Survey of London: Volume 37, Northern Kensington. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1973.
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Nos. 1–5 (consec.) Kensington Palace Gardens
Of the five houses built by Samuel W. Strickland along Bayswater Road only Nos. 4 and 5 remain. In July 1842 Strickland had applied successfully to the Commissioners for the plot now occupied by Nos. 4 and 5, and in August plans and elevations for a pair of semi-detached villas were approved. The architect is unknown: the detailed specifications submitted to the Commissioners were signed only by Strickland. By December the carcase of the building was complete, (fn. 20) but leases were not executed until March 1843, when, at Strickland's request, that for No. 5 was granted to his sister, Elizabeth Strickland. The annual ground rent for each house was £30. (fn. 21) Both were occupied by October 1845, No. 4 by Mrs. H. S. Waring, an elderly annuitant, and No. 5 by Bevis E. Green, a bookseller and publisher. No. 4 is now (1972) occupied by the Institute of Rubber Industry, and No. 5 by the Soviet Consulate. (fn. 22)
Nos. 4 and 5 form a pair of semi-detached stucco-faced Italianate houses, consisting of three storeys over a basement. Originally the composition was symmetrical, the central block being flanked by the entrance doors and low wings. Its three-storey façade is five windows wide, with plain pilasters running through the upper storeys to support a dentilled cornice and pediment. Some marble fireplaces dating from the 1840's and a few original cornices survive inside.
In applying for the plot now occupied by Nos. 4 and 5 Strickland also asked that he should be given the first refusal of the two adjoining plots to the east. The Commissioners replied that they did not intend to allow building on these plots 'at present', but that they would bear his application in mind. Five months later Strickland applied again for these two plots as his financial situation did not permit him to 'keep the necessary amount of money unemployed, or invested at a low rate of interest, upon the doubtful chance of hereafter becoming the lessee'. (fn. 23) Terms were agreed in September and as by then it would not have been possible to roof-over the houses before the winter, the Commissioners allowed Strickland to defer submitting plans and elevations until the following spring. (fn. 23)
When the designs were eventually submitted, in August 1844, Strickland proposed to erect only one house on the easternmost plot. The architect of this house (No. 1) was Henry Duesbury, who had to make extensive changes to his designs to satisfy the Commissioners. The architect of Nos. 2 and 3 is not known; in September 1843, however, Strickland had told the Commissioners that he proposed to build houses here of the same character as Nos. 4 and 5 and 'only slightly varied in detail'. (fn. 23) All three houses were completed in carcase by March 1845 (fn. 23) and in September the leases were granted to Strickland. The annual ground rents were £20, £40 and £60 for Nos. 2, 3 and I respectively. (fn. 24) No. 2 was first occupied in 1844 by Strickland himself; No. 3 in 1846 by Samuel Needham, a bank trustee, and No. 1 in 1846 by Charles Lushington, M. P., who was probably responsible for the choice of Duesbury as architect. (fn. 25) In 1932 The Architectural Review published photographs of the interior of No. 1 as it had existed in 1893 and after remodelling by Wells Coates. (fn. 26)
Nos. 6 and 7 Kensington Palace Gardens
In April 1844 Blashfield had obtained the Commissioners' consent to build one detached house here to designs by T. H. Wyatt and D. Brandon, but this house had evidently not been started when he agreed to sell the site for £750 to Joseph Earle of Brixton, a timber merchant. (fn. 27) Subsequently an 'amended plan' for building 'two houses or a double house' on the site, with new designs by Wyatt and Brandon, was submitted by Blashfield, on Earle's behalf, in July 1844 and approved by the Commissioners in August. (fn. 28) (fn. 1)
The carcase of the building was completed by February 1845 and in March separate leases were granted to Earle at an annual rent of £40 for each house. (fn. 29) While work was in progress a number of alterations to the architects' designs were approved by the Commissioners, including the addition of 'an enriched parapet to surmount the cornice along the whole line of the front'. (fn. 30) Both houses were finished by April 1846. (fn. 30) Earle himself was the first occupant of No. 6 where he lived from 1846 to 1856. No. 7 was first occupied in 1847 by Anselmo de Arroyave, a Spanish-born merchant. (fn. 22)
The front of Nos. 6 and 7 is a pleasant, wellmannered, symmetrical composition in the Italianate style, crowned by the 'enriched parapet' (of unusual star-shaped design), the dies of which were formerly surmounted by statuary. Both houses are faced with stucco and were originally of three storeys over basements, the fourth storey of No. 7 being added in 1863 from the designs of D. Brandon. (fn. 31) The entrances are on the north and south sides, within porches. The interiors have been much altered.
No. 8 Kensington Palace Gardens
This house, the first to be built by Blashfield, was erected in 1843–6 to the designs of Owen Jones, whose plans and elevations were submitted for approval in October 1843. The Commissioners' architects reported that 'as regards the Elevations . . . the Design will probably produce an appearance equal to that originally contemplated for this Site and we do not feel we ought to object to the peculiarity of the proposed Moresque enrichments though hitherto not much adopted in this Country'. Blashfield replied that 'The Moresque ornament of the windows might be removed (probably with advantage) by the stroke of a pencil. The design would then be strictly Italian and as I wish.' Jones's mildly 'Moresque' details were, however, retained (fn. 30) (fn. 2) (Plate 92b). Even without them the design would have been unusual; in particular the fenestration of the upper storeys and the large expanses of plain wall gave No. 8 an exotic quality reminiscent of a Black Sea resort.
When the house was finished The Illustrated London News commented that its 'Byzantine character, . . . although novel to this country appears to be more particularly suited to our climate and domestic comforts than most others'. (fn. 32) Nevertheless it remained untenanted until March 1852, when a Mrs. Caroline Murray of Maida Vale bought the house for £6,300 from Blashfield's mortgagees, who had provided the £15,000 originally required to build it. (fn. 33)
The house as it stood was too large for Mrs Murray, and in the opinion of her architects, F. and H. Francis, it was much too big even for 'the generality of families—a fact proved by the length of time it has remained unoccupied'. Mrs. Murray therefore divided it into two, having first built an extension on the south side designed by her architects in a matching style. (fn. 35) The southern half, first occupied in 1853 by Mrs. Murray herself, was hereafter called No. 8A, and the northern half No. 8. The latter was first occupied in 1854 by Russell Gurney, barrister and Recorder of London. Subsequently a number of additions, all more or less in a matching style externally, were made to both halves of the building (Plate 92c). (fn. 36)
After the war of 1939–45 (when it had been used for the interrogation of spies), the house was in a dilapidated state, and the Crown Estate Commissioners, who were anxious to preserve the building, could find nobody who wanted it either as a private residence, or for conversion to other use. In 1955, however, a developer was found to convert the house into seven 'high class' flats, but before the work could be carried out another developer took over and his architects, Richard Selfert and Partners, advised that the existing structure was unsafe. In 1961 the Commissioners somewhat reluctantly agreed to allow the developer to demolish the house and erect a block of luxury flats. (fn. 37)
No. 9 Kensington Palace Gardens:
This house was built in 1852–4 for Anselmo de Arroyave, a Spanish-born merchant who had occupied No. 7 Kensington Palace Gardens since 1847. Arroyave offered the Commissioners an annual ground rent of £70 10s. for the site; Pennethorne recommended this offer in April 1852, and in May an agreement was concluded by which Arroyave undertook to spend at least £4,000 in building a first-rate house to be completed by 5 April 1854. (fn. 38) The house was designed by Sydney Smirke, whose plans and elevations were submitted to the Commissioners in July 1852 and approved by them, after alterations, in September. Smirke said that he intended to treat all four fronts 'similarly and uniformly', and consequently the Commissioners made it a condition of their approval that no other buildings would be permitted to intrude on the open space around the house. (fn. 38) The contractors were Lucas Brothers, who had submitted the lowest tender at £4,280. (fn. 39) Building began in about November 1852 and by October 1854 Arroyaye was living in the house. (fn. 40) The ground lease was granted to him in June 1855. (fn. 41)
It appears from the existence of a few working drawings that Alfred Stevens designed some of the original interior decorations, but none of these survives. (fn. 42) The most substantial subsequent alterations have been the addition of an attic (in 1866) and the extensions on the north and south sides. The attic was designed by William Thompson for Charles F. Huth, a 'commission merchant', who occupied the house from 1866 until 1895. (fn. 43)
No. 9 is a stucco-faced house consisting of a basement, three storeys, and an attic, the latter largely concealed behind the balustrade. Only the symmetrical west façade survives in basically its original form (Plate 104c). It is three windows wide, and has large plain quoins. The fenestration is unusual: two square windows, flanking the entrance, project from the main façade on the ground floor only. The antae on either side of each window are decorated with pilasters of an amalgamated Tuscan and Roman Doric order, and each window, between the antae, is subdivided by two slender cast-iron columns supported on the sills, the central window being twice as wide as those between the iron columns and the antae. The main entrance is, in effect, distyle in antis, the columns being of the same order as the pilasters. The whole projection on the ground floor is crowned by a plain cornice surmounted by a balustrade at first-floor level. This cornice is continued round the house.
Each of the three identical first-floor windows consists of an aediculated opening, with a segmental pediment over a plain entablature carried on two slender cast-iron columns. The three second-floor windows, above a simple stringcourse that extends round the building, have moulded architraves with crossettes. The facade is surmounted by a dentilled cornice with lions' masks fixed to the cyma recta moulding, the whole being crowned by a stucco balustrade, the dies of which support stucco balls.
The plan was originally symmetrical, the rooms being grouped on either side of the staircase and entrance hall. The walls of the latter are plastered to resemble ashlar work, and four painted panels, depicting cherubic subjects, are set above the doorways right and left. The most important room is the main drawing-room (Plate 104d), to the right of the entrance hall, which extends the full depth of the house. The walls are lined with finely carved and gilded wooden panels of the Louis Quinze period, inserted in 1938, the cartouches depicting varieties of game. (fn. 44) There are marble fireplaces surmounted by pier-glasses. Other marble fireplaces of good quality exist in the dining-room, and in the conference-room on the first floor.
