Page 3: The great houses of Kensington

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From the early 17th century Kensington became popular with ‘persons of quality and note’ due to its good position near the metropolis and its reputation for pure healthy air. Three of these great houses can be seen on the skyline on the Beaufort House print on the previous page.

In the 1590s Sir Walter Cope began to purchase land in Kensington, and in 1604 he built Cope’s Castle. After his death the house and the manors passed to his daughter Isobel, wife of Henry Rich, later Earl of Holland. They were retained by the family until Holland House was sold to Henry Fox, later Lord Holland. The house became a noted meeting-place for artists, writers and politicians. Badly damaged by incendiary bombs in 1940, the remains of the house were bought by the London County Council in 1952 and the grounds opened as a public park. Today the park is owned by the Royal Borough.

The second large house was built about the same time and in a similar Jacobean style; this was Campden House. Sir Walter Cope is reputed to have lost this land at a game of cards with Baptist Hicks, 1st Viscount Campden. Later Princess Anne, Prince George and their son William, Duke of Gloucester, took up residence here before she ascended the throne and moved to Kensington Palace. Towards the end of the 18th century the house was converted into a girls' boarding school. The house was destroyed in a fire in 1867 and although a replica was built this only stood for a short time.


Watercolour of Holland House frontage

South front of Holland House; watercolour by John Buckler, 1812
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Coloured engraving of school teacher with students in carved room

The schoolroom at Campden House, coloured lithograph by Charles Richardson
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The History of the Royal Borough

Virtual Museum – The History of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
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