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The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

Pleasure grounds and park begun in the late C17 by George London and Henry Wise, incorporating land from Hyde Park, with development from the 18th century by Charles Bridgeman and William Forsyth.


This entry is a summary. Because of the complexity of this site, the standard Register entry format would convey neither an adequate description nor a satisfactory account of the development of the landscape. The user is advised to consult the references given below for more detailed accounts. Many Listed Buildings exist within the site, not all of which have been here referred to. Descriptions of these are to be found in the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest produced by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.


Kensington Gardens is situated in west London immediately to the west of Hyde Park. The gently undulating c 112ha site falls slightly from north to south and is bounded to the north by Bayswater Road and to the east by the West Carriage Drive of Hyde Park. Kensington High Street and Kensington Gore make up the south boundary, and Kensington Palace Green and the rear gardens of houses in Kensington Place Gardens the boundary to the west.

There are a total of twenty-two gateways into Kensington Gardens and, in terms of public use, all except Queen's Gate, Coalbrookdale Gate, and Palace Gate, all to the south of the site, are for pedestrians only. The majority of the lesser entrances were constructed by 1890. Many of the actual gates, like the railings, were melted down in 1942 and now have late C20 replacements. Original gates and railings survive at the Magazine.

Kensington Gardens, laid mainly to grass, are crossed by a number of paths which radiate from the gates and from points within the site. There are two major walks: Lancaster Walk which runs north/south across the centre of the site between Lancaster Gate to the north and the Albert Memorial (1872, listed grade I) on the southern boundary; and the Broad Walk which runs north/south between Bayswater (Black Lion Gate) and Knightsbridge (Palace Gate). Both walks are recorded on Bridgeman's plan of 1728 (reproduced in Willis 1977). The early C18 avenue of elms along the Broad Walk was replaced in 1954 with lime trees.

Kensington Palace (listed grade I) is set close to the western boundary. The brick-built palace has its origins as a small country house, Nottingham House, built c 1605. After it was bought by William III in 1689 the house was only gradually enlarged and did not become known as Kensington Palace until the C18. To the north of the Palace is the brick-built Orangery (listed grade I) constructed for Queen Anne in 1704. The Orangery was probably designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, with some revisions by Vanbrugh (Cherry and Pevsner 1991). The west front of the Palace overlooks Kensington Palace Green from which it is separated by tall iron railings. In front of the C18 entrance gates (listed grade II) stands a bronze statue of William III (listed grade II) erected in 1907. The east front of the Palace overlooks lawns and a statue of Queen Victoria. To the north-east of the Palace is the early C20 Sunken Garden, decorated with herbaceous beds, and the Orangery Garden laid out at the same time but in the Dutch Style.

The pleasure grounds to the east of the Broad Walk are dominated by two pieces of water: the c 3ha Round Pond and the Long Water. Both are based on existing bodies of water which are shown on a plan of 1706 attributed to Henry Wise. The plan shows an oblong basin of water to the west and a string of ten pools to the east. Between 1726 and 1728 the basin was enlarged to the shape of the Round Pond. A series of trout pools along the line of the Westbourne were linked to form the Long Water in 1727 (LUC 1982). The broader, longer Serpentine was made in Hyde Park in 1731, and the two were subsequently linked to form one water body. At the north end of the Long Water are the Italian Fountains (listed grade II); constructed in 1860 as part of The Serpentine cleaning works the fountains are set within four pools with elaborate urns. On the south side stone balustrades with carved roundels flank water nymphs attending the cascade down to the Long Water. Overlooking the fountains to the north is the single-storey Italianate shelter (listed grade II) which was built to house the pumping engine for the fountains. To the north-east of the shelter is Queens Anne's Alcove (listed grade II*). Constructed c 1706-7 and moved to this location in 1868, it formerly stood to the south of the Palace.

The west bank of the Long Water is decorated with lawns, trees, and shrubberies amongst which stands Sir George Frampton's statue of Peter Pan (listed grade II*) which was erected in 1912. At the south end of the Long Water is the Serpentine Bridge (listed grade II) which carries the West Carriage Drive (the eastern boundary of the site), with pedestrian access to Hyde Park underneath it. The bridge was constructed 1825-8 by George Rennie who in 1828 brought the two pieces of water to the same level.



N Cole, Royal Parks and Gardens of London (1877), pp 19-24

N Braybrooke, London Green (1959), pp 49-100

P Willis, Charles Bridgeman and the English Landscape Garden (1977)

Hyde Park, Historical Survey: Report for Royal Parks Agency, (Land Use Consultants 1982)

G Williams, Royal Parks of London (1987), pp 64-77

D Jacques and A van der Horst, The Gardens of William and Mary (1988)

B Cherry and N Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 3 North West (1991), pp 471-489

R Church, London's Royal Parks (1993), pp 26-30


Henry Wise, Kensington Palace and Gardens ad Hyde Park, c 1706, Work 32/312

J Rocque, Kensington Palace and Gardens and part of Hyde Park, 1736

W Forsyth, Kensington Palace and Gardens, surveyed 1784-1787

C and J Greenwood, Map of London, surveyed 1824-1826, published 1827

J Mann, Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, surveyed 1840, published 1846

OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1869

2nd edition published 1894-1896

3rd edition published 1916


Description written: December 1999

Amended: January 2000

Edited: January 2002

Owner: Royal Parks Agency (Kensington Palace: Historic Royal Palaces)

Site designation(s)

The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens Grade I Reference 1284

The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Grade I Reference Kensington Palace; Orangery.

Principal building:

Palace Created Before 1689

The palace was in existence before 1689, when (Named Nottingham House) it was bought by William III and Queen Mary. The buildign has been much-enlarged and embellished since.


Terrain: Gently undulating, falls slightly from north to south.

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