Changing Victoria

DSCF0004 - Changing Victoria

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The grade II listed Victoria statue of 1893 at Kensington Palace is currently surrounded by scaffolding to enable major cleaning to take place.
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The conservation cleaning and intended to remove dust, grime algae, droppings, etc.
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This is perhaps the most dramatic change the Victoria statue has seen since being unveiled in its new environment a few years ago.
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That new setting, introduced in 2012, placed the statue within a small ornamental moat (described by the architects as the ‘Victoria Basin!’) has been the most dramatic change since its inception. However other changes have occurred too, too, so we start right from the very beginning.
The statue was designed by Queen Victoria’s sixth child, Princess Louise and shows her mother as she was at her ascension in 1837. The statue was intended for her mother’s jubilee in 1887. Delays in production meant it was not unveiled until 28 July 1893 in the elderly Queen’s presence – a day when our British weather did its usual worst and it just pelted down with rain.
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The statue unveiled at Kensington Palace on 28 July 1893
The statue was actually placed quite a distance from the palace itself right on the edge of the Broad Walk. In 1889 the palace’s gardens had been opened to the public, so its likely the statue was placed right on the palace’s perimeter in order to attract the passing visitor’s interest. Victoria had been a very popular queen hence the move built on her reputation too.
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The statue about 1900 with the walkway round it clearly visible
As early photographs show, the statue was surrounded by a walkway which clearly confirms the idea of capturing the public’s interest. Kensington palace took a step further and opened its doors to the public in the 1920s. However by that time the Victoria statue had been shut off from the public and could only be seen from the Broad Walk.
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The statue in the 1920’s with its walkway infilled. The area was also fenced off.
Many did not know the palace was actually opened to the public, nor could they find an entrance to the gardens nor its buildings! In the very early days the public entrance was via the clock tower archway at the western side. The entrance was eventually moved to the north side where it remained in use until 2010.
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The old, inconspicuous, north side entrance during the palace’s remodelling work.
It was said the gardens’ general appearance signalled that the area was private and out of bounds to the public. During the early years of the 20th Century attempts were made to put this right.
In December 1903 Country Life pointed out a ‘collection of broken-down greenhouses and forcing frames, which have long disgraced and disfigured the area of Kensington Gardens lying just in front of the windows of the palace’. The Orangery Lawn and Sunken Garden were opened in 1908 as part of improvements to counter the criticisms.
It seems the palace went backwards after that – as the 1920s saw Victoria Statue placed out of bounds too. The walkway around it was removed and it could only be viewed from the Broad Walk.
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This view shows how secluded the palace was. Probably late 1980s.
Source Historic Royal Palaces
The death of Princess Diana in 1997 put the world’s spotlight on Kensington Palace. Quite clearly this was a turning point in how the palace presented itself. Following that deeply momentous event the palace became more easier to both see and visit. It would nevertheless take quite a few more years and lots of planning before the palace could become a showpiece that London was proud of.
The Victoria statue was to become the main centre piece for the 21st Century Kensington Palace.

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2005. The palace is a little more open. The trees immediately in front of the palace itself
and the hedge is gone. Source Wikipedia
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A view of the statue in 2008. Its clear a huge disconnect existed between it & the palace.
Note the central walkway to the Round Pond. This was removed in 2014.
The palace’s decision to redesign the entire frontage in order that it be both attractive and welcoming to the public was an excellent idea. The Victoria statue as a centre piece within the new plans has done so much to enhance the palace’s presence for London’s tourism and culture – as well as create a new and exciting phase in the long history of the building formerly known as Nottingham House.
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Artist’s depiction from 2010 showing the Victoria statue in its new environment.
The landscape architect who designed the palace’s new look, Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, says “I remember coming across an American family who were in tears because they couldn’t find the way in. A lot of people didn’t even know it was there.”
Small gardens around the front area that were once used by Princess Margaret became available for public use and this helped towards the palace’s new vision. The former gardens enabled a wide and spectacular avenue with grassed areas to be created with two avenues known as the North and South walks.
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Victoria statue during the remodelling work May 2011. The new moat’s under construction.
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Victoria unveiled again – only just! Hoardings obscure the palace July 2011. Source Google
Kensington Palace was in limbo for two years mostly surrounded by hoardings & scaffolding. The areas kept partially open to the public were part of ‘The Enchanted Palace’ experience. That was described by The Guardian as a “Tim Burton-worthy fairytale.” 🙂
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The statue seen during a palace preview evening 22nd March 2012
In 2012 the palace was reopened along with the statue in its new environment. The main entrance, long hidden was now on the east side and in full view of Kensington Gardens with a pergola designed to attract and lead the eye towards the entrance itself.
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Visitors admiring the statue in its new setting. The tower is Centre Point. October 2012
Even more changes occurred soon after the Victoria statue had been unveiled in its splendid new setting. The central walk from it to the Round Pound was removed. The above picture also shows people on this former walkway. It was replaced by a pair of new, smaller, walkways.
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The wide central walkway from the statue/Broad Walk to Round Pond being removed. 2014
The intention behind the 2014 changes was part of a project to restore this part of Kensington gardens to the original layout created during the 1730’s by the Royal gardener Charles Bridgeman.
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Changes to the paths & Round Pond area. The Broad Walk & Victoria statue are at far left.
Source HMS Decorative Surfacing Limited
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A 2015 view from the palace showing the new smaller walkways either side of the Victoria statue.
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Sept 2016. View along the former central walkway from the Round Pond to Victoria statue.

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