No. 10 Kensington Palace Gardens
This house, now considerably altered, was designed in the manner of an Italian palazzo by Philip Hardwick for Sutherland Hall Sutherland, esquire, of Princes Street, Hanover Square, who bought the site from Blashfield in 1846. Hardwick's plans and elevations (Plate 100) were submitted to the Commissioners on 22 October 1846 and approved by them on 28 October, Pennethorne having reported that the house, 'although only two stories high above the ground & therefore not of the same large scale with other Houses built along this Road . . . will in every respect fulfill the Conditions of Mr Blashfield's Agreement'. (fn. 45)
Building began at the end of 1846 and because of a misunderstanding over the terms under which Sutherland had taken the plot the Commissioners allowed him an extra year in which to complete the house, provided that the exterior was finished and 'rendered to all appearances habitable' and the gardens laid out by October 1847. (fn. 46) The lease was not executed until September 1848, and at Sutherland's nomination it was granted to Charles James Heath of New London Street, Fenchurch Street. (fn. 47) But Heath did not occupy the house himself, and it remained untenanted until James Meadows Rendel, the civil engineer, acquired the lease in 1851. (fn. 48)
Before Rendel moved into the house, probably early in 1852, it was altered for him by Banks and Barry. These alterations included the insertion of a number of round-headed dormer windows, of which Rendel wrote 'the design has the approval and indeed originated with Mr Barry Junior'. Pennethorne advised the Commissioners to consent but considered that 'the exterior will be somewhat injured'. (fn. 49)
Rendel died here in 1856 and in 1862 the house was acquired by Ernest Leopold S. Benzon, a German-born steel magnate, to whose elaborate dinner parties came many of the leading artists, writers and musicians of the day. Benzon began extensive alterations to the house to the designs of Paul Jumelin and Lawrence Harvey, but on his death in 1873 they were discontinued. (fn. 50)
In 1896 substantial alterations designed by Leonard Stokes were made for the financier Leopold Hirsch. Stokes had submitted plans for a very elaborate remodelling in December 1895, which were warmly welcomed by the Commissioners' architect, Arthur Cates, who thought they would have 'converted this house into a small palace'. They were, however, replaced by designs for less elaborate, though still extensive, alterations. Their principal features, in so far as they affected the external appearance of the house, were the addition of a mansard roof, square attic windows, a balustrade above the cornice, a onestorey extension on the north side and a new porch. The proportions of some windows were altered and all windows were fitted with small-pane sashes. The walls, which had originally been faced with white bricks and Portland stone dressings, were rendered with stone-coloured Portland cement (Plate 101a, 101b). Inside, major alterations were made on every floor, including the formation of a round-ended billiard-room on the ground floor, which projects in a semi-circular extension on the south side. (fn. 51)
Further alterations were made for Hirsch in 1903–4 by Messrs. Fryer and Company. An extra storey was added to the north side extension and a pedimented attic storey to the centre of the west front (Plate 101a). (fn. 52)
No. 11 Kensington Palace Gardens
This house was built in 1852–4 for Don Cristobal de Murrietta, an elderly Spanish-born merchant who had occupied No. 26 Kensington Palace Gardens since 1845. (fn. 53) Murrietta had applied for the plot, for which he offered an annual ground rent of £92, through his son Mariano. Pennethorne recommended his offer, and in May 1852 an agreement was concluded with Mariano who undertook to spend at least £4,000 in building a first-class house, and to complete it by 5 April 1854. (fn. 38)
The architect was Sydney Smirke, whose plans and elevations for the house were submitted to the Commissioners in July 1852 and approved by them in September. Smirke proposed to treat all four sides of the building 'similarly and uniformly', and the Commissioners made it a condition of their approval that the ground around the house should be kept free of buildings. (fn. 38) The contractors were Lucas Brothers, whose tender, at £5,200, was the lowest submitted. (fn. 39) Building began in about November 1852 and by June 1855, when the ground lease was granted to Mariano and his brother José, Don Cristobal was living in the house. (fn. 54)
Some of the original interior decorations were designed by Alfred Stevens. In the drawing-room the principal feature of his scheme was a series of canvas panels painted with figures depicting heroines from The Facrie Queene. These panels were attached to the wall above eye level within fanciful frames painted on to the wall surface. In the morning-room Stevens designed the ceiling, which was painted with small figures emblematic of the four seasons. None of these decorations now survives. Stevens's biographer, H. Stannus, who must have seen the panels in situ, regarded them as among Stevens's most important works, and in 1891 he urged that they 'should be secured for the nation if the present owner should ever part with his interest in the house'. (fn. 55) (fn. 3)
The original house has been considerably altered. In 1873 a one-storey ball-room and art gallery was added to the south side for José de Murrietta by the architect Edward Tarver, who had designed a house for the family at Wadhurst in Sussex in 1872. The west elevation of this extension was originally treated in a free Baroque manner which Tarver thought would reduce its apparent width, thereby helping to preserve the detached appearance of the house. In 1874 Tarver designed the present high-pitched châteaulike roof after the original roof (which was partially hidden behind a balustrade) and top storey were destroyed in a fire. The Commissioners' architect, Arthur Cates, was reluctant to approve Tarver's designs; he would have preferred a mansard roof, but after many modifications Cates eventually recommended the design to the Commissioners, although in his opinion 'it was not free from eccentricity'. (fn. 64) In 1894 a one-bay three storey extension was added to the north side for R. W. Perks, M. P., from the designs of Charles Bell. (fn. 20)
In 1937 the interior was redecorated for the Duke of Marlborough by Lenygon and Morant, and before the work was carried out the Commissioners ordered a photographic survey. (fn. 62) This shows that a number of rooms had elaborate embellishments, although in the drawing-room Stevens's panels (but not his painted ceiling decorations) had already disappeared. In the ballroom the shallow domes of the ceiling (now removed) and the friezes were painted with arabesque ornaments. The dining-room frieze was painted with panels of figures and animals and the ceiling with floral patterns, and in the first-floor room over the hall the coving was painted with birds and flowers and the ceiling with an oval panel representing the sky. In this room also was a fine carved fireplace and chimneypiece incorporating decorative tiles. Some of this work had been executed by Walter Crane, who in his Reminiscences recalled that in about 1873–4 'Mr E. J. Tarver, an architect . . . got me to design and paint a frieze in panels of animals and birds for a house in Palace Gardens'. (fn. 62)
Another single-storey extension was added to the north side in 1947–8 for the French Embassy, and at the same time considerable alterations were made to the interior. (fn. 63) The house is now (1972) the residence of the French Ambassador.
In its elevational treatment this house has certain similarities to No. 9, although the stucco detail is richer. Both the west and east fronts of the original house were symmetrical, but the extensions to the north and south have considerably unbalanced the design.
The house is stucco-faced and consists of three storeys over a basement, with an attic. The front is a composition of some distinction, and has a porch, carried on two pairs of fluted Corinthian columns, surmounted by a balustrade. On either side of this porch, but, unlike No. 9, not attached to it, are two square projections containing windows, their antae enriched by fluted Corinthian pilasters supporting plain entablatures surmounted by balustrades (Plate 105a).
The three widely proportioned first-floor windows of the original house each have two slender cast-iron columns supporting the entablature. The two outer windows have pediments above containing simple cartouches. The secondfloor windows are surrounded by moulded architraves with crossettes above a simple stringcourse. The house has plain quoins and is crowned by a rich entablature, with an anthemion frieze and dentilled cornice. There are dolphins' masks on the cyma. Above the cornice is the attic added by Tarver in 1874, which consists of tall aediculated dormers surmounted by segmental pediments. The dormers in the centre are combined within a Mannerist composition crowned by a pediment. The balustrade between the dormers has open fret patterns instead of balusters, and the dies carry swagged urns. The tall roofs, together with the dormers and urns, give this house a distinctive Parisian appearance.
The garden front has three French windows, opening to a terrace, flanked by two three-sided bay windows (Plate 105b). The first floor has aediculated windows, with cartouches in the pediments. The side windows are widely proportioned, similar to those on the front already described. The second-floor windows have moulded and crossetted architraves, and the entablature and main cornice are carried round from the front. The attic is treated in a similar fashion to that on the front.
The interior plan is spacious, and the proportions of the rooms very pleasing. The entrance hall, off which are the library and cloakrooms, leads to a cross-passage containing the stairs. The floor of the hall and passage was laid with black and white marble in 1937 (fn. 58) (Plate 105c). A large doorway with a cornice carried on large consoles in the Florentine Renaissance manner leads to the main drawing-room, which is decorated in pale cream, with gilded Rococo mouldings featuring feathers, leaves, swags, and flower motifs (Plate 105d). The cove contains figures and swags in low relief. The little drawingroom, to the north of the main room, has more elaborate Rococo decor based on marine motifs. This room gives access to the long dining-room, situated in the most recent extension. The drawing-rooms also extend into what was the ballroom built in 1873. There are now mirrored doors in marble architraves surmounted by pediments, with circular wheel-pattern mirrors over them. (fn. c1)
No. 12 Kensington Palace Gardens
The building of this handsome house was begun by Thomas Grissell and his partner (Sir) Samuel Morton Peto and completed by Grissell alone after the dissolution of their partnership in March 1846 (see page 158). The plans and elevations were submitted to Pennethorne on 13 February 1845 together with those for No. 20, and in an accompanying letter the builders asked that they should not be 'strictly' bound by the designs, althought they had 'no intention of departing from them essentially'. Pennethorne reported that both sets of plans were 'unexceptionable', and, 'considering (as I believe) that they emanate from Mr Barry and are to be built by Messrs Grissell & Peto', he thought the Commissioners would 'probably be willing to allow them to deviate as they request'. On 19 February the Commissioners gave their consent. (fn. 59)
The Companion to the British Almanac for 1846, which published an illustration as well as a brief description of the finished house, 'understood' that the architect had been Robert Richardson Banks. Banks was a pupil of (Sir) Charles Barry and was at this time the architect in charge of Barry's office. (fn. 60) No doubt he was involved in the production of working drawings for the house and he may have supervised the construction. (fn. 61)
While building was in progress Grissell and Peto acquired the vacant adjoining plot to the south (now the site of No. 12A), where they proposed to lay out a garden to be leased with No. 12. The Commissioners gave their consent, the builders having spent on No. 12 over £6,000, which was the minimum that they would have been required to spend on building a house on each site, and in May 1847 both plots were granted to Grissell in a single lease at an annual rent of £185. The lease also included a stable in the mews. (fn. 64)
Although No. 12 was variously reported as 'finished' in April 1846 and 'nearly ready for habitation' in May, it remained unlet (though probably not unoccupied) until 1853, when Peto took an under-lease from his former partner. (fn. 65) (fn. 4) Since the dissolution of their partnership Peto, with his brother-in-law, Edward Ladd Betts, had pursued the career of a railway contractor, and in 1847 he had entered Parliament. (fn. 67) At the time of the census of 1861 Peto's household was the largest in Kensington Palace Gardens, comprising twenty-eight occupants, of whom sixteen were servants. Lack of accommodation could not, however, have been the reason why, two years later, he decided to build himself another larger house in the garden alongside No. 12, for his first intention then had been to move to a smaller house in Carlton Gardens. (fn. 68)
Before Peto moved into his new house (now No. 12A), No. 12 was sold by his mortgagees for £25,000 to Alexander Collie of Sussex Gardens, Bayswater, a London and Manchester cotton merchant, and in 1864 Collie spent several thousand pounds on alterations designed by Matthew Digby Wyatt. The principal staircase was extended to the second floor, a new breakfastroom was built at the north-east corner, matching the conservatory which Peto had added at the south-east corner, and a new billiard-room, decorated in the 'Moorish' taste, was constructed in the former kitchen. Outside, the chimneystacks were raised and the second-floor windows at the back were lengthened and fitted with iron and stone balconettes. (fn. 69) (fn. 5)
Collie occupied No. 12 from 1865 until the bankruptcy of his business in 1875. He was prosecuted for obtaining £200,000 from a bank by false pretences, broke bail and disappeared. In September 1875 The Times reported that hope of recapturing him had not been abandoned, but by 1878 he had still not been re-arrested. In 1875 his creditors had expected the house to realize about £15,000, but ten years elapsed before it was occupied again. (fn. 71)
No. 12 was aptly described by the writer in the Companion as having 'in its general aspect quite as much or even more of the club-house than the usual villa character, it being altogether in that astylar Italian palazzon mode which Barry introduced among us in the club-houses built by him'. (fn. 72) The design is, indeed, not only similar in its general outlines to Barry's Italianate clubhouses in Pall Mall, but also has some close parallels of detail: the unusual relationship of solid and void at the back recalls the garden front of the 'Travellers' Club, and the sumptuous cornicione is very similar to that on the Reform Club.
