Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2 (The Buildings). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1980.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
Aldford Street Area
Reconstruction of the Aldford (until 1886 Chapel) Street area followed naturally upon that of Mount Street, and in the 1890's virtually the whole of the rectangle bounded by Mount Street, Park Street, South Street and the backs of the houses in South Audley Street was rebuilt. The mostly small houses and the irregularly shaped network of stable yards which had hitherto existed here were almost all swept away, and replaced, on an improved layout plan, by the tall solid red-brick and stone houses and handsome mews favoured by the first Duke. Almost all these new buildings were designed by or in the office of Eustace Balfour, the estate surveyor, from whom Balfour Place (previously Portugal Street) and Balfour Mews take their name. At first the principal houses answered well to the opulent domestic requirements of Edwardian Mayfair, but in more recent years their great size has led either to their subdivision into flats or to their conversion to office use, while the mews buildings, suitably adapted, provide expensive residential accommodation on the more modest scale appropriate to modern times.
Building development had originally begun here in 1730, when Sir Richard Grosvenor had agreed with the builders of the Grosvenor Chapel that in consideration of their 'hazard and expense' in erecting the chapel, he would grant them additional land nearby at low ground rents. The four builders or undertakers were Benjamin Timbrell and Robert Scott, carpenters, William Barlow senior, bricklayer, and Robert Andrews, Sir Richard's lawyer, and the land which they jointly received consisted of two blocks on the west side of South Audley Street opposite the chapel. (fn. 2) By the end of 1730 building had started under their auspices on the South Audley Street frontage, (fn. 3) and it continued westward during the next few years, the four partners' 'take' being slightly enlarged in 1737. (fn. 4) Two years later John Eds, carpenter, took all the rest of the land to the north of Chapel Street as far as Park Street, while south of Chapel Street the undertaker for the remaining land to Tyburn Lane was Roger Blagrave, also a carpenter. (fn. 5)
At the back of the houses built on the west side of South Audley Street most of the rest of the land granted to Timbrell, Scott, Barlow and Andrews was at first occupied by two large blocks of stables, one on either side of Chapel Street, and extending respectively, north to Mount Street and south to South Street; the latter also included a riding house. Both blocks were built in about 1734, (fn. 6) and are marked on Rocque's map of 1746 as 'Guard Stab[les]'. In 1739 the northern block was occupied by the First Troop of Horse Guards, (fn. 7) but in 1758 it was leased by the original undertakers or their executors to Samuel Adams, glazier, with John Spencer, carpenter, and Edmund Rush, mason, as consenting parties. Shortly afterwards a new street called Portugal Street (later Balfour Place) was formed, extending from Mount Street to Chapel Street, and by 1761 over a dozen medium-sized houses had been built there. (fn. 8) The stabling on the southern block was still in existence in 1819, and although latterly subdivided and rebuilt piecemeal in the 1820's and 30's, a riding school existed here until the formation of Balfour Mews upon its site in 1898. (fn. 9)
On John Eds's 'take' to the west, twenty-three building leases were granted in 1739–40, eight to Eds himself (fn. 10) and the rest to his nominees, Thomas Baker, joiner (five), (fn. 11) William Singleton, plasterer (four), (fn. 12) Edmund Rush, mason (four), (fn. 13) and William Atlee, painter (two). (fn. 14) In 1740, however, Eds was declared bankrupt, and the remainder of the land which he had agreed to take was leased in 1743 to two of his creditors, Henry Scott, ironmonger, and Thomas Skeat, bricklayer, and to William Singleton. (fn. 15) Likewise on the adjoining land to the south the undertaker Roger Blagrave took most of the building leases himself, including all the sites on the east side of Park Street, (fn. 16) and his nominees for the rest of his ground were William Smith, carpenter, John Tipping, mason, Thomas Seaton, carpenter, Philip Godsall, gentleman, and Thomas Skeat. (fn. 17)
In 1790 most of the householders within the area covered by this chapter were tradesmen, a large proportion of them being in either the food and drink or dress trades, or stable and carriage workers. Portugal Street was the only exception: here there were two titled residents (one an M.P.), four spinsters, three widows, two esquires and no tradesmen. (fn. 18) All the other streets must therefore have been considered capable of improvement by the 1820's, when many of the original leases were renewed, and under the auspices of the estate surveyor, Thomas Cundy II, a considerable amount of renovation or rebuilding took place.
