Pages v-vi

Survey of London: Volume 42, Kensington Square To Earl's Court. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1986.

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The Survey of London started work in Kensington in 1970, on the northern part of the parish. The first two volumes, XXXVII, Northern Kensington, and XXXVIII, The Museums Area of South Kensington and Westminster, were published in 1973 and 1975, the third, XLI, Southern Kensington: Brompton, in 1983, and this volume completes the quartet.

Much of the volume is concerned with the expansion of buildings from the ‘Old Court Suburb’ area near Kensington High Street south and west towards Earl's Court, leading to the final extinction of Kensington's market gardens. This has produced a fascinating mixture of residential types, from the modest early-nineteenth-century semi-detached villas and terrace housing to the substantial twenty-roomed family homes designed by George and Peto. These gave way in turn to the mansion flats favoured by the late-Victorian and Edwardian residents.

Kensington is not, however, wholly residential. To the west, near the Kensington Canal was an area of commercial activity and light industry, while the south side of the High Street developed in the Edwardian period into a major shopping area. Barkers and Derry and Toms could challenge the West End department stores, and their success between the wars is enshrined in two of London's most distinguished Art Deco buildings. The battle between the expansionism of these successful stores and the householders of Kensington Square was one of the hardest fought of local conservation campaigns. Despite the prosperity of the High Street area, however, Kensington is not only middleclass, and this volume also deals with an important Poor Law institution, St. Mary Abbots Hospital, established in the nineteenth century as the Kensington Workhouse and gradually developed into a general hospital serving rich and poor alike. There is also a chapter which looks back over themes common to all three Southern Kensington volumes including some important trends in the building industry and the types of housing erected in the whole southern part of the parish.

This is not only, however, the last volume of the Survey of London to deal with Kensington: it is the last volume to be published by the London County Council and its successor body, the Greater London Council, thus bringing to an end a connection with the Survey of London which has lasted for over eighty-five years. I think it is fair to say that the two Councils have given every support to a dedicated and scholarly team, and it is due to this enlightened policy that the Survey of London has reached its present high standing amongst both historians and Londoners at large, something which was emphasized in the recent debates on the Local Government Bill. I am happy to say that the Government has decided that the work of the Survey will continue under the aegis of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments who have offered the Survey of London team a home alongside their own members working on the county volumes.

On behalf of the Council I should like to thank the many people who have contributed to the volume through their help and advice, most of whom are mentioned by name in the list of acknowledgments. I must also express my thanks to my colleagues on the Historic Buildings Panel, more particularly the Advisory Members. I have to record a number of changes in their ranks, including the deaths of two very long-serving members, the late Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, and Mr. Ian L. Phillips, a distinguished conservationist, whose association with the Survey of London dated from 1954, when the London County Council took over complete responsibility for the series. During the course of work on volume 42, Mr. William Whitfield, Mrs. Bridget Cherry, Dr. John Newman, and Mr. John Harris joined Sir Hugh Casson, Sir Osbert Lancaster and Dr. Henry Cleere as Advisory Members of the Panel.

Work on this volume started under the editorship of Dr. Francis Sheppard, who contributed much of the work on the tangled finances of the Edwardes family, major landlords in the area, and continued under the editorship of Miss Hermione Hobhouse, appointed to succeed him in 1983, following a distinguished career in conservation and historical research. It is difficult in an enterprise like the Survey of London, where an integrated team is so important, to allocate responsibility between individuals and the different areas of research. However, a special tribute must be paid to Mr. P. A. Bezodis who was acting General Editor during much of the progress of this volume and whose experience and expertise have been invaluable throughout its production. The bulk of the textual material was provided by four experienced members of the Survey staff, Mr. P. A. Bezodis, Deputy Editor, Mr. John Greenacombe and Mr. Victor Belcher, Assistant Editors, and Mr. Andrew Saint, the Architectural Editor, and smaller but useful contributions came from Dr. John Martin Robinson and Mr. Alan Powers. Mrs. Gillian Duane and Mr. Philip Temple assisted in seeing the volume through the press.

The plans and drawings were mostly provided by the staff of the Historic Building Division of the Architect's Department under the general direction of the Surveyor of Historic Buildings, Mr. Ashley Barker. The measured drawings and most of the plans were made by past and present members of the Division, as is acknowledged individually in the List of Figures, under the guidance and supervision of Mr. John Sambrook. The rest of the plans were drawn by Kathryn Findlay and Eisaku Ushida. The photographic work was undertaken by the members of the Council's Photographic Unit under the supervision of Mr. Roy Ferriman.

I must also place on record the Council's debt to Mr. Andrew Saint of the Historic Buildings Division, who joined the Survey of London team as Architectural Editor in 1975, and whose work in that capacity has been outstanding. He himself has contributed extensively to the text, while under his tenure the architectural content has been integrated most satisfactorily into the rest of the text, thus making it relate more closely to the building history without losing any of its scholarship and detail. As Architectural Editor, he has been responsible for organizing the drawings programme and also the photographic work.

The Survey of London under successive Editors has reached an exceedingly high standard of historical research. I am confident that the contribution made by the London County Council and the Greater London Council to the recording of London's historical development will continue under the Survey's new sponsors. Local Government can be proud of its contribution to enriching our society.


Chairman, Historic Buildings Panel
Greater London Council
County Hall
September 1985