Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2 (The Buildings). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1980.
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Brook Street extends westward from Hanover Square to the north-eastern corner of Grosvenor Square. The substantial portion to the east of South Molton Lane and Avery Row lies outside the Grosvenor estate and is not included in this volume. Beneath South Molton Lane and Avery Row flowed the Tyburn Brook, which formed the eastern boundary of the estate, and from which Brook Street takes its name. In the eighteenth century the street was sometimes referred to as Lower Brook Street to distinguish it from Upper Brook Street, while the eastern extremity, between New Bond Street and Hanover Square (outside the Grosvenor estate), was known as Little Brook Street.
When the development of the Grosvenor portion of the street began late in 1720, building on the portion on the adjoining Conduit Mead estate to the east had already begun. In order to prevent developers there from building across the line of Brook Street and so blocking the communication between the Grosvenor portion and Hanover Square, Sir Richard Grosvenor had to take leases of land there and enter into special agreements with the builders. (fn. 1) He also undertook, in 1720, to build 'a large brick arch and shore over the said brook' on the line of the proposed westward continuation of Brook Street, (fn. 2) and with access from the east thus secured he was able within less than five years to dispose by a series of building agreements of all the land on both sides of his portion of the street. The ensuing building leases were granted between 1724 and 1726, and by 1729 most of the houses were in occupation.
In 1735 Robert Seymour described the new street as 'for the most part nobly built and inhabited by People of Quality', (fn. 3) and although at least four of its first inhabitants had been tradesmen, in 1736 seven of its forty-three rated houses were occupied by titled residents.
Claridge's apart, Brook Street still retains much of the domestic scale and quality of the original architectural development, though only about ten of the houses contain any early eighteenth-century fabric. The original houses varied considerably in size and frontage, those on the north side east of Davies Street being smaller than those in the rest of the street, having a width of only two or three bays as opposed to four or five elsewhere. In their pristine state all the houses were probably three storeys high plus basements and garrets, but with the exception of Nos. 66 and 68 additional storeys were built throughout the street at different dates in the nineteenth century. Otherwise there was no effort at uniformity and the architecture of the houses varied considerably in style and mood, encompassing both the quirky Baroque of Edward Shepherd's elevation at No. 72 (Plate 3b) and the cool Palladian of Colen Campbell's at Nos. 76 (Plate 1a) and 78 (the latter now demolished). Most of the original houses sported plain brown-brick fronts with red-brick dressings and wooden doorcases with moulded architraves and flat hoods. On the whole the interiors were panelled, and there were fine wooden staircases. Some of them also contained stucco work, of which that at No. 66 is particularly extravagant (Plate 2a, figs. 3–5).
Architectural changes in the course of the eighteenth century were relatively minor: some internal redecoration and the addition of some new external features, notably fanlights, or thinner sash bars. Towards the end of the century, however, the social character of the street began to change at the east end between Davies Street and South Molton Lane. Encouraged, no doubt, by the advance of commerce in nearby New Bond Street, tradesmen settled here, attracted perhaps by the fact that the original leases in this part of the street had been for only eighty years and the ends of leases were therefore sometimes becoming available for inexpensive purchase. Already by 1778 several of the houses on the north side of this portion of the street had shop windows (fig. 4 in vol. XXXIX), and in 1805 William Porden, the estate surveyor, when commenting on a proposal to convert a house into a hotel, said that 'Brook Street, between Davies Street and Bond Street is of such a mixed character of Houses as not to be thought an eligible situation for Persons of Rank. . . . The demand for Hotels is every year increasing from the impossibility of procuring Houses or Lodgings near Grosvenor Square for Families who spend but a short time in London, and the very respectable persons that resort to such accommodations keeps [sic] them as quiet and as respectable in appearance as private Houses'. (fn. 4) Despite the initial hostility of the Grosvenor Board the eastern part of Brook Street was, in fact, already in course of colonisation by hotel-keepers Pellot Kirkham at No. 43 in 1802 and William Wake at No. 49 in 1806 being the pioneers. James Mivart first made his appearance in Brook Street in 1812, and by 1827 he occupied five houses in Brook Street as hotels, the seeds of the enterprise which was to grow into Claridge's.
