In 1876 William Henry Gibbs and John P. Flew, builders from Dorset, decided to capitalise on their modest success in Kensington, by recreating another 'South Kensington' on the market gardens west of the West London Railway. They built 1,200 houses in the village of North End in the parish of Fulham. However, the housing slump of the 1880s left them with many unsold properties. Their response was two-fold, to have North End renamed as 'West Kensington' and to build a bridge over the railway, from their estate to link with the Cromwell Road in fashionable Kensington. They succeeded with the first plan, but the second led to bankruptcy and the dissolution of the partnership in 1885. However, the campaign for the bridge was taken up by local residents and the West Cromwell Road bridge was eventually commenced in 1938 and opened in 1942. Gibbs and Flew thereafter carried on separate businesses with a measure of success in Fulham.
West Kensington is primarily a residential area consisting mainly of Victorian terraced houses, many of which are subdivided into flats. There are excellent examples of Victorian architecture, with several houses and some entire streets listed – including the imposing mansion blocks of Fitzgeorge Avenue (off North End Road) and the mansion blocks around Avonmore Road including, Glyn Mansions (Built 1897), Avonmore Mansions and Avonmore Gardens (Built 1893) which is located next to the new Kensington Village development. West Kensington Court was purpose built and completed in 1938 with a view of providing what were considered at the time luxury flats for young professionals and families wishing to move from older-style properties. There are also a number of ex-local authority and local authority buildings around the North End Road, including the recently renovated Lytton Estate. Many of buildings have been sold off. A more recent private development, St Paul's Court, was built in 1980 on the former site of St Paul's School.
West Kensington is a cosmopolitan enclave. There are significant populations of Arabs, Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, Irish, Italian, Spanish, and French, for some of which private schools teaching in their native language can be found around Brook Green. The area also has a large student population, as it is close to Imperial College London, Charing Cross Hospital, South Kensington, Hammersmith and other Central London Universities.
West Kensington has a major advantage in its location. Spill-over wealth from Kensington (W8) means that the area has brought more speciality shops, catering establishments and other developments. West Kensington straddles the border between the boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea. Although the area has not experienced the same level of investment and rejuvenation as neighbouring Earl's Court and Fulham, new building and renovation work continue. W14 became the first London postcode area without a post office, until a sub-post office agreement was reached with North End News in February 2009.
On 26 February 1975, Stephen Tibble, a 22 year old police officer of the Metropolitan Police, was fatally shot by Liam Quinn, a member of the Provisional IRA, after a chase near Barons Court tube station. It was later discovered that a flat on Fairholme Road was used by the IRA and Quinn himself as a 'bomb factory'.
Local business consists of small shops, offices and restaurants, with the Olympia Exhibition Centre nearby. West Kensington is within easy reach of Earl's Court, and the Broadways of Fulham, Hammersmith and Notting Hill. There are several pubs and hotels, including The Albion public house, which is reputedly haunted. The Baron's Court Theatre is also located in basement of The Curtains Up bar and restaurant. The Carnival Store is a longstanding fancy dress and costume shop in Hammersmith Road and family owned for the past 40 years.
Avonmore Road has become home to Kensington Village, built in the 1880s. Whiteleys Furniture Depositories, laundry and stables in Westbourne Grove was London's first department store. The high-ceilinged Warwick Building was used as a depository for Whiteleys-sourced furnishings (grand pianos, chaise longues, oriental room dividers, mahogany wardrobes) for the use of those resident in the colonies. Kensington Village now consists of a blend of modernised Victorian buildings, such as the Warwick Building, and modern additions such as the Pembroke Building, built in a similar style with London stock brick and red lintels and full-height glazing.
West Kensington is also home to the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, the three St James Independent Schools, and St Paul's School for Girls, where Gustav Holst was once director of music. (Two of his works are entitled the Brook Green Suite and the St Paul's Suite.)
West Kensington is well served by public transport.There are three underground stations near at hand:
West Kensington (District line)
Barons Court (District and Piccadilly lines)
Kensington (Olympia) (District line and London Overground)
There are seven more in the vicinity:
Hammersmith (District, Piccadilly, Circle and Hammersmith & City lines
Earl's Court (District, Circle and Piccadilly lines)
High Street Kensington (District line)
Fulham Broadway (District line)
West Brompton (District and London Overground)
Gloucester Road (District, Circle and Piccadilly lines)
Goldhawk Road (Hammersmith & City and Circle lines)
Shepherd's Bush (Central and Hammersmith & City lines)
West Kensington Station, the District line branch (running between Kensington Olympia-Earl's Court-Kensington High Street), Piccadilly line from Barons Court/Earl's Court, Circle and District line from High Street Kensington, Hammersmith & City line from Hammersmith tube station, and the Central line from Shepherd's Bush and Holland Park.Overground: The London Overground is available from Kensington (Olympia) station and Shepherd's Bush.
