A guide to Kensington Streets first appeared on the, now defunct, Kensington Living website.
All rights and copyright to the original material is retained by that website.
- Abingdon Road
- Abingdon Villas
- Adam and Eve Mews
- Albert Mews
- Albert Place
- Ansdell Terrace
- Argyll Road
- Aubrey Road
- Aubrey Walk
- Bedford Gardens
- Berkeley Gardens
- Blithfield Street
- Brunswick Gardens, W8
- Calcott Street, W8
- Cambridge Place, W8
- Campden Grove, W8
Campden Hill Close
Campden Hill Close is a most unusual and delightful backwater.
It is a small cul-de-sac entered by a narrow driveway off Hornton Street. It consists of an attractive courtyard with space for about 6 cars to park, and surrounded by two-storey mews-style houses with attractive first floor balconettes.
There is a great feeling of privacy and it is certainly extremely quiet. At the entrance to the courtyard, about 20 ft overhead, there is an attractive street lamp in wrought iron supported by some wrought iron trellising, joined up to the buildings on either side.
Campden Hill Gardens
Campden Hill Gardens runs from Aubrey Walk going northwards, with a branch to the west.
The buildings are mainly four storeys painted in white stucco up to first floor level, with protruding ground floor and first floor windows of uniform Victorian appearance.
In Tudor times, there was a 20 acre farm called Stonehills south of what is know Holland Park Avenue. Originally it was owned by Sir Walter Cope, who sold it to Robert Horseman in 1599. Eventually it came into the possession of the Lloyd Family. Evan Evans, a New Bond Street grocer, bought part of the Lloyd Estate. He died in 1825 and his great nephew, Robert Evans, inherited it.
It was only in 1870 that Robert Evans decided to join in the general development in the area. He granted leases to John Reeves and George Butt, who were local builders. The next year, they bought the freeholds of most of the plots from him. They built most of the houses.
Nos. 4-18 (even) may have been built by William Childhouse, a Paddington builder, and Jonathan Pearson, an ironmonger from Notting Hill. Nos. 28-36 (even) and Nos. 5-25 (odd) were built by Alfred Little, the son of the well known Kensington builder Jeremiah Little, between 1871 and 1874.
Campden Hill Gardens’ houses are generally brick faced with stucco mouldings and decoration.
Campden Hill Square
Campden Hill Square is a prime residential square consisting of very large family houses. The square slopes steeply down to Holland Park Avenue. There is a large communal central garden and all the houses also have their own large front gardens.
Most of the houses are four to five storeys with stucco up to first floor level. Due to the height of the buildings there is a great feeling of space and openness. Some of the houses have attractive bay windows above ground floor level.
There is a good view looking north towards Holland Park, especially from the south side of the square.
In Tudor times, there was a 20 acre farm called Stonehills south of what is know Holland Park Avenue. Originally it was owned by Sir Walter Cope, who sold it to Robert Horseman in 1599. Eventually it came into the possession of the Lloyd Family who sold it in 1823 to Joshua Flesher Hanson, a substantial developer in the Notting Hill and Holland Park area.
Hanson designed a square similar to Regency Square which he had built in Brighton in 1818. It was originally called Notting Hill Square but the name was changed to Campden Hill Square in 1893.
The new square provided for terraced houses around three sides of a large garden enclosure. Hanson may have built some of the houses himself but generally granted the leases to other builders.
Campden Street stretches between Campden Hill Road and Kensington Church Street. It is on a slight slope. The north side, at the western end, has a uniform terrace of three-storey houses stuccoed up to first floor which abut immediately onto the road. The eastern section of the north side has more varied architecture, mainly houses with attractive ground floor bay windows in differing styles.
The houses on the south side of the street are slightly smaller, mainly brick, with stucco up to the first floor. On the same side is Byam Shaw House, a particularly attractive and unusual block of flats.
The eastern section of the street has some small specialist antique shops and also the Churchill Arms which has a profusion of hanging flower baskets which have won many awards in the past. As well as being a traditional pub, it contains a well known local Thai restaurant.
You should read the history of the Racks to the point where William Ward and John Punter purchased their land for development.
Campden Street was built by William Ward. It was his portion of the land jointly bought with John Punter in 1822. He constructed houses here in a relatively relaxed way over the next 30 years. In about 1850 he sub-contracted the work of building the remaining houses to Henry Gilbert, who was both a builder and a pub owner, and to William Wheeler, a local builder. Ward died shortly afterwards.
Canning Place is an unusual L-shaped street on the east side of Victoria Road. The northern leg of the street is pedestrian-only and has a terrace of three-storey houses with rather unusual windows in leaded sections protruding at first floor level.
The main leg of the street contains a very attractive terrace on the south side consisting of three-storey Victorian houses with first floor balconettes. The rest of the houses in Canning Place consist of joined-up paired two-storey houses, all stuccoed and having small front gardens.
There are a number of mews developments. There is a private gated mews fronted by a huge wooden gate. Inside is a group of houses round a courtyard, sharing a walk-around balcony at first floor level. There is a small central garden. There is also another gated mews on the eastern side of the street, and an ungated mews called Canning Place Mews.
Canning Place was part of the Inderwick Estate.
Starting in 1837 ten houses were built in Canning Place. Those at either end were smaller and narrower than the others. The inner eight houses were built as linked pairs. John Inderwick himself built Nos. 1-5. Nos. 6-10 were built by George Hinton, a builder from Leicester Square. Nos. 11-13 were built later by Inderwick in about 1850.
Carmel Court was built on land which in the 18th century was part of the lands of Campden House, owned by the Lechmere family. In 1722 a bricklayer named John Jones bought land in the area and started house-building. Lord Lechmere objected to him using a private lane to move building materials and their dispute ended in a brawl of workers and Jones was hauled off to Newgate Prison. Jones unsuccessfully tried to bribe the constable who had witnessed the brawl to give evidence for him at trial. He died later in the year before the case was settled. His widow Rebecca and his nephew John Price inherited his estate. Jones had begun building four houses in Duke’s Lane, which they finished. Rebecca Jones and John Price built Carmel Court as a passage between Holland Street and Duke’s Lane, with a house on the east side which was later demolished.
Cope Place is a short street between Earls Court Road and Abingdon Road. It is only a few minutes’ walk from Holland Park.
The north side consists of rather unusual, but fairly modern, red brick houses having two storeys and basement, which contrast with the Victorian terrace on the south side (also two-storey houses with basements.) There are no front gardens and all the front doors are approached by half a dozen steps immediately off the pavement.
Some of the houses on the south side are completely stuccoed whereas others are just stuccoed up to first floor level.
(See Nokes Estate for a short history of the Abingdon Villas and Scarsdale Villas area.)
Cope Place was originally known as Park Terrace, after Thomas Park who had built houses here in the early 19th Century. From 1851 the street was called Emma Place. In 1911 it was renamed Cope Place.
Nos. 2-26 (even) were built in about 1852-4. The houses were not meant for the rich, and the District Surveyor complained that the walls were too thin in some of the houses. Nos. 2-18 (even) were built by J.J. Watts, a City pewterer. Nos. 10 and 12 were built by George Miller, a Chelsea builder. Nos. 14 and 16 were built by Richard Anderson, as probably were Nos. 18-26.
Cottesmore Gardens runs west from Victoria Road and contains very large family houses, mainly consisting of four storeys and a basement. They are mostly stuccoed in a variety of shades of off white. On the south side there is a particularly attractive and very large double house. No. 6 on the south side has attractive external French-style shutters.
On the north side Wychwood House is a huge mansion, approximately three times the size of the normal terraced houses in the area.
The street is particularly quiet and there are many attractive trees in the front gardens of the houses.
Cottesmore Gardens was part of the Vallotton Estate.
The south side was built first. Nos. 2 and 4 were built in 1847/8 by David Moore, an architect, who also designed many of the houses in Victoria Road. He occupied No. 2, a detached villa, himself. Further along, houses were built by David Howell, of Fleet Street. He was a solicitors’ articled clerk who turned to building. He built Nos. 6-24 (even) Cottesmore Gardens, along with Nos. 5 and 7 Stanford Road, just round the corner, in 1852.
Edward William Burgess of Wardour Street, Soho was the builder of 3-19 Cottesmore Gardens on the north side of Cottesmore Gardens and 4-11 St Albans Grove (which back on to them) on the south side of St Albans Grove . He started work in 1851 and both rows were completed by 1856. The houses appear to be terraced but are in fact built in pairs quite close together.
De Vere Gardens
De Vere Gardens runs between Canning Place and Kensington Gore. It consists mainly of five storey buildings with stucco up to first floor level. On the west side there are several hotels. The street has a good view of Kensington Gardens at the northern end.
The buildings have first floor wrought iron balconies and the first floor windows consist mainly of three distinct sections. At the south end on the east side there is a lower terrace of eight buildings consisting of four floors with the fourth floor having a slate frontage. The southern end of the street is tree lined. On the west side at the south end of the street there is an unusual terrace of four storey buildings with distinctive leaded pane windows on three floors and small bay windows on ground and first floors. These buildings are single occupation with very small patios in front with small bollards abutting the pavement.
De Vere Gardens was the site of Malcolm’s Nursery in 1837 – something like the modern garden centre but for exotic fruit and vegetables. In 1848, the land was taken on a 21 year lease by John Inderwick, the Wardour Street tobacconist who had just developed much of the land in the Launceston Place area. (See Inderwick Estate.) He built some terraces of house, which have not survived.
Most of the area was turned into Grand National Hippodrome, as part of the Great Exhibition in 1851. This was an arena for horse-riding events. It was built of wood and iron and held 14,000 spectators. Races along the lines of Ben Hur were organised, starring female charioteers from France. The whole event was organised by William Batty, who specialised in putting on theatrical and horse riding events. After 1852 the Hippodrome was used as a riding school.
In about 1870 Inderwick’s lease came to an end and the family who owned the land sold it for development. It was ultimately bought by Charles Edward Barlow and William Bennett Daw, who were surveyors and builders. In 1875 they began development of De Vere Gardens. The work was split up among various builders but most of the houses followed a similar pattern. They were built as mirror images of each other with double porticoes providing entrances to two houses. The houses generally had bay windows at ground floor level.
In 1875 Barlow and W.B. Daw granted a building lease of most of the east side of De Vere Gardens to C.A. Daw and his son W.A. Daw (who were presumably related to W.B. Daw). They built Nos. 5-37 between 1875 and 1880. C.A. Daw constructed Nos. 39-53 as well as De Vere Mews behind them from 1877-8.
They also had a smaller section of land on the opposite (west) side. In 1878 they built Nos. 28-32 De Vere Gardens. Between those houses and De Vere Cottages to the south they built De Vere Mansions West in 1884-5.
The other major builders in De Vere Gardens were A.F. Taylor and S.A. Cumming, who operated from Earls Court. They had a site on the west side of De Vere Gardens immediately north of the Daws’ site where they built Nos. 8-26 De Vere Gardens in 1875-8. But where the Daws had constructed houses with gardens running the depth of the plot to Canning Passage, Taylor and Cumming split their plots roughly in half and constructed back-to-back houses, so Nos. 8-26 backed on to houses in Victoria Road.
