Survey of London: Volume 39, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1977.
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The Estate in Trust, 1785–1808
Towards the end of the eighteenth century tenants on the Mayfair estate began to apply to Lord Grosvenor for the renewal of their leases. The first such applicant, in 1774, was Lord Grosvenor's own lawyer, Thomas Walley Partington, for the two houses which he occupied on the south side of Brook Street. Although the original leases did not expire until 1801 and 1804 they were nevertheless renewed to 1826 at the same low ground rent as hitherto, with no additional restrictive covenants and without a fine.
In the north-eastern portion of the estate virtually all of the original building leases had been granted for only eighty years instead of the more usual ninety-nine years, and in 1778–81 Lord Grosvenor evidently intended to renew the leases here for terms the expiry dates of which would correspond roughly with those in nearby areas of the estate. In 1778–9 he therefore employed (Sir) Robert Taylor and George Shakespear to make a detailed plan of the north-eastern portion, to estimate the repairs needed at each house, and to assess the value of the fines to be paid by the tenants in order 'to make up their present Terms 41 years from Michaelmas 1778'. (fn. 4) (fn. 1) In 1780 two leases, one in Grosvenor Street and the other in Davies Street, were renewed in conformity with this intention, and 'fines' or premiums were exacted for the first time; but the policy was abandoned soon afterwards. In Davies Street the extra rent payable if certain listed undesirable trades were practised was £60 per annum, whereas in Grosvenor Street it remained at the original figure of £30. (fn. 5)
With many more similar applications certain to be received during the next few years, the renewal terms to be offered would clearly require careful consideration, and this was probably the principal reason for Lord Grosvenor's appointment of a surveyor to advise him.
The extra revenue to be derived from the fines payable on the renewal of the Mayfair leases was indeed already being regarded as the salvation of the estate from the enormous debts which, as we have already seen in the previous chapter, had been incurred by the first Lord Grosvenor. As early as 1772, when he was wanting to borrow another £5,000, Partington was 'presuming to remind your Lordship that when you borrowed the last money you determin'd it should be the last you would borrow'. (fn. 6) By April 1779, however, the situation was worse, and with debts of over £150,000 Lord Grosvenor was compelled to mortgage all his estates to the Right Honourable Thomas Harley, the bankers Robert and Henry Drummond (with whom Lord Grosvenor had banked since 1765), and Partington, who, as trustees for all the creditors, agreed to 'advance to his Lordship a Sum sufficient to pay all his Lordship's Debts in London, at Newmarket and elsewhere'. In return Lord Grosvenor undertook 'to give up his racing System by Selling and disposing of his Horses as soon as the then next meeting should be over', and to order all his rents (except £1,000 per annum for the support of Eaton Hall, Chester, and Halkyn Hall, Flintshire) to be remitted to the trustees for the payment of family jointures and of the interest on his debts. Lord Grosvenor was to be allowed £4,000 per annum, and the residue was to provide a sinking fund for the discharge of the principal sums— 'which Fund was to be assisted by Fines to be now received for renewing Leases in Middlesex'. (fn. 7)
But this arrangement was not strict enough to salvage Lord Grosvenor (who did not in fact sell his horses until 1796), (fn. 8) and in 1781 Partington was exhorting him to 'turn your thoughts to what passed in April 1779, when your Friends stepped forward to save your Lordship from impending disgrace — pardon the word, but I call it so, because you had numerous creditors who would have brought disgrace upon you, had you not satisfyed them by the Assistance of such Friends as I believe no Nobleman in such a situation ever met with; by their means every Debt was paid, and a Plan laid down to retrieve your affairs—Think my Lord how these Friends must feel at the present situation of your Affairs, and how hurt they must be to find their most friendly efforts ineffectual, and that instead of securing your Lordship they are likely to suffer great inconvenience themselves.' (fn. 9)
Even this and other 'fruitless representations' from Partington proved ineffective, however, (fn. 10) and in 1785 Lord Grosvenor was finally compelled to convey virtually all his estates to the same trustees as in 1779 plus his brother Thomas Grosvenor, upon trust to sell several properties, but excluding those in Mayfair. (fn. 11) The revenue shortly to arise from the renewal of the Mayfair leases was again thought of as an important factor in 'reducing the enormous Debt', and when these new dispositions were still in course of discussion, Partington urged Lord Grosvenor that 'in my humble opinion the sooner your Lordship appoints your Surveyor the better'. (fn. 10)
