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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This street was laid out in the 1750's. Originally called Norfolk Street, it was sometimes known as New Norfolk Street in the nineteenth century and was renamed Dunraven Street by the London County Council in 1939 after the fourth Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl, a former resident of the street, who had been a member of the L.C.C. The principal developer here was Edmund Rush, mason, who was a major builder on the estate during the 1750's and 1760's. In 1756 he acquired a large plot of ground on the south side of Green Street at the corner of Park Lane on which he laid out the southern arm of the new street. (fn. 3) By the end of the same year he had granted sub-leases of all the house sites in this part of the street, mostly to building tradesmen, but the sub-lessee of three houses was William Kay, 'gentleman', who was probably a solicitor. One of Kay's clerks was Edmund Rush Wagg, presumably a relative of the builder, and Kay may have been the essential kind of business associate who could make the difference between success and failure for a builder. (fn. 4)
The northern arm of the street, between Green Street and North Row, followed on very quickly. Here the land was held under lease by John Spencer, carpenter, (fn. 5) but Rush was a consenting party to all the sub-leases of individual house plots granted by Spencer in 1757–8, again mostly to building tradesmen, (fn. 6) and in July 1758 Spencer made over his interest in the northern part of Norfolk Street and much of Green Street and North Row to Rush. (fn. 7) (fn. 1)
By 1761 all the houses in Norfolk Street had been completed and occupied. Those on the west side, overlooking the Park and having short gardens extending to Park Lane, were generally grander than those on the east side, and quickly attracted rich and/or fashionable residents. Several of these houses survive, though all have been very greatly altered, and as many are now numbered wholly or partly in Park Lane they are described in Chapter XV. Those on the site of the modern Avenfield House had four main storeys (the fourth storeys perhaps later additions) with central entrances, prominent stringcourses and neat cornices, of the kind for which an exemplar had been provided in Isaac Ware's A Complete Body of Architecture, first published in 1756. (fn. 2) The unsightly clutter of drainage pipes to be seen in Plate 48a reveals the changed orientation of these houses, the principal fronts of which latterly faced westward to Park Lane instead of eastward to Dunraven Street.
On the east side of the street the frontages were generally narrower, such evidence as exists suggesting that the houses were three windows wide and had three main storeys. (fn. 8) Their inhabitants were more varied than on the west side, two of them in 1790 being occupied by physicians and two by tradesmen, while two others were used as public houses. (fn. 9) In the 1820's a house of ill-fame here was causing the Estate some concern. (fn. 10) This side of the street was also popular with officers of the army or navy, for in 1796 five of the eighteen occupants here were officers of the armed services, who continued to favour the houses here throughout the nineteenth century, Captain (later First Sea Lord and Admiral of the Fleet) John Fisher, for instance, living at No. 16 (on the site of the present No. 18 Dunraven Street) from 1887 to 1891. Mrs. Lillie Langtry lived at No. 17 (on the site of the present No. 19) from 1877 to 1880. James McNeill Whistler assisted in the decoration of the house for her and provided the drawing-room with a painted ceiling. (fn. 11)
Other occupants of demolished houses on the east side of Norfolk Street include: Dow. Duchess of Beaufort, wid. of 4th Duke, 1760–3. Col. Oliver De Lancey, later general and M.P., 1787–90. Col. James Moncrieff, military engineer, 1791–3. Sir Lucas Pepys, physician to George III, 1816–21. Sir John Carr, barrister and writer on travel, 1812–32. Sir Howard Elphinstone, 1st bt., commander royal engineers in Peninsular War, 1821–46. Sir Murray Maxwell, naval capt., 1827–31. 5th Earl of Essex, 1825–8. Lord William Russell, brother of 6th Duke of Bedford, murdered here by his valet, 1839–40. 4th Baron de Blaquiere, 1859–64. (Sir) Edward William Watkin, later 1st bt., M.P., railway promoter, 1864–6. Adm. (Sir) Cyprian Bridge, 1893–6. George Thomas Kenyon, M.P., 1894–8. 5th Earl of Rosslyn, a professional actor under the name of James Erskine, 1906–7.
