Survey of London: Volume 37, Northern Kensington. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1973.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
CHAPTER XI - The Norland Estate
The Norland estate (fig. 70) consisted of some fifty-two acres of ground, bounded on the east by the streets now known as Portland Road and Pottery Lane, on the south by Holland Park Avenue (formerly the Uxbridge road) and on the west by the boundary of the parishes of Kensington and Hammersmith. Building development began in 1839, and except in the northern extremity of the estate was largely completed within a dozen years, although some houses were not then occupied. (fn. 1) The author of most of the principal components of the layout plan was Robert Cantwell, who also designed several ranges of four-storey terraced houses.
The estate was acquired in the early years of the eighteenth century by Thomas Greene, a wealthy brewer of St. Margaret's, Westminster, after whose death in 1740 it passed to his infant grandson, Edward Burnaby Greene, later to achieve fame as a poet and translator. His inheritance included a fortune of £4,000 per annum, which enabled him to live in some splendour at Norlands, the capital messuage at the south-east corner of the estate, near the site of the modern No. 130 Holland Park Avenue. (fn. 8) But he also accumulated large debts, and in 1761 he granted a lease of the house and twelve acres of the adjoining land for an annual rent of £100. (fn. 9)
The first tenant was Thomas Marquois, 'Professor of Artillery and Fortification', who used the house as an academy for the civil or military education of sons of the gentry. Board and lodging, plus instruction in Greek, Latin, French, writing and arithmetic could be had for thirty guineas a year, but fortification, mathematics, navigation, drawing, geography, dancing, fencing and riding were all charged as extras. Marquois' prospectus contains a plan of the academy and its grounds, which were indeed very well suited to his purposes. Besides the house itself there were stables, a manege or riding house, a fives court, a cricket ground, gravelled drives for hack riding, and an artificial 'mount' from which the various activities of the pupils could be kept under constant review. The whole twelve-acre area, which extended from Portland Road to the west side of Norland Square and northward roughly as far as Penzance Street, was surrounded on three sides by a brick wall and on the west by a ha-ha. (fn. 10)
Despite these advantages, however, Marquois' règime only lasted for four years, and in 1765 the lease of the academy and its grounds, including the horses, the horse furniture and even the four Alderney cows which had supplied the school milk, were put up for sale by auction. The next headmaster, Abraham Elim, appears to have placed much less emphasis on the military side of the school's curriculum, but this tendency was reversed by Lieutenant Bartholomew Reynolds, who succeeded Elim in 1785. He acquired the patronage of the Prince of Wales, which enabled him to give the school the high-sounding new title of 'the Royal Military Academy, Norland-house'. The syllabus was now directed towards preparing boys for the army, and the young gentlemen were taught not only to draw plans of fortifications but even to 'construct works upon the ground belonging to the Academy... and fit for real service'. (fn. 9)
In 1788 the freeholder, Edward Burnaby Greene, died, heavily in debt, (fn. 11) and in 1792 all his estates in and near London were sold by auction. The whole of the Norland estate was bought by Benjamin Vulliamy, the watchmaker of Pall Mall, who paid £4,270 for some forty acres of the land (equivalent to £107 per acre), plus an unknown amount for Norland House and its twelve-acre curtilage. (fn. 12) Shortly afterwards the Royal Military Academy came to an end, and Vulliamy took up residence at Norlands. (fn. 13)
The estate remained in the ownership of the Vulliamy family until 1839. In 1825 Norland House was destroyed by fire. Two years later twenty-five acres of the estate, including the ruins of the mansion, were offered by the architect, Ambrose Poynter, evidently acting on behalf of the then owner, the clockmaker Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy, to the Justices of the Peace for Middlesex, who were at that time searching for a site for the erection of a country lunatic asylum. The property offered included an ample water supply derived from an artesian well 260 feet in depth which had been sunk at great expense beside the mansion in 1791, but the very high price of £15, 875, equivalent to £635 per acre, was probably the reason for the magistrates' rejection of the proposal in favour of a site at Hanwell. (fn. 14) The well, now filled up, is commemorated by an inscribed stone in the back yard of No. 130 Holland Park Avenue.
By the mid 1830's, however, the Norland estate was becoming eligible for speculative building. The development of the adjoining estate to the east had been started as early as 1821, when J. W. Ladbroke had promoted an Act of Parliament enabling him to grant ninety-nine-year leases, while to the south the first building leases had been granted on Lord Holland's lands in 1824. Progress on both these estates had been slow after the collapse of the building boom of the early 1820's, but on both the Holland and more particularly on the Norland estate, a new factor was introduced in 1836 by the incorporation of the Birmingham, Bristol and Thames Junction Railway. The object of this ill-fated enterprise was to provide an outlet for the London and Birmingham and the Great Western Railways to the Thames west of London by the construction of a line from the neighbourhood of Willesden to the Kensington Canal. The route authorized by an enabling Act of 1836 (fn. 15) extended parallel with, but a few yards outside, the western boundary of the Norland estate, across the Uxbridge road at Shepherd's Bush and southward through part of Lord Holland's land.
It was not, however, the prospect of suburban passenger traffic, but the drainage problems posed by the construction of the railway, which provided a fillip to building development on the Norland estate. Between the Uxbridge and Hammersmith roads the railway was to extend along or very close to the course of the Counter's Creek sewer, the natural open ditch or watercourse which discharged surface water from the western parts of Kensington into the Kensington Canal and thence into the Thames. In 1837–8 the Westminster Commissioners of Sewers insisted that the railway company must divert the Counter's Creek to a new line further east throughout its whole length from Warwick Road in South Kensington to the northern boundary of the Norland estate (a distance of over a mile), and ultimately the company had to submit. (fn. 16)
The new sewer, as built by the railway company in 1838–9, extended, from south to north, along the line of the present Holland Road and Holland Villas Road, across the Uxbridge road at the centre of Royal Crescent, and thence up the present St. Ann's Villas and St. Ann's Road (see fig. 70). The contractor was Stephen Bird, a Kensington builder of note and owner of a brickfield to the north of the Norland estate; the total cost was £9,547, of which the Commissioners of Sewers contributed £1,500. (fn. 17)
The effect of this diversion was to provide Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy with greatly improved drainage facilities for his estate, at no cost to himself. In September 1838, when discussions between the Commissioners of Sewers and the railway company were still proceeding, he was already celebrating his good fortune by negotiations for the sale of the estate, (fn. 18) his prospective purchaser being William Kingdom, a building speculator who was probably already active in the development of Westbourne Terrace and Hyde Park Gardens, Paddington. (fn. 19) Kingdom's architect was Robert Cantwell, who besides having been the lessee between 1826 and 1833 for several houses on the Ladbroke estate, was also a member of the Westminster Commission of Sewers. (fn. 20) In September 1838, as surveyor to the Norland estate, he approved the proposed line of diversion, insisting, however, that the new sewer should be covered in as far north as the backs of the projected houses in Royal Crescent. (fn. 18).
