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St. Peter’s Park was formerly the name of a characterless suburb around Walterton Road.
Until the spread of building in the mid 19th century, the area consisted of fields stretching westward from the Bayswater rivulet, bounded by Harrow Road to the south and by Kilburn Lane to the west and north-west. Westbourne Green lay along Harrow Road to the south-east. Whereas the eastern part of Paddington, including the area treated above as Maida Vale, belonged to the bishop of London, most of the parish west of the rivulet lay within Westminster Abbey’s Westbourne manor. The northern part of Chelsea detached belonged to All Souls’ College, Oxford.
In the 1740s all the fields were pasture, except a wooded enclosure beside Kilburn Lane almost opposite Kilburn wood, and the few farm buildings were all on the Willesden side of the lane. The Grand Junction canal was later cut just south of Harrow Road, leaving much less than half of Chelsea detached to the south. Between the road and the canal there was a small triangle of land in the west, a narrow strip across most of Chelsea detached, and a much wider piece farther east towards Westbourne Green. In 1828, apart from a short row of houses at Orme’s Green, the countryside remained open.
In the triangle between the canal, Harrow Road, and Kilburn Lane along the boundary, a new Italianate villa stood by 1835. Called Kensal House and occupied by Alfred Haines in 1841, it was unusually large for its position, hemmed in by 1865 between housing along Kilburn Lane to the west and canalside buildings to the east. The houses along Kilburn Lane amounted to an extension of Kensal New Town, which had been built between 1835 and 1850 over the southern part of Chelsea detached and which in 1900 was transferred to Kensington metropolitan borough. The new town was served from 1843-4 by St. John’s church, which in 1865 stood with only two nearby houses and the National school on the east side of Kilburn Lane north of Harrow Road, although there was much more building along the west side. The rest of Chelsea detached was fields, apart from a wharf near the south-east corner, with buildings opposite on the north side of Harrow Road, and a single building on the northern boundary in Kilburn Lane.
The north-western part of Paddington parish was still rural in 1840, although there was a plan to extend Elgin Road (later Elgin Avenue) from Maida Vale across the lands of Westbourne manor to the later junction with Harrow Road. (fn. 16) Building spread northward from Westbourne green during the 1860s, as the Neeld family followed the example of the lessees of the Paddington Estate. Growth was matched by a westward spread along the south side of Harrow Road, from the Lock hospital beyond Orme’s green to Carlton Crescent (later Terrace).
St. Peter’s Park was by 1865 the name, commemorating the lordship of Westminster abbey, of a projected suburb north of Harrow Road, from the Bayswater rivulet to Chelsea detached. A few straight avenues leading from Harrow Road had been planned, although not yet built up: Malvern (soon renamed Chippenham) Road and, from a convergence farther west, an extension of Elgin Road, St. Peter’s (renamed Walterton) Road, and the southernmost stretch of the future Fernhead Road; to the west, part of Ashmore Road, also as yet unnamed, had been begun.
The first leases, for 99 years, were made in 1865 by Sir John Neeld, on the nomination of Edward Vigers, a builder or timber merchant of Tavistock Lodge, Great Western Road. They were mostly to Thomas or Luke Muncey, for terraced houses of three storeys over a basement along the north side of Harrow Road, forming Chippenham Terrace, and in Marylands Road, and for two-storeyed houses in Chippenham Mews. Neeld thereafter made leases to many local builders, often in association with Vigers, who in turn subleased. The Goldney family, some of whom were Wiltshire neighbours of the Neelds, was also involved: in 1869 land between Edbrooke and Goldney roads was leased by Neeld to Vigers and mortgaged by Vigers to Francis Hastings Goldney of Chippenham.
By 1869 there were houses along much of Chippenham Road and at the west ends of Elgin Road, where St. Peter’s church had been allotted its existing site, Marylands Road, and Sutherland Gardens. All three roads led towards Shirland Road, which approximately followed the line of the Bayswater rivulet bounding the bishop’s estate. Most of Goldney Road had been built up and some other short linking roads had been named. Neither Fernhead nor Ashmore roads stretched very far, but Saltram Crescent had been planned to run north to Kilburn Lane. There were houses on the west side of Shirland Road, at the south end, by 1870.
