South Kensington From Above


Aerial photograph of the South Kensington area August 1944

Copyright: English Heritage (NMR) RAF Photography

The area developed by the 1851 Commissioners can be seen in the top of the photograph, dominated by the oval amphitheatre shape of the Royal Albert Hall. To the right of this is an empty, rectangular piece of land (1). This is the plot on which the Great Exhibition of 1851 took place.

Crystal Palace, designed by Joseph Paxton in 1850, was a vast glass and iron building which filled almost this entire plot. It measured 1,848 feet (about 563 metres) long by 454 feet (about 138 metres) wide.

Key buildings in 1944

The original President of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 was Prince Albert and his memorial can be seen just over the road from this plot. Other key buildings of Albertopolis which can be seen include T.E. Collcutt’s Imperial Institute (2). This is visible here in its entirety, before its partial demolition in the 1950s.

Beyond the Imperial Institute, the Science Museum can be seen facing onto Exhibition Road and opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum. The clever plan of the Natural History Museum (3), with its projecting galleries like the teeth of a comb, can be picked out at the end of the block, fronting onto Cromwell Road.

Aerial photographs

This vertical aerial photograph was taken by a camera strapped to the underside of an aeroplane, and demonstrates how vertical photographs can be used like a map to measure distances.