In the event Kingdom did not purchase the Norland estate, for in January 1839 he assigned the benefit of his agreement with Vulliamy to a solicitor, Charles Richardson, for £5,932. The circumstances of the sale are obscure, but it appears that Kingdom's assignment to Richardson was in payment of a mortgage debt, possibly on Kingdom's property in Paddington. Richardson also paid Vulliamy £14,058, making his aggregate recorded outlay £19,990, but it is not clear whether this was the consideration for the purchase of the whole of the Norland estate, which would represent a price of c. £384 per acre, or only for some four-fifths of it. (fn. 21) Whatever he may have paid for it, it is, however, certain that Richardson became the freehold owner of all fifty-two acres of the estate. (fn. 2)
Charles Richardson was the son of the Charles Richardson who had kept a well-known coffee house and hotel in the Piazza in Covent Garden in the early years of the nineteenth century. After the father's death in 1827 this business had been continued by another son, Walter Richardson, wine merchant, while Charles junior (later the purchaser of the Norland estate) had entered the legal profession, being admitted as an attorney in 1817. Two years later he was living and practising at No. 28 Golden Square, where he remained with a succession of partners for many years. After his father's death he had inherited the famous lion's head letter-box which had originally been at Button's coffee house in Covent Garden in the days of Addison and Steele, and in 1828 he published a short account of it before selling it to the sixth Duke of Bedford. In 1830 he was Under Sheriff of London and Middlesex, a relative, Sir William Henry Richardson, being Sheriff in that year. By the early 1840's his firm in Golden Square had become parliamentary agents, and were acting as solicitors to the Club Chambers Association of Regent Street and the Medical, Invalid, and General Life Assurance Society. (fn. 23) Despite these normal ramifications in the affairs of a busy London solicitor, the development of the Norland estate was to be his main concern for the next dozen or more years until nemesis of somewhat bizarre form overtook him.
With such extensive business experience as this Richardson had no difficulty in raising capital for the development of his estate, and in 1840–1 he borrowed £25,000 from another firm of solicitors, plus £11,500 from the partners of a West End private bank, all at 5 per cent interest. Soon afterwards he transferred the greater part of these mortgages to a retired City merchant, from whom he obtained further advances. By 1844 his total liabilities amounted to about £45,000, (fn. 24) much of the money being needed for loans to builders and for the construction of nearly three miles of sewers approved by the Commissioners. (fn. 25)
The layout plan of the southern part of the Norland estate, including Royal Crescent, Addison Avenue and Norland Square, was the work of Robert Cantwell. (fn. 26) His principal street, Addison Avenue, was originally known as Addison Road North, for when it was laid out it formed an extension of Lord Holland's Addison Road to the south of the Uxbridge road. This wide straight road extends north through the centre of the estate, and is bisected by Queensdale Road (formerly Queen's Road) which extends east-west across its whole width. Within the angles of the cross thus formed Cantwell provided in the south-west quarter a large crescent facing the Uxbridge road and broken in the centre by another north-south road, St. Ann's Villas and St. Ann's Road—an ingenious arrangement evidently occasioned by the need for unobstructed passage for the recently diverted Counter's Creek sewer. In the south-east quarter he provided a square (Norland Square), open to the Uxbridge road at its south end. The other two important elements in the layout as eventually completed, St. James's Church, placed at the northern axis of Addison Avenue, and the square (now St. James's Gardens) in which it stands, may, however, have not been formulated until after Cantwell's connexion with the estate had apparently ended; (fn. 27) but they are certainly logical extensions of his work.
The idea of a crescent broken in the centre by a straight road leading northward had emerged during the negotiations over the diversion of the Counter's Creek sewer, the future Royal Crescent and St. Ann's Villas and St. Ann's Road being adumbrated on two sewer plans of 1837–8. (fn. 28) At this time Cantwell was acting for William Kingdom, but when Richardson bought the estate in January 1839 he retained Cantwell as surveyor. Cantwell's connexion with the Norland estate appears, however, to have been very short (as in the case of James Thomson on the Ladbroke estate), and the precise extent of his contribution to its development is hard to assess. The Royal Academy exhibition of 1839 contained an item entitled 'Perspective view of Norland [i.e. Royal] Crescent now erecting at Notting Hill from the designs of and under the superintendence of R. Cantwell'. This probably relates to an undated lithograph showing Royal Crescent and the ranges of houses in the Uxbridge road as far east as the west corner of Norland Square, all of which were described as 'From the designs of Robert Cantwell, Architect'. Another, very slightly different, version of this design is reproduced on Plate 70a. In 1840 Cantwell was applying on Richardson's behalf to the Westminster Commissioners for permission to lay sewers in the Uxbridge road, (fn. 29) and in 1842 Richardson granted him a building lease for No. 52 Norland Square. (fn. 30) Royal Crescent was therefore clearly built to Cantwell's designs, as also, probably were the terraced ranges of houses in Holland Park Avenue and Norland Square. But there is no evidence that Cantwell was in any way connected with the formation of any of the other streets on the estate, or with the design of any of the houses in them, or that he ever acted on Richardson's behalf after September 1840.
Thereafter most of Richardson's applications to the Commissioners of Sewers for permission to lay sewers in streets to be formed on the estate were presented by another surveyor, Joseph Dunning, the first being in February 1841. (fn. 31) At this time Dunning was probably an assistant of Cantwell's, for a plan of the estate presented to the Commissioners in October 1841 (Plate 70c) is signed 'Joseph Dunning for Mr. Cantwell', but by 1843 Dunning had an address of his own, independent of Cantwell. (fn. 32) He continued to act on Richardson's behalf until at least 1851, (fn. 33) and also from time to time on behalf of two of the principal speculators on the estate, (fn. 34) but there is no evidence that he designed any of the houses there. He subsequently built a number of houses nearby in Portland Road, (fn. 35) and also in Drayton Gardens, South Kensington.
