Survey of London: Volume 41, Brompton. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1983.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
Charles James Freake and Onslow Square and Gardens
For four decades following the death of Basevi in 1845 the history of the Smith's Charity estate was dominated by one man —(Sir) Charles James Freake (1814–1884), builder, architect, patron of music and the arts, public benefactor and (from 1882) a baronet. On the Smith's Charity estate alone the firm belonging to this titan of the building world was responsible for the erection of some 330 large houses, approximately one hundred separate coach-houses and stables, and two churches. It also undertook the construction of the roads, sewers and other ancillary features of building developments and was responsible for the laying out of half a dozen communal gardens. This estate was the core of Freake's operations but he had already been building in Belgravia before he turned his attention to South Kensington, and he also built extensively in adjacent parts of South Kensington and Westminster, as well as finding the time to erect four large houses in Grosvenor Square, at the same time as he was working on the Smith's Charity estate. (fn. 131) In all, in a career extending over nearly fifty years, he built well over five hundred houses as well as innumerable mews buildings, three churches, the National Training School for Music (now the Royal College of Organists), a block of model dwellings in Chelsea, and the former Twickenham Town Hall, the last two now demolished.
Freake was the son of Charles Freake, a coal merchant turned victualler, who in the 1820's took a sub-lease from the builder Seth Smith of the Royal Oak public house in Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, on the Grosvenor estate. (fn. 132) Freake senior speculated himself in a small way in that vicinity, generally by taking further sub-leases from Smith, (fn. 133) and in 1837 he in turn granted a sub-lease of a small mews house in Royal Oak (now Boscobel) Place to his son, Charles James, who was described as a carpenter. (fn. 134) In the following year Charles James Freake, now, with the designation of builder. was the sub-lessee of Seth Smith for house plots in Elizabeth Street, (fn. 135) and over the next five years he built some forty houses on the south side of Eaton Squire and in South Eaton Place and Chester Row.
Basevi was involved in the development of Belgravia through his designs for Belgrave Square, but there is no evidence of an association between him and Freake until 1843, when Freake contracted to build the small Gothic church of St. Jude in Turk's Row, Chelsea (now demolished), to Basevi's designs. (fn. 136)
Thus when the lease of Thomas Gibbs's nursery expired in 1843 and the Smith's Charity trustees wished to extend development westwards Freake had the ear of Basevi and was able to offer his services to the trustees. They concluded a building agreement with him in April 1844 while he was still completing: St. Jude's Church.
This agreement retained some features of a general plan for the development of this part of the estate which had been drawn up by Basevi is early as 1833. (fn. 137) In particular a proposed new road connecting Fulham Road with Old Brompton Road took shape as Sydney Place and the eastern side of Onslow Square. Originally Basevi had envisaged that there would be a small square at the southen end of this road opening on to Fulham Road, but by 1844 the proposed square had been moved northwards. It was still to be relatively small with its long axis north-south and with a row of houses on the western side backing on to the avenue of elms which formed the western boundary of Freake's take. (fn. 138) In the course of building, however, the square was much enlarged in a westward direction.
