive rose pergola, croquet lawn, tennis court and children's play area.

Turn left on leaving the gardens of Edwardes Square and right at the corner of the square, into Pembroke Villas. Turn left through Pembroke Square.
Pembroke Square
Pembroke Square Magnifier
Pembroke Square was built in the first period of development of Lord Kensington's Edwardes Estate in the early C19th, and followed the building of Edwardes Square and Earls Terrace. The square was completed by 1831 following a slow start. Ownership of the garden enclosure was in several hands from at least early C20th, as a result of which only the western portion has been accessible to residents of the surrounding houses, where a sunken rock garden was laid out. Maps of 1837 and 1843 show a building at the east end of the garden; known as 'The Lodge'. It was occupied by a succession of florists before being acquired by Charles Rassell in 1897. Although Rassell made some alterations to the building in 1903, it still looks much the same today.

At the end of Pembroke Square turn right along Earl's Court Road. At the traffic lights, cross Earl's Court Road into Stratford Road (with a church on the corner). A short distance along on the right, opposite Abingdon Road, you come to the tiny and beautifully tended Sunningdale Gardens. Although this garden is not taking part in Open Garden Squares Weekend this year, you can gain a good view over the fence.
Sunningdale Gardens
Sunningdale Gardens Magnifier
This area of Earl's Court was developed between 1852-62, prior to which it was fields. Probably the smallest garden square in the borough, this communal garden was provided for residents of Sunningdale Gardens, sandwiched between the terraces either side and blocked off at one end. Its layout today probably dates from the 1930s, with informal planting, a metal arch with roses, decorative lamp post and paving.

If you don't want to visit Lexham Gardens and Cornwall Gardens (especially if it it is the Sunday of Open Garden Squares Weekend, you may wish to return to the Earl's Court road and turn left, towards the Mosaic Rooms and Nevern Square. Otherwise continue along Stratford Road, turn right at the end into Marloes Road and then immediately left into Lexham Gardens.
Lexham Gardens
Lexham Gardens Magnifier
The private communal gardens were provided for residents of surrounding houses of Lexham Gardens, which were gradually built from the 1870s, the garden probably laid out in 1869. The gardens have the distinction of being the first London square to be offered for sale in 1987 for underground rights (the opposite of air rights). The garden was refurbished in 1990 and among the facilities are a children's play area and ponds with fountains.

From Lexham Gardens, follow the path next to No. 46. Cross a mews and go up a slope into Cornwall Gardens. The middle (second) section is usually the one that opens on Open Garden Squares Weekend.
Cornwall Gardens
Cornwall Gardens Magnifier
Cornwall Gardens was developed from 1866 to 1879 on a block of land belonging to the Broadwood family, the famous piano makers. The garden is in three sections. The magnificent plane trees, planted in 1870, are among the tallest in London and, with several other species, contribute to the tranquil atmosphere of a woodland garden. Most of the railings were lost in WW2, but privet hedges now add to the cosy, secluded feel.

Retrace your steps from Lexham Gardens, crossing Marloes Road, and turn left down Earls Court Road. At the Cromwell Road turn left. The Mosaic Rooms are on the left.
The Mosaic Rooms
The Mosaic Rooms Magnifier
As well as mounting temporary exhibitions, the Mosaic Rooms have a permaculture garden. This hidden green space includes a layered modular garden, fruit, veg and upcycled seating. Talks and events take place and there is a bookshop and café.

From the Mosaic Rooms, retrace your steps back to the junction with Earls Court Road. Cross Cromwell Road, continue along Earls Court Road and cross it at the first crossing. Turn left and then right into Longridge Road. Turn left into Templeton Place, right into Nevern Place and then left into Nevern Square. The entrance to the garden is on your side of it.
Nevern Square
Nevern Square Magnifier
These private communal gardens were provided for the residents of Nevern Square, built in 1880-82 as part of the development of the Edwardes Estate. The garden was laid at an early stage of the development. William Edwardes, whose father had married into the Rich family who owned the Earl's Court Estate, had become Baron Kensington in 1776 and by the early C19th it was the largest estate in Kensington. The family's links with Pembrokeshire are reflected in street names, Nevern or Nanhyfer taken from a Welsh parish and river. The garden was purchased by local residents in 1974, who formed a non-profit-making company. Seven plane trees may have been part of the original planting, and the garden has a wide variety of trees.