Several builders or speculators were involved. One of these was Thomas Oliver esquire, who with his associate Thomas Feetham, a coal merchant, refurbished (or possibly rebuilt) eight of the eleven houses in Portugal Street around 1828–30. (fn. 19) Between 1828 and 1834 over a dozen houses in Chapel Street were rebuilt, (fn. 20) some by Oliver and Feetham and others by John Robson, coachmaker, and Wright Ingle, builder. (fn. 21) From about 1830 the latter was living in one of these new houses (No. 8), which had a plain four-storey front typical of others going up nearby (Plate 92a), and at the rear of which he built himself an extensive workshop. (fn. 22) Previously he had lived at the house later renumbered 18 Park Street, which he rebuilt in about 1830 after an adjustment of boundaries with his neighbour, Thomas Oliver, who was rebuilding the adjoining house on the north corner of Chapel Street. (fn. 23) A photograph taken in about 1895 shows that these were rather grander houses, with basements and iron-railed balconies at first-floor level, of different storey heights but united by a main cornice. The first occupant of the new No. 18 was the architect Thomas Corfield, who may have been its designer. (fn. 24)
Several other adjacent houses on the east side of Park Street were rebuilt at about this time, the lessee of one of them (later renumbered 26) being John Goldicutt, (fn. 25) recently the architect of Nos. 98 and 99 Park Lane. The same photograph shows this as a narrow house with a plain brick front, which was advertised for sale by Goldicutt in 1829. It was then described as 'a newly and substantially-built small house ... completely finished and fitted up with every convenience, and ready for immediate occupation, suitable for a bachelor or single lady. It consists of two sitting rooms, three bed rooms, water closet, kitchen, scullery, pantry, cellars etc.' (fn. 26)
Another photograph of c. 1895 shows how pleasing the south side of Chapel Street was after this period of rebuilding, with unassuming brick houses of varied balcony and window levels, some dressed with a little Greek detailing in stucco. (fn. 27)
In South Street virtually the whole of the north side between Park Street and the houses in South Audley Street was rebuilt around 1828–36. (fn. 28) Just east of Park Street stables and coach-houses were built in 1830 by the Reverend John Sanford and his architect, J. P. Deering (formerly Gandy), probably for the four large houses (Nos. 14–20 even) which they had recently erected on the south side of the street (see page 339). In addition to the stables they also built two or three lesser houses on the north side, one of which, now No. 15 South Street, was leased in 1830 to Gandy Deering. Although altered (fn. 29) it still survives at the east corner of Rex Place, (fn. 30) a tall, narrow four-storey house with a projecting iron balcony at first-floor level. At No. 17 the round arches on the ground floor are also survivals from the stables formerly on this site. (fn. 31)
In all this work Gandy Deering was assisted by the architect James Gallier, whom he had invited in 1828 to 'superintend the building . . .' there. Gallier was then aged thirty, and described himself as either a builder or surveyor. Hitherto he had been active in Huntingdon, but after coming to the capital he was, in addition to his work with Deering in South Street, 'employed by several persons about that quarter of London to furnish plans for new buildings and alterations to old ones'. (fn. 32) Two of these persons were Charles Philliston, a bricklayer, and John Robson, the coach-builder, both of whom were then engaged in rebuildings and renovations hereabouts. Philliston was the lessee of about a dozen houses in Chapel Street and in Park Street, where he was working on most of the southernmost range of the east side. Robson was active in Park Street, Reeves Mews and South Audley Street, (fn. 33) the plans for the works there being supplied by Gallier. (fn. 34) Robson's main concern, however, was the building of a coach factory and stables along a frontage of some 150 feet on the site of the former Guards' stables and riding house on the north side of South Street just west of South Audley Street. In 1831 Gallier provided plans for this project, but Deering and Feetham, tenants on the opposite side of the street, objected to Robson's building anything except dwelling houses. Ultimately he built several houses as well as the factory and stables, work being completed in about 1836 to designs evidently modified by another hand. (fn. 35) By this time Gallier had in February 1832 emigrated to America, where he settled in New Orleans and became a highly successful architect whose works there are now greatly admired. In his autobiography he later wrote that he had 'clearly perceived' that 'though I might in time succeed in a small way and to a limited extent, I could never reckon upon any great success in London without the patronage of people in high station; and as with such people I had no influence, I saw it was hopeless to expect much success in that direction'. (fn. 36) He does not, however, mention that two months after his departure he was declared bankrupt. (fn. 37)