The agreement stipulated that seventy-two houses and a pair of cottages were to be erected by 1851 at a graduated cumulative ground rent rising to £390 per annum (about £50 per acre) in the sixth and subsequent years. The houses were to be built to elevational designs and specifications provided by the trustees' architect and surveyor (at that time Basevi) and were all to have stucco fronts with porticoes and the full panoply of dressings and cornices. Freake agreed not to remove any trees without permission. perhaps a provision introduced to protect the famous avenue of elms which led up to Cowper House (see page 91). (fn. 139)
Six more building agreements were made with Freake —in 1849, 1850, 1855, 1861, 1862 and 1883—covering all of the estate to the west of his first take with three exceptions. These were Sussex Terrace on the south side of Old Brompton Road, where houses had been built in the 1830's under leases expiring in 1895; a small plot at the south-western extremity of the estate occupied by a floor-cloth manufactory which was later convened into the factory of Henry Jones, organ-maker; and the site of Brompton Hospital, which was sold in 1868 to the hospital's governors. (fn. 140) Freake's last take was still largely undeveloped at his death in 1884 and his executors subsequently made a subsidiary agreement with C. A. Daw and Son under which the houses in Evelyn Gardens were built. During his lifetime, however, Freake's firm undertook took all the building work, and all but three of the numerous building leases of the houses erected by the firm were granted by the trustees to Freake himself directly. The length of the leases, as specified in the agreements, varied from eighty-six to ninety-nine years. In all slightly more than forty acres were made available to Freake for development, and the total ground rent eventually received by the trustees under the seven agreements amounted to a little over £3,000 per annum, or about £75 per acre. (fn. 141)
The Chronology of Development
Freake began building in Sydney Place (which was named after the third Viscount, later Earl, Sydney, one of the trustees) in 1844, and had completed the street by 1846. The first four houses in Onslow Square, Nos. 1–7 (odd), were begun in September 1845. (fn. 142) and were all occupied by 1847. The whole square, including its western extension, was finished by 1865. Of the streets leading off the square, Sumner Terrace (now Nos. 25–34 Summer Place and named after George and William Holme Sumner, other trustees) was begun in 1849 and completed by 1851. The northern arm of Sumner Place was begun in the latter year but surprisingly some of the houses do not seem to have been occupied for some ten years. Onslow Crescent (now demolished, on the site of Melton Court) dated from 1851–6. (fn. 143)
The three-storey stuccoed terrace with ground-floor shops at Nos. 48–78 (even) Fulham Road was erected in 1853–4 and originally called Cranley Terrace (Viscount Cranley being one of the titles held by the Earl of Onslow). Nos. 54–72 and the Cranley Arms public house (Plate 55d, fig. 26) took the place of a public house called the Old George and a group of houses known as Strong's Place. Most of these had been erected in 1811 by Thomas Strong, victualler, on a piece of former manorial waste, but the public house may well have been established earlier. The site, which encroached on to Fulham Road, had been sold by Lord Kensington, the lord of the manor, to Strong in 1811 and had in turn been purchased by Freake in 1851. He proposed to the Smith's Charity trustees that they should purchase the ground from him and in return grant him leases of the new houses which he planned to build there. The trustees readily agreed, obtaining an Act of Parliament to enable them to pay Freake £5,666—worth of Old South Sea Annuities for the land, in return for which he was to pay them a rent of £170 per annum on a seventy-seven-year lease. The conveyance to the trustees was dated 22 December 1853, by which time Freake had already begun the building of Cranley Terrace. (fn. 144)
Behind Cranley Terrace Freake constructed a complex of stables and workshops called Sydney Mews, which was entered through two arched openings between Nos. 48 and 50 Fulham Road on the east and Nos. 74 and 78 on the west. The demand for stabling in the area was still limited in the 1850's and parts of the site were used for Freake's own workshops and a large studio and foundry for Baron Carlo Marochetti, the sculptor, who lived on the south side of Onslow Square, perhaps at first briefly at No. 30 and then at No. 34, from 1849 until his death in 1867. (fn. 23) The painter C. E. Halle recalled working in the studio, ‘a large block of buildings at the back of Onslow Square’, as a pupil of Marochetti, and it was here that Landseer's lions for the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square were cast by Marochetti. (fn. 145) After the sculptor's death the premises were converted into a number of artists’ studios ranged