History of South Kensington

From humble food to grand expo

The area now known as South Kensington was previously called the Alexander Estate, named after its nineteenth century owners. At the time the land was largely used for horticultural farming, supplying London with fruit and vegetables.

When these leases terminated, changes were inevitable due to the socio-economic and cultural changes resulting from the Industrial Revolution. Two important events for the estate in the mid-1800’s were the Great Exhibition and the building of the Metropolitan Railway.

In 1851 the Great Exhibition, a spectacular international expo to showcase Great Britain’s achievements in industry, commerce and culture, was held at the famous Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. Arranged by Prince Albert, husband of reigning monarch Queen Victoria, the Great Exhibition attracted 6 million visitors and was the forerunner of a series of international expos of culture and industry.

The Commissioners of the Exhibition bought a large part of the area to create a home for institutions dedicated to the arts and sciences, resulting in the foundation of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum and the Imperial Institute.