The house is of three storeys over a basement, five windows wide, with a central doorway, and is flanked by one-storey wings over basements. The front is nobly proportioned, with window openings on the ground and first floors treated in the manner of Michelangelo (Plate 94a). The groundfloor windows are surrounded by architraves and surmounted by segmental pediments on brackets. The main entrance has a round-headed arch with a large keystone, set between engaged Ionic columns which carry an entablature. There is a stringcourse enriched with lattice-work at firstfloor level. The north wing contains a niche within an architrave over which is a cornice carried on brackets, while in the south wing the niche has been replaced by a window. The firstfloor window-openings have architraves and are surmounted by cornices carried on brackets. The second-floor windows have crossetted architraves only. The house is crowned by a cornicione enriched with guilloche carving, dentils, reel-andbead and egg-and-dart mouldings, brackets, and dolphins' masks on the cymatium (fig. 34).
At the back, the three middle windows are closely spaced together (Plate 94c). The groundfloor windows and French doors all have roundarched heads, and the architraves and archivolts have rusticated blocks and voussoirs, with large keystones. The first-floor windows rise from the lattice-work stringcourse, each having architraves with three large rusticated blocks, and keystones. They are surmounted by plain cornices carried on brackets. The lengthened second-floor windows, with the iron and stone balconettes of 1864, now give a top-heavy appearance to this façade. The two single-storey wings flanking the house each have three high round-headed windows organized as arcades with moulded archivolts and plain keystones.
The plan of the house is almost symmetrical (fig. 34). The walls of the entrance hall are plastered to simulate ashlar work, and the columns are of the Ionic order (Plate 94b). The corridors to the north and south are vaulted. The floor is of stone, with black marble inlay. There is a stone stair to the first floor, with cast-iron balustrade.
Immediately to the south of the entrance hall is the library (Plate 95c), fitted out with shelves, cupboards, and inlaid doors. There are panels of carved wood over the doors and bookshelves, and the fireplace and overmantel, crowned by a broken segmental pediment, are carved with Florentine and Baroque motifs. The woodwork of this room is markedly similar to that of the staircase from the first to the second floor. The plaster ceiling of the library is ornamented with strapwork in the Jacobean manner. These decorations and fittings probably all date from 1864.
Among the other rooms, pride of place must be given to the billiard- (now flower-) room designed by M. D. Wyatt (Plate 95d). This is a rich and glittering invention in the Moresque style, with a brightly coloured glazed-tile dado above which is a cornice carried on carved brackets. Over this is an arcade on colonnettes of marbles, behind which is a series of mirrors. The coved ceiling, decorated with arabesques, is open in the centre and supports a clerestory pierced by eight-pointed star-shaped lights. This clerestory is decorated with intricate geometrical patterns based on Islamic motifs. The colours are varied and strong, and the gilding is lavish.
The drawing-room, which faces the garden to the east and gives access to the terrace, is subdivided into three parts by unfluted marbled Corinthian columns supporting a modillioned cornice (Plate 95a). In the dining-room (Plate 95b) the original deeply moulded ceiling survives. (fn. c3)
No. 12A Kensington Palace Gardens
This house was erected in 1863–5 for Sir Samuel Morton Peto in the garden of No. 12, the house which he had occupied since 1854. The site, although originally intended as a building plot, had been granted to Peto's former partner, Thomas Grissell, in the lease of No. 12 in May 1847 (see above). But the right of the lessee subsequently to erect a house here had not been extinguished, and in April 1863 Peto, who had agreed to purchase the ground lease from Grissell, informed the Commissioners that his architect, James Murray, would soon be submitting plans and elevations for their approval. Although Peto did not tell the Commissioners his reasons for giving up No. 12 he explained to them that his decision to build a new house here was in deference to his wife's wish to remain in Kensington Palace Gardens; he himself had proposed to move to Carlton Gardens. (fn. 73)
Murray's plans and elevations were examined by Pennethorne on 30 April 1863 and approved by the Commissioners on the following day. Subsequently a number of small adjustments were made to the design, apparently at Murray's request. (fn. 74) The contractors were Lucas Brothers, an important firm of builders whose two partners, Thomas and Charles Lucas, had been on Peto's staff during his partnership with Grissell. (fn. 75) The internal decorations were designed by Owen Jones and executed by Messrs. Jackson and Graham, who were also entrusted with the furnishings. Other decorative work was executed by Messrs. Minton (encaustic and majolica tiles for the conservatory and Roman mosaic pavements in the central hall and vestibules), and Messrs. Elkington (Griotte marble columns with bronze bases and capitals in the hall). The extensive and elaborate stables erected by Lucas's and fitted up by Burton of Oxford Street were in Kensington Mall. (fn. 6) According to The Builder the total cost was between £45,000 and £50,000. (fn. 76)
Peto had moved into his new house by June 1865, but he did not live there long. (fn. 77) In May 1866 the financial crisis precipitated by the collapse of the bill discounting firm of Overend, Gurney and Company forced his own firm, Peto and Betts, to suspend payment, and he gave up the house. (fn. 78) (fn. 7) In 1867 Peto and Betts were declared bankrupt and although their affairs were finally settled satisfactorily the firm never recovered. No. 12A meanwhile had been acquired by (Sir) Thomas Lucas, one of the partners in the firm which built it, and he lived there from 1866 until his death in 1902. (fn. 80) It was for Lucas that the single-storey picture gallery, designed in a matching style by W. J. Green, was erected on the north side in 1876. (fn. 81)
No. 12A is a substantial house, faced with stone on the west and east elevations, and consists of three storeys over a basement, with and attic. It is seven windows wide in front, with the singlestorey wing of 1876 to the north and a small conservatory to the south. On each side of the three centre windows is a three-sided bay window rising through two storeys.
The restrained treatment of the principal façades is enhanced by the fine quality of the carved stonework. There are quoins, and a principal modillioned cornice with an anthemion frieze, the whole surmounted by a balustrade (Plate 107c). Two other cornices are provided at the first-and second-floor levels, the former being plain, with a Greek-key frieze, and the latter being dentilled, with a guilloche frieze. Elaborately carved stone panels are set above the ground-floor windows. The house has been redecorated several times, and (as far as is known) nothing of Jones's original scheme survives. (fn. 82)
The stables in Kensington Mall included living quarters, room for nine coaches, and twelve stalls opening into a central two-storied nave with arched roof on iron columns. (fn. 76)
No. 13 Kensington Palace Gardens: Harrington House
In March 1851 the fifth Earl of Harrington, an important landowner in South Kensington who had succeeded to the title only a few weeks previously, applied to the Commissioners for a large vacant plot on the east side of Kensington Palace Gardens where he wished to build a house for his own occupation. (fn. 8) The Commissioners replied that although they could not accommodate the Earl on the terms which he proposed (a ninety-nineyear lease at £120 a year) they would be willing to let the site to him at £147 a year for a period expiring in 1942, subject to his spending not less than £6,000 in building a first-class house to be completed by 5 January 1853. Lord Harrington agreed on condition that he should be allowed to build the house in his favourite style—the Gothic. Pennethorne reported favourably on the designs and on 12 July the Commissioners gave their consent. (fn. 83) (fn. 9) The contractor was John Baker of Marylebone, who applied for permission to lay the drains in August and began building in October. (fn. 84) Lord Harrington was living in the house by July 1853, and in December 1854 he was granted the lease. (fn. 85)
The architectural authorship of the design for No. 13 was described by The Builder in 1852 as follows: 'The original design for the exterior was made by Mr. Burton, to suit plans sketched by the Earl, but the works are being carried out under the superintendence of Mr. C. J. Richardson.' (fn. 86) Another contemporary journal named 'Mr Burton' (i. e. Decimus Burton) as the author of the design but there is no mention of him or any other architect in the Commissioners' records, nor have any of the original drawings been found. (fn. 87) Probably both Burton and the Earl made sketches and suggestions, but left the details and working drawings to Richardson, who was surveyor to Lord Harrington's South Kensington estate, and under whose name views of the house were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1852 and 1855. (fn. 89) After Lord Harrington's death (in 1862) Richardson did acknowledge that "The fronts of the building were designed in great measure by his late Lordship', but his account of the house in his book Picturesque Designs . . . (1870) seems to imply that he alone was responsible for the design. (fn. 90)
In this account Richardson admitted that the exterior of the building had been 'censured on account of the Gothic outline being too flat, the roofs too low, and all the windows having common sash frames'. The windows were, indeed, particularly singled out for criticism. The Builder found them 'more eccentric than beautiful' (fn. 86) and the Campaines to the British Almanac, 'by no means elegant'. (fn. 87) The Builder, which had described the design as 'somewhat German in character', subsequently published a scathing attack by an anonymous correspondent: 'Were I to express my opinion of it without reserve, I should be compelled to make use of language and epithets which, however justly merited, would be deemed as illiberal as they would be disagreeable. . . . Instead of "repose" we have actual torture— the very thumhscrew of design. ' (fn. 92) Richardson defended the building on the grounds of 'convenience, comfort, and complete suitability for all domestic purposes', and he quoted letters from Lord Harrington congratulating him on having constructed a house 'without a fault. He justified the design of the windows on the ground that 'it may be considered very probable that if the Gothic race of architects had continued with us to the present day, they would have adopted plate glass for their windows, and put aside their lead-lights and small panes of common glass'. (fn. 92)
No. 13 is one of the biggest houses in the road, and was said to have cost the Earl about £15,000, although according to Richardson 'as little expense in decoration was gone into as possible', The original interior was apparently 'very plain', most of the rooms being only ornamented by a plain cornice of 'running Gothic mouldings'. The saloon (Plate 103b), however, was more elaborately treated, and had a coved ceiling painted with shields, coats of arms, mottoes and monograms. (fn. 92)
After Lord Harrington's death his widow continued to occupy the house until her death in 1898. (fn. 93) In 1924 it was acquired by Sir Lewis Richardson, a South African merchant, who in that year spent over £25,000 on alterations designed for him by Sidney Parvin. The whimsical bell-turret was removed, new steps were added at both front and back, and a wooden porch was erected in front. The windows of the conservatory were altered and its original sloping roof replaced by the present flat one. Considerable changes were made inside, many of which survive. (fn. 94) The house is now (1972) occupied by the Soviet Embassy.
