Ebury Farm

Farm in/near Westminster, existing until 1801

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Farm · Westminster · SW1W ·
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2017

Ebury Farm was a simple marshy farm whose lands later became the richest real estate in London.

Boscobel Oaks, 1804
Ebury Farm covered 430 acres in total with its farmhouse laying just to the south of where Victoria coach station now stands.

Earlier, there was a manor called Eia in the Domesday survey but later known as Eye, from which Eybury or Ebury derives. The manor probably occupied the territory between the Roman road along the present course of Bayswater Road and Oxford Street on the north, the Thames on the south, the Westbourne river on the west, and the Tyburn on the east.

After the Norman Conquest Geoffrey de Mandeville obtained possession of the manor, one of many which he took in reward for his services in the Conqueror’s cause. Before the end of William’s reign de Mandeville had given the manor to the Abbey of Westminster and it remained in the Abbey’s ownership until 1536 when it was acquired by Henry VIII. During this long period two areas came to be distinguished from the main manor. The areas were Hyde in the north-west corner, now incorporated into Hyde Park, and Neyte or Neat(e) in the heart of the district later known as Pimlico.

The Neyte was formerly a manor house or grange of the Abbots of Westminster situated between the modern Warwick Way and Sutherland Row, and its site, together with some thirty-six acres to the south and east, was granted away separately by the Crown after 1536, and thus did not pass into the eventual ownership of the Grosvenor family.

The Manor of Hyde was enclosed into Hyde Park by Henry VIII, and he also added some land on the east to his new park, for fifteen acres called Tyburn Close and forty acres near Stonehill (apparently the north-eastern and south-eastern extremities of the park) were specifically excluded from subsequent leases and grants of Ebury manor.

In 1618, a lease for Ebury was bought for £4,760 by trustees acting for Sir Lionel Cranfield, the ambitious merchant who held several offices of state under James I and was later impeached for corruption.

In 1626, when his personal and financial fortunes were at a low point, Cranfield sold his interests in the manor and the additional lands for £9,400 to Hugh Audley, a clerk of the Court of Wards and Liveries who amassed a considerable fortune by lending money. Audley held the property until his death at an advanced age in 1662. During this long period he sold some small parcels of land and bought others which had probably once belonged to the manor, but when he died the estate he had purchased in 1626 was still virtually intact.

By a settlement made shortly before his death he left the bulk of the land to his great-nephew Alexander Davies and the detached part at Millbank (known as Market Meadows) to the latter’s brother Thomas Davies, who was Lord Mayor of London in 1676–7. After Audley’s death Thomas Davies sold his holding for £2,000 to his brother so that Alexander Davies possessed all of Audley’s former estate in the area.

Alexander Davies was a scrivener by profession and had worked for Audley. He decided to embark on speculative building on his new property and as the site chose Market Meadows at Millbank, which he had purchased from his brother. He let the land along the river front for building, reserving a large plot at the southern end as the site of a mansion for his own occupation. This was later called Peterborough House and then Grosvenor House when it became the principal London residence of the Grosvenor family in the first half of the eighteenth century.

In 1665, ’in the time of the … greate Sicknesse’ Alexander Davies died at the age of twenty-nine, leaving the speculation unfinished, his mansion half built, and an infant daughter less than six months old as his heir. This was the Mary Davies who was to marry Sir Thomas Grosvenor in 1677.

At the age of only twelve, Mary married Sir Thomas Grosvenor of Eaton in Cheshire. The marriage portion which the guardians of Mary Davies were able to offer the young Cheshire baronet Sir Thomas Grosvenor in 1677 consisted of some five hundred acres of land, mostly meadow and pasture. Not all of this was to be available in immediate possession and the income from the land was at that time relatively small, but its potential for future wealth was realised even then.

The most valuable of the inheritance was a vast holding, approximately one hundred acres in extent and sometimes called in early deeds The Hundred Acres, lying south of Oxford Street and east of Park Lane. With only minor exceptions this part of Mary Davies’s heritage has remained virtually intact to the present day and forms the Grosvenor estate in Mayfair. Some six or seven acres to the north of the modern Brick Street were sold to pay the debts of Alexander Davies, Mary Davies’s father, by Act of Parliament in 1675, and therefore did not pass to the Grosvenors.

