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 Entailed, 1845–99
Richard Grosvenor, second Marquess of Westminster (1795–1869), had married the youngest daughter of the first Duke of Sutherland. He had represented Chester or one of the Cheshire constituencies as a Whig from 1818 to 1835, (fn. 10) but after his father had presented him in 1831 with Motcombe House, near Shaftesbury, on the Dorset estate, he had spent most of his time there in simple domesticity, surrounded by his wife and their numerous children. Daily family prayers, the instruction of his elder children in Latin verse and the works of Shakespeare, and other such preoccupations had formed the routine of this 'deeply serious . . . high-principled, reserved' man, (fn. 11) who after his death was said by The Times never to have risen 'to the height of his opportunities'. He was, however, considered to have administered 'his vast estates with a combination of intelligence and generosity not often witnessed . . . His gift of a fine Park to the city of Chester' being regarded as 'an instance of almost princely munificence.' (fn. 12)
But within his family, and even in a wider circle, he had an evidently well-deserved reputation for parsimony, an attribute which, although originating in his youth, (fn. 13) was perhaps aggravated by the terms on which he had inherited much of the family wealth. His father—equally renowned for his thrift—had left a will of such complexity that it took the family solicitor, John Boodle, two hours to read. (fn. 14) By it the London estates were entailed to trustees for the use, firstly, of his eldest son, the second Marquess, for life, and then for life to his grandson, Hugh Lupus, the future third Marquess and first Duke; and the trust so established had, moreover, been extremely strictly drawn. (fn. 15) Finding himself thus restricted, the second Marquess's frequent lectures to young Hugh Lupus, about his 'idleness, listlessness and weak moral character' had evidently been intensified, and when in 1856 the latter had asked his father for financial help in addition to the income of £8,000 per annum already settled on him, the second Marquess had refused. 'With only a life interest in this strictly curtailed property I am sorry I cannot aid you.' (fn. 16) Nevertheless he did contrive to buy yet more lands, paying for them out of his own income from the settled estates, at a total cost of £195,000. (fn. 17)
At about the time of his death in 1869, his rents from the Mayfair estate alone amounted to c. £80,000 per annum. (fn. 18) Between 1845 and 1864 receipts from fines or premiums payable to the trustees on the renewal of leases amounted to £108,538. About half of this appears to have been used to discharge family encumbrances created by the first Marquess, but in 1864 there remained £55,584, the income from which (invested at three per cent) was payable to the second Marquess. (fn. 19)
Hugh Lupus, third Marquess and first Duke of Westminster (1825–99) was in some respects similar to his father. He, too, served his political apprenticeship in the House of Commons (as Liberal M.P. for Chester, 1847–69), married firstly a Leveson-Gower—his first cousin, a younger daughter of the second Duke of Sutherland, who bore him a large family—was deeply religious, and was regarded with some awe by his sons. But he was not known for thrift or parsimony. Although he never gambled he revived the Grosvenor racing stud (winning the Derby four times) and between 1870 and 1880 he rebuilt Eaton Hall, which once more became the family's out-of-town headquarters, at a cost of some £600,000. (fn. 20) He was a vigorous supporter of a variety of philanthropic causes, and unlike his father, he remained to the time of his death active in politics, where his admiration for his friend and neighbour, Gladstone, did not prevent his opposing both Gladstone's abortive Reform Bill of 1866 and the Irish Home Rule Bill of 1886. But despite the first of these disagreements it was Gladstone who recommended the Marquess for a dukedom in 1874—apparently for little other reason than the deep respect in which he was almost universally held; and although the second rift lasted longer, the old friendship was ultimately renewed. (fn. 21) The Duke, in fact, managed somehow to personify the generally prevalent idea of how a great rich nobleman should conduct himself, and after his death it was admiringly said of him that 'He could pass from a racecourse to take the chair at a missionary meeting without incurring the censure of the strictest'—a remarkable tribute at any time, but particularly so in the Victorian era. (fn. 22)
The Duke's biographer, Mr. Gervas Huxley, states that the settled properties of which he had become in 1869 the new life-owner 'were valued at close on £4,000,000, after deducting the capital value of all encumbrances, and consisted of the whole of the London estates and part of the Cheshire, Chester, and Halkyn estates. He also inherited the absolute ownership of Eaton Hall, Halkyn Castle, and the bulk of the Cheshire, Chester, and Flintshire properties', with a capital value of some £750,000. 'The Dorset and Wiltshire properties owned by the second Marquess were unsettled and had been left to his widow for her lifetime', with remainder respectively to her younger son and her son-in-law. (fn. 23)
Only two important additions to his own personal estates were made by the third Marquess and first Duke— Reay Forest in Sutherlandshire, which he leased from his relatives the Dukes of Sutherland, and where he used Lochmore Lodge for his summer holidays; and Cliveden, Buckinghamshire, which he inherited in 1868 from his mother-in-law, the Dowager Duchess of Sutherland. (fn. 24) In 1893, however, he sold Cliveden to William Waldorf Astor for £250,000 to enable him to make provision for his children—fifteen in all, eleven by his first wife, who died in 1880, and four by his second—of whom eleven were still living in 1893. (fn. 25)
On the settled estates (which included the London properties) the entail created by the first Marquess could be broken when the first Duke's son, Victor Alexander, Earl Grosvenor, came of age. This was done in 1874, the estates being resettled (fn. 26) upon the first Duke and his son successively for each of their lives, and then upon Earl Grosvenor's eldest son as tenant in tail male. (fn. 27) Earl Grosvenor died in 1884, and soon after the succession of his son to the dukedom in 1899 the estates were once again disentailed and resettled (see pages 67, 79). (fn. 28)
During the time of the third Marquess and first Duke the rental from the Mayfair estate alone rose from c. £80,000 per annum in 1870 to c. £116,000 in 1882, and to c. £135,000 in 1891. (fn. 29) Between the resettlement of 1874 and the Duke's death in 1899 receipts from the fines or premiums payable to the trustees on the renewal of leases in Mayfair amounted to some £650,000. From this at least £200,000 was spent on improvements to the Duke's settled estates in both Cheshire and London, some of the very large mortgages incurred by the Duke were paid off, and provision was made for various members of the Duke's family. The running balance was placed on deposit and in the 1890's the interest therefrom was paid to the Duke as income. (fn. 30)
With the accession of the second Marquess in 1845 it is clear that the administration of the Mayfair estate became much stricter than hitherto. Ever since the precipitate flight of Abraham Moore, the agent, and the supersession of Porden, the surveyor, in 1821, the first Marquess had kept matters very much in his own hands; but by 1845 he was aged seventy-eight, and chiefly in Belgravia he had sometimes allowed building to proceed without formal leases or contracts, transferred ground rents from one contract to another, and through a casual system of record keeping generally got into a muddle, principally in his dealings with Thomas Cubitt. Within six months of his father's death, therefore, the second Marquess obtained a private Act of Parliament to set these matters right; and power was also obtained for the trustees established by the first Marquess's will to enter into contracts for the granting of leases—a power not adequately provided for in the will. (fn. 31)
The main object of the second Marquess's stricter management was to preserve and enhance the overall value of the estate, and—in the days before the statutory protection of buildings of historic or architectural interest —this of necessity involved the periodic rebuilding of outworn portions of the fabric. Rebuilding therefore became for the first time an integral part of estate policy. But rebuilding could generally only be undertaken when individual leases expired, for the purchase of subsisting leases was expensive and only rarely undertaken at this date; and as hitherto virtually no attempt had been made to make the leases of adjoining sites expire simultaneously, it followed that at first rebuilding could only be done on individual sites. Co-ordinated rebuilding over several adjacent sites would only become possible later, when the effect of renewing leases of adjacent sites for comparatively short terms all expiring contemporaneously had had time to make itself felt.
The second Marquess took an active interest in the architecture of his estates, and such evidence as exists suggests that he favoured co-ordinated schemes of rebuilding. (fn. 32) The old policy of renewing to applicants for such a term as would, with their subsisting leases, give them sixty-three years to come, was therefore no longer followed as a matter of course. Instead, both he and his successor considered each site in relation to its neighbours, and although they sometimes continued the old policy, they more frequently refused to renew beyond the date of expiry of the longest subsisting lease in any particular range of houses. At that date, when all the leases would expire at about the same time, the rebuilding of the whole range could at last be considered. Thus, for instance, at Nos. 1–8 (consec.) Upper Brook Street, the subsisting leases granted between 1810 and 1824 under the old haphazard policy expired at various dates between 1873 and 1887, but by short renewals of varying lengths granted between 1859 and 1876 they were all made to expire in 1886 or 1887. (fn. 18)
The increased flexibility of this policy made it possible in due course to phase the rebuilding of large parts of the estate over a number of years. Rebuilding entailed sacrificing the immediate in favour of the long-term interest of the estate, since the ground rents were lower than the receipts which would have been obtained on rack rents, and usually there were no fines. It also entailed much administrative work for the estate officers, and some social disturbance for the adjacent residents. It was therefore important that not too much rebuilding should take place at any one time, and these factors were clearly in the second Marquess's mind when he stated in 1867 that 'I do not wish any new work to be taken in hand beyond what is now marked out but shall renew the Leases as they occur at short periods as we have done before, in order to give future opportunity for blocks being formed for local improvements'. (fn. 32) Thus to revert to the example of Upper Brook Street, Nos. 1–8 were not in fact rebuilt in 1887, for in 1881 the lease of No. 5 had been extended by the first Duke to 1906. In the early 1880's a considerable amount of rebuilding was already in progress or in prospect, notably in Mount Street, Oxford Street and the artisans' dwellings around Brown Hart Gardens, and between 1881 and 1886 the leases of the other seven houses in Nos. 1–8 Upper Brook Street were all also renewed to 1906, thereby merely postponing the opportunity to rebuild. (fn. 29)
The reign of the second Marquess was therefore more one of preparation for than of actual rebuilding, and what did take place was mostly on individual sites—notably three separate blocks of artisans' dwellings in Bourdon Street, and one in Grosvenor Market, ten mansions in Grosvenor Square, and a number of houses at the east ends of Brook Street and Grosvenor Street. But in the mid 1860's he was at last able to carry out two large schemes, one in Belgravia and one in the north-west corner of Mayfair, where the original building leases granted in the latter part of the eighteenth century were now expiring. In Belgravia he rebuilt part of Grosvenor Place and extended it southward (as Grosvenor Gardens) to Victoria Station (opened in 1860), both the layout, which included the formation of two triangular gardens, and the very large new houses being designed by Thomas Cundy III. In Mayfair the rebuilding of Hereford Street, parallel with and set back from Oxford Street, also to designs by Cundy III, began in 1866. By that time it was already well known that the Marquess was 'determined to pull down and rebuild on his estates whenever he has an opportunity'. (fn. 33)
But although his opportunities for such wholesale clearances had been very limited, and even rebuilding on individual sites had been restricted in scope, the second Marquess did nevertheless make very considerable alterations in the outward aspect of his Mayfair property, and the stamp of his taste, as executed chiefly by Thomas Cundy II, is still very apparent in many surviving buildings there. This imprint was made by requiring tenants, as a condition for the renewal of their leases, to execute precisely specified modifications to the then still Georgian elevations of their houses.