Vigers, who had been speculating in land in north Kensington at the west end of Westbourne Park Road since 1860, found the building of St. Peter’s Park a risky enterprise. He had to construct roads and sewers, besides a bridge over the canal (Carlton Bridge), which would provide access by omnibus but which caused a dispute with the vestry about rights of way. Some of the small builders to whom he had subleased were in trouble from 1868, Vigers himself was forced to negotiate a further loan in 1870, and over a quarter of the builders on the estate failed between 1870 and 1872.
Building activity revived in the mid 1870s, after Vigers’s bankruptcy had been averted by the Neeld trustees. In 1886 the northern parts of Ashmore and Fernhead (then to be called Neeld) roads had no buildings, except St. Luke’s church between them by Kilburn Lane, and neither had Saltram Crescent. There were still gaps along the middle stretch of Saltram Crescent and to either side of Marban Road, leading west from Fernhead Road, in 1891, although they had been filled by 1901. Housing was put up mostly by small builders, to whom the Ecclesiastical Commissioners at Vigers’s direction granted terms of c. 98 years. Between 1882 and 1895 there were many leases of houses in Saltram Crescent and Fernhead Road, and from 1890 in their connecting roads, Croxley and Denholme roads.
St. Peter’s Park was begun with some substantial terraces near Harrow Road. Parts came to suffer from a cramped layout, however, and much housing was soon neglected. Walterton Road in the 1880s was a ‘dreary thoroughfare’, where small grey houses were approached by tall flights of steps and had bay windows, many with cards advertising services ‘from the letting of lodgings to the tuning of pianos’. Although the description was aimed at stressing the superiority of Bayswater, St. Peter’s Park in general retained a reputation for being dismal, or at least dull. It made a fit setting for the plight of the poet Francis Thompson (1859-1907), who lodged briefly in Fernhead Road and, from 1897, with different landladies in Elgin Avenue and its neighbourhood.
Subletting had led to deterioration throughout the area by the 1890s, although there was little real hardship. In the eastern part well-to-do households lined Sutherland and Elgin Avenues, as in the Maida Vale stretches of those roads, and Harrow Road and Grittleton Road. There were also some well-to-do residents in Marylands Road and its southern offshoots, and in Chippenham and Walterton roads. Elsewhere, including the slightly newer part west of Chippenham Road, residents were ‘fairly comfortable’. Houses were mostly of nine rooms and might be let to two or three families, often clerks, agents, or well paid artisans. Poverty was confined to the long Chippenham Mews behind Harrow Road, to Barnsdale Mews, to the angle between Chippenham and Walterton roads, and to Shirland Mews, and in those places some residents were comfortable.
Meanwhile Queen’s Park had been built up, comparatively quickly, by the Artizans’, Labourers’, and General Dwellings Co. Two adjoining blocks of land, 49½ a. and c. 24 a., were bought in 1874-5 from All Souls’ College. (fn. 39) Presumably they accounted for the 80 a. whose purchase was announced, together with the name of the estate and plans to accommodate 16,000 people, in 1874. The site, chosen partly for its accessibility by road and rail, was to have treelined roads, with 4 a. in the centre reserved for recreation. Gardening was to be encouraged and there was to be provision for an institute, cooperative stores, coal depot, dairy farm, baths, and reading rooms, but no public house. Avenues numbered from 1 to 6 were laid out leading north from Harrow Road and were joined by long crossstreets, at first called merely by the letters A to P but soon given names in alphabetical order.
Building took place in several roads at the same time. Houses were dated 1873 and 1874 on the east side and 1876 on the west side of Sixth Avenue, 1880 in Fifth Avenue, 1875 in Caird Street at the east end of the estate, and 1876 in Oliphant Street at the far end and in a nearby shopping parade in Kilburn Lane. Financial difficulties in 1877 brought delays, rent increases, and building on the intended open space, but renewed progress had led to the completion of 1,571 houses by 1882, when a further 449 were under construction. The whole area west of First Avenue had been built up by 1886.
Queen’s Park, like the company’s other four residential parks in London, was the result of a well supported effort to improve working-class conditions. It came to be seen as a success, both in encouraging the company to buy land for the Noel Park estate in Tottenham and in comparison with the squalor of much canalside housing, including Kensal New Town, and with the dinginess of St. Peter’s Park. All 2,200 houses at Queen’s Park were occupied in 1887, when the rents were much lower than those nearby. In 1899 the estate was ‘carefully sustained in respectability’, there was a waiting list for tenancies, and rents were never in arrear. Tenants were church or chapel goers and in regular work, as artisans, clerks, policemen, or railwaymen. Only a fifth of the inabitants lived in poverty, compared with more than 55 per cent in Kensal New Town, and those that did so may have lived outside the company’s estate, around Herries Street.