It is constructed of buff-coloured bricks with Bath stone dressings, and consists of two principal storeys over a basement, which is fourteen feet high and of fireproof construction, with a partstorey above, which originally contained the female servants' sleeping quarters.
Despite the loss of its bell-turret the threestorey central tower containing the main entrance still dominates the symmetrical west façade (Plate 103a, 103c). Above the entrance is a projecting oriel window surmounted by a quatrefoil parapet, and below the central window is a panel now bearing Sir Lewis Richardson's arms. The sashwindow openings are rectangular, the only concession to period style being some idiomatic cusping at the corners and the drip moulds over some of the windows. At the corners of the building are diagonal buttresses of stone on brick piers. The house is crowned by an open parapet of crude 'Gothic' design. On the south side of the house is the conservatory, contained in a singlestorey extension over a basement.
Inside, a small entrance hall, flanked by the former library and dining-room, leads to the saloon (fig. 35). The latter forms the heart of the house and is two storeys high, illuminated by a skylight in which are the remains of embossed and coloured glass depicting heraldic devices. The present double oak staircase in the saloon, in a late seventeenth-century style, replaced the original stone stair in 1924, when the walls were panelled in oak, and new landings supported on steel cantilevers with oak balustrades were fixed around three sides of the room. None of the original decorations appear to survive in the principal rooms on the ground floor. These were originally warmed with hot-water pipes covered by ornamental iron grilles.
The spacious domestic accommodation originally provided in the basement, which extends under the courtyard on the south side of the house, included a kitchen, scullery, pastry-room, stillroom, dairy, wash-houses, laundry, butler's pantry, steward's room, servants' hall, men's sleeping-room, wine cellars, furnace, cart sheds, cowhouse, dung-pit, coach-house, coal cellars, dust-pit and closets. (fn. 95)
No. 14 Kensington Palace Gardens
In March 1845 Blashfield submitted plans and elevations for a house designed by T. Hayter Lewis which he proposed to erect on the southernmost of his plots on the east side of the road. In an accompanying letter Blashfield wrote that 'The style here attempted is Venetian and treated much after the manner of Sansovini [sic] the architect for the Library of St. Mark's, Venice'. According to The Builder a view of the garden front exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1845 showed that the proposed house had 'an arcade in front of both of the two principal floors'. (fn. 96) The Commissioners approved the design, but the plot was still vacant when Blashfield became bankrupt in May 1847. (fn. 97)
The present No. 14 occupies a little over half of Blashfield's original plot and was erected in 1850–1 under an agreement between the Commissioners and Edmund Antrobus of the Strand, a tea merchant. In November 1849 Antrobus had applied to lease 100 or 120 feet of the original 170-foot frontage of the plot, for which he offered a rental of 15s. a foot. This was less than Blashfield had paid, but Pennethorne advised the Commissioners to accept Antrobus's offer. (fn. 98)
The house was designed and built by Thomas Cubitt. Pennethorne thought the designs (Plate 102a, b) compared unfavourably with other houses in the road; 'the Architecture of the fronts', he wrote, 'would be much inferior to those built by Mr Grissell and other gentlemen'. But Antrobus was unwilling to incur a large expenditure, and as the building would not cost less than the £3,000 which he had agreed to spend, Pennethorne felt obliged to recommend the design to the Commissioners. (fn. 99) Building began in May 1850 and by June 1851 the house was occupied. (fn. 100) The lease, for 100 feet of frontage at an annual rent of £75, was granted to Antrobus in January 1852. (fn. 101)
Antrobus lived here until his death in 1886, when the ground lease was sold at auction for £8,100 to Henry Solomon of Inverness Terrace, Bayswater. In 1887 substantial alterations were made for Solomon from the designs of N. S. Joseph and Smithern. An extra storey and attic were added, the interior remodelled and the elevations worked over in a French Rennaissance manner (fig. 36). The Commissioners' architect, Arthur Cates, welcomed these changes: 'they will make the house worthy of its position and remove some of its grave defects'. The present front elevation (Plate 102c) was designed by White, Allom and Company in 1908 for Solomon's son. (fn. 102) At the back the stucco-dressed white-brick façade of the original design can still be discerned, despite the additions of 1887, and of a bay window designed by Cubitt in 1855 (Plate 102d).
Inside, almost every trace of the original decorations has been removed, except for the cast-iron balusters of the stair. The living-room, which extends from the front of the house to the rear, now has an acanthus-leaf cornice and two Ionic columns that support a beam dividing the room into two compartments. The dining-room, in the north-east of the ground floor, is in the late seventeenth-century manner, the doorways having ornate carved architraves surmounted by broken pediments.
Nos. 15 and 15B Kensington Palace Gardens
In March 1852 Frederick Chinnock of Regent Street, an auctioneer, applied successfully to the Commissioners for a lease of the southernmost plot on the east side of The Queen's Road, one of two sites which they had made available for building only recently (see page 160). Terms were agreed but in January 1853 Chinnock relinquished his interest: his reasons included 'the greatly increased cost of building within the last few months', and the fact that the site was overlooked by the palace stables. Thereupon Pennethorne asked the next applicant to make an offer. This was S. W. Strickland, the builder of Nos. 1–5 Kensington Palace Gardens. He offered a rental of £130 a year for the plot, which was to include an adjoining piece of land to the north, originally intended to be laid out as a roadway, but then let (as was the original building plot itself) to the occupant of No. 14, on a quarterly tenancy. This offer was accepted and by an agreement of February 1853 Strickland underlook to spend not less than £6,000 in building two firstrate houses here, to be completed by 10 October 1855. (fn. 103)
Almost immediately Thomas Grissell, the builder who lived at No. 19, made inquiries which led Strickland to believe that he would be willing to take over the agreement. The occupant of No. 14, Edmund Antrobus, was raising difficulties about the termination of his tenancy, and Strickland, who throughout his dealings with the Commissioners adopted an excessively deferential and self-effacing tone, later admitted that he would 'gladly have surrendered to one having a large stake in this property, and being more influential than myself, the task of arranging the difficulties that had arisen with reference to Mr Antrobus'. Grissell, however, eventually declined to take over Strickland's agreement ('I am inclined to think I had better not build more'), but he recommended it to his friend George Moore, the lace manufacturer and philanthropist, who in July 1854 agreed to undertake it provided he should be allowed to build only one house at a cost of about £10,000. (fn. 103)
The Commissioners had not been told of these changes when, on 31 July, they received from Moore's architect, James Thomas Knowles senior, the plans and elevations for a large detached house. Pennethorne nevertheless recommended them: 'considering . . . the proximity of this plot in particular to the Palace', he wrote, 'it appears to me that the substitution of a large House for two smaller will be advantageous to the interests of the Crown'. On 8 August the Commissioners approved the plans, but asked to see more detailed drawings, which Knowles submitted in September. (fn. 103)
The house was built by Lucas Brothers and Stevens of Lambeth, who began work in December 1854. (fn. 104) In June 1855 the house was recorded for the first time in the parish ratebooks but it was not occupied by Moore and his family until the following year. (fn. 77) The ground lease was granted to Moore at Strickland's request in November 1855. (fn. 105)
George Moore was a typical example of the Victorian self-made man. From an unpromising beginning as a £30-a-year assistant in a draper's in Soho Square he had risen to become the most important lace manufacturer in the country. His biographer was none other than Samuel Smiles, to whom Moore confided his uneasiness at having spent so much on a house: 'Although I had built the house at the solicitation of Mrs. Moore', he said, 'I was mortified at my extravagance, and thought it both wicked and aggrandizing—mere ostentation and vain show—to build such a house.' (fn. 106)
No significant alterations were made to No. 15 until 1937–8, when parts of the interior were completely remodelled by Lord Gerald Wellesley and Trenwith Wills for Sir Alfred Beit, the financier and philanthropist. (fn. 107) The house is now (1972) occupied by the Iraqi Ambassador.
No. 15 is one of the most architecturally distinguished houses in Kensington Palace Gardens. It consists of three storeys over a basement, although prior to the insertion of the windows in the frieze, the third storey received light only from the roof and from windows in the central recess at the back. The symmetrical west façade is a noble and palatial Italianate astylar composition in the manner of Sir Charles Barry, seven windows wide, with small single-storey wings to the north and south (Plate 106a). (fn. c4) The entrance is in the centre, flanked by Roman Doric engaged columns supporting an entablature, and the ground-floor windows have architraves surmounted by bracketed cornices carried on consoles. The ground storey has vermiculated rustication, and is crowned by a large bracketed cornice. The first-floor windows are aediculated, with engaged Corinthian columns supporting entablatures and pediments. The second-floor windows, dating from 1937–8, interrupt the frieze below the rich Roman Corinthian main cornice, and tend to alter the balance of the façade. The southern elevation of the singlestores south wing has an arcade carried on Corinthian columns, and both wings are surmounted by balustrades.
The rear elevation (Plate 106b) is reminiscent of Thomas Allom's contemporary work on the Ladbroke estate. The ground storey, emphasized by vermiculated rustication, has two large bows flanking the centre, and above the windows are Grecian friezes. On the second floor the two terminal façades, each having a pair of aediculated windows, were originally separated by the deep recession of the centre to form a light-well, with two Italianate staircase towers at the inner corners. In 1937–8 this light-well was masked by a screen linking the terminal façades. It consists of two Corinthian columns set in antis and carrying a simplified version of the original entablature. This is surmounted by two draped classical female figures, and the niches in the antae are occupied by large urns.