Building on the Norland estate began on the frontage to the Uxbridge road where Richardson granted the first building leases in October 1839, for the ground between Royal Crescent and Addison Avenue. On an estate so far from the centre of London one way to attract builders was for the ground landlord to build himself, and these first leases were in fact granted by Richardson to his own trustee and man of business, J. C. Bennett. (fn. 36) To the east of Addison Avenue a row of four houses which had been built some years earlier was incorporated, probably after renovation and refronting, into a new range of eleven houses extending from Addison Avenue to Norland Square. (fn. 37) The westerly six houses here were probably built by William Slark of Gordon Square, esquire, to whom Richardson sold the freehold of the site in 1840. (fn. 38)
The principal undertaker on the Uxbridge road frontage, and indeed on the whole estate, was Charles Stewart, a wealthy barrister who had served as Member of Parliament for Penryn in 1831–2. (fn. 39) Between 1840 and 1846 he took building leases from Richardson for some 150 houses on the estate, as well as for a number of coach-houses and stables. His principal ventures were in Royal Crescent (where he had 43 houses) and St. Ann's Villas (34), but he also involved himself in Holland Park Avenue, Queensdale Road, Norland Square and Norland Road, in the last of which the Stewart Arms public house (now rebuilt) still commemorates his name.
His first investment was in Holland Park Avenue, where in 1840–1 Richardson granted him ninety-nine-year building leases for all except one of the four-storey stucco-fronted houses in the range (Nos. 124–150 even) between Princedale (formerly Princes) Road and Norland Square; the annual ground rent was £20 per house. (fn. 40) The excepted house, No. 130, had a large yard and workshops at the back, and its curtilage included the well which had formerly served Norland House. Here Richardson installed a steam engine to raise water for the supply of the estate, and the house itself was used from 1841 to 1846 as the Norland Estate Office. (fn. 41)
In April 1841 Richardson applied to the London Assurance Corporation for a loan of £50,000 at 4 per cent interest on the security of the estate, to enable him 'to assist the builders, and thereby facilitate the letting of the ground'. (fn. 3) In his application Richardson stated that ground rents totalling £1,331 per annum had been formed, secured upon agreements for the building of 150 houses, of which about half had already been built and the remainder would be built in the course of the ensuing summer. Twenty-two acres in the northern part of the estate had been leased to a brickmaker for £1,000 per annum, and the total value of the estate, he claimed, now amounted to £123,000.
The London Assurance instructed its own surveyor, William Sabine, to inspect the property, and the report which he presented a few days later was not so sanguine. Fifty-five houses were 'in various states of forwardness', but many others for which the ground had been let were not sufficiently advanced to secure the ground rent, and some had not even been started at all; the total value of the estate was considerably lower than Richardson's estimate. (fn. 42)
After some hesitation the Corporation decided to offer Richardson a loan of £30,000 at 5 per cent interest, plus an undertaking to make further advances as building development proceeded. But when two months later, in June 1841, Richardson wished to take up this offer, Sabine presented such a gloomy supplementary report that the Corporation demanded additional security—the tenant of the brickfield must be a party to the loan. Richardson refused, however, to accept these terms, and the negotiation ended. (fn. 43)
In his second report Sabine had stated that 'Five out of the 6 large houses built by Mr. Richardson [Nos. 1 Royal Crescent and 170–178 even Holland Park Avenue] are still unlet, as are also 6 belonging to Mr. Slark [Nos. 158–168 even], and 12 out of 13 built by Mr. Stewart [Nos. 124–150 even], all on the high road. There is no more ground let, and three of the former holders of ground have given up their interest to other parties. . . The premises intended for Mr. R's own occupation [No. 130] are in a very forward state, but on the whole the speculation does not appear to me so favourable as at my last view.' (fn. 44)
The main obstacle to development at this stage was, in fact, not so much lack of capital to build as lack of people willing to live in houses still felt to be so far out of London. Stewart's houses in Holland Park Avenue were not all occupied until 1845, while in Royal Crescent, of which he took building leases in 1842–3, the western half was not fully occupied until 1848, nor Nos. 15–22 in the eastern half until as late as 1856. (fn. 13)
Royal Crescent (Plate 72a, b, fig. 71) may be seen as part of the vogue for circuses and curved layouts in general, which had been current throughout much of the previous century and which had gained particular favour in the years subsequent to the Napoleonic Wars. It invites comparison with the work of George Basevi in Pelham Crescent, South Kensington, and with Nash's larger and grander composition at Park Crescent, Regent's Park, lacking the delicacy of detail of the former, and the metropolitan assurance of the latter. It consists of tall narrow stuccofaced four-storey houses with basements and attics, with two rooms to each floor. The porches are of the Roman Doric order, and are surmounted by cast-iron balustrades which link with those on the balconies at first-floor level. The ground-floor windows are widely proportioned, and the first- and second-floor windows have moulded architraves. There is a dentilled main cornice above the second floor, above which is a crowning storey with a smaller, less elaborate cornice and balustrade. The houses at each end of the two ranges in the crescent have circular pavilions, somewhat reminiscent of those at the corner of Adelaide Street and Strand, and of those in Victoria Square, Westminster. They are capped by balustrades behind which rise high circular attic lanterns crowned by modillioned cornices. The internal planning is in no way remarkable, being the standard London form, two rooms to a floor.