The north-east corner of Chelsea detached had been acquired by 1874 by the United Land Co., which eventually laid out Beethoven, Mozart, Herries, and Lancefield streets. The terraced houses were tightly packed: a few, facing Kilburn Lane, were to be worth £500 and the rest £300. Less than half of the plots, towards the northern end, had been numbered by c. 1883 but Beethoven and Mozart streets had been built up by 1886. Both poor and comfortable households existed c. 1899 in Beethoven, Herries, and Lancefield streets.
In the period between the World Wars Queen’s Park changed very little, its rented houses continuing to be in demand, while the name St. Peter’s Park apparently fell into disuse. A statement made in 1931, that housing westward from Maida Vale deteriorated until it finally became working-class in the north-west corner of the borough, implied that St. Peter’s Park was superior. Subletting had presumably continued, however, since in 1931 there was a density of from 1 to 1.25 persons to a room between Chippenham Road and Bravington Road, whereas the whole of Queen’s Park had less than one person to a room; only the eastern part of St. Peter’s Park and an area in the north between Saltram Crescent and Fernhead Road had a density as low as that of Queen’s Park.
Damage to Queen’s Park during the Second World War included destruction by a land mine at the corner of Ilbert and Peach streets, where Paddington council was building Queen’s Park Court in 1951. The company changed its name to the Artizans’ and General Properties Co. in 1952 and, having already sold to the council more than 200 houses and sites cleared during the war, disposed of its remaining Queen’s Park properties in 1964. Willesden acquired 146 maisonettes and Paddington the rest of the estate, including 1,800 weekly rented houses and flats, 80 shops, 2 halls, and 32 ground rents. In 1978 the houses along most of the southern edge of the estate, between Droop Street and Harrow Road from Sixth Avenue almost to Third Avenue, made way for Westminster’s Avenue Gardens, consisting of 11 blocks named after trees. Widespread improvements to the older houses in Queen’s Park were planned in 1982.
Greater changes took place farther east, with the clearance of parts of St. Peter’s Park for municipal housing. The triangle between Harrow Road, Elgin Avenue, and Chippenham Road, containing some of Paddington’s worst housing, was earmarked in 1966 for 300 maisonettes and flats by the G.L.C. It was rapidly built up with the Elgin (originally called Walterton Road) estate, whose first tenants arrived in 1968. On the border of Queen’s Park, between Lancefield Street and Third Avenue, Westminster council in 1970 began work on the Mozart estate, where 172 dwellings housed 646 people by 1972. The estate was intended for 3,450 residents and was later extended northward as far as Kilburn Lane. The completed estate formed a rectangle bisected by Dart Street, St. Jude’s church having been demolished and the north-south Lancefield and Herries streets reduced to short cul-de-sacs. It was served by new shops and the Magic Flute public house, and on the south adjoined the Jubilee sports centre. A little to the south-east the 225 homes of the G.L.C.’s Lydford estate were built by 1977. They too formed a rectangle, south of Shirland Road between Fernhead and Ashmore roads, superimposed on older streets.
Renovation was carried out from 1965 by Mulberry Housing Trust, which had converted c. 270 properties into c. 950 flats by 1973, when it also opened a children’s centre at the junction of Shirland and Fernhead roads. Work was continued by St. Marylebone Housing Association, whose programme in 1984 provided for the eventual provision of 914 flats in north Paddington, forming its Mulberry estate. The largest numbers were in the area comprising Ashmore Road (140 flats), the parallel Portnall (88), Fernhead (84), and Bravington (63) roads, Saltram Crescent (63), and their cross-roads, but there were many to the south-east in Sutherland Avenue (63), Marylands Road (61), and their neighbourhood. A four-storeyed block of 10 flats and a headquarters for the association were being built at no. 103 Fernhead Road in 1984.
