Knightsbridge Green Area

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English Heritage

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Author

John Greenacombe (General Editor)

Year published

2000

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77-79

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'Knightsbridge Green Area', Survey of London: volume 45: Knightsbridge (2000), pp. 77-79. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45908 Date accessed: 25 October 2014.


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CHAPTER IV

Knightsbridge Green Area

Redevelopment after the Second World War robbed the Knightsbridge Green area of much of its character, substituting soulless large commercial buildings for what had been a varied mixture of mostly Victorian development (figs 22, 27). Two features remain essentially intact: the narrow passageway of Knightsbridge Green, and the enormous bulk of Park Mansions at Scotch Corner – the junction of Knightsbridge and Brompton Road. But Knightsbridge west of Park Mansions has lost its 'high street' bustle, and the seedy lodging-house quarter of Raphael Street, obscurely placed behind the main-road shops, restaurants, hotels and mansion flats of pre-war days, has been entirely destroyed. Also vanished is Tattersalls' horse-mart, one of Knightsbridge's most celebrated institutions and, with its classical-style gateway, a distinctive architectural presence on the Green.

The oldest building hereabouts is the former All Saints' School of 1875, on the north side of the Green.

Landownership before development

Early development in this area was concentrated along the main Kensington road (known here as the High Road) and at Knightsbridge Green itself. However, a rather fragmented landownership (fig. 21) did not encourage a very orderly or ambitious pattern of building. In the early eighteenth century Philip Moreau acquired the greater part of the land around the Green (and more extensive ground further west), but portions remained in other hands, and in any case Moreau's estate was broken up in 1759. By that time much of the area was becoming fairly densely built over, with rows of small houses filling up gaps in the frontages to the roads and the Green. However, it was not until the construction of Raphael Street from 1844 that it began to take on a distinctly urban character. Successive redevelopments have entirely transformed the scale of building since then, and few of the old property boundaries are still apparent today.

The most important line to survive is along the west side of the present-day Knightsbridge Green, dividing the historical Green – the triangle of manorial land between the two main roads, belonging formerly to Westminster Abbey – from the variously owned land to the west.

These various landholdings included a piece of ground belonging from 1719 to the Trevor family, from whose larger estate further west it was separated by a narrow strip. (ref. 1) The development of this ground (latterly occupied by Albert Gate Mansions and Prince's Club, its boundaries now obliterated by redevelopment) was tied up with that of the High Road generally and its history is therefore given here rather than in the chapter describing the main Trevor estate.

Philip Moreau (1656–1733) belonged to a wealthy Huguenot merchant family from Picardy, and was at the centre of a small enclave of French émigrés settled in Knightsbridge in the early eighteenth century. Among them was the surgeon and anatomist Paul Buissière (or Bussière), who lived for more than twenty years until his death in 1739 in a house north of the Moreaus' own residence on the west side of Knightsbridge Green. A favourite of the royal family, Buissière attended Queen Caroline during her last illness. His house was later owned by another émigré, John Larpent the elder, chief clerk in the Foreign Office. (ref. 2)

The Moreau estate originated as the Knightsbridge portions of a hundred-acre landholding, mostly in Kensington and Chelsea, belonging to Sir William Blake but dispersed after his death in 1630. (ref. 3) Moreau first acquired, in 1705, a mansion house which had been part of Blake's property. This stood just to the west of the Green at its southern end. In 1718 he obtained the rest of the former Blake ground in Knightsbridge: a large area along the north side of the Brompton road, extending northwards to include the Rose and Crown inn fronting the High Road, and the future site of Montpelier Square, together with a detached piece of land now covered by parts of Princes Gate and Ennismore Gardens. (ref. 4)

Over the next few years Moreau completed his local acquisitions by obtaining the tenure of most of the manorial land belonging to Westminster Abbey at the junction of the Kensington and Brompton roads, including an inn, then called the Sun, forerunner of the present-day Paxton's Head. Middle Row (North), a terrace fronting the Kensington road, was built there shortly afterwards. (ref. 5)

In 1744 Philip Moreau's son and heir, Captain James Philip Moreau, negotiated an agreement with the neighbouring landowner Arthur Trevor, guaranteeing the maintenance of a driftway (eventually to become Lancelot Place) for the use of Moreau's tenants between the Brompton road and the Rose and Crown. From Captain Moreau, who rebuilt the family house at the Green, the estate eventually descended to Charles Frederick Moreau, his grandson, who put it up for auction in several lots in 1759. (ref. 6)

The site of the Moreaus' house and garden, latterly occupied by Tattersalls' horse and carriage mart, retained its separate identity until redevelopment in the 1950s. Dr Buissière's old house, eventually to become the Pakenham Tavern, and the more extensive Rose and Crown property, each passed into separate ownership at the sale, but were eventually brought back together as part of the estate of the gunmaker Durs Egg. The ground south of the Moreaus' house (or Grosvenor House, as it became), fronting the Brompton road, was mostly built up in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (Plate 5c).


