Destination number three in my list for Five things to see in London if you are a book worm is none other than Kensington Central Library.
This is one of the book related places I have enjoyed most. Situated at number 12 Phillimore Walk, it offers a great variety of books, music and movies which you can enjoy whenever you want.
It was built in 1958–60 by the architect E. Vincent Harris on the site of The Abbey, a Gothic house which had been constructed for a Mr Abbot in 1880 and destroyed by bombing in 1944. It was opened by the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother on 13 July 1960. Its construction was met with demonstrations because of opposition to its architectural design. The public library is within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and is managed as part of a tri-borough integrated library and archive service, alongside those of Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham. On the south side of the library, facing Phillimore Walk, are two statues of a lion and a unicorn, both holding the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom. They were sculpted by William McMillan in order to reflect the “Royal” status of the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Information about the opening can be found also on the plaque at the entrance:
The library has an excellent selection of books, including a large section of modern fiction and large collection of cds to borrow, but also a books for sale section.
The hall is very large and quiet, but the most important thing is that it is not crowded and the access is absolutely free.
Their product range includes local postcards and maps, photographic reproductions of local prints on request.
They have various genres like young adult, adult and children, presented as books, spoken word tapes and CDs, language courses, DVDs or music. Among the music options I found there were CDs belonging to Hugh Laurie or John Mayall and Arturo Sandoval.
They have various facilities and services, but what got my attention most were the study areas, the reading group, the Book Break shared reading group, blood pressure machine, help with homework and sessions for under 5s. You can find more information about all the services they offer here.
I have found at one of the floors the children’s section, which is probably the place where the sessions for under 5s are held. The place is pretty spaceous, just a few chairs and some books, probably to create the feeling of freedom. At least that’s the feeling I got when I entered the room. Now I want to be five again. :))
Their folklore collection includes books published over three centuries. The subjects covered by the folklore books include world culture and traditions, the origins of dance, song, fable and games, world myths and legends, gypsy and traveller folklore tradition and culture, history of etiquette and deportment, religious traditions from across the world, esoteric traditions and superstition, feminist culture and history, chivalric tradition, Arthurian legend, arms and armoury traditions.
A funny coincidence I saw there, was a plaque with a definition of wisdom, which reminded my of my article, Wisdom, what is really is? The plaque said the following:
Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her and she shall promote thee. She shall bring thee the honour when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head and an ornament of grace. A crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.
I found the definition even more interesting as it was written in old english and it seems to belong to King James, as every search on the internet leads to him, although I have the impression that the origins lie into the Bible. If you have some information with regards to this proverb, please enlight me.
That being said, let me tell you a bit about the access to Kensington Central Library.
You can get there by underground, the nearest stations being High Street Kensington (three minutes walk), Notting Hill Gate (eleven minutes walk) and Holland Park (thirteen minutes walk).
If you prefer the bus, you can use lines: 9, 10, 27, 28, 49, C1, 52, 328.
I haven’t found information about bikes or parking spaces, so I recommend making a call before choosing these two options.
Their opening hours are as follows:
Monday: 9.30am – 8pm
Tuesday: 9.30am – 8pm
Wednesday: 9.30am – 5pm
Thursday: 9.30am – 8pm
Friday: 9.30am – 5pm
Saturday: 9.30am – 5pm
Taking into account the above, feel free to pay it a visit whenever you are in a mood for quiet reading. It is my favourite bookish place from London, at least from what I have seen until now. You can find below a collection of photos I took while visiting. They are not the best quality as they were taken with my phone (I am not a professional photographer, but I did my best), but they are some memories of that cool and cosy place.
© picnicontheshelf, September 7, 2019