Taylor and Cummings also had a site on the west side of the road between De Vere Mansions West and Canning Place in the south, where they built Nos. 36-50 De Vere Gardens.
Taylor and Cumming bought the freehold of De Vere Cottages (which open on to Canning Place at the south) and C.A. Daw bought the freehold of De Vere Mews (which similarly opens south onto Canning Place on the east side). De Vere Cottages was then known as Laconia Mews. It seems G.B. Hart was the architect for both sets of cottages. The properties were originally coach houses on the ground floor with stables on the first floor, which the horses reached by going up a ramp a bit like a circular staircase. The second floor was living quarters for the coachmen. There were about 30 stables in all. De Vere Mews was occupied by the Civil Service Riding Club in 1947. It was still used as working stables in the 1970s. In 1978-80, the west side of De Vere Mews was converted to provide houses facing onto De Vere Gardens in 1979 and now numbered 39-51 (odd).
Back at the top on the east side, another Kensington builder, W.H. Willis, built two houses, Nos. 1 and 3 De Vere Gardens in 1876. That just left an original property called Forest House on the east. This was finally demolished in 1881 and Barlow built houses there. It was later converted into the De Vere Hotel.
On the west side, above Taylor and Cumming’s site, Barlow and W.B. Daw retained the land for development themselves. In 1876-7 they built 4 houses, possibly using G.B. Hart as the architect. This part of the site later became the Kensington Palace Hotel.
Completion of the building work coincided with a slump in the property market and the houses were very slow to sell. In the end, many of the houses had to be converted into mansion flats which were becoming popular, That was a better market than large houses from that point onwards. C.A. Daw had seen the trend and in 1880 built purpose built flats, named De Vere Mansions on the site of No. 37 De Vere Gardens. In 1885 they completed De Vere Mansions West, a much larger flat development. Nos. 15, 17 and 19 De Vere Gardens were converted from houses to flats in 1889.
In 1892-3 Nos. 28-30 were converted into a hotel called the Maisonettes Hotel, which contained serviced residential suites. By 1906 No. 6 was also a hotel and several others followed.
Nos. 38-48 De Vere Gardens were originally part of De Vere Cottages and faced the other way. But they were turned to face De Vere Gardens after the First World War.
There were some famous residents:
Robert Browning at No. 29 (1889-9)
Henry James at De Vere Mansions West
Douro Place is a small street on the west side of Victoria Road. The street is a cul-de-sac and very quiet.
It consists of a mixture of brick and stuccoed houses all with very attractive front gardens, some with basement garages as well. The houses are mainly three-storeys plus basement and are attractive family houses with small front gardens.
There is a blue plaque to ‘Samuel Palmer 1805-1881’, the artist who lived in a house here.
Douro Place was part of the Vallotton Estate. In 1846 Vallotton leased the building land for Douro Place to two Kensington builders, Frederick Woods and William Wheeler. They constructed eight houses in pairs (Nos. 1 – 8) on the north side in 1846 and another pair (Nos. 13-14) on the south side in 1847. But Weeler’s bankruptcy in 1848 stopped work. Construction was taken up again in 1850 by Mark Patrick, a local builder, who completed the work on the south side of Douro Place with Nos. 9-12.
The earlier houses have stucco facades. The later house have brick facades and canted bays at the ground floor level.
The painter Samuel Palmer lived at No. 6 from 1851-61.
Dukes Lane is a small discrete street running west of Kensington Church Street into Pitt Street. The whole of the north side of the street consists of a 10 foot high wall but the south side has some interesting old cottages, mainly painted white, abutting immediately onto the pavement. Queen Anne Cottages is a particularly attractive group. One of the houses has an attractive plaque at first floor level.
There is an interesting building called Dukes Lane Chambers, which has a small gated courtyard, resembling something out of northern Italy. Next door is a virtually hidden covered pathway, about 3 feet wide, called Carmel Court, which is surrounded by a labyrinth of old cottages.
Dukes Lane is similar to Shepherds Market, but without the crowds, and is very much ‘old Kensington’ of the days when it was still a village. It is well worth exploring.
Duke’s Lane was known as Campden Lane in the 18th century when it was part of the lands of Campden House, owned by the Lechmere family. In 1722 a bricklayer named John Jones bought land in the area and started house-building. Lord Lechmere objected to him using a private lane to move building materials and their dispute ended in a brawl of workers and Jones was hauled off to Newgate Prison. Jones unsuccessfully tried to bribe the constable who had witnessed the brawl to give evidence for him at trial. He died later in the year before the case was settled.
His widow Rebecca and his nephew John Price inherited his estate. Jones had begun building four houses in Duke’s Lane, which they finished. The houses were later rebuilt.
Earl’s Terrace is a terrace of four-storey Victorian houses with basements, slightly set back from the south side of Kensington High Street. There is a private road immediately in front of the houses and then a private garden abutting Kensington High Street.
The houses were recently renovated to an extremely high standard. Many have indoor swimming pools and there is extensive underground parking. The terrace is 24 houses long, all in identical style but extremely impressive. There are small lodges at either end of the private road. Apparently in the past, some well known spies used to live there.
The private gardens at the rear of the terrace are enormous and the rear façade has attractive terraces with wrought-iron balconies on the second floor.
See the history of Edwardes Square. Earl’s Terrace was part of the overall design of the square.
Edge Street is a cul-de-sac which runs west of Kensington Church Street.
Most of the south side of the street is in commercial use. But on the north side, there are houses in an assortment of architectural styles.. Some of the houses have attractive trellised roof gardens. Many of the houses have attractive bay windows, all different.
Eldon Road runs west of the southern end of Victoria Road and is a particularly quiet street with very large family houses.
There is a blue plaque to Edward Henry Corbould 1815-1905, art tutor to the children of Queen Victoria, who lived in the very attractive large red brick house on the eastern end of the street.
The houses are mainly four storeys plus basement with small front gardens. The southern side is of a uniform appearance whereas the northern side has more varied architecture. Some of the houses also have off-street parking with attractive small trees in the front gardens. They are mainly stuccoed, painted in different shades of pink, yellow and grey and the street has a particularly open and light feeling to it.
Most of the period houses of Essex Villas are on the north side of the street. They are large semi-detached houses with wide entrances which accommodate the street door and lights on either side, all set within a doorcase. The houses have basement, ground, first, and second floors, and only a few dormers. The façade is plastered at basement and ground level, and it is painted white, as are the external surrounds of the windows, and the prominent quoins which run up the sides of the building.
The basement and ground floors have canted bays. Above the bay is a three-part window consisting of a large central window flanked by narrow lights. The central window is surmounted by a curved pediment. A traditional rectangular window is placed over the front door.
Some very full grown trees right up against the houses and brushing all the windows.
On south side there are a few similar houses. But there are post-war brick houses from Nos. 12 to 20. These houses just have a raised ground and a first floor. They also have an integral garage at the side.
Farmer Street is a short street running between Hillgate Place and Notting Hill Gate. The area itself is known as ‘Hillgate Village’. It consists of terraced Victorian cottages painted in a multitude of colours.
The east side of the street consists of two storeys plus basement but the houses on the west side are larger, consisting of three-storeys plus basement.
At the end of the street there is the long-established Geales Fish Restaurant.
Gloucester Walk runs between Hornton Street and Kensington Church Street.
On the south side (at the western end) the houses are mainly three or four-storey stucco houses.
On the north side there is a 1960s style three-storey block of flats and also an imposing red-brick Edwardian terrace of flats.
Gordon Place is a small street, on a slope, running south from Campden Grove to Holland Street.
It contains mainly three and four-storey stucco houses with small front yards. Halfway down the street there is a lovely view of the spire of Kensington Parish Church. There is an enormous mature tree on the corner with Pitt Street which must be one of the oldest trees in the area.
At the southern end of the street is a very attractive neighbourhood pub called the Elephant and Castle, which in the Summer has a profusion of flowers and plants, with several seats outside which is a real sun spot. It is well worth a visit on a Spring or Summer day.
Hillgate Street runs between Notting Hill Gate and Kensington Place. It consists partly of commercial buildings, including an attractive pub called the Hillgate and some small neighbourhood restaurants.
On the east side of the street there is an attractive terrace of different coloured three-storey Victorian terraced houses.
The street has a particularly ‘villagey’ feel and is in the area known as ‘Hillgate Village’.
You should read the history of the Racks to the point where William Johnson and Joseph Clutterbuck began turning what had been a brickfield into a residential area.
Clutterbuck died in about 1851 having made a start on development, using other builders to carry out the work. William Johnson continued selling off plots. Over 200 houses were built in the following decade, with a large number of individual builders constructing a few houses each.
Clutterbuck, or builders appointed by him, were responsible for the construction of houses in Hillgate Street (formerly Johnson Street).
Most of the houses in this area were put in multiple occupation and it was really close to being a slum.
Hillsleigh Road runs down the hill between Aubrey Walk and Holland Park Avenue. The houses on the west side are mainly three-storey. On the east side, at the top of the hill, there are some very elegant and large family houses.
Ness Cottage has an attractive castellated ground floor extension. The red brick Essex House is also particularly outstanding with a coat of arms above the front door. Hill Lodge, which has a large front garden, is also noteworthy.
Holland Street runs between Kensington Church Street and Hornton Street. It is a narrow street forming part of the original village of Kensington, with a mixture of small shops and some very old Georgian-style houses on three to four storeys with small front gardens. Most of the houses are brick-faced and the street has a very ‘villagey’ feel although it is no more than a couple of minutes walk of Kensington High Street. You could almost be in a small village in the countryside.
There is a lot of greenery and, as well as having the attractive Elephant and Castle pub, it has some interesting specialist antique shops and a delightful neighbourhood restaurant called The Terrace which has a lovely small outside-patio at the front.
The end of Gordon Place is on the south side of the street, leading to a delightful footpath fronted on either side by terraces of Victorian houses, each with their own small front garden and a profusion of shrubs and small trees. To add to the atmosphere is an old sloping gas-style street lamp painted in the traditional green colour and engraved in gold with ‘KV’. On the south side of Holland Street are some small mews containing some small attractive specialist shops. The western end of Holland Street has a terrace of rather unusual three-storey white stucco houses on the north side, each with a protruding entrance.
Inverness Gardens is a short terrace on the northern side of Vicarage Gate has a central paved garden, surrounded by attractive trees and shrubs, and contains white stucco houses, containing three storeys and basements.
A central garden adds to the privacy and feeling of space.
Iverna Court runs west of Wrights Lane and consists of large red-brick Edwardian mansion blocks, mostly eight storeys high.
There is a small central private garden and the square is dominated by some very tall mature trees and the unusually designed St Sarkis Armenian Church, which has a lovely central rounded tower.
Iverna Gardens runs south from Iverna Court into Abingdon Villas. It consists of mainly five-storey red-brick Edwardian mansion blocks with attractive balconies.
The street is lined with tall mature trees.
Jameson Street runs north of Kensington Place.
It mainly consists of three-storey terraced Victorian houses some of which are fully stuccoed and others only up to ground floor level. Those on the east side abut immediately onto the pavement but those on the west side are slightly set back behind wrought iron railings.
The street is tree-lined on one side and is part of the area known at Hillgate Village.
