Inventory Site Record

Kensington Gardens (including Kensington Palace Gardens) * (Kensington & Chelsea)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

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.

Practical Information
Site location:
Bayswater Road/Kensington Road, Kensington
W2 2UH/W8 4PX
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park
Kensington & Chelsea
Open to public?
Opening times:
6am - 15 mins after dusk. Palace - Summer: 1st March - end Oct: daily 10am-5pm. Winter:1st Nov to end Feb: daily 10am-4pm
Special conditions:
Entrance fee for Palace
Kensington Palace, Serpentine Gallery, Orangery Restaurant, playgrounds, Princess Diana Playground
Scottish, Country Dancing in September. Summer music at Bandstand. Children's entertainment during Summer including puppet shows. Friends events
Public transport:
Tube: Bayswater (Circle & District); Queensway and Lancaster Gate (Central), High Street Kensington (District, Circle). Bus: 70, 94, 148; 9. 10, 49, 52, 70, 452
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington_gardens/; www.hrp.org.uk

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

The royal park is largely in the borough of Westminster, but the westernmost strip west of the Broad Walk is in RB Kensington and Chelsea, including Kensington Palace and its gardens.

The origins of the royal park date from the late C17th, when land was incorporated from Hyde Park (q.v.), with varied development taking place in the C18th and later. On the site of the present Kensington Palace, Nottingham House was rebuilt in 1661 for Heneage Finch, later Earl of Nottingham, whose house was purchased in 1689 by William III. It was subsequently much enlarged and remodelled as Kensington Palace, by Christopher Wren 1690 - c.1695 and by Thomas Ripley 1723-26, and it has interiors by Wren and by William Kent of 1723-27. The Orangery was built in 1704-05, probably designed by Wren but executed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, possibly with revision by Sir John Vanbrugh. Following the late C17th formal gardens beside the Palace, the layout of the gardens and park around Kensington Palace was redeveloped by Stephen Switzer and Charles Bridgeman in the early C18th, followed by William Kent. Numerous early C18th views record the formal gardens, which were extended in the 730s when Kent created the Long Water and the Serpentine, now lying between Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. From the early to mid-C18th remain the Broad Walk, extending north-south between Black Lion Gate on Bayswater Road and Palace Gate on Kensington Road, and the Round Pond, roughly octagonal, aligned to east of the Palace. In the later C18th and early C19th the earlier formal layout was progressively softened, leaving largely open areas of grass, which were crossed by paths between entrances and features within the park, and having numerous mature trees.

The principal garden features of the mid- and later C19th include the Italian Garden and area of fountains and sculpture at the north end of the Long Water, c.1860, and the Albert Memorial, 1863-72, on the south boundary of the park. An avenue northwards, aligned on the Albert Memorial, leads to the Statue of Physical Energy, which was erected in 1907, a work by G F Watts. On the west shore of the Long Water is the statue of Peter Pan, 1912, by Sir George Frampton.

In the immediate area of Kensington Palace, the sunken garden was developed in 1908-09, which comprises a central paved rectangular pool with rising areas of massed bedding on each side, enclosed by trellised walkways. The park has numerous mature trees, including plane, chestnut, lime, sycamore, beech, holm oak and ash but considerable loss or damage occurred in the storms in October 1987. Located near to Kensington Palace, the Diana Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground opened on 30 June 2000, in memory of the late Princess. Inspired by the story of Peter Pan, the playground has a large wooden pirate ship as the centrepiece. Kensington Palace Gardens are currently being re-landscaped with the principal aim of reconnecting the palace to the neighbouring park. The project is being carried out by Historic Royal Palaces and the landscape and building improvements are due to be completed by summer 2012 to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee of HM The Queen, much as the last round of significant improvements to the royal estate in 1897 marked the Diamond Jubilee and 80th birthday celebrations of Queen Victoria, who was born at Kensington Palace in 1819.

Sources consulted:

EH Register entry: Royal Parks Review, 'Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens', 1992; N Braybrooke, 'London Green', 1959, pp19-46; Nathan Cole, 'The Royal Parks and Gardens of London', 1877, pp7-10; H Davies, 'A Walk Round London's Parks', 1983, pp48-69; N Pevsner rev B Cherry, 'London I', 1962, pp248-250; G Taylor, 'Old London Gardens', 1977, pp139, 141, 144, 168-172; G Williams, 'Royal Parks of London', 1978, pp91-133. Edward Impey 'Kensington Palace, The Official Illustrated History', Merrell/Historic Royal Palaces, 2003; Sally Williams, ‘The Ingenious Mr Charles Bridgeman’ and his Work at Kensington Palace’ in The London Gardener, vol 11, 2005-06, pp19-39. For further publications, see R Desmond, 'Bibliography of British Gardens', 1984.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ258800 (526060,180141)
Size in hectares:
111 (12.26 in RBKC
Site ownership:
Royal Parks Agency (Kensington Palace: Historic Royal Palaces)
Site management:
Royal Parks Agency; Friends of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
Late C17th, C18th and later
Stephen Switzer & Charles Bridgeman in early C18th, followed by William Kent
Listed structures:
LBI: Kensington Palace; Orangery. LBII: Entrance Gates; Old Barrack Block; Garden Temple; Statue of Queen Victoria, Statue of William III, Upper Stables; Gate piers and wall to right of Upper Stables
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

NHLE grade:
Grade I
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Royal Park (WCC & RBKC)/Kensington Palace
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Metropolitan
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Area of Metropolitan Importance

Kensington Gardens (including Kensington Palace Gardens) *

Kensington Gardens - Albert Memorial - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 25/06/13 09:37

Click a photo to enlarge.

More photos

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