Richardson did all that he could to attract residents to his estate. He lived there himself, at first at the Estate Office and later (from 1847 to 1855) at No. 29 Norland Square; his brother, Walter Richardson, lived at No. 43 Royal Crescent from 1843 to 1851, and his professional partner, R. R. Sadler, at No. 32 Norland Square. (fn. 13) In 1842 he signed an agreement with the Brentford Gas Company for the lighting of the streets, (fn. 45) and in the following year a bargain with the Grand Junction Water Works Company provided the estate with a water supply from the mains. (fn. 46) In 1843 he also promoted an Act of Parliament whereby the management of the paving, repair, lighting and cleansing of the streets, and the maintenance of the gardens in Royal Crescent, Norland Square and St. James's Square (now St. James's Gardens) were vested in twelve named resident commissioners, who were authorised to raise a rate of up to three shillings in the pound. The original commissioners included Richardson, Cantwell, Slark and Stewart, but they were all obliged to go out of office by rotation, three in each year, the vacancies being filled by election by all residents on the estate rated at over £20 per annum. (fn. 45) In 1844 one of the greatest allurements which a ground landlord could provide—a church—was commenced, Richardson presenting the site of St. James's to the Church Building Commissioners. (fn. 12)
Despite all these efforts the Norland estate did not, however, progress smoothly. In the southern half of Addison Avenue Richardson was able to grant building leases between 1840 and 1843 for a public house (the Norland Arms) and for twenty two-storey stucco-fronted paired houses (Nos. 18–36 even and 17–35 odd), all the lessees (with one exception) being building tradesmen who evidently supplied their own designs. There seems to have been no difficulty in finding takers for these houses when completed, but in the northern half of Addison Avenue the lessee for the ten houses on the west side (Nos. 37–55 odd) proved unable to keep up the payments to his mortgagee, Frederick Chinnock, an auctioneer, who in 1843 assigned all ten plots back to Richardson's trustee, Bennett. (fn. 47) Separate leases were then granted to building tradesmen, but the houses were not all occupied until 1848. (fn. 13) On the east side the last leases for the houses were not granted until 1850, when William and Frederick Warburton Stent, surveyors, became the lessees of Nos. 46–52, (fn. 48) which were probably built by the Bayswater builder W. G. May. (fn. 49)
These twenty houses in the northern half of Addison Avenue (Plate 71a, figs. 72–3) form two ranges of paired two-storey houses with basements and rooms in the roofs, each pair being linked to its neighbours by the principal entrances, which are set back at the sides. The ground-floor windows have architraves surmounted by pediments; the first-floor windows have semicircular heads, the archivolts springing from stringcourses; the doorways in the linking blocks are large and trabeated with central piers; and the roofs overhang substantial eaves. The houses have stucco façades which are divided by pilasters and plain strings. They have wider frontages than those in Royal Crescent, and are more conveniently planned, with well-proportioned rooms on half the number of floors, thus departing from the traditional central London plan form in favour of a new suburban ideal. Unlike the smaller houses in the southern half of the road, they were clearly all built to one design, which (in default of more direct evidence) may be tentatively attributed to F. W. Stent. (fn. 4)
Progress in Norland Square was equally unstable. Here leases of all fifty-one plots had been granted by 1844, but three of the principal lessees were involved with Charles Richardson in the whole speculation on the estate, and by taking leases probably hoped to encourage others to commit themselves also. These three were Richardson's trustee again (Bennett, Nos. 7–16 consec. and 51), his brother Walter Richardson, who took the whole of the north range (Nos. 19–35 consec.), and Stewart, who took Nos. 2–4 and 17 and 18. James Emmins, the lessee of Nos. 38–44 (consec.) and the only building tradesman to take more than one lease in the square, proved to be a thoroughly unreliable person. He was declared bankrupt in 1845, and paid his creditors nothing. He repeated this convenient escape in 1848 and again in 1855, when the commissioner in charge of his affairs declared that 'the books of the bankrupt had been so imperfectly kept as to be scarcely worthy of the name of books. . . This is a scandalous case.' (fn. 51) In these conditions it is not surprising to find that the houses on the west side of the square were not all occupied until c. 1849, nor those on the north and east sides until 1852–3. (fn. 13)
The stucco-faced terrace houses surrounding Norland Square have four storeys over basements, with segmental bays at basement and ground-floor level rising to the underside of a continuous range of balconies with cast-iron balustrading. The Italianate façades, reminiscent of the manner fashionable at seaside resorts in the 1830's and 1840's, have ornate consoles supporting cornices over the first-floor windows, main cornices above the second floor, and a plain cornice over the attic storey. The range of houses on the north side of the square (Plate 71b) has several curious architectural features, including coursed stucco up to the main cornice level, clear demarkation of each house by the introduction of pilasters with vestigial capitals at second-floor level, and framed surrounds to the windows in line with the cornice consoles. The planning of the houses is of the typical London terrace type, with two rooms on each floor.
Behind these houses on the north side of Norland Square stand the two ranges of plain brick artisans' cottages in Princes Place, leased by Richardson in 1844–5 and now (1972) in course of demolition (Plate 72c, fig. 74). These have two storeys and basements, and because they back on to the gardens of the houses in Norland Square and St. James's Gardens they have no rear windows. They are therefore only fourteen feet deep, but they are twenty-four feet wide, and are set back behind substantial front gardens.
On another part of the estate, in the street leading northward out of Royal Crescent and now known as St. Ann's Villas, Stewart or Richardson was experimenting with a quite different type of house. Here Stewart had begun in orthodox fashion by building two ranges of four-storey terraces, each consisting of five houses (Nos. 2–10 even and 1–9 odd St. Ann's Villas), on plots leased to him by Richardson in 1843. This was a natural continuation of Cantwell's Royal Crescent style, but there was the same difficulty here as in the crescent in finding inhabitants (all ten not being occupied until 1848), (fn. 13) and it was probably hoped that the semi-detached villas adumbrated on the layout plan of 1841 (Plate 70c) for the northward continuation of the street might prove more successful. In 1845–6 Richardson granted Stewart building leases for twenty-four paired houses on the land to the north of Queensdale Road, six pairs on either side of the street (Nos. 12–34 even and 11–33 odd St. Ann's Villas). In the leases the houses are described as newly erected, but in 1848 only six of them (Nos. 12–18 even, 11 and 15) were occupied, and the evidence of the ratebooks suggests that only one other (No. 13) had yet in fact been completed. By this time Stewart had assigned some of his leases to Charles Richardson's trustee, or to his brother Walter Richardson, (fn. 52) under whose aegis building appears to have been resumed in 1850. But in the following year twelve of the twenty-four houses are listed as empty, and they were not finally all occupied until 1859. (fn. 13)
All of these twenty-four houses are in the Tudor-Gothic and Jacobean manner, executed in red and blue brick with Bath stone quoins and window mullions (Plate 72d, e). The documentary evidence associated with their building contains no clue to the identity of the author of the designs. A lithograph in Kensington Central Library entitled 'Elizabethan Villa, Notting Hill' shows Nos. 19 and 21 in reverse, but is unsigned. It may, however, be noted that the architect Charles James Richardson (? a relative of Charles Richardson, the ground landlord) subsequently published a book entitled The Englishman's House, which contains engravings of a design for a double suburban villa 'intended for erection on a leasehold estate at a little distance out of London'. The building illustrated is not dissimilar to the houses in St. Ann's Villas, and the text explains that this was only a preliminary design. (fn. 53) But for whoever may have been responsible for the executed design, this experiment in the Tudor manner must have been accounted a failure, if only for the prolonged lack of demand for such houses.
