Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

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Kensington and Chelsea
Coat of arms of Kensington and Chelsea
Official logo of Kensington and Chelsea
Kensington and Chelsea shown within Greater London
Kensington and Chelsea shown within Greater London
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
Ceremonial countyGreater London
Created1 April 1965
Admin HQHolland Street
 • TypeLondon borough council
 • BodyKensington and Chelsea London Borough Council
 • LeadershipLeader and Cabinet (Conservative)
 • MayorCllr Gerard Hargreaves
 • London AssemblyTony Devenish (Conservative) AM for West Central
 • MPs
 • Total4.68 sq mi (12.13 km2)
 • Rank316th (of 309)
 • Total143,375
 • Rank154th (of 309)
 • Density31,000/sq mi (12,000/km2)
Time zoneUTC (GMT)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (BST)
Area code020
ISO 3166 codeGB-KEC
ONS code00AW
GSS codeE09000020
PoliceMetropolitan Police

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is an Inner London borough with royal status. It is the smallest borough in London and the second smallest district in England; it is one of the most densely populated administrative regions in the United Kingdom. It includes affluent areas such as Notting Hill, Kensington, South Kensington, Chelsea, and Knightsbridge.

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. The borough is home to the Notting Hill Carnival, Europe's largest, and contains many of the most expensive residential properties in the world, as well as Kensington Palace, a British royal residence.

The local authority is Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council. Its motto, adapted from the opening words of Psalm 133, is Quam bonum in unum habitare, which translates roughly as 'How good it is to dwell in unity'.[1]


The borough was formed by the merger of the Royal Borough of Kensington and the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea, under the London Government Act 1963, which reorganised 86 boroughs and urban districts into 32 London boroughs on 1 April 1965 together with the creation of the Greater London Council.

The new borough was originally intended to be called only "Kensington", but after protests from thousands of Chelsea residents, the then Minister of Housing and Local Government, Sir Keith Joseph, announced on 2 January 1964 that the name of the new borough would be the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.[2]

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."[3]

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. He came to Chelsea in 1520 and built the house, which in his 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.[4] 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.

Kensington's royal borough status was granted in 1901 as it was the home of Kensington Palace, where Queen Victoria was born in 1819 and lived until her accession in 1837. 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.[5] Kensington's royal borough status was inherited by the new borough.

In the 19th century, the last emperor of the Sikh Empire, Maharaja Duleep Singh who was brought to England as a child following the Second Anglo-Sikh War, along with the Koh-i-noor diamond, lived in the borough at 53 Holland Park, while his mother Maharani Jind Kaur (wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh) lived at the nearby Abingdon House till her death in 1846.

During the Second World War, civilians suffered great hardship; there were 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 Hospital, St Mary Abbots Hospital, Sloane Square tube station, World's End, the Royal Hospital and Holland House.[6]

Kensington and Chelsea is perhaps best known today for two events that demonstrate both their traditional and modern aspects. The Chelsea Flower Show, held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital every May, is attended by Royalty and the "cream of society"; and 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; these differ from the council's electoral wards:[7]

See also Kensington and Chelsea parks and open spaces


Population pyramid of the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in 2020
Population census
1801 22,088—    
1811 31,085+40.7%
1821 43,296+39.3%
1831 55,865+29.0%
1841 46,807−16.2%
1851 69,379+48.2%
1861 128,828+85.7%
1871 188,277+46.1%
1881 247,725+31.6%
1891 258,015+4.2%
1901 250,267−3.0%
1911 242,884−3.0%
1921 243,589+0.3%
1931 244,297+0.3%
1941 233,377−4.5%
1951 223,144−4.4%
1961 205,598−7.9%
1971 189,571−7.8%
1981 125,892−33.6%
1991 145,171+15.3%
2001 158,922+9.5%
2011 158,649−0.2%

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. It is the least populated of the 32 London boroughs. Due to its high French population it has long held the unofficial title of the 21st arrondissement of Paris.[9]

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.[10] It also had the fifth highest proportion of land covered by non-domestic buildings at 12%.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

A 2017 study by Trust for London[14] and the New Policy Institute[15] found that Kensington & Chelsea has the greatest income inequality of any London Borough. Private rent for low earners was also found to be the least affordable in London. However, the borough's poverty rate of 28% is roughly in line with the London-wide average.[16]

The following table shows the ethnic group of respondents in the 2001 and 2011 census in Kensington and Chelsea.