The only recognisable survivor of all these rebuildings is now No. 15 South Street. A plaque erected on the front of the house in 1974 by the then occupant states that 'Catherine Walters (Skittles) "The last Victorian Courtesan" lived here from 1872 until 1920'. The ratebooks and the Post Office Directories indicate that she lived here under the name of Mrs. Baillie (or Bailie or Bailey) from 1883–4 until her death in 1920. (fn. 38) The ground-floor front window was given its present form by her in 1903. (fn. 39)
Socially, the district seems not to have changed greatly as a result of the upheaval of the 1820's and 30's, and the continued existence of stables, workshops and a riding school prevented any substantial incursion of fashionable residents. The houses on the north side of South Street attracted one or two titled occupants and senior army officers, and on the east side of Park Street there were several lodging-houses and a large private hotel. The standing of Chapel Street seems to have risen, but at the east end there were half a dozen shops, and the builder Wright Ingle still had his workshop behind his house, where he continued to live until his death in 1865, worth nearly £100,000. (fn. 40) Two years later seventeen residents complained to the Grosvenor Board that one of the houses in the street was being 'used for an immoral purpose, in fact, that it has become quite a recognized rendezvous'. (fn. 41) By this time it was becoming clear that the leases granted in the 1820's and 30's would not be renewed, and the shadow of impending complete rebuilding was probably beginning to cast its gloom over the whole area.
This began in 1891 in Balfour Place, which follows the line of the previous Portugal Street, and was renamed at the first Duke's suggestion in 1892 after the estate surveyor, Eustace Balfour, whose firm designed the ranges on either side of the street and, indeed, everything westwards from here to Park Street. (fn. 42) Soon afterwards Balfour Place was continued southwards, as Balfour Mews, to South Street, while to the west a new street now known as Rex Place was formed between Mount Street and South Street, part of it occupying the site of Street's Buildings; but leasing problems delayed the completion of the southern end of Rex Place until 1938. (fn. 43)
Nos. 1–6 (consec.) Balfour Place
Nos. 1–6 (consec.) Balfour Place, built in 1891–3, were the first architectural fruits on the estate of Balfour's partnership with H. Thackeray Turner (Plate 92b). An interesting but less assured piece of work than the range opposite, it is now hard to judge because the elevations have been much mutilated. The four houses facing Balfour Place (Nos. 2–5) had different storey heights from those of Nos. 1 and 6 at the corners with Aldford Street and Mount Street, which were given a simpler pattern of fenestration, projecting bays at the angles capped with pyramidal roofs, minor Dutch gables, and elegant open porches of stone facing the major streets. The terrace houses each enjoyed a larger and more elaborate Dutch gable in brick and stone and shared double-storey porches, the lower parts of which were open and arched while the upper parts were enclosed (both these porches have now disappeared). Internally, there was a split-level arrangement allowing three floors at the front as against two at the back (including basement), uniformity of level being restored at the drawing-room storey. The range was built by Stanley G. Bird and the materials were red Suffolk bricks with brown Portland-stone dressings. (fn. 44)
Residents of quality occupied these houses, including the ninth Earl of Coventry at No. 1 (1893–1930), where Beresford Pite made internal changes at the start of his residence, (fn. 45) and Lord Folkestone, M.P. (later sixth Earl of Radnor) at No. 2 (1893–9). In 1934 Sir Edwin Lutyens made internal alterations at No. 5 for Louis Lebus, the builders being J. W. Falkner. (fn. 46) All of these houses were converted to offices and flats between 1946 and 1958, the works in several cases, notably No. 1, involving substantial external changes. (fn. 47)
Nos. 7 and 8 Balfour Place, 78 and 79 Mount Street and 5 and 6 Aldford Street
Nos. 7 and 8 Balfour Place, 78 and 79 Mount Street and 5 and 6 Aldford Street comprise a complete rectangle of houses designed by Balfour and Turner, the fourth side being bounded by Rex Place. They were however designed and carried out in two groups. Of red brick with stone dressings and bounded by a wrought-iron railing of particularly elegant design, they constitute one of the finest groups of Arts and Crafts town houses in London (Plate 92d, figs. 80–1: see also Plate 35a in vol. XXXIX).