The only other houses on the estate in the Tudor-Gothic style are the stone-faced pair set at an angle at the west corner of Addison Avenue and St. James's Gardens, and the modest stuccofaced mews houses in Queensdale Walk (fig. 75). The latter may have been designed by Richardson's clerk of works, William Carson, who was the lessee of Nos. 1 and 2 in 1844.
There were difficulties, too, in even the building of St. James's Church (Plate 11). Work had started in June 1844, Lewis Vulliamy being the architect. The Church Building Commissioners had promised to contribute £500 towards the cost, and voluntary church building societies had given £2,400. A local committee of residents, in which Walter Richardson (who subsequently became one of the first churchwardens) was active, raised £2,000, but in May 1845, only two months before the consecration was due to take place, the vicar of Kensington had to request the Commissioners to pay their promised grant despite the fact that shortage of money would prevent the building of the intended spire. 'A large number of the new houses at Norland are still unoccupied', he wrote, but he had 'no doubt that when the Houses are occupied the spire will be built'. The church was consecrated on 17 July 1845, (fn. 54) but the tower was not completed until 1850. (fn. 55) The spire was never built.
To meet his mounting financial difficulties Charles Richardson was obliged to sell the freehold of some twelve acres at the north end of the estate in 1844 (see fig. 70). This area lay to the north of the future St. James's Square (now Gardens), and was already leased as a brickfield. The tenant brickmaker, William Naylor Morrison, now purchased the freehold, for which he paid £7,190, equivalent to approximately £600 per acre. (fn. 46) In May of the same year Richardson was able to mortgage ground rents worth £1,945 per annum, the loan being apparently arranged by Charles Stewart's solicitor, Thomas Bothamley, a partner in the firm of Freeman, Bothamley and Benthall of Coleman Street, City. (fn. 56) Besides needing capital for himself Richardson also needed it to assist Stewart, whose sagging fortunes he was supporting in November 1844 by the advance of money on the risky security of Stewart's unfinished houses in Royal Crescent. (fn. 57) The London Assurance Corporation had already refused to lend to Stewart, and its subsequent refusals, in 1844 and 1846, to lend to Richardson testify to the distrust with which the Norland estate was now viewed by investors. (fn. 58)
By this time, however, building societies (mostly still of the terminating variety) were increasing very rapidly in number in London, and this new source of capital was evidently exploited to the full on the Norland estate, where five such societies (fn. 5) were investing between 1847 and 1851. Charles Richardson's brother Walter, who was now deeply involved in the affairs of the estate, was a party in transactions with all five of these societies, one of which was responsible for the building of most of the houses in St. James's Square, the last important remaining part of the estate to be developed.
The plan of the estate presented to the Commissioners of Sewers in 1841 (Plate 70c) shows all the land to the north of Addison Avenue as in lease for brickmaking. We have already seen that in 1844 Charles Richardson sold the freehold of the northern part of this area to W. N. Morrison, and that in the same year he presented the site for the church. He therefore still retained a strip of land some 300 feet wide between the north end of Addison Avenue and the boundary of Morrison's brickfield, and in December 1843 his surveyor, Joseph Dunning, had obtained the permission of the Commissioners to lay sewers in the square now intended to be formed around the church. (fn. 64)
Between 1847 and 1851 five ranges, containing a total of thirty-seven houses, were built in the square, to the designs of John Barnett, (fn. 65) who had previously designed houses in Clapham and Highbury, and who was in 1856 to be an unsuccessful candidate for the post of Superintending Architect to the Metropolitan Board of Works. (fn. 66) All of these thirty-seven three-storey houses (Plates 70b, 71c, d, fig. 76) follow a coherent architectural scheme, the essence of which is the arrangement of the houses in linked pairs, the link taking the form of recessed bays of one or two storeys containing the entrances. The ground and basement storeys are faced with stucco, and the upper storeys are of stock brick. The first-floor windows have stucco architraves and cornices; there are crowning modillioned cornices surmounting each pair of houses; and the doorways and ground-floor windows have semi-circular heads, with moulded archivolts. The frontages are, on average, some eight feet wider than those in the more conventional terraces formed in Norland Square or Royal Crescent. The planning of the interiors is consequently more spacious, and marks a departure from that of the average terrace house of the period. The rooms are well-lit and pleasantly proportioned, sometimes as many as four being provided on one floor, and the excavations for the basements are only about five feet in depth.