Ethnic Group 1991[17] 2001[18] 2011[19] 2021[20]
Number % Number % Number % Number %
White: Total 116,791 84.4% 124,924 78.61% 112,017 70.61% 91,394 63.8%
White: British 79,594 50.08% 62,271 39.25% 46,883 32.7%
White: Irish 5,183 3.26% 3,715 2.34% 2,825 2.0%
White: Gypsy or Irish Traveller 119 0.08% 84 0.1%
White: Roma 1,049 0.7%
White: Other 40,147 25.26% 45,912 28.94% 40,553 28.3%
Asian or Asian British: Total 8,491 6.1% 10,329 6.50% 15,861 10.00% 17,025 11.8%
Asian or Asian British: Indian 1658 3,226 2.03% 2,577 1.62% 3,209 2.2%
Asian or Asian British: Pakistani 830 1,203 0.76% 911 0.57% 1,282 0.9%
Asian or Asian British: Bangladeshi 669 1,148 0.72% 836 0.53% 1,488 1.0%
Asian or Asian British: Chinese 1528 2,592 1.63% 3,968 2.50% 3,839 2.7%
Asian or Asian British: Other Asian 3806 2,160 1.36% 7,569 4.77% 7,207 5.0%
Black or Black British: Total 8,082 5.8% 11,081 6.97% 10,333 6.51% 11,279 7.9%
Black or Black British: African 3070 6,013 3.78% 5,536 3.49% 6,944 4.8%
Black or Black British: Caribbean 3461 4,101 2.58% 3,257 2.05% 3,237 2.3%
Black or Black British: Other Black 1551 967 0.61% 1,540 0.97% 1,098 0.8%
Mixed or British Mixed: Total 6,505 4.09% 8,986 5.66% 9,525 6.6%
Mixed: White and Black Caribbean 1,290 0.81% 1,695 1.07% 1,725 1.2%
Mixed: White and Black African 1,057 0.67% 1,148 0.72% 1,288 0.9%
Mixed: White and Asian 1,863 1.17% 3,021 1.90% 3,047 2.1%
Mixed: Other Mixed 2,295 1.44% 3,122 1.97% 3,465 2.4%
Other: Total 5030 3.6% 6,080 3.83% 11,452 7.22% 14,150 9.9%
Other: Arab 6,455 4.07% 6,384 4.5%
Other: Any other ethnic group 5030 3.6% 4,997 3.15% 7,766 5.4%
Ethnic minority: Total 21,603 15.5% 33,995 21.39% 46,632 29.39% 51,979 36.2%
Total 138,394 100% 158,919 100.00% 158,649 100.00% 143,373 100%


Kensington Town Hall, completed in 1976

As of 2018, the council has 36 Conservative, 13 Labour and 1 Liberal Democrat councillors.[21] The first past the post electoral system is used. The Labour or Liberal councillors have tended to represent the economically diverse areas of the borough; some marginal wards are concentrated towards the north, where north Kensington meets Kilburn, Kensal Rise/Green and Ladbroke Grove. Wealthy white areas, including all the wards in Holland Park, (parts of) Notting Hill, Kensington, South Kensington, and Chelsea, have been safe Conservative seats 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.

The borough is divided between two constituencies represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom:

At the 2005 General Election, the borough was divided differently:

  • Kensington and Chelsea, held by Sir Malcolm Rifkind for the Conservative Party, and
  • Regent's Park and Kensington North (partly in City of Westminster), held by Karen Buck for the Labour Party.

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.[22]

Evolution of parliamentary constituencies in RBKC
From 1885 From Feb 1974 From 1997 From 2010
Kensington North Kensington Part of Regent's Park and Kensington North Kensington
Kensington South Kensington and Chelsea
Chelsea Part of Chelsea and Fulham

Three of the more notable council leaders were Nicholas Freeman, from 1977 until 1989, Sir Merrick Cockell who held the position from 2000 to 2013.[citation needed], and Elizabeth Campbell, from 2017 in the wake of the Grenfell Tower Tragedy to the present day.[citation needed]