on each side of an arched corridor. The work was in progress by October 1870 and among the artists and sculptors who rented studios in Avenue Studios, as they came to be called after the avenue of elms, were Halle, (Sir) J. Edgar Boehm, Frank Dicey, John Willis Good, Charles Lutyens, (Sir) Edward J. Poynter, (Sir) Alfred Gilbert, John Singer Sargent, Philip Wilson Steer, George Edward Wade and John Tweed. (fn. 146) The studios are ingeniously arranged so that those on the south side of the central corridor are three storeyed with large windows and skylights in the upper storey to admit north light, while those on the other side facing north have only two storeys (Plate 55c). The conversion must have involved a considerable amount of rebuilding and Freake's firm undertook the work. (fn. 147)
Besides Strong's Place the trustees were also able to acquire another parcel of land which greatly facilitated the extension of development westwards. This was a three-and-three-quarter-acre plot now occupied by Nos. 99–115 (odd) Old Brompton Road, Nos. 17a–32 and 35–48 Onslow Gardens, most of Onslow Mews and the west side of Cranley Place (see fig. 23). The land had belonged to the Harrington-Villars estate and, after the partition of that estate in 1850–1, it formed part of the portion which was allocated to the Baron and Baroness de Graffenried Villars and sold by them to the Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851. The plot separated the westernmost part of the Charity's lands, which was known as Brompton Heath but which had long since been used for market gardens and nurseries, from the remainder of the estate, and its acquisition was therefore clearly desirable from the point of view of the trustees. The 1851 Commissioners, in turn, needed the detached part of the Smith's Charity estate in St. Margaret's, Westminster, called the Carpet Ground, to complete their main rectangle bounded by Queen's Gate, Kensington Road, Exhibition Road and Cromwell Road. Although the Carpet Ground was an acre less in extent, the trustees were able to obtain a straight exchange which was agreed in December 1852 and confirmed by the Inclosure Commissioners in 1856. Freake was involved in the negotiations for the exchange and later complained on numerous occasions that he had been the loser by the transaction, even claiming that ‘he had given up 2 or 3 millions’ by the deal, though with what justification it is difficult to see. (fn. 148)
The ground acquired from the 1851 Commissioners became Freake's fifth take in August 1861, when Onslow Square was nearing completion, and he carried his building activities steadily westwards. Cranley Place was begun in 1863 or 1864 and completed by 1867. Building in Onslow Gardens was under way by 1863, the first occupants moved in during 1864, and by 1878 all of the houses in this complex pattern of streets had been completed and occupied. (fn. 91) Cranley Gardens was begun in 1875 and by November 1880 notice had been given to the district surveyor for the building of the whole of the west side of the street and the short range to the north of St. Peter's parsonage. A group of houses in the middle of the long western terrace, however, remained uncompleted or unoccupied for a considerable time, and no occupant for No 38 is listed in the directories until 1900. This was in marked contrast to Onslow Gardens and perhaps indicates that the market for the large Italianate houses in which Freake specialized had finally become satiated. That he himself recognized this is indicated by his decision in 1883 to turn to more compact houses in a red-brick Queen Anne style at Nos. 15–37 (odd) Cranley Gardens to the south of St. Peter's Church. (fn. 149)
Office and Staff
Freake either lived on the estate or maintained an office there for most of the years during which the development was proceeding. In the early years he seems to have combined the two. From 1845 to 1847 he had an address at No. 10 Sydney Place, moving thence to No 19 Onslow Square until 1849. His next address was No. 41 on the north side of the square, where he was living at the time of the census of 1851 with his wife, two infant sons, a nurse, a cook and two house servants. (fn. 150) By April 1852 he had moved further along the north side to No. 55, a large house with a forty-foot frontage, where he remained until 1857. He is also listed in the directories from 1856 to 1861 at No. 79 Onslow Square, but this was probably merely an office, and his place of residence seems to have been No. 19 Sumner Place from 1857 to 1860. In the latter year he moved to No. 21 Cromwell Road, which continued to be his London home for the remainder of his life. (fn. 143)