Kelso Place is a small cul-de-sac consisting mainly of two and three-storey Georgian-style terraced houses, most of which have bare brick facades.
The west side of the street has a more modern terrace consisting of three-storey red-brick houses and off-street parking
Kensington Court is an elegant enclave of four and five-storey mansion blocks. There is a small communal garden in the middle.
The western terrace consists of a series of mansion blocks with an unusual series of miniature towers at the top, all in different designs, giving an appearance a bit like an ancient palace. Although it is only one minute’s walk away from the main thoroughfare, the area is extremely quiet and the buildings very elegant.
There is even a large paved garden in the north-east section of the enclave from which one gets a good view of Kensington Gardens. The whole area contains one of the largest cluster of grand mansion blocks in the whole of Kensington.
Kensington Court Place is a short street with a large mansion block on the east side and a terrace of three-storey plus basement terraced Victorian houses on the west side.
The architecture at the southern end suddenly changes when it leads into Stanford Road.
Kensington Place runs between Campden Hill Road and Kensington Church Street. It is on a slight incline.
The southern side of the street contains some small cottages at the eastern end. The north side consists of two-storey (plus basement) terraced Victorian houses. Some of the houses are painted in light pastel colours whereas the others are natural brick-faced.
On the south side of Kensington Place at the western end are two modern red-brick blocks of flats, eight storeys high, and also a small terrace of modern, red-brick town-houses. The blocks of flats have extensive underground parking areas.
Kensington Square is one of the oldest squares in Kensington and is just south of Kensington High Street. It surrounds a private, central communal garden which contains many mature trees. There is a Summer house, designed with columns resembling the front of a Greek temple.
The houses are mainly four or five storeys high but the actual height of the roofs all vary. The facades are mainly natural brick, although on the south side quite a few of them are painted. Some of the houses are extremely large. They all have small front gardens and some of them are very old. There are numerous ‘blue plaques’ in the square. Despite being one minute’s walk away from Kensington High Street, the square is remarkably quiet.
The south west corner has the Maria Assumpta Centre. This contains a convent as well as some very beautiful gardens which are occasionally opened to the public. Next to the square is the chapel of the Convent of the Assumption with an ornate circular window on the façade.
On the south east corner there is Thackeray Street which has some good quality, small, local shops including a French patisserie and two well-known art galleries. There is also a rather charming Italian delicatessen called Otto E Mezzo (Eight and a half). It is very like walking into someone’s private kitchen in a village in Italy! It has a small dining area next door
Kynance Mews is a cobbled mews which divides into two parts. Both ends of Kynance Mews are entered through an arch.
The western section must be one of the most attractive mews in Kensington. It has houses with lots of different character, most of which have a profusion of shrubs and plants in front. The houses are painted all different colours and there is a very village-like feel to the mews. Some of the houses have roof gardens.
It has a lovely view of Christ Church on the northern side. The home owners clearly go to a great deal of trouble to maintain the exceptionally high standard of the mews.
Launceston Place is a delightful street of two-storey (plus basement) semi-detached houses with small but attractive front gardens.
Some of the houses on the west side have a rather unique black cast-iron surround on the ground floor window. The houses on the east are built to a slightly different design, with a protruding frontage on ground and first floor, in alignment with the front doors. The houses on the west side have a flat frontage, although the house at the south west end on the west side has a very attractive circular tower. No. 22a is particularly attractive with a flat roof with unusual protruding columns resembling small chimneys.
There are small trees in the street, which in the Spring come out in bright cherry blossom colours. The houses have raised front doors at the top of ten steps and each house has an attractive side entrance leading to the rear gardens.
The street even has a very good local restaurant called (rather unimaginatively) Launceston Place Restaurant, at the northern end of the street.
Palace Gardens Terrace
Palace Gardens Terrace is a long street running from Notting Hill Gate down to Vicarage Gate in the south. The street is wide and lined with mature trees.
Both sides of the street contain terraces of stuccoed houses, which are mainly four storeys high (with basements), and which are set well back from the road. The southern part of the street has a rather grand, double-width pavement and the houses are approached directly off the street with raised ground floors.
When the pavement reverts to being a normal single width, the houses no longer have raised ground floors, but do have the benefit of small attractive front gardens.
Palace Gardens Terrace was part of the Sheffield House and Glebe Estate
Starting at the southern end, William Lloyd Edwards, a Paddington builder, took leases of Nos. 2-40 in 1859. Jeremiah Little, another major builder in the area, took leases of the plots of Nos. 42-90 in 1858, but it is believed that Edwards also built Nos. 42-58. Nos. 92-102 at the top end, were eventually leased to Jeremiah Little, who probably built the houses in 1871 along with Nos. 1-12 Strathmore Gardens.
The houses on the west side of Palace Gardens Terrace were also mainly built by Edwards or the Little family. In 1860, Edwards took a lease of the plots for Nos. 1-19 at the southern end. Thomas Huggett, another local builder, built Nos. 21-33 at the same time. Edwards carried on the work northwards with Nos. 35-53 in about 1864. Jeremiah or Henry Little constructed Nos. 55 and 57 at the top end in about 1856.
Peel Street runs between Campden Hill Road and Kensington Church Street. It is on a slight gradient.
The houses are mainly two or three-storeys and both sides of the street are terraced. Some houses are painted and some are just bare brick. On the south side, halfway along the road, is an old pub called the Peel Arms which is now a private house. The north side on the west end of the street is a large six storey terraced mansion block built in 1877. On the south side of the street, halfway along, is a rather attractive, very narrow street called Peel Passage, linking the street with Campden Street.
Peel Cottage on the north side has a blue plaque naming Sir William Russell Flint, the artist who lived there from 1925 to 1969, and the cottage has an unusual tiled frontage.
You should read the history of the Racks to the point where William Ward and John Punter purchased their land for development.
When John Punter and William Ward divided up the land they had bought in 1822, the Peel Street area fell to John Punter. Perhaps due to financial difficulties, most of Punter’s land was put up for auction in 1823, although Punter himself bought back some of the plots. Punter built a number of houses in the area himself, but in 1829 he sold his remaining land to John Herapath, a railway journalist.
It seems that when the houses were originally built there were no sewers. One house was used to keep pigs.
Many of the original houses were knocked down when the Circle Line was constructed. After it was roofed over, rebuilding took place in the 1870s.
Pembroke Gardens is an L-shaped street stretching between Warwick Gardens and Pembroke Road. On the leg leading into Warwick Road there are some delightful old, artists studios, called Pembroke Studios, two storeys high in red brick, set well back behind a private garden and a tall hedge. On the south side, there are mainly four-storey (plus basement) Victorian houses although, at the western end, there is a rather attractive pair of semi-detached houses with external front shutters on the first floor and a second floor with slate facings.
The southern leg of Pembroke Gardens is wide and tree-lined. The houses on the west side are substantial three-storey (plus basement) semi-detached houses with small front gardens, some with privet hedges in front. There is a particularly unusual, very large, middle-eastern style house at the south end of the street.
On the east side the houses are smaller, consisting of one terrace of older houses painted white and a newer terrace in bare brick. They also have very attractive, albeit small, front gardens and also underground garages and off-street parking. The newer houses have very unusual bay windows split into five sections.
Pembroke Gardens was part of the Edwardes Estate. Pembroke Gardens is two short streets meeting at right angles.
The main builder was Richard Albion Holliday, a local builder. From 1863-8 Holliday built the houses on the north-south section. Nos. 1-12 on the east side have not survived, but Nos. 13-27 on the west side still exist. The houses are generally on 3 storeys above a basement, but had quite large plots. The terraced houses are flat-fronted but with Doric porches. The façades are stuccoed to below first floor level and are faced with grey brick above.
Prudential Assurance Company rebuilt many of the houses on the east side which were destroyed in the war. Some were built in 1951 as 2 storey houses with basement garages. The rest were built in 1966-8.
On the east-west arm of Pembroke Gardens, Nos. 24-27 are terraced houses similar to those Holliday built around the corner. Nos. 28-30 were built by Samuel Johns, a builder associated with him.
Pembroke Gardens Close
Pembroke Gardens Close is a private road – in fact, a cul-de-sac – off Pembroke Gardens. As such it is extremely quiet and secluded.
There are modern houses, built-in neo-Georgian style. It is a fine example of a modern residential development in the centre of Kensington. Many of the houses are detached and have private lawns in front. There is ample parking, both with private garages and on the road. There is a great feeling of light and space and it is hard to believe that one is in Central London.
Unusually for Kensington the traditional street lamps are painted white and there is a small, porter’s lodge at the entrance to the road. The entrance is semi-gated with signs announcing a 15 mph speed limit, threats of wheel clamping to outsiders, and a warning to ‘hawkers’ to stay away.
Pembroke Gardens Close was part of the Edwardes Estate.
Pembroke Lodge was a large building and grounds surviving behind Pembroke Gardens. In 1957-9 it was demolished and Nos. 1-18 Pembroke Gardens built in the former grounds.
They are 2-storey detached or semi-detached neo-Georgian houses with brick façades. They also have segmental headed doorcases and wooden dentilled cornices.
They were built by Prudential Assurance Co. whose chief architect, F. Doyle, designed them.
Pembroke Mews runs west off the northern section of Earls Court Road. The mews is cobbled.
The northern leg of the mews consists mainly of two and three storey houses containing an attic conversion. Some are painted and some are partly brick.
The south section of the mews is slightly different in that there are some commercial premises and some very big garages at ground floor level. The southern section also has an entrance into a narrow street called Earls Walk which runs between Earls Court Road and Pembroke Square. This mainly contains garages at the rear of houses in Pembroke Square.
Pembroke Mews was part of the Edwardes Estate.
In 1875-6 Stevens and Colls, builders, created Pembroke Mews as 4 parallel rows of stables and coach houses on land previously used as a market garden.
Pembroke Place is a small street running off the north west side of Earls Court Road which then goes into a square.
There are some attractive trees in the centre of the square and the houses on the west and south side are three storey terraced houses painted in a variety of colours.
There is plenty of space for parking and on the east side of the square the terrace is stucco up to first floor with most of the houses having a bench in front on the pavement with lots of potted shrubs.
Pembroke Place was part of the Edwardes Estate.
Pembroke Place was originally laid out by Daniel Sutton, a carpet manufacturer from Wilton, who completed most of the houses in Edwardes Square nearby. In 1868, Thomas Huggett, a large scale builder in the Cromwell Road area, turned Pembroke Place into a small square with 14 three storey houses (Nos. 15-18 and 21-30). In 1933 No. 19 was built as a block of flats to designs by W. Doddington.
Sutton’s original houses at Nos. 5-13 were replaced in 1962-3 by new neo-Georgian houses designed by Douglas Stephen and Partners to be copies of the originals.
Pembroke Square is a long, rectangular ‘square’ on the west side of Earls Court Road.
The houses are mainly three-storey Victorian terraced houses with basements. Most have facades which are stuccoed only up to first floor level.
The square is unusual in that the central garden area consists of a garden centre, a tennis court, some weather recording equipment, as well as a small, but very attractive, sitting area with a partly sunken garden. There are mature trees round the whole square and the houses on the west side are particularly attractive with privet hedges in front of the large front gardens. There is a great feeling of light and space.
