The expression Kensington Gore (also Kensington gore) denotes artificial blood used in theatrical performances and in the film and television industries.
This expression puns on:
– Kensington Gore, the name of a thoroughfare in London, England [cf. note];
– the noun gore, denoting blood shed from a wound, especially when clotted (in this sense, gore is from the Old-English noun gor, denoting dung, filth).
Note: In Kensington Gore, the name of a thoroughfare in London, the noun gore (apparently from the Old-English noun gár, denoting a spear) denotes a triangular piece of land; the following explanations about this thoroughfare, by Colonel W. F. Prideaux, were published in London Topographical Record (London: Printed at the Chiswick Press and issued from the Office of the London Topographical Society, 1906):
The road traverses two districts of London which have played an important part in the social history of the country—Knightsbridge and Kensington—together with the wedge-shaped piece of land which divides them, and which has been known from Anglo-Saxon times as The Gore.
ORIGIN OF THE EXPRESSION KENSINGTON GORE (ARTIFICIAL BLOOD)?
It has been said that, in the sense of artificial blood, the expression Kensington Gore was originally a trademark. And I have indeed found two documents referring to Kensington Gore as a trademark.
The problem is that the first of those documents indicates that the trademark was registered in 1978, that is to say, several years after the first occurrence of the expression Kensington Gore that I have found; the following trademark details are from the Intellectual Property Office, published on the UK Government website:
Trade Mark Details as at 28 March 2013:
Trade mark number: UK00001092476
KENSINGTON GORE: Simulated blood preparations made from dyes dissolved in an aqueous viscous base, for theatrical purposes.
Owner(s) name: Bapty & Co. Ltd, 703 Harrow Road, London, NW10, United Kingdom
Filing date: 14 March 1978 – Date of entry in register: 14 March 1978 – Renewal date: 14 March 1999
First advert: Journal: 5265 – Date of publication: 25 July 1979
The second document that I have found is this notice, published in The Stage and Television Today (London, England) of Thursday 11th July 1985—it is likely that both the “West Country chemist” and “the remote chemist working in secret somewhere in the West Country” mentioned, below, in quotations 3 and 5 respectively, refer to the John Tinegate who is here mentioned:
THE TRADE MARK NO. 1092476 consisitng [sic] of the words “KENSINGTON GORE” and registered in respect of “Simulated blood preparations made from dyes dissolved in an aqueous viscous base, for theatrical purposes”, was assigned by John Tinegate of Abbots Peace, Abbotsbury, Weymouth, Dorset to Bapty & Co Limited of 703 Harrow Road, London NW10 WITHOUT THE GOODWILL OF THE BUSINESS IN THE GOODS FOR WHICH THE TRADE MARK IS REGISTERED.
EARLY OCCURRENCES OF THE EXPRESSION KENSINGTON GORE (ARTIFICIAL BLOOD)
The earliest occurrences that I have found of the expression Kensington Gore (also Kensington gore) in the sense of artificial blood are as follows, in chronological order:
1-: From this advertisement, published in The Stage and Television Today (London, England) of Thursday 18th November 1971:
THE MAKE-UP CENTRE
(Charles H. Fox Ltd.)
25 SHELTON STREET, LONDON WC2H 9HX
(at the rear of Cambridge Theatre)
Max Factor & Leichner
(Entire Professional Ranges)
KENSINGTON GORE (Blood simulation)
EXPRESS POSTAL SERVICE TEL. 01-240 3111
2-: From War and Peace memories revived, published in the Lynn News & Advertiser (King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England) of Tuesday 12th March 1974—this article was about an exhibition of stills taken during the filming of War and Peace (1972), a BBC television series adapted from the 1869 novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910):
There are “mug-shots” of each of the main characters, and the captions give a rough idea of their roles. There are also backstage stills of make-up, costume and shooting.
Some of the photos will perhaps destroy one’s illusions about the series, but one has to come to terms with such things as “blood” being “Kensington gore” anyway.
3-: From Londoner’s Diary, published in the Evening Standard (London, England) of Thursday 14th October 1976:
This will run and run
AN APPARENT shortage of fake blood from theatrical suppliers has led to the back-stage rumour that the National Theatre has cornered the market for its gory production of Tamburlaine.
Not surprising, really. Albert Finney in the title role slits his son’s throat and cuts his own arm with a dagger. Denis Quilley and Barbara Jefford bash their brains out and A N Other is strung up and blasted with muskets. Then one shop runs out of blood and no wonder Peter Hall gets the blame.
“Not true,” says the National. “We make our own mixture, invented by Joyce Beagarie, the wig mistress, and we need just one-and-a-quarter pints for each performance.
“It has to be washable, so we use a very dilute mixture of poster paint, red, brown and blue, thickened with gum tragacanth. Kids’ finger paint is used if it gets into the eyes and blackcurrant jelly is added for Quilley’s brain bashing scene. It’s got the right texture for brains.”
Leichner, a by-word in the profession, say there is plenty of their own two makes around: General Purpose Blood, a fast-moving liquid favoured by first-aid instructors for mock accidents; and Stage Blood, same colour but thicker and less runny. Olivier used it, they say, in Oedipus when he gouged his eyes out. The beauty of it was that it had only reached his chin by the end of a long act. Very professional.
Both makes are being phased out, as there are cheaper brands on the market. Kensington Gore, for example, was invented by a West Country chemist for an amateur production. The show closed but the blood ran and ran.
4-: From The Mousetrap’s record run, by John Barber, published in The Daily Telegraph (London, England) of Monday 21st November 1977—the author was writing about the 25-year run of The Mousetrap (1952), a murder mystery play by the English author of detective fiction Agatha Christie (1890-1976):
It is easy to sneer, easy to send it up, but people do like “The Mousetrap.” Its success is attributable to two things. The first is the appeal of an author translated into 103 languages (more than Shakespeare) whose secret was to combine mayhem with maidenliness. The blood in Christie, it has been said, is only Kensington gore. Yet—“The kind of panic set up in that house,” says Hauser imaginatively, “would almost produce a crime if the murderer were not there. The people sort of induce it.”
5-: From a story by Patrick Doncaster about the British horror film industry, published in the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Wednesday 18th July 1979:
HANDS BEHIND THE HORROR
THE MAN who really gives you the creeps is never seen on the screen.
When it comes to horror Roy Ashton is an expert.
He’s made Karloff cadaverous and Dracula drool and has sent a chill up millions of spines.
This amiable Australian-born veteran of scores of movies is a make-up supervisor.
He “worked on”—as he termed it—Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing during their long-running horror saga for the Hammer company.
Making skeletons and mummies and turning humans into werewolves is all in a day’s work to him.
“What about the blood?” I asked.
“Kensington Gore,” he corrected me. “That’s what we call it.”
I had heard that the best movie blood had been concocted by a remote chemist working in secret somewhere in the West Country.
Mr. Ashton laughed: “There’s nothing mysterious about blood.” “It’s made up by the big cosmetic firms.”
A spokeswoman at Chas. Fox, the theatrical suppliers, told me: “Half a gallon of Kensington Gore costs £7.95. You can buy a gallon for £14.75.”