The plan of the house is symmetrical, the rooms being grouped round a spacious entrance hall, the original fabric of which has survived (fig. 37). This hall has a heavy coffered ceiling, and the entablature, with modillioned cornice, is carried on marbled Ionic columns with gilded capitals (Plate 107a). A stone stair with cast-iron balustrade of Grecian design rises to a first-floor landing of the same area as the hall, and where the architectural treatment is similar. There are low-relief Grecian friezes in the hall and staircase, and on the cream-coloured walls are grisaille drapes painted in 1937–8. To the north of the hall are the library and dining-room, both also redecorated in 1937–8. The former is treated as a pastiche of Bavarian Rococo originally designed round J. de Lajoue's painting of an alchemist, but now somewhat unconvincing without the picture (Plate 106c). The colour-scheme is rosemadder, grey, white, and verde antico marbling, with discreet gilding. The parquet floor is inlaid with a star pattern, which echoed that in the painting.
The dining-room is elliptical in shape, but was originally rectangular, with a bow window. It has an order of Corinthian pilasters supporting an entablature with swagged frieze and modillioned cornice. Six rectangular frames in exuberant early eighteenth-century style are set in the panels between the pilasters, and originally contained the six paintings by Murillo depicting the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The colour scheme was turquoise with silver enrichments. The ceiling contains a panoply of arms and armour, designed by Rex Whistler, (fn. c5), which concealed the spotlights illuminating the pictures.
South of the hall, and extending the full depth of the house from west to east, is the music-room (Plate 106d), attached to which is the singlestorey loggia, formerly a winter-garden. The music-room is spacious and elegant, with fleur de péche marbled Corinthian columns at either end and a modillioned cornice. At the rear of the house is the drawing-room, once a smaller morningroom, but redecorated in mid eighteenth-century style with Ionic marbled columns, modillioned cornice, plaster plaques and swags.
No. 15B, the former stable block of No. 15, was designed by Knowles and built by Lucas Brothers in 1855. It was converted into a house in 1937–8 by J. Fooks and T. Ritchie, architects. (fn. 108)
No. 15A Kensington Palace Gardens
The site of this house, like that of No. 15, was made available for building only in March 1852 (see page 160). The Commissioners had, however, already received an offer for it in January from Peter Carthew of Kensington, a 'fundholder', which Pennethorne in April advised them to accept. Terms were agreed and Carthew undertook to spend at least £3,000 in building a firstrate house here, to be completed by 5 April 1854. (fn. 109)
The architect was David Brandon (whose partnership with T. H. Wyatt had been dissolved in 1851), and the contractor was John Kelk of South Street, Grosvenor Square, an important and successful builder who subsequently erected the Albert Memorial. Brandon's plans and elevations were approved by the Commissioners in June 1852 and building began in July. (fn. 110) By May 1853 the carcase was almost complete but the house was evidently not finished for another two to three years. It was first occupied by Carthew in 1856. The cost was said to have been about £7,000. (fn. 111)
The lease of the site, at an annual rent of £73 2s. 6d., was granted to Carthew in July 1855 and at the same time he entered into two agreements with the Commissioners to take a yearly tenancy of all the remaining land to the south on the west side of the road, previously let to a butcher for grazing sheep and cattle. By one of these agreements a strip of land thirty feet in width immediately adjoining the site of the house was to be laid out as an ornamental garden. (fn. 112) This piece has now been incorporated into the site of No. 15A. The rest of the area was to be occupied only as a paddock, and a number of rights of way across it were reserved to the Crown. This area was surrendered for building in 1902 (see page 189).
It is built of white bricks with stucco dressings and consists of three storeys over a basement, and an attic. From a contemporary description in the Commissioners' files it appears, however, that there were originally no rooms in the roof. The detail is conventional, save for the rusticated surrounds to the ground-floor windows and the plaque set on the single-storey wing. The two tiers of attic storeys on the north side were added in 1934. The interior has been much altered. In the main drawing-room are painted medallions representing classical allegories, set beneath the cornice.
No. 16 Kensington Palace Gardens
This house was designed by T. H. Wyatt and D. Brandon for John Sperling of Norbury Park, Leatherhead, a retired army officer and landed proprietor', who purchased the site from Blashfield in 1846. The architects' plans and elevations were approved by the Commissioners in May 1846 and building began soon afterwards. (fn. 113) In May 1847 Pennethorne reported that the house was inhabited, although in the parish ratebooks it is recorded as empty until June 1849. (fn. 114) When Sperling applied for the lease, in April 1847, he asked for the site to be extended to include part of the adjoining plot to the south. (fn. 10) The Commissioners agreed, and in April 1850 a lease of the enlarged site was granted to him at an annual rent of £105. (fn. 115)
Sperling occupied No. 16 until his death in 1877, when the ground lease was purchased by Stuart Rendel, later Baron Rendel of Hatchlands, an armaments manufacturer. In 1877 Rendel engaged Charles Barry, junior, to prepare designs for an extensive remodelling of the house: plans were approved and tenders submitted, but the work was not executed. (fn. c7) In 1903 the house was altered both internally and externally by P. Morley Horder, who designed the unusual columnar entrance porch and other embellishments. (fn. 116)
No. 17 Kensington Palace Gardens
This house has been so much altered since it was built by Blashfield in 1844–6 that the original design in the north Italian villa manner is now hardly discernible (Plate 93a). The architect was Henry E. Kendall, junior, whose plans and elevations were approved by the Commissioners in May 1844. (fn. 117) The lease of the site, at an annual rent of £82, was granted to Blashfield in October 1844, and in May 1846, when the house was finished, he sold the lease to John Balls of Oxford Street, an upholsterer. (fn. 118) (fn. 11) The first occupant, in 1847, was David Laing Burn. (fn. 77)
The present front (Plate 93b) is the result of alterations and additions carried out at three different dates. The raised pediment between the two original 'wings' and the third-storey windows below the crowning cornice were inserted in 1884, when the house was altered for S. P. Kennard by J. Kinninmont and Sons, builders and decorators. The three-bay extension on the south side, designed by Charles E. Sayer, was erected in 1899–1900 for the banker Isaac Seligman, who had bought the lease in 1899. At the same time the original balconies were removed from the first-floor windows. The three-bay extension over a garage on the north side was built for (Sir) Charles Seligman in 1928 from plans prepared by Messrs. Joseph, who also designed the new entrance porch. The interior has also been almost completely remodelled. (fn. 119)
No. 18 and 19 Kensington Palace Gardens
The building of this pair of houses was begun in 1845 by Thomas Grissell and his partner (Sir) Samuel Morton Peto and completed, after the dissolution of their partnership in March 1846, by Grissell alone (see page 158). The designs were submitted to the Commissioners for approval in August 1845 and received an enthusiastic welcome from Pennethorne. 'The Plans and Elevations are in my opinion greatly to be admired', he wrote, 'and the villas if built according thereto will be an Ornament to the place.' (fn. 59) The Commissioners' files contain no reference to the name of the architect but there can be no doubt that the houses were designed in (Sir) Charles Barry's office (see page 158). The style of the building is in the Italian palazzo manner so favoured by Barry, and is very close to some of the preliminary designs for Bridgwater House, on which he had been working since 1841.
Building began in about September 1845, and by May 1846 Pennethorne was able to report that the carcase of the building was complete except for the slating of the roof, 'which it is not prudent to do for another month until the Towers are built'. In constructing the thick stone-faced walls of the houses the builders used some of the 'small surplus stone' from the new Palace of Westminster. (fn. 59) Early in April 1847 both houses were reported built and later in the month the leases were granted to Grissell at an annual rent of £78 (No. 18) and £78 6s. 8d. (No. 19). Each lease included stables in the adjoining mews. (fn. 120)
Both houses are first recorded as occupied in 1851: No. 19 by Grissell himself, his wife and nine servants, and No. 18 by John Leech, a 'general merchant', his family of seven, and eight servants. (fn. 127)
Both houses have been altered and enlarged, No. 18 rather more extensively than No. 19. In 1870 a two-bay, two-storey extension including a picture-gallery and billiard-room was built at the back of No. 18 for (Baron) Julius (de) Renter, founder and director of the international news agency, who occupied the house from 1868 until his death in 1899. At the same time (1870) a third tower was erected at the south-west corner, and along the south side a one-storey conservatory and entrance porch were built. The architects for these alterations, designed in a matching style, were F. and H. Francis. In 1904 the middle section of the conservatory was removed and laid out as a terrace. (fn. 122)
At No. 19 a one-storey study was built for Grissell at the back in 1857 from the designs of R. R. Banks and Charles Barry, junior, and in 1884 a new porch and a single-storey extension at the north-west corner were erected for Gustav C. Schwabe, a banker, from the designs of F. W. Porter. (fn. 123)
Nos. 18 and 19 are unusual in being a semidetached pair in which the two houses are of different sizes and internal arrangements. The asymmetrical plan (fig. 39) is, however, concealed by a formal stone-faced façade to Kensington Palace Gardens of Palladian design with a central block flanked by two taller towers. The slightly recessed central block is five windows wide and two storeys high over a basement, and the two flanking towers are each three storeys high, over basements (Plate 98).
Window openings are aediculated: those on the first floor with a Roman Doric order, and those on the second floor with Ionic pilasters supporting segmental pediments. The main cornice is carried on large moulded console brackets, the whole surmounted by a partly balustraded parapet. The towers have quoins and the top stages are decorated with festoons. The elevational treatment is continued on the stone-faced sides, but the back of the houses, in brick, is plain.
Inside there is little left of the original design save for the vaulted entrance halls, and the ceilings in the main reception rooms of No. 19. The dining-room ceiling here has a richly modillioned cornice, guilloche moulding, and a central rose, and there are finely enriched and gilded ceilings in the drawing-room and ante-room.
No. 20 Kensington Palace Gardens
This house, like Nos. 12, 18 and 19, was built by Thomas Grissell with (prior to March 1846) his partner (Sir) Samuel Morton Peto (see page 158). The plans and elevations for No. 20 and No. 12 were submitted together to Pennethorne on 13 February 1845 with a request from the builders that they should not be strictly binding. Two days later Pennethorne reported that both sets of designs were 'unexceptionable' and on 19 February the Commissioners gave their consent. (fn. 59) In Pennethorne's report both sets of designs were said 'to emanate from Mr. Barry' (see page 158).
