Survey of London: Volume 38, South Kensington Museums Area. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1975.
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Until c. 1865 Gloucester Road continued northward from Kensington Gate to the Kensington Road, this northern portion being a narrow lane bounded on the west side by the curtilage of Noel House (see page 15) and on the east by the Campden Charities trustees' estate in Hyde Park Gate (fig. 9). But in 1861 the building firm of W. Cubitt and Company had bought Noel House and its grounds for redevelopment. (fn. 2) At first the company intended to build a road down the length of this land, parallel with the narrow northern portion of Gloucester Road, to which it would be joined at the southern boundary of the company's property. (fn. 3) By January 1862, however, Cubitts were proposing to the Campden trustees 'that a great public benefit would result if instead of there being two narrow roads close together and leading to the same place, one fine street was made by adding to our road the width of Gloucester Road and doing away with the latter altogether'. (fn. 4) The Campden trustees agreed, and in July 1865 Cubitts obtained the necessary Act of Parliament. This provided for the closure of the northern portion of Gloucester Road and the division of the area of the former road between Cubitts and the Campden Charities trustees. (fn. 5)
Cubitts had not, however, waited until 1865 before starting to build. The position of the west side of the road, which would have served as well for their original intention if the Act had not been secured, was fixed in 1862, and during the next four to five years they erected ten large terraced houses there. These are now numbered 1–15 (odd) Palace Gate (as the new street was called), and 58 and 59 Hyde Park Gate. Additionally they built under contract a partially detached house at No. 1A (now completely remodelled, see below). Stables were provided in Canning Place Mews which Cubitts laid out at the same time. (fn. 6)
The elevational design of these houses was probably produced in Cubitts' own office, and is rather French in character, particularly in its treatment of the dormer windows (fig. 13). At first an unattractive yellow brick was used in building but later houses, south of No. 1A, have wholly stuccoed fronts.
Cubitts appear to have disposed of the houses on long leases with an option to purchase the freehold. No. 1, the first to be taken, was sold in 1863 for £8,400 on a ninety-nine-year lease at £100 a year, with an option on the freehold (which was taken up) for £2,500. But to judge from the very slow rate of occupancy the houses were not popular, especially those in Palace Gate itself, prospective customers being perhaps deterred by the unfinished state of the road. In 1871 only four of the ten houses were occupied, including a clerk of works at No. 15. (fn. 7) At any event Cubitts did not develop any of the remaining sites on this side themselves. In 1869 the triangular plot at the corner of Palace Gate and Canning Place was taken for a large private house (see below), and the rest of the ground on the west side, between No. 15 and the outside wall of the mews, was filled up with red-brick houses and flats erected by the builder C. A. Daw in the 1880's. (fn. 8)
On the east side of Palace Gate building did not begin until c. 1869. Here there was no speculative building. Cubitts divided the ground into large building plots which, with one exception, they sold as freeholds. The very high price of these plots (equivalent to about £100 per foot of frontage) discouraged speculators, as was no doubt intended, and resulted in the building of six large detached houses, individually designed for wealthy clients. Cubitts were engaged as the contractors for five of these houses (and probably also for the sixth), in which they were able to demonstrate their skill and versatility in dealing with a variety of architectural styles and building materials.
