Kensington Olympia

Kensington Olympia, Hammersmith & Fulham

An exhibition centre – and potentially also a ‘diverse and socially inclusive cultural hub’ – located at the eastern end of Hammersmith Road

Hidden London: Olympia by Matt Brown

This was the site of a vineyard in the 18th century, which by all accounts produced a passable burgundy. Kensington station opened nearby in 1864 and was renamed Kensington (Addison Road) four years later.

Following the success of the Agricultural Hall in Islington, which held military tourna­ments as well as every kind of animal show, the public demanded a larger arena where mock battles could be played out on a grand scale. In 1885 the National Agricultural Hall Company bought six acres and 37 perches of nursery land just over Kensington’s border in Hammersmith.

Olympia opened in 1886 and proceeded to stage a series of lavish enter­tainment spectac­ulars, although it struggled to turn a profit. Pleasure gardens were laid out in the grounds and some of the world’s first motor shows were held in the hall in the early 20th century.

The National Hall was added on the south-west side in 1922, which neces­sitated the demolition of some properties in West Kensington Gardens. The remainder of this street was erased in 1929 during the construction of the Empire Hall, later known as Olympia 2. London’s first multi-storey car park was built for Olympia in 1937.

The station closed during the Second World War and reopened after­wards as Kensington Olympia. Mainline passenger services via Willesden and Clapham Junctions resumed in 1994 and cross-country and London Overground trains now call here, as does the District line shuttle.

The exhib­ition centre is now called Olympia London. The consortium that acquired the centre in 2017 has ambitious plans for it to become a world-class inter­na­tional venue and a ‘diverse cultural hub’, with boutique hotels, co-working spaces, restaurants, cinemas and open green areas, while still managing to host events. Aspects of its proposed future look – inside and out – are shown in the CGIs below.

The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived opposite the site of the exhibition hall in 1811–12.

Postal district: W14
Station: District line plus London Overground and Southern services via Clapham Junction (zone 2)
Further reading: John Glanfield, Earls Court and Olympia, Sutton, 2003

 

* The picture of Olympia at the top of this page is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright Matt Brown, at Flickr, made available under the Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.