Although most Kensington-schooled children are shepherded through on a class trip, many visitors and residents overlook two small museums that provide a window into 19th century upper-class life in London. Handy to your Aparthotels in Kensington, they’re tucked away in pretty, tree-lined streets in the heart of the borough.
Well worth a visit, the Leighton House Museum and the Linley Sambourne House are Victorian gems located on the east and west sides of beautiful Holland Park.
Leighton House Museum
Positioned between the western end of Kensington High Street and Holland Park, only 15 minutes walk from our Kensington serviced apartments, the Leighton House Museum gets top marks from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which lauds it as "one of the most remarkable houses of the 19th century" and "the best example of a late 19th century artist's home open to the public in the U.K."
Sir Frederic Leighton used this eclectic, opulent villa as both home and studio, a palace for his acclaimed paintings and sculpture. His considerable talent won him a place as associate of the Royal Academy, followed by an appointment as its president in 1878. His 1895 richly colored Pre-Raphaelite oil, "Flaming June", is widely recognized and considered his masterpiece. Astonishingly, this classical painting failed to sell for its reserve of £80 at auction in the 1960's, hence it was lost to the U.K. to a permanent collection in Puerto Rico’s Ponce Museum of Art.
Lord Leighton's collection of 1,000 intricately decorated ceramic tiles from Damascus were incorporated into the Arab Hall adorned with alabaster columns. Here, Lord Leighton received visitors beside the central fountain, under gilded ceilings lined with rich turquoise-colored tiles featuring peacocks, a popular Victorian motif. Up the grand staircase, a domed skylit room with north-facing window was where he placed an easel. These days, this room is used for musical recitals, exhibitions, private receptions and lectures.
Many of Leighton’s works are on view at 12 Holland Park Road, open between 10:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., closed on Tuesdays. £7 general admission, £5 concession.
18 Stafford Terrace
Just 15 minutes walk or couple of minutes by tube from our Kensington serviced apartments is one of London's little-known museums. Extremely well-preserved Victorian town house, it contains much of its original decor and contents, including William Morris wallpapers and stained glass. Number 18 Stafford Terrace in Kensington was the home of a "Punch" cartoonist of upper middle-class means. Edward Linley Sambourne lived here with his wife, Marion, two children and household staff from 1875.
From the pavement, the white stucco house is much like its neighbors. With interiors representative of the aesthetic movement of late Victorian days, the popular use of decorative items from other continents is seen throughout the house.
Linley Sambourne house is open to the public, conveniently located just a block north of the tube at Kensington High Street, five minutes' walk from Holland Park, 10 minutes' walk from the Leighton House Museum. Tours of 90 minutes are guided by costumed actresses representing Mrs. Linley Sanbourne or her parlour maid, with information based on actual diaries. Adult admission is £8, with concessions at £6 and £3. Advance booking is required.