Kensington Gardens – a secret life of postcards special

I think it was the current cold weather and the sight of leafless trees that reminded me of some of the postcards in this set of images of Kensington Gardens.

Kensington Gardens Broad Walk again PC45

The stark rows of trees lining the Broad Walk fade into winter mist in the distance. Of course part of that impression is the inability of the early twentieth century camera to focus on distant objects but nevertheless the picture radiates winter’s chill.

Kensington Gardens Broad Walk PC45 zoom 600

The close up shows a family wrapped up for the cold.

Here is another small group on a lonely walk:

Kensington Gardens PC44 higher res

Even the water looks cold.

Kensington Gardens Serpentine Bridge PC29

A distant view of the bridge shows another detail of park life:

Kensington Gardens Serpentine PC28

What are those creatures? Really heavy geese?  No, sheep of course, also wearing thick winter coats. As you may have heard, it was the practice to keep sheep in the Gardens to maintain the grass. Sometimes sheep were brought in from the country but it looks as though these sheep must have been working all year round. Here they are in their summer coats:

Kensington Gardens PC 1451

And here is a similar view of the same scene:

Kensington Gardens Long Water PC33

So similar, the curve of the path, the stand of trees on the left, and the distant spire that they must be separated by years. The tree on the right must have been felled at some point. In the summer there were more people about although the park is hardly crowded even on the Broad Walk.

Kensington Gardens Broad Walk looking south PC1357

The staff at the cafe stood ready to serve:

Kensington Gardens Cafe PC48

And there was plenty to do. A bit of boating:

Kensington Gardens PC35 higher res

But if that proved too difficult you could stay on land and still mess about with boats:

Kensington Gardens Round Pond  PC1374 a

The round pond, where many fantasy craft were launched onto a pretend sea.

At the end of the afternoon there was the walk home past the strangely forbidding statue.

Kensington Gardens PC1381

Physical Energy by George Frederick Watts, a Kensington resident, erected in 1907.

But hang on you’re saying, it’s Kensingon Gardens. Isn’t there one more statue to see? Oh yes, him.

Kensington Gardens Peter Pan statue PC1450 - Copy

The genius loci of Kensington Gardens, Peter Pan.

This postcard is a little later than the others, 1920s perhaps but still has the same sunny atmosphere. That woman with the pram has one child to push, one to keep an eye on and is she looking back to call to the dog? Could it be a Dalmatian? Two children’s classics for the price of one?

In the spirit of the secret life of postcards check it out in detail:

Kensington Gardens Peter Pan statue PC1450


I had something quite different in mind this week but then I reminded myself that I haven’t done a purely Kensington post for some time so this set of images came to mind. I originally scanned many of them (in absurdly high resolution) at the request of a Danish TV company. Probably something to do with Peter Pan. Nothing nordic noir anyway. But it shows that time spent scanning pictures is never wasted.

5 responses to “Kensington Gardens – a secret life of postcards special

  • Scott Hatton

    I’m wondering about that view of the sheep. I cannot recognise that at the Round Pond ahead – which church is it and what’s the mysterious white building on the edge of the water?

    • Dave Walker

      The white building is the pump house on the north side of the Italian Gardens, hence the church is St James’s Sussex Gardens, which bears a superficial resemblance to St Mary Abbots.

  • New Moons For Old

    I’ve just discovered your lovely blog – ideal for some research I’m doing. Can you tell me anything about the tea room which used to occupy the Serpentine Galleries, building, please? Are the tea tables you show above connected to that?
    With thanks,

  • Anika Shariff

    Wow I visit this park every day. Never realised how it used to be like.
    The Peter Pan statute are is exactly the same. 😊

  • Susan Turnbull

    Do you know when these pictures were taken? I’m doing some research on the Royal Parks and how they were used during WW!.

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