It was while living in Cromwell Road that Freake established himself firmly in social circles. The musical and theatrical events, especially the highly fashionable tableaux oivants, staged at his home for charity before audiences which included the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh, were reported at length in the fashionable press. Freake also moved in Sir Henry Cole's circles, and his erection at his own cost of the National Training School for Music (now the Royal College of Organists) in 1874–5 was the principal factor in securing him a baronetcy in 1882. By the time of his death on 6 October 1884 he was a very wealthy man. Besides his property in Kensington, he owned an estate and a house at Twickenham, another at Kingston-upon-Thames, and left a personal estate worth upwards of £718,000. (fn. 151)
Despite moving his residence off the Smith's Charity estate in 1860 Freake generally maintained an office there, usually, in the normal manner of speculative builders, in a house which was awaiting the final fitting out for a tenant or purchaser. A more permanent office was established after his death, at No. 18 Cranley Gardens until 1890, then at No. 42 Cranley Gardens until 1957, and finally at No. 97 Old Brompton Road, where the Freake Estate Office remained until 1963, after which it no longer appears in the directories. (fn. 91)
Frcake's workforce must have varied from time to time according to the state of his building operations, but in 1867 his employees were said to number nearly four hundred. (fn. 152) Some of the names, at least, of his large office staff are known. In 1844 the applications to the Westminster Commissioners of Sewers on his behalf were made by Henry Robert Kingsbury, who also signed the plan presented to the Commissioners in 1847 for the extension of Onslow Square. (fn. 153) In a deed of 1846, how ever, James Waller was described as Freake's clerk, and later many of the building notices given to the district surveyor were in his name; he was the nominal builder of the National Training School for Music and was a trustee of Freake's will. (fn. 154)
Charles F. Phelps was another of Freake's ‘clerks’ in 1856 and is probably identifiable with the Charles Frederick Phelps who was later a builder on the Phillimore and Holland estates to the north of Kensington High Street. (fn. 155) By 1878 applications to the Metropolitan Board of Works on Freake's behalf were being made by Charles Henry Thomas, (fn. 156) who played an increasingly important role in the firm during Freake's last years. He also set up an independent architectural practice from about 1880 and was responsible for both the building and design of the surprising group of red brick houses at Nos. 15–37 (odd) Cranley Gardens (Plate 59b) which were the swan song of Freake's firm on the Smith's Charity estate (fn. 157)
Thomas was not alone in the firm in graduating from building practice to architecture. Freake described himself as ‘architect and builder’ in the census of 1851, and in the directories from 1853 onwards he is invariably described at his office address as ‘architect’, a designation which was also handed down to James Waller when he was listed at the firm's office address from about 1869. Nevertheless other architects worked for the firm at one time or another. William Tasker was engaged from the early 1850's until at least the mid 1860's, (fn. 158) and the young George Edwards was a pupil and assistant in Freake's ‘architects office’ from 1865 to 1874. (fn. 159) W. H. Nash, who later had an independent career as an architect, was employed as a surveyor in the 1860's. (fn. 160) In 1871 Henry E. Cooper, architect and surveyor, was living at Brompton Cottage (on the site later occupied by Roland Houses, Old Brompton Road), which was owned by Freake, and he is almost certainly the H. E. Cooper who applied on Freake's behalf in 1872 to the Metropolitan Board of Works to form Reece Mews off Harrington Road. (fn. 161)
Freake's extensive building operations over four decades must have involved a capital expenditure of well over one million pounds, but as no records of his firm have survived information about the financial side of his operations has to be pieced together from fragmentary evidence. Like many builders he evidently had a close relationship with a solicitor, through whom he may have had access to small rentier savings. This was William Pulteney Scott of the firm of Hertslet, Scott and Hertslet, who lived from about 1841 in one of the first houses to be built by Freake, No. 62 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, before moving in 1846 to No. 8 Onslow Square, where he must have been one of the first residents in the square. (fn. 162) (fn. n1)
What set Freake apart from the general run of speculative builders, however, was his early and heavy reliance on institutional lenders, in particular insurance companies. At first the most important of these was the Royal Exchange Assurance, which began to invest in mortgages to house builders in about 1839. (fn. 164) Freake was one of their first clients, borrowing from them in that year to complete three houses in Elizabeth Street and ten in Chester Terrace, Belgravia. (fn. 165) His father had insured his speculative houses in Elizabeth Street with the Royal Exchange in 183.3, (fn. 166) but the Corporation's minutes record that Freake was introduced by Seth Smith. (fn. 167) Borrowing on a large scale from insurance companies, though not unknown, was relatively rare at that time (Thomas Cubitt's major loans from the London Assurance Corporation not beginning until 1841 (fn. 168) ), but it was soon to become a common method of raising money for other big ‘South Kensington’ builders besides Freake. (fn. 169)