It was therefore in these extremely inauspicious circumstances that the renewal of many of the original building leases in Mayfair was commenced. In the history of any great estate this is the time when the initiative in determining the future character of the property returns to the ground landlord, and the decisions made are therefore of crucial importance. In the 1780's there were few, if any, precedents to follow, for many of the London estates originally developed under the leasehold system in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth centuries had since been broken up, and almost the only survivors of any size were those of the Crown and the Dukes of Bedford. On the former there seems, at any rate until 1794, to have been no settled policy respecting renewals or rebuildings. (fn. 12) Although on the Bedford estate in Covent Garden it had been the practice since the middle of the seventeenth century to require payment of a fine for renewal of leases, some of which prohibited certain trades without licence from the ground landlord, the impact of estate policy there was not great. (fn. 13) And the same seems to have been true further west on the numerous small estates in the northern part of the parish of St. James, where the falling-in of original leases was not responsible for any identifiable turn of the fabric towards neglect or renewal. (fn. 14)
So the Grosvenor estate authorities had to formulate their own policies with little guidance from elsewhere, and as the sole object of the trustees established in 1785 was to pay off the debts they naturally adopted a course which would bring in money quickly. This was by granting renewals at a low ground rent but subject to a large fine for such a term as would, with the remaining years of the existing original lease, make up a total term of sixty-three years.
The first such lease granted by the trustees was in 1786, (fn. 15) and with some modifications in the ratio between the ground rent and the fine, this remained one of the basic features of estate policy in Mayfair for about a hundred years, and even then was not permanently abandoned. For the discharge of Lord Grosvenor's debts it proved eventually successful. Between 1789 and 1808 fines for the renewal of leases in Mayfair totalling over £180,000 were received, (fn. 16) and in the latter year the trust of 1785 was dissolved, the debts (with a few trifling exceptions) having been paid off. Some estates in Cheshire and Wales had had to be sold, but all those in London had been preserved intact. (fn. 17)
The authors of this policy were presumably Lord Grosvenor's surveyor and his trustees, two of whom, Robert and Henry Drummond, were bankers and therefore expert in money matters. The surveyor was William Porden, who held the post for some thirty-seven years before being finally superseded in 1821. Throughout this period he maintained his own private architectural practice, and (as previously mentioned) was paid a retaining fee or salary of £200 per annum by Lord Grosvenor. For valuations made for the renewal of leases he also received a fee of two guineas from the applicant, which was subsequently deducted from the fine payable to the trustees; (fn. 18) and for architectural work for Lord Grosvenor he also charged a commission of five per cent. (fn. 19) From 1796 until his death in 1822 he lived in Berners Street.
At first, as Partington had correctly foreseen in 1784, 'the money to be raised by renewing Leases' went 'but a little way' towards paying off the debts. (fn. 10) But in 1789 twelve leases were renewed, yielding fines totalling £6,581, (fn. 16) and this increase of business led at about this time to the establishment of a Board, the first known meeting of which was on 9 January 1789.
The records of the Grosvenor Board are contained in forty-six volumes of minute books extending from 1789 to about 1920. Throughout this period the Board dealt primarily with the renewal of leases, and also with any other matter affecting the estate. When the development of Belgravia, and later of Pimlico, began, the records became more voluminous, and later in the nineteenth century the amount of information recorded in each entry—which had at first been extremely sparse—became considerably more detailed. But throughout the whole period the method of entry remained basically the same: each item of business was entered, with the date, under the name of the applicant (or, in later years, of the address of the premises under consideration), generally on a new page, but sometimes, when space permitted, half way down beneath a short item of other completed business. Often in later years the entry for one item may extend over many pages and several volumes, and sometimes the chronological sequence of entries is confused by references back to a previous page or even volume where a blank space was deemed a suitable place to continue the record.