No. 1A Palace Gate: Palace Gate House
Plate 112; fig. 14
The present No. 1A is an almost total reconstruction, in 1896–8, of the house which Cubitts had built on this site in 1862–4 for the historian and biographer, John Forster, who wrote his life of Dickens there. (fn. 9) Forster had bought the freehold of the plot from Cubitts in June 1862 for £1,800. (fn. 10) According to one journal he supplied his own designs, (fn. 11) but the street elevation hardly differed from Cubitts' other houses in this part of Palace Gate, although the house was, and still is, partially detached from its neighbours. (fn. 12) Forster's part in the design therefore was probably confined to the internal arrangements, which included accommodation for his famous library, (fn. 1) and a fire-proof muniment room. (fn. 13) Forster removed to Palace Gate from his house in Montague Square in 1864. (fn. 14) After his death in 1876 his executors tried unsuccessfully to sell the house at auction and his widow continued to live there until 1894. (fn. 15)
It was not occupied again until after the reconstruction of 1896–8. (fn. 16) This was done for William Alfred Johnstone, the youngest son of the mid nineteenth-century newspaper proprietor, James Johnstone, from whom he had inherited a share in the Standard newspaper. (fn. 17) For his architect Johnstone turned to a man in his early thirties (Johnstone himself was still only in his twenties) whose work was already well known to him. This was C. J. Harold Cooper, a prominent figure in the Arts and Crafts movement who died in 1909 with only a handful of buildings to his credit. (fn. 18) His death was attributed to cirrhosis of the liver and exhaustion. (fn. 19) The Johnstone family were Cooper's most important clients. Two of William's brothers (while both in their twenties) had already commissioned designs from him: a large Tudor-style country house at Newmarket for W. M. Johnstone in 1892 and a town house at No. 15 Stratton Street, Piccadilly, for H. A. Johnstone in 1895. (fn. 20) Cooper also designed the block of chambers at No. 16 Stratton Street for H. A. Johnstone. The external appearance of No. 1A Palace Gate is very similar to No. 15 Stratton Street, both houses being in a much simpler and less historicist style than the house at Newmarket. Perhaps with these London houses in mind the German critic Hermann Muthesius characterized Cooper's style as imitative of historical forms but modern in its total effect. (fn. 21)
Cooper was a member of the Art Workers' Guild, and, in the words of his obituary, 'a constant advocate of the closer co-operation and association of the architect and the craftsman'. To achieve this 'he gathered around him a band of artists of distinction in their different crafts, who, working together under him and with him, were jointly responsible for the decoration of his buildings'. (fn. 18) The artists and craftsmen thus employed on the reconstruction of No. 1A, all of them members of the Guild, were Stirling Lee, W. S. Frith, F. W. Pomeroy and A. G. Walker (stone-, wood- and plasterwork); Nelson Dawson (ironwork); Selwyn Image and Christopher Whall (glasswork); John Cooke (frescoes and soft furnishings). Regular meetings were held in the house at which they criticized each other's work. Considerable trouble was taken over the details, each feature being tried out in situ beforehand, and but for the 'endless patience and care' of the associate architect, Graham H. Nicholas, Cooper doubted if the work 'could have been done at all'. (fn. 22) Most of the artists and craftsmen also worked at Stratton Street, as did the contractors, James Simpson and Son of St. Marylebone and Kentish Town, a firm particularly favoured by Cooper. (fn. 23) The work of the reconstruction was begun in August 1896. (fn. 8)
In 1899 the finished house received an enthusiastic appreciation from G. H. Leonard in The Studio, the spokesman for avant-garde taste at the time: 'from the great gable that holds itself so high down to the very doorstep that meets the street it has "distinction" written everywhere for those who know how to read.' It was modern, up-to-date, and clearly of the nineteenth century (though not built in a nineteenth-century way); a 'house of today' without any affectations of being Tudor or Gothic, or in any particular style. It 'leaves the impression', said Leonard, 'that it is a house built for a gentleman by gentlemen.' (fn. 24)
Johnstone lived in the house only very briefly between 1898 and 1903, when he removed to Wadham Gardens, near Swiss Cottage. (fn. 16) During his occupation of No. 1A he appears to have shared the house with Alfred E. T. Watson, the musical and dramatic critic of the Standard and The Times. (fn. 25)
With its tall gable and Portland stone façade, considered 'rather audaciously white' (fn. 26) when new, the exterior of No. 1A contrasts sharply with the staid brick and stucco-work of its neighbours (Plate 112a). The exterior is unmistakably of its own time, as Leonard said, while recalling the wealthy burghers' houses in North German and Flemish cities. The carefully contrived vertical emphasis of the design is skilfully set off by the slim pilaster strips which frame the building, whilst the finely jointed ashlar of the facade is saved from monotony by the variety and disposition of the mullioned-and-transomed windows with leaded lights.
