#35: High Street Kensington – 03/01/2019

OK. So I’m not sure if this should be included but I’m here now so I’ll get on with it. The reason for including is that the station serves as the end of the District Line shuttle service to Olympia (Kensington). The doubt I have is I haven’t included any other similar destinations on other lines where the scheduled service ends before the geographic end, for example West Croydon on the TramLink? A debating point maybe once I’ve completed this particular series. For now though I give you High Street Kensington…

The Station

Fairly typical of the period when stations were built out of traditional London brick with facades now influenced and somewhat defined by their modern towering neighbours, High Street Ken as it’s popularly known is no different.

As I explore the station platforms, I come across one of Mark Wallinger’s ‘Labyrinth’ artworks. You’ve all seen them in passing as you scurry through your stations, and you may have thought as I did, ‘how curious’ without a second thought. Today I stop to admire and ponder at its purpose and realise this is a unique piece of work given away by the numbering. This is number 237 out of 270…270 being the magical number of underground stations.

Follow this link to learn more about the artists and this art installation across the underground and then muse with understanding when you see the next one and realise its own uniqueness.

The main entrance, which opens onto the high street, is awash with travellers, mostly looking to see the sights and I spotted this group of girls hogging the central walkway taking a selfie.

High Street

Fashionable high street names and couture independent shops adorn The HIgh Street which is dominated by the once towering Barker’s department store. What remains is a classical Art Deco style building that you can’t but be impressed by. The real beauty of the area though is only a short stroll away across the road as I begin to explore the back streets and mews in the immediate vicinity.

First I stroll through the cloisters of St Mary Abbot Parish Church which is still bedecked in Christmas lights. I stop to read several of the memorial plaques that adorn its walls and porch, and wonder what a lonely worshipper is thinking as he makes his way through the cloisters.

And then into Kensington Church Walk and admire the bijou shops all with their independent stamp and marketplace. I’m particularly drawn to Hermione Harbutt, a bespoke wedding accessory designer, and just up the road, a gentleman’s clothier – Hornets.

Heading back towards the High Street, and westerly following the main road towards Holland Park I reach its entrance which is protected from traffic by some very ornate gates. The history of the park can be read if you follow the link, and I reflect on a visit I made to the park several years earlier when I decided to walk from Earl’s Court to Notting Hill via the park. My recollection of that steamy hot day was of a very steep incline as I trudged my way past the fields and the adjoining school.  

the Design Museum

the Design Museum is at the mouth of Holland Park and I feel my visit today is worthy of particular mention as my interest in design has been piqued since my recent (and last) employment with the Government Digital Service (GDS). One of its cornerstones of enabling transformation is that of understanding the User Needs and creatively designing services that are functional and so so easy to use that people choose to use them. My exposure to creative designers during this time, in particular Ben Terrett, has enriched my experiences and enabled me to look at shapes and patterns with different meaning.

What is ‘good’ design? In the 20th century the Modernists believed that good design was about usefullness.

Museums are a living exhibition encouraging, provoking and challenging you to think about what you see, and if you are repeat visitors, you know you do so in expectation of seeing something new and/or different each time. The Design Museum is no different and I am impressed by its hands-on approach to many of its exhibitions. Two items in particular catch my eye. The tower of numbers which is a 3D printer creation, and a construction hoarding for an Apple store in Taipei created using traditional Chinese paper-cutting techniques.

English Heritage Blue Plaques

Walking around the area I begin to think that those living here must feel rather inferior if they don’t have a blue plaque on their property as it seems almost every other property has one. Maybe a slight exaggeration, but there is a higher proportion of plaques on properties here than other places I’ve visited. There are many links to sites with maps of all the blue plaques of London, but most are out of date as the number of plaques continues to grow. I’d suggest a visit to the English Heritage website for the latest update or download their app.

There was one plaque that caught my eye: that of Ka Mpande Cetshwayo, King of the Zulus, which seemed out of place, but clearly has its place under the ‘overseas visitor’ category. I found this plaque in Melbury Road in a neighbourhood adjacent to Leighton House, the former home, and now museum, of the Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896).

Addendum – Jimmy Page vs Robbie Williams.

I took a picture of The Tower House in Mebury Road but decided to exclude it. I hadn’t realised the significance of the building: it turns out it’s now owned by Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin guitarist. Not only that, he’s also having a spat with Robbie Williams (of Take That fame) about Robbie’s plans to build a swimming pool in an adjacent property. See this BBC news report for details. I was particularly drawn to the shape of the house and the corner gargoyle.

Best Picture

For reasons I’ve outlined above under ‘the Design Museum’, I’m including this photo as my best picture as a personal reminder of my time in GDS. But I also like the picture for what it portrays and the bright colour scheme I’ve captured. The picture tells several stories:

  • that of my personal recollection;
  • on the first level it depicts a portfolio of buildings influenced by different design principles;
  • on the second level a changing mural (the picture snapped it at ‘USER’) leading into a hands-on exhibition; and
  • the top tier showcasing the exposed vaulted roof space now somewhat hidden by an unexplained canopy. I spoke with one of the guide volunteers who was also a little perturbed by the installation of the canopy as he could not see how it aesthetically enhanced the visitor experience…

I hope you enjoy?

See all High Street Kensington pics on Google Photo here – feel free to comment

See the sidebar for a sample of High Street Kensington pics on Instagram

For more info, lookup High Street Kensington Station on Wikipedia

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