From Academic Kids
It is hard to define boundaries for South Kensington, but when people talk about it, they are generally talking about the commercial area around the Tube station. The smaller centre around Gloucester Road station can also be considered part of South Kensington, as well as the institution area around Exhibition Road, which includes such famous names as the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Royal Albert Hall, Imperial College, Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Royal College of Music.
Sandwiched between the extremely affluent centres of Kensington and Chelsea, South Kensington is harder to characterise. Although undeniable a wealthy area overall, it also caters for large tourist and student populations; the former is reflected by the type of shops around South Kensington station, whilst the latter is evident by both the halls of residence for Imperial College and the large number of language schools in the area, which attract a sizeable number of foreign students.
The foreign students at both these language schools and at Imperial College, and the large numbers of tourists contribute to an international (predominantly European) atmosphere to the area. Large numbers of French, Spanish and Italian citizens live in the area. A significant French presence is evidenced by the location of the embassy, the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle - a large French secondary school opposite the Natural History Museum - and the French Institute (http://www.institut-francais.org.uk), home to a French cinema. There are also several French bookshops in the area.
The area was largely undeveloped until the mid-19th century, being an agricultural area supplying London with fruit and vegetables. However, following the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, an 87 acre (352,000 m²) area around what is now Exhibition Road was purchased by the commissioners of the exhibition, in order to create a home for institutions dedicated to the arts and sciences - resulting in the foundation of the museums and university here. Adjacent landowners began to develop their land in the 1860s as a result of the creation of new roads and a boom in the development of areas around London, and the absorption of South Kensington into London was sealed by the arrival of the Underground to Gloucester Road and South Kensington in 1868, linking the area directly to the main railway termini and to the political, commercial and financial hearts of the city in Westminster, the West End and the City of London.