The interior is remarkable for having survived almost intact, even down to the light fittings. It is entered by a vaulted porch and a panelled vestibule which lead to the hall, beyond which lies the dining-room (Plate 112d). The latter has a high panelled dado and canted panelled roof supported on arched trusses which spring from corbels set into the plain stone walls. The room is oblong, with a bay window at the north-west corner and a large Baronial fireplace in the centre of the south wall.
The staircase is panelled, with plastered soffits and ceilings decorated with motifs reminiscent of Jacobean strapwork. The decorations of the balustrades also owe a stylistic debt to the early seventeenth century.
On the first floor the long narrow drawingroom extends from the front to the back of the house, terminated at each end by arches which separate the room from the window-bays (Plate 112c). The walls above the dado were originally covered with silk panels hung between wooden pilasters to which the delicate electric-light fittings are attached. Pearwood is used for the dado and the pilasters and for the jointed door which has bronze furniture. (fn. 27) The slightly arched ceiling and frieze are of carved plaster. The fireplaces are of green Irish and red Verona marbles, with yellow Siena in the panels, and are based on a design derived from Book VII of Serlio. Although now subdivided with a screen, the drawing-room is an extraordinary survival of the Yellow Book period.
At the back of the house was a galleried museum of which only the ceiling and roof-light survive, the gallery-well having been filled in to form an extra floor. The walls here were panelled in mahogany while the gallery was hung with Morocco leather stained green. The floor was of Pavonazza marble inlaid with red and yellow Verona. The gallery and staircase had elaborate art nouveau balustrades by Nelson Dawson (Plate 112b). (fn. 27)
The bedrooms were panelled and had built-in furniture in keeping with Cooper's recommendation that bedroom decoration should be simple and modest. He criticized the 'hideously beflowered' wallpapers common at the time which he considered especially unpleasant for anyone confined to bed during an illness. His aim throughout was to achieve a unity of furnishing and decoration. 'The best way to preserve unity', he wrote, 'is to have faith in the three [sic] old English attributes of good design, i.e., refinement with strength, and honest, sterling workmanship'. (fn. 28) Palace Gate House is a successful monument to that faith.
Nos. 33–37 (odd) Palace Gate
Plate 93a; fig. 15
Originally in single occupation as No. 37 Palace Gate, this large red-brick house at the corner with Canning Place was built in about 1869–70 for a landed gentleman, Reginald Cholmondeley, to whom Cubitts granted a ninety-nine-year lease from September 1870, at £100 per annum. (fn. 29) The architect was Frederick Pepys Cockerell, who also worked for Cholmondeley on the restoration of his country seat, Condover Hall, Shropshire. (fn. 30) As well as being a considerable landowner Cholmondeley was an enthusiastic amateur sculptor of some accomplishment. Many of the elaborate sculptural decorations at Condovet Hall are his work, and in Condover Church he assisted G. F. Watts with the carving of a family tomb. (fn. 31) (Watts was also a friend of Cockerell and commissioned him to design his house in Melbury Road. (fn. 32) The accommodation at No. 37 included a large north-lit studio on the first floor. There are some meagre sculptural decorations on the exterior of the house, in the pediment, around the entrance and incised on panels in the porch, but it is not known if any of this is Cholmondeley's work. The introduction of such vaguely Jacobean features as shaped gables and strapwork round a few of the windows does little to mitigate the harshness of Cockerell's elevations which now seem gaunt and unattractive. The house had one contemporary admirer, however, in (Sir) Henry Cole who considered it 'new and original with some character'. (fn. 33)
Cholmondeley lived here from 1873 until 1878: a later occupant from 1904 to 1911 was Frank Baden-Powell. (fn. 16)