The names of those present at meetings were never recorded, but the members of the Board were, evidently, one or more of the partners from Boodle and Partington, the estate surveyor, the agent, and of course, whenever he desired to come, the reigning member of the Grosvenor family. The other trustees do not seem to have attended. The meetings were held weekly, until about 1838 at Boodle's office in Brook Street (fn. 20) and subsequently in 'the Board Room' at the Grosvenor Office at No. 53 Davies Street. In 1808 some fifty items of business were being considered at a single meeting, and the drafting of the minutes was evidently done by Lord Grosvenor's clerk and future agent, Edmund Empy.
The part played by the successive owners of the estate in the deliberations of the Board naturally varied according to the personal disposition of each holder of the Grosvenor family title. Often they were absent, 'out of town' or otherwise committed, but in general they seem to have attended assiduously when possible, and of course their wishes (sometimes conveyed in their absence in writing) overruled those of the other members of the Board. The first Earl Grosvenor made at least two decisions of some long-term importance, insisting in 1794 that in the renewal of leases the first claimant should be the owner of the existing lease, (fn. 21) and in 1791 (at Porden's instance) refusing to renew the leases of the houses on the site of the modern Nos. 93–99 (consec.) Park Lane in order to facilitate rebuilding at a later date. (fn. 22) He also provided the name for a 'Row of new buildings in the Road leading to Chelsea', and even concerned himself in such a trivial matter as the repair of a parish watchhouse; but he wisely refused to interfere with the valuations which Porden made for the renewal of leases. (fn. 23)
Until 1808 the main object of the Board was to pay off the debts on the estate, and 'Lord Grosvenor's general terms' for renewal were therefore (as Edward Boodle informed an applicant in 1796) to extend 'the subsisting term to 63 years from the time of granting the renewal upon payment of a fine proportionate to the number of years to be added and calculated upon the rent or annual value after deducting the ground rents and land tax'. (fn. 24) The fine was payable immediately, but the new rent did not commence until the expiry of the original term. Whenever an application was received Porden would inspect the house and assess the annual value or rack rent, and also the appropriate ground rent which, until the debts were paid off, was kept very low in order to maximise the fine. The amount of the fine was then calculated, evidently by Boodle or Empy, and the terms sent to the applicant.
These calculations were based, at least as early as 1795, upon the published 'Tables of calculation', sometimes referred to as 'Smart's Tables'. (fn. 25) Commencing in 1707 John Smart, described as 'at the Town-Clerk's Office, London', had published several editions of Tables of Simple and Compound Interest, which were evidently used at first by the Grosvenor Board. In 1802, however, Francis Baily, the astronomer, published greatly improved Tables for the purchasing and renewing of Leases, . . . with rules for determining the value of the reversion of estates after any such leases, which quickly ran through several editions and in 1811 were pirated (much to Baily's annoyance) by the architect William Inwood, whose compilation had by 1880 achieved twenty-one editions. (fn. 26)
The theory behind the tables was carefully explained by Baily. 'The sum paid down for the grant of a lease may be considered as so much money paid in advance for the annual rents, as they become due; or . . . it is such a sum given to the lessor as will enable him, by putting the money out to interest at the given rate, to repay himself the rack rent of the estate, or the yearly value of his interest therein, during the given term: all we have to do, therefore, in this inquiry, is to find out such a sum as, put out to interest at the rate required, will enable him to do this.' (fn. 27) This was done in his tables, (fn. 28) which gave the number by which the annual value was to be multiplied (referred to as the number of years' purchase) in order to obtain a lease for a given number of years, separate tables being provided for various rates of interest ranging from two to ten per cent.