In February and April 1846 Freake asked to borrow up to £58,000 from the Royal Exchange on the security of houses he was building in Belgravia and in Sydney Place and Onslow Square, but by July he was ready to pay back £22,000 to enable four houses in Eaton Square and one in Onslow Square to be released for sale. (fn. 170) This remained the pattern for several years; he would borrow sums either on the security of deposited leases or formal mortgages and pay back sums when he had found purchasers for some of his houses. In 1852, for instance, he asked for No. 30 Onslow Square to be released on payment of £2,000, being ‘the entire purchase money’, (fn. 171) and in 1853 No. 36 was similarly released, William Makepeace Thackeray having contracted to buy it for ‘£2,100 over three years’. (fn. 172) By February 1853 the Corporation's loans to Freake amounted to £96,000, (fn. 173) and in August of that year he borrowed a further £30,000 on the security of his freehold estate at Twickenham. (fn. 174) This was the high point of Freake's indebtedness to the Corporation, and over the next few years he gradually reduced his commitment until he had repaid all his loans by 1867. (fn. 175)
In the late 1850's Freake also turned to another insurance company, the County Fire Office, borrowing chiefly on the security of his burgeoning developments in Exhibi-tion Road. His solicitor by this time was the County Fire Office's own solicitor, Charles Fishlake Cundy, brother of the architect Thomas Cundy II. (fn. 176) There is, however, a aucity of evidence about how Freake financed his building operations on the Smith's Charity estate from the mid 1860's, and both this lack of information and the ease with which he was able to reduce his commitment to the Royal Exchange may indicate that from about that date he was able to supply the bulk of his working capital from the proceeds of his earlier houses.
He sold several houses outright at their original ground rent, Thackeray's at No. 36 Onslow Square for example, while some were sold to investors on completion, the assignment of the whole terrace comprising Nos. 9–31 (odd) Onslow Square early in 1847 being a case in point. (fn. 177) Other houses were let on short-term leases, some of them, however, being later sold to investors, such as Nos. 42 and 75 Onslow Square and Nos. 1–6, 12 and 25–34 Sumner Place (nineteen houses in all, producing some £1,760 per annum in rack rents) which were sold in 1854 to a Portuguese viscount for £28,700. (fn. 178)
The rack-rental values of Nos. 11–29 (odd) Onslow Square, which were comparable in terms of size to most of the houses built in the square up to about 1860, ranged from £110 to £130 per annum for each house. (fn. 179) The prices of houses sold individually in Onslow Square varied from £2,000 to £2,600 during the same period; those in Sumner Place fetched £1,500 to £1,700 and in Onslow Crescent £1,400 to£l,500. (fn. 180) No. 55 Onslow Square, an evception-ally spacious ‘double’ house with a forty-foot frontage, was sold for £5,000 in 1861, (fn. 181) but even this price should be compared with the much higher ones paid for Freake's houses elsewhere, £6,500 for No. 47 Eaton Square in 1858 for instance, (fn. 182) or £9,500 to £11,000 in 1864–70 for Nos. 23–27 (odd) Cromwell Road, subject to improved ground rents. (fn. 183) Prices for houses in Onslow Gardens and Cranley Gardens are, unfortunately, not known.
Although Freake's building operations seem generally to have progressed very smoothly, even he was not immune from the fluctuations of the building cycle. In 1848—a very bad year for builders in South Kensington—he began only six houses (and four of those towards the end of the year) compared with twelve in 1847 (out of an intended eighteen) and twenty-four in 1849. (fn. 184) In 1857—another trough in the cycle—he received a gently chiding letter from Bray and Company, the solicitors to the Smith's Charity trustees, reminding him that he was falling behind in his timetable for building under his agreements, but adding that ‘Several circumstances having rendered it difficult for you to fulfil your agreement the Trustees are advised not to require the immediate strict performance of it’. (fn. 185) The evidence of the directories suggests that he was having some problem in disposing of houses in Onslow Crescent and Sumner Place at this time, and in the follow ing year he was considering (he possibility of allowing shops in Sumner Place. (fn. 186) Nevertheless there is no indication that Freake was ever in serious financial difficulties, and by the time of his death he was an immensely rich man.