The first person to purchase a site on the east side of Palace Gate was the eighth Duke of Bedford, who in 1869 paid £16,682 for two plots at the north corner. (fn. 34) Here Cubitts built for him a large stone-faced mansion, designed in a style described as 'Tudor Elizabethan' by Frederick Jameson. It cost nearly £18,000 and was known as Thorney House. (fn. 35) There is nothing in the Bedford archives to show why the Duke, who already had a town house in Belgrave Square, should have also wanted to build Thorney House. Perhaps he had intended to move there to be nearer his mistress, a resident nearby in Leonard's Place, but she died in 1870, before the house was finished, and the Duke remained at Belgrave Square. (fn. 36) In fact no member of the Russell family ever lived in Thorney House and the first occupant, in 1875, was James Watney, M.P. for East Surrey. (fn. 16) Prior to Watney's occupation the grounds of the house had been considerably extended by the ninth Duke, who had to pay £6,362 to Cubitts for another plot in Palace Gate and £18,500 to the Campden Charities trustees for the freehold of some adjoining land in Hyde Park Gate. (fn. 37) (fn. c1)
Auction particulars drawn up in 1894 provide a detailed description of the house, which was then said to have been built 'regardless of cost'. On the north side the projecting porch, provided with a glass and iron canopy to ensure 'complete protection from the weather', gave access through double oak doors to the central hall or corridor, forty-six feet long and eleven feet wide, and paved with tesselated tiles. Doors from the corridor opened into the dining-room, library and principal drawing-room, the latter thirty feet in length and separated by an open arch from a smaller room nineteen feet long. At the south-east and southwest corners respectively was a smoking-room and morning-room, and a dog-leg stone staircase, each flight some five feet wide, provided access to the first floor. The principal accommodation here consisted of three large bedrooms and two dressingrooms, and the staircase was continued up to the attic, where there were four more bedrooms. In the basement the domestic offices consisted of a kitchen, which contained a range, oven, high-pressure boiler, smoke-jack, hot plate and a large gas stove; a scullery having a range with oven and boiler, a copper, and a stone sink equipped with hot and cold water supply; a pantry also equipped with hot and cold water; and a larder, knife room, lamp room, servants' hall, housekeeper's room, footman's room, butler's bedroom, and footman's bedroom (with no window); as well as 'capital Wine, Beer, and Coal Cellars, and Strong Room'.
The heating of the house was by register stoves, of which there were no less than nineteen. Even so the hall must often have been cold, for it had no stove. Gas was 'laid on throughout the house', its main purpose being for illumination, but it was (as mentioned above) also used for cooking, and for the heating of the butler's bedroom. With a cistern in the attic, water was available on all floors, but there was nevertheless only one bathroom, a palatial affair on the first floor, equipped with a 'large size bath in mahogany casing fitted with hot and cold water supplies, waste and Douche', and a register stove. Hot and cold water was, however, available in the housemaids' closet in the attic, and there was one water closet on each of the four storeys, that on the ground floor having a 'valve apparatus and mahogany fittings' and also a hand basin with a marble top.
One of the attic bedrooms was evidently intended for the use of female servants, for it could only be entered through the housemaids' closet, while another without a stove was possibly intended for male domestics; and it is perhaps surprising that no separate servants' staircase was provided in such a large house. (fn. 38)
Thorney House was eventually sold by the Russell family trustees in 1898 and in the following year a plan to erect a block of flats on the site was successfully resisted by the residents of Palace Gate. (fn. 39) But in 1904–5 Thorney House was demolished and a large block of flats called Thorney Court was built on the site to the designs of W. J. N. Millard and T. E. Pryce. (fn. 40) Thorney Court was itself demolished in 1972.