The original range, consisting of two houses (Nos. 7 and 8) occupying the whole of the west side of Balfour Place and two more (No. 5 Aldford Street and No. 79 Mount Street) to their west was conceived in 1891 and built in 1892–4 as a speculation for W. H. Warner of the estate agents Lofts and Warner, the builders being Killby and Gayford. (fn. 48) Somewhat more disciplined than the range opposite, the houses facing Balfour Place are distinguished by open double-storey porches in stone (not originally identical) to complement those on the eastern side and a similar open loggia at first-floor level linking the houses. These features share twinned columns with archaic capitals in a Byzantine or Ruskinian taste, and there are other columns with primitive capitals on the return fronts. Here the projections of the bay windows are imaginatively handled, and some naturalistic stone carving may be seen on the end elevation of No. 8 Balfour Place. All the gables are elaborately shaped except at No. 79 Mount Street. The plans of the houses are generally straightforward, with central staircases.
Nos. 78 Mount Street and 6 Aldford Street were added in 1896–7, again for Warner, the builder this time being William Willett. (fn. 49) Essentially similar in style, this pair has straight gables and less ornament, perhaps an indication of a reduction in cost.
Later alterations seem chiefly to have affected No. 7 Balfour Place. An oriel window was extended downwards from first-floor level here by Balfour and Turner in 1912, and following very extensive bomb damage the gables were slightly altered and the porch was rebuilt in 1949 so as to correspond more exactly with that at No. 8. (fn. 50)
Nos. 2 Park Street and 9 South Street.
This fashionably plain stone-faced block of flats with fronts on to both South Street and Park Street was erected in 1937–8 by Gee, Walker and Slater to designs by Hector O. Hamilton of Hamilton and Green. These are luxury flats, destined originally for twelve families 'of that fortunate class who would pay in the neighbourhood of £150 rent per room per annum'. There were on average twelve rooms in each flat, with the bedrooms and living-rooms on different levels. The Estate insisted upon regular spacing of the external windows. (fn. 51)
Nos. 8–12 (even) Park Street and 1–5 (odd) Rex Place
Nos. 8–12 (even) Park Street and 1–5 (odd) Rex Place are the remainder of a strange group of houses with stables behind built between 1897 and 1901 and at first stretching through from Aldford Street to South Street (Plate 92c).
Terms for building six houses and stabling on this site were accepted in 1896 by the builders Higgs and Hill, and at the Estate's suggestion A. H. Kersey became the architect. His elevations, in a restless late French or Tudor Gothic style, were approved early in 1897. Basically of brick, they included broad horizontal bands of stone-mullioned windows, some protruding forward into bays, while the two corner houses were entered from the side streets and enjoyed extra height, culminating in ornamental gables and chimneys. Though fancifully styled, the practical effectiveness of the window-grouping was praised at the time. Delays ensued in construction, partly because of a rift between the builders and Kersey, who claimed that the elaborate ironwork (see fig. 23c in vol. XXXIX) had been taken out of his hands, (fn. 1) so that the last leases were not granted until 1902. At both the corner houses (the demolished No. 2 and the existing No. 12) the first tenants employed W. D. Caröe to add to the accommodation provided by Kersey; at No. 2 he was involved as early as 1899 for E. Lucas Ralli and seems to have altered and enlarged the house in 1902 and in 1907, while at No. 12 he added an extra storey to the low rear wing (then a billiard-room) for Athol Thorne in 1902. The stabling facing Rex Place (which was called Street's Mews until 1938), though more controlled, retains much of the character of the main elevations facing Park Street. (fn. 52)
Nos. 14–22 (even) Park Street and 68 and 69 Mount Street
Nos. 14–22 (even) Park Street and 68 and 69 Mount Street and the stables in this block on the west side of Rex Place were built in 1896–7 to designs by Balfour and Turner. The range is a good if subdued example of the firm's approach to speculative housing; the elevations, in red brick with stone dressings, assume a late Queen Anne manner, with bold chimneys, occasional gables, and strong bay windows at the corners of Aldford Street and Mount Street, though most of the sash windows are of a conventional Georgian type. The houses have two main rooms on a floor with spacious central staircases of wood, of which a good example survives at No. 14.
