The Milestone Hotel and Apartments take their name from the old cast iron milestone that stands in its original position beside the hotel. Previous residents of the properties that have stood on this site include a mistress of James II, a man who believed himself to be Shakespeare's grandson, and an aristocratic governess to the daughters of George II.
The original dwelling on this site was Kensington House, built around 1689 and first occupied by Foot Onslow, a Commissioner of Excise under William III. His son Arthur Onslow (1691-1768) was a speaker of the House of Commons for thirty years; he sublet the property to George Davenport, an officer in the Royal Bodyguard and the man who claimed Shakespeare as his grandsire.
From George Davenport, Kensington House passed to Lady Susan Belasye, who in her youth had been a mistress of James II. For a few years in the mid 18th century it was occupied by Count Peter Grigorevich Chernyshev, the Russian Ambassador to London, whose daughter Natalia lived to the age of ninety-six and achieved immortality as the inspiration for the Countess in Pushkin's short story ‘Queen of Spades’. Kensington House was then used as an academy for young gentleman, and later passed to a French émigré nobleman and cleric. Prince Charles Victor de Broglio also ran a Jesuit school on this site, which numbered the future King Louis Philippe as one of its ushers.
From 1830 Kensington House was occupied as a private lunatic asylum before being replaced by a second mansion called Kensington House, constructed by the notorious company promoter, "Baron" Albert Grant, the founder of Leicester Square. Grant’s shareholders invested the then colossal sum of £24 million in his projects, and never saw the majority of their investments again. Finally, in the 1880's Grant's white elephant was replaced by the two houses we see today.
The first house, No. 1 Kensington Court, was erected between 1883 and 1884 to designs by JJ Stevenson and constructed by Holland and Hannen. Among its more interesting occupants was the first Baron Redesdale (1837-1916), the diplomat, author, and grandfather of the famous Mitford sisters. His former home passed into hotel use around 1922, to be joined by No. 2 Kensington Court in 1925, constructed at the same time as No 1 to designs by TG Jackson. In August 1986 the Milestone was badly damaged in a fire. The resulting blaze took three hours to bring under control; the reason for the fire remains a mystery. The hotel deteriorated even further, and was sold to another hotel group, until in October 1998 The Milestone Hotel became part of the Red Carnation Hotel collection.
By September the following year The Milestone had been fully restored to its original architectural splendour as a unique five-star hotel with 45 luxurious bedrooms, 12 sumptuous suites and 6 two bedroom apartments: the benefits of its superb location were of course ever-present, with many of the rooms overlooking Kensington Gardens. Over the subsequent years The Milestone has been showered with numerous awards and accolades, and today ranks as one of the best hotels in the world.