No. 2 Palace Gate
Plate 94a, 94c, 94d; fig. 16
Of all the houses originally built in Palace Gate, the only one to receive any serious attention in contemporary journals was No. 2, and that was probably more on account of the celebrity of its owner, the artist (Sir) John Everett Millais, than for the quality of its architecture. Financially secure, with a well established reputation among rich and aristocratic patrons as a portrait painter, Millais could well afford to join other fashionable artists in having a studio-home designed and built to suit his own particular requirements. The site alone, which he bought from Cubitts in March 1873, cost £8,400: (fn. 41) the cost of the house itself was never disclosed. Millais' friend, the architect P. C. Hardwick, provided the design, and with Cubitts as the contractors work began in July 1873. (fn. 42)
When the Architectural Association visited the house in April 1876 building appears to have been virtually completed, (fn. 43) and in June The Builder expected Millais to move in before the end of the year. (fn. 44) But according to his son it was not until 1878 that he gave up his previous home at No. 7 Cromwell Place and 'finally took possession of the large house that he built at Palace Gate'. (fn. 45) He remained there until his death in 1896. (fn. 16)
Compared with other houses being built for artists at that time Hardwick's Italianate-style design seems rather conservative and even unimaginative. Millais' admirers, however, had no doubt that it was a house whose style suited that of its owner. 'It is characteristic of the man', wrote Walter Armstrong, 'None of the thought-out quaintness of the Anglo-Dutch revival, but a great plain, square house, with an excrescence here and there where demanded by convenience.' (fn. 46) Previously John Oldcastle had noted, with evident approval, that 'Mr. Millais . . . has built himself an artist's house into which the aestheticism of the day does not enter; no, not by so much as a peacock fan'. 'The great red house at Palace Gate', he continued, 'is above all things remarkable for the absence of every kind of affectation. . . . It has not been built in order that it might abide as a monument of taste, but chiefly that it might stand as the beautiful house of a household.' (fn. 47)
In planning, too, the house was rather oldfashioned, with the principal rooms on the first floor, arranged en suite around a central landing. The largest room was Millais' studio, which occupied a whole wing at the back. It was well equipped to deal with various practical problems like lighting, storage, and the moving of large canvases, (fn. 43) though with its carpeted floor and tapestry-covered walls the studio looked more like a comfortable sitting-room than an artist's workshop (Plate 94c; fig. 16). (fn. 48)
The appearance and decoration of the interior during Millais' occupation were described in great detail in The Magazine of Art in 1881 and have been well recorded in drawings and photographs. Now only the fittings survive. These include some carved marble fireplaces by Bücknow, (fn. 49) the Sicilian marble floors in the hall and on the landing, the wrought-iron staircase balustrade, and on the landing a marble basin forming part of the fountain, designed by J. Edgar Boehm, in which the water originally spouted from the mouth of a black marble seal. (fn. 50)
Cubbits' building work was admired at the time and drew from The Builder the comment, 'When we say that Messrs. Cubitt & Co. are the contractors, we need hardly add that the materials and workmanship throughout are the best of their kind'. (fn. 43) Sir Henry Cole was another admirer. He twice visited the house during construction, and on being shown over it by Millais in April 1877, noted in his diary that it was 'finely built'. (fn. 51)
No. 4 Palace Gate
This house, whose attractive if slightly overfenestrated street façade has rather a Continental air, was designed by Edward Salomons and J. P. Jones for Paul Hardy Nathan, (fn. 52) a young Hamburg-born shipping merchant and banker. (fn. 53) Building began in January 1873, Cubitts being the contractors, (fn. 8) and in July 1874 Nathan took a ninety-nine-year lease of the site, effective from Christmas 1872. (fn. 54) He had come to England, aged sixteen, in 1859, settled in Manchester and became a naturalized British subject in 1864. (fn. 55) Later he came to London and prior to moving into No. 4 Palace Gate in 1875 was living in Princes Gate. Two years later he changend his name to Paul Nathan Hardy. (fn. 56) He died in 1901, at his then recently acquired country house in Sussex, leaving 'effects' valued at over half a million pounds. (fn. 57)
No. 6 Palace Gate
Plates 93b, 94b, 95
