The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) is an inner London borough of royal status. As the smallest borough in London and the second smallest district in England, it is one of the most densely populated in the United Kingdom. It includes the area of Chelsea and Kensington.
The borough is immediately west of the City of Westminster and east of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. It contains major museums and universities in Albertopolis, department stores such as Harrods, Peter Jones and Harvey Nichols, and embassies in Belgravia, Knightsbridge and Kensington Gardens. It is home to the Notting Hill Carnival, Europe's largest. It contains many of the most expensive residential properties in the world.
The local authority is Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council. Its motto, adapted from the opening words of the Latin version of Psalm 133, is Quam bonum in Unum habitare, which translates roughly as 'How good it is to dwell in unity'.
The borough was created in 1965 from the former boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea. Kensington's Royal Borough status was inherited by the new borough. The new borough was originally to be called just "Kensington" – the inclusion of Chelsea was locally supported.
Of its history the council states:
Despite the boroughs being separate originally, Kensington and Chelsea still retain their unique characters. Even the amalgamation of the two boroughs, unpopular as it was at the time, has been accepted. Today conservation combined with the adoption of sympathetic new architecture is seen as a key objective. In every corner of the borough signs of its history can be seen: from Grade 1 listed buildings Kensington Palace and the Royal Hospital, Chelsea to others recalled in street names such as Pottery Lane and Hippodrome Mews.
In 200 years the area has been transformed from a ‘rural idyll’ to a thriving part of the modern metropolis. Chelsea had originally been countryside upon which Thomas More] built Beaufort House. More came to Chelsea in 1520 and built the house, which in More’s day had two courtyards laid out between the house and the river, and in the north of the site acres of gardens and orchards were planted. It was from here in 1535 that More was taken to the Tower and beheaded later that year.. This area of Cheyne Walk continued its historic significance; nearby Crosby Hall sits on the river near the Church of Thomas More, and what was once Thomas Carlyle's residence remains on Cheyne Row.
The borough's royal status was granted on account of its' being the home of Kensington Palace. Commissioned by King William III, Christopher Wren enlarged and rebuilt the original house in 1689, turning it into a fitting royal residence. With the King came many court officials, servants and followers. Kensington Square, until then a failing venture, became a popular residential area. The Palace was regularly used by reigning monarchs until 1760 and since then by members of the Royal family. Queen Victoria was born there in 1819 and it was her home until her accession in 1837.
During the Second World War, civilians suffered great hardship and many casualties with some 800 deaths and 40,000 injuries. A huge army of civilian volunteers was raised, including Auxiliary Fire Service, Red Cross, Air Raid Wardens and Rescue Services. During the Blitz much damage was caused by explosive and incendiary bombs, especially along Chelsea’s riverside. But worse was to come in 1944 with the arrival of the V2 rockets, or flying bombs. Among the buildings either destroyed or seriously damaged, usually with terrible loss of life, were Chelsea Old Church, Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer, Our Lady of Victories, St Mary Abbots, St Stephens and St Mary Abbots hospitals, Sloane Square station, World’s End, the Royal Hospital and Holland House.
The two events that Kensington and Chelsea are perhaps best known for today demonstrate both their traditional and forwarding looking sides. The Chelsea Flower Show, held in the magnificent grounds of the Royal Hospital every May, is attended by Royalty and the ‘cream of society’; whereas the Notting Hill Carnival, held every August Bank Holiday on the streets of North Kensington, has grown over the past 30 years from a small community-based event into Europe’s biggest and most exuberant street party, attracting a million plus visitors.
The borough may be split into the following districts, although these differ slightly to the council's recognized wards :
At the 2011 census, the borough had a population of 158,649 who were 71% White, 10% Asian, 5% of multiple ethnic groups, 4% Black African and 3% Black Caribbean. Due to its high French population it has long held the unofficial title of the 21st arrondissement of Paris.
In 2005, the borough had more of its land covered by domestic buildings than anywhere else in England at 19%, over half the national average. It also had the fifth highest proportion of land covered by non-domestic buildings at 12%.
As of 2010, statistics released by the Office for National Statistics showed that life expectancy at birth for females was 89.8 years in 2008–2010, the highest in the United Kingdom. Male life expectancy at birth for the same period was 85.1 years. The figures in 1991–1993 were significantly lower: 73.0 years for males (ranking 301st in the nation) and 80.0 for females (ranking 129th). Further investigation indicates a 12-year gap in life expectancy between the affluent wards of Chelsea (Royal Hospital, Hans Town) and the most northerly wards of North Kensington (Golborne, Dalgarno), which have high levels of social housing and poverty.
The borough has a higher proportion (16.6%) of high earners (over £60,000 per year) than any other local government district in the country. It has the highest proportion of workers in the financial sector and the lowest proportion working in the retail sector.
In December 2006, Sport England published a survey which showed that the borough's residents were the fourth most active in England in sports and other fitness activities. 27.9% of the population participate at least three times a week for 30 minutes.