On the Grosvenor estate, however, the leases being granted did not come into force immediately, but in reversion on the expiry of the subsisting term. In such cases the sum to be paid by the lessee for the addition of any number of years to the unexpired part of an old lease was equal to the difference between the value of the lease for the whole term (on the Grosvenor estate, sixty-three years) and the value of the unexpired part of this term already in the lessee's possession. (fn. 29) When this difference, expressed in years' purchase, had been calculated from the relevant table—that for five per cent was used on the Grosvenor estate at this time—the answer was multiplied by the annual value of the property after deduction of the ground rent and land tax, and provided the amount of the fine to be paid. (fn. 2)
During the course of negotiations for renewals countless calculations of this kind were made on the Grosvenor estate throughout the nineteenth century. The renewals were made for many years to the owner of 'the original lease from Lord Grosvenor's ancestor', (fn. 30) as the first Earl had decided in 1794. (fn. 21) This was often not the occupant, and the practice produced unsatisfactory results when the occupant had recently made improvements at his own expense. Thus in 1819 the Board minutes record that in the case of a public house in Grosvenor Mews (now Bourdon Street) the absentee head lessee had 'been in no respect a beneficial tenant to Lord Grosvenor, and should he treat for the renewal, it will only be to make a profit of the man who has been responsible for [the property]. . .; this system of giving an option to Lessees under such circumstances has been attended with considerable inconvenience to Lord Grosvenor, and is contrary to the practice of other large estates in London, who treat only with the occupier unless the original improver be living. On the Duke of Northumberland's estate the occupiers only are treated with.' (fn. 31)
In this particular case the head lessee refused to treat, and ultimately the renewal was granted to the occupant, but when the two parties were competing against each other, preference was given to the head lessee, even though the Board were fully aware that he would thus be able to continue to make a profit by charging the occupant a higher rent than that stipulated in the ground lease. (fn. 32) It was not until 1873 that a particularly extortionate example of this sort of practice, at No. 9 Upper Grosvenor Street, led the third Marquess of Westminster, on the strong recommendation of Thomas Cundy III, to renew to the occupant, (fn. 33) and two or three years later this was stated to be the usual practice. (fn. 34)
At first the rigidity of the system adopted by the Board for the assessment of fines met with hostility from some applicants. The Bishop of Gloucester, for instance, on being informed in 1795 that the fine for the renewal of the lease of his house at the corner of Davies Street and Grosvenor Street would be £3,010, 'expressed his surprize at the magnitude of the fine, and said he supposed it amounted to a prohibition to renew'. (fn. 35) But the fact that the calculation of the fines was made upon scientifically based published tables and could therefore be checked by the applicant meant that unless he was able to dispute Porden's valuation, he had no valid objection. And haggling over the amount of the fine was also generally useless, as the Marquess of Hertford, living in Grosvenor Street, found when he was politely informed in 1795 that 'however desirous Lord Grosvenor may be to meet his Lordship's wishes on all occasions, it is utterly out of his power to comply with them in this instance as the gentlemen who act as trustees of his Lordship's estates cannot without a flagrant breach of their trust submit to take £1,174 18s. 6d. less than the Tables of calculation warrant them in asking for the renewal'. (fn. 36)
The successful levy of fines did, however, depend upon the capacity of applicants to pay them, and when this capacity was much reduced by the financial crises of the later 1790's some modification of the Board's policy had to be made. Whereas the total yield from fines for renewals in Mayfair averaged £7,268 per annum between 1789 and 1792, it fell between 1793 and 1800 to an annual average of £3,183, and in 1794 nothing at all was paid. (fn. 16) In 1799 Samuel Stephens, a picture-frame maker and head lessee of a house in Brook Street, stated that 'from the difficulties of the times he is not able to raise money to pay the Fine for the renewal of the lease of his House' and therefore asked for a shorter-term repairing lease at a rack rent. (fn. 37) He was told that, 'as Lord Grosvenor's object must be to renew upon Fines', he could not have a lease at a rack rent so long as there was any possibility of renewing on a fine to any applicant who might present himself. Several such candidates did apply, but they all withdrew, and ultimately Stephens was granted a repairing lease at a rack rent, without a fine, for twenty-one or thirty-one years. (fn. 38) At about this time there were several other such cases, (fn. 39) and, again in 1799, one applicant to whom a thirty-one-year lease was granted was informed that Lord Grosvenor had now 'generally assented to the measures of granting repairing leases of such of the houses now nearly expiring as cannot be renewed upon a fine', (fn. 40) this being clearly preferable to allowing houses to stand empty.
