Kensington Gardens is a beautiful park with a large pond and the Pirate themed Princess of Wales Playground. The 275 acres of Kensington Gardens are planted with formal avenues of magnificent trees and ornamental flowerbeds. The park provides the perfect setting for Kensington Palace, peaceful Italian Gardens, the Albert Memorial, the bronze statue of Peter Pan and the Serpentine Gallery.
Kensington Gardens’ highlights
- Kensington Palace (which was the birthplace of Queen Victoria)
- Diana Memorial Playground, with it’s incredible Peter Pan inspired pirate ship
- The Victorian Round Pond, known for its water birds, three-spined sticklebacks, eels, roach and gudgeons
- The 1931-built Bandstand, which is used for concerts during summertime
- The magnificent Albert Memorial
- The acclaimed Serpentine Gallery
- The Peter Pan statue
- The beautiful Italian Gardens, which were created in 1860 and consist of gorgeous fountains, ponds and statues.
Activities in Kensington Gardens
Given that Kensington Gardens’ main role is to provide a peaceful refuge in Central London and the importance of its historical landscape, informal sporting activities are not encouraged although they do take place. Additionally, the paths are used extensively by joggers and runners, cycling is allowed on a designated path and the park is popular as a healthy walking route.
A number of guided walks are available at various times throughout the year while Albert Memorial guided tours are provided at set times or can be booked for groups. The Broadwalk Café and Playcafé provide refreshments, including a children’s menu.
Children are sure to be kept entertained by the Diana Memorial Playground, which is themed around the classic kids’ tale, Peter Pan, which has strong connections with Kensington Gardens. The playground has a huge wooden pirate ship as its centrepiece plus a sensory trail, tepees, a beach around the pirate ship and various toys and play sculptures.
The Albert Memorial – A Tribute to Royal Love
The Albert Memorial is located in Kensington Gardens, directly north of the Royal Albert Hall. It was built in memory of Prince Albert by his wife, Queen Victoria.
Prince Albert died in 1861 at the young age of 42, a victim of typhoid fever. Queen Victoria mourned him for the rest of her life, wearing black and rarely appearing in public. She had many statues erected in his honour, but this memorial was the crown jewel of them. It is considered by many to be the perfect architectural symbol of the High Victorian period.
The memorial consists of a large central figure, a seated statue of Prince Albert. The base of this figure is surrounded by the Frieze of Parnassus, which contains 169 life-sized carvings of individual architects, composers, painters, poets and sculptors from history.
There is a large canopy arching over the figure of Albert, it soars to 176 feet at the top of its spire. The canopy is adorned inside and out with mosaics made of enamel and semi-precious stones representing the arts and several historical figures. The niches and pillars of the canopy have carvings representing the practical arts and sciences; near the top of the canopy’s tower are statues representing Christian and moral values.
At the corner of the central area are large sculptures depicting agriculture, manufacturing, commerce and engineering, and at the corners of the outer area, are sculpture groups representing Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. The memorial was planned by a group of architects, led by Sir George Gilbert Scott. A team of sculptors led by Henry Hugh Armstead created all the massive carvings.
John Henry Foley began the central figure of Prince Albert, but it was finished by Thomas Brock, and was his first major work. It was truly a massive undertaking, and it was more than 10 years from Prince Albert’s death before it was completed, at a cost of £120,000. The memorial was unveiled by Queen Victoria in 1876.
By the 1990s, the memorial was in dire need of repairs, so major restorations were undertaken. The entire monument was cleaned, repainted and gilded and structural repairs were made. The central figure of Albert, once time-blackened, now gleams with fresh gold leaf.
The Albert Memorial once again stands as a shining tribute to one remarkable woman’s love for her husband.