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Kensington Olympia

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Hammersmith & Fulham

An exhibition centre located at the western end of Kensington High Street. 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 6 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 World War II and reopened afterwards as Kensington Olympia. Mainline passenger services via Willesden and Clapham Junctions resumed in 1994 and cross-country and suburban trains now call here as well as the District line shuttle. In 1999 a new venture formed by the owners of Islington’s Business Design Centre acquired both Earls Court and Olympia from P&O.
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The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived opposite the site of the exhibition hall in 1811–12.

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

Brewer's London Phrase and Fable

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