Pembroke Square was part of the Edwardes Estate. The name was apparently chosen because Lord Kensington had Welsh connections.
The builders with whom Lord Kensington entered into building agreement for this area in 1823, were two inexperienced building speculators, Robert Tuck and John Dowley. Up to this point Tuck had been a carpenter employed in a brewery in Pimlico. Dowley was chief surveyor of the Westminster Commissioners of Sewers, a job he gave up to go into this development.
Work began in 1823. They used Edward Tuck, a relative of Robert Tuck’s, to build the sewers to the square. Tuck and Dowley were themselves responsible for the house construction work. Unfortunately, there was a business slump in 1825 and the partners weren’t able to sell the houses fast enough to pay the debts they were building up with builders merchants and sub-contractors. They went bankrupt, with only a few houses in the square yet occupied
The work was taken over by nominees on behalf of the creditors. By the end of 1830 all the houses on the north and south sides of Pembroke Square had been completed. The west side was less well advanced and most of the incomplete houses were taken over in 1831 by William Collins, a local builder.
Tuck seemed to have recovered as a builder a few years later. Dowley was allowed back into the Commission of Sewers where he got back his old post. He remained chief surveyor until 1845 when he retired, but was still kept on as a consultant until the Westminster Commission of Sewers was closed at the end of 1847.
Pembroke Villas is a short street running south from Pembroke Square into Pembroke Road.
The houses on the west side are particularly attractive, consisting of very large three-storey (plus basement) semi-detached Victorian houses with very large front gardens, all individually designed. Many of the them contain small lawns and box hedges.
Some of the house have extremely wide frontages with garages at the side, making them some of the most attractive houses in the area.
Pembroke Villas was part of the Edwardes Estate. The name was apparently chosen because Lord Kensington had Welsh connections
Phillimore Gardens is an extremely attractive tree-lined street with a large three and four-storey Victorian houses on either side. It is considered one of the best streets in the area.
The facades of the houses are a mixture of brick and stucco. Some of the houses have small but delightful front gardens. Some have terraces with attractive displays of flowers in the summer.
The grandest houses are in the northern part of the street. Those on the west side have lovely views over Holland Park.
Some of the buildings at the south end of the street contain flats.
The road, which is on a gentle slope, slightly curves near the northern end and at this point there is a particularly imposing house with three large bay windows.
Phillimore Gardens was built as part of the development of the Phillimore Estate. It runs from north to south between Duchess of Bedford Walk and Kensington High Street.
Nos. 4-20 which run from Phillimore Walk to Essex Villas, on the west side of the road, were built in 1863 by William Henry Cullingford, of Pembridge Villas. From there up to Duchess of Bedford Walk, houses were built on a more individual basis. Charles Frederick Phelps built No. 24 in 1860, Joseph Gordon Davis, who was the principal builder in Essex Villas, appears to have been involved in the construction of Nos. 26-36.
On the west side of Phillimore Gardens it was William Henry Cullingford again who built most of the southern stretch of houses. Only Nos. 9-17 (odd) remain. Davis was a party to all the other building agreements and so must either have been the builder or have sub contracted the work.
The houses on the north side of Phillimore Place are large semi-detached houses. They have basement, ground, first, second floors, and generally a dormer room in the steep mansard roof. Most have stuccoed fronts at ground and area level, with grooves cut into it to resemble blocks of stone. They have quite shallow ground and first floor balconies with a lot of the window space taken up by the stonework. Some have a balustrade for a balcony at second floor level above the first floor bay. The street door has a porch with attached undecorated columns. The upper floors have three-part windows consisting of a large central window flanked by narrow lights, which also appear to open. The central window is surmounted by a curved pediment.
On the south side many of the houses are entirely Gothic in style. They have basement, ground, first and second floors with bay windows up to first floor level. The front elevation is deliberately broken up to recall the buttresses and projections of Gothic church or castle, with the entrance door and the front rooms on either side all at different distances from the pavement. The second floor is partly contained in an extension with a forward-facing gable.
Phillimore Place was built as part of the development of the Phillimore Estate.
Joseph Gordon Davis, who was the principal builder in Essex Villas, built Nos. 3-17 (odd) in 1866. Houses had already been built on the end. Henry Burton built No. 1 in 1861 and Jeremiah Little built No. 19 in 1862. No. 19 was later knocked down and re-built as 19-21.
On the south side, Davis appears to have had the building leases.
The south side of Phillimore Place contains only the backs of the mansion blocks along Kensington High Street.
But the north side is a set of quite charming mews properties. The houses have a ground floor with one, or sometimes two, floors above. The top floor in some cases is in a mansard roof above first floor level. All are built in an attractive dark brick.
Most of the garage doors are painted white. All the mews houses are built in late-Georgian style, except one which is in mock Tudor style.
Phillimore Walk was built as part of the development of the Phillimore Estate
Pitt Street runs on either side of Gordon Place. It is a discrete, hidden street.
On the north-east side is the rather unusual Edwardian block, Bullingham Mansions, which has a gated entrance leading to a courtyard, with a statue at the end and large bay trees on either side.
The south side of Pitt Street has attractive three-storey Victorian terraced houses with small front gardens.
The west end of Pitt Street is wider and has some large, stuccoed, four-storey Victorian houses set back from the road. It is hard to believe that one is so close to the hustle and bustle of Kensington High Street.
Pitt Street was part of the Pitt Estate.
Nos. 3-9 (odd) were built by Jeremiah Little in 1853. The houses on the south side were built in the 1840’s, and some of them had ground floor shops. Gatehouse and Company of St Marylebone and a Mr Watts of Gracechurch Street were the builders. Watts built the terrace Nos. 10-18 (even) Pitt Street, formerly called Vassall Terrace.
Radley Mews is a cobbled, hidden mews running south of Stratford Road. It runs a bit like a dog leg. Most of the houses are painted white and are traditional, two-storey mews buildings. It is cobbled and very quiet.
Radley Mews was part of the Edwardes Estate.
Samuel Juler Wyand built most of the stable and coach-house buildings in Radley Mews. But Nos. 18-20 were built by William Watts.
The Wyands had been farmers in Norfolk. But Samuel Juler Wyand Senior had already set up as a builder in London in the 1850s in Paddington, before going bust in 1855. Samuel Juler Wyand (junior) then set himself up independently and retired at the age of 37. He was one of the few builders who didn’t overstretch himself and get ruined by the occasional property downturns.
Alma Studios was built as a three storey red brick block of flats at the entrance to Radley Mews. It was built by John Barker and Co at the end of the 19th Century.
Scarsdale Villas runs between Earls Court Road and Marloes Road. It is a wide tree-lined street of stuccoed and part-stuccoed houses.
The houses are well set back from the road, many with off-street parking. They are substantial houses, mainly of three floors plus basement.
Due to the width of the street there is a great feeling of light and space and it is one of the prime residential streets in the area.
(See Nokes Estate for a short history of the Abingdon Villas and Scarsdale Villas area.)
Nos. 64-70 (even) on the north west side near Earls Court Road were built in about 1851 by Barnabas Jennings and William Stevenson, who were involved in other parts of the Abingdon Villas and Scarsdale Villas area. The houses between them and the Abingdon Road junction, Nos. 58-62, were built by Joseph Temple and William Forster in 1862. The next stretch between Abingdon Road and Allen Street, comprising Nos. 38-56 (even) were built by Edward Payne Browne, a Kensington builder, in 1862. George Nokes himself was the builder of Nos. 2-24 Scarsdale Villas in 1856. These houses run from Marloes Road westwards. Nos. 26-36 which completed the run of houses as far as Allen Street were probably built in 1857.
The south side of Scarsdale Villas from Marloes Road to Allen Street was constructed between 1858 and 1860. George Godbolt of Chelsea built Nos. 1-7. Robert Wallbutton of New Cross built Nos. 9 – 27. The south side of Scarsdale Villas from Allen Street to Earls Court Road was mostly constructed in 1862-3. Alfred Judd, a builder from Willesden, built Nos. 29-37 (odd) in 1862. Nos. 39 and 41 were built by Francis Willis in 1862-3, Nos. 43-49 by Frederick Saunders in 1862, Nos. 51-57 by Edward Saunders. No. 72 Scarsdale Villas, a single house, was built by Francis Attfield in 1851 as part of his development of houses on the adjoining Earls Court Road.
(See Nokes Estate for a short history of the Abingdon Villas and Scarsdale Villas area of which ths is part.)
Shaftesbury Mews was originally a set of livery stables called Cleveland Livery Stables, which were knocked down to make way for houses which were built in 1863 by William Green, a builder from Stratford Road.
Sheffield Terrace runs between Campden Hill Road and Kensington Church Street and is on a slight slope. On the north side of the western end are some very large three-storey houses, some of which are detached.
No. 58 (which has a ‘blue plaque’ for Agatha Christie) is particularly outstanding. It is set well back from the road with two carved animals above the front entrance.
The middle section on the north side consists of a terrace of three and four-storey houses, all stuccoed, although No. 38 in the middle, unusually, is all brick and protrudes above the terrace. All the houses have good-sized front gardens with lots of shrubbery and small trees.
On the south side there is a terrace of red-brick five-storey Edwardian buildings, consisting of flats. There are three or four steps up to the entrance doors but otherwise they abut immediately on to the pavement.
Sheffield Terrace was part of the Pitt Estate.
William Eales, a timber merchant, and Jeremiah Little, a builder, both from St Marylebone had the building lease to develop most of the Pitt Estate, granted by Steven Pitt in 1844. (The terms are dealt with in the history of the Pitt Estate.) They built houses in Sheffield Terrace.
Nos. 8-14 (even) were knocked down to make way for the District and Metropolitan Railway and Jeremiah Little built new houses over the completed site in 1871. Nos. 31-39 (odd) were demolished after the last war.
South End is rather like a little village centre. Surrounded by attractive houses, it has five streets leading into it. It is most definitely one of the most secret backwaters of Kensington and the houses are each quite unique. There is a central flower garden which adds to the village feel.
South End Row is a small cul-de-sac on the south side containing small Victorian cottages. The western leg of South End is cobbled, leading to the rear entrance to the garden which is behind the convent in Kensington Square.
Ansdell Terrace on the north is a small tree-lined cul-de-sac and there is also Leith’s School of Food and Wine. Next door to that is the local neighbourhood pub, called the Builders Arms.
South End was built to the south of Kensington Square.
The premises on the north side were the back parts of houses in Kensington Square. They were ‘improved’ or rebuilt during 20th Century.
The south side originally housed coffee rooms and other shops.
St Albans Grove
St Albans Grove runs between Stanford Road and Victoria Road.
The northern side consists mainly of a large building for American students. The south side has large three-storey stuccoed houses (plus basements) and small front gardens. The houses are mainly semi-detached.
There is a neighbourhood pub at the western end of the road, a rather unusual Polish restaurant, and some other attractive, craftsmen-type shops.
St Albans Grove was part of the Vallotton Estate.
