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
EDITORS COMMENTS This print captures the resilience and love for literature amidst the devastation of war. The image showcases the Holland House library in Kensington, London after an air raid during World War II. Despite the destruction surrounding them, readers can be seen calmly browsing through books, undeterred by the damage inflicted upon their beloved sanctuary. Holland House, originally known as Cope Castle, was a grand house that held great historical significance. It served as a gathering place for Whigs in the 19th century and hosted King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at its last grand ball before disaster struck. In September 1940, during one fateful night of relentless bombing raids on London known as the Blitz, Holland House was heavily hit by incendiary bombs. Remarkably, despite being largely destroyed, almost all of the library's precious volumes remained intact. This remarkable survival included rare works such as the sixteenth-century Boxer Codex. Recognizing its historic importance and architectural value, Holland House was granted Grade I listed building status in 1949. Today, what remains of Holland House stands proudly within Holland Park and serves various purposes. The open-air Holland Park Theatre now graces its backdrop while hosting Opera Holland Park performances. Additionally, it houses a youth hostel called "London Holland Park" operated by YHA (England and Wales). The Orangery has been transformed into an exhibition space while its former Summer Ballroom is now home to a restaurant called The Belvedere. Even in ruins, this iconic structure continues to hold cultural significance and reminds us of our ability to rebuild from adversity.
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