No. 1, a tall, gaunt, red-brick house, is to all intents and purposes a rebuilding of 1883–4 by John Morris, builder, of Park Street to the designs of James Trant Smith, although parts of the structure of the original building on the site, the Coach and Horses public house, erected in 1756, may have been retained. Morris undertook the rebuilding as a speculation on a twenty-year lease and was unable to dispose of the house. His subsequent attempts to secure a long lease failed because the Grosvenor Board already had in mind further improvements to the whole area, but in 1887 in view of his 'serious losses' he was allowed to have a new lease for a slightly longer term at the low ground rent of £10. Eventually Morris's sons, who succeeded him in his business, were able to obtain a new sixty-three-year extension from 1910, during the negotiations for which they commented that 'the house looks pretentious but the interior disappoints people'. (fn. 12)
Nos. 2–6 (consec.)
Nos. 2 and 3 have the usual four main storeys of the Green Street area and are faced with red bricks, here decked out, however, with a good deal of stonework which produces the effect of an unhappy compromise between brick and stone fronts. The houses were built in 1907–8 before the general scheme for rebuilding this block had been formulated. In 1902 Foster bought up the last years of the leases of the existing houses on the site and obtained extensions to 1913 from the Estate. He was able to do little with the houses, however, and in 1905 asked for rebuilding terms. Balfour, the estate surveyor, advised against allowing rebuilding before the leases of other houses in Green Street and Norfolk Street had fallen in, but two years later the Board relented when informed that the old houses had caused Foster 'very serious losses … and he was quite driven into a corner by them'. (fn. 13)
No. 4 (Norwich House) was built in 1913–16 with a rather mechanical neo-Georgian elevation loosely modelled on Lutyens' recent rebuilding of No. 7 St. James's Square. It is a large house of six bays, and the extra storey heights deemed necessary to get sufficient light to the attics, and, perhaps, to give it the right proportions, raises it above its neighbours, but the effect has been mitigated somewhat by setting back the building line. Foster originally intended to erect three houses on the site but found a client in the financier Sir Courtauld Thomson (later Baron Courtauld-Thomson) who wanted one big house. He was closely involved in the building industry as a director of Holloways and also helped to found the firm of Lenygon and Morant. His role here is ambiguous, however, for at the same time he entered into a contract to rebuild at the corner of Park Street and Wood's Mews (not in the event carried out), and by the end of 1914 he had agreed to sell No. 4 to Mr. Penryn Vaughan-Morgan. In 1916 the lease was granted to Mrs. Vaughan-Morgan by direction of Foster and Thomson, but the VaughanMorgans did not live in the house and in 1917 it was being used as a military hospital. (fn. 14)
Foster's builders for Nos. 4, 5 and 6, and probably for Nos. 2 and 3 as well, were Frederick Foxley and Company with whom he evidently had a close working relationship. (fn. 17)
Nos. 16–19 (consec.)
Nos. 16–19 (consec.) have the usual four main storeys, basements and garrets characteristic of the Green Street area, and are treated as one composition with the outer two houses framing a mirrored pair in the centre. They were erected in 1897–8 by Bywaters as a speculation to the designs of Sidney R. J. Smith. Bywaters acquired the site as a consequence of having been chosen as builders by Lord Ribblesdale for his mansion at the neighbouring No. 32 Green Street, and agreed to the appointment of Smith, who was Lord Ribblesdale's architect, as architect for these houses also. (fn. 18) In contrast to the restraint which his client placed on him at the more sober No. 32 Green Street, Smith was here able to give rein to the Baroque exuberance which marks his façade for the Tate Gallery and produced animated if somewhat restless brick-andstone fronts for these narrow terrace houses (Plate 48b).
Occupants include: No. 16, Brig.-gen. Sir Archibald Fraser Home, K.C.V.O., 1919–40. No. 17, Dow. Countess of Londesborough, wid. of 1st Earl, 1902–15. Marquess of Carisbrooke, grandson of Queen Victoria, 1918–20. P. G. Wodehouse, writer, 1924–34. No. 19, Sir Charles Malcolm Barclay-Harvey, K.C.M.G., M.P., 1927–39.