Lord Grosvenor himself had not much helped his trustees in their efforts to pay off his debts. In 1791 he was borrowing yet more money, (fn. 41) and we have already seen that although he had agreed in 1779 to sell his racehorses he did not in fact do so until 1796, and three years later he was still active at Newmarket. (fn. 42) In 1798 his financial situation was critical once again, even his allowances to his son and his estranged wife being in arrears, and numerous creditors were hounding him for payment. (fn. 43) To one such the new agent, Abraham Moore, wrote, 'We literally have not the means of paying . . . at present. Lord Grosvenor's income is curtailed above one third during [the] continuance of the war and his London property rendered till the return of Peace incapable of improvement.' (fn. 44) In November 1798 Moore was 'almost destitute of means to support the ordinary expenses of Lord Grosvenor's reduced establishment', (fn. 45) and although his successful exploitation of the lead mines in North Wales yielded over £18,000 in 1800, (fn. 46) he had to tell Countess Grosvenor, whose allowance was again in arrears, that she would have to wait 'until I can turn some lead into money'. (fn. 47) In July 1801 he even had to borrow 'to prevent an execution going into his Lordship's house'. (fn. 48)
The full extent of Lord Grosvenor's debts at the time of his death on 5 August 1802 is not known, but in December 1804 the trust debt still amounted to over £108,000. (fn. 49) His son and heir, Robert, second Earl Grosvenor and later first Marquess of Westminster, was a very different man from his spendthrift father, and was evidently determined to discharge all the debts as fast as possible. This (as previously mentioned) he managed to do, with a few small exceptions, by 1808, when the trust of 1785 was dissolved, and completely by 1809. (fn. 50) Some lands in Cheshire and North Wales had been sold, but this astonishing recovery seems to have been largely due to the upturn of the national economy, which coincided roughly with the first Earl's death. This improved financial climate encouraged tenants to apply for the renewal of their leases, many of which had only a few more years to run, and was reflected in the receipt between 1801 and 1807 of fines from Mayfair totalling £114,553 (annual average £16,364) and from the North Wales lead mines between 1800 and 1804 of £139,460 (annual average £27,892). (fn. 51) It was also a remarkable testimony to the virtually limitless resilience of the Grosvenor family's vast resources.
The liquidation of the first Earl's debts in 1808–9 provides a convenient standpoint from which to examine the progress of the Mayfair estate during the previous twenty years. In general, this was the period when, mainly through the renewal of the original leases, the ground landlord began to exert his authority more strongly than hitherto. In those easy-going days, however, the extent of this control was still not very great, and only two major innovations seem to have been made.
The first of these, made in 1795, was to insert a clause in new leases requiring the tenant to insure his premises against fire. (fn. 52) After the burning of the Pantheon in Oxford Street in 1792 there was much public interest in the dangers of fire, and in 1793 the Duke of Bedford had started, in his repairing and building leases, to specify constructional preventive measures (fn. 53) —a policy not adopted on the Grosvenor estate until many years later. For some years after 1805 the second Earl Grosvenor's tenants were required to insure with the Globe Insurance Office, from which he had recently borrowed £30,000, (fn. 54) or by 1815 with 'some responsible Insurance Office'. (fn. 55)
The second innovation was, whenever reasonably possible, to insert in new leases of premises in certain of the 'best' streets an undertaking on the part of the lessee not to use the property for a 'Tavern, Coffee House or Public House or any Open or Public Shop nor for any Art, Trade or Manufactory whatsoever'. (fn. 56) This ban applied in Grosvenor Square, Upper Grosvenor Street, Upper Brook Street and Park Lane, and with some exceptions, in Grosvenor Street and Brook Street. It also applied to certain houses which backed on to Park Lane, notably the west side of New Norfolk (now Dunraven) Street and, at its southern extremity only, the west side of Park Street. (fn. 15)