Bus: Several Bus routes are available in the area including the 9, 10, 27, 28, 49, 391 and C1. Along Hammersmith Road, there are numerous buses linking the area to Paddington, Hammersmith, Chiswick, Notting Hill, Oxford Street, Aldwych, King's Cross and Trafalgar Square. The N9 bus also runs from Olympia to Heathrow via Isleworth and West Middlesex Hospital.
Road: West Kensington is also conveniently located close to the A4 (West Cromwell Road) with links to the West and Heathrow and High Street Kensington with links to the Central London/West End.
Queen's Club – home to The Queen's Club Championships
Olympia Exhibition Centre
Sotheby's central London sales room is located at the Olympia
Blythe House stores and off-site facilities for Victoria & Albert, Science and British Museums
North End Road Market
Charing Cross Hospital
Earls Court Exhibition Centre
Kensington High Street
Blythe House has been used as a filming location for numerous films including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
In the film Trainspotting, the flat that Renton shows the young couple around when he gets the job as an estate agent and ultimately stashes Begbie and Sickboy in is 78A North End Road, opposite West Kensington tube station.
The Nashville Rooms, now the Famous Three Kings pub, hosted many rock and punk concerts in the 1970s and early 1980s. Joy Division, The Sex Pistols and The Police all played there regularly.
In Hanif Kureishi's novel The Buddha of Suburbia, the main character moves from the southern suburbs of London to West Kensington and lives by the Nashville. He witnesses one of the first presentations of a punk band, probably The Sex Pistols.
The flat featured in the 1969 BBC series 'Take Three Girls' was at 17 Glazbury Road.
Heather Graham and Mia Kirshner play upper-middle-class dilettantes from West Kensington in the 2008 movie Buy Borrow Steal.Edward Burne-Jones, artist, resided at the Grange, North End Crescent, West Kensington.
William Crathern, composer, was organist of St Mary's, West Kensington (at that time known as North End).
Edward Elgar, composer, lived at 51 Avonmore Road, W14, 1890–1891.
Peg Entwistle, Broadway actress whose 1932 suicide from atop the Hollywood Sign forever tagged her as "The Hollywood Sign Girl", had her earliest childhood at 53 Comeragh Road.
Estelle, rapper, was born and raised in West Kensington; her song "1980" was written about growing up in the area.
Marcus Garvey, Pan Africanist, founder of the Black Star Line shipping company and the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, lived and died in West Kensington.
Mahatma Gandhi, lived on 20 Barons Court Road (West Kensington) while studying law.
Henry Rider Haggard, author, lived for several years in Gunterstone Road and wrote King Solomon's Mines and She while there.
Adelaide Hall Jazz singer and entertainer lived at 54A Fairholme Road until her death in 1993.
Stephen Hester, chief executive, Royal Bank of Scotland
Gustav Holst, composer, music director at St Paul's Girls School, an independent school on the south side of Brook Green, 1905–1934; for his pupils he wrote the St Paul's and Brook Green suites, the latter being his last composition in 1933; girls from St.Paul's formed the choir at the first public performance of Neptune from the suite The Planets.
James Hunt, Formula 1 champion, lived in Normand Mews, 1980–82.
James MacLaren, architect, designed 22 and 22A Avonmore Road for sculptor HR Pinker.
Freddie Mercury, rock singer, and Mary Austin lived at 100 Holland Road, W14.
Stirling Moss,British former Formula One racing driver, was born in West Kensington in 1929
Queen (band) shared a flat at 36 Sinclair Road.
Sir John Tenniel (1820–1914), artist and cartoonist, lived at 52 FitzGeorge Avenue, West Kensington until his death on 25 February 1914.
William Butler Yeats lived in Edith Villas with his family in 1867.
The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea have resolved to grant outline planning permission for Sir Terry Farrell's Masterplan for the Earl's Court Project. As the Earls Court Project would bring considerable benefits to the area, it was recognised by the Mayor’s London Plan as an Opportunity Area in July 2011. The project, expected to span 15-20 years, would involve the redevelopment of the land around the Earl's Court Exhibition Centres and the West Kensington & Gibb's Green Estate. The proposals include the redevelopment and creation of four new village centres around North End Road, West Kensington, West Brompton and Earl's Court.