The History of the Royal Borough

Queen Victoria (pictured left in her Robes of State) was born and raised in Kensington Palace under the formidably rigid 'Kensington System'. When she acceded the throne, she moved to the comparatively new Buckingham Palace. She gave the Borough of Kensington the imposing title of 'The Royal Borough' in 1901 as a mark of distinction.

The Royal Borough of Kensington merged with Chelsea in 1965 and there were many objections from the residents of Kensington as they felt that Chelsea was a bohemian and inferior borough. The Kensington and Chelsea Borough as it subsequently became called, then also acquired the name of The Royal Borough.


The Royal Borough is the most densely populated local government district in the United Kingdom. This is mainly because the district has many terraced houses which have been converted to flats. Parts of the Borough are also amongst the most expensive in which to reside: Millionaire's Row (Kensington Palace Gardens) in Kensington has properties selling in excess of £20 million. Other parts, however, such as the most northerly sections of North Kensington, have high levels of social housing and poverty.According to the 2001 census, the population of the borough consists of 79% White, 4% Black African and 3% Black Caribbean. Although the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea boasts the largest number of high earners of any local government district in the country, many of its elderly residents are asset rich but income poor, and are unable to access facilities that would normally be available through the social services and many are very isolated.
Kensington Palace
The History of Kensington
The earliest settlement in Kensington is believed to be in the area of the St Mary Abbot's Church on the corner of Kensington High Street and Kensington Church Street. Kensington's development expanded from this location along the Kensington High Street. Following the Norman conquest and up until the beginning of the 16th century, the area was the property of the de Vere family (who later became the Earls of Oxford). There was probably a church on the site of the current St Mary Abbot's since Saxon times, but the present building was rebuilt by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1869-72 from a series of churches on the site that had been built and rebuilt since the 12th century.

Kensington in the 18th century was still largely rural, but close enough to London to make it a desirable area for the aristocracy to build many grand mansions. William III who suffered from asthma and wanted to move to a more rural region bought Nottingham House in 1689 and commissioned Wren to turn it into Kensington Palace. Kensington Gardens was then part of the palace's private grounds. This stimulated more aristocrats to build in the area, and the borough's fate as a location 'inhabited by gentry and persons of note...' ( The 19th century saw the transformation of Kensington from a predominantly rural area with a small population to a metropolitan borough with a population of 176,628 according to the 1901 census.
The Chelsea Flower Show
The History of Chelsea - The Village of Palaces
Chelsea became known as The Village of Palaces in the 16th century as the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Shrewsbury and Henry VIII all had
palaces in the area now known as Cheyne Walk, all of which were much later replaced with town houses. Elizabeth I lived here as a child with Katherine Parr and her husband, Lord High Admiral Seymour.  

Chelsea was first mentioned in AD 787 when Offa, King of the Mercians, held a synod here. The Chelsea Hospital was built in 1682 by King Charles II as a home for old soldiers and was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Today it is the home of the Chelsea Pensioners and hosts the annual spectacular Chelsea Flower Show. In later years, Chelsea became known as the area of intellectuals and artists. Many writers lived here including Swift,
Addison and Carlysle, and the artists included Whistler and Rossetti. The Chelsea Borough Council was formed in 1900, its first mayor being Lord Cadogan. Chelsea became 'the in place' of the swinging sixties with the King's Road having many shops that catered to the hippy crowd. Some of the typical chelsea town houses are pictured above right.