The implementation within the best streets of the ban on 'any art, trade or manufactory whatsoever' was not always possible (except in Grosvenor Square, where commerce had never intruded), for by 1790 a substantial proportion of the houses in even some of these streets was already occupied by tradesmen, some practising the very trades listed in the original leases as having to pay the £30 surcharge on the ground rent. Thus in Grosvenor Street at least twelve out of some seventy-four occupied houses on the estate there, and in Brook Street some twelve out of forty on the estate, were in 1790 occupied by tradesmen, largely concentrated in both streets at the eastern ends. (fn. 57) So when Francis Grosse, a perfumer, applied to renew the lease of one of these houses in Grosvenor Street, no objection was raised, he agreeing in 1795 to accept the ban on a 'tavern, coffee house or public house or any open or public shop' in exchange for the omission of 'nor for any art, trade or manufactory whatsoever'. (fn. 58) Similarly, there was no objection in 1799 to Samuel Stephens, the picture-frame maker of Brook Street previously referred to, and the Board minutes record that 'the clause prohibiting any open or publick Shop must be qualified so as not to restrain him from carrying on his own business'. (fn. 59) Even the lease of the Lion and Goat public house at No. 5 Grosvenor Street was renewed in 1800 without difficulty, (fn. 60) but some trades were regarded as obnoxious, Porden in 1818, for instance, advising the Board not to renew the lease of a tallow chandler in or very near Upper Brook Street. (fn. 61)
Sometimes it was evidently for financial reasons that leases were renewed to tradesmen in these best streets. Thus in 1802 No. 43 Brook Street, having stood empty for a year after the expiry of the original lease and the refusal of the head lessee to renew on fine, was leased by Lord Grosvenor's authority to Pellot Kirkham as a hotel, despite this use being 'contrary to the restrictions contained in the leases of the other houses that have been renewed in Brook Street'. (fn. 62) Three years later, in precisely similar circumstances, William Wake of Wake's Hotel, Covent Garden, was allowed to open a hotel nearby at No. 49 Brook Street (now part of the site of Claridge's Hotel), and in both cases Lord Grosvenor actually helped them by using 'his influence' to obtain magistrates' licences for the sale of alcohol. (fn. 63) Extensions of trade in the principal streets were evidently not undertaken lightly, however, for in 1805 a bookseller's application to take No. 51 Brook Street (also now part of the site of Claridge's Hotel), which had been empty for over a year, was refused, and the house remained empty for another two years before being ultimately let on fine to a private resident. But pressure for permission to use houses in this part of Brook Street as hotels was evidently very strong, and although an application made by the lessee in 1812 on behalf of a hotel keeper, James Mivart, to use this house as a hotel was personally refused by Lord Grosvenor, Mivart was nevertheless using it as 'a private lodging house' in the following year. (fn. 64) It is to these establishments of Wake's and Mivart's that Claridge's Hotel traces its origin.
By about 1835, when all the leases in these best streets had been renewed, the effect of this policy seems to have been to rid Upper Grosvenor Street and Upper Brook Street of any such trade as had insinuated itself there in the eighteenth century. In Grosvenor Street and Brook Street it largely prevented any further commercial incursions until many years later. Those parts of these two streets which lay outside the eastern boundary of the Grosvenor estate had evidently become largely commercialised during the eighteenth century, and (as mentioned above) trade had even gained a footing here within the estate, particularly on the north side of Brook Street east of Davies Street. Commercial pressure, expressed principally through difficulty in finding private residents willing to take houses adjoining or opposite to tradesmen, must therefore have been very strong here. The census of 1841 shows, however, that in Grosvenor Street there had been virtually no change since 1790 in the ratio of commercial and domestic occupation, while in Brook Street the slight increase of trade was due to the establishment of hotels. (fn. 65)
In all except these best streets the restrictive covenants which lessees were required to accept in their new leases on other parts of the estate were at first surprisingly lax. These were merely to pay the rent, maintain the premises, permit the landlord to inspect them and give notice to repair them within three months, and to surrender them peaceably at the end of the new term; and if the rent were in arrears, the landlord could resume possession. Undesirable trades were at first controlled in the same way as hitherto, by the payment of an additional annual ground rent (generally still £30) if the premises were used by a butcher, slaughterman, tallow chandler or melter, soap maker, tobacco-pipe maker, brewer, victualler, coffee house keeper, distiller, farrier, pewterer, working brazier or blacksmith—this list being virtually identical with that contained (wholly or in part) in the original building leases. In 1799, however, a complete ban was placed on all these listed trades, plus that of hotel keeper, and this ban was also extended, by an important new proviso, to include any 'other noisome or offensive Trade or Manufactory whatsoever', (fn. 66) thus applying to the whole of the estate a restriction only a little less severe than that in the best streets already referred to.