Although No. 20 was reported to be 'nearly ready for habitation' at the end of May 1846 it appears to have remained unoccupied until 1852, when Louis Blumberg took the house as Grissell's tenant. (fn. 124) The ground lease of the site, which included a stable in the adjoining mews, had been granted to Grissell in April 1847, at an annual rent of £78 6s. 8d. (fn. 125)
As first built the unusual design of the house, shown in a drawing of 1857 (Plate 96a), was even more reminiscent of the work of Vanbrugh or Hawksmoor than it is today—an effect largely due to the giant order of Roman Doric pilasters standing on pedestals, and to the bold grouping of the chimneys at the corners. The orderly façade was crowned by a large Roman Doric entablature, above which was a balustrade concealing the dormer windows in the roof. The dies of the balustrade were capped by urns, and the corner chimney-stacks decorated with blind arches. The window-openings on the first and second storeys had shouldered and segmental heads with keystones. Between the pilasters the walls were channelled and grooved to resemble ashlar.
In 1857–8 substantial alterations were made by Grissell from the designs of R. R. Banks and Charles Barry, junior (Plate 96b). The roof was raised five feet to provide a full attic storey, the corner chimneys were heightened to correspond, and the triglyphs between the capitals of the pilasters removed. At the back the ground-floor library was extended by the addition of a large four-sided bay. In 1884 a porch was added, and at the back a single-storey billiard-room, both to designs by Robert Sawyer. The present porch, inappropriately decorated with Ionic pilasters, was erected for J. E. Taylor in 1888 and designed by Ernest George and Peto, who also remodelled the principal staircase. In 1890 George and Peto designed the single-storey extension on the north side for Taylor. (fn. 126) The façade is now plain rendered and lacks the former keystones over the windows (Plate 97a).
The plan creates an effect of symmetry, the main rooms being disposed on either side of the long entrance hall, which is divided into three domed bays (fig. 40). The rooms on the upper floors have been rearranged, and a new staircase has been built out to the rear. On the ground floor, however, many of the original mouldings, cornices and pilasters survive.
Nos. 21, 22 and 23 Kensington Palace Gardens
These three houses were all designed and erected by Charles Frederick Oldfield, a builder. The earliest (No. 21) occupies a site which Oldfield had acquired from Blashfield in 1845; the other two were built after Blashfield's bankruptcy on plots surrendered by his assignees.
No. 21 In June 1845 Blashfield, on Oldfield's behalf, submitted the plans and elevations of this house to the Commissioners, and these were approved in July subject to some modifications in the treatment of the chimneys. By December the carcase had been completed, and in April 1846 the house was reported to have been 'nearly finished'. The ground lease, at an annual rent of £90, was granted to Oldfield in June 1846, and by then the house was occupied by Anthony Wilkinson, a 'landed proprietor'. (fn. 127) It is now (1972) occupied by the Lebanese Embassy.
This conventional stucco-faced house in the Italianate manner consists of three storeys over a basement, and is five windows wide (Plate 99a). A projecting porch of the Roman Doric order is carried on four columns and is centrally placed in the symmetrical east elevation. The façade is rusticated up to the subsidiary cornice at first-floor level. The first-floor window architraves are surmounted by pediments, and the second-floor windows have plain architraves. The house has quions and is capped by a modillioned and dentilled cornice over which is a balustrade.
The interior has been considerably altered. The entrance hall and staircase were remodelled in 1905 by William Flockhart, and are decorated in an early eighteenth-century manner, with richly moulded and garlanded plasterwork. The saloon (Plate 99c) is lined with panels of Rococo design containing cartouches within which are landscapes in low relief. The ceiling is coved and moulded, with delicate Rococo enrichments. The panelled dining-room is in the Jacobean style, and has a plaster ceiling with strapwork mouldings. (fn. 128)
No. 22 Unlike Nos. 21 and 23, this house was not built as a speculation. It was designed and erected by Oldfield for William Frederick Gostling of Stowell House, Richmond, who in February 1851 had offered the Commissioners a rental of £75 a year for the site. His offer was accepted and an agreement concluded by which Gostling undertook to bulid and finish the house by 5 July 1853. The plans and elevations were submitted in December 1851 and approved by Pennethorne, who nevertheless suggested that Gostling might like to reconsider some of the details of the upper-floor window-dressings. (fn. 129)
Building was reported in progress in December 1851, and by April 1854 Gostling was living in the house. The ground lease was granted to him in April 1853. The principal subsequent alteration to No. 22 has been the building of a two-storey extension, including a ballroom, on the north side in 1883–4. This was designed by Francis Hooper for Alfred Hickman. (fn. 130) The house is still privately occupied.
Excluding the extensions the house consists of three storeys over a basement, stuccoed in the Italianate manner, and is five windows wide, the portion containing the centre three windows standing forward (Plate 104a). The house is crowned by a heavy blocked Cornice, but there is no balustrade.
No. 23 In April 1852 Pennethorne advised the Commissioners to accept Oldfield's offer of £75 a year for this site, and an agreement was concluded by which Oldfield undertook to finish building a house by 5 April 1854. Oldfield's plans and elevations were approved in May 1852, and in July his clerk of works applied for permission to lay the drains. (fn. 131) Building began in September. (fn. 132) By December 1853 the house was sufficiently 'advanced towards completion' for Oldfield to be entitled to the lease, which was granted to him in January 1854, and although the house was probably completed soon afterwards it remained empty until 1856. The first occupant was Isaac Moses, a merchant, who bought the lease from Oldfield towards the end of 1855. (fn. 133)
Before moving into the house Moses engaged J. D. Hopkins to design two one-storey wings, neither of which appear to have been built, the present one-storey wing on the north side being added in 1970–1. In 1856 the same architect designed for Moses the two-bay three-storey extension at the south-west corner and the bow-fronted ballroom at the back. The elegant conservatory on the south side was erected in 1877–8 to the design of Edward Salomons, who was also the architect of a new billiard-room which was built at the north-west corner in the same year. (fn. 134)
It consists of three storeys and a basement (Plate 104b). The stuccoed east façade is seven windows wide with the central portion slightly recessed, forming outer pavilions each two windows in width. The coursed ground storey is finished with a plain cornice, and a canopied porch projects from the centre of the façade. The first-floor windows have moulded architraves, the three in the centre having segmental pediments, and the flanking pairs having plain cornices. There are panels of balusters beneath the sills. An enriched stringcourse extends across the front below the second-floor windows, which have crossetted architraves. The façade is finished with a bracketed cornice crowned by a balustrade.
The entrance hall occupies the full depth of the house, and contains a stone stair, with cast-iron balusters, at the rear. The decorations of the hall are plain, the only enrichments being provided by the egg-and-dart moulding of the cornice, and the brackets supporting a beam.
The long dining-room, to the north of the hall, is partly within the original house, and partly in the one-storey wing. It has a fine concave cornice enriched with acanthus leaves. The drawingroom, to the south of the entrance hall, has a modillioned cornice, but is otherwise unremarkable. West of the drawing-room, and approached from it through double doors, is the ballroom, with a large bow projecting into the rear garden. This room is decorated with pilasters, based on Florentine Renaissance originals, supporting a large coved cornice enriched with trellis-work, which has also been copied in the ceiling rose. There is a carved marble fireplace.
No. 24 Kensington Palace Gardens
When Blashfield submitted the plans and elevations of this house for approval in August 1845 Pennethorne reported to the Commissioners that 'as the House will be large, handsome & well disposed, I see no reason for objecting to either the plans or Elevation—although the latter is in the Moresque Style, which (though not usually adopted), is admired by some persons & produces a picturesque effect'. (fn. 135) Unfortunately these drawings have not survived, (fn. 12) and in the absence of any contemporary picture it is not possible to say how far the present elevation (Plate 97b) represents the intentions of the architect, Owen Jones. (fn. 97) The Indian-style domes on the parapet appear to be original, but other 'small cement ornaments' on the parapet and chimney-stacks were removed in 1879. (fn. 135)
The Commissioners approved the designs in September 1845, and by December work was sufficiently advanced on the carcase of the house for Blashfield to apply for the lease. (fn. 136) This was granted to him on 23 December and on the following day he mortgaged it for an unknown sum to Lewis Vulliamy, the architect, whose pupil Jones had been. (fn. 137)
The house had not, however, been completed when Blashfield became bankrupt in May 1847, although the work was reported well advanced, with the exterior 'finished down to the cornice above the ground floor windows'. At first Blashfield's assignees proposed to finish the house themselves, and they obtained from the Commissioners an extension of the time allowed in which to do so. In July, however they decided they did not have the necessary authority to carry out the work, and in August the unfinished house was sold at the auction of Blashfield's estate for £3,400, although Blashfield had spent over £9,000 on the building. The purchaser was James Ponsford, a builder who worked extensively in Bayswater and St. John's Wood as well as on Thomas Cubitt's developments in Belgravia. Ponsford completed the house and lived there with his family from 1850 to 1859. In 1851 his household consisted of twelve people of whom five were servants. (fn. 138)
No doubt Ponsford completed the exterior of the building in accordance with the approved designs, but there is no evidence that the original interior decorations were by Jones (as they had been in his other house for Blashfield, No. 8). Several additions have been made at the back of the house, the most important being the picture gallery designed by Herbert Cescinsky for Chester Beatty in 1937. Cescinsky had previously converted the adjoining stables in Palace Gardens Mews into a library for Beatty. (fn. 139)
It consists of three storeys over a basement, and is completely faced with stucco. The east façade is symmetrical, seven windows wide, with a central projecting porch, and a balcony extending across the full width of the elevation on lotuspatterned supports (Plate 97b). There is a crowning cornice and parapet, the latter, like the balcony, being pierced with geometrical 'Moresque' decoration. The onion-shaped domes on the parapet give the house a somewhat exotic appearance, but the eclectic exterior includes some recognizably contemporary features, and generally the style of the house owes as much to English and Italian precendents as to either Moorish or Indian prototypes. The decorative motifs are used on a basically classical façade, replacing conventional balusters, consoles, urns and statuary.
On the ground floor the principal rooms have been remodelled. They include a study with panelling in the Jacobean style, and a plaster ceiling and frieze reminiscent of the work of Ernest Gimson, a first drawing-room in the Rococo style of the mid eighteenth century, and a second drawing-room in the Baroque manner. This has a deep, heavily modelled, cornice of large acanthus leaves with emblems of geography, literature, military might and music. Above the fireplace: and over the window opposite are allegorical cartouches of summer and winter.