The value to the charity of his enterprise was also very considerable. By 1884, the year of Freake's death, the total rental of the estate had risen to £11,992, almost exactly three times the income in 1844 when he had entered into his first building agreement. Two years after his death, when additional ground rents from the area covered by his last agreement had been received, the rental stood at £12,072, the highest it was to reach for some twenty-five years or more as the rack rents of Novosielski's houses in the eastern part of the estate were given up in return for the ground rents of the new houses which were erected in their place.
In his building operations on the estate Freake was usually very much his own master but initially at least he had to build to the designs of Basevi. The latter's authorship of the houses in Sydney Place was mentioned in his obituary (fn. 187) and the short stuccoed terraces there are almost identical to the houses in Egerton Crescent, the only major difference being in the pattern of the balcony railings (fig. 27a).
In the next range of houses to be built. Nos. 1–7 (odd) Onslow Square (Plate 52b. fig. 27b), it is already possible to see a dilution of Basevi's influence, however This was conceived as a separate group of four houses in the plan of 1844 and was begun in September 1845, shortly before Basevi's, death, (fn. 188) but the treatment of the façade must have dated from after that unhappy event. Several elements nevertheless closely relate to Basevi's earlier work. The houses are fully stuccoed, with four full storeys, basements and garrets, and parts of the façade project forward with quoins at the angles and characteristic triple windows at second-floor level. The corresponding win dows on the first floor, however, are given a fully aedictilated treatment with half-columns instead of pilasters, and at third-floor level there is a continuous Doric frieze with triglyphs and metopes embellished with paterae. This prominent and surprising feature must rank as a solecism in view of the fact that the porticoes have Ionic columns, and it seems likely that Freake embellished Basevi's de signs without objection from Henry Clutton, who had been appointed surveyor to the charity's London estates on Basevi's death. A new pattern of crinoline-shaped balcony railings introduced on this group of houses was adopted with minor variations throughout Freake's later developments on the estate wherever iron balcony railings were used.
Thereafter Freake and his staff were clearly in command and Glutton appears to have excercised little or no architectural control, confining his functions to that of surveyor. But there was no sharp break with Basevi's work, and several characteristic motifs were carried over into Freake's houses, such as the break-up of a long terrace by slight projections at the ends and centre, usually defined by quoins and emphasized by the use of triple windows, often sporting; the anthemion-and-palmette capitals which Basevi had first used in Egerton Crescent. Apart from Nos. 1–7 Onslow Square, however, the houses in Onslow Square, Onslow Gardens and Cranley Place and the Italianate houses in Cranley Gardens have elevations of grey stock brick with stucco dressings rather than the completely stuccoed façades previously favoured by Basevi elsewhere on the estate and actually specified in the building agreement of 1844. Freake's reasons for this change were probably aesthetic rather than financial and he used stuccoed elevations in some of the shorter terraces— in Onslow Crescent (now demolished) and Sumner Place (Plate 55a, 55b) and at Nos. 87–97 (odd) Old Brompton Road and Nos. 48–78 (even) Fulham Road.
Until his sudden late conversion to the merits of the Queen Anne style at the southern end of Cranley Gardens in 1883, there was little variation in the basic design of Freake's houses on the Smith's Charity estate. As the development proceeded chronologically and geographically westwards the houses became larger, chiefly through the extension of the ground floor much further back to give greater accommodation at that level, but the basic Italianate formula remained a common denominator. All of the houses in the principal streets have tour main storeys, basements and garrets, three-storey houses being restricted to shorter streets such as Sydney Place, Sumner Place and Cranley Place and the shops along the main highways which form the estate boundaries. These smaller houses lack nothing in architectural elaboration, however, the northern arm of Sumner Place in particular with its stuccoed facades and rhythmical window dressings still retaining much of the calm elegance it possessed at the end of the nineteenth century, despite the loss of its crowning balustrade (Plate 55a, fig. 27d).
The long terraces of Onslow Square (Plate 52a, 52c, fig. 27c) are similar but not precisely identical, the principal unifying features being a deep cornice resting on consoles at third-floor level and rows of Doric porches, those at the ends and centre of each terrace linked together to form colonnades (with the exception now of Nos. 77–109 odd, where reinstatement after war damage has led to extensive modification of the ground floor). On the eastern terrace, originally Nos. 9–31 (odd) but now renumbered 9–25 after the rebuilding of Nos. 25–31 as a single block of flats with a facsimile façade following war damage, pilasters are used at the angles of the projecting parts of the terrace, but elsewhere these give way to quoins. Only on the west side of the square proper, where a group of three quasi-semi-detached houses numbered 44–54 (even) share the frontage with St. Paul's Church, are the houses substantially different. Originally they appear to have had only three main storeys but have since been heightened in a very crude manner.
