At the western end of Kensington High Street is a tall stone column memorial to Queen Victoria, but it used to be at the eastern end of High Street. It moved.
There are few post-mortem memorials to Queen Victoria as most of the statues we see date from before her death. That’s because most of the funding after her death was for the national memorial that sits outside Buckingham Palace.
That Kensington has a memorial is a quirk, thanks to the Mayor of Kensington, Sir Seymour King being a bit quick with the decision to erect a monument of their own. As it happens, the fundraising clashed, so the Kensington appeal had to be carefully worded to suggest that donations would go to both memorials.
As the fundraising was split, there wasn’t enough for the planned clock tower, but at £800, enough was raised for a stone column instead.
The Victoria Memorial was unveiled on Wednesday 19th October 1904 by the Duchess of Argyll at the junction between Kensington High Street and Kensington Church Street. The location was appropriate, as it was in nearby Kensington Palace that the previously Princess Victoria was woken up one morning in 1837 to be told she was now Queen.
A tall granite column, with a profile of Queen Victoria looking east towards her Palace and a decorative band that reads “Victoria, Queen and Empress” around the column. The column is capped by a carved block of white marble and terminated with a red polished granite vase and a gilt flame.
A bronze plaque states:
IN MEMORY OF
HER MOST GRACIOUS
BORN IN KENSINGTON PALACE
24TH MAY 1819
THIS COLUMN/ WAS ERECTED BY
THE INHABITANTS OF
THE ROYAL BOROUGH
OF KENSINGON/ 1904
LEWIS H. ISAACS MAYOR
W. CHAMBERS LEETE H.L. FLORENCE
TOWN CLERK ARCHITECT
William Brindley was the sculptor and it was erected by Farmer & Brindley.
However, it was placed right in the middle of the road where it was later to become a bit of a problem. Increased levels of road traffic meant that the monument needed to be moved, as part of a road widening project in the area.
In 1934, the column was removed from its location and shifted down the road to a much more suitable location – Warwick Gardens.
This was already a very wide space with a large space in the middle that would be suitable for the monument, and later, some planting on the north side to make it decorative — or more likely protect it from any motorists who drive straight at it from the other side of the road.
The huge date palm trees that surround the memorial are relatively recent additions, as they don’t appear in this photo from 1980. I quite like them, even if they do obscure the monument somewhat.
Oh, and the bust of the queen now faces north, and thanks to the plants is now totally obscured from view.