Hitherto, throughout the greater part of the estate the ground landlord's control had rested primarily—at least until individual leases were renewed—upon the clause in the original lease requiring the £30 surcharge on the ground rent for the practice of some or all of the trades listed above. Numerous trades were left unrestricted, and in 1806, for example, Lord Grosvenor was unable to prevent the conversion to an upholsterer's shop of No. 76 Grosvenor Street (where in any event the original lease of the whole large block in which it stood had omitted all restriction on specified trades). (fn. 67) Even tallow-melting had not everywhere been restricted, which perhaps explains why in 1819 the estate authorities allowed it to continue at a site in Chandler (now Weighhouse) Street in the mistaken belief that the original lease did not prohibit it there. (fn. 68) But generally, where the appropriate restriction existed in the original lease, a threat to enforce payment of the surcharge seems to have secured the suppression of such nuisances as those caused by butchers, slaughtermen, blacksmiths and tallow chandlers. (fn. 69) Sometimes this took a long time. In the case, for instance, of John Holland, a tallow-melter in South Audley Street, who had renewed his lease in 1795, (fn. 70) Edward Boodle had in 1800 'perceived a most offensive smell proceeding from the house', but threats to enforce the £30 surcharge, followed by demands for its payment (with six years of arrears) and refusal to renew his lease when it should next expire seem to have produced little lasting improvement until 1817, when the Board was informed that 'since Mr Holland has been spoken to, the work has been carried on . . . in such a manner as not to be offensive'. (fn. 71)
No example of the £30 surcharge being actually paid has been found, and both this and the ban imposed in 1799 upon any 'noisome or offensive Trade or Manufactory whatsoever' seem to have been used primarily as reserve powers to secure reasonable neighbourly conduct rather than interpreted literally. Thus Robert Mansbridge, a 'spruce beer brewer' had the lease of his house in Brook Street renewed in 1800 without difficulty, but when two years later he asked 'that the prohibitory clause respecting a brewhouse might be struck out of his lease, being fearful that it would affect him', he was told by the Board that 'as he had exercised his profession on the premises for many years unmolested, he had no occasion to be under apprehension for the future while he conducted it as he had hitherto done, but that the clause could not be dispensed with because it would leave him or his successors the liberty of making a brewery of a very different kind, to the essential inconvenience of his neighbours'. (fn. 72) And another reserve power—that of threatening to refuse to renew the lease when it should come up for negotiation—was sometimes used to abate nuisances which did not actually contravene the existing covenants—e.g. the beating of 'beds and feathers' on the roof of a house adjoining Grosvenor Square, (fn. 73) a steam engine off Oxford Street (fn. 74) or a house of ill-fame in New Norfolk (now Dunraven) Street, (fn. 75) or in Brook Street 'the constant disturbance. . . suffered particularly in the night from the violent kicking and plunging of Lord Penrhyn's horses'. (fn. 76)
The treatment of public houses reflected the different policies pursued by the first and second Earls, and also the changing social conditions on the estate. In 1793 there were some seventy-five pubs on the estate (excluding those in Oxford Street), (fn. 77) and the first Earl seems not to have objected to the renewal of their leases, even in the case of those in the best streets. (fn. 78) At first the second Earl reluctantly continued this policy, an applicant in Upper Grosvenor Street being informed in 1809 that 'Lord Grosvenor would not be sorry to see the public house discontinued as such, though his Lordship would not insist upon it'. (fn. 79) Starting around 1815, however, he refused to renew the leases of any public houses in the best streets, (fn. 80) and elsewhere he also sometimes refused to do so. (fn. 81) But pubs were a valuable source of revenue, and between 1815 and 1824 several large London brewers, including Meux, Reid and Company, Combe, Delafield and Company (both now part of the Watney's chain) and Whitbread's, were competing against each other for renewals. Meux, Reid had already acquired the sub-leases of several houses on the estate, but Lord Grosvenor refused to treat with them until and unless the head lessee had declined to do so. (fn. 82) Combe, Delafield and Meux, Reid both rejected Lord Grosvenor's first terms out of hand, (fn. 83) but ultimately, after receiving some encouragement from the Estate, (fn. 84) Meux, Reid negotiated nine new leases on payment of a fine of upwards of £7,000, (fn. 85) one of the advantages of treating with a brewer being his greater capacity to repair and even occasionally to rebuild his premises. By 1828, on the eve of the Beer Act of 1830, the total number of licensed premises on the estate had declined at most very slightly (if at all), (fn. 86) the suppression of some pubs being partly counterbalanced by the establishment of new hotels, particularly at the eastern ends of Brook Street and Grosvenor Street.
