For generations of English children, Kensington Gardens represent the setting of the book Peter Pan by James Matthew Barrie. For others, they are the locus amoenus chosen by William III and Mary II for their London home or where Queen Victoria was born in Kensington Palace itself. Giving these gardens in the heart of London their current luxurious look was Caroline, wife of George II, who, in 1728, designed them to include the Serpentine and Long Water (two sections of the same lake) from the waters of the Westbourne River. For the better part of the XVIII Century, these green lungs were closed to the public, gradually being opened only to those who were dressed respectably enough. In 1860, on the North side of the park, near Lancaster Gate, Queen Victoria commissioned the Italian Gardens. With the central rosette sculpted in Carrara marble and Portland stone, it presents a collection of stone statues of animals and a woman’s head. It is said that the garden was a gift from Prince Albert to his beloved Victoria. The grounds are reminiscent of the garden of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, where the Royal Family spent its holidays. Prince Albert, passionate about gardening, wanted that residence to have an Italian garden with raised terraces, fountains and geometrically shaped flower beds. In 1860, this idea was transplanted in Kensington Gardens.
The dining halls of the V&A are over 150 years old. Designed by stars of interior design of the 1800s, it transformed the experience of visiting the museum and was well ahead of its time in respect to the rest of the world.