This house, which like No. 4 looks rather more Continental than English, was erected, probably between 1873 and 1876, for Colonel A. W. H. Meyrick. Cubitts were doubtless the builders but the architect is not known. Meyrick was a Crimean War veteran who had recently retired after twenty-six years' service with the Scots Fusilier Guards. (fn. 58) In 1865 he had inherited the famous collection of arms and armour formed by his cousin, Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick, but after (it is said) unsuccessfully offering it to the Government for £50,000 he began in 1871 to sell it piecemeal, and some of the finest pieces may now be seen in the Wallace Collection. (fn. 59) In 1873 Meyrick bought the site of No. 6 from Cubitts, (fn. 60) but when the house was finished he did not occupy it, and in April 1876 he sold it to the Hon. John Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, (fn. 61) later seventeenth Baron Saye and Sele. (fn. 62) This was Fiennes's fourth home in the area. In the 1850's he had lived at No. 25 Kensington Gate; (fn. 63) then he became, successively, the first occupant of Nos. 16 Queen's Gate Terrace (1862), 40 Queen's Gate (1876) and 6 Palace Gate (1877). (fn. 16)
The next occupant of No. 6, from 1884 until his death in 1925, was William Gillian who merited an obituary in The Times on account of his family connexions with Brigadier-General John Nicholson, the 'Hero of Delhi'. (fn. 64) In c. 1890 Gillilan called in the architect (Sir) William Emerson to redecorate the interior of the house (fn. c2) Emerson had practised in India which doubtless explains his employment here, and nearby in Queen's Gate (see page 342). (fn. 65) His work at No. 6 was recorded in a series of photographs taken in 1891, two of which are reproduced on Plate 95.
No. 8 Palace Gate
Plate 93b; fig. 17
The purchaser of the site of this house, in April 1873, was Henry Francis Makins, a wealthy thirty-one-year-old barrister with 'artistic' inclinations. (fn. 66) Since 1868 he had occupied a conventional terraced house on a builder's development in nearby Prince of Wales Terrace, (fn. 67) but his new house in Palace Gate was built in the advanced 'red-brick' style usually known as 'Queen Anne'. Makins commissioned the design from J. J. Stevenson (fn. 68) whose own house in Bayswater (The Red House), begun in 1871, was a prominent early example of the same style. (fn. 69)
No. 8 was only the second London house to be designed by Stevenson and not surprisingly its street elevation is strikingly similar to The Red House. Both are three storeys high, with a basement and an attic, and six windows wide. Each has a canted bay rising to the roof, dormer windows, a wrought-iron balcony across the full width of the house at first-floor level, and a pedimented niche just above the balcony. At No. 8 this niche has been made into a window but early photographs show it holding a china vase. Both houses were built of stock bricks (brown at Bayswater and yellow at Palace Gate) with redbrick dressings. Stevenson preferred this combination to an unrelieved mass of red brick. (fn. 70) The cut-brick decorations which are often a feature of Stevenson's houses occur only on No. 8 though they do not appear in the drawings.
In 1875 the design for Makins' house was exhibited at the Royal Academy where The Builder hailed it as a 'typical Queen Anne House' which 'completely succeeds in imposing itself upon the spectator as a house of the period'. (fn. 71) The Building News recognized that the house had 'a genuine domestic look', but criticized 'the remarkable want of anything like grace or good proportion'. In particular it disliked the cut of the pilasters at first-floor level which support 'something between an entablature and an attic' and 'is unusually unsuccessful even for a design of this type'. (fn. 72)
At the Academy the design was attributed to Stevenson and his partner E. R. Robson, who also appears as joint architect in the published tender. (fn. 73) Their partnership was formed in 1871 but what part, if any, Robson played in the evolution of the design is unknown. Drawings for the house, made by Stevenson, but unsigned and not quite as executed, were ready in May 1873 (fn. 68) and building probably began in September, Cubitts being the contractors. (fn. 74) Their tender was for £8,615. (fn. 73) Cubitts' prices were one of the reasons why, in Stevenson's opinion, No. 8 Palace Gate was relatively more expensive to build than the house in Lowther Gardens which he designed for Colonel W. T. Makins, H. F. Makins' elder brother, in 1876. (fn. 75) The house at Palace Gate was built with fire-proof floors and with cavity walls—an early example of this method of construction. (fn. 68)
H. F. Makins moved into No. 8 in 1875 but after eleven years he removed to No. 180 Queen's Gate, another house designed and built especially for him, the architect this time being R. Norman Shaw (see page 333). No. 8 Palace Gate is now divided into flats.