Building began on the south side, where the erection of the present Nos. 1–8 (consec.) St. James's Gardens was notified to the district surveyor in September 1847; a tablet inset in the front wall of Nos. 1 and 2 records that 'The first stone of this Square was laid 1st Novr 1847'. The next houses to be notified were Nos. 9–13 (consec.) at the western end, in March 1848, and then Nos. 14–24 (consec.), on the north side, in November of the following year. In December 1850 came the notification of Nos. 47–54 (consec.) on the south side, and in February 1851 the eastern range, Nos. 42–46 (consec). At this point, with one terrace of the six projected still not commenced, development on the original lines ceased, and building on the still vacant land at the east end of the north side was not resumed until the mid 1860's. (fn. 6)
Nos. 1–24 and 42–54 were built under the aegis of the St. James's Square Benefit Building Society Notting Hill, of which Charles Richardson's partner, R. R. Sadler, and his brother Walter Richardson were trustees and directors. (fn. 63) In the late summer of 1847 tenders had been invited for the building of the forty-eight houses which the six terraces, if all built, would have contained, and bills of quantity were supplied by the Society's architect, Barnett. The lowest tender, for £29,830 (equivalent to £621 for each house), was from a local builder, Robert Adkin, (fn. 68) who became a shareholder in the Society. He built Nos. 1–8 (consec.), (fn. 69) and in February 1848 Charles Richardson granted ninety-nine-year leases of these houses to members of the Society, the leases and lessees' shares in the Society being immediately mortgaged to the Society's trustees. (fn. 70) Adkin also started to build Nos. 9–13 on behalf of the Society, (fn. 71) but a request to the London Assurance Corporation for a loan of £24,000 was refused, and in July 1848 he was declared bankrupt, (fn. 72) his tender (some £10,000 cheaper than the next bid) having been ruinously low. Thereafter a different procedure was followed; no more building leases were granted, all the remaining houses being built, presumably under contract with the Society, by David Nicholson senior and junior, builders, of Wandsworth, who were themselves shareholders in the Society. (fn. 73) Charles Richardson retained possession of the freehold until October 1852, when he was obliged by his mortgagees to sell all thirty-seven houses together with the remaining vacant land on the north side and the sites of the future Nos. 55 and 56 on the south side. (fn. 74) Shortly afterwards the purchaser, T. R. Tufnell of Northfleet, Kent, esquire, sold the entire property piecemeal, almost all of the houses (except Nos. 1–8) being acquired by shareholders in the Society, which in October 1852 was described as about to be dissolved. (fn. 75) These shareholders included Walter Richardson, who bought Nos. 18 and 19, R. R. Sadler (No. 22), the builders Nicholson and Son (Nos. 36–40 consec.) and John Barnett, the architect (Nos. 15–17 consec.). The latter had been associated with the Society throughout its whole brief existence, having been one of the shareholders to whom Charles Richardson had granted a building lease in February 1848 (of No. 6). (fn. 76)
Whether the St. James's Square Building Society was financially successful or not is impossible to assess, the records of its affairs being obscure and very incomplete. The ratebooks indicate that almost all of its thirty-seven houses were occupied within two or three years of the commencement of building (not a very long period compared with other parts of the Norland estate), and its inability to build the sixth and last terrace in the square may well have been caused not by its own financial difficulties but by those of Charles Richardson. As early as 1848 he had been unable to withstand the pressure of his mortgagees any longer, and in May the freehold of the greater part of the estate, comprising five hundred houses yielding £4,000 per annum in ground rents, had been advertised as to be sold by auction. (fn. 77) Originally it had been intended to sell the property, divided into 215 lots, at a single sale lasting three days, but in the event the sales seem to have been spread over about fifteen months (probably in order not to swamp the market), and by August 1849 at least 270 houses had been sold. Even so, Richardson's financial position was alarming the partners in his firm, now described as Richardson, Smith and Sadler, for when Smith died in 1849 his will contained the ominous direction that 'I recommend my good friend Mr. Sadler to be adviser in relation to my affairs, he knowing the terms of my partnership and what liabilities thereof attach to Mr. Richardson alone (and they are many)'. (fn. 78)
Richardson's expenditure on the estate during the 1840's must indeed have been very considerable. All the sewers, except on the land sold to Morrison in 1844, were built at his expense, (fn. 79) and we have already seen that he advanced money of unknown amount to Charles Stewart, the principal lessee on the estate, and to other builders, in order to keep development under way. Although the evidence is not at all clear, he may also have built a number of houses himself by contract with a builder, notably Nos. 170–178 (even) Holland Park Avenue and 1 Royal Crescent, and those in Norland Square and elsewhere with which his agent, Bennett, was concerned. He certainly employed his own clerk of works, William Carson, (fn. 80) as well as a surveyor (at first Cantwell and then Dunning). Some idea of the scale of his liabilities may be obtained from his last unsuccessful application in 1846 for a loan from the London Assurance Corporation, when he asked for £120,000. (fn. 81)
Despite the sale in 1848–9 of the freehold ground rents arising from a substantial part of the whole estate, Richardson had been obliged in September 1850 to come to an arrangement with Frederick Chinnock, the auctioneer who had conducted these sales. (fn. 82) The terms of this bargain are not known, but it may be conjectured that in return for a short-term loan it gave Chinnock a lien on the residue of the estate subject to the existing mortgages, an arrangement similar to that obtained in 1859 by C. H. Blake with another firm of auctioneers at a critical phase in his speculation on the neighbouring Ladbroke estate (see page 234). This device was evidently not successful, however, for in the summer of 1851 the sale by auction of freehold ground rents was resumed, (fn. 83) and at about the same time Richardson's principal mortgages were transferred to a new mortgagee, John Davies of Thornbury Park, Gloucestershire. (fn. 84) In January 1852 Davies was exercising his right to sell houses in Royal Crescent, Addison Avenue and elsewhere, (fn. 85) and we have already seen that in October of the same year the thirty-seven houses in St. James's Gardens and the vacant land there were also sold. What appears to have been virtually the residue of the entire estate was sold in December to Chinnock (fn. 86), who in 1860–1 was asserting his rights as freeholder to all the sewers built on the estate by Richardson. (fn. 87)
With the exception of the northern land which now belonged to Morrison and of the vacant lands on the north side of St. James's Gardens and nearby in Penzance Street and Penzance Place, the development of the whole of the Norland estate had been completed by the early 1850's. Charles Richardson had been the prime mover in the complex and risky business of promoting the building within a mere dozen years of over five hundred houses on what was still a comparatively remote suburban estate. All his labours seem, however, to have ended only in personal ruin, for in 1854 a silence falls over his affairs until his reappearance in the autumn of 1855 at the rooms of the Glasgow Stock Exchange in the unexpected role of a bankrupt dealer in patent medicines. All his property, both real and personal, was transferred to his creditors by order of the Lord Ordinary of Scotland officiating in the Court of Session at Edinburgh, and in October a trustee of his estate was appointed. (fn. 88)
This does not appear, however, to have been quite the end of Richardson's career. We have already seen that James Emmins the builder knew how to make the best use of the bankruptcy laws, and it may be that Richardson's bankruptcy was carefully contrived to enable him to regularize his affairs by shrouding himself for a while in distant Glasgow amidst the decent obscurities of Scottish law. At all events, the Scottish trustee or receiver of the estate got in and sold all Richardson's known available assets, one of the purchasers being Chinnock the auctioneer, who probably bought the mortgage executed by Charles Stewart to Richardson in 1844. To wind up all matters connected with the sequestration Richardson's former partner, R. R. Sadler, purchased all interest in any other assets which Richardson might possess, and by 1858 the case appears to have been settled. The partnership between Richardson and Sadler had been dissolved in April 1855, some six months before the declaration of bankruptcy, (fn. 89) but the Law List indicates that it was resumed again in 1857, still at the old address in Golden Square, but now with an additional office in the City, at Old Jewry Chambers. From 1860 to 1868 the latter was Richardson's only address, and the final entry in the Law List occurs in 1869, when he is given as in Great Knightrider Street, Doctors' Commons. (fn. 90) (fn. 7)