In the process of time Mary Davies’s inheritance was developed for building, and the Grosvenors became the richest urban landlords in the country, the lustre of their name—for long synonymous with wealth and fashion—being gilded by successive advancements in the peerage, culminating in the dukedom of Westminster in 1874. Today the bulk of that inheritance is still, despite the sale of some of the less select parts, enjoyed by her descendants.

xxx

Boscobel Oaks, 1804
User unknown/public domain

Citations and sources

Gillian Bebbington's 1972 work on street name derivations

Links and further reading

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VIEW THE WESTMINSTER AREA IN THE 1750s
The 1750 Rocque map is bounded by Sudbury (NW), Snaresbrook (NE), Eltham (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
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VIEW THE WESTMINSTER AREA IN THE 1800s
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VIEW THE WESTMINSTER AREA IN THE 1830s
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VIEW THE WESTMINSTER AREA IN THE 1860s
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VIEW THE WESTMINSTER AREA IN THE 1900s
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Westminster

Westminster - heart of government.

While the underground station dates from 1868, Westminster itself is almost as old as London itself. It has a large concentration of London’s historic and prestigious landmarks and visitor attractions, including the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.

Historically part of the parish of St Margaret in the City and Liberty of Westminster and the county of Middlesex, the name Westminster was the ancient description for the area around Westminster Abbey – the West Minster, or monastery church, that gave the area its name – which has been the seat of the government of England (and later the British government) for almost a thousand years.

Westminster is the location of the Palace of Westminster, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which houses the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The area has been the seat of the government of England for almost a thousand years. Westminster is thus often used as a metonym for Parliament and the political community of the United Kingdom generally. The civil service is similarly referred to by the area it inhabits, Whitehall, and Westminster is consequently also used in reference to the ’Westminster System’, the parliamentary model of democratic government that has evolved in the United Kingdom.

The historic core of Westminster is the former Thorney Island on which Westminster Abbey was built. The Abbey became the traditional venue of the coronation of the kings and queens of England. The nearby Palace of Westminster came to be the principal royal residence after the Norman conquest of England in 1066, and later housed the developing Parliament and law courts of England. It can be said that London thus has developed two distinct focal points: an economic one in the City of London; and a political and cultural one in Westminster, where the Royal Court had its home. This division is still very apparent today.

The monarchy later moved to the Palace of Whitehall a little towards the north-east. The law courts have since moved to the Royal Courts of Justice, close to the border of the City of London.

The Westminster area formed part of the City and Liberty of Westminster and the county of Middlesex. The ancient parish was St Margaret; after 1727 split into the parishes of St Margaret and St John. The area around Westminster Abbey formed the extra-parochial Close of the Collegiate Church of St Peter surrounded by—but not part of—either parish. Until 1900 the local authority was the combined vestry of St Margaret and St John (also known as the Westminster District Board of Works from 1855 to 1887), which was based at Westminster City Hall on Caxton Street from 1883. The Liberty of Westminster, governed by the Westminster Court of Burgesses, also included St Martin in the Fields and several other parishes and places. Westminster had its own quarter sessions, but the Middlesex sessions also had jurisdiction. The area was transferred from Middlesex to the County of London in 1889 and the local government of Westminster was reformed in 1900 when the court of burgesses and parish vestries were abolished, to be replaced with a metropolitan borough council. The council was given city status, allowing it to be known as Westminster City Council.

The underground station was opened as Westminster Bridge on 24 December 1868 by the steam-operated Metropolitan District Railway (MDR) (now the District line) when the railway opened the first section of its line from South Kensington. It was originally the eastern terminus of the MDR and the station cutting ended at a concrete wall buffered by timber sleepers. The approach to the station from the west runs in cut and cover tunnel under the roadway of Broad Sanctuary and diagonally under Parliament Square. In Broad Sanctuary the tunnel is close to Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s church and care was required to avoid undermining their foundations when excavating in the poor ground found there.

The station was completely rebuilt to incorporate new deep-level platforms for the Jubilee line when it was extended to the London Docklands in the 1990s. During the works, the level of the sub-surface platforms was lowered to enable ground level access to Portcullis House. This was achieved in small increments carried out when the line was closed at night.
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