Kensington Palace Gardens
Coordinates: Kensington Palace Gardens is a street in Kensington, west central London, home to some of the most expensive properties in the world. It was the location of the London Cage, the British government MI19 centre used during the Second World War and the Cold War.
A tree-lined avenue half a mile long in the heart of embassy land, Kensington Palace Gardens is often cited as the "most exclusive address" in London, according to real estate agency Knight Frank. It is one of the most expensive residential streets in the world, and has long been known as "Billionaires Row", due to the huge wealth of its private residents, although in fact the majority of its current occupants are either national embassies or ambassadorial residences. As of mid-2012, current market prices for a property in the street average over £22 million.
The road was originally called The Queen's Road and was renamed Kensington Palace Gardens around 1870 when plane trees were planted in the avenue. It was built from the 1840s onwards, on part of the grounds of Kensington Palace and the freehold still belongs to the Crown Estate. The palace, which is the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Duke and Duchess of Kent, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, fronts the southern part of the street on the eastern side. The houses at the northern end are mostly Italianate, while those at the southern end are mostly in the Queen Anne style. For much of the 20th century a large proportion of the houses were occupied by embassies and ambassadors' residences. Some still are, but others have been renovated by the Crown Estate and sold to private buyers on long leases. One of these was bought in 2004 by the Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, who in 2008 was listed by Forbes magazine as the fourth richest man in the world. The sale was widely misreported at £70 million, before accurate figures were available from HM Land Registry, where records state that on 30 June 2004, 18-19 Kensington Palace Gardens, along with three mews houses at the rear of the property, sold for £57,145,967.
No 8 was used as an interrogation centre for German POWs during and after World War II and was known as the London Cage. The house was demolished in 1961 and replaced by a glass-and-steel block of four apartments designed by Richard Seifert and completed in 1964. Flat 3 was on the market in 2006 as a three-bedroom apartment designed by international architect David Chipperfield, valued at a minimum of £13.25 million through Knight Frank, which sold in March 2007 for £10.29m.
Due to the presence of likely terrorist targets — embassies etc., including those of Russia and Israel — both ends of the street have armed police checkpoints (Diplomatic Protection Group officers) with crash barriers as well as the original wrought-iron gates. Entry of pedestrians is not normally controlled, only vehicles. This has the side effect of leading to extremely low traffic volumes for a central London street. Some of the buildings sometimes also have barriers to keep vehicles at a distance. Unlike most nearby streets, it is not covered by Google Street View.
The street is lit by very dim Victorian gaslight-style streetlights.
No. 10 was designed by Philip Hardwick for Sutherland Hall Sutherland, and the first tenant was the civil engineer James Meadows Rendel, who probably became resident in early 1852, and died there in 1856. In 1862, Edmund Ernst Leopold Schlesinger Benzon, a German-born steel magnate, moved in and lived there until his death in 1873. In 1896, the financier Leopold Hirsch had "substantial alterations" made, designed by Leonard Stokes, and he was resident until at least 1904. No. 10 was home to the USSR Embassy from 1960 to 1986.
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