Edward William Burgess of Wardour Street, Soho was the builder of 4-11 St Albans Grove on the south side of St Albans Grove and 3-19 Cottesmore Gardens (which back on to them) on the north side of Cottesmore Gardens. He started work in 1851 and both rows were completed by 1856. The houses appear to be terraced but are in fact built in pairs quite close together. In 1855-6 he built Nos. 12 and 12a St Albans Grove as houses with shops, on the corner of St Albans Grove and Stanford Road.
At the east end, No. 3 St Albans Grove was built by Thomas Rider of Union Street, Southwark. This is a double fronted detached villa. Behind it No. 1 Cottesmore Gardens was built by Chesterman and Son to designs by the architect JF Bush. It was built in 1851 and enlarged in 1853.
On the north side of St Albans Grove, there were a variety of cottages which were replaced by houses and finally by a school.
After the other streets with their huge trees right up against the houses, Stafford Terrace is noticeable for its lack of trees (and correspondingly increased sunlight).
There are virtually identical terraces on both sides of the street. The houses have basement, ground, and first floors and an additional attic floor in the mansard roof. Canted bays rise through basement, ground and first floors. There is a balustraded balcony on top, below second floor windows.
The main door is enclosed in a porch with attached pillars and balustrades above. The window above the door is protected by an arched hood. The bays at all floors and the façade at basement and ground level are stuccoed. Lines were carved into the stucco to give the impression of stone construction under the white paint.
There is bare brickwork above but window surrounds painted. There is a cornice running along the top of the wall with an interesting sea-wave frieze. Balustrades on the roof edge run right along the terrace matching those above the bays and the main door.
Stafford Terrace was built as part of the development of the Phillimore Estate.
Joseph Gordon Davis, who was the principal builder in Essex Villas, built Nos. 1-27 (odd) and Nos. 2-28 (even) on the south side all in 1868.
Stanford Road runs south from St Albans Grove and it is a very attractive and quiet backwater, with large family houses on both sides of the road. Many of the houses are half-stuccoed, with brick above first floor level, and have small front gardens.
There is a large 1930s style block of flats called Cottesmore Court, is a large seven storey building which nonetheless blend well into the local surroundings.
The southern end of Stanford Road is a cul-de-sac but it has a small, hidden footpath leading into Cornwall Gardens.
Stanford Road was part of the Vallotton Estate. Stanford Road is the end of several other roads, so there were no runs of terraces on the east side which was mainly taken up with the end houses of other streets. On the west side, George Smith Stredder built fifteen houses, which were a mixture of detached and semi-detached, known as Stanford Villas. They had bare brick façades and the decoration was provided by diamond quoins and pronounced friezes.
Some of the property in Stanford Street was taken over by the railway company when it built the Metropolitan and District Railway in the 1860’s. When they had covered over the tunnel, they returned the land and Thomas Hussey built Nos. 36-54 (even). The houses are linked by a cornice above the ground floor bay windows, and also below the roof parapet.
The stretch of road from Kelso Place to St Albans Grove was developed from 1859 onwards. Several houses were built by George Andrew Mosse, an engraver.
Cottesmore Court replaced several of the houses on the north corner of Stanford Road and Kelso Place in 1935-6. It was built in by Mowlems and designed by Gerald Unsworth. Stanford Court replaced Nos. 9-15 (odd) Stanford Road in 1932.
Stratford Road runs west of Marloes Road and is one of the ‘villages’ of Kensington.
The eastern end of the street has some very good local shops, including a well known organic butcher and a high quality delicatessen.
On the northern side, is a very attractive private courtyard, called Stratford Studios, and another attractive courtyard, named Scarsdale Studios (the name is engraved in stone over the arched entrance). This leads to a very unusual cluster of small houses, including an old, artists studio surrounding another small courtyard.
On the south side of Stratford Road is a small communal garden, called Sunningdale Gardens, which is surrounded on either side by a row of terraced houses. In the middle of this are some mature trees, an old street lamp, and some very attractive flowering gardens. The entrances to the houses abut onto the gardens and there is a rear entrance into the mews behind. The gardens are all very hidden and quite unique.
(See Nokes Estate for a short history of the Abingdon Villas and Scarsdale Villas area.)
Richard Anderson, a builder, who had a brickfield elsewhere in the area, took two plots on which he built Nos. 7 and 9 Stratford Road in 1852. They were initially called Devonshire Cottages, presumably related to the Devonshire Arms public house which Anderson also built in Marloes Road. Nos. 54-60 (even) were built by W.B & N.F Daw, builders from Torquay, in 1862. Nos. 48-52 were built by William Green in 1863.
On the other side, Nos. 25-27 were built by William Powsey in 1862-3, No. 23 was built by R & A.M. Gregg to designs by James Moore McCulloch, architect, in 1862.
Strathmore Gardens is a small cul-de-sac on the west side of Palace Gardens Terrace. The buildings are terraced, four-storey stuccoed buildings plus basements, but the street is not tree-lined and there are no front gardens.
Strathmore Gardens was part of the Sheffield House and Glebe Estate.
Jeremiah Little, a major builder in the area, took leases of the plots of Nos. 1-12 (consec) in 1858, who probably built the houses in 1871 along with Nos. 99-102 Palace Gardens Terrace.
Sunningdale Gardens was originally called Cleveland Terrace Gardens.
It was constructed as part of the development of the Abingdon Villas and Scarsdale Villas area. Nos. 2-10 (even) were built by W.B. and N.F. Dawe in 1863. Nos. 1-7 (odd) were built by J.W. Green in 1863.
(See Nokes Estate for a short history of the Abingdon Villas and Scarsdale Villas area.)
Tor Gardens is a short tree-lined street with a small but substantial stuccoed terrace with off-street parking. The houses have three storeys and a basement.
On the north side is an open, communal garden, with a modern 1960’s style development behind. There is a great feeling of light and space in the street.
Tor Gardens was part of the Pitt Estate.
This street was formerly called York Villas. Thomas Bridges of St Marylebone built a number of houses here in 1851. Only Nos. 1-7 (odd) have survived.
Upper Phillimore Gardens
Big as the houses in Upper Phillimore Gardens are, they are almost dwarfed by the enormous trees which line the street, and in many cases almost live indoors. A beech tree outside No. 9 virtually occupies the front rooms. Particularly on the northern side, the houses are very large, and they have long gardens backing onto Duchess of Bedford Walk.
Considering the imposing impression they make, it’s a surprise to realise that generally the houses have no more than a basement, ground floor, and first and second floors, although there are dormer windows in some of the roofs. The size is the result of extremely high ceilings at each storey.
Houses are generally detached or semi-detached and are mainly in Italianate villa style, with stuccoed facades painted white.
External decoration is quite restrained – limited perhaps to a porch hood supported by volute brackets. Most houses have normal or canted bays from basement to first floor level. At second floor level, French doors open onto a balcony with stone balustrades formed by the roof of the bay structure below.
Upper Phillimore Gardens was built as part of the development of the Phillimore Estate.
Joseph Gordon Davis, who was the principal builder in Essex Villas, had the building leases on almost all the houses, north or south, although Jeremiah Little, Henry Burton, Thomas Allen and other builders were associated with him.
Vicarage Gardens is a short, tree-lined street between Kensington Church Street and Vicarage Gate.
Both sides of the street have attractive three-storey, white, stuccoed, terraced houses with front gardens and small trees and shrubs in front, set well back from the road.
Vicarage Gardens was part of the Sheffield House and Glebe Estate.
Jeremiah Little bought the land on which the Vicarage Gardens house were to be built from Thomas Robinson, the freeholder. Jeremiah Little then leased the houses to his son, Henry Little who appears to have built them.
On the south side, Jeremiah Little leased the houses to his other son, William Little (except No. 10 which went to Henry Little).
It would seem that between them the Little family constructed all the houses between 1856 and 1858.
Vicarage Gate runs off Kensington Church Street, going gently uphill, with two branches off the street on the right hand side.
It mainly consists of large mansion blocks at the southern end. The first leg on the right is a cul-de-sac which contains a terrace of five-storey buildings (plus basements). At the end are St Mary Abbots Vicarage and St Mary Abbots Church Hall with an attractive courtyard in front. On the southern side stands Hamilton House, an eleven-storey, modern block of flats.
The second branch of Vicarage Gate is a wide street, again consisting of five-storey buildings with basements. The houses on the southern side are bare brick faced; those are the eastern end are faced with white stucco.
Vicarage Gate was part of the Sheffield House and Glebe Estate.
Joseph Mears, a Hammersmith builder, built the houses, Nos. 1-14 (consec), except for No. 7 which was built by Jonathan Pearson, an ironmonger from Notting Hill, by agreement with Mears. The houses were built in 1878-9.
Victoria Grove is a very quiet street which lies in the middle of Gloucester Road on the east and Launceston Place on the west.
The east side of the street has mainly commercial premises, including a French restaurant, neighbourhood pub and a post office/newsagents.
Both sides of the street have terrace of houses. Those on the south side are mainly two storeys (plus basements, plus loft conversions) with the ground floor windows unusually designed as three sections. The houses on the north side are particularly unusual and have a small, protruding, built-in canopy just above ground level.
Victoria Grove was part of the Inderwick Estate. Work on the original houses here began in 1837 and they were completed by 1841.
There is a terrace of house on the south side, which are Nos. 1-13 Victoria Grove and No 35 Launceston Place. They are stuccoed houses. Inderwick built Nos. 10 and 11. A number of other local builders were involved in the construction of the rest. The houses were built on the north side at around the same time. This includes Albert Lodge.
Nos. 19-25, which have an iron canopy, were built by J.R. Butler at about this time.
Victoria Road, which is only a few minutes walk from Kensington Gardens, is particularly outstanding. This is ‘prime Kensington’ with large family houses.
The east side has mainly four-storey houses (plus basements) with significant front gardens. The west side of the street has some substantial family houses, some of which are brightly painted in light blue and terracotta. A number of the gardens on the west side are particularly large. Some houses have off-street parking and even garages.
The street is well stocked with trees, many of which are cherry trees which blossom in the Spring and make the street look particularly colourful.
The south end of Victoria Road is perhaps the nicest part of the street, and at the very end stands the very attractive Christ Church with its well-maintained surrounding gardens – ideal for quiet reflection – where one would think one was in the middle of the countryside. The south end of the street is a cul-de-sac but there is a small hidden pathway going down some steps leading into Kynance Mews.
Victoria Road was built mainly on land which formed part of the Vallotton Estate. Nos. 6-14 were built by William Hoof, a successful builder, as part of a small development which also included building the houses in Albert Place. Construction was partly on Vallotton land and partly on his own back garden. He built the houses between 1841 and 1845.
All these houses are semi-detached and stucco fronted. One stylistic difference was that the Victoria Road houses have Ionic columns to their porches while the Albert Place houses have porches supported by square piers.
The houses on the west side of Victoria Road, from Albert Place to St Albans Grove (Nos. 16-30 even) were constructed between 1841 and 1844. Most were built by William Harrison a builder from St Martin’s Lane. They have long since been demolished.
South of St Albans Grove building continued southwards on the east side. John Inderwick (the owner of the small Inderwick Estate nearby) owned the adjoining Launceston Place, so it made commercial sense for him to lease the land for Nos. 43-45 Victoria Road so that he could build houses here and in Launceston Place back-to-back.
