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Holland House library after an air raid BB83_04456

Holland House library after an air raid BB83_04456



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Holland House library after an air raid BB83_04456

HOLLAND HOUSE, Kensington, London. An interior view of the bombed library at Holland House with readers apparently choosing books regardless of the damage. Photographed in 1940. The House was heavily bombed during World War II and remained derelict until 1952 when parts of the remains were preserved.
Holland House, originally known as Cope Castle, was a great house in Kensington in London, situated in what is now Holland Park. Created in 1605 in the Elizabethan or Jacobean style for the diplomat Sir Walter Cope, the building later passed to the powerful Rich family, then the Fox family, under whose ownership it became a noted gathering-place for Whigs in the 19th century. The house was largely destroyed by German firebombing during the Blitz in 1940; today only the east wing and some ruins of the ground floor still remain.
In 1940, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth attended the last great ball held at the house. A few weeks later, on 7 September, the German bombing raids on London that would come to be known as the Blitz began. During the night of 27 September, Holland House was hit by twenty-two incendiary bombs during a ten-hour raid. The house was largely destroyed, with only the east wing, and, miraculously, almost all of the library remaining undamaged. Surviving volumes included the sixteenth-century Boxer Codex.
Holland House was granted Grade I listed building status in 1949, under the auspices of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947; the Act sought to identify and preserve buildings of special historic importance, prompted by the damage caused by wartime bombing. The building remained a burned-out ruin until 1952, when its owner, Giles Fox-Strangways, 6th Earl of Ilchester, sold it to the London County Council (LCC). The remains of the building passed from the LCC to its successor, the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1965, and upon the dissolution of the GLC in 1986 to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Today, the remains of Holland House form a backdrop for the open air Holland Park Theatre, home of Opera Holland Park. The YHA (England and Wales) " London Holland Park" youth hostel is now located in the house. The Orangery is now an exhibition and function space, with the adjoining former Summer Ballroom now a restaurant, The Belvedere. The former ice house is now a gallery space

Historic England is the public body that champions and protects England's historic places

Media ID 1326365

© Historic England Archive

1940s Blitz Destruction Historic People War Time Ww 2


FEATURES IN THESE COLLECTIONS

> Architecture > Great Houses > Holland House

> Architecture > Great Houses

> Asia > East Timor > Related Images

> Destruction caused by the Great War

> Europe > United Kingdom > England > Castles

> Europe > United Kingdom > England > Greater London > Related Images

> Europe > United Kingdom > England > London > Art > Opera

> Europe > United Kingdom > England > London > Art > Theatre

> Europe > United Kingdom > England > London > Art > Venues > The Park Theatre

> Historic England > England at War > England at War 1939-45 > The Blitz

> Historic England > More features > Romantic Ruins

> Historic England > Historic Images > Historic Images 1920s to 1940s

> Historic England > Historic Images > More Lost London

> Historic England > The way we were > Leisure > Libraries

> Popular Themes > The London Blitz

> Popular Themes > London


EDITORS COMMENTS
In the heart of Kensington, London, stands the remnant of Holland House, a once grand Elizabethan-style mansion that bore witness to the tumultuous events of the 20th century. Originally built in 1605 for diplomat Sir Walter Cope, the house later became a noted gathering place for Whigs in the 19th century under the Rich and Fox families. During the dark days of World War II, Holland House played an unexpected role as a symbol of resilience and determination. In 1940, just a few weeks after King George VI and Queen Elizabeth attended the last grand ball at the house, the German air raids, known as the Blitz, began. On the night of 27 September, Holland House was hit by twenty-two incendiary bombs during a ten-hour raid, leaving the house largely destroyed. Miraculously, the east wing and almost all of the library remained undamaged. Despite the devastation, the library continued to serve its purpose as a sanctuary for knowledge. Amidst the ruins, readers could be seen choosing books, undeterred by the destruction around them. This poignant image, captured in 1940 by BB83_04456, encapsulates the indomitable spirit of the people during wartime. Holland House was granted Grade I listed building status in 1949, and the remains stood as a burned-out ruin until 1952 when it was sold to the London County Council. The building passed through various hands until it was taken over by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Today, the remains of Holland House serve as a backdrop for the open-air Holland Park Theatre, home of Opera Holland Park. The former Orangery is now an exhibition and function space, and the former Summer Ballroom is a restaurant. The former ice house is a gallery space. The history of Holland House continues to inspire and captivate, standing as a testament to the enduring power of the written word and the human spirit.

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