I’ve lived in Kensington my whole life, and I love being reminded of the amazing cultural figures who used to walk the same streets as I do. When I walk down Queen’s Gate every morning on the way to work, I think about all my heroes who spent their childhoods here. Some of them near Kensington hotels, in London!
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Everyone who loves London has to love Andrew Lloyd Webber! As the man who wrote so many musicals that define London’s West End, the English tourism industry owes him an incredible debt. Born in Kensington in 1948, Andrew Lloyd Webber was born to a highly musical family who clearly influenced his later success. His father, William Lloyd Webber, is a composer and organist, and his mother Jean Hermione, is a great violinist and pianist. He even had an actress aunt called Viola!
Andrew started writing songs at a very young age, and assembled his first suite of music at the age of nine. Some would say he’s a modern day Mozart!
Not unlike Andrew Lloyd Webber, it’s clear that Virginia Woolf was brought up in a household that could foster and influence her gifts. Woolf is one of my favourite writers, and I’m always fascinated to learn more about her early life, so it’s amazing to me that she was raised at 22 Hyde Park Gate. Her father, Leslie Stephen, was a famous historian, author, critic and mountaineer. Leslie was heavily connected to Victorian literature society, and Henry James was a frequent visitor to their Kensington home. Sometimes I wonder if James saw talent in the young but troubled Virginia.
Everyone has a special place in their heart for Beatrix Potter! The Tale of Peter Rabbit is one of my childhood favourites, and I find it fascinating to think that a young Beatrix was growing up in the lap of luxury at 2 Bolton Gardens once upon a time. Beatrix had a very genteel background, where she was educated at home by three governesses. In what I imagine must have been a sheltered life, Beatrix found a lot of happiness in keeping a variety of mice, rabbits, hedgehogs and other small critters. She began illustrating elaborate fantasies starring her favourite pets, and visiting London art galleries. Sometimes I wonder if she got any of her inspiration from our Kensington hotels in London.
Well, the rest is fluffy bunny history!