The most significant builder on the east side was James Jordan, a builder from Paddington, who built Nos. 51-81 between 1845 and 1847. These houses were a mixture of semi-detached pairs and small terraces, with stucco facades and pilasters.
On the west side, building was much more piecemeal, with individual houses being built by a variety of builders. There are two semi-detached villas on either side of Cottesmore Gardens. The architect of the southern pair was David Moore, who also designed houses in Cottesmore Gardens, and he was responsible for the next three houses southwards.
In the Domesday Book of 1086 the area is called ‘Chensit’s ton’, which is an Anglo-Saxon name thought to mean ‘Cynesige’s farm’. A few misspellings later and you have ‘Kensington’. Kensington High Street and Notting Hill Gate were originally Roman roads through the countryside. Kensington High Street was then merely the ancient road from London to the village of Hammersmith. They were joined by a country lane which is now Kensington Church Street. Roads attracted settlers and two small villages gradually formed, one at Notting Hill Gate (which became a gravel mining area) and one at the junction of Kensington High Street and Kensington Church Street – where there was a parish church, St Mary Abbots.
Shortly after the Norman conquest, Aubrey de Vere was the lord of the manor of Kensington. His son Godfrey had been cured of a serious illness by the Abbot of the Abbey of St Mary at Abingdon. As Godfrey lay dying once again – and perhaps thinking he should settle an old debt of gratitude, if he was to come through yet again – he made his father promise to give the Church and the village to the Abbey.
Consequently for nearly 500 years the manor of Kensington belonged to the Church and the manor became known as the Manor of Abbots Kensington (and the church as St Mary Abbots). In 1538 King Henry VIII split from Rome, dissolved the monasteries and seized their lands. Kensington passed from the Church to the Crown.
In 1599 Sir Walter Cope, an influential courtier, bought Abbots Kensington manor from Queen Elizabeth I. He was collecting North Kensington manors. In 1591 he had bought the Manor of West Town and in 1599 he also bought the Manor of Notting Barnes, which later became Notting Hill. Cope built himself a grand home, known as ‘Cope’s Castle’. Cope’s daughter married Sir Henry Rich, the First Earl of Holland. The estate passed into the Rich family and ‘Cope’s Castle’ became ‘Holland House’ – whose lands eventually became Holland Park.
Other important courtiers of James I had residences here. Sir George Coppin moved into a large country house built for him by Sir Christopher Wren. The house later passed to the Earls of Nottingham. When William of Orange became king in 1688 he did not want to spend the winters in unhealthy Whitehall, which aggravated his asthma, and he bought the Nottinghams’ house. As a royal residence, it became Kensington Palace. Queen Anne, George I and George II continued to use it. Queen Victoria was born and spent her childhood there. In honour of that connection, when London was divided into boroughs at the beginning of the 20th century, Kensington was given the title ‘Royal Borough’, which is still keeps.
The court had to follow the king, so the presence of these monarchs let to a sudden leap in popularity for the hitherto humble rural village in the late 17th and early 18th century. Kensington Square was the home of many rich Londoners of the period. But by the middle of the 18th century its popularity waned.
The ‘second coming’ for Kensington was the result of the building boom in London and the dramatic expansion of housing along the roads out of London which occurred in the 19th century. This produced the residential Kensington we see today.
In 1599 Sir Walter Cope, an influential courtier, bought Abbots Kensington manor from Queen Elizabeth I. He was collecting North Kensington manors. In 1591 he had bought West Town and in 1599 he also bought Notting Barnes, which later became Notting Hill. Cope’s daughter, Isabel, married Sir Henry Rich, the First Earl of Holland. The estate passed into the Rich family.
When Edward Henry Rich, the Fourth Earl of Holland died in 1721, his aunt Elizabeth Edwardes (née Rich) inherited the estate. She had married Francis Edwardes from Pembrokeshire. From her it passed to their eldest son Edward Edwardes. Edward died and left it to his brother William in entail. (this meant that the future succession of the estate through several generations was prescribed in Edward’s will and William did not own it outright).
William Edwardes’ estate included about 250 acres of land in Kensington. In fact, he owned nearly everything west of Earls Court Lane between Kensington High Street and Old Brompton Road as far west as Warwick Road. In addition he owned land stretching east to where the West London Air Terminal now stands. Over 190 acres of this estate was occupied by Earls Court Farm, let to the Hutchins family. Just about the only house in the whole area was the farmhouse on the site of today’s Earls Court Station. The rest of Kensington was ploughed for crops.
William Edwardes was a member of Parliament for over 50 years. In 1776 he was created a Baron , but as an Irish peer. In view of his property holdings in the area, he took the title ‘Baron Kensington’. He died in 1801 and his son, also William, inherited the Kensington land and became the second Baron Kensington.
The second Baron Kensington spent money like water all his life. Almost immediately after succeeding his father in 1801 he had to mortgage the land in Kensington for substantial debts. He then started letting out parts of the estate for speculative building. At that point, Kensington was just about as far as people were prepared to live out of London. Since he always spent to the hilt, he was always thrown into chaos when the property market slumped. That happened in the early 1820s and again in the 1830s and the early 1840s.
Fortunately for his successors, the estate had been placed in a settlement when Edwardes had inherited, so he couldn’t actually touch the capital. He died in 1852 owing £270,000.
The Estate was inherited by the third Baron Kensington, who himself died in 1872. The Estate passed to his elder son, William who was a member of Parliament. In 1886 he was created Baron of Kensington in the peerage of the United Kingdom. He was responsible for most of the housing development on the Estate.
He died in 1896 and his son, also William, became the fifth Baron Kensington (or second Baron of the United Kingdom version). He fought in the Boer War in South Africa and died from wounds in battle in 1900. His brother inherited the title. He was to enjoy the estate for life and it was then to go to his male heirs. In 1902 the sixth Lord Kensington sold a lump of the estate, south of Pembroke Road including the area east of Earls Court Road. It was auctioned and bought in one lot by Edward Guinness, Baron Iveagh.
In 1903 the rest of the land was sold in smaller blocks and the Edwardes Estate, as an estate, disappeared.
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In 1836 John Inderwick, of Wardour Street in Soho, an importer of snuff boxes, bought six and a half acres of land in Kensington on which now stand Nos. 1-13 Canning Place, Victoria Grove, Albert Mews and the north part of Launceston Place. The layout on his little estate was probably created by an architect from St Martin’s Lane, named Joel Bray. His name appears on many of the plans.
Victoria Grove and Launceston Place were ancient paths from Kensington to Brompton and Canning Place is an ancient track from Gloucester Road to Victoria Road.
Drainage was a bit of a problem. The houses were built between 1837 and 1843, but the public sewer which was meant to be built down Gloucester Road didn’t materialise. So for 30 years all the houses sewerage flowed into an open cesspool at the corner of Gloucester Road and Kynance Place. They didn’t get a closed sewer until 1860’s. Smell obviously wasn’t a factor for rich Victorians.
18 acres of farmland, known as Wattsfield was owned in the 18th Century by the Greene family. In 1810 it was sold to Samuel Hutchins. Essentially, it included part of Earls Court Lane (now Earls Court Road) and Barrow’s Walk (now Marloes Road) and contained an orchard and several fields on which Abingdon Villas, Scarsdale Villas and neighbouring roads were later built .
In 1850 William Nokes bought Wattsfield from Samuel Hutchins’ widow. Development was carried out by his son, George Nokes, and also to a lesser extent the elder son, James Wright Nokes. They went into the building business as timber merchants and brick makers. They generally granted building leases to other builders rather than actually carry out the development themselves.
In the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a large country house with spacious grounds, later stood in this area. Sir Walter Cope had lived in it. About 1609 Sir Baptist Hicks bought the house and the estate. In 1628 Hicks was made Viscount Campden (a name he took from a manor he owned in Gloucestershire.) The family supported King Charles I in the Civil War, and the house and grounds (now called ‘Campden House’) were confiscated by Cromwell, but restored to the third Viscount in 1647 in return for a payment of £9,000. The fourth Viscount of Campden was promoted to Earl of Gainsborough in 1682.
The D’Oyley family
The third Earl of Gainsborough, sold the estate to Laud D’Oyley, a London merchant. D’Oyley had a son, Robert, and three illegitimate daughters. He died in 1709, leaving a respectable fortune and his Kensington land to his son, Robert. In 1710, Robert D’Oyley sold Campden House to Robert Balle, a merchant. (The sold-off land became the Pitt Estate.) But he kept most of the land. In 1716, he too died and left the property to his half-sister, Ann, for her lifetime and then to her children.
The early Phillimores
The terms of Robert D’Oyley’s Will were that Ann had the use of the property for her lifetime and on her death it passed to her sons. Ann had married Joseph Phillimore (who had died in 1704) and had two sons, John Phillimore and Robert Phillimore. Ann later remarried, this time to John Seymour. Her eldest son, John, died in 1730. So when Ann herself died in 1741, her remaining son, Robert Phillimore, inherited the estate.
For half a century and more after the family had originally acquired the land (in 1708) it remained farmland. Certainly during the 40 or so years that Robert Phillimore owned it, he did little more with it than let it out to farm tenants.
In 1779, Robert’s eldest son, William Phillimore, inherited the estate. William was responsible for the first wave of development. One of the ancient roads out of London ran along the southern boundary of the estate. This road was later to be called Kensington High Street. A terrace of houses was built along this frontage and called Upper Phillimore Place. Apparently George III hated Upper Phillimore Place so much that he had the blinds pulled down on his carriage windows if he had to pass it; and he referred to it as “Dishcloth Row” because of the mouldings in the shape of drapery which decorated the houses facades. A similar terrace was built further to the east and called Lower Phillimore Place. These houses were all later replaced in the 20th century by three huge mansion blocks called Phillimore Court, Stafford Court and Troy Court. The land itself was later sold off to pay estate duties, so the Kensington High Street frontage no longer forms part of the Phillimore Estate.
In 1804, William Phillimore authorised more development in the area of today’s Hornton Street. The houses are long since gone. In 1946 Kensington Borough Council bought the Hornton Street site for the council’s offices.
A rather more exclusive development than the Kensington High Street terraces took place in the north half of the estate. In 1808 William Phillimore entered into an agreement with John Tasker, an architect and builder of St Marylebone, and Thomas Winter, a tailor in St James’s, under which they could build on the 19½ acres of farmland north of Duchess of Bedford’s Walk (roughly the present sites of Holland Park School and Queen Elizabeth College). The terms of the deal were that Phillimore would grant 81 year leases from 1808, at an annual ground rent of £438 (but starting at £116 to begin with). Tasker and Winter decided to build detached houses with spacious grounds and by 1817 they had completed the development and put up seven houses. William Phillimore was also involved in the development project. In 1812 he loaned £2,000 and lent a further £2,000 in 1815. Both loans were secured by mortgages on the leases of the buildings.
William Phillimore died in 1818 and the Phillimore estate passed to his son, William Robert Phillimore. His only contribution to development of the estate was that he sold off four acres in the north-east of the estate, above Duchess of Bedford’s Walk, to Sir James South, an astronomer, in 1827. The Phillimore’s family mansion from earlier times had been on this site.