Nos. 25 and 26 Kensington Palace Gardens
In March 1844 Blashfield had proposed to erect only one house here and he submitted a design by T. H. Wyatt and D. Brandon which the Commissioners approved. By the end of the year, however, two similar, though not identical, Italianate villas with 'campanile towers' had been built on the site from the designs of the same architects. (fn. 140) The ground leases, each at an annual rent of £65, were granted to Blashfield in October (No. 26) and December (No. 25) 1844. (fn. 141) By June of the following year No. 26 was occupied by Blashfield's tenant Cristobal de Murrietta, a Spanish-born merchant and banker. (fn. 142)
No. 25, the larger of the two, on which Blashfield spent over £10,000, was still unoccupied when he became bankrupt. In August 1847 the house was put up for auction by his assignees, but was withdrawn at £6,700. Eventually it came into the hands of Frederick Dawson of The Temple, to whom Blashfield had mortgaged the house for £7,500, and in 1852 he leased it to Benjamin B. Greene, a 'landowner and merchant', who was the first occupant. (fn. 143)
No. 25 was demolished in 1947 on account of extensive dry rot, and No. 26 was demolished to make way for the new Czech Embass. (fn. 144) This building, erected in 1968–9, was designed by J. Sramek, J. Bocan and K. Stepansky of Prague in association with Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners. It occupies all of the site of No. 26 and part of the site of No. 25, and has a long frontage to Notting Hill Gate which extends as far as Palace Gardens Terrace and thus blocks off the old entrance to Palace Gardens Mews. (fn. 145) (fn. 13) A new entrance to the mews has now been laid out across part of the site of No. 25.
No. 1 Palace Green
In March 1867 George James Howard, the twenty-three-year-old nephew of the eighth Earl of Carlisle, purchased the lease of the old grace-and-favour residence at No. 1 Palace Green for £1,600. (fn. 147) This lease, which was for eighty years from 1863, contained a provision that the old house had to be demolished and a new one built at a cost of at least £3,500. Howard, whose 'real devotion was to art', had commissioned Philip Webb to design him a house with a studio, and before buying the lease he had taken the precaution of finding out that a red-brick house by Webb would not be objected to in principle by the Commissioners. (fn. 148)
Pennethorne, however, refused to approve Webb's drawings when they were submitted in August 1867. He wrote to Charles Gore, the First Commissioner, that if the house was built according to them it would be 'far inferior to any one on the Estate—it would look most commonplace—and in my opinion be perfectly hideous'. He made his main objections clear later when he wrote, 'So far as I understand the drawings there would be scarcely any stone visible in the fronts of the house, the whole of the surfaces would be masses of red brickwork without relief from stone or from any important strings or cornices'. (fn. 149) He also objected to the steep pitch of the roof and the gable on the east elevation. Webb's original design has not, as far as is known, survived, but Pennethorne's comments and later ones by Webb himself imply that a modicum of stonework may have been intended for the east front, but that on the extensive north and south façades the dressings were to be entirely of brick.
Webb at first refused to compromise and Howard's father, Charles Howard, who was Member of Parliament for East Cumberland, began to put pressure on the Commissioners, beginning a letter, 'George is much annoyed as well he may be'. Gore replied that 'you must not think me unkind if I do not altogether disregard the interests of the Crown while desirous as far as possible to comply with George's wishes'. (fn. 149) Gore disliked the design almost as much as Pennethorne but was prepared to give way. Pennethorne, however, was adamant in his refusal to give his approval, and letters between himself and Webb reveal the irreconcilable differences between an architect in his sixties brought up in the tradition of Nash and a young man in his thirties who wished to reject what he considered to be the artificialities of the stucco age and return to a vernacular tradition of building in brick. To Pennethorne's criticisms Webb replied that. 'I must decidedly disagree with you, that the proper proportioned window openings which I have used, fitted with well divided sashes, is an "unattractive" form . . . I must also beg to differ from your opinion that the materials used would not give the proper relief; a well chosen full coloured red brick, with pure bright red gauged brick mouldings, arches, string courses, cornices &c with the addition of white Portland stone, white sashframes, lead, and grey slates, are in my opinion the very best and most harmoniously coloured materials to be used in London, & more especially in a neighbourhood so happily full of green foliage . . . In conclusion, I must express my great surprise that you should consider it worth your while to hinder the erection of a building, which—whatever may be its demerits possesses some character and originality, tempered most certainly with reverential attention to the works of acknowledged masters of the art of architecture, and as certainly framed with the wish to avoid adding another insult to this irreparably injured neighbourhood.' (fn. 149) (fn. 14)
Anthony Salvin and Thomas Henry Wyatt were called in as referees and endorsed Pennethorne's judgment. Webb commented significantly about one of their criticisms, 'That Messrs. Salvin and Wyatt are "unable to discover what actual style or period of architecture" I have used, I take to be a sincere compliment', for he was attempting to achieve a form of architectural expression which would not be restricted by conformity to one or other of the historic styles. He agreed finally to modify the design, however, and submitted new elevations in February 1868. In a letter to Howard he explained the main variations from his original design. These consisted principally of the addition of some stonework in the form of a plinth, a broad band of stone at firstfloor level with a moulded stringcourse, the substitution of stone for brick and tile sills to most of the windows, and the finishing of the chimney caps in stone. Other alterations included raising and broadening the porch with the addition of 'a considerable amount of carved decoration', redesigning the studio window, which was to be set in 'a more ornamental gable of diapered brick and stone', and the addition of 'a considerable amount of ornamentation' to the drawing-room window on the north elevation. 'Under the circumstances' Pennethorne was prepared to approve the revised drawings, provided that a stone cornice with a projection of at least eighteen inches was substituted for the brick one. Webb refused this point blank, as he considered the construction and proportion of the building to be essentially Gothic and the introduction of a classical cornice to be completely incongruous. Once again there was deadlock and Howard approached William Butterfield to supply another design. Butterfield refused the commission, partly because he considered that Webb had been unfairly treated, but also, according to Howard, because he did not wish to place his work under the control of Pennethorne's taste. T. H. Wyatt was consulted again and advised that a brick cornice was acceptable. (fn. 150)
At last the house could be built. It was completed in carcase by June 1869 (fn. 151) and Howard was in residence by the following summer. (fn. 77) With the addition in 1873 of a gable similar to that on the east front to the south elevation (fn. 152) now unfortunately largely obscured—the exterior of the house received the form which survived with little alteration until the 1950's (Plate 108a, c). The interior decoration was carried out over several years, largely to the designs of Webb and fellow artists in the William Morris circle. The pièce de rèsistance was the ground-floor morning-room of dining-room, for which BurneJones, assisted by Walter Crane, provided an elaborate frieze painted on canvas panels illustrating the legend of Cupid and Psyche as retold in one of Morris's poems in The Earthly Paradise (Plate 109). (fn. 153) (fn. 15)
Shortly after Howard, by then ninth Earl of Carlisle, died in 1911, the lease was purchased by John Barker and Company and for a while the house was used as a furniture store. In 1922 Barker's proposed to demolish it and add its site to that on the south, which they had taken under a building agreement with the Commissioners. A strong protest from a group of writers and architects greeted this proposal, and the house was saved. (fn. 154) In 1957 permission was granted for its conversion into flats, and the resulting alterations have not only denuded the interior of its original character, but have led to serious changes to the exterior, particularly the addition of several windows in the north elevation (Plate 108b). (fn. 155)
No. 2 Palace Green
This house was built in 1860–2 for William Makepeace Thackeray. It has often been said that Thackeray was himself largely responsible for its design, and that its erection marked a milestone in the history of architectural taste, but there seems to be little evidence for either of these contentions.
In March 1860 Thackeray offered to take the old grace-and-favour house at No. 2 Palace Green on a repairing lease. (fn. 156) Pennethorne had suggested that the house should be demolished and a new one built in its place, but the Commissioners, mindful of Queen Victoria's objection to the erection of any new buildings opposite to Kensington Palace, did not immediately act on his suggestion. (fn. 157) After negotiation Thackeray's offer was accepted, and on 8 March he wrote, 'I have taken at last the house on Kensington Palace Green in which I hope the history of Queen Anne will be written'. (fn. 158)
Thackeray had agreed to spend £1,400 on repairs, but when a careful survey was made of the house its much-dilapidated condition was revealed. In May 1860 Frederick Hering, a sixty-year-old architect with an office in Argyll Street, St. James's, submitted drawings and specifications for a new house to be built of red brick with cement dressings at a cost of at least £4,000. (fn. 156) In view of the Commissioners' reluct ance to sanction a new building on the site, it is likely that discussions had taken place which are not revealed in the correspondence. Pennethorne reported that 'I see no objection to the Design being approved on condition that all the Details be copied from those of Marlborough House (fn. 16) all the rusticated piers—the Cornices &c . . . to be executed . . . in Stone, or Portland Cement'. (fn. 156) In the light of this report the Commissioners' approval, which was sent to Thackeray on 29 June 1860, reads somewhat strangely, for it required all the dressings to be of red brick; (fn. 86) in the event both brick and stone or stucco dressings were used. The builders were Jackson and Graham, an Oxford Street firm which specialized largely in interior decoration, and the house was ready for occupation by March 1862. The total cost, including fittings, was over £8,000. (fn. 160)
The assertion that the design was Thackeray's own appears to have been first made by his biographers shortly after his death in 1863. (fn. 162) There is no doubt that he took a close personal interest in the house, and he may have been instrumental in choosing red brick as the facing material, for he undoubtedly endorsed the views of a contributor (fn. 17) to the April 1860 issue of The Cornhill Magazine, of which he was the editor, that the ideal house was 'of red brick, not earlier than 1650, not later than 1750'. (fn. 162) The choice of red brick, however, also satisfied the Commissioners, who, if they had to sanction a rebuilding at all, wanted the new house to harmonize with Kensington Palace. The relationship between architect and client is not known, but that Hering was more than merely a nominal architect is suggested by the fact that he exhibited a drawing of the projected house under his own name at the Architectural Exhibition held in Conduit Street in 1861. In May 1861 Thackeray wrote about the house, then under construction, to an American friend, calling it 'the reddest house in all the town' and enclosing a sketch from 'fond memory'. This sketch shows several variations from the finished house including seven dormer windows instead of five, the hint of stucco architraves to the windows and the omission of the pilasters from the front elevation. That the pilasters were not a late addition to the design is known from the fact that they were shown in Hering's drawing, which was exhibited before Thackeray wrote his letter. (fn. 163) It seems hardly likely that Thackeray would have forgotten about such crucial features in the appearance of the house if he had been so closely involved in its design as has sometimes been stated.