The borough has 12 tube stations, on five of the 11 London Underground lines:

with stations at South Kensington, Gloucester Road, High Street Kensington, 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 significantly less Underground access than Kensington, the only station within Chelsea being Sloane Square. There have for some time been long-term plans for a Chelsea-Hackney line, with a station in the King's Road near Chelsea Town Hall, and possibly another at Sloane Square. As of June 2019, the plans for Crossrail 2 materialising show the proposed route tunnelling through Chelsea and featuring a station on the site of Dovehouse Green. The future of this station, being the only fully new station on the proposed line, remains ambiguous; initial scrapping of the station idea [23] have been decried by withstanding placement of the station on official Transport for London information on the route.[24]

A Crossrail station on the original Crossrail route, from Paddington to Reading, has been proposed and endorsed by the council.[25] This station would be located near the northern end of Ladbroke Grove, and would serve the areas of North Kensington and Kensal. The council supports this station concept as it would renew infrastructure and build regeneration benefits in the area.

National Rail and Overground[edit]

Paddington and Victoria are the nearest major railway termini; National Rail stations in the borough are Kensington (Olympia) and West Brompton (and partly Kensal Green), both served by London Overground and Southern.


Many London bus routes pass through the borough, most of them along King's Road, Fulham Road, Kensington High Street and Ladbroke Grove.


Kensington and Chelsea council has been criticised for its lack of support for cycle lanes and active travel in general. In 2019 the council vetoed a flagship programme by TfL for safer walking and cycling in the borough.[26] In 2020 it scrapped a cycle lane along Kensington High Street just seven weeks after it was installed.[27]

Travel to work[edit]

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%.[28]

Social housing and Grenfell tower fire[edit]

Grenfell Tower in the early morning of 14 June 2017.

The RBKC is a major provider of social housing in the borough owning 9,459 properties.[29] Of these over 73% are tenanted, with the remainder being leasehold.[29] The management of this housing was devolved to the Kensington and Chelsea TMO (KCTMO), a tenant management organisation. Properties included Trellick Tower.

The 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, in which a public-housing tower block was completely destroyed, with the loss of 72 lives, drew international attention to the borough. After widespread criticism of the borough council's response to the fire,[30][31] responsibility for providing services to those affected by the fire was taken away from RBKC.[32] 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. Prof Anna Stec who gave evidence as an expert witness to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has urged the authorities to test rescue workers, nearby residents and survivors for carcinogenic chemicals following the fire.[33]


Religion in Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (2018)[34]

  Christianity (48.9%)
  Islam (10.3%)
  Judaism (4.7%)
  Hinduism (1.7%)
  Buddhism (1.7%)
  Any other religion (6.0%)
  Non-religious (26.8%)

The following shows the religious identity of residents residing in Kensington and Chelsea according to the 2001, 2011 and the 2021 censuses.

Religion 2001[35] 2011[36] 2021[37]
Number % Number % Number %
Holds religious beliefs 120,052 75.5 110,011 69.3 93,452 65.2
Christian 98,466 62.0 86,005 54.2 69,335 48.4
Muslim 13,364 8.4 15,812 10.0 16,865 11.8
Jewish 3,550 2.2 3,320 2.1 2,681 1.9
Hindu 1,594 1.0 1,386 0.9 1,584 1.1
Sikh 325 0.2 263 0.2 319 0.2
Buddhist 1,849 1.2 2,447 1.5 1,606 1.1
Other religion 904 0.6 778 0.5 1,064 0.7
No religion 24,240 15.3 32,669 20.6 35,610 24.8
Religion not stated 14,627 9.2 15,969 10.1 14,311 10.0
Total population 158,919 100.0 158,649 100.0 143,373 100.0

Places of worship[edit]

A typical mews in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

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. Westminster Synagogue is also partially located in the borough.

Diplomatic Missions[edit]

The borough's notable districts are home to numerous international diplomatic missions:

High Commissions


Featured places[edit]

Within the borough there are several of London's tourist attractions and landmarks:



Social services transport provided by the Borough

The council's education department finances state schools.[38]

London's Poverty Profile - a 2017 study by Trust for London[14] and the New Policy Institute[15] - found that 75% of 19-year-olds in Kensington and Chelsea have at least a C in their GCSE English and Maths. This is the highest success rate in London.[16]

Independent preparatory schools[edit]

Further education[edit]


Public libraries[edit]

Libraries include the Kensington Central Library, Chelsea Library, Kensal Library, Brompton Library, North Kensington Library and the Notting Hill Gate Library.[39]

International relations[edit]

Town twinning[edit]

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is formally twinned with:

Freedom of the Borough[edit]

The following people and military units have received the Freedom of Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.