William Robert Phillimore died in 1829. He left his eldest son, also William Robert Phillimore, a large estate in Hertfordshire, which he had inherited from his wife’s family. He put the Kensington Estate was in a trust for the benefit of his younger son, Charles, but subject to an obligation to fund a payment of £5,000 to each of Charles’s two sisters.
Under Charles’s control, nothing much changed on the estate for the next twenty five years. But during that time a great deal of the surrounding countryside had been transformed into the Kensington we see today. He decided to jump on the bandwagon in about 1855 and the result was the building of the Phillimore Estate as it is today.
Joseph Gordon Davis, a builder involved in construction in Pimlico, took most of the undeveloped land south of Duchess of Bedford’s Walk, down to Upper and Lower Phillimore Place (so just north of Kensington High Street). On it were constructed Phillimore Gardens, Upper Phillimore Gardens, Phillimore Place, Essex Villas, Stafford Terrace, Phillimore Walk, Argyll Road and Campden Hill Road
The agreement allowed Davis to put up 375 houses. Phillimore agreed to grant leases for ninety nine years from 1855. The ground rent would be £1,400 a year for the whole site, but it would only rise to that after the first five years, to give Davis time to make some profit from letting or selling completed properties. A time limit of twelve years was imposed for completing the development.
It became clear over time that the density of housing which had been agreed was too great. In 1856, the permitted number of houses was reduced to 315 and it was agreed that none would be built along Duchess of Bedford’s Walk (presumably due to opposition from the rich owners of the detached houses on the other side!) In 1861 the total number was reduced again to a maximum of 225 and a minimum of 205. It seems that the terms Davis had originally negotiated contained enough profit to allow him to absorb these reductions. In the end, 214 houses were built. This was not necessarily loss to Davis. He was allowed to construct valuable detached and semi-detached villas, in place of the purely terraced houses originally stipulated.
The deal with Davis ultimately became the subject of a private Act of Parliament. William Robert Phillimore’s Will had stated that building leases could only be granted at the best rents and there was some argument that Charles had granted leases at less than full market rent to encourage construction. So an Act was needed to confirm the terms of the leases and to authorise further leases at rents low enough to encourage builders to undertake construction contracts.
The original building agreements with Davis had contained specific elevations and plans he had to adhere to. By the time of the 1861 Agreement, the obligation was diluted to simply requiring Charles Phillimore’s approval of particulars plans. It is not known who designed the general layout, or actually prepared or approved plans. Phillimore’s surveyor was Arthur Chesterton, and he probably did the approval work.
Davis did not plan to carry out all the work himself. As was customary at the time, he assigned parts of the project to other builders. One builder was James Jordan of Paddington, who built eleven houses on the west side of Campden Hill Road, went bankrupt, returned to build houses in Argyll Road, and went bust again in 1859. Another builder was Charles Frederick Phelps. Davis himself built most of the larger houses in Phillimore Gardens and Upper Phillimore Gardens.
Charles Phillimore died in 1863.
William Brough Phillimore
On the death of Charles Phillimore in 1863, the estate passed to his nephew, William Brough Phillimore.
In 1878, the lease of Elm Lodge, one of the detached houses built by Tasker and Winter, was surrendered by its owner, the Grand Junction Waterworks Company. This made the land available for development. Elm Lodge was demolished and Airlie Gardens was constructed on the site. Nineteen houses were built by William Cooke, a Hammersmith builder. All the houses were structurally complete by the end of 1883. William Brough Phillimore granted ninety nine year leases from 1880. The ground rent was to be £40 a year, after an initial period at nil rent. Cooke took most of the leases in his own name and raised finance for the development by mortgaging them.
In 1887 William Brough Phillimore died. His widow benefited from the estate during her lifetime but they had no children, so when Mrs Phillimore died, the estate passed to one of William’s more distant relatives, Sir Walter George Frank Phillimore. Sir Walter was a descendant of Joseph Phillimore, the younger son of Robert Phillimore, one of the Phillimore owners of the previous century. Sir Walter was a famous lawyer and he was made Baron Phillimore in 1918. He was obviously a man of considerable energy, because he set about organising the re-building of many of the older houses with some gusto.
Bute House, one of Tasker and Winter’s detached houses just north of Duchess of Bedford’s Walk, became available, and was knocked down. Queen Elizabeth College was built on the part of the grounds nearest Duchess of Bedford’s Walk. Nos. 1 and 2 Campden Hill were built on the back portion of the site. Hornton Court was completed in 1907. After the First World War blocks of flats, Campden Hill Gate and Duchess of Bedford House were built.
Baron Phillimore died in 1929. The Second Lord Phillimore died in 1947 and the Third in 1990. In each case death duties meant properties had to be sold and the whole of the land fronting Kensington High Street has now left the estate. The property must have been placed in a family trust to avoid the pattern being repeated. Two of the sons of the Second Earl, Claud and Robert Phillimore were among the trustees. Claud became the Fourth Earl on the death of his father. The present Lord Phillimore, the Fifth Earl, is also involved in the running of the estate.
During the war, many of the large detached houses, which still remained north of Duchess of Bedford’s Walk, were requisitioned for war purposes and allowed to fall into disrepair. In 1948 London County Council used compulsory purchase orders to buy Cam House, Moray Lodge, and Thorp Lodge for high-rise Council flats, but bowed to local pressure and instead Holland Park School was built on the site in 1958. The remaining houses, Holly Lodge and Thornwood Lodge, were absorbed by Queen Elizabeth College.
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In the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a large country house with spacious grounds, bearing the name ‘Campden House’ stood in this area. Sir Walter Cope had lived in it. About 1609 Sir Baptist Hicks bought the house and the estate. In 1628 he was made Viscount Campden (a name he took from a manor he owned in Gloucestershire.) So the house didn’t have that name previously. The family supported King Charles I in the Civil War, and the house and grounds were confiscated by Cromwell but restored to the third Viscount in 1647 in return for a payment of £9000.
Gainsborough to D’Oyley – split from the ‘Phillimore Estate’ land
The fourth Viscount of Campden was promoted to Earl of Gainsborough in 1682. His descendant, the third Earl of Gainsborough, sold the estate to Laud D’Oyley. (see history of Phillimore estate). D’Oyley’s son, Robert kept what was to be the Phillimore Estate but sold Campden House and thirteen acres of land to Robert Balle, a merchant. It was then sold on to the Lechmere family.
Lord Lechmere sold the house and grounds to Steven Pitt in 1751. Steven Pitts’ father, Samuel, already owned land near Kensington Church Street. When Steven Pitt died in 1793, the estate passed to his son, also named Steven. There was no scope for development for many years but in the 1840’s there was a recovery of the housing market in Kensington.
In 1844 Steven Pitt entered into an agreement with two builder-entrepreneurs from St Marylebone – William Eales, a timber merchant, and Jeremiah Little, a builder. The intention was that they would develop virtually the whole estate into residential housing. The deal was that in return for building the houses they would be granted 99 year leases, for which they would pay £900 per annum. Once built, they could let the houses to occupiers, or sell their leases to buyers, at a profit. The houses had to be built to the satisfaction of Thomas Allison, who was Pitt’s surveyor. (Allison did considerable work on the Ladbroke Estate in Notting Hill). In many cases Eales and Little would enter into sub-leases and agreements with individual builders for particular houses or terraces.
Steven Pitt died in 1848 and the leases after that date were granted by his widow and the trustees of his estate.
During 1794 and 1831 members of the Vallotton family bought bits of open land in Kensington west of Love Lane (now Victoria Road). This area was generally known as Kensington New Town. The first member of the family known to have owned land in the area was John James Vallotton. He was a merchant working in Jermyn Street during the Napoleonic War period. Amongst other ventures, he imported fancy dress costumes from Paris. His son, Howell Leny Vallotton was also big in the fancy dress business. He bought more land in the area and he was the main developer of the family lands. He died in 1858, leaving a daughter, Eliza, and two sons, Charles and Theodore. Charles died young, but Theodore lived into his 80’s. When his widow died, she left their part of the estate to Eliza’s sons, Samuel and Frank Goodge.
Between 1824 and 1827 H.L. Vallotton bought nearly 20 acres of land in the area of St Albans Grove. His first step towards development of the estate was to lay out Victoria Road in about 1829. The top part of Victoria Road was a development of the ancient track called Love Lane, but its extension south was new construction in about 1829. For some reason, the whole development was put on hold in the 1830’s and it was 1841 before Vallotton applied to build sewers in Victoria Road and the new streets off it.
Eliza Vallotton began selling off the freehold of individual properties in the 1880’s. The estate gradually dissolved.
Sheffield House and Glebe Estate
In 1603 Sir William Cope had a house with two acres of land in the area of present day Kensington Church Street. For at least a century it remained in the hands of the family of the Earls of Sheffield and became known as ‘Sheffield House’. Two builders, John Barnard and Thomas Callcott, bought the house in 1744 and demolished it to construct a brick field (In those days bricks had to be made on site, so the housing developed in Kensington required local brick fields.) But a house was rebuilt on the site by the end of the 18th Century, only to be destroyed in the mid-19th Century to make way for the houses there today.
The adjoining land on which Palace Gardens Terrace now stands was glebe land. This was land belonging to successive vicars of Kensington from at least 1260. ‘Glebe’ was any land or buildings of a rectory or vicarage. (The freehold was finally sold to the Church Commissioners in 1954.)
In 1853 the two estates came together. Thomas Robinson, who was then the owner of Sheffield House, also had a lease on the glebe land with 40 years to run. He did a deal with the vicar of St Mary Abbotts, the local church, under which he could build houses on the glebe land and would be given 99 year leases of the houses, which he could sell on.
Robinson began building work on the site of Sheffield House. It seems he financed his estate scheme by selling the freeholds of houses built on his land (rather than just granting building leases on them) and then using the money to pay for the construction of the roads and sewers as well as the construction costs of some of the houses, which he would sell himself. The rest of the plots were sold on building leases under which a long lease would be granted to the builder when the houses was built, which could then be sold on to a buyer at a profit. Most of Robinson’s profit came from granting sub-leases to builders at improved ground rents. For example, some property were leased to him for £5 but with houses on the plots, were leased on for £110 per annum.
Much of Palace Gardens Terrace and Brunswick Gardens were built in the 1850s. One builder, Jeremiah Little, purchased most of the Sheffield House plots which Robinson was selling. He built Strathmore Gardens and the top part of Palace Gardens Terrace between 1868 and 1870.
In 1877 a new vicarage was built and this allowed the creation of Vicarage Gate and the construction of more houses there. They were built by Joseph Mears and completed in 1877. In the 1930s Vicarage Court, a block of flats, was built on the east of Vicarage Gate. In 1966-8 the old vicarage was pulled down and a block of flats called Hamilton House put up in its place.
When the Vicar of St Mary Abbotts entered into the agreement with Robinson in 1854 to allow him to build houses on the glebe land, he arranged for a temporary church to be built at the lower end of Palace Gardens Terrace. This was built of corrugated galvanised iron – apparently the height of fashion at the time. But by 1895 it had rusted so badly it had to come down. It was also too close to the Vicarage Gate and Palace Gardens Terrace houses. A new church was built in 1887 to designs by Arthur Baker, who had worked for Sir George Gilbert Scott. That church was destroyed in the last war.
