This issue of the Kensington Society annual features Cosmic House, Charkes Jenks’s surrealistic post-modernist house on Lansdowne Walk. The cover picture shows its “Dome of Water” jacuzzi, which is basically an inverted copy of a church dome by Italian 17th century architect Francesco Borromi.

The 2023-2024 Kensington Society annual has arrived

The Kensington Society annual for 2023-2024 has just been sent out to all members. It is the society’s 70th annual and contains some reflections on years past, but most of it deals with current problems and delights, compiled by the annual’s new editor, Martina Margetts, who has taken over after Michael Becket’s 11-year tenure.

Beside a greeting from our patron, the Duke of Gloucester; a foreword from our new president, Lord Carnwath; reflections from our chairman, Amanda Frame; a summery of the 2023 AGM; the financial statement for 2023; 12 pages of planning reports; and 15 pages of reports from our affiliated societies; it contains the following special articles:

  • The annual’s new series about local architects focuses in this issue on the fascinating theorist of post-modernism, Charles Jenks, who, together his wife Maggie Keswick, in the 1980s turned their Victorian end-of-terrace house on Lansdowne Walk into a surrealistic showcase of post-modernism. Both Maggie and Charles are now gone, but their home, since 2018 Grade I listed and known as Cosmic House, remains as a private museum – which on 21 May 2024 was visited by a small group of Kensington Society members.
  • In early 2022, the painter Sir Christopher Le Brun was commissioned to do four monumental paintings for the recently refurbished Ladbroke Hall, the new cultural hub in North Kensington. In an interesting article he writes about those paintings.
  • One of Kensington’s most fascinating individuals is the author Lady Antonia Fraser. Now aged 91, she talks about her long and fascinating life: the daughter of a very liberal Labour minister and hereditary peer who first married a 14 year older Conservative minister and then playwright Harold Pinter, while giving birth to six children and numerous biographies about historic persons as well as detective novels, whereof several have been turned into TV series and films.
  • There is also an exchange of “love letters” between a long-time lover of Opera Holland Park and its CEO, where both express their shared love for this Kensington institution that celebrates 28 years this summer.
  • We get a glimpse of what it’s like to live in a few of Kensingtons many mansion blocks. as Norfolk-born gallerist Philip Athill looks back on 40 years of flat life with his London-born and flat-raised wife Annabel and their children in three mansion blocks within 300 metres of the Kensingtoin Church Street-Kensington High Street corner: Vicarage Court, 18 Kensington Court Place and finally Durward House.
  • The series about local retailers this time features the Spanish food and wine shop Garcia’s, which has been a Portobello Road institution since 1957 and is still run by the same family. New Zealand-born painter Susan Wilson writes how Garcia’s became her refuge when she arrived in Notting Hill in 1976 after a long journey around Spain. Here she could find all the Spanish food she missed. The article is illustrated with a painting she’s made especially for it.
  • Documentary maker and former head of music and arts at the BBC, Kim Evans, writes very personally about the vibrant music and arts scene that developed under and around the Westway flyover in the early 1970s, where shebeens, ska and reggae eventually met male and female punk bands, and where the Notting Hill Carnival every year snakes under and around the flyover, celebrating the music that has shaped British culture.
  • Finally, there is a brief list of the many issues that the Kensington Society has been involved with since 1954.

A digital copy of the new annual be found in the Archive, or by clicking this link.

First published 21/05/2024