THE HISTORY OF KENT HOUSE
“One of Londonís most important historic townhouses”
Joseph Friedman, Architectural Historian
The first Kent House was built in 1790 opposite the new Knightsbridge Barracks of the Household Cavalry. It bears the name of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, son of George III. Here he lived with his beloved mistress, Julie de St. Laurent, while maintaining rooms in Kensington Palace across the park. With no legitimate heir to the throne, the Duke had to marry for reasons of state, and his daughter became Queen Victoria. A succession of distinguished statesmen and authors occupied Kent House until it was demolished in 1870.
Lady Louisa Ashburton was the first mistress of the second Kent House - the building that stands to this day. Later, Lady Noble, grand-daughter of the pioneering railway engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, transformed the first floor drawing rooms into a remarkable salon. Princess Marie Louise recalls in her memoirs living there for a while “with my dear friend Celia Noble”.
The noted Spanish artist, J.M. Sert, decorated the music rooms, where the Sanctuary now stands, with a series of fantastic murals, while some of the greatest musicians of the day performed before audiences which included Diaghilev and Sarah Bernhardt.
Sir Saxton and Lady Noble left Kent House in 1940 when, like so many other London landmarks, the needs of war transcended the need for luxury living. Gradually, the house fell into a state of disrepair - and it was not until the 1960s that the third renaissance began, with the arrival of Westminster Synagogue, which has occupied the building for the past forty years.
In 2002/3, Kent House underwent the first stages of a remarkable £3.3 million restoration plan - capturing the spirit and essence of the original design and recreating the classical elegance for which the building had always been justifiably renowned.