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A Brief History: Kensington Church Street

Kensington Church Street has a rich and exciting history, but today most people might recognise it as the home of The Churchill Arms, the pub that’s festooned in flowers, shrubs and greenery. During the summer months you’ll see it decorated in pots of pink pansies, and during the winter, tiny fir trees with bright lights. However, there’s a lot more to the street than a brightly coloured pub.

The street is one of the oldest thoroughfares in Kensington. The parallel east-west roads (now Kensington High Street and Notting Hill Gate) date back to the Roman times and used to provide key lines of communication and transport. It had a narrow twisting lane, now known as Kensington Church Street that connected the two.

Years later, the road connected two small settlements, one around the parish church of St. Mary Abbots, after which Kensington Church Street was named, and one at Notting Hill Gate. The latter was where people used to dig for gravel in the early 17th century. In fact, the area around St Mary Abbots Church gets a mention much before this in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book in 1086, where the rural village of Kensington boasted 18 farms and 240 inhabitants.

As houses, schools and infrastructure began to pop over the following centuries, so did all the shops, bringing with them the rich and famous. From the Italian composer Muzio Clementi who lived at Number 128 from 1820 to 1823 to Madonna, many have had a lasting love affair with Kensington Church Street.

But it’s not been without its drama either. In August 1975, two members of the IRA’s Balcombe Street Gang placed a bomb in the doorway of a shoe shop. An explosives officer from the Metropolitan Police, Roger Goad, unsuccessfully attempted to defuse it safely and was killed.

Now of course, alongside the famed arts and antiques shops that attract the most stylish interior designers, there are some suitably suave coffee shops and clothing shops on Kensington Church Street. From Georgian dressers at Reindeer Antiques to quaint cupcakes for afternoon tea at the Candella Tea Room, there’s something for everyone. A sight that the Romans might have found hard to believe.