“ ‘What is your conception of beauty?’…

Image: seen in Kensington Gore

…I said I thought it was an omnipresence of death and loveliness, a smiling sadness that we discern in nature and all things, a mystic communion that the poet feels – an expression of it can be a dustbin with a shaft of sunlight across it, or it can be a rose in the gutter. ” Charlie Chaplin, in “My Autobiography” (1964).

Oxford Languages: “gutter: Middle English: from Old French gotiere, from Latin gutta ‘a drop’; the verb dates from late Middle English, originally meaning ‘cut grooves in’ and later (early 18th century) used of a candle which melts rapidly because it has become channelled on one side.”

From Wikipedia:

“Kensington Gore is the name of a U-shaped thoroughfare on the south side of Hyde Park in central London, England. The streets connect the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal College of Art, the Royal Geographical Society, and in Kensington Gardens the Albert Memorial. The area is named after the Gore estate which occupied the site until it was developed by Victorian planners in the mid 19th century. The street replaces part of Kensington Road, connecting what would otherwise be two separate streets. The streets are bounded to the north by Kensington Road (the A315). The nearest tube station is South Kensington to the south.”

From: Online Etymology Dictionary:

“gore (n.2) “triangular piece of ground,” Old English gara “corner, point of land, cape, promontory,” from Proto-Germanic *gaizon– (source also of Old Frisian gare “a gore of cloth; a garment,” Dutch geer, German gehre “a wedge, a gore”), from PIE *ghaiso– “a stick, spear” (see gar). The connecting sense is “triangularity.” Hence also the senses “front of a skirt” (mid-13c.), and “triangular piece of cloth” (early 14c.). In New England, the word applied to a strip of land left out of any property by an error when tracts are surveyed (1640s).”

From: Survey of London: Volume 38, South Kensington Museums Area. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1975.

“An area of some eighty-seven acres, very irregularly shaped and extending from Kensington Gore southward of Harrington Road and from the Victoria and Albert Museum to Gloucester Road, was all at one time the property of the Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851. Some of it remains their freehold. It was bought by them, under their President, Prince Albert, partly with the surplus of that Exhibition and partly with funds voted by Parliament, to provide a site for institutions that would further the general aims of the Exhibition and ‘extend the influence of Science and Art upon Productive Industry’: the purpose was practical, and avowedly directed to furthering the nation’s prosperity…

It testifies to the breadth of the Prince’s conception of applied art that the transference of the National Gallery here was so important to him. He envisaged its being given a dominant position on the site.

It was not, however, the Prince who initiated this idea, although its unpopularity, particularly in the House of Commons, became focused on the Commissioners. In March 1851, because of the inadequacy and unpopularity of Wilkins’s** very recent building in Trafalgar Square, the Liberal Government had appointed a commission to report on possible new sites for the National Gallery, and in July it had recommended part of the site subsequently bought by the 1851 Exhibition Commissioners, on the south frontage of Kensington Gore…In December (1853), however, Bowring anticipated governmental delay in the face of ‘the high price of food, the strikes, the hard winter, and above all the awkward look of matters Eastward’. It was only after the Crimean War had ended that Palmerston’s Government resumed the project. But in June 1856 the House of Commons rejected their Bill…In effect, this was the end of the scheme, although he had the ground abutting on Kensington Gore—later used for the Albert Hall—kept vacant during his lifetime. In the royal circle hopes were still alive in 1866.

It was thus the National Gallery project that had initiated official land-dealings at South Kensington. The attractions of this area for public buildings were strong. The accident of personal and family history had kept a large area southward to the Fulham Road mainly undeveloped and apart from the advantage of propinquity to the Park the terrain was suitable for the purpose. ‘It is a sandy gravelly soil, the most beautiful soil that there can be for buildings’, T.L. Donaldson said with relish. Perhaps the only defect was a declivity south of Kensington Gore sufficiently pronounced for the Commissioners to delay the demolition of houses there, lest the exposure of the sharp fall of land should create a bad impression. When laying out of the estate began in 1858 one of the first works was to make a level ‘terrace’ in that area.

The land that the Government had negotiated for in 1851 was a property of twenty-one and a half acres known as the Gore House estate (mostly copyhold held under the Dean and Chapter of Westminster) and owned by a barrister, John Aldridge, who lived in the other large house on that estate, Grove House. The Prince…was kept informed of the negotiations, meanwhile excogitating the purchase of adjacent properties. One was a holding of some forty-eight acres to the west and south of the Gore House estate. This had recently been part of a larger estate belonging jointly to the Earl of Harrington and a Swiss nobleman resident in Paris, Denis, Baron de Graffenried Villars, but at a partition in 1850–1 had passed to the latter…The Prince wanted to employ as agent his admired Thomas Cubitt, who had no interests of his own in the area. It was, however, Kelk whom the Government had chosen to negotiate for the Gore House estate and in January 1852 the Prince allowed himself to be persuaded to employ Kelk for the same purpose on the Commissioners’ behalf as well as to negotiate for the Villars estate…In August 1851 Kelk had told the Government that after enfranchisement of the copyhold land the freehold of the Gore House estate would cost £45,000 (£2,300 per acre), or about the same proportionately as Freake’s recent purchase to the east…The Prince, like the Government, thought secrecy essential, and the contract was signed in May in Kelk’s name. The purchase was completed in August. The Prince took the heightened price as a warning of the disadvantages of delay: even so, Kelk could later boast of the purchase as the Commissioners’ cheapest. Gore House was put to immediate use for exhibitions and from 1854 to 1857 was a District School of Art under the Science and Art Department…”

**Wikipedia: “The present building, the third to house the National Gallery, was designed by William Wilkins from 1832 to 1838. Only the facade onto Trafalgar Square remains essentially unchanged from this time, as the building has been expanded piecemeal throughout its history. Wilkins’s building was often criticised for the perceived weaknesses of its design and for its lack of space; the latter problem led to the establishment of the Tate Gallery for British art in 1897.

Wilkins was influential in the development of Trafalgar Square in London, which had been opened up as part of a scheme by John Nash. He campaigned to have the new National Gallery sited on the north side of the square, initially suggesting that the existing building, William Kent’s Great Mews should be converted for the purpose. The government accepted the idea, but opted for a wholly new building, and a Neoclassical design by Wilkins was accepted over alternative schemes by Nash and CR Cockerell. Wilkins also drew up plans for the laying out of the square itself. They were not put into effect, although the scheme eventually carried out by Charles Barry after Wilkins’ death replicated many of his ideas. The appearance of the National Gallery (1832–38), which originally also housed the Royal Academy, attracted a great deal of adverse criticism from the beginning; more recently John Summerson concluded that although Wilkin’s frontage has many virtues “considered critically as a façade commanding a great square, its weakness is apparent”.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s