Figure 21: Landownership in central Knightsbridge in the first half of the eighteenth century

Middle Row and the Sun inn property also passed into separate ownerships at the sale, but were later reunited and ultimately redeveloped as Park Mansions.

The remaining portion of Moreau land near the Green was the World's End or Fulham Bridge inn, fronting the Brompton road on the plot between the Moreaus' garden and the driftway. The inn itself was subsequently rebuilt, and houses and shops erected along the Brompton road frontage. The northern part of this deep plot was developed after the Moreau sale as a mews (Fulham Bridge Yard, later Tullett Place) with a ride for exercising and showing horses. In the 1830s houses were built on the east side, but extensive stabling remained. (ref. 8) The mews and houses were largely redeveloped with garaging before the Second World War. This site also lost its separate identity as a result of post-war redevelopment.

Besides the land belonging to the Moreaus and Westminster Abbey, there was one more estate in immediate proximity to the Green in the eighteenth century. This consisted of an irregularly shaped plot fronting the Kensington road (E on fig. 21), extending from the west side of the Green to the boundaries of the Rose and Crown property and the gardens of Dr Buissière and the Moreaus. On it stood a house of 1688 and various small houses and outbuildings. By 1704 the ground belonged to Martin Cawfield Basil, a Lincoln's Inn barrister with estates in Ireland and Buckinghamshire, after whose death in 1735 it was partly redeveloped. (ref. 9) Basil's estate was later acquired by Durs Egg.

Durs Egg's estate, through which Raphael Street was ultimately to be carved, was assembled by him in 1799–1803 and amounted to about four acres. As well as Basil's old property, it consisted of the Rose and Crown and its grounds extending to the driftway, and Dr Buissière's house, where Egg lived until his death. (ref. 10)

A German-Swiss by birth, Durs Egg was one of the finest gunsmiths in England, patronized by the royal family. But his latter years were clouded by mental illness, litigation and family strife. He took against his children, and towards the end of his life carried loaded pistols, believing 'all those that approached him had designs upon his life'. When he died in 1831, at the age of 82, he left a will which would have largely disinherited his family. This was successfully contested on the grounds of his insanity, but the Knightsbridge Green estate, encumbered by a £5,000 mortgage, was not disposed of for several years. A purchase agreement with William Nokes of Denton Court, Kent, made in 1833, ultimately fell through, apparently because of remaining uncertainty over the title to the property. Egg's estate was eventually sold in 1838 to Lewis Raphael of Hendon, who initiated its partial redevelopment. (ref. 11)

References

1 WA, WAM 52252: MDR 1719/1/181; 1719/5/202–4.
2 RB: WCA, Acc. 1188, bundle II: KLS, MS 3471: DNB.
3 The histories of the Blake and Moreau estates generally are given in Survey of London, vol.xxxviii, 1975, Chapter 1, and vol.XLI, 1983, Chapter III.
4 KLS, MS 3799: List of possessions of Sir William Blake at his death, in extra-illustrated copy of Thomas Faulkner, History and Antiquities of Kensington, 1820, in BL (press mark L.R. 271.c.3), b/w pp.440–1: LMA, C/96/47.
5 WA, Church Commissioners' Records, Box 441, Deed 292078, 11 March 1719/20; Register Book XXXI, ff.128v–129: MDR 1724/4/260; 1726/6/175.
6 KLS, MS 3799: WCA, Acc. 1188, bundle II.
7 Survey of London, vol.XLI, 1983, p.34.
8 MDR 1760/2/153–5; 1762/3/259–61; 1778/2/328; 1793/3/226; 1793/3/229–31; 1795/3/300: RB.
9 KLS, MSS 3788, 3729–35: information provided by Victor Belcher.
10 KLS, MSS 3736–7, 3748–50, 3775–7.
11 MDR 1842/1/123–4: Claude Blair, 'The Egg Family Part 1', in The Journal of the Arms and Armour Society, vol.VII, nos 9–10, March-June 1973, pp.326–7.