Other conversions into flats around Bravington, Portnall, and Ashmore Roads were carried out from 1975 by Brent People’s Housing Association. All the association’s properties in Paddington were for rent except 40 in Shirland Mews, which passed into shared ownership. In 1985 it had c. 490 housing units in that area, with other houses awaiting conversion, and planned to build on the sites of a school, the Kensal Road baths, and the gardens in Warlock Road. Paddington Churches Housing Association opened Ernest Harriss House, with a day centre and 61 housing units for old people, next to St. Peter’s church in 1977.
Smaller projects included the flats of the 1950s called Sutherland Court in Marylands Road, the building of Paddington (later part of North Westminster) school nearby in Oakington Road, and the rebuilding of St. Luke’s and St. Peter’s churches. Abinger Mews replaced older houses at the northeast end of Walterton Road, behind which terraces in the triangle between Walterton, Chippenham, and Warlock roads were to be cleared in 1982 by the G.L.C. A private estate called Marble House was built between Walterton Road and Elgin Avenue, cutting off the eastern end of Barnsdale Road.
Most of Queen’s Park, declared a conservation area in 1978, remains as it was built for the Artizans’, Labourers’, and General Dwellings Co. by Hubert Austin and then by Roland Plumbe. The houses are two-storeyed terraces of red and yellow brick in ‘minimum Gothic’, enlivened by turrets at some of the street corners, and many bear a date or the company’s monogram. Their simple design derives from that of the smaller Shaftesbury Park estate at Battersea. Although pollarded plane trees survive, the wider and longer streets have been criticized as monotonous.
Rebuilding in Queen’s Park has consisted chiefly of Queen’s Park Court, red-brick blocks of six storeys or less, and Avenue Gardens, pale brownbrick ranges of three or four storeys surrounding the Victorian library and for most of their length facing a strip which has been cleared along the canal bank between nos. 487 and 525 (the Flora hotel) Harrow Road. East of St. John’s church at no. 742 Harrow Road is the London Telecommunications Region’s Ladbroke Exchange, opened in 1939.
Almost opposite is Kensal House, the only former gentleman’s residence in the area. The original Italianate house contains three storeys over a basement and is of brick and stucco, the main façade having seven bays, a prominent cornice, and a Corinthian porch. A 19th century wing has been added to the east and a modern one to the west. After serving as a school, the house was occupied by the Metropolitan Railway Surplus Lands Co. by 1949, stood empty when owned by the United Church of God in Christ by 1965, and was owned by the I.C.E. Group in 1985.
Greater change has taken place immediately east of Queen’s Park, most notably with the construction of the Mozart estate, 40 buildings of two to six storeys, faced with red brick, whose design won a government award in 1973. The nearby Lydford estate, 20 three-storeyed ranges around four closes and also in red brick, received a similar award in 1977. Farther east, in contrast, the Elgin estate includes the 21-storeyed tower blocks called Chantry Point and Hermes Point, built of storey-high lightweight glass reinforced plastic panels, with distinctive round-cornered windows. Although the panels were ‘unprecedented in lightness and elegance’, the windows quickly needed to be replaced and the blocks showed signs of wear in 1985. Other modern buildings include the four-storeyed brown-brick ranges of Marble House, the yellow-brick terrace called Abinger Mews, the six-storeyed brown-brick block of Ernest Harriss House, and the striking redbrick Mulberry Centre.
Most of the former St. Peter’s Park still consists of 19th century terraces, served by shops in Harrow Road and smaller groups in Shirland Road around its junctions with Elgin Avenue and Fernhead Road. Houses at the west ends of Sutherland Avenue, Marylands Road, and Elgin Avenue are mainly in Italianate terraces of three or occasionally four storeys over basements, with pillared porches, in the style of Westbournia. A few cross-streets, including Goldney Road, Surrendale Place, and Sevington Street, have similar terraces; some, including Edbrooke Road, have less imposing ones without porches, and others, including Oakington and Thorngate roads, have only two-storeyed rows. The avenues leading towards Maida Vale are straight, wide, and still partly tree-lined. Walterton Road, whose Italianate terraces are without porches, is bleaker and more in need of refurbishment. Its houses are of three storeys over basements, whereas surviving houses in the cross-streets Errington, Barnsdale, and Warlock roads are all one storey lower. Shirland Road consists mainly of 19th-century terraces and shops. The north-west end of the area is packed with late 19th-century three-storeyed terraces, the earlier ones with basements and the later ones with bay windows; in Saltram Crescent, St. Simon’s church has been converted into private flats.
Source: British History Online