The town of Kensington has affectionately been dubbed the "Heart of Prince Edward Island," due to its status as one of the largest inland communities in the province and its central location between the two tips of the Cradle of Confederation. But history also proves the expression to be a fitting one. Kensington has always been at the center of historical currents on the Island, both affecting and in turn being influenced by the march of events. With its achievements and tragedies, struggles and celebrations, this story of a community acts as a small-scale portrait of the immense changes that our province and country have undergone. Read along, and find out more about Island and Canadian history-- as seen through the eyes of one town.
Throughout its history, Kensington has always been a meeting place and transportation hub. As you can see in these aerial views,
roads from five different communities converge on the town, radiating out across the countryside like spokes on a wheel. Because of these routes leading from Charlottetown, Mill Valley, Summerside, Malpeque, and Margate (map), the first settlement in the present-day location of the town was named-- appropriately enough-- Five Lanes End.
At the start of the 1800s, however, the five lanes you see here were no more than rough cart paths. When one of the earliest settlers, Thomas Barrett, landed from Ireland in 1817, his family had to ride through ten kilometers of forests, swamps,and streams to even arrive at Five Lanes End. But as the junction was located on the well-travelled Old Post Road, running between Charlottetown and St.Eleanor's, the Barretts decided to establish an inn there and it prospered. In 1824, the settlement was called Barrett's Cross in honour of the family.
By 1862, Barrett's Cross had expanded beyond its beginnings as a public house at an intersection, and the townspeople decided that the community name should reflect its continued growth and prosperity. The village was renamed Kensington after Queen Victoria's birthplace, Kensington Palace in London (see image). The town of Kensington was finally incorporated in 1914.
The renaming of Kensington in 1862 happened at a time when the town itself stood at a crossroads, between its beginnings as a rustic settlement and its emergence as a railway and commercial center. Choose a category to explore one of the many different areas of activity in our town's history!