Leave Nevern Square at the southeast corner and turn right at Trebovir Road (don't miss the charming little white cottage labelled '1888') then left into Warwick Road. You will find you are opposite the main entrance to the massive Earls Court Exhibition Hall. When it opened in 1937, this was the largest reinforced concrete building in Europe. The second turning on the left leads you into Earls Court Square with its stucco-fronted Italianate houses. The garden is entered from the south.
Earls Court Square
Earls Court Square Magnifier
Earl's Court Square was developed as part of the Edwardes Estate. Building of the square began from 1868/72, the south side the last to be completed. The name derives from the courthouse of the Earls of Warwick and Holland, formerly Lords of the Manor. The communal garden for the use of lessees of the surrounding houses was a simple rectangle with grass, paths leading to a central circular feature and around the perimeter; at one time there were tennis courts. In later years poor maintenance by the owners led to the formation of a Residents Association, who sought to rectify this. A Garden Committee was established in 1974 and improvements have included new steel railings, an irrigation system and flood-lighting, new garden shed, circular seating around the central plane tree and children's play equipment.

Leave the Earls Court Square on the north side, go to the right and cross the Earls Court Road into Bramham Gardens.
Bramham Gardens
Bramham Gardens
Private communal gardens provided for residents of the houses that surround it, which were built as part of the Gunter Estate development from 1840s onwards. Many of the street names reflect the family's connections in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Bramham Gardens, a late square begun in 1883, is larger than many others in the area. The central garden was laid out simply and formally for the use of freeholders and lessees of adjacent houses, who paid a rent for upkeep. As with many garden squares, the original railings were removed for the war effort but have been replaced by replicas in the 1990s. The garden is shaded by tall plane trees.

Continue along Bramham Gardens into Collingham Gardens
Collingham Gardens
Collingham Gardens Magnifier
These ornamental gardens were created for the communal use of residents of Collingham Gardens, built in the 1880s as the Gunter family developed their estate lands in this area. The original elaborate entrance gate is still in place, although the railings are modern. The gardens are laid out with lawn, mature trees, flowers and shrub beds and a network of paths.

The northwest corner of Collingham Gardens takes you to Laverton Place, and then to Courtfield Gardens West.
Courtfield Gardens West
Courtfield Gardens West Magnifier
Courtfield Gardens (West) are private communal gardens provided for residents of the houses that surround it, which were built as part of the Gunter Estate development that took place from 1840s onwards. The northern area of the estate was developed from 1865 encouraged by the arrival of the railway. Courtfield Gardens was built between 1873-81 and the communal garden was formally laid out with lawns, flowerbeds and trees. Lessees of housing abutting the gardens had access on payment of rent for its upkeep. The garden today is bounded by replicas of the original railings and is dominated by an unusually large London plane.

Continue along Courtfield Gardens to Courtfield Gardens East, a deeply sunken garden around St Jude's Church.
Courtfield Gardens East
Courtfield Gardens East Magnifier
Private communal gardens provided for residents of the houses that surround it, which were built as part of the Gunter Estate development that took place from the 1840s. The development of the northern part of their estate came a little later, encouraged by construction of the Metropolitan and District Railways and by the new church of St Jude's. Courtfield Gardens (East) was built c.1873 and abuts the church. The garden is unusual in being partly sunken, the lower level apparently the original level of the ground, and the mounds at the edges created from spoil from building the railway.

Return a short way back along Courtfield Gardens, take the first left into Collingham Road. When you reach the Old Brompton Road, turn left. Gledhow Gardens is the next turning on the left.
Gledhow Gardens
Gledhow Gardens Magnifier
Gledhow Gardens are private communal gardens provided for residents of the houses that surround it, which were built as part of the Gunter Estate development that took place from 1840s onwards. Named after Gledhow Hall in Yorkshire, like other streets on the estate this reflects the Gunter family connections in the West Riding. The garden was laid out with lawns, flowerbeds and trees. Lessees of housing abutting and those in nearby Bolton Gardens had access, on payment of rent for its upkeep. It is now owned by the residents.