Only the northern extremity of the estate, which Richardson had sold in 1844 to the brickmaker Morrison, remains to be described. The plan submitted by Joseph Dunning on Richardson's behalf to the Commissioners of Sewers in December 1843 for the drainage of St. James's Square shows that three streets were then intended to lead out of the north side of the square to the vacant land beyond. (fn. 91) One was to be in the centre of the square, and the other two at the two north corners. By 1844, however, when the sale to Morrison had been completed, a plan presented by Dunning on Morrison's behalf shows that the two openings at the corners had been abandoned. (fn. 92) The plans of the St. James's Square Benefit Building Society, drawn up in c. 1847, evidently provided for the retention of the centre opening, which was to be flanked on either side by a range of eleven houses. But the projected eastern range was (as we have already seen) not built, and when building on the north side of the square was resumed in 1864 under different auspices, the site of the central opening was built upon, despite a local resident's complaint to the Vestry that a right of way existed there. (fn. 93)
There was therefore no access from the main part of the Norland estate to Morrison's land except at the east and west extremities, by way of Princes (now Princedale) Road and St. Ann's Road. Before purchasing the freehold in 1844 Morrison had been Richardson's tenant for the twelve northern acres, which (as previously mentioned) he had used as a brickfield, and when, as the freeholder, he started to build, the unalluring conditions created by his previous brickmaking operations probably compelled him to cater for a socially less ambitious clientèle than that provided for by Richardson on the southern portion of the estate. Morrison and his associates lined the long straight streets which were now to be formed with as many small terrace houses as they could cram in, and the range of houses on the north side of Darnley Terrace and St. James's Gardens provides to this day a social as well as a physical barrier between the two portions of the original estate.
The building processes followed a normal pattern of mortgages (the first to a group of City men and the second to a client of Messrs. Richardson and Sadler), building leases and in 1848 the outright sale of about six acres. After Morrison's death in 1850 his widow sold most of the remainder, and by 1854 she only retained two small pieces. It may be noted that, despite the unpretentious nature of this development, the purchasers were categorically prohibited from making any roads to or from any of the adjoining lands without the written prior consent of Charles Richardson, who had evidently inserted a convenant to this effect into the original sale of 1844 to Morrison; and in particular they were not to permit any gate or way or opening on the east side, leading into that notorious place of ill fame called 'Notting Dale or the Potteries'. (fn. 46)
Despite this solicitude for the maintenance of social respectability, development proved slow. The site was still remote and isolated, close only to the stink and disease of the Potteries. By the mid 1860's St. Katherine's Road and William Street (now Wilsham Street and Kenley Street) were nearly complete, but elsewhere there was still more land vacant than built upon. (fn. 94) Except in Wilsham Street, little of the original development now survives, many obsolete and decayed houses having been cleared away in recent years by the Borough Council for the erection of blocks of flats.
The census books of 1851 show that in the principal streets of the Norland estate—Royal Crescent, Norland Square, Addison Avenue and St. James's Gardens—virtually none of the inhabited houses were yet sub-divided, and that domestic servants formed nearly one third of the total population here. Among the householders, annuitants or 'fundholders', living on private incomes, were the largest single group, most of them being women. There were six schools in the tall houses of Norland Square and Royal Crescent, three for girls and one for boys in the former (all boarding), and two for girls, one day and one boarding in the latter. In Norland Square there were five lawyers and two doctors, a Russian diplomat, a naval captain and an American author (with seven servants), and trade was represented by inter alia a master printer, a master saddler, a wool merchant, a pencil-maker and a quarry-owner. In Royal Crescent, where about a dozen houses were still empty, the mixture was much the same, and included three lawyers, two clergymen without cure, three stockbrokers and three merchants. In Addison Avenue there were three army officers and a surgeon, but most of the other inhabitants were businessmen; they included four clerks, two builders (J. Livesey, plumber, at No. 36 and Arthur Arrowsmith, house decorator, at No. 49), three merchants, a gunmaker, a furrier, and a horse-dealer, as well as at the south end of the street, a victualler (at the Norland Arms), a job-master, an omnibus proprietor and a fruiterer. In St. James's Gardens the pattern was much the same, although the number of servants was noticeably smaller (only about one per house). In Wilsham Street almost all the houses which had been completed by the time of the census of 1861 were occupied by building tradesmen or labourers, and many of them had been subdivided. There were no servants.
Two public houses on the Norland estate call for comment. The Norland Arms in Addison Avenue (leased by Charles Richardson to R. Clements, builder, in 1840) is an interesting three-storey composition, with a boldly detailed ground floor, consisting of a central Doric porch carrying an entablature which extends on either side over the doors and windows of the bar. Over the entablature are piers capped by cast-iron features to which the balcony rails are attached. The stucco architraves of the first-floor windows are surmounted by pediments carried on consoles. The Prince of Wales public house is on the east side of Princedale Road facing down Queensdale Road, and also has a rear court giving on to Pottery Lane (Plate 75a). It possesses an abundance of late nineteenth-century engraved glass on both façades, as well as in the screens inside.
The Church of St. James, Norlands
Plate 11; fig. 77
The Church of St. James, Norlands, occupies a commanding position at the northern end of Addison Avenue, where its tower marks the central north-south axis of the Norland estate. The site was presented by Charles Richardson, the owner of the estate, (fn. 12) and the church, designed in 'the Gothic style of the twelfth century' by Lewis Vulliamy, was built in 1844–5 at a cost of £4,941, towards which the Church Building Commissioners made a grant of £500. It provided some 750 sittings, and was consecrated on 17 July 1845. A district parish was assigned in the following year. (fn. 95)
The church is built of white Suffolk bricks, with minimal stone cornices, hood moulds, pinnacles and stringcourses. It is orientated east-west, and the tower is positioned south of the central bay, where it projects as the centrepiece of a symmetrically composed south elevation. The entrance is through a cavernous porch of brick set in the base of the tower. A gable containing a trefoil panel extends upwards over the porch into a large light enriched with handsome tracery. The stark simplicity of the body of the church sets off the elegant three-stage tower, which was being 'raised' in 1850. (fn. 96) The first stage has gabled buttresses with roll moulded edges, and contains the porch and large traceried window. The very short second stage has a clock-face set in on each side in a shallow circular recess flanked by blind lancet panels. The final belfry stage is lighter and richer, with two deeply-recessed paired lancets flanked by single blind lancet panels set within a panel framed by pilaster-buttresses. A drawing in Kensington Public Library shows that the tower was to have been surmounted by a stone broach spire. This was never built, and with its thin octagonal pinnacles set on each corner, the tower seems somewhat abrupt without it.