No. 10 Palace Gate
Plates 84b, 93e, 114c
The building history of the house which preceded the present block of flats is not altogether clear. In October 1871 Cubitts were about to start work on a 'dwelling' at the south-east corner of Palace Gate (fn. 8) which can probably be identified as No. 10 since the latter appears on the Ordnance Survey map of the following year. The house had apparently been paid for by Henry Parkinson Sharp of Park Lane, a solicitor with a City office, to whom Cubitts sold the site in February 1875. (fn. 76) It is not known who designed it but when alterations costing £12,000 were undertaken in 1876 the architect was Thomas Edward Knightley. (fn. 77) Six years later, however, tenders were published for the 'completion' of the house (by then known as Bleasdale) in which W. Howard Seth-Smith was the named architect. (fn. 78) Further alterations were made in 1886-7 (fn. c3) and it was not until 1888 that Sharp at last moved in. (fn. 79) He lived there until his death at Cannes in 1894. (fn. 80)
The house was of red brick, large and heavy, with French Renaissance details. An unusual and unexplained feature was a single-storey extension on the south side, roofed with a shallow dome and cupola, rather like a seventeenth-century 'banqueting house'. (fn. 81)
In 1937 the original house was replaced by the present block of flats. Designed by the Anglo-Canadian architect, Wells Coates, the building employed his ingenious 'three-two' system of planning. (fn. 82) The principle is that two floors on one side of the block are equal in height to three floors on the opposite side, thus providing living-rooms of 'double height' (in fact one-and-a-half height) on the two-floor side. The entrances are at the level of the middle room on the three-floor side, from which steps go up to the top flat living-room and down to the bottom flat living-room. Apart from providing rooms of different height an advantage of this system is that the single-height rooms at the middle level can be taken into either the top or bottom flat, or alternatively into the adjoining flats, without structural alteration, giving both vertical and horizontal flexibility in the apportionment of accommodation. (fn. 83)
Bewildered, perhaps, by its complexities developers had been reluctant to try the system. But in winter 1936–7 Coates met Randal M. Bell, the developer of several blocks of conventional flats in the Home Counties, who was prepared to adopt it. No. 10 Palace Gate, which was already up for sale, was acquired and demolished and work on the new flats began in 1937. Built in reinforced concrete with a novel artificial stone cladding they were completed and first occupied in 1939. Intending residents had a wide choice, and rents ranged from £175 to £425 for the flats and £700 for a penthouse. The intervention of the war of 1939–45 did not discourage tenants and the development was accounted a success. (fn. 84)
In an elaboration of the basic system the high living-rooms, all on the eastern side, are separated horizontally by single-height rooms so that on this front the 'three-two' system is clearly expressed in the fenestration. On the western elevation (the 'three' side) the 'middle' levels containing the entrances are expressed by open galleries. The Palace Gate site was not in fact ideally adapted to 'three-two', which requires length rather than depth, and to make full use of the land an annexe was built on the west side, planned on conventional lines, and joined to the main block by a glazed staircase and lift shaft (Plate 114c). The annexe's concave front and its relation to the main block strengthen the recollection, on this side, of Corbusier's Pavillion Suisse.