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.