Kensington and Chelsea

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was created in 1965 as a merger of the two earlier metropolitan boroughs. It is 12 square kilometres in size and is located on the west side of inner London.

Population change

1966: 215,210 people
1998: 164,000 people

Kensington and Chelsea were both fashionable areas for the wealthy from the 17th century onwards. Situated away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the air was clean and healthy. Large country houses such as Cope's Castle, Campden House and Nottingham House were built with sizeable grounds and landscaped gardens

The district was further built up in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly after 1851 when the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations was held in Hyde Park. Among several legacies of the exhibtion were a group of cultural insitutions: The Royal Albert Hall, the Albert Memorial and the Museum of Science and Art, renamed as the Victoria and Albert Museum in the early 20th century. The arrival of these insitutions went hand in hand with the development of high class housing, from the large white stuccoed houses of the 1860s to red-brick blocks of masionette flats of the 1890s.

The north of the borough had a more chequered history. North Kensington and Notting Dale were areas of poverty and overcrowded conditions. In the 1950s the character of Notting Dale changed with the arrival of West Indian families and workers. Although housing conditions were appalling, a community grew up and by the late 1950s the area was known as London's West Indian quarter. In 1958 rioting by racist white youths shocked the nation, and drew attention to the issue of deteriorating race relations in inner London.

In the 1960s Kensington and Notting Hill acquired a fashionable bohemian reputation. The long-term consequence was gentrification and rising house prices. By the end of the century Notting Hill's residents included millionaires alongside the Black Caribbean community. The Carribean community retains a hold on the cultural character of the district thorugh the Notting Hill Carnival, which emerged in the aftermath of the 1958 riots as a way for the community to assert their confidence and traditions. By the end of the 20th century Carnival had become one of London's most important cultural events and the largest street party in Europe.

The borough's other famous cultural event is the Chelsea Flower Show which has been held since 1862 . Originally known as the Royal Horticultural Society's Great Spring Show, it was held on the site of what is now the Science Museum.

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