Military Units[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "How council works: our Mayor: Coat of Arms". Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  2. ^ The Times, 3 January 1964:Chelsea Name Retained: New Decisions on Three Boroughs Linked 14 June 2018
  3. ^ "The Modern Borough". Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  4. ^ "Thomas More Comes to Chelsea". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  5. ^ "Royalty Comes to Kensington". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  6. ^ "The Boroughs at War". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  7. ^ "Wards | Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea".
  8. ^ "Kensington: Total Population". A Vision of Britain Through Time. Great Britain Historical GIS Project. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  9. ^ Global Business. "High earners say au revoir to France". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 14 August 2012. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  10. ^ a b "Key Statistics: Dwellings; Quick Statistics: Population Density; Physical Environment: Land Use Survey 2005". Archived from the original on 11 February 2003. Retrieved 25 December 2021.
  11. ^ Nadine Burham-Marshalleck (31 October 2011). "Kensington & Chelsea has UK's highest life expectancy - South West Londoner". Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  12. ^ "Top ten fastest growing affluent areas | Business |". Archived from the original on 25 May 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 February 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ a b "London Poverty & Inequality - Trust For London". Trust for London.
  15. ^ a b "Home".
  16. ^ a b "London's Poverty Profile". Trust for London. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  17. ^ "1991 census – theme tables". NOMIS. Archived from the original on 30 September 2018. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  18. ^ "KS006 - Ethnic group". NOMIS. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  19. ^ "Ethnic Group by measures". NOMIS. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  20. ^ "Ethnic group - Office for National Statistics". Retrieved 29 November 2022.
  21. ^ "Local council elections 2018 - Results". Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  22. ^ "Malcolm Rifkind to stand down as an MP at the election after lobbying controversy". Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  23. ^ "Crossrail 2 route shake-up: Transport for London's (TfL) business case proposal scraps Kings Road Chelsea station and opts for Tooting over Balham | City A.M". 26 June 2017. Archived from the original on 27 March 2018. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  24. ^ "Route Map". CrossRail.
  25. ^ "Kensal Portobello Crossrail Station | Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea". Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  26. ^ "Kensington and Chelsea vetoes flagship road safety scheme". the Guardian. 14 June 2019. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  27. ^ "Kensington and Chelsea council criticised for scrapping cycle lane". the Guardian. 30 November 2020. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  28. ^ "2011 Census: QS701EW Method of travel to work, local authorities in England and Wales". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 23 November 2013. Percentages are of all residents aged 16-74 including those not in employment. Respondents could only pick one mode, specified as the journey’s longest part by distance.
  29. ^ a b "Business Plan 2014-17" (PDF). Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 December 2016. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  30. ^ Horton, Helena (19 June 2017). "Anger as leader of Kensington Council appears to blame Grenfell residents for sprinklers not being installed". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  31. ^ MacAskill, Ewen (19 June 2017). "Council sidelined in Grenfell Tower response as leader refuses to quit". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  32. ^ Flood, Rebecca (18 June 2017). "Specialist team set up after Grenfell Tower fire after response 'not good enough'". Daily Express. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  33. ^ "Grenfell soil tests 'reveal huge numbers of cancer forming toxins'". Daily Telegraph. 13 October 2018. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  34. ^ "Population by Religion, Borough". Office for National Statistics (ONS). Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  35. ^ "KS007 - Religion - Nomis - 2001". Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  36. ^ "KS209EW (Religion) - Nomis - 2011". Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  37. ^ "Religion - 2021 census". Office of National Statistics. 29 November 2022. Archived from the original on 29 November 2022. Retrieved 16 December 2022.
  38. ^ "Family and Children's Services". Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. 14 June 2016. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  39. ^ Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Retrieved 13 January 2009. [permanent dead link]
  40. ^ "British towns twinned with French towns [via]". Archant Community Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  41. ^ "Appointment of Honorary Persons". Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  42. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: British Pathé (13 April 2014). "Churchill Receives Freedom Of Kensington (1949)". Retrieved 12 March 2017 – via YouTube.
  43. ^ "Civic Honours granted by the Royal Boroughs".
  44. ^ "Royal Hospital Chelsea gains gift of a lifetime".
  45. ^ "Civic Honours – 41 (Princess Louise's Kensington) Squadron 38 Signal Regiment". Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Retrieved 13 July 2019.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′N 0°11′W / 51.50°N 0.19°W / 51.50; -0.19