As we have already seen, the idea of 'improving the appearance of the houses in Grosvenor Square by the addition of stucco-work to the fronts with porticos, window dressings, cornices and balustrades to such of the houses as may be thought to require it' had already been suggested by Cundy II to the first Marquess in 1844; (fn. 34) but the latter had died a few months later. This suggestion was evidently at once approved by his successor, for in May 1845 Cundy's clerk was measuring the fronts of the houses on the south side of Grosvenor Square, the occupants being informed that the new Marquess was 'anxious to obtain a correct design for some proposed improvements'. (fn. 35) He was, however, intending to go much further than Cundy had suggested, for in November 1845 he sent John Boodle two very important 'instructions for future renewals' of leases. Firstly, in all future leases there was to be a covenant requiring 'no alteration of the frontage without permission from the Grosvenor Estate Office'; and secondly, all houses of four or more windows' width were 'to have a Doric Portico with fluted or plain Pillars carried out to the end of the area railing'. (fn. 36)
The elevational alterations which, in negotiations for the renewal of leases of houses in the principal streets, tenants were now usually required to execute, were generally designed by Cundy II. The applicant had to sign a bond, often of over £1,000, to ensure the due performance of the works, which generally included the addition of a Doric open porch and sometimes a balustrade in front of the first-floor windows (both in Portland stone), cement dressings to the windows, and a blocking course, balustrade or moulded stone coping at the top. Sometimes an additional storey was to be built, plate glass might be required for all the windows, and occasionally also works of improvement in the domestic offices in the basement. Attached to the bond there was usually a detailed specification of the works and a copy of Cundy's design. (fn. 37)
The effect of this policy, which was vigorously pursued throughout the whole of the second Marquess's reign from 1845 to 1869, was to make the principal streets on the estate, hitherto purely Georgian in appearance, look increasingly like those of South Kensington (see page 133). Over twenty examples of fronts entirely designed or altered by Cundy II (latterly assisted by his son Thomas Cundy III) still survive. These are chiefly in Brook Street, Upper Brook Street and Grosvenor Street, and originally, before later rebuildings, there were many more, notably some dozen in Grosvenor Square alone, for the south range of which he produced in 1849 a complete scheme of 'suggested alterations'. (fn. 38)
Tenants or builders engaged in the complete rebuilding of individual houses also found it convenient to have Cundy as their architect, or at least for him to provide the elevation, for they knew that his work would be acceptable to the Marquess; and sometimes it was made a condition of rebuilding that Cundy should design the new front. (fn. 39) Thus in Grosvenor Square (Plate 25) he and/or his son did ten houses. Four of these were for tenants (Nos. 18, 20, 21 and 30, all demolished), another four for the builder C. J. Freake (No. 4, which still survives, and Nos. 10, 26 and 40, all demolished), and one each for the builders Wright Ingle (No. 42, demolished) and Sir John Kelk (No. 2, demolished). Ingle also employed him at the still-surviving Nos. 11 Upper Brook Street and 20 Grosvenor Street, as did Kelk at No. 128 Park Lane. For the prolific local builders John Newson and his son George John Newson he did Nos. 14, 23 and 24 Grosvenor Street and Nos. 48–50 (even) Brook Street, all of which still survive, as well as others now demolished.
The Cundys did not always have a free hand, however, for the Marquess sometimes rejected even their designs. At No. 21 Grosvenor Square, for instance, he refused to allow Venetian windows, despite the evident wishes of both Cundy III and the tenant (who was of course paying for the new house there); (fn. 40) and when in 1848 Cundy II produced 'for the Marquess's consideration' two drawings showing the existing elevation and 'his proposed elevation' for all the houses on the north side of Brook Street east of Davies Street, it was recorded that 'the Marquess does not approve the proposed plan, and Mr Cundy takes it away'. (fn. 41) Subsequently, however, four houses in this range (Nos. 48, 50, 56 and 58, all still surviving) were rebuilt to elevational designs by Cundy, but presumably in a different manner to that originally proposed.
The elevational alterations required by the second Marquess involved the tenants in considerable expense, but there is little evidence that they objected on this ground. When the works were very extensive, as in the case of Miss Mary-Anne Talbot at No. 24 Grosvenor Square, which had a long flank elevation to Upper Brook Street, the fine was reduced or remitted to suit the financial convenience of the tenant; but the full annual value of the house was nevertheless expressed in the ground rent, which was raised from £13 (on a lease granted in 1792) to £460, in exchange for a renewal of only thirteen and a quarter years to come (1855–68). (fn. 42) She and her sister were, however, very wealthy women, for in 1862 they were able to sell their Portobello estates in North Kensington for building for over £100,000. (fn. 43) At the still surviving No. 15 Upper Grosvenor Street Arthur Ward was required in 1862 to provide a porch, balcony and window dressings (designed by Cundy) in exchange for a reversionary extension of only ten years, from 1871 to 1881; but he had to pay a fine of £1,125 and (from 1871) a rent of £215 instead of £50. (fn. 44) For tenants as rich as those in the best streets of the Grosvenor estate, the cost of the Marquess's 'improvement' requirements were almost trivial. Porches were fashionable and popular, and the records of the Metropolitan Board of Works show that quite a number of them were erected voluntarily by tenants, sometimes without the approval of the Grosvenor Board. Many of these have been lost through later rebuildings, but at least one, badly designed in 1867 by Henry McCalla, architect, still survives at No. 68 Grosvenor Street. (fn. 45)
In one case, however, the Marquess's requirement to erect a stone balcony at first-floor level was resisted on stylistic grounds, though unsuccessfully. This was at No. 41 Upper Brook Street (now demolished), where Sir Henry Meux, the brewer, had in 1851 commissioned Samuel Beazley to make extensive alterations. The Marquess's intention was to make the house correspond outwardly with its neighbour, No. 42, which had an elegant iron balcony erected in previous years. Beazley had therefore designed a similar iron balcony for No. 41, but nevertheless the Marquess (down at Motcombe House in Dorset) rather perversely instructed Cundy to insist on a stone balcony, and this was duly put up, not without much mutual acrimony. Beazley died shortly afterwards, (fn. 46) and when the lease of No. 42 came up for renewal a few years later Cundy and his master were able to have the offending iron balcony there replaced by one of Portland stone corresponding to Meux's at No. 41. (fn. 47)
Obedience to the Marquess's architectural commands was, indeed, almost unavoidable, and the only known example of successful defiance was provided by a woman. This was Mrs. Gwynne Holford of No. 36 Grosvenor Square, who, having signed a bond for £1,000 to comply with his behests and paid a fine for renewal, then refused to do the work (for what reason is not recorded). Ultimately in 1869 she was excused, on forfeiture of £300 of her bond. But this reprieve was granted not by the implacable second Marquess but during his last fatal illness by his son and heir; and it may be doubted whether the father would have been so lenient. (fn. 48) In later years, when this formidable lady applied for another renewal, the first Duke and Thomas Cundy III wisely required her only to insert plate glass in the windows, but she died in 1881 before the completion of negotiations. (fn. 49)
The extensive up-dating of the plain old Georgian fronts and the complete rebuilding of some houses were only the most apparent and most immediately effective manifestations of the altogether stricter regime inaugurated by the second Marquess. His control was, of course, mainly exercised through the covenants contained in his leases, which were much more carefully drawn than hitherto. But whilst he could make the immediate execution of elevational alterations a condition for the grant of a reversionary lease, the new covenants which he inserted into such leases did not become operative until the expiry of the subsisting term. Many of the existing leases on the estate still had long terms to run, moreover, and often there was therefore no opportunity to renew them on stricter terms during his years in charge. Thus as late as 1876 the tenant of a house in Norfolk (now Dunraven) Street held under a sixty-year lease granted in 1820 did not have to obtain the first Duke's consent to make alterations because 'at present the old lease is in force'. (fn. 50) And although immediately after his succession in 1845 the second Marquess began to refuse to renew when the existing lease had more than ten years to come, (fn. 51) there was nevertheless a time lag of varying length but seldom less than of about a decade before many of his leasing innovations could take effect.
The single most important of these innovations was the covenant requiring 'no alteration of the frontage without permission from the Grosvenor Estate Office'. (fn. 51) Commencing in 1845 this clause has been inserted in all subsequent Grosvenor leases, the phrase 'no alteration of the frontage' being soon extended to any part of the exterior of a building, any additional or substituted building, or any change in the 'architectural appearance', this last including even the enclosure of the sides or front of projecting porches. (fn. 52)
As the existing leases which did not contain this clause gradually expired this new covenant gave the second Marquess and his successors a vice-like control over the outward appearance of the buildings on their properties which has never been relaxed, and which has in some considerable measure been responsible for the high visual quality of many parts of the Grosvenor estates in London. With the passage of time this instrument of control was, moreover, refined still further. In 1851 the Marquess approved a design by Cundy II for area railings 'for general adoption', and a specimen of it was made 'for the inspection of the lessees'. (fn. 53) Beginning in 1854 all leases contained a covenant requiring stucco-work to be painted once every seven years and all wood and ironwork twice. (fn. 54) A few years later the stucco was required to be painted 'of a stone colour', and the work was to be done in every leap year, thus ensuring 'that houses were kept clean simultaneously and the general appearance was good'. (fn. 55) In 1866 'Words [were] to be added to the forms of lease to prohibit alterations to chimney pots', (fn. 56) and soon afterwards tenants were required to clean and repoint the brickwork every seven years. (fn. 57)
But the outward appearance of the buildings was not the only field in which the Grosvenors' control was greatly extended in the middle years of the nineteenth century. In his later years the first Marquess had begun to require his tenants to contribute a fair share to the repair of party walls—hitherto sometimes a troublesome cause of dispute —and to notify the Estate Office of any assignments of head leases. (fn. 58) His successor at once began to stipulate a right for his officers to make a schedule of fixtures in all leased premises, (fn. 59) in order to prevent the removal of such fixtures at the end of a lease, some of them, particularly chimneypieces, being of considerable value.
More important than these purely administrative changes, however, were those innovations concerned with the uses to which any particular property might be put. We have already seen that in the 'best' streets in the latter part of the eighteenth century a ban had been placed, wherever reasonably possible in the then existing circumstances, upon 'any art, trade or manufactory whatsoever'. In Grosvenor Square always, and in the other 'best' streets sometimes, the second Marquess extended this ban to professional use as well, doctors and surgeons being the main target for exclusion; and he also prohibited his tenants in these 'best' streets from doing or permitting anything which 'may be or become a nuisance or annoyance' to either himself as ground landlord or to the adjoining tenants. (fn. 60)
Elsewhere on the estate leases had since 1799 contained a list of prohibited trades followed by 'or other noisome or offensive Trade of Manufactory whatsoever'. In the second Marquess's time this list of prohibited trades— now considerably longer (fn. 1) —was at first concluded with the greatly strengthened formula 'or any other trade or business that shall be a nuisance or annoyance to the neighbourhood'. (fn. 61) By the 1860's, however, this phrase had become even more stringent as 'any other trade, business or occupation which in the judgement of the Marquess of Westminster shall be deemed objectionable or a nuisance to the neighbours'. (fn. 62)
With control of this nature there was in practice hardly any difference between the phraseology of the lease of a mansion in Grosvenor Square and that of a coach-house in a mews: the Marquess, and later the first Duke, could and did specify precisely for what purpose any building might be used. Thus some leases for premises in Brook's Mews granted in 1887 forbad the practice thereof 'any art, trade, business' or even profession, and required the tenant to use them 'as a private dwelling house only and the said demised coach house and stable as a private gentleman's coach house and stable for horses only, and the rooms over the same . . . for the lodging of servants or others to be employed in or about the said demised premises and for no other purpose'. When, as sometimes happened, mews premises were to be used for purposes other than 'a private gentleman's coach house and stable', a manuscript addition was inserted into the standard printed lease which came into general use in the 1880's. Thus a lease of 1891 of other premises in Brook's Mews banned all trades, businesses or professions except that of jobmaster and horse-dealer; and a few years later a similar lease contained the usual ban, followed by an exception in favour of the business of the Stohwasser and Winter Puttee Legging and Military Equipment Corporation Limited. (fn. 63)
The granting of exceptions such as these had of course to be made judiciously. It was all very well to ban hogskinners, catgut-spinners, horse-boilers and such like from the estate, but not even its most august residents could do without butchers or fishmongers, nor their servants without licensed victuallers, all of which trades were in general also prohibited, but of which there had always, of necessity, been quite a number of practitioners. So exceptions in their favour had to be made, although, as we shall see later, this did not prevent the first Duke from making a great reduction in the number of licensed victuallers. But subject only to the limitation of having to allow for the basic human requirements of all the residents, the ground landlord's control of the use of all premises had, well before the end of the nineteenth century, become complete and total. And later additions to the lease covenants, such as the prohibition of the display of goods for sale on the pavements, the exhibition of bills or placards, or the keeping of 'living fowls' were all relatively minor. (fn. 64)
The new restrictive covenants contained in mid nineteenth-century Grosvenor leases were not, however, the only means of control. No regular inspections of the properties on the estate were made at that time (except immediately prior to the grant of a new lease), because it had been found that the system of usually exacting a fine on renewal gave the tenant 'the greater interest during the term' and thus provided 'a guarantee against breaches of the covenants of his lease'. (fn. 65) But despite the lack of inspection, the Grosvenor Board (meeting weekly at 3 p.m. on Tuesdays or Thursdays 'except when Marquess in town') (fn. 66) seems to have known what was going on, and frequently required tenants to conform. In 1858–61, for instance, Lord Chesham made unauthorised alterations to the rear of his new house, No. 20 Grosvenor Square, and after being told to remove them a compromise was reached; (fn. 67) and in 1864 George (later Viscount) Goschen was made to stop building an unauthorised conservatory at his house at the corner of Park Lane and Mount Street. (fn. 68)
The Board was, in fact, well informed—sufficiently so to know in 1853 that 'in all the modern stables there are water closets', but that in those held under old leases privies were still prevalent, and that therefore new leases of stables should require the formation of properly drained water closets. (fn. 69) In 1869 it knew of the existence of nineteen slaughter-houses in Mayfair, Belgravia and Pimlico, all prohibited under the terms of the respective leases. All of them were, however, 'in commercial neighbourhoods', and after enquiries had been made among the neighbours it was found that only four were a nuisance. The owners of these were told to stop, but, in the days before the freezing of meat, slaughtering had to be done near the point of consumption and at least one slaughterman was subsequently reprieved provided that he 'uses every precaution to prevent nuisance'. (fn. 70) In the more delicate purlieus of Grosvenor Street, however, Colonel Augustus Meyrick was in 1865 prohibited from keeping a cow, despite his lawyer's opinion that 'some gentlemen like to keep a cow in London'. (fn. 71) But prostitutes presented a more difficult problem, here on the Grosvenor estate as elsewhere, and although the existence of brothels in Gilbert Street and Chapel (now Aldford) Street was known to the Board, no effective action seems to have been taken against them. (fn. 72)
Commencing in 1864, when extensive rebuilding in Grosvenor Place and Gardens in Belgravia was in progress, a clerk of works was employed 'to inspect the building works generally over the Estate'. His salary, and also the considerable fees due to Thomas Cundy III (although the latter did not succeed his father as surveyor until 1867) were paid out of a new Improvement Account, opened at the same time. The receipts paid into this account came mainly from the proceeds of the auction sales of the old materials and fixtures of houses about to be demolished, of which there were quite a number at that time. In 1864, for instance, the proceeds of the sale at two adjoining houses in Grosvenor Square (about to be rebuilt by C. J. Freake as a single house) amounted to £843. Payments out were mostly to the St. George's Vestry for road, pavement and sewer works executed on behalf of the Estate, principally no doubt at Grosvenor Place and Gardens. From time to time, when expenditure exceeded the income from the sales, the Marquess transferred additional funds from his private account. (fn. 73)
The rebuildings in Grosvenor Place and Gardens and in Hereford Street, Mayfair, in the mid 1860's were the forerunners of the very extensive rebuildings which took place in Mayfair in the 1870's, 80's and 90's. These operations, and the antecedent demolitions, caused much disturbance to adjoining occupants. In 1861 the second Marquess therefore began to prohibit the dusty noisy work of demolition during the London social 'Season', when all important personages were sure to be in residence in their town houses. In that year C. J. Freake, about to rebuild No. 26 Grosvenor Square, was required to demolish the old house in August and September after the Season was over, (fn. 74) and in 1865 Sir John Johnstone had to demolish No. 30 in February and March before it had begun. (fn. 75) Soon afterwards the cleaning and pointing of brickwork was interdicted in the months of May, June and July, (fn. 76) and in 1875 Sir John Kelk was forbidden to commence work on No. 3 Grosvenor Square until 1 August as 'it is the rule of the estate that no works of this nature should be commenced during the London season owing to the annoyance which would be caused to the neighbours'. (fn. 77) It was not, indeed, for nothing that the second Marquess, who had inaugurated this policy, now continued by his son, was known (to quote The Building News in 1865) to be 'determined to have none but tip-top people on his estates'. (fn. 33)
Rules of this kind were required in order to minimise the upheavals caused by the colossal rebuilding programme executed under the auspices of the third Marquess and first Duke during his thirty years' reign (1869–99). This rebuilding was probably larger in scope than any carried out on any other London estate (except, perhaps, that of the Crown) in the whole of the nineteenth century, and at the time of writing (1976) large parts of the existing fabric of the Grosvenor estate in Mayfair date from these years. It included the whole of Mount Street, Duke Street, Aldford Street and Balfour Place; almost all of South Audley Street north of South Street; all of the north side of Green Street and a quarter of the south side; almost all of the south side of Oxford Street from Davies Street to Park Lane; most of the west side of North Audley Street and the south side of Bourdon Street; substantial parts of Park Street and several mews (Adams Row, Balfour Mews, Mount Row and North Row); part of the north side of South Street; the Carlos Place quadrant on an improved frontage, and the realignment of the north end of Davies Street; three new churches, two schools, new Vestry offices, a library and a dozen blocks of artisans' dwellings.
Notably absent from this list are the houses in the principal streets. Half a dozen of the mansions in Grosvenor Square were in fact rebuilt in these years (Nos. 3, 27, 33, 34, 41 and 39 'practically') and the great block of Claridge's Hotel reared itself in Brook Street; but in Grosvenor Street and Upper Grosvenor Street there was hardly any rebuilding and none at all in Upper Brook Street. It was in these streets, principally, that the second Marquess's policy of elevational improvements to designs, usually by Thomas Cundy II, had been most rigorously applied. Because the houses here were generally in the hands of wealthy tenants they were already in good order, and although the first Duke's procedure in renewing leases in the principal streets, as elsewhere, was to make the terms of all the houses in any single range expire at approximately the same time, rebuilding was nevertheless often postponed when that time arrived, as at Nos. 1–8 Upper Brook Street, previously mentioned— presumably because the Duke wished to limit the amount of rebuilding going on at any one time and felt that the claims of other lesser streets were more urgent.
The first Duke inherited the long-term results of the second Marquess's leasing policy and was able to rebuild whole ranges to a single design. Almost all his rebuilding was done in this way, rather than on individual sites, and it is because so little rebuilding took place in his time in Brook Street, Grosvenor Street, Upper Brook Street and Upper Grosvenor Street that so many of the original houses there, though often greatly altered, have survived. When in his early years (1899 c. 1914) the second Duke turned his attention to these four 'best' streets, there had been a partial reaction away from renewal in whole ranges, and he often favoured individual refronting or rebuilding. So by the chance of this change of fashion they, or at any rate their individual sites, survived again, and although in later years a number of blocks of flats or offices have been built, these four streets still retain in some measure—and certainly more than anywhere else on the estate—the domestic flavour of the original development.
The first Duke's preference for rebuilding in ranges rather than on individual sites provided architects on the estate with new problems and opportunities, and this is at any rate one reason why the buildings erected in his time are so strikingly different from those built under his father. But their own architectural tastes also differed, and these differences reflected current changes in Victorian fashion. Whereas the second Marquess had liked and required the Italianate stucco widely prevalent in London in the 1850's and 60's, his son was a supporter of the Queen Anne Revival and a fervent admirer of the new 'South Kensington' red-brick and terracotta manner. Throughout the whole of his reign he championed the new modes and materials, and only two months before his death in 1899 he commented on a proposal in Duke Street 'the more red brick the better'. (fn. 78)
This difference in taste extended to the architectural embellishment of existing buildings. In 1856, for example, the second Marquess had required the applicant for a reversionary lease of No. 14 Grosvenor Square to erect an open Doric porch, remove the iron balcony at first-floor level and substitute three stone balconettes and add a square attic storey. This had not been done because the tenant later decided not to renew, but in 1878 the first Duke required a dormer attic instead of a square one, and the retention of 'the present character of the brick front'. (fn. 79) Stone or stucco porches, balconies, balustrades and window dressings were, in fact, now becoming things of the past, and it is hardly an exaggeration to say that all important surviving Georgian brick fronts without these embellishments are so because they did not have their leases renewed during the second Marquess's time—Nos. 76 Brook Street and 36 Upper Brook Street are cases in point. The tastes of the second and third Marquesses were indeed so different that in dealing in 1899 with an application to renew the lease of No. 55 South Audley Street, now the sole survivor of three houses built in white brick in 1859 to designs by Cundy II (fig. 14b on page 134), the Duke commented that he 'objected to the appearance' of this trio 'and would not consent to any arrangement for perpetuating it'. (fn. 80)
It was also presumably for reasons associated with the Duke's personal taste in architecture that, despite the enormous volume of rebuilding, Thomas Cundy III was hardly employed at all in Mayfair. He had succeeded his father as estate surveyor in 1867 and held the post until his resignation in 1890, aged seventy. Although he worked extensively on the Belgravia and Pimlico estates, where he designed churches and schools and (as previously mentioned) the new houses in Grosvenor Gardens and Place, (fn. 81) his work on the Mayfair estate consisted chiefly of planning for future rebuilding, routine administration, repairs and embellishments. The only row of houses designed by him there was that in Hereford Gardens, the rebuilding of which had started in the days of his father, Thomas Cundy II, and of the second Marquess, and he also did a number of commercial buildings in Oxford Street. The records of the Grosvenor Estate Board contain hints of several disagreements between the Duke and Cundy, (fn. 82) and the stuccoed domestic buildings of Cundy's private practice in South Kensington are unlikely to have been to the Duke's taste. (fn. 83) This, doubtless, was the reason for Cundy's virtual exclusion from design work in the predominantly brick purlieus of Mayfair.
Cundy's successor as estate surveyor, Eustace Balfour, (fn. 2) was appointed by the Duke in 1890. (fn. 84) He was a brother of the future Prime Minister, a grandson of the second Marquess of Salisbury, and his wife, besides being a daughter of the eighth Duke of Argyll, was also a niece of the Duke of Westminster. (fn. 85) In architectural matters his well-mannered brick and stone fronts were entirely acceptable to both the first Duke and to his grandson and successor the second Duke, and he (and/or his partner, Thackeray Turner) worked extensively on the Mayfair estate, particularly in the south-west corner around Aldford Street and Balfour Place. He seems to have resigned in 1910 owing to bad health, and died in 1911, aged fifty-seven. (fn. 86)
Numerous other architects were of course employed in the Mayfair rebuildings during the first Duke's time, but before discussing the various ways in which they obtained their commissions it is necessary to examine the mechanics of the whole process. The general leasing policy continued to be to renew for comparatively short periods coterminous for all the houses in any particular range. In 1889 fear of the possibility of leasehold enfranchisement, then much in public debate, made the Duke and his Board decide not to renew (except in the case of rebuilding) for more than twenty years, (fn. 87) and in the 1890's this was generally reduced to ten years. (fn. 88) Under the deed of resettlement of 1874 the Duke's trustees now had power to accept surrenders of existing leases, (fn. 89) and this was sometimes done with the co-operation of an intending building lessee, who bought up the existing leases and then surrendered them to the estate as part of his rebuilding contract. In 1882 the Settled Land Act enabled trustees to spend capital money on improvements, (fn. 90) and at about this time the Grosvenor trustees occasionally bought outstanding leases themselves to expedite rebuilding. Thus in 1880 they bought a number of leases for the site of St. Mary's Church, Bourdon Street, and in the 1890's those of several in Mount Street, Park Street and Green Street, (fn. 91) the capital being repaid to the trustees by the building lessee or his nominee on the completion of rebuilding, and allowed to him by a reduced ground rent. (fn. 92)
From about 1876 onwards the Duke also began, in blocks where he intended to rebuild, to refuse applications for renewals. Many such applicants held leases with up to ten years still to run, and thus, at any rate in theory, they had some warning of their impending forced disturbance. Generally they were told that at the end of their term their property would be rebuilt, 'required for estate purposes', or 'probably wanted for improvements'. Between 1876 and 1899 nearly one hundred and fifty such applications were refused.
By all these means the Duke was able to obtain an increasingly tight yet flexible grip on his estate, and the final years prior to rebuilding provided an opportunity to decide the future character of a range or block about to be redeveloped—a process in which Cundy III was much involved. In 1877, for example, he was already planning the new frontage line for Charles Street (now Carlos Place), while in the block bounded by Green Street, Park Street, Wood's Mews and Norfolk (now Dunraven) Street he was required in 1880 to plan the future rearrangement of the plots. (fn. 93) In 1884 the Duke approved his preliminary plan for the adjoining block to the east and decided that 'there shall be no shops in Park Street but small private houses, and that a model lodging house shall be built in the mews at the rear of Green Street, with an open space to Green Street westward of Hampden House. Rebuilding to be carried out gradually as opportunity arises'—most of which was in due course effected. (fn. 94) Shops at the west end of Mount Street and in Green Street were to be eliminated in favour of 'small private houses' when rebuilding took place, and they were also intended to go at the eastern end of Brook Street, (fn. 95) but elsewhere they were encouraged—'The Duke wants shops in South Audley Street'. (fn. 96)
Rebuilding leases granted by the second Marquess in the 1850's and 60's for private houses had generally been for seventy-seven years, but under the first Duke the normal term was increased to eighty years for commercial properties as in Oxford Street, and to ninety years for private houses in and around Grosvenor Square. (fn. 97) In the mid 1880's ninety years became the normal term throughout the whole of Mount Street, and in some premises where terracotta was required to be used an extra six months at a peppercorn rent was granted in addition to the normal allowance of one year. (fn. 98) Negotiations for a building lease culminated in the signature of a building contract containing detailed specifications, to which in 1888 Cundy III suggested adding a clause requiring fireproof construction. In 1890 the specifications were tightened up by Eustace Balfour. (fn. 99)
From the mid 1870's onwards it was the practice, whenever possible, to treat first of all with the occupant for both the renewal of leases and the grant of rebuilding leases. In the case of private houses to be rebuilt individually there was seldom any difficulty. Thus Dr. Joseph Walker, in occupation of part of No. 22 Grosvenor Street and in possession of the whole of the adjoining No. 21, a lodging house, accepted terms for the rebuilding of both houses in 1898–9, the lodging-house keeper evidently having no wish to treat; or Sir John Kelk, wanting a house in Grosvenor Square, bought the lease of No. 3 and after being granted a renewal, proceeded to rebuild it completely (now demolished). The Duke's policy in such cases was to 'let to a gentleman for his own occupation' rather than to a speculator, (fn. 100) and if the occupant under an expiring lease did not wish to rebuild, a rebuilding lease was generally offered to some other gentleman known to be looking for a site in the locality. No. 41 Grosvenor Square was rebuilt by C. H. Wilson, M.P., in this way in 1883–6, and No. 27 by the Earl of Aberdeen in 1886–8 (fig. 22 on page 150). There was seldom if ever any shortage of takers.
When—as more usually happened in the first Duke's time—a whole range of private houses was to be erected simultaneously, building was invariably done by a speculator of known substance, generally a builder. Thus, for example, Matthews, Rogers and Company built Nos. 2–11 (consec.) Green Street (1891–5), Daw and Son Nos. 14–22 (even) Park Street and 68 Mount Street (1896–7) and Higgs and Hill Nos. 2–12 (even) Park Street (1897–c. 1900, now partly demolished). Usually each rebuilding site was offered by the Board to a reputable speculating builder, but occasionally a speculator applied for a site and got it, as in the case of J. T. Smith at Nos. 106–116 (even) Park Street and 19 Green Street (1887–8), or of Holloways at Nos. 40–46 (even) Brook Street (1898–9). Similarly in November 1890 Trollopes applied for and obtained the very important site of Nos. 6–9 (consec.) Mount Street, 1–8 (consec.) Carlos Place and 1–15 (odd) Mount Row, and in the following year they obtained the site of Nos. 45–52 (consec.) Mount Street by competitive public tender— apparently the only occasion when this method of selection was used in those years. (fn. 3)
But when shops, and particularly a whole range of them, were to be rebuilt, there were very considerable problems, which were closely examined in 1887 by the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Town Holdings. The shopkeepers naturally feared the loss of their goodwill through enforced removal, and (to quote from H. T. Boodle's evidence to the Committee) the Estate Board therefore generally recommended 'that the occupier, if he is capable of rebuilding, shall be the person to rebuild, so that the question of disturbing him does not arise'. In certain cases, moreover, the Duke had 'found it practicable to allow old tenants to rebuild, even when the new elevations form part of one general design . . . two or three of them adjoining combine and employ the same architect and builder'. (fn. 101)
This had indeed happened during the time of the second Marquess at Nos. 489, 497 (odd) Oxford Street, which were rebuilt in 1865–6 with elevations in the French style by Thomas Cundy III (Plate 27b). Here the individual shopkeepers who were the rebuilding lessees combined together to employ a single builder, Mark Patrick and Son, and even agreed among themselves to reduce the number of original plots in order to obtain wider frontages for their shops. This block has been demolished, but another with similar elevations by Cundy survives at Nos. 407–413. Here in 1870–1 Peter Squire, manufacturing chemist and chemist in ordinary to the Queen, was the rebuilding lessee for four old shops and houses, one of which had hitherto been in his own occupation, and which he rebuilt as two—now Nos. 411 and 413 Oxford Street. Shortly afterwards his neighbour, a fruiterer, was the rebuilding lessee for the adjoining two shops and houses (Nos. 407 and 409). This completed the short range between Binney Street and Duke Street, and at about the same time the adjoining range (also short) to the west was rebuilt, the building lessee for No. 415 being T. B. Linscott, a confectioner, for the centre portion J. M. Macey, a builder, and for the western portion the trustees of the Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb, who built a church there (all now demolished). Macey built all three portions, No. 415 and the church (Plate 29c) under contract with the respective lessees, and the centre evidently as a speculation on his own account.
Linscott had at first been 'rather reluctant to rebuild', but the Duke and his advisers had insisted that it was 'absolutely necessary that his house should be pulled down'. Some years later, however, H. T. Boodle said that 'whenever he [Linscott] sees me, he thanks me for having been firm, and having advised him to rebuild. He says, his profits are a great deal more than they had been for years; it has immensely improved his business, and he sees how short-sighted he was in wishing to retain the old house.' (fn. 102) With this encouraging example several other Oxford Street tradesmen became building lessees in later years, notably a linen draper in 1875–6 at Nos. 431 and 433, who had previously occupied the adjoining shops, and Thrupp and Maberly, the coach-builders, who in 1884–7 rebuilt their own premises (now demolished) between Lumley and Balderton Streets.
This procedure, in which each tradesman/rebuilding lessee acted on his own individual account, negotiating terms with the Grosvenor Board and then employing a builder to put up the new house and shop, was at first employed elsewhere on the estate. In 1875, for instance, W. J. Goode began the rebuilding of his own shop at Nos. 18–19 South Audley Street, and in 1882 Henry Lofts, an estate agent with offices in Mount Street due to be rebuilt soon, was the rebuilding lessee for Nos. 34 Berkeley Square and 130 Mount Street, which adjoined each other. But in the mid 1880's a substantial frontage of over ninety feet on the south side of Mount Street was leased in two blocks to two local businessmen for rebuilding to designs prepared by the same architect, Ernest George (Plate 34b). This site had hitherto been occupied by part of the St. George's Workhouse, which was now removed to Pimlico, and simultaneous rebuilding by more than one lessee was therefore relatively easy to arrange, there being no occupants with claims to be considered. The two lessees were W. H. Warner, Lofts's partner in the firm of Lofts and Warner, and Jonathan Andrews, a builder with premises on the north side of Mount Street soon due for demolition.
This precedent was followed, in more elaborate form, in the rebuilding of most of the rest of Mount Street east of South Audley Street during the ensuing decade. On the south side of Mount Street the Grosvenor Board arranged for the rebuilding of Nos. 125–129 (consec.) by four local shopkeeper-lessees in 1886–7 (Plate 34c); Nos. 116–121 (consec.) by four shopkeepers and a surgeon, all local (1886–7); Nos. 94–102 (consec.) in 1889–91, and Nos. 87–93 (consec.) Mount Street (Plate 34a) and 26–33 (consec.) South Audley Street (1893–5), each by five local shopkeepers or businessmen.
On the north side of Mount Street similar consortia were formed at Nos. 1–5 consec. (1888–9, Nos. 1–3 now demolished), and at Nos. 27–28 Mount Street and 34–42 (consec.) South Audley Street (1888–9). And the same procedure was followed in parts of other predominantly commercial streets, notably in South Audley Street, at Nos. 61–63 consec. (1889–91) and Nos. 64–68 consec. (1891–3); in Duke Street at Nos. 55–73 odd (1890–2); and in Oxford Street at Nos. 385–397 odd (1887–9). Generally each group of lessees employed a single building contractor — Perry Brothers, for instance, at Nos. 87–93 (consec.) Mount Street and 26–33 (consec.) South Audley Street, or Kirk and Randall at Nos. 55–73 (odd) Duke Street; but when one of the lessees was himself in the building trade, he was sometimes allowed to do the building on his own site. Thus at Nos. 94–102 (consec.) Mount Street Bywaters were the contractors for four of the lessees, but the fifth, Andrews, being a builder, was permitted to do his own construction work provided that 'the bricks and terra cotta are obtained from the same source as the other houses so that the colour may be alike'; (fn. 103) and similarly at Nos. 116–121 (consec.) Mount Street W. W. Weir, an upholsterer, was allowed 'to build his own house', he being 'experienced in building works'. (fn. 104)
The administrative labour required to establish and supervise these tradesmen's consortia and their architects (who will be discussed later) was very considerable and could only have been attempted on such a large rich estate as that of the Grosvenor family. Even there it evidently placed considerable strain on the Duke's advisers, for when a private resident whose lease had only four more years to come applied in 1884 for a renewal he was brusquely told that 'the matter could not be pressing and must await more pressing renewals'. (fn. 105) This, perhaps, was one reason why, despite the Duke's evident wish to treat so far as possible with commercial occupants, commercial sites were nevertheless quite often offered to speculators, just as sites for residential ranges always were. This practice, which entailed much less work for the estate staff, was first adopted in the 1870's when Thomas Patrick, of Mark Patrick and Son, builders, became the rebuilding lessee of Nos. 443–451 (odd) Oxford Street (1876–8), his architect being J. T. Wimperis. It was continued at Nos. 57–60 (consec.) South Audley Street, where James Purdey, the gunmaker, who had not hitherto had any premises on the estate, began in 1879 to buy up the subsisting short-term leases with a view to rebuilding. This was done in 1881–2, Purdey taking the prominent corner with Mount Street for his shop while the rest of the building was used as residential chambers —a successful speculation evidently, for in 1892 he rebuilt the adjoining No. 84 Mount Street and signed a contract to rebuild No. 31 Green Street (both private houses).
In South Audley Street Purdey had clearly been allowed to rebuild because the previous occupants preferred to sell their old leases to him and remove rather than undertake to rebuild for themselves; and lack of applications to rebuild from occupants may sometimes have been the reason why commercial sites were offered to speculators. But this was at any rate not altogether the case on the west side of Duke Street, where in August 1886 Boodle invited J. T. Wimperis, the architect, to treat for the site now occupied by Nos. 54–76 even (Duke Street Mansions). (fn. 106) As previously mentioned, Wimperis had already acted as Patrick's architect at Nos. 443–451 (odd) Oxford Street, and in 1884–6 he had at his own suggestion acted as both architect and lessee for the building of chambers and one shop at the corner site of Nos. 56 South Audley Street and 44 Mount Street (Plate 33d). In August 1886 Boodle undoubtedly knew that one of the occupants of the Duke Street site, E. L. Armbrecht, a chemist, wanted to rebuild, (fn. 107) but the building contract and subsequently the new lease for the whole range were nevertheless granted to Wimperis. The Board's allegedly unfair treatment of Armbrecht was subsequently investigated at great length by the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Town Holdings. Boodle's defence of his conduct was no doubt legalistically sound, but his assertion that, if Armbrecht had been allowed to rebuild, the erection of a block of artisans' dwellings at the rear of the site would have been 'obstructed' was not very convincing, and the suspicion remains that Wimperis got the contract in preference to an occupant because he was known from previous experience to be efficient and because he could, as both lessee and architect, undertake the whole range single-handed. (fn. 108) (fn. 4)
But despite the criticism implied in the Select Committee's enquiries, the Grosvenor Board continued to offer commercial sites to speculative builders. In 1891 the site of Nos. 25–29 (consec.) North Audley Street, after being refused by several other firms, was taken by Matthews, Rogers and Company, the first of a number of speculations undertaken by them on the Grosvenor estate. Four of the five shops which they built here were sold on completion to Mount Street tradesmen disturbed by rebuilding there. Trollopes in 1893–5 built Nos. 75– 83 (odd) Duke Street (Plate 35b), half as a speculation and half under contract with a dressmaker whose previous premises on the opposite side of the street were to be demolished; and the same firm also built Nos. 10–12 (consec.) Mount Street in 1894–6 under a similar arrangement for No. 10 with a firm of auctioneers previously occupying other premises in the street about to be rebuilt. Holloways were the lessees for the adjoining Nos. 14–26 (consec.) Mount Street in 1897–8 (Plate 34a; fig. 20c)— evidently at Boodle's suggestion (fn. 109) —and in 1898 By waters accepted an offer of the site of Nos. 31–38 (consec.) North Audley Street, they having previously built the adjoining No. 30 under contract with a firm of saddlers who had negotiated a rebuilding lease.
When the amount of contemporaneous rebuilding of ranges of residential property is also taken into account, it is clear that a very considerable volume of speculative building was proceeding on the estate, particularly in the mid 1890's. The Board was therefore concerned that this work should be of good quality, and in 1896 it drew up 'a list of builders whose names may be put down as reliable in case any building sites offer'. These were Stanley Bird, Colls and Company, William Cubitt and Company, Higgs and Hill, Holloway, Lucas Brothers, Matthews, Rogers and Company, Mowlem and Company, Sprake and Foreman, George Trollope and Sons, and William Willett. (fn. 110) In the distribution of its favours among these firms the Board attempted to be fair, and so when Trollopes applied for a vacant site in Balfour Mews the Board decided that 'Messrs. Trollope have already had far more sites [on the estate] than any other builders in London and their application cannot be acceded to'. The allocation of important work was not, however, necessarily confined to these firms—Daw, for instance, who was not on the list, was granted the site in Balfour Mews. (fn. 111) But the Board was nevertheless very careful about what firms should be allowed to build on the estate, and whenever a lessee who was not himself a builder invited tenders for the rebuilding of his premises, he was required to consult the Board about the names of the firms to be invited to tender. Failure to do so produced an admonishment —'The names ought to have been sent in the first instance before any of the builders were asked to tender'. (fn. 112)
These administrative mechanics of the Duke's rebuilding were one of the chief subjects which interested the members of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Town Holdings in their prolonged examination of H. T. Boodle in 1887. But they were not in the least interested in the architects who designed the new buildings. Who these architects were, and how they were chosen, is however a matter of importance in the history of the estate.
The architects known to have worked on the estate during the first Duke's time included several of the foremost practitioners of the day — for instance, W. D. Caröe, Ernest George, J. J. Stevenson and Alfred Waterhouse — and many of the others were drawn from the middle ranks of the profession. The hacks, who proliferated in the late nineteenth century, did not in general get much work here. The relatively high standard of design which therefore resulted may be largely attributed to the discriminating influence of the Duke himself and of his advisers.
This influence varied with each building or range of buildings, and there was never any set procedure in the selection of architects. Sometimes there is no evidence about how the choice was made, but the Duke's influence and authority must generally have been strong, even when not directly exerted. All designs had to be submitted to the Board, and in most cases they were closely examined by the Duke himself, who often only approved them after considerable modification. After about 1875 all prospective rebuilding lessees knew that the Duke would insist on red brick in the Domestic Revival manner, and even when they were allowed to choose their own architect, their choice must have been greatly affected by this knowledge.
In 1887 their choice was still further circumscribed. The Board minutes record that 'With regard to the architects for rebuilding plots, the Duke wishes the following names to be selected from by the rebuilding tenants: one architect to be employed for each block of buildings. Mr. Norman Shaw, Mr. [J. T.] Wimperis, Mr. [R. W.] Edis, Mr. [T.] Chatfeild Clarke, Mr. [J. T.] Smith, Mr. [Thomas] Verity, and Mr. Ernest George'. (fn. 113)
In practice this list was not exclusive, (fn. 114) and was changed from time to time (see page 147). In 1894 it consisted of J. MacVicar Anderson, Ingress Bell and Aston Webb, A. J. Bolton, H. C. Boyes, W. D. Caröe, T. Chatfeild Clarke, T. E. Collcutt, R. W. Edis, Ernest George and Peto, Isaacs and Florence, C. E. Sayer, J. J. Stevenson and J. T. Wimperis. (fn. 115)
The way in which this list of 'approved' architects was used varied greatly. In cases—comparatively rare—when a private gentleman wanted to rebuild a single house for his own occupation, he was generally allowed to choose for himself, subject to the Duke's approval. Sir John Kelk, for instance, seems to have done so in the appointment of John Johnson at No. 3 Grosvenor Square (1875–7, demolished), and it was evidently the lessee, C. H. Wilson, who chose George Devey for No. 41 Grosvenor Square (1883–6, demolished). Both these appointments were made before the existence of the 'approved' list, but its existence did not prevent Lord Windsor from selecting Fairfax B. Wade, who was not on it, for his large house at No. 54 Mount Street (1896–9, Plates 36a, 37), overlooking the garden of Grosvenor House—a choice which evidently pleased the Duke, who firmly overruled his Board's objections to Wade's elevational designs. (fn. 116) Similarly, when Lord Ribblesdale proposed Sidney R. J. Smith—likewise not on the list— for No. 32 Green Street (1897–9) the Duke consented and appointed Smith as architect for the adjacent sites in Norfolk (now Dunraven) Street and North Row as well (Plate 36b). (fn. 117) But when the Earl of Aberdeen announced that he did not intend to have an architect at all for the rebuilding of No. 27 Grosvenor Square (1886–8, demolished), the Duke insisted that there should be one, and the appointment was evidently made by him or by Boodle, the choice being J. T. Wimperis, who, it may be noted, had recently had several other commissions on the estate. (fn. 118) Even for private gentlemen the safest course was perhaps that adopted by Dr. Joseph Walker at Nos. 21 and 22 Grosvenor Street (1898–9), who attended the Board 'and, of course, leaves the question of architect to the Duke. After he has left the Board, it is suggested to ask the Duke if he would allow Mr. Balfour [the estate surveyor, probably present at this meeting] to be the architect.' (fn. 119)
But most of the private houses built in the first Duke's time were, as we have already seen, built in ranges by speculating builders, and in these cases the architect was almost always appointed by the Duke himself or by the Board with his approval. When, for instance, the builders Higgs and Hill were in 1896 offered terms for the site of Nos. 2–12 (even) Park Street, they were told that A. H. Kersey (not on the list) was to be the architect. (fn. 120) In the same year Boodle, at a Board meeting at which the Duke was evidently not present, successfully suggested H. O. Cresswell as architect for Nos. 94–104A (even) Park Street, Boodle being under the impression that Cresswell was on the approved list, although no record of this has been found. (fn. 121)
Boodle seems, indeed, to have had his own share of influence in the choice of architects. In 1886 he approached J. T. Wimperis about the site of Nos. 54–76 (even) Duke Street, and it was he who proposed in 1891 that the Board should 'communicate with Col. Edis as to any clients of his who might be desirous of rebuilding' on the large L-shaped site at the north-west corner of Park Street and Green Street. R. W. Edis had already rebuilt Nos. 59 and 61 Brook Street in 1883–6 (one being intended for his own occupation) (fn. 122) and he was also one of three architects on the 'approved' list of 1887 who sometimes acted as speculator as well as architect for large sites on the estate. (fn. 5) At Boodle's corner plots Edis ultimately took on the whole site himself, and between 1891 and 1894 he designed and built Nos. 105–115 (odd) Park Street and 25–31 (consec.) Green Street. This was evidently successful from his point of view, for in 1894–6 he was clamouring for more building sites. But the Board would not oblige him. He had 'seriously departed' from the estate specification, and it was therefore decided that 'he should not be offered further sites'. Furthermore, 'The Board do not think it expedient that an architect should speculate on the estate, as architects are wanted to design and supervise the buildings of others'. (fn. 123)
A not very different practice adopted by two large firms of builders, who liked to use their own 'tame' architect, was not, however, objected to. At four sites where rebuilding was undertaken by George Trollope and Sons in the 1890's, his brother, John E. Trollope, of the firm of Giles, Gough and Trollope, was the architect (Nos. 6–9 consec. Mount Street, 1–8 consec. Carlos Place (Plate 34d) and 1–15 odd Mount Row, 1891–3; Nos. 45–52 consec. Mount Street, 1891–3; the Barley Mow, Duke Street, 1895–6; and Nos. 34–42 even Park Street and 53 Mount Street, 1895–9); but at another site the Duke required him to use someone else (Nos. 75–83 odd Duke Street, W. D. Caröe, 1893–5). Similarly Matthews, Rogers and Company agreed in 1891 to rebuild Nos. 25– 29 (consec.) North Audley Street to designs by the Duke's nominee, Thomas Verity, who was probably insisted upon because there was a public house (the Marlborough Head) to be rebuilt at the adjoining No. 24 and Verity had already done another public house on the estate, the Audley Hotel (1888–9), to the Duke's hard-won satisfaction. But in all their subsequent work on the estate Matthews, Rogers and Company were always allowed to use 'an architect in their own firm', M. C. Hulbert. (fn. 124)
By far the most prolific architect of private houses was, however, the new estate surveyor appointed in 1890, Eustace Balfour, who seems to have been able to get whatever work he wanted and then, sometimes, delegate it to his partner in private practice, Thackeray Turner. As early as 1891 he is recorded as declining to act as architect at Nos. 2–8 (consec.) Green Street because 'he would like to transfer his services to the Portugal Street site'. (fn. 124) In this south-western part of the estate he (and/or Turner) did so much work during the 1890's that Balfour Place (formerly Portugal Street) and Balfour Mews were named after him. It included Nos. 1–6 (consec.) Balfour Place (1891–4); the whole block bounded by Mount Street, Balfour Place, Aldford Street and Rex Place (1891–7, see Plate 35a); Alfred Beit's mansion at No. 26 Park Lane (1894–7, demolished), where Balfour's employment by Beit as architect was made one of the conditions of the contract for the rebuilding lease (Plate 38a); Nos. 14–22 (even) Park Street, 68 Mount Street and stables on the west side of Rex Place (1896–7); and the east side of Balfour Mews (1898–9). Elsewhere on the estate the firm of Balfour and Turner did No. 10 Green Street (1893–5) and St. Anselm's Church, Davies Street, of 1894–6 (Plate 38b), and in 1897–8 Balfour was diplomatically— and successfully—asking for Nos. 21–22 Grosvenor Street and 40–46 (even) Brook Street (1898–9). (fn. 125)
In the choice of architects for the rebuilding of shops and commercial premises there was very wide variety of practice. In the 1860's and early 1870's, as we have already seen, both the second Marquess and the third Marquess and future first Duke required their tenants in Oxford Street (which was the first commercial street to be extensively rebuilt) to use elevational designs supplied by the estate surveyor, Thomas Cundy III; and sometimes the tenants employed obscure architects of their own to design the internal disposition of their buildings. Nos. 407–413 (odd) Oxford Street are cases in point. But the Duke's success in 1875 in persuading W. J. Goode to start the rebuilding of a large shop in South Audley Street to designs by Ernest George in the red-brick manner of the Queen Anne Revival (Plate 32) seems to have aroused his architectural ambitions. So when the next phase of commercial rebuilding began in the later 1880's he often nominated architects whose work reflected his own tastes.
The first such nominee was J. T. Wimperis, who had already done two jobs on the estate Nos. 443–451 (odd) Oxford Street (1876–8) and Nos. 34 Berkeley Square and 130 Mount Street (1880–2)—his selection as architect in both these cases having been made by the building lessee. Subsequently he had applied successfully to be both lessee and architect for Nos. 56 South Audley Street and 44 Mount Street of 1884–6 (Plate 33d), and in 1886 he was invited by the Board to act in the same dual capacity at Nos. 54–76 (even) Duke Street (1887–8). (fn. 126) Thomas Chatfeild Clarke, who had also been responsible for the design of various buildings erected in Oxford Street since 1883, was invited to design Nos. 385–397 (odd) Oxford Street (1887–9), despite the objections of one of the rebuilding lessees, who wanted to have someone else: in 1890 it was decided that he should be the architect for Nos. 64–68 (consec.) South Audley Street (1891–3), which were about to be rebuilt by local tradesmen, this commission being subsequently extended to the adjoining Nos. 69 and 70, designed by his son Howard Chatfeild Clarke in 1898–1900. (fn. 127) In 1889 'Mr. Boodle suggests and the Duke approves of Mr. Caröe being the architect' for a group of tradesmen in the rebuilding of Nos. 55–73 (odd) Duke Street (1890–2), and in 1892 the Duke nominated Caröe for the nearby Nos. 75–83 (odd) Duke Street, to be rebuilt by Trollopes and one shopkeeper (Plate 35b). (fn. 128) Thomas Verity and (after his death in 1891) his son Frank were the Duke's selections for Nos. 24–29 (consec.) North Audley Street (1891–3), probably (as we have already seen) because this range included a public house, Thomas Verity having already done the Audley Hotel satisfactorily. But for his death Thomas Verity would probably also have been appointed for the Barley Mow at No. 82 Duke Street (1895–6), which went instead, on Boodle's suggestion, to John Trollope with Trollopes as builders, despite the objection of the publican-lessee, who wanted 'a Mr. Frampton, a friend of his, to be the architect'. (fn. 129) And although Auguste Scorrier, hotel keeper and prospective lessee for the rebuilding of the very important Coburg (now Connaught) Hotel at the corner of Mount Street and Carlos Place, ultimately got the man he wanted, he was made to understand that the choice was not his to make. After he had been imperiously informed in November 1893 that 'the architect had not been decided upon by the Duke' his solicitors, displaying a finesse which was on this occasion conspicuously absent in Boodle's office, politely suggested that the Duke might make his selection from one of three architects, namely Lewis H. Isaacs of Isaacs and Florence, William J. Green and E. T. Hall. As neither Green nor Hall seems ever to have designed a hotel, whereas Isaacs had done the Victoria in Northumberland Avenue and the Imperial at Holborn Viaduct, the Board took the hint and in January 1894 'the Duke appoints Mr. Isaacs the architect'. (fn. 130)
Sometimes the Duke's influence in the choice of an architect is apparent, even though he did not act directly. At Nos. 104–111 (consec.) Mount Street (1885–7) W. H. Warner, the estate agent and one of the rebuilding lessees, took the lead in submitting designs by Ernest George. He may well have done so because he knew from W. J. Goode's experience in South Audley Street in 1875 that George's work would be acceptable; and so it proved, after the Duke had required the height of the proposed buildings on this north-facing site to be reduced to admit more light to the houses opposite (Plate 34b). (fn. 131) After 1887 groups of shopkeepers who were negotiating for the rebuilding of a range to one design were sometimes sent the Duke's list of 'approved' architects, from which they were to choose. (fn. 132) Ernest George and Peto were probably selected in this way for Nos. 1–5 (consec.) Mount Street (1888–9, Nos. 1–3 demolished), and Thomas Verity almost certainly so at Nos. 27–28 Mount Street and 34–42 (consec.) South Audley Street (1888–9).
At what turned out to be the largest range of buildings by a single architect on the whole of the Mayfair estate the Duke's influence was rather more uncertain. This range, by A. J. Bolton, consisted of the new Vestry Hall on the south side of Mount Street (1886–7, now demolished, site occupied by No. 103), Nos. 94–102 (consec.) Mount Street (1889–91), Nos. 87–93 (consec.) Mount Street and 26–33 (consec.) South Audley Street and the new public library (1893–5). In 1883 the Vestry of St. George's arranged with the Duke to buy the freehold of part of the old workhouse for the site of the new Vestry Hall, and then 'invited the competition of four architects' for the new building. Bolton was chosen by the Vestry, (fn. 133) but the Duke, who was himself a vestryman, evidently did not much like the design, and Bolton was required to call at Grosvenor House, where the Duke 'told him of his wishes and requested to have an altered elevation'. (fn. 134) By 1887, however, when he opened the new Vestry Hall on 23 April, (fn. 135) the Duke's opinion of Bolton's work had perhaps changed somewhat, for when both the Vestry clerk and Bolton himself asked in 1888 that 'the latter, who acted for the Vestry building, may be the architect for the proposed new houses' at the adjoining Nos. 94–102 (consec.) Mount Street, the Duke agreed. He did, however, stipulate —rather in vain, as it turned out —that 'he would like a repetition of the houses' (not in fact themselves identical) by Ernest George at Nos. 104–111 (consec.); and in 1892 he appointed Bolton architect for the rebuilding lessees at Nos. 87–93 (consec.) Mount Street and 26–33 (consec.) South Audley Street, stipulating in this case—with more effect—that Nos. 94– 102 Mount Street 'are to be copied'. (fn. 136) By this time Bolton had won a competition for the design of the public library in Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria, also on the Grosvenor estate, where the Duke had presented a freehold site gratis, (fn. 137) and in April 1891 the St. George's Library Commissioners asked the Duke for a site for a library in Mayfair. Here he agreed to grant them a ninetyyear lease, but before the building contract was exchanged 'the question who is to be the Architect selected by the Duke' was discussed at a Board meeting in his absence, when it was 'felt that, as Mr. Bolton is building all the adjoining houses, his Grace may possibly select him, although he is understood not to have altogether approved of his [Bolton's] design for the Free Library in Buckingham Palace Road'. Despite his evidently still only qualified approval of Bolton he did ultimately agree, 'if the Vestry so desired'. (fn. 138)
Bolton's original appointment in 1884 for the first stage of this range—the Vestry Hall — was undoubtedly due to the Vestry, and the Duke's displeasure at the choice (mentioned above) was manifested again in 1887 when Bolton's name was not included on the first list of 'approved' architects. Perhaps in this case it would have been difficult, though certainly not impossible, for him to have resisted the Vestry's decision, but other cases show that even shopkeepers were sometimes allowed their own free choice. In 1880 William Lambert, surveyor, was the choice of James Purdey, the gunmaker, for Nos. 57–60 (consec.) South Audley Street (1881–2), and in 1889–91 he acted for the completion of this range (Nos. 61–63 consec.) by other commercial lessees. Edwin Hollis, a pork butcher, was allowed to have J. S. Moye for Nos. 399–405 (odd) Oxford Street (1880–2, demolished), and Thrupp and Maberly had Henry S. Legg at Nos. 421–429 (odd) Oxford Street (1884–7, demolished) despite Thomas Cundy's objection that he did 'not consider that Mr. Legge [sic] will be very suitable as he knows nothing of him'. (fn. 139) At Nos. 125–129 (consec.) Mount Street (1886–7) it seems likely that the four shopkeeper/ rebuilding lessees chose W. H. Powell themselves, for in August 1885 the Board received letters 'from and on behalf of Mr. Powell . . . giving testimonials as to his fitness to be the architect for some of the rebuilding tenants in Mount Street'. (fn. 140) At that time there was as yet no list of 'approved' architects, but Powell's name did not appear on it in 1887 or in later years. (fn. 6) Similarly the four shopkeepers and a surgeon who were the rebuilding lessees at Nos. 116–121 (consec.) Mount Street (1886–7) seem to have chosen J. T. Smith themselves. When Smith submitted an elevation on their behalf in 1885 'his Grace did not approve of it as he thought the buildings very high and too elaborate in decoration'. But he later agreed to a revised version, 'though it appears to me to be overdone and wanting in simplicity', (fn. 141) a view which many others may still share, but which the Duke does not seem to have held very strongly, since in the following year he allowed Smith to be the lessee and architect for private houses at Nos. 106–116 (even) Park Street and 19 Green Street, and in 1887 included him in the 'approved' list.
When E. McM. Burden, a Duke Street chemist about to rebuild Nos. 78 and 80 there (1887–8), submitted designs by his brother, R. H. Burden, in 1886, he was 'told that the Board do not think the drawing good enough for the site, but the Duke will decide'. R. H. Burden 'had not had experience in street architecture', and ultimately on Boodle's suggestion J. T. Wimperis, who was then in course of rebuilding the nearby Nos. 54–76 (even) Duke Street, was called in to revise Burden's designs. (fn. 142) Such ducal dislike of commercial lessees' architectural tastes was probably the reason for the compilation of the 'approved' list in 1887, but even in later years complete freedom of choice was sometimes still allowed. Thus Walton and Lee, auctioneers, were allowed in 1893 to nominate H. C. Boyes for No. 10 Mount Street, although he was not on the list of 1887. This choice was evidently considered to be satisfactory, for in 1894 Boyes became the architect (for Trollopes) for the adjoining Nos. 11 and 12 as well, and his name was put on the revised list of that year. (fn. 143) In 1896 Holloways, the builders, negotiating for the rebuilding of Nos. 14–26 (consec.) Mount Street (Plate 34a; fig. 20c), successfully asked that Read and Macdonald (never on the list) 'whom they can highly recommend, may be the architects'. (fn. 144) And a firm of saddlers was allowed to have Henry S. Legg (likewise never on the list) at No. 30 North Audley Street (1896–7), despite Eustace Balfour's recommendation of Ernest George; and when the adjoining Nos. 31–38 (consec.) were rebuilt a year later by the contractors Bywaters, Legg was again the architect, this time at the instigation of the Board. (fn. 145)
In addition to the rebuilding of private houses and shops there were two other categories of buildings in which the Duke's philanthropic temperament prompted him to take an active personal interest. These were artisans' dwellings and public houses.
During the second Marquess's time (1845–69) several small blocks of artisans' dwellings had been built on the Mayfair estate—St. George's Buildings and Grosvenor Buildings, Bourdon Street (1853 and 1869), by the St. George's Parochial Association (Plate 30a, 30b), and Bloomfield Flats, Bourdon Street (1856) and Oxford House, Grosvenor Market (1860, demolished), by a local builder, John Newson. (fn. 146) The Grosvenor Estate did not initiate any of these schemes, but between 1866 and 1875 the second Marquess and his successor, the first Duke, were both intimately involved in much larger projects in Pimlico, first in conjunction with the Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes, and later with the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company. In Mayfair the latter also built Clarendon Flats (formerly Buildings), Balderton (formerly George) Street in 1871–2 (Plate 30c), and in 1880 the Duke was already considering with the Company a very large scheme for improved dwellings between Grosvenor Square and Brook Street on the south and Oxford Street on the north, to be implemented when the existing leases expired in 1886. (fn. 147) Thus this project was in existence well before the tremendous public outcry of 1883 about the prevailing conditions of working-class housing, and between 1886 and 1892 nine blocks of dwellings were built in that area (Plate 31). They and Clarendon Flats provided accommodation for some two thousand people, this being seven hundred more than the scheme displaced, and the Company was bound in its contract with the Duke 'to offer to the persons who are now residing . . . upon that portion of his estate, the opportunity of occupying the dwellings as they are from time to time erected'. (fn. 148) The Duke himself paid the cost of laying out a large garden in what is now Brown Hart Gardens—later converted into a roof 'garden' above the Duke Street Electricity Sub-station (Plate 31b). His annual rental for the whole area redeveloped fell from £2,193 under the old leases to £502 under the new ones granted to the Company. (fn. 149)
The Duke's policy towards public houses reflected a more severe side of Victorian philanthropy; and it also exhibits more clearly than in any other aspect of the estate's administration the vast powers which he possessed as ground landlord. We have already seen that the second Earl and first Marquess (1802–45) had begun to try to reduce the number of pubs, and that in 1828, on the eve of the Beer Act of 1830, there were around seventy-five on his Mayfair estate. At about the time of the accession of the third Marquess (later first Duke) in 1869 there were still about forty-seven pubs and beer shops there, (fn. 150) and encouraged no doubt by the changes of 1869–72 in the licensing laws he decided to make a further drastic reduction in their numbers. In the ensuing years the great majority of applications to renew pub leases, whether from publicans or from great brewers like Watney's or Meux, were rejected outright. In 1874, for instance, Hanbury's were peremptorily informed that they could not have a renewal of the Swan in Oxford Street because 'on public grounds it is essential to reduce the number of public houses on the estate', (fn. 151) while Watney's in 1879 were told that the site of their Coach and Horses in Grosvenor Mews (now Bourdon Street) was 'already promised for the Parochial Institution'. (fn. 152) By 1891 no less than thirty-nine pubs and beer houses had been abolished on the Mayfair portion of the estate alone, and only eight still survived. (fn. 153) Today there are only five.
The motive for this massacre was, of course, the promotion of temperance, (fn. 154) and in c. 1884 a branch of the Church of England Temperance Society was established in the parish with the Duke's blessing. (fn. 155) In the newly rebuilt artisan quarter around Brown Hart Gardens he provided a drinking fountain, and he would have liked to establish a 'cocoa house' there too, had not the proposed lessee replied that he did not 'see much chance of making cocoa rooms in the place spoken of pay'. (fn. 156) Pubs did, however, pay, and their wholesale diminution was only achieved 'at a great pecuniary loss' to the Duke. (fn. 154) The Board could indeed state, in answer to a question about the Duke's policy towards pubs, that 'the question of loss does not influence the Duke in deciding upon this or any other matters affecting the good of the tenants or the improvement of London'. (fn. 157)
The mere abolition of pubs was, however, only one of the formidable prongs with which the Duke assailed the drink interest, for the surviving few were subjected to a regimen of controlling discipline of almost Spartan intensity. In the rebuilding of pubs the lessees had their architects chosen for them, of course, and at the Hertford Arms, 94 Park Street (now demolished) the tenant had to build his pub (to H. O. Cresswell's design) in a wholly domestic manner outwardly indistinguishable from the adjoining range of private houses. (fn. 158) At the corner of Mount Street and South Audley Street Watney's were only allowed to rebuild the Bricklayers' Arms (now the Audley Hotel) in 1888–9 on condition that they surrendered the lease of another nearby pub, and in the new building there was to be no entrance from South Audley Street. Even such a favoured architect as Thomas Verity had his first designs returned with the comment that 'His Grace thinks that the elevation . . . is too gin-palace-y in Mount Street'. (fn. 159)
Beginning in 1871 the Marquess (later Duke) also sought to reduce the hours of opening. These were certainly long—on weekdays, 4 a.m. to 1 a.m. (except Saturdays, midnight), and on Sundays 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday opening was, however, what particularly offended the Duke, and at first he admitted 'that there would be difficulties in London in reducing the hours, however desirable'. (fn. 160) But in 1880 he decided that he would, in renewing leases, 'prohibit the houses being opened on Sundays except for drinking off the premises from 1 to 3 o'clock'. (fn. 161) This draconian decree was sometimes relaxed to facilitate the exchange of leases, and by 1895 Sunday drinking on the premises between 1 and 3 o'clock seems to have been generally allowed. But in that year he refused to allow F. W. Bevan, the licensee and rebuilding lessee of the Barley Mow in Duke Street (who was risking his own capital of over £4,000 in rebuilding by an architect and contractor both chosen by the Duke), to open on Sunday evenings; and although he subsequently did allow off-the-premises trade on Sunday evenings (fn. 162) he still had all the publicans completely at his mercy, thanks to the ingenious drafting of his pub leases.
These, in the list of prohibited trades, included that of licensed victualler, but a 'conditional licence' was attached, by which the Duke granted consent, personal to the lessee, to practise the trade of licensed victualler, provided that 'the said trade or business be respectably conducted to my satisfaction', that the peculiar Grosvenor restrictions on Sunday opening be observed, and that 'I or other the landlord for the time being may revoke this licence at any time if in my or his absolute discretion there shall have been a breach of any or either of the above conditions'. (fn. 163) With this power to revoke his own licences whenever he, at his sole discretion, might think fit, the Duke had much more power over the pubs on his estate than the licensing authorities themselves.
The control of pubs shows in its most extreme form the full extent of the Duke's authority over his estate. But there were other fields in which it was at any rate in theory not much smaller, although practical difficulties sometimes prevented its full use. It should, however, be noted that the Duke usually exerted his power to achieve objects generally congenial to at least the wealthy residents for whom the estate primarily catered. His control, through his leases, over the use to which individual buildings might be put is a case in point and has already been discussed. The results of this can still be clearly seen in Mount Street, where prior to its complete rebuilding in the 1880's and 90's, shops, private houses and apartments let 'to people coming up to town' were all mixed together. The Duke's policy, which could only be implemented at the time of rebuilding, was to have all the shops east of South Audley Street and only private houses to the west. 'Our experience', Boodle stated in 1887, 'is that tradesmen like what they call "a market". They like all the shops to be together, and private gentlemen naturally like their houses to be together without shops.' (fn. 164) Similarly the grandees residing in Upper Grosvenor Street (of whom the Duke himself was one) probably liked his decision in 1873 that 'professions as well as trades and businesses should be excluded from Upper Grosvenor Street, . . . without, however, interfering with professional men under existing leases.' (fn. 165)
Policies of this kind could, however, only be implemented gradually, and elsewhere trade was now so long established that its removal, however desirable it might be thought to be, was sometimes abandoned. In 1880, for instance, a tailor at No. 62 Grosvenor Street was refused a renewal because 'businesses are being excluded from Grosvenor Street as the leases expire', (fn. 166) but Collard's, the piano makers at No. 16 were granted an extension without difficulty in 1888; (fn. 167) while in Brook Street some attempt seems to have been made to eliminate shops, (fn. 168) but Claridge's Hotel was allowed to be rebuilt there in the 1890's. The eastern end of Brook Street was, indeed, becoming steadily less residential in character, while in Grosvenor Street the Alexandra Ladies' Club was admitted to No. 12 in 1887; (fn. 169) and discreet new businesses, notably that of 'Court dressmaker', were even allowed, provided that there was 'no show of business except a small brass plate, and the door to be kept shut except for ingress and egress'. (fn. 170)
Sometimes the Duke's requirements must have been irksome even to residents in the best streets. His liking for plate glass in the windows of private houses was not always popular, and his idiosyncratic fondness for stuccowork to be painted orange, as he himself had the Grosvenor Office at No. 53 Davies Street done in 1883 ('like that at the bottom of Waterloo Place') must have been vexatious to some tastes. (fn. 171) For railings he seems to have changed in the mid 1870's from stone colour to 'chocolate or red', but in later years the new red brick 'Queen Anne style' houses had to have their railings and window frames painted white. (fn. 172)
More usually, however, his actions did probably enjoy considerable support among his tenants. His objection to building work during the London Season, his preference for wood blocks—quieter but more expensive than granite—for the repaving of Oxford Street, and his strict control of advertising on his portion of the same street, are obvious instances. (fn. 173) In the 1870's and early 1880's the disfigurement of the estate by the erection of telegraph and telephone posts and wires was vigorously opposed, the proprietors being required to sign an acknowledgment that their installations were held on sufferance only, subject to three months' notice to quit. (fn. 174) When the new electric lighting companies obtained power in 1883 to put up posts and wires, subject to the control of the local authorities, the Board thought that 'a combination should be effected with other landlords to require all the electric wires to be put underground'. (fn. 175) And well-founded complaints from tenants were often taken up—against 'the uproarious conduct' of the children at the Ragged School in Davies Mews, or the constant standing of carriages outside the Grosvenor Gallery, or, from the Duchess of Marlborough against a dentist in Grosvenor Street whose activities were visible from her house opposite, and whom the Board politely requested 'to put up a muslin curtain to prevent his dentistry patients being seen'. (fn. 176)
Nor was such concern confined to outward and visible (or audible) matters. From the 1870's onwards it became common for the Board, in the renewal of leases, to insist that water closets should be externally lit and ventilated instead of (as was sometimes hitherto the case) from the staircase. (fn. 7) The installation of lifts—first recorded in 1884 (fn. 177) —produced a new type of problem through the frequent complaints of neighbours about the noise of their operation. In the mews behind the great houses extensive works of modernization were often required, particularly when Eustace Balfour was the estate surveyor (1890–1910), the following being a typical requirement —'Modernise the stabling as regards accommodation for a married coachman and one helper, providing at least four rooms (every room to have a fireplace) and a separate w.c. for the use of the helpers. The helper's room to be approached directly from the staircase, and to be kept quite distinct from the coachman's quarters. . .' (fn. 178) In many mews the old narrow entrances were widened by the demolition of corner houses, and in conjunction with the Vestry urinals à la mode française were provided for the army of outdoor servants who worked there—'the Duke was most anxious for a great many more urinals being erected in the Parish and in London generally'. And when Lord Manners's coachman complained that the urinal in Reeves Mews 'could be seen into from his upper windows', the Board acted with as much promptness as it had in the case of the Duchess of Marlborough and the dentist in Grosvenor Street. (fn. 179)
In addition to the extensive rebuildings and the general maintenance of the estate, a number of important other improvements were made during the first Duke's time. Communication between Berkeley Square and Grosvenor Square was greatly improved by the demolition of some projecting property of the Duke's at the east end of Mount Street (c. 1880), and by the widening and realignment of Charles Street (now Carlos Place, c. 1891). Several other streets were widened during the course of rebuilding, notably Duke Street, North Audley Street, South Audley Street north of South Street, and Mount Street, the land given up by the Duke for this last alone being worth £50,000. (fn. 180) Several short new streets were formed or realigned and widened—Red Place, Carpenter Street, Rex Place and Balfour Mews—and in 1898 the important realignment of the north end of Davies Street, first mooted in the 1830's, (fn. 181) was at last achieved, thereby providing greatly improved communication between Berkeley Square and Oxford Street. (fn. 182) When the Metropolitan Board of Works made improvements at Hyde Park Corner—some distance from the Grosvenor estate—at the public expense, the Duke of Westminster was the only landowner to make a voluntary contribution (of £3,000) to the cost, 'in consideration of the additional value that was given to his property'. (fn. 183) And when in 1890 the disused burial ground to the east of the Grosvenor Chapel was converted by the Vestry into a public garden the Duke, who had envisaged this improvement as long ago as 1874, began, and continued for the rest of his life, to pay £100 per annum towards the cost of its upkeep. (fn. 184) It was not indeed for nothing that the chairman of the Royal Commission of 1884–5 on the Housing of the Working Classes said publicly that he did 'not think that anybody on the Commission would be disposed to doubt the excellent management of the Westminster Estate'. (fn. 185)
In 1899, the last year of the Duke's life, there was a marked decline in the volume of rebuilding on the Mayfair portion of the estate. A phase of reduced activity was beginning, and his own tremendous impact upon the area had probably exhausted itself. In 1887, when this impact had not yet made itself fully felt, Boodle had stated before the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Town Holdings that the Duke's aim was 'to have wide thoroughfares instead of narrow, to set back the houses in rebuilding so as to obtain broad areas and a good basement for the servants . . . He also wishes to have effective architecture, to insist upon good sanitary arrangements in houses, to promote churches, chapels, and schools, and open spaces for recreation'. All this he had done chiefly 'because he desires better houses, and he is a great lover of architecture and likes a handsome town, and he would sacrifice enormously to carry that out on his estate'. (fn. 186)
By insisting so often upon rebuilding he undoubtedly had sacrificed the very considerable extra income which he could have obtained by leasing at rack rents. Boodle stated that 'rebuilding involves a loss of about two-thirds of the income'. (fn. 187) In Mount Street the total new ground rents amounted in 1898 to £8,343 per annum, (fn. 188) but if no rebuilding had taken place the rack rental from this one street would have been worth about £20,000 a year. (fn. 189) In 1897 the rental of the estate was actually said to have 'diminished, owing to the pulling down'. (fn. 190) The Duke's decision to go ahead with rebuilding on a large scale cannot therefore have been an easy one.
Yet despite the rebuildings the rental of the Mayfair estate nevertheless rose (as we have already seen) from c. £80,000 per annum in 1870 to c. £135,000 in 1891. About two thirds of this increase took place before the most intense phase of rebuilding began around 1886; and it should, of course, be remembered that although in rebuilding the Duke forfeited about two thirds of what he could have obtained by rack renting, his income still rose, because the new ground rents were substantially higher than the old ones. (fn. 8) (fn. 187)
The extent of his sacrifice was therefore a matter of degree. But it was certainly one which no other London landlord made on the same scale, and the fact that he did make it gave substance to Boodle's claim that 'the Duke certainly takes the lead in the improvement of London'. (fn. 191) Nor should his success in the re-creation of 'a handsome town' on his estate be decried. It was an age when the quality of municipal street improvement was at its lowest ebb, and Mount Street was a vastly different kettle of fish from Shaftesbury Avenue or Charing Cross Road.
If the Duke had reason to be satisfied, so too did his rebuilding lessees, for according to Boodle they 'almost invariably' got their money back, and 'with a very large profit'. There was never any shortage of applications for sites, and the case (previously mentioned) of T. B. Linscott, the Oxford Street confectioner who had at first been 'rather reluctant to rebuild' but whose business had subsequently grown very rapidly, was 'usual in good thoroughfares'. (fn. 192) According to the estate agent W. H. Warner, who had no axe to grind in the matter, probably not a single one of the Mount Street lessees was 'dissatisfied with his bargain'. (fn. 193)
Throughout the 1880's and 90's the Board received numerous requests from architects and builders for sites, most of which were refused, occupants being (as we have seen) generally preferred. Those favoured few whose applications were successful, such as Edis or Trollopes, were almost always anxious to have more sites—a sure testimony to the financial success of their operations on the estate. Except in Balfour Place and Balfour Mews, where the market was sluggish for S. G. Bird in 1894 and for W. A. Daw in 1900, (fn. 194) speculators never seem to have had any difficulty in finding tenants or purchasers for their new buildings, and the high prices which they demanded were sometimes noted with interest by the Board, £16,000 for No. 68 Mount Street (W. A. Daw, ground rent £150) and for No. 78 Mount Street (W. H. Warner, ground rent £116), being cases in point. (fn. 195) The new houses in Green Street, although less expensive than those at the west end of Mount Street, were also evidently much sought after. In 1892 the Hon. Alfred Lyttelton bought one of them from the builders, Matthews, Rogers and Company, for £7,000, but sold it soon afterwards for £8,600 to F. Leverton Harris, who in turn re-sold it in 1896 for £12,600 -an appreciation of eighty per cent in the course of four years. (fn. 196)
The market in Grosvenor Square was buoyant too. In reference to 'houses which have been rebuilt on a groundrent, and afterwards sold for sums far exceeding the cost of building them', Boodle cited one house which 'cost 12,000l., and was sold for 18,000l.', and another which 'cost 18,000l. and was sold for 23,000l., and was afterwards sold again for 35,000l.'. No. 42, rebuilt as a speculation by the builder Wright Ingle in 1853–5 at a cost of less than £20,000, was sold in 1886 (without any addition to the original seventy-seven-year lease) for £30,000. (fn. 197) In 1878 Holland and Hannen were thought to have made a profit of about £8,000 in selling No. 39 to the Marquess of Lothian for £23,500 after having 'practically had to rebuild the house'; (fn. 198) and in the 1890's Matthews, Rogers and Company's speculations in refurbishing Nos. 11 and 13 were probably correspondingly successful.
But although the Duke himself, his rebuilding lessees and the speculative builders were all probably pleased with the changes made on the estate, there were other people who were not. There were some who merely did not like the Duke's taste in architecture. When the renumbering of the houses in Grosvenor Square was in contemplation, the Earl of Harrowby took the opportunity to complain to the Vestry 'that the character of the Square has much deteriorated of late and its Appearance has been destroyed by the recent erection of houses like public institutions'. The Earl's own architectural tastes were probably rather old-fashioned, but this did not, however, prevent his expressing a deeper and more general source of grievance when he continued that 'Anyhow, ordinary courtesy should have led the Grosvenor Estate Board to have consulted the old and existing tenants of the other houses, though recent experience has unfortunately shown that their interests are no longer consulted by the Estate Board in the arrangements with the new builders'. (fn. 199)
It was during the very years that the renewal of the Mayfair estate was being so vigorously carried through that the leasehold system, of which the Grosvenor estate formed such a conspicuous example, was first seriously criticised. During the 1880's several abortive 'leasehold enfranchisement' bills were discussed in Parliament, (fn. 200) both the Royàl Commission of 1884–5 on the Housing of the Working Classes and the Select Committee of the House of Commons of 1887 on Town Holdings examined the workings of the system in some detail, and the Duke himself was from time to time attacked in the press and in a number of pamphlets. (fn. 201) Great urban landlords, and dukes in particular, were being challenged for the first time, and the death duty clauses in Sir William Harcourt's Finance Act of 1894 only added to their tribulations. (fn. 202) Public attitudes towards them, hitherto ignored, suddenly became important to them in the new political climate emanating from the Reform Act of 1884. Boodle did battle on the Duke's behalf in the correspondence columns of The Times, and the Marquess of Salisbury (the sometime Prime Minister) helpfully suggested to his nephew Eustace Balfour, the Grosvenor estate surveyor, 'that the number of the Duke's houses might be ascertained to disabuse the public mind as to the Dukes of Bedford and Westminster owning practically the whole of the area within the County of London'. (fn. 9) (fn. 203)
The most pungent critic of the leasehold system in general and of the Duke in particular was Frank Banfield, whose series of articles in The Sunday Times was published in book form in c. 1888 under the title The Great Landlords of London. In his chapter on the Grosvenor estate he attacked the Duke for sometimes giving preference to speculative builders before occupants, and for compelling prospective lessees in businesses with valuable goodwill to rebuild at their expense but to his architectural taste. 'I like fine streets as much as any one, but I object to see numbers of Englishmen forced to tax their capital so heavily and perilously merely to suit the dictatorial architectural caprices of a millionaire Duke.' He also asserted that 'tenants do not receive that consideration which is their due', being often left in ignorance 'right up to the end of their lease, whether they can renew or not', and criticised the estate (in the person of H. T. Boodle) for its 'take it or leave it' attitude when offering rebuilding terms, and for the unreasonable stringency of some of the lease covenants. (fn. 204)
In reference to this last he cited the case of a butcher in Mount Street, Edgar Green of No. 117, who was one of the lessees for the rebuilding of Nos. 116–121 (consec.) and who in his lease had had to 'sign away the right to hang carcases' in front of his shop window. When he had nevertheless displayed meat outside, Boodle had asked him to desist, but had also invited him 'to make an application to the Duke for leave to hang a moderate quantity of meat in the window in front if he wished to do so instead'. Green had then attended a meeting of the Board to put his case, and the Duke had said he would 'call and see the shop on his way home' to Grosvenor House. Subsequently he wrote to Boodle that 'I think Butcher Green's exhibition of prominent carcases of sheep may be permitted as an ornament to the street, as I have told him'. (fn. 205)
This case shows that, on occasion, the autocratic powers possessed by the Estate were used with discretion; but generally the criticisms made by Banfield and others were criticisms of basic features of the leasehold system itself. It was (at any rate on the Grosvenor estate) the function of the head lessee to improve, by building or rebuilding, the ground let to him on a long lease at a low rent. But whereas at the time of first development the prospective lessee was free to accept or reject the terms offered by the ground landlord, at the time of rebuilding he already often had a considerable amount of capital vested in the site in the form of goodwill, and in negotiation for terms the scales were therefore weighted against him. Boodle might claim with justice that no advantage was 'taken of a tradesman's good will, created by his own industry, so as to exact high terms from him', but he did also admit that 'in many cases of rebuilding it is impossible to let the old tenants rebuild. The tenants would not be equal to it . . . Great care has to be taken as to who rebuilds.' In the eyes of the Estate the tenant had a moral right to be 'fairly considered' at the expiry of his lease, and every effort was made to minimise the disturbance of rebuilding 'by endeavouring to find accommodation for the tenants displaced in the neighbourhood, as far as possible'; but 'if the necessities of the estate for public improvement require that he should go, he must go'. (fn. 206)
The Duke's rebuilding programme did undoubtedly cause a great deal of disturbance and some resentment. E. L. Armbrecht, the Duke Street chemist previously referred to, for instance, wrote to the Duke inviting him 'to imagine our positions reversed. Were your Grace a dispensing chemist, and I the Duke of Westminster, what would you then think of your landlord if, in the full knowledge that you had given the best of your life to the development of a business, I did not scruple to confiscate interests acquired at such a cost.' (fn. 207) And Thrupp and Maberly, coachbuilders in George (now Balderton) Street, complaining of the way in which they had been treated by Boodle in the matter of loss of light through the building of Clarendon Buildings opposite, asked the Duke to 'infuse into the managers of the Estate more urbanity and consideration of the feelings of others. We suppose it tends to save time to refuse to discuss matters, to say, "This is my plan, that is our form of lease, not a word shall be altered, you have only to accept or reject". But such a course is not a pleasant one to tenants.' (fn. 208)
Compulsory displacement, loss of business and a sense of grievance were all part of the price that had to be paid under the leasehold system for the Duke's improvements; but Boodle was able to make a good case for his contention that these improvements would not have been made at all if the estate had been divided into a multitude of small ownerships. In support of this he cited the case of Bond Street, where most of the tenants 'have leases perpetually renewable by right, and these leases in point of duration are practically equivalent to separate freeholds. No grand improvement, such as widening the street, is, therefore, made on a comprehensive scale, and Bond-street is, and will remain, unless the Metropolitan Board of Works steps in at an enormous cost to the ratepayers, one of the most inconveniently narrow thoroughfares in London.' (fn. 209)
Yet despite this disadvantage Bond Street nearly a century later still keeps its standing among the commercial streets of the West End; and this shows that it was not only due to the Duke's rebuilding policies and the general efficiency of his property management that the Grosvenor estate in Mayfair retained and has continued to retain its pre-eminence among the great estates of London. From the time of its first development in the eighteenth century it has always enjoyed immense advantages of topographical position. At first it was a natural refuge for the beau monde in westward retreat from the once fashionable but soon crowded and declining streets of Covent Garden and Soho. Then the proximity of Hyde Park came to be regarded as an added attraction— as was not the case in the early eighteenth century. Still more important, the existence of the park on the western boundary of the estate dammed up further migration directly westward. Thus Mayfair is one of the few areas of London to benefit from the outward movement of the well-to-do without later suffering from it. No surface railway or railway constructed on the cut-and-cover principle has ever been built either on or even near the Grosvenor estate there, nor has it ever had undesirable neighbours of lesser social distinction, whose mere existence in adjacent streets might have detracted in course of time from its own bon ton. It has, in fact, had good fortune as well as natural advantages. With strict management and a determined programme of renewal as well, it is hardly surprising that in the first Duke's time it was generally regarded as the first among the big estates in London. (fn. 210)