Despite the commercialisation of its eastern end, the rest of Brook Street remained within the orbit of high fashion centred on Grosvenor Square. In 1807 Brook Street and Upper Brook Street were described as 'grand avenues from Hyde Park to Bond Street . . . the calm retreats of nobility and persons of great landed property'. (fn. 5) Later in the nineteenth century the street became a favoured place of residence for successful, often knighted, surgeons and physicians, including several who attended the royal family. This trend reached its peak in 1922 when No. 86 was remodelled and enlarged to provide specially designed consulting rooms for a 'group of distinguished doctors'.
In the early nineteenth century a number of houses were adorned with stucco, iron balconies and projecting porches, of which an Ionic example, just possibly designed by C. R. Cockerell, survives at No. 88 (Plate 31b). No. 65 was completely rebuilt in 1811–12 by Charles Elliott, the Bond Street upholsterer, while No. 39 was largely remodelled by Sir Jeffry Wyatville in Greco-Roman taste and is one of the most interesting early nineteenth-century terrace houses to survive in London (Plate 4a, 4c, figs. 11, 12: see also Plate 22a in vol. XXXIX). Under the second Marquess, in the mid nineteenth century, major architectural changes began. In 1848 Thomas 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 east of Davies Street; and although it was recorded that 'the Marquess does not approve the proposed plan, and Mr. Cundy takes it away', (fn. 6) the present elevations of Nos. 56 and 58, which were rebuilt in 1852-3, and of Nos. 48 and 50 (rebuilt in 1862-3) do nevertheless suggest that there was an intention to impose a uniform design on this part of the street (Plate 1b). Several of the houses on the south side were also remodelled to Cundy's specification with stucco architraves, balconettes and projecting porches. Some occupants preferred to go to better architects of their own choice, and at No. 41 (now part of the Bath Club) the stuccoed front elevation was designed by Sir Charles Barry, while at No. 67 the Marquess of Blandford employed 'Mr. Hardwick' almost certainly P. C. Hardwick to design alterations required by the Estate.
It was, however, under the first Duke that the majority of rebuildings took place and it was his taste and preference for red brick and terracotta which determined the appearance of the most distinctive interpolations in the street. These range through the gaunt muscular Gothic of C. F. Hayward's No. 78 (Plate 33c in vol. XXXIX), the Jacobean of Edis's Nos. 59–61 (Plate 4b) and of Morley Horder's Nos. 52–54 (Plate 1b), and the large manybalconied bulk of Claridge's (Plate 6c), to the Arts and Crafts eccentricity of Balfour and Turner's Nos. 40–46 (Plate 1b).
In the early twentieth century the Grosvenor Board's policy was influenced by a newly awakened sensitivity towards Brook Street's Georgian character and the universal adoption of various brands of classical architecture for new buildings.
This concern for the eighteenth-century houses was at first largely due to Eustace Balfour, the estate surveyor, who in the case of several houses in the street advised against rebuilding on the grounds of their architectural importance and also intervened, with varying degrees of success, to preserve individual features of interest, such as the staircase at No. 63 or the stone inscribed 'Bird Street 1725' on the side of No. 86. As a result, much of the new work in Brook Street was extremely tactful, and harmonised well with the remaining older work. Mewes and Davis at No. 88, Biddulph-Pinchard at No. 86, Wimperis and Simpson at No. 43 or the unknown architect of Nos. 73–77 (No. 73 now demolished) all achieved a standard of neighbourliness which has not been matched since. By contrast, the inter-war years also saw several larger-scale intruders in the street and the gradual elimination of its private residential character. The harbinger of this new state of affairs was Lloyds' Bank on the north-east corner with Davies Street, a bland stone-faced commercial building which aroused protests from adjoining residents against this further erosion of the domestic character of the street. Nevertheless the onward march of commerce proceeded unchecked, and the extension of Claridge's in 1930–1 involved the demolition of two more old houses. Since the war of 1939–45 there has been little further redevelopment with the unhappy exception of No. 73, which was demolished in 1974 and replaced by an intrusive office block. Today the houses in the street are used principally as offices, hotels and clubs; none of them is still in full domestic occupation. The finest surviving interiors are, however, often well maintained in their new use, particularly the rich early eighteenth-century rooms at No. 66 (the Grosvenor Office), Wyatville's elegant neoclassical rooms at No. 39 (Colefax and Fowler), and the sumptuous 'Louis XV' salons at Nos. 69–71 (the Savile Club).