The block was built as a speculation by the Kensington builders Charles Daw and Son, for whom the Estate prescribed Balfour's firm as architects. Construction proceeded without incident save at No. 69 Mount Street, a stable at first reserved for Lord Windsor of No. 54 opposite. Windsor's architects, Fairfax B. Wade and his partner, H. Barton Sargent, were involved here and an altercation developed, but Wade probably had little to do with the completed building (which was turned into a neoGeorgian house for Viscount Sudley in 1933 by W. J. Kieffer and H. S. Fleming, architects). Another of the stables, at the north-west corner of Aldford Street and Rex Place, was taken by Alfred Beit of Aldford House. (fn. 53)
Inside the houses in Park Street, other architects and decorators were naturally involved. Of several interesting interiors those at No. 14 Park Street, where rich plasterwork in the drawing-room was perhaps due to H. C. Boyes, the first occupant's architect, may be singled out; (fn. 54) this house has a lengthy single-storey extension along Aldford Street, converted into a single board room in about 1936. All the houses here are now at least in part used as offices.
Balfour Mews, Nos. 8–18 (even) Rex Place, Nos. 2–4 (consec.) Aldford Street and Nos. 21–25 (odd) South Street.
Here the rebuildings of the late 1890's consisted of two-storey stabling serving the new houses to the north and west. Balfour Mews itself was a new broad yard, open at both ends, with the residential parts of the stabling planned so as to face Aldford Street and South Street. All the new development here was undertaken by the builders Charles Daw and Son to designs supplied in some cases by Balfour and Turner, in others by their assistant G. A. Codd, who followed their elegant but sober late Queen Anne idiom. Though altered in several respects, these brick-and-stone buildings retain a modest charm.
The east side of Balfour Mews (Nos. 3–15 odd, with Nos. 3 and 4 Aldford Street and No. 23 South Street) was erected in 1898–9. It consists of a long recessed centre with projecting wings shielding the stabling proper from the major streets at either end, and was designed by Balfour and Turner (Plate 92e, fig. 82). Opposite, most of the west side (Nos. 2, 4 and 6) was built at the same time, though to designs by Codd, who added No. 21 South Street (a house rather than stabling) at the south end in 1899–1900. In the centre of this side, the site of No. 10 stretching through to the east side of Rex Place was not for the present rebuilt, its lease having still some years to run. In Rex Place itself (Plate 92d), Nos. 12, 16 and 18 with No. 2 Aldford Street were built by Daw to Codd's designs probably a little earlier, in 1897–8. (fn. 55)
Daws found it difficult to dispose of much of this stabling and suffered heavy losses as a result. (fn. 56) At a relatively early date, several were altered to accommodate motor cars, while the end buildings facing Aldford Street and South Street were converted into mews houses. This first happened at No. 2 Aldford Street (then No. 1 Street's Mews) in 1908, when Codd added an extra storey. (fn. 57) At No. 3 Aldford Street (then No. 1 Balfour Mews) a similar addition of a storey was sanctioned and after modification by Balfour and Turner proceeded with by the architects Gilbert and Constanduros on behalf of Monty Mendelssohn in 1914, thus achieving what was called 'the best bijou house in London'. (fn. 58) And at No. 23 South Street (then No. 17 Balfour Mews) alterations were again made and a shallow two-storey entrance bay was added to the south side in 1913 after reference to Thackeray Turner, the main architects in this case being H. Stanley Barrett and Driver. (fn. 59) In 1929 Frederick Etchells converted part of No. 4 Aldford Street into a shop and showrooms, for which he provided a handsome wooden 'Wrenaissance' doorcase, now removed. (fn. 60)
Two later developments in this district were at No. 25 South Street and No. 10 Balfour Mews. The former was rebuilt in 1932–3 to designs by E. B. Musman, with an iron and glass enclosed porch of 1936 by W. Turner Lord. (fn. 61) No. 10 Balfour Mews is a handsome small neo-Georgian house associated with No. 8 Rex Place, a 'cottage' behind. Built for Viscount Sudley in 1936 by Dove Brothers to designs by Geddes Hyslop, it boasted in 1976 some elaborate interiors including a 'Roman-style' bathroom installed by Godfrey Bonsack of Mount Street. (fn. 62)