What’s it all about?
Tucked between the busy A3 and the mighty River Thames, Kennington is one of inner London's best kept secrets. It’s an enclave of brick houses and pretty squares containing some perfect examples of Georgian architecture. The most famous is the idyllic Cleaver Square, where locals play boules in the summer with merriment aided by the tiny Prince of Wales pub in the corner. An annual summer fete here brings the community together over jars of homemade jam and games of Splat the Rat. Kennington is so central that it is reputed to be within earshot of Parliament’s Division Bell, and has been a popular place for politicians to live since Westminster Bridge was built in 1750. The genteel atmosphere and recent regeneration now also draw families, while young professionals in all fields love the central location. And despite recent regeneration, with families and young professionals flocking to live here, Kennington remains a diverse area with a mixed population so it still feels full of life. There’s a strong feeling of community spirit, with an active residents’ association, local theatres and well used green spaces.
- Kennington is home to the Oval cricket ground – the first ground to hold a Test match in Britain in 1880.
- A Henry Moore sculpture, Two Piece Reclining Figure No. 3, is permanently on display on the Brandon Estate.
- Kennington has a long list of famous alumni, including Charlie Chaplin, who grew up here. A blue plaque marks his former home, which used to be next door to a pickle factory.
Architecture and property
When Westminster Bridge was finally unveiled in 1750, having been in the works for a century, it linked a more or less rural area to the City of Westminster. Building began immediately and by the 1770s the place that would be recognisable to us today as Kennington had come into being. Characterised by grand Georgian terraces, it was a kind of semi rural suburb where locals still grazed their cattle on the common. Development continued throughout the Georgian era, but Kennington’s heyday did not last long: the coming of the railways opened up suburbs even further from the city’s stink and the middle classes continued to move south. By the 1850s many of the larger homes were subdivided providing lodgings for the working class. In 1915 the Duchy of Cornwall, which still owns swathes of property here, began a project to improve the area, and a second wave of development began. But you won’t find many Edwardian or Art Deco properties here as it opted for a Neo Georgian style to fit with the existing architectural landscape. These days, some Georgian homes have been converted into luxury flats, while some have been reunited as whole houses. On the Elephant and Castle side of Kennington there is a significant proportion of council and ex-council homes.
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You can enjoy a wide range of cuisines here, from Persian to Eritrean and beyond. A branch of Vietnamese street food chain Aobaba can be found on Walworth Road, while the Portuguese cafes and tapas bars of the South Lambeth Road are well known for their authenticity. The Lobster Pot on Kennington Lane is regarded as one of London’s best French seafood restaurants, the daytime Ragged Canteen is an excellent vegetarian lunch spot and the upmarket Brunswick House close to Vauxhall serves up an imaginative seasonal menu amid recycled furniture, antiques and curios.
There are plenty of great pubs in the area. Locals love Cleaver Square’s cosy Prince of Wales, or try Zeitgeist, a German gastropub offering regional beers, schnitzels and burgers. The Pilgrim Pub is a popular spot to catch live music or watch sports.
Culture and arts
The quirky Cinema Museum is a popular venue for film screenings and talks, and there are two longstanding local repertory theatres, the White Bear Theatre and Ovalhouse. The White Bear Theatre is currently undergoing a period of refurbishment and will reopen in September 2016. Pullens Yards studios, with its picturesque 1870s built live/work units, is home to artists and craftspeople.
- There’s a Tesco supermarket on Kennington Lane. The nearest Waitrose is in Vauxhall.
- Locals love the weekly farmers' market held on Saturdays in the serene courtyard of the Georgian St Mark’s Church, while the always bustling East Street Market on Walworth Road is good for fruit and veg shopping.
- New Covent Garden Flower Market is just down the road, where you can buy flowers and plants at wholesale prices.
- Visit the farm animals at Vauxhall City Farm and check out a range of workshops, as well as a horse riding centre offering discounted rates to local children.
- Durning Library on Kennington Lane is housed in a grand Victorian building and holds events for young and old alike.
If the tiny hidden squares and greens that make Kennington special aren’t enough for you, Kennington Park is a Green Flag award winning green space. The old common, a site of political demonstrations and public executions, it was enclosed in 1852 becoming an urban park where you’ll find mature trees, an old fashioned flower garden and cafe, as well as playgrounds, tennis courts and an all weather pitch for hockey and football.
Kennington on the river
Kennington is excellently placed for some of the best cultural experiences in the Capital. It’s a mere 15 minute walk to the South Bank, the heartland of The Thames, and its theatres, galleries and concert venues, while the Tate Britain is within walking distance, too. Closer to home, The Riverside and Souk River Lounge offer locals the chance to indulge on the river front, whilst a riverside walk showcases the current development taking place in Nine Elms.
Find out more about the perks of living on the river here.
Warehouse conversions are common as development has expanded along the river. The Corniche, three residential towers designed by Foster + Partners and incorporating 253 apartments, was recently built on Albert Embankment.
Tube: Kennington locals have the choice of three Tube stations. On the Northern Line, Kennington and Oval stations are both in Zone 2. Nearby Lambeth North is on the Bakerloo Line and is in Zone 1.
Road: Once you’re out of the traffic on the busy A3, it takes under an hour to reach the M25, or 40 minutes to get to the M1 if you’re heading north.
Bus: The area is extremely well connected. Buses from Kennington Oval and Kennington Cross serve several areas in south London including Brixton, Crystal Palace, Streatham and Tooting. Travel north via the 133 (to Liverpool Street), 59 (to King’s Cross) and 159 (to Marble Arch).
Cycle: For many locals, cycling is their main mode of transport. It only takes 15 minutes to cycle to Charing Cross and, even if you don’t have your own bike, Kennington has several Boris bike docking stations. Cycle Superhighway 7 from Morden to the City runs through Kennington.
Getting away: London City Airport is only 45 minutes away via the DLR and Northern Line. Trains to Gatwick take less than an hour.
Kennington is extremely well served for schools, whether you’re looking for a state primary or a top independent secondary. Some local favourites for younger children include Archbishop Sumner and Vauxhall Primary. At secondary level the Lilian Baylis Technology School has consistently performed well, along with Archbishop Tenison’s, which at sixth form level specialises in the arts. Those looking for independent schools usually look to Clapham and Dulwich, or the highly regarded Westminster School (boys’ secondary level with co-ed sixth form), next to Westminster Abbey.
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