Figures released in 2013 by London’s Poverty Profile – a joint project between New Policy Institute and Trust for London – found Kensington and Chelsea to have the greatest imbalance between high and low earners. The top quarter earn at least £41 per hour, three and a half times the level of the lowest quarter at £12 per hour or less.
As of 2014, the Council has 37 Conservative, 12 Labour and 1 Liberal Democrat councillors. The Labour or Liberal councillors have tended to date to have represented areas of the borough with pockets of economic deprivation; some marginal wards in the borough are concentrated towards the north where north Kensington meets Kilburn, Kensal Rise/Green and Ladbroke Grove. All the wards in Holland Park, Notting Hill, Kensington, South Kensington, and Chelsea are termed under the first past the post electoral system safe seats based on their results since the Council's creation in 1965.
The borough has combined a number of services and departments with its neighbours, Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster City Council.
At the 2005 General Election, the borough was divided differently:
Rifkind held the Kensington seat until the 2015 General Election when he stood down after becoming embroiled in a scandal, uncovered by a television investigation, over accepting money in return for access to influential British diplomats and politicians.
|From 1885||From Feb 1974||From 1997||From 2010|
||Part of Regent's Park and Kensington North
||Kensington and Chelsea
||Part of Chelsea and Fulham
The borough has 12 tube stations, on five of the 12 London Underground lines:
with stations at South Kensington, Gloucester Road, Kensington High Street, Earl's Court, Sloane Square, West Brompton, Notting Hill Gate, Holland Park, Latimer Road, Knightsbridge, Westbourne Park and Ladbroke Grove.
Chelsea (SW3, SW10 and partly SW1) has less Underground access than Kensington, the only station within Chelsea being Sloane Square. There are long-term plans for the Chelsea-Hackney line, with a station in the King's Road near Chelsea Old Town Hall, and possibly another at Sloane Square. Its estimated completion is 2022.
National Rail and Overground
Paddington and Victoria are the nearest major railway termini, and National Rail stations in the borough are Kensington (Olympia) and West Brompton (and partly Kensal Green), both served by London Overground and Southern.
Travel to work
In March 2011, the main forms of transport that residents used to travel to work were: underground, metro, light rail, tram, 23.6% of all residents aged 16–74; driving a car or van, 8.2%; on foot, 8.2%; bus, minibus or coach, 8.0%; work mainly at or from home, 7.0%; bicycle, 3.1%; train, 2.1%.
Possible new Crossrail station
The borough council is pushing for an additional Crossrail station in the north of the borough, at Kensal off Ladbroke Grove & Canal Way. A turn-back facility will have to be built not too far west of Paddington, and siting the turn-back at Kensal rather than next to Paddington would provide a frequent service, helping to regenerate the area. London Mayor Boris Johnson stated that a station would be added if it met three tests: it must not delay construction of Crossrail; it must not compromise performance of Crossrail or any other railway; and it must not increase Crossrail's overall cost. In response, the borough council agreed to underwrite the projected £33 million cost of the station to the extent that section 106 payments from the promoters of property developments expected near the station do not reach this sum. The Council funded a consultancy study, which concluded that in many scenarios a Kensal station would not compromise Crossrail performance. Transport for London is conducting a feasibility study on the station. The project is supported by local MPs, the residents of the Borough, National Grid, retailers Sainsbury's and Cath Kidston, and Jenny Jones (Green Party member of the London Assembly). It is also supported by the adjoining London Borough of Brent.
The RBKC is a major provider of social housing in the borough owning 9,459 properties. Of these over 73% are tenanted, with the remainder being leasehold. The management of this housing has been devolved to the Kensington and Chelsea TMO (KCTMO), a tenant management organisation. Their properties include Trellick Tower.
The 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, in which a public-housing tower block was completely destroyed, with great loss of life, drew international attention to the borough. After widespread criticism of the borough council's response to the fire, responsibility for providing services to those affected by the fire was taken away from RBKC. Prime Minister Theresa May previously branded the response to the tragedy "not good enough", with Whitehall civil servants drafted in as part of a beefed-up operation in the local area.
The borough has a number of notable churches, including:
It is home to a small Spanish and Portuguese synagogue, several mosques and the Sikh Central Gurudwara in Holland Park. There are two Armenian churches - Saint Sarkis Armenian Church and Church of Saint Yeghiche
According to the 2001 Census, 24% of the borough's population identified themselves as being non-religious or chose not to state their faith.
Within the borough there are several of London's tourist attractions and landmarks:
The council's education department finances state schools.
The number of French people living in Britain has increased every year since 1991, according to French government statistics. It jumped by 8,716 in 2006, the biggest gain in at least 20 years. French people live throughout much of London, but particularly in Kensington. There are several French schools, officially classed as independent schools in Britain, as they are not maintained or owned by local councils or the Department for Education: La Petite École Française in west London and the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington (which is owned and run by the French state) are among them.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is formally twinned with: