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 publication of this volume of the Survey of London coincides with the tercentenary of the establishment of the Grosvenor Estate in London. In advancing the printing of this volume by a year, the Greater London Council is giving special prominence to one of the most extraordinary and successful developments in our city. The increasingly tight control exercised by the Estate in modern times not only over the architecture but also over the use of newly erected buildings, has contributed to making Mayfair a harmonious and to a large extent visually united whole. Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian elements blend into a cohesive and dignified entity. Only occasionally, some later buildings may be felt to be unwelcome intruders.
Situated in the very heart of London, alongside Oxford Street, the capital's largest shopping thoroughfare, the area described in this volume has Grosvenor Square as its focal point, famous for its connection with the United States of America. Their mighty new embassy building dominates the western end of the large square, while the statue of Franklin Delano Roosevelt constitutes the main feature of its open space. Other embassies, including those of Italy and Japan, are sited close by. It is no accident that so many foreign missions have sought out this part of London where they exist side by side with a prosperous business community, fine residences, and some of the capital's most prestigious hotels and restaurants. The very name of Mayfair has become a byword for quality, not least because of the prevalence of strong and characteristic architecture and the total absence of mean or derelict streets.
This is the first part of the Survey of London's study of the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair. It contains a general account of the history and architecture of the estate, and will be followed by a detailed description of individual buildings which is now in course of preparation.
The Grosvenor family's estates in what are now Mayfair and Belgravia were acquired by Sir Thomas Grosvenor through his marriage on 10 October 1677 with Mary Davies, the daughter and heiress of a scrivener in the City of London. In Mayfair, development for building began in the 1720's, and within a few years Daniel Defoe was describing the 'amazing Scene of new Foundations, not of Houses only, but as I might say of new Cities' which were then springing up on the western outskirts of London. Many of the leading architects and builders of the day, notably Colen Campbell, Roger Morris and Edward Shepherd, worked on the Grosvenor Estate. Despite widespread rebuilding during the last hundred years, several splendid examples of the original Georgian work still survive, and many of the Victorian and Edwardian buildings are equally notable.
Hitherto only a few of these buildings have been studied in any detail, and the history of the estate itself—of its first development and of its subsequent management down to the present day— has remained largely unknown. The production of this volume has been made possible by the decision of the Grosvenor Estate Trustees to allow the Council's Survey of London staff access to their historical records kept at the Grosvenor Office in Mayfair and at Eaton Hall in Cheshire. The Council is most grateful to them and their staff at the Grosvenor Office, and in particular to Mr. Guy Acloque, for this essential assistance in the study of London's historic fabric.
On behalf of the Council I should also like to thank all those people who have given help in the preparation of this study. Many of their names are recorded in the List of Acknowledgments in this volume, and much of the research for it could not have been done without their generous assistance. I am particularly grateful to my colleagues, the advisory members of the Historic Buildings Board— Sir John Betjeman, Sir Hugh Casson, Sir Osbert Lancaster, Mr. Ian Phillips, Sir Paul Reilly and Sir John Summerson—who have given their valuable time and profound knowledge at numerous meetings of the Board. I would also like to express my great appreciation to the elected members of the Board for their devotion to the task of preserving the architectural heritage of our great city.
This volume has been prepared under the General Editorship of Mr. F. H. W. Sheppard. On the basis of research started in 1973, he and the Assistant Editors, Mr. J. Greenacombe and Mr. V. R. Belcher (all of the Director-General's Department) wrote the historical portions of the text and edited all the material. Latterly they were assisted in research and editing by the Deputy Editor, Mr. P. A. Bezodis. The typing was done by Mrs. K. Hill, who prior to her retirement in 1976 had typed the whole of the texts of seven volumes of the Survey, and by Mrs. B. Crawford, who also assisted with proof reading. All the contributions made by the staff of the Historic Buildings Division of the Department of Architecture and Civic Design were produced under the aegis of Mr. Ashley Barker, Surveyor of Historic Buildings. These contributions comprise portions of the text written by Mr. Andrew Saint, the Architectural Editor, who in 1974 took over from Dr. Malcolm Airs the organisation of the photographic and drawing programmes. The principal photographers were Mr. Alan Turner, Mr. Graham Slough and Mr. Stephen Tozer of the Council's Photographic Unit. The drawings were made in the Historic Buildings Division under the general guidance of Mr. F. A. Evans, M.B.E., and after his retirement in 1975, of Mr. John Sambrook. The authorship of each individual drawing is acknowledged in the List of Figures. I should like here to add a word of special appreciation for the outstanding contribution made by Mr. Evans, whose drawings appear in all eighteen of the volumes of the Survey published since 1949.
Chairman, Historic Buildings Board
Greater London Council