The residents of Kensington Palace may be very well known, particularly in the run up to this year’s Royal Wedding, but the Palace’s historic and beautiful gardens are often overlooked in comparison. Located just across the road from The Milestone Hotel & Residences, Kensington Palace Gardens offer a fascinating insight in the evolution of the royal residence, as well as some of its previous inhabitants.
Begin your walk at The Sunken Garden, which dates back to 1908 and was built to resemble a classical, ornamental garden similar in style to those popular during the 18th century. The Sunken Garden was inspired by a similar design at Hampton Court Palace and the central feature is its pond, which cleverly repurposes 18th century water cisterns from the palace. For the most vivid burst of colour, the garden is best viewed during the spring and summer months, when the bright and exotic flower displays are at their peak. Visitors in the summer can expect to see a dazzling array of begonias, geraniums and cannas, whilst tulips and pansies dominate during the springtime.
Just outside The Sunken Garden, visitors will find the leafy arches of Cradle Walk, a peaceful promenade that’s shaded by the arched branches of red-twigged lime trees. With views of the Sunken Garden on one side and landscape gardens on the other, it’s easy to see why this location has also earned the nickname ‘Nanny Walk,’ as it’s traditionally been a chosen meeting spot for Kensington’s nannies.
The gardens began life as part of Henry VIII’s deer park in Hyde Park and weren’t separated fromuntil William III and Mary II chosethe site as their country retreat in 1689. It was Mary who began the idea of a formal garden fitted with box hedges and flowerbeds, and it’s said that she chose this Dutch inspired design to remind William, her Flemish husband, of home.
By 1702, Kensington Palace Gardenshad taken on more of an English style thanks to Queen Anne, who had an intricate orangery added to the space in 1704. In addition to keeping the queen’s citrus trees in optimum condition, the orangery also served as an entertainment venue for the monarch. 20 years later, Queen Caroline, the wife of George II, set about arranging the garden as visitors see it today and she is said to be responsible for the additionto the Serpentine lake, the round pond and Broad Walk. However, for the majority of the 18thcentury, the gardens were generally closed to the public with the exception of the ‘respectably dressed’ who could gain entry on Saturdays. Fortunately, today members of the public are welcome to experience the green surroundings of the gardens.
Image Credits: All images courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces.