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Philbeach Gardens, Earls Court, c1875, with St.Cuthbert's Parish Church
Typical Earls Court Mansion blocks


Earls Court is a district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelseamarker in Londonmarker, Englandmarker. It is an inner-city district centred on Earl's Court Road and surrounding streets, located 3.1 miles (5 km) west south-west of Charing Crossmarker. It borders the sub-districts of South Kensington to the East, West Kensington to the West, Chelsea to the South and Kensington to the North. The Earls Court ward had a population of 9,659 according to the 2001 Census. It is home to the Earls Court Exhibition Centremarker, one of the country's largest indoor arenas and a popular concert venue.

History

Early history

Earls Court was once a rural area, covered with green fields and market gardens. The Saxon thegn Edwin was the lord there before the Norman Conquest. For over 500 years the land, part of the ancient manor of Kensington, was under the lordship of the Vere family, the Earls of Oxford and descendants of Aubrey de Vere I, who held the manor of Geoffrey de Montbray, bishop of Coutances, in Domesday Book in 1086. By circa 1095, his tenure had been converted, and he held Kensington directly of the crown. A church had been constructed there by 1104. The earls held their manorial court where Old Manor Yard is now, just by the London Underground station. Earls Court Farm is visible on Greenwood's map of London dated 1827.

Railway line

The construction of the Metropolitan District Railway station in 1865-9 was a catalyst for development. In the quarter century after 1867, Earls Court was transformed into a densely populated suburb with 1,200 houses and two churches. Eardley Crescent and Kempsford Gardens were built between 1867 and 1873, building began in Earls Court Square and Longridge Road in 1873, in Nevern Place in 1874, in Trebovir Road and Philbeach Gardens in 1876, and Nevern Square in 1880.

Population

Twentieth century

Following World War II, a large transient population of Australians and New Zealandersmarker stayed in Earls Court, leading to Earl's Court Road being known for several decades as "Kangaroo Alley". It was at the time one of the cheapest areas close to central London, and up until the 1990s remained a somewhat down-at-heel district compared to its more upmarket neighbours to the North and East. Today, while there are still significant numbers of students or other people on temporary visas, many of the Australians and New Zealanders appear to have moved on to now-cheaper areas further North and West. The name "Kangaroo Alley" lingers on in the usage of older ex-patriate Australians and Australian visitors, as does the alternate nickname "Kangaroo Court".

The change in the area's population is largely owed to rocketing property prices and the continued gentrification of the area. This can be seen in the obvious divide between the eastern and western areas of Earls Court.

Following WWII it was in fact Polish immigrants that settled in Earls Court leading to it being dubbed 'The Polish Corridor'. It wasn't until the late sixties that the Antipodean travellers began to use Earls Court as a UK hub. Thus 'Kangaroo Valley'.

Neighborhoods

East Earls Court

"East Earls Court" lies to the south of Cromwell Road and to the east of Earl's Court Road (a main North-South artery and now the Western Boundary of the London Congestion Charge which bisects Earls Court) and is home to many multi-million-pound apartments and houses in smart garden squares and residential streets. The southern boundary of Earls Court is Old Brompton Road, with the area to the south being West Brompton, and the area to the south east being The Beach Area of Chelsea. Here, (based on sale prices per square foot), The Boltons, has some of the most costly real estate in Europe. Houses in The Boltons' have sold for up to £20 million. The eastern boundary of Earls Court is Collingham Road, east of which is South Kensington.

West Earls Court

"West Earls Court," lying to the west of Earls Court Road, is notably different in architecture. This area still contains a number of cheap hotels and cramped apartment houses or rooming houses full of "bed sits" (also known as bed-sitters or bed-sitting rooms). There are, nevertheless, a number of notable exceptions, such as the impressive Earls Court Square and Nevern Square.

Houses in Collingham Gardens, Earls Court


Wallgrave Road


Providence Patch Communal Garden


Architecture

There are some impressive examples of early- to mid-Victorian architecture in the Earls Court ward. Gardens such as Bramham Gardens and Courtfield Gardens are beautiful traditional residential squares with many imposing properties fronting onto them and in the case of Courtfield Gardens, traditional cast iron railings around the enclosed gardens have just been restored (the originals having been removed in 1940 for scrap iron during World War 2) creating a more authentic Victorian ambience. Further West, Nevern Square and Philbeach Gardens are built around impressive formal garden settings (access limited to key holding residents). Collingham Road and Harrington Road, also have some unique buildings, many of them very large and currently used as Embassies. A little further north, just south of the Cromwell Road, the tranquil conservation area comprising Childs Place, Kenway Road, Wallgrave Road and Redfield Lane contains fine examples of more modest terraced townhouses painted in pastel shades in a very picturesque setting with some fine floral displays. Hidden in the middle of this area is London's smallest communal garden, "Providence Patch" built on the site of former stables serving the surrounding houses, which were destroyed by a bomb in 1941. A glimpse of the (private) gardens can be seen via the original stable entrance way in Wallgrave Road

Gay area

A corner of Earls Court is said to have preceded Soho as London's centre of gay nightlife, and there are still some businesses aimed mostly at gay men, though this number is dwindling as gay venues move to Soho and Vauxhall.

In 1964, The Lord Ranelagh Pub (opposite the former Princess Beatrice Hospital) spearheaded the local demand for live entertainment. A young, non-gay, male band, The Downtowners, attracted considerable attention. They persuaded many of the local cross-dressers to come into the pub and perform. Thus the Queen of the Month contest was born.

Every Saturday night the pub was packed to capacity. The show ran from September 1964 until May 1965 when the News of the World ran an article entitled 'This show must not go on.' On that Sunday night the pub was so packed that every table and chair had to be removed. Crowds spilled out on to the pavement onto Old Brompton Road. The police closed the show. Many well known celebrities were among the clientele and the Lord Ranelagh is considered to have played a role in the history of gay liberation.

Local attractions

Earls Court is within easy walking distance of High Street Kensingtonmarker, Holland Parkmarker, Kensington Gardensmarker/Hyde Parkmarker, the Royal Albert Hallmarker, Imperial Collegemarker, the Natural Historymarker, Sciencemarker and Victoria and Albert Museumsmarker. The multi-award-winning Finborough Theatremarker which opened in 1980 is the neighbourhood's local theatre. The Troubadourmarker[44371] is a coffee house and a small music venue, which has hosted emerging talent since 1954 - including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Costello. Earls Court Village is the center of the Filipino British community, where it has a number of Asian restaurants and Filipino supermarkets, many of which serve take-away food.

Earls Court Exhibition Centre


Nearby places

Districts



Tube station



References

Bibliography

  • AA Illustrated Guide to Britain, Basingstokemarker, Hampshire, 5th edition, 1983, p. 240-1.



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