Go back to the old Brompton Road, turn left and look out for the small, beautiful Bina Gardens East (on the left, at the end of Dove Mews).
Bina Gardens East
Bina Gardens East Magnifier
This private garden at the rear of the terrace of 16-30 Bina Gardens was laid out in the 1880s as part of the Gunter Estate. In 1983 the leases ran out and the garden became wild and overgrown until it was rediscovered when it was purchased by Falkner House School for girls. The school cleared the site, revealing the original layout and it was then set out with planted areas dedicated to different continents. Nicknamed 'The Secret Garden' it is now privately owned and has been restored to its original design, and has a number of sculptures.

Carry on along the Old Brompton Road and at the traffic lights turn left up Gloucester Road into the south side of Hereford Square. The entrance is on the west side, opposite the houses once occupied by the actress Fanny Kemble and the travel writer George Borrow. The east side of Hereford Square is formed by Gloucester Road (which used to be called Hogmire Lane), where you will see the Hereford Arms pub, a very popular local hostelry.
Hereford Square
Hereford Square Magnifier
Hereford Square is a private communal garden provided for residents of the surrounding houses, part of the Day Estate developed from 1847-52 by architect Thomas Holmes. Benjamin Day had married Ann Dodemead in 1743, whose father had land here, and they built Hereford Lodge (demolished 1840s) on what is now the south-west corner of the square. The central garden was part of the original plan and completed by 1848; it has mature trees, paths, lawn, shrub and flowerbeds. Among famous residents was Sir James Barrie, author of 'Peter Pan' who lived at 133 Gloucester Road. During WWII, the garden was used as baseball ground by American soldiers. The bill for broken windows in the pub has not yet been paid.

Continue north along Gloucester Road. No. 113 was occupied by James Barrie when he was writing Peter Pan, and the local residents like to think that it was there that Peter flew in through the window to take the children back to Never Never land. Passing Gloucester Road station on your left, cross the busy Cromwell Road. The first turning on the right brings you to the entrance to Queen's Gate Gardens, opposite No 45.
Queen's Gate Gardens
Queen's Gate Gardens Magnifier
The development of this area of Kensington took place largely after the Great Exhibition of 1851 when Parliament decided to establish a 'cultural centre' and grand residential estate. The land was owned by the 1851 Commissioners and a number of private estates, including the Harrington estate, where building began in 1855 on the site of former market gardens. The gardens were laid out c.1860 for the use of those living in surrounding houses, this privilege extended to those in the near neighbourhood. In WWII there were air raid shelters under the gardens. Since early 1990s the residents have been restoring the gardens, and paths have been re-drawn and gravelled to the original layout. In the interim additional planting had taken place, including a grove of 12 silver birch trees for the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977.

Continue along the south side of Queen's Gate Gardens and turn right until you again meet the Cromwell Road. Turn left, passing Baden-Powell House, the international hostel of the Boy Scout movement. A few yards further on is the entrance to the Natural History Museum, which gives access to the Wildlife Garden.
Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum Magnifier
Following the success of the 1851 Great Exhibition Prince Albert wished to promote the application of science and art to industry with profits from the Exhibition. Government matched the surplus and the land for the site was purchased. The Natural History Museum was built in 1872-80, set back from Cromwell Road behind fine railings and piers with areas of landscaping either side of the central semicircular forecourt. There are fine plane trees and shrubbery, a large area of lawn to the west and a number of sculptural features. In 1995 a Wildlife Garden was created in the south-west corner as the Museum's first living exhibition to show the potential for wildlife conservation in the inner city, an educational resource and research facility. It contains a range of habitats such as fen, reedbed, ponds, hedgerow, heathland, woodland, meadow and chalk downland grazed by a number of sheep.

Continue along the Cromwell Road and turn right down Cromwell Place. You are now in the 'quartier français', which contains the Lycée Charles de Gaulle, the Institut Français and the cultural and technical departments of the Embassy, together with French bookshops, pâtisseries and cafés, and the Cinéma Lumière. South Kensington Station is at the end.