During Porden's reign as surveyor (c. 1784–1821) rebuilding was hardly ever made a condition for the renewal of a lease, and very little took place. Such little as tenants did undertake was evidently regarded by the Board as either an 'improvement' or as normal maintenance work. (fn. 87) Sometimes such 'improvements' were considerable, but in general the Board did not interfere, provided that they did not contravene the lease in question and were not injurious to the estate or the neighbours. (fn. 88) At the western ends of Upper Brook Street and Upper Grosvenor Street the building of projecting awnings and balconies which interfered with the neighbours' view of Hyde Park was gradually controlled by the insertion of special restrictive covenants in new leases, (fn. 89) and when Lady Cunliffe, living in New Norfolk (now Dunraven) Street wanted to block up five or six windows she was told that she would 'be liable to the expence of opening and restoring them at the expiration of her lease'. (fn. 90) Outgoing tenants' liabilities for dilapidations were carefully enforced, sometimes by a Court order. (fn. 91)
But although there was little actual rebuilding, Porden did initiate three long-term improvement schemes, all of which ultimately had a happy outcome. In 1791 he persuaded Lord Grosvenor not to renew the leases in King's Row (now the sites of Nos. 93–99 consec. Park Lane) so that in due course 'a handsome front towards Hyde Park' might be built in place of the original tumbledown agglomeration here. (fn. 92) This policy was maintained on a number of occasions, (fn. 93) and after Porden's death his aim was achieved—for the most part in 1823–8 (Plate 19a). Similarly, improved lines of frontage for the north side of Berkeley Square and the west end of Bourdon Street, projected by Porden in 1800–3, were implemented shortly after his death. (fn. 94)
His third scheme achieved a quite different object from that intended. In 1789 he had suggested that Green Street might be extended eastward from North Audley Street to Duke Street. But unfortunately he made this suggestion immediately after the lease of a substantial part of the ground needed had been renewed for sixty-three years, and so when the property was put up for sale in 1792 Lord Grosvenor's trustees had to buy up their own lease at a price of 1,500 guineas—despite the enormous debts then encumbering the estate. (fn. 95) In 1795 the land was leased on a short-term basis to the St. George's Volunteer Corps, but the arrangement did not prove a happy one, for in 1798 several of the officers—including 'Major Harrison the coal merchant and Captain Gunter the confectioner'—refused to pay Lord Grosvenor his rent 'until their demands on his Lordship are paid'. (fn. 96) After the return of peace in 1802 the ground was leased (determinable on six months' notice) for upholsterers' workshops, but in 1818 Porden recommended that the cost of buying up the rest of the ground needed would be too great, and that therefore 'the proposed opening should be given up, and the neighbourhood continued to be occupied (as it now is) by workshops etc, which although not the most respectable in appearance, Mr. Porden states to be of great value'. (fn. 97) Shortly afterwards, however, the site was sold (with other adjacent ground) to the Church Building Commissioners, (fn. 98) and St. Mark's Church was built upon it in 1825–8.
Generally, during the years between 1785 and 1808 the first and second Earls Grosvenor, their Board and their trustees began to make some impact upon the evolution of the estate. Primarily this was done through their policy of, whenever possible, renewing leases on fine to provide terms of sixty-three years to come. The fact that leases could nearly always be renewed on these terms whenever the lessee chose to apply meant that the expiry dates of these renewed leases varied greatly from one house to another. (fn. 3) In 1794 Lord Grosvenor did decide that no lease should be renewed if the existing one had more than fifty years to run, (fn. 99) but even this rule could be subject to exceptions. (fn. 100) The Estate was therefore committing itself far ahead, but without any longterm policy, for the making of the leases of adjacent sites co-extensive with each other seems only to have been done at the lessee's request, and even then evidently as a favour. (fn. 101) The result of this practice was to make simultaneous rebuilding on adjacent sites much more difficult, and hardly any such reconstruction in fact proved possible until the 1880's and 1890's, when the effects of a less haphazard and more flexible policy in the granting of the third generation of leases began to produce approximately simultaneous expiry dates, notably in Mount Street and parts of South Audley Street. In many other parts of the estate, however, the original individual plots have never been merged, and in some cases the original houses still stand on them.