The contention that the house marked a crucial turning point in the history of house-styles may have its origins in a remark by Sir John Millais, who, according to Thackeray's daughter, 'used to laugh, and declared that my father first set the fashion for red brick'. (fn. 164) There is no indication, however, that the house received any but the most scant recognition in architectural circles at the time it was built. When Hering exhibited his drawing of the house, The Builder ignored it completely and The Building News, which made a point of commenting on every entry, described it as 'of red brick, in the Italian style'. (fn. 163) In 1869 The Builder printed a short obituary of Hering which did not mention No. 2 Palace Green and described him as 'an accomplished and amiable man, [who] seems to have obtained few opportunities to distinguish himself in his profession'. (fn. 165)
Several alterations have been made to the house, particularly to the interior. In 1882 Spencer Chadwick added another storey and a canted bay to the single-storey wing on the north side, which had contained Thackeray's library. These alterations necessitated the removal of a Venetian window which faced the road. (fn. 166) By 1938 little remained of the original interior decorations, and in that year a further scheme of redecoration was undertaken by Darcy Braddell. (fn. 167)
Nos. 4–10 (consec.) Palace Green
After the completion of building on the northern part of the land transferred to the Office of Woods and Forests by the Act of 1841, the extensive frontage on the west side of the road between No. 15A Kensington Palace Gardens and the old house at No. 3 Palace Green was left undeveloped for nearly fifty years. Ostensibly, sufficient income had been secured from the leases already granted to cover the cost of laying out the kitchen gardens at Frogmore, but the real reason why building did not take place on this land during the nineteenth century was the wish of Queen Victoria that no new buildings should be erected opposite Kensington Palace. (fn. 168) The death of the Queen in 1901, however, changed the situation, and Edward VII was sounded for his views on letting the ground on building leases. The initiative seems to have come from the Office of Woods, and the King, who was anxious to undertake improvements to the gardens at Windsor, at once approved the idea. The Commissioners estimated that a ground rent of at least £600 to £700 per annum could be secured for the land (an underestimate in the event), and that, capitalized at thirty years' purchase, this would provide between £18,000 and £21,000 for the work at Windsor. (fn. 169)
Early in 1903 particulars of a scheme for letting the land were made public. (fn. 168) The ground was divided into seven plots which were to be let for the erection of private houses similar to others in Kensington Palace Gardens. The elevations were to be of handsome architectural design, and executed in Portland stone, fine red brick or terra cotta or other material, not inferior thereto, to be approved by the Commissioners', and each house was to consist of not more than three main storeys besides a basement and an attic, with an overall height restriction of forty-five feet. Tenders were invited for the best ground rents for eighty-year leases, and £1,380 was offered by both William Willett (fn. 18) of Chelsea and Holloway Brothers of Lambeth, the latter, however, for ninety-nine-year leases. A compromise was probably reached between the two firms, for, although Willett's tender was accepted, the leasehold term was extended to ninety-nine years and Willett made the three southernmost plots available to Holloway Brothers, who built Nos. 4, 5 and 6. (fn. 171)
Although a number of different architects were employed in their design, these houses are very similar in appearance (Plate 110). This similarity results partly from the use of red brick, and Portland stone throughout, but may also be partly due to the control exercised by Willett and his architect, Amos Faulkner, on the one hand and the Commissioners' architects—Arthur Green and, after Green's death in 1904, John Murray—on the other. In only one case—No. 8—is the architect not known. He may have been Faulkner himself, who is known to have co-operated on the design of No. 7. (fn. 172) Other architects were Read and MacDonald (Nos. 4 and 6), E. P. Warren (No. 5), Horace Field and C. E. Simmons with Faulkner (No. 7), Stevenson and Redfern (No. 9), and E. J. May (No. 10). (fn. 173) The first drawings to be submitted by Willett were for No. 9 in July 1903. They were, according to an accompanying letter, by J. J. Stevenson (then in partnership with Harry Redfern), but Green thought that they were 'ill-conceived' and did not show a suitable house. A new set of drawings was submitted and received Green's approval, although he required further details to be sent to him so that he could keep his eye on the work when the house was under construction. Both sets of drawings have been preserved and the rejected designs show a plainer house with less use of Portland stone. (fn. 174) The Commissioners' architects continued to pay very close attention to the drawings for the Various houses and Willett was careful to try to anticipate their wishes. Thus in 1904 Green wrote with reference to May's design for No. 10, The drawings . . . were laid before me on several occasions before being completed and show in my opinion a very good house suitable for the site'. (fn. 168)
The last house to be built was No. 7. Willett first submitted drawings for this house in 1909, but later withdrew them as he had not yet been able to find a purchaser for No. 8—a costly house built as a speculation—and did not want to embark on another. In 1910 he wrote, 'Having regard to the depressed condition of the house property market, I think we have not done badly to have built six such fine houses as those which have been erected'. Eventually he found a client who wanted a house especially built for him, and No. 7 was begun in 1912. In the following year No. 8 was sold for the handsome price of £27,750. (fn. 175)
Set in modest gardens separated from the road by Portland stone walls, massive gate piers, and iron railings, these houses are similar in style as well as in materials and scale. They fall into two main groups: Nos. 4–7 are symmetrical, with modillioned cornices and pediments, reminiscent of late seventeenth-and early eighteenth-century Dutch examples, while Nos. 8–10 are asymmetrical, also with Dutch influences in the architecture, especially in the gables of No. 9. The latter three houses have two-storey entrance halls with galleries at first-floor level, light being admitted by large windows with stone mullions and transoms. These windows are notable features of the east elevations of Nos. 8 and 9 and the west elevation of No. 10. The entrance halls are panelled, and the gallery balusters are turned and carved.
Apart from these 'Jacobethan' entrance halls (Plate 111b, c), the original interiors seem to have been basically classical in character. That of No. 5 appears to be almost intact and as its builders left it. The marble staircase with wrought-iron balustrades, symmetrically placed on the main axis of the house, is based on late seventeenth-century examples and is particularly impressive (Plate 111a). The decorations throughout are of plaster, the main rooms having friezes and cornices in the manner of Adam. Of the remaining houses, No. 7 has been completely modernized and others have undergone modifications. Nos. 8, 9 and 10, however, retain their original internal arrangements and character.
The planning was similar in each case, with the kitchen, storage areas and some servants' quarters in the basement, the main living-rooms on the ground floor, and bedrooms on the upper floors, those in the attic being for domestic staff. Electric lifts appear to have been provided for all of the houses.
A high standard of building and finish is evident, the construction being basically of loadbearing brickwork with fire-resistant floors formed of five inches of concrete cast on corrugated iron permanent shuttering carried on rolled-steel joists. The Commissioners had specified that the houses should be 'fire-resisting throughout'.
The Barracks, Kensington Church Street
These barracks, erected in 1856–8, stand on the site of the original kitchen garden of Kensington Palace, which was laid out at the end of the seventeenth century and which was later known as the forcing ground. In the north-east corner of this garden stood the brick conduit, illustrated by Faulkner, which was said to have been built by Henry VIII to supply water to his house at Chelsea Place. At the time of its erection this conduit was on the east side of a four-acre field called 'the More' (and subsequently Conduit Close), comprising the site of the forcing ground and an area to the north, later the sites of Maitland House and York House (see page 29). During the seventeenth century Conduit Close was divided, and by 1672 the forcing ground site had passed into the hands of Sir Heneage Finch, later first Earl of Nottingham, whose son sold it to William III in 1689. (fn. 176)
In 1841 the Commissioners' architects, in their plan for building over the kitchen gardens, had proposed that a short road should be laid out across the forcing ground between Kensington Church Street and The Queen's Road. This plan was approved and in June 1844 a contract for laying a sewer was awarded. By July, however, the Commissioners and the Board of Ordnance were discussing the possibility of building a barracks on the forcing ground to replace the old barracks on Palace Green, which stood on the line of The Queen's Road. An agreement to let part of the site for a barracks was concluded, but in 1854 this was set aside by mutual consent. (fn. 175)
Thereupon the Commissioners decided to let the ground for building: a layout plan was selected, which included a row of shops along the Church Street front, a road was constructed across the ground, and in November 1855 terms were arranged to let the whole site to the builder John Kelk. But this development did not take place, for in December the War Department informed the Commissioners that the forcing ground was, after all, required in its entirety for a barracks of large extent. (fn. 178)
Under an agreement of 1 July 1856 the site was leased to the Secretary of State for War, who contracted to have the barracks completed within two years. (fn. 19) They were to cost not less than £14,000, and the eastern elevation was to be 'in a plain but good style of architecture of such a character as shall not in the opinion of the . . . Commissioners . . . be unsightly or in any use detrimental to the Houses on each side of the Queen's Road'. (fn. 180) The architect was probably Colonel Frederick Chapman, R.E., whose signature appears on the contract drawings; the builders were Benjamin and John Dale of Warwick Square. (fn. 181)
The barracks consist principally of two residential blocks, one of two storeys and the other of three storeys, intended originally for the cavalry and infantry respectively. The 'plain but good' style of architecture adopted for the outward-facing façades of each block is a curious mixture of late seventeenth-century English motifs (including brick quoins) and mid-Victorian Italianate.
To compensate the residents of The Queen's Road for the loss of the road laid out in 1855, which they had found useful as a short-cut into Church Street, the War Department constructed a footpath along the north side of the site. This still survives. In 1906 part of the site of the barracks was given up for the widening of Kensington Church Street. (fn. 182) The building ceased to be used as a barracks in 1972. (fn. c8)
Nos. 26–40 (even) Kensington High Street
This building was designed in 1924 by Sir Reginald Blomfield and H. L. Cabuche for John Barker and Company. Blomfield was responsible for the elevations and Cabuche for the internal planning and construction. (fn. 183)
When the London County Council obtained powers to widen Kensington High Street by demolishing most of the existing properties on the north side of the street to the east of Kensington Church Street, the Commissioners of Woods and Forests made it known that they wished to purchase the land to the south of No. 1 Palace Green which the Council planned to acquire.
In 1905, shortly after road widening had taken place, this land was transferred to the Crown, and in 1906 it was advertised as building ground. No tenders were received, and despite re-advertisement several times reasonable offers were still not forthcoming. Proposals to erect a cinema on the site proved abortive, and for a while the ground was used by the Church Army as a 'City Garden'. In 1912 John Barker and Company took a monthly tenancy of part of the site to erect temporary buildings after one of their stores had been damaged by fire. Finally in 1919 the same company submitted an offer for a ninety-nine-year building lease of the plot, which the Commissioners accepted with alacrity. The site made available by the Commissioners under a building agreement concluded in 1921 included some land at the rear of No. I Palace Green which they had purchased in 1920. John Murray, the architect to the Office of Woods, insisted on certain amendments to the plans of the proposed building to safeguard the amenities of No. I Palace Green. (fn. 184)