Kensington High Street is the continuation of Kensington Road and part of the A315. It starts by the entrance to Kensington Palace and runs westward through central Kensington. Near Kensington (Olympia) station, where the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea ends and Hammersmith begins, it ends and becomes Hammersmith Road. The street is served by High Street Kensington underground station.
Kensington High Street is one of western London's most popular shopping streets, with upmarket shops serving a wealthy area. From the late 19th century until the mid 1970s the street had three classic department stores: Barkers, Derry & Toms and Pontings. Barkers bought Pontings in 1906 and Derry & Toms in 1920, but continued to run all three as separate entities. In a big building project which started in 1930 and was not complete until 1958 (the Second World War halted the project), the company made Derry & Toms and Barkers into Art Deco palaces. On top of Derry & Toms, Europe's largest roof garden area (1.5 acres) was created, consisting of three different gardens with 500 species of plants, fountains, a stream, duck, flamingos and a restaurant - said to serve the best high tea in Kensington.
In 1957 House of Fraser bought the Barkers Group and started to dismantle it. Pontings was closed in 1971, Derry & Toms in 1973, and a much condensed Barkers (from over seven floors to on less than four floors) was allowed to continue until January 2006, when the 135 year old department store was closed for good.
Part of the Barker premises has now been taken over by American Whole Foods Market, which has opened the UK's first organic superstore there in June 2007. The rest was added to existing office space used by the headquarters of Associated Newspapers.
Kensington High Street was also the site of Biba in the 1960s and early 1970s. When Derry & Toms closed the iconic store took the building and accentuated the its Art Deco style further. But the 1970s recession, coupled with idealistic business ideas, killed Biba in 1975. The Derry & Toms roof gardens still remain, now known as the Kensington Roof Gardens and owned since 1981 by Richard Branson's Virgin.
Kensington High Street's future as a shopping street has been threatened by both the western expansion on London's congestion charge zone, which came into effect in February 2007, and the large Westfield London, which will open a few kilometres away in Shepherd's Bush in late 2008.
However, these factors may be offset to some extent - or even outweighed - by recent changes to the road layout, intended to make the street a pleasanter place to shop. The local council (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) decided to experiment with the concept of shared space, which deputy leader Daniel Moylan had studied abroad. Railings and pedestrian crossings were removed, thereby enabling pedestrians to cross the street wherever they choose. Bicycle racks were placed on the central reservation. The effect over two years was a dramatic cut in accidents, down 44% against a London average of 17%..