The land now bounded by Notting Hill Gate, Kensington Church Street, Campden Hill Road and Sheffield Terrace was known as the Racks in olden days. It was part of the lands of Campden House in the early 18th Century. It was then bought by the Phillimore family. In 1774 Robert Phillimore gave the property to his younger son, Joseph Phillimore, a vicar in Leicestershire. In 1808 Joseph sold the Racks by auction for £6,790.
Ten and a half acres were bought by John Jones of Harley Street. In 1810 John Jones sold his land to John Johnson, a builder from Westminster who used the land as a brick field to service developments in the surrounding area. In 1829 he transferred most of his land to his sons John Johnson and William Johnson, who carried on the family building business. In 1839 the Johnsons leased their brickfield to Benjamin and Joseph Clutterbuck, who were professional brickmakers.
John Johnson the younger died in 1848 and his estate was inherited by his brother William. He started selling off plots to repay debts. He also granted Joseph Clutterbuck, who had taken over the business on his own, building leases in part of the area. Clutterbuck, or builders appointed by him, were responsible for the construction of Farm Place (formerly Earnest Street), Calcott Street (formerly William Street), Hillgate Street (formerly Johnson Street), Farmer Street (formerly Farm Street), Jameson Street (formerly St James or James Street) and Hillgate Place (formerly Dartmoor Street).
Clutterbuck died in about 1851. Over 200 houses were built in the following decade, with a large number of individual builders constructing a few houses each. Most of the houses in this area were put in multiple occupation and it was really close to being a slum.
The other portion of the Racks sold by auction by Joseph Phillimore In 1808 – fourteen and a half acres – were bought by Alexander Ramsay Robinson, a local developer. He sold some off to the West Middlesex Waterworks Company where Edge Street was later built. in 1822 he sold the rest to Henry Chandless, a speculator.
Chandless sold half the land he had bought on to two Marylebone builders, John Punter and William Ward. (Chandless made a good profit. But it then turned out that he was under 21, so the buyers had to wait until he reached adulthood before he could sign the documents to give them ownership).
Punter and Ward ended up with the land on which they laid out Peel Street and Campden Street. Punter took Peel Street for development and Ward took Campden Street.
Chandless sold the remainder of the land he’d bought from Robinson to another Marylebone builder, William Hall, On the land he had bought, Hall constructed Bedford Garden (known as Bedford Place at the time). These had rather deeper plots than Punter and Wards’ houses in Peel Street and Campden Street, some of which are less than 50 feet in depth.
The railways and the Underground system was originally a series of private businesses. The first railway through the Kensington area was constructed by the Metropolitan Railway Company. The first railway line constructed ran from Farringdon Road to Paddington in 1864. Other rail companies were building lines into other parts of London.
A plan was formed to build a railway which would form a circle round Central London and join up the individual rail lines whose hub was London and which then radiated out like spokes. This circular rail line was to become the Circle Line.
Metropolitan Railway was allowed to construct a section from South Kensington to the Tower of London. The District Railway was given the contract to construct the section from South Kensington to Mansion House. The two railway companies jointly constructed the connections between the two systems at South Kensington.
The District Railway built two short links from South Kensington to West Brompton and to Addison Road, to provide a connection to the West London Railway.
These railways were built as a series of underground tunnels. They were created by digging huge trenches. An arched roof of bricks was then constructed and earth put back over the top. Terraces of houses would be pulled down to permit the digging of the trenches. Once the tunnels had been covered, new terraces could be constructed over the top. Since all trains were steam trains, powered by coal, shafts had to be left open to the air at regular intervals between tunnels to discharge steam and smoke. These were often at the back of the new houses.
The first station in the area was at Kensington High Street, where the station was just called Kensington Station. Later South Kensington Station was built. As further connections to it were formed, so more and more surrounding land had to be acquired for its buildings and offices.
Creation of the Holland Estate
In 1599 Sir Walter Cope, an influential courtier, bought Abbots Kensington manor from Queen Elizabeth I. He was collecting North Kensington manors. In 1591 he had bought West Town and in 1599 he also bought Notting Barnes, which later became Notting Hill. Cope built himself a grand home, known as “Cope’s Castle”
Cope’s daughter, Isabel, married Sir Henry Rich, the First Earl of Holland. The estate passed into the Rich family and “Cope’s Castle” became “Holland House”. When the Third Earl died, his wife married Joseph Addison the famous writer and founder of the Spectator who died in Holland House in 1719.
When Edward Henry Rich, the Fourth Earl of Holland died in 1721, his aunt Elizabeth Edwardes (née Rich) inherited the estate. She had married Francis Edwardes from Pembrokeshire. From her it passed to their eldest son Edward Edwardes. Edward died and left it to his brother William in entail. (this meant that the future succession of the estate through several generations was prescribed in Edward’s will and William did not own it outright).
William Edwardes granted a 99 year lease of Holland House and its surrounding grounds in 1746 to Henry Fox, a politician. In 1767 Fox persuaded Edwardes to sell the freehold of the property to him. Fox was so keen on his house, that when he was elevated to the peerage he ‘borrowed’ the name Baron Holland. He had no connection with the earlier Earls of Holland. In fact that wasn’t all he borrowed. He financed the purchase with profits he’d made by speculating with the public funds he was holding as Paymaster General. Over the years Baron Holland took leases of much of the rest of the Edwardes’ land in North Kensington.
The First Baron Holland and his son the Second Baron died in quick succession, and his brother, the Third Baron inherited the estate at the age of one in 1774 He had an affair with his future wife while she was still married to someone else, and she was divorced for adultery as a result. That meant when they married she was not allowed to attend the royal circle. She was a lively lady and made Holland House a magnet for society – or at least those members who were out of sympathy with the court. They were certainly not establishment figures; they were so taken with Napoleon that they sent him plum jam and a refrigerator to make his life more pleasant in Elba.
Development of the Holland Estate
It was the Third Lord Holland who decided to cash in on the potential for development. He initiated the building of Addison Road in the mid-1820s.(See the previous page – Joseph Addison had lived and died at Holland House a century and a half earlier). But this coincided with a downturn in the property market, so building stopped almost as quickly as it had begun.
The Third Lord Holland died in 1840, leaving his wife with a life interest. She was extremely extravagant and wanted to sell land close to Holland House for development. But she died in 1845 and the Fourth Lord Holland inherited the estate outright. The housing market had begun to improve and he continued the former development plans.
The Fourth Lord Holland died in 1859. He had no children and the property passed to his widow. Building continued. The family luck with sewers continued. In the 1860s the railway company wanted to construct an “Addison Road” station. Lady Holland sold them the land, on condition that they constructed a new road – Russell Road – and a sewer beside it. This gave a jump-start to the development of that part of the estate.
Lady Holland’s lavish party-giving soon landed her in financial difficulties. To save herself, she sold the estate to a distant relative, Edward Fox-Strangways, the Fifth Earl of Ilchester. (Stephen Fox, the First Earl of Ilchester had been the elder brother of the first Lord Holland, so the estate remained in the family). The deal was that he paid her an annuity and allowed her to live in the house for the rest of her life.
When Lady Holland died in 1889, the Earl moved into Holland House himself and his successors also lived there. It was severely bombed in the Second World War. After the War it was substantially restored. The Earl of Ilchester continued the process of development on the estate, particularly at Melbury Road.
Creation of the Norland Estate
The Norland Estate is 52 acres just above Holland Park Avenue, from the present Holland Road in the west to Portland Road and Pottery Lane in the east.
A Westminster brewer named Thomas Greene bought the land in the early 18th century. It had a large house already called “Norlands” near today’s Norland Square. In 1740 Greene died and his grandson, Edward Burnaby Greene, inherited it. Although he inherited a considerable fortune apart from this property, his lavish lifestyle soon landed him deep in debt. In 1761 he let the house and it was used as a military academy for many years.
Greene died in 1788 and in 1792 Benjamin Vulliamy, a Pall Mall watchmaker, bought the house and the surrounding land and moved into it. The original Norland House burnt down in 1825, and the family offered to sell the estate to the local authority for use as a lunatic asylum. But the offer was turned down and the family continued to own the estate until 1839.
Development of the Norland Estate
When the estate had become valuable development land, the Vulliamy family sold it in 1838 to William Kingdom a local speculator. But in 1839 he signed the agreement over to his solicitor, Charles Richardson.
Richardson then set about organising the development of the estate. The layout plan was designed by Robert Cantwell. He proposed Royal Crescent facing Holland Park Avenue. The striking idea of having the crescent bisected by a road running due north (St Ann’s Road) was due more to sewerage than artistic requirements. It was the route of the new sewer and had to be beside a road where it could be dug up.
The development was very speculative because it was a long way out of London. So Richardson tried to attract builders by commencing building work himself. The principal builder on the estate was Charles Stewart, a barrister and Member of Parliament. He took leases for 150 houses on the estate, mainly in Royal Crescent and St Anne’s villas.
But the Norland estate was not a success for Richardson. Richardson was having to pay out to build roads and other services without attracting takers for the building plots. He was not sufficiently well financed. Although he gained temporary relief from debt in 1844 by selling off 12 acres at the north end of the estate for use as a brick field, in 1854 he went bankrupt. He is next heard of in 1855 as a dealer in patent medicines on the Glasgow Stock Exchange.
The estate as a single unit was broken up between property speculators, builders and new residents.
How building was arranged
The owners of landed estates did not employ builders to construct houses for them. Nor did builders buy the land on which they built houses. In Victorian times, construction involved a kind of “joint venture”. The landowner entered into an agreement with a builder, permitting the builder to put up a specified number of houses on an area of land. Usually the houses were designed in detail by the land owner’s architect, or had to be approved by him. Once the builder had constructed the houses, the land owner would grant him a lease of each house.
The lease would be for a term of at least 80 years. Unlike today, when the builder would have to buy the land for a substantial amount, the Victorian arrangement was that he only had to pay the ground rent and no purchase price. (It was called “ground rent” because it was the annual rent of the ground. The house value was ignored because it was the builder, not the landowner, who paid to build it).
Once the house was constructed, the lease would then be granted. The builder could then make his profit, either by actually selling the house with its 80 year lease for a lump sum or by renting the house for a full market rent of, say, £300 per annum to someone who would live there.
The builder had to finance the cost of constructing the property. Even if he eventually sold the constructed house for a lump sum, he still had to find the cash in the meantime. So builders generally entered into deals with financiers who put up the capital for the building work. In the early days these were often wealthy individuals, or the builder’s solicitors, for example, and in later times insurance companies often took on the role. To protect their position, it was often agreed that the lease of the house would be granted direct to the financiers, not the builder.
Sometimes a builder would be unable to afford the total development cost of land allocated to him, in which case he might sub-contract the work to other builder/speculators and land owners would then agree to the leases being granted to the other builders.
House building was an extremely risky business in Victorian England and a very high proportion of the well-known builders of the period went bankrupt. This was partly because there seemed to have been some severe dips in the property market, and partly because builders were often slow to note changes in buyers’ tastes. For instance, they often carried on building houses that were too large, without taking account of the change in taste to smaller houses or even flats.