Kensington High Street is one of western London’s most popular shopping streets, with upmarket shops serving a wealthy area.
Kensington High Street is the continuation of Kensington Road
and part of the A315. It starts by the entrance to Kensington Palace
and runs westward through central Kensington. Near Kensington (Olympia) station, where the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea ends and London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham begins, it ends and becomes Hammersmith Road. The street is served by High Street Kensington underground station.
From the late 19th century until the mid-1970s the street had three classic department stores: Barkers of Kensington, Derry & Toms and Pontings. Barkers bought Pontings in 1906 and Derry & Toms in 1920, but continued to run all three as separate entities. In a big building project which started in 1930 and was not complete until 1958 (the Second World War halted the project), the company made Derry & Toms and Barkers into Art Deco palaces. On top of Derry & Toms, Europe’s largest roof garden area was created, consisting of three different gardens with 500 species of plants, fountains, a stream, duck, flamingos and a restaurant - said to serve the best high tea in Kensington.
In 1957 House of Fraser bought the Barkers Group and started to dismantle it. Pontings was closed in 1971, Derry & Toms in 1973, and a much condensed Barkers was allowed to continue until January 2006, when the 135-year-old department store was closed for good.
Kensington High Street was also the site of Biba
in the 1960s and early 1970s. When Derry & Toms closed, the iconic store took the building and accentuated its Art Deco style further. But the 1970s recession, coupled with idealistic business ideas, killed Biba
in 1975. The Derry & Toms roof gardens still remain, now known as the Kensington Roof Garden
s and owned since 1981 by Richard Branson’s Virgin.
Kensington High Street’s future as a shopping street has been threatened by the large Westfield London, which opened a short distance away in Shepherd’s Bush in late 2008. However, these factors may be offset to some extent - or even outweighed - by recent changes to the road layout, intended to make the street a more pleasant place to shop. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea decided to experiment with the concept of shared space, which deputy leader Daniel Moylan had studied abroad. Railings and pedestrian crossings were removed, thereby enabling pedestrians to cross the street wherever they choose. Bicycle racks were placed on the central reservation. The effect over two years was a dramatic cut in accidents, down 44% against a London average of 17%.
Kensington High Street is also home to a large part of the British music industry, with the UK offices of major labels such as Universal Music Group, Sony Music, Warner Music Group and EMI all situated in the area.
It is the site of the former Roman Catholic Pro-Cathedral of England, Our Lady of Victories, now a parish church; Kensington Arcade
; and a building housing the Consulate of Romania and the Embassy of Paraguay.