The body of the church is broad and barn-like, and consists of a five-bay clerestoried nave with lean-to aisles. Galleries were added in 1850. (fn. 97) They rested on supports which spanned from brackets on the cast-iron columns of the nave to the north and south walls, and must have given an appearance of solidity to the interior which has now been dissipated by their removal. The columns, quatrefoil on plan, are widely spaced, and support an elegant arcade above which is the clerestory, pierced by small single lancets, two to each bay. The aisles are lit by two ranges of paired lancets, above and below the former galleries. The roof is carried on simple wooden trusses of meagre design, supported on brackets. Each truss is placed over the top of an arch of the arcade, and the resulting division of each bay into two parts tends to confuse the architectural logic of the design.
Vulliamy's original design provided polygonal apsidal projections at the east and west ends, but these were not built. In 1876 the east end was extended under the direction of the architect, R. J. Withers, to provide the present chancel and vestries and an organ chamber. (fn. 98) The east wall of the chancel is a scholarly composition in the Early English style with three stepped lancets set in five stepped-lancet panels. In 1880 a faculty was given for the erection of a reredos, for the reseating of the north and south galleries, and for the opening out of an arch westwards from the organ chamber. The reredos is of wood with a finely carved Last Supper, and has polychromatic decoration. Subsequent to a faculty of 1894, the chancel floor was extended westwards, a dwarf screen wall and ironwork were erected, new stalls were provided, and the walls of the organ chamber were raised in what is now the Lady Chapel north of the chancel. In 1921 the organ was removed to its present position in the west gallery. Beneath this there is a robustly designed font in which green marble and glazed tiles figure prominently.
Until 1948 the greater part of the interior was coloured, and the whole of the surfaces of columns and arcading up to the stringcourse was covered with printed patterns, with angel motifs in the spandrels. The ceiling surfaces of the nave and aisles were decorated with repeat patterns, that to the nave being an I.H.S. motif. On the wall spaces between each window of the north and south aisles were murals painted on canvas, but these were removed in 1950. (fn. 99)
West London Tabernacle, Penzance Place
This building, which has been in commercial use for very many years, was originally erected in the 1860's by Mr. Varley, a Baptist businessman who began to preach in the neighbouring Potteries in about 1863. It was enlarged and 'beautified' in 1871–2 to designs by Habershon and Pite. (fn. 100) It is built of yellow stock bricks with stone dressings, the style being a free adaptation of Italian Renaissance. The south front is flanked by two towers, now partially demolished, which contained staircases to the galleries. The centre of this elevation was pierced by a largesemi-circular-headed window with a hood moulding in the form of a pointed arch.
Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, St. James's Gardens
This synagogue was built by Bovis Limited in 1928 to designs by S. B. Pritlove, with M. N. Castello acting as consultant architect. It was consecrated \on 9 December of that year. (fn. 101) It is built of dark multi-coloured stock bricks, with stucco dressings. The style of the exterior is Byzantine. The interior is one large space approximately square on plan, with a gallery round three sides, and is in the late seventeenth-century manner.
SELECT LIST OF BUILDING LESSORS AND LESSEES ON THE NORLAND ESTATE
Except where otherwise indicated, the dates refer to the years in which the leases were granted: these are not always the date of actual building. Lessors' and lessees' addresses are given only for those resident outside Kensington. The chief source is the Middlesex Land Register in the Greater London Record Office at County Hall.
Addison Avenue, east side
Addison Avenue, west side
Darnley Terrace, north side
Holland Park Avenue, north side
Norland Square, east side
|2–4 consec.||Charles Richardson, solicitor, to Charles Stewart, barrister, 1842.|
|5, 6||Richardson to Charles Patch, builder, 1843.|
|7–16 consec.||Richardson to John Cole Bennett, gentleman, 1843.|
|17, 18||Richardson to Stewart, 1842.|
Norland Square, north side
|19–35 consec.||Richardson to Walter Richardson of Regent Street, gentleman, 1843. Not all occupied until 1852–3.|
Norland Square, west side
Princedalc Road, east side
Princedale Road, west side
Princes Place, north side
|1–19 consec.||Charles Richardson, solicitor, to James Jessup of Shepherd's Bush, bricklayer, 1844–5. Nos. 1–10 demolished.|
Princes Place, south side
|20–25 consec.||Richardson to George Worster of Deptford, bricklayer, 1844.|
|26–37 consec.||Richardson to Jessup, 1844. Nos. 27–37 demolished.|
|Lessees from Charles Richardson, solicitor, include Jonathan Gotobed of Edmonton, George Pratt and J. W. Clarke, all builders, and W. T. Roper, surveyor, 1845–9.|
Queensdale Road, north side
Queensdale Road, south side
|1, 2||Charles Richardson, solicitor, to William Carson, surveyor (Richardson's clerk of works), 1844.|
|3–5 consec.||Richardson to James Emmins of Bayswater, builder, 1844.|
St. Ann's Road, east side
St. Ann's Road, west side
|1–19 odd||Richardson to May, 1851. Demolished.|
|21–31 odd||Richardson to Edward Bifield, builder, 1851. Demolished.|
St. Ann's Villas, east side
|2–10 even||Charles Richardson, solicitor, to Charles Stewart, barrister, 1843.|
|12–34 even||Richardson to Stewart, 1845–6.|
St. Ann's Villas, west side
St. James's Gardens, south side
St. James's Gardens, west side
|9–13 consec.||Commenced by Adkin on behalf of St. James's Square Benefit Building Society, 1848. Completed after Adkin's bankruptcy by Nicholson and Son, 1849. Designed by Barnett.|
St. James's Gardens, north side
|14–24 consec.||Built by Nicholson and Son, for the St. James's Square Benefit Building Society, 1849–50. Designed by Barnett, who purchased Nos. 15–17, 1852.|