The first houses to be built in Onslow Gardens, Nos. 1–8 (consec), which were at first called West Terrace, Onslow Square, introduce cement balustrades to the balconies, canted hays to the end houses of the terrace, and three windows to a floor in each house front, in contrast to two in Onslow Square. Their frontages are wider (twenty-five feet compared with twenty to twenty -four feet generally in the square), but, with the exception of Nos 26–33 (consec.) Onslow Gardens, all of Freake's subsequent houses on the estate are three windows wide even though the frontages arc sometimes as narrow as twenty-two feet. (It was Freake's practice to vary the width of his house fronts even within a continuous terrace.) Frequently the middle window on the ground floor has a pediment, sometimes segmental but usually triangular. At Nos. 17–48 Freake reverted to iron balcony railings of the familiar pattern, but thereafter used cement balustrades to the balconies of houses in Onslow Gardens. At Nos. 35–48 (Plate 53a) canted bays were also provided on the ground floor of each house, another feature which was to become de riguear in subsequent houses.
The building of the easternmost terraces in Onslow Gardens was followed by a short lull before the remaining ranges, consisting of Nos. 50–92 (even) and 49–91 (odd) with 1A Cranley Gardens, were begun in 1873–5. During the interval Freake had been building at the southern end of Queen's Gate, and when he resumed in earnest on the Smith's Charity estate his houses differed in one important respect from those which he had previously erected there, namely in the abandonment of the lip-service hitherto paid to the classical ordonnance by the placing of the main cornice at third-floor level with a full attic storey above. Henceforth the Italianate houses in Onslow and Cranley Gardens had a modillion cornice surmounted by a balus-traded parapet at roof level and prominent stringcourses dividing the storeys below (Plate 53b, 53c, fig. 27e). The emphasis which this change gave to the height of the houses was accentuated by placing tall pedimented dormer windows cither in line with and interrupting the parapet, as at Nos. 50–92 (even) Onslow Gardens, or set back slightly behind the balustrade, as at Nos. 49–77 (odd).
The treatment of the dormer windows may have derived its inspirations from alterations carried out in 1871–2 at No. 23 Onslow Gardens for the first occupant, Algernon Sidney Bicknell. (fn. 189) The work, for which Banks and Barry were the architects, appears to have been extensive and to have included major decorative work in the interior, especially in the staircase compartment and in the first-floor drawing-room, where the elaborate plasterwork of the ceiling includes the monogram ‘ASB’ as a small motif. On the exterior an elegant surviving iron verandah (fn. c1) was added to Banks and Barry's designs, and it seems most probable that the attic storey was raised and pedimented architraves added to the lower dormer windows at the same time (fig. 28). If so, Freake may have admired the effect and decided to adopt a similar design for the dormer windows of the houses he erected subsequently in Onslow Gardens.
The treatment of the facades of the later ranges in Onslow Gardens is extended to those rear elevations which are visible from nearby streets across the long communal gardens (fig. 29). The regularity of these rear elevations is, however, achieved at the expense of convenience, the half-landings of staircases frequently coinciding awkwardly with the lower parts of windows.
In Cranley Gardens, Nos. 2–54 (even) are identical to the later ranges of Onslow Gardens except that on the balconies iron railings once more take the place of cement balustrades. Nos. 1–13 (odd) are slightly different—the Doric porches are paired and the stucco dressings are flatter in profile—but it is only with Nos. 15–37 (odd), to the south of St. Peter's Church, that there is a dramatic change in style. Here Italianate gives way to Queen Anne in the form of four-storey red-brick houses with high gabled attics and cut-and-moulded brickwork (Plate 59b, fig. 27f). Symmetry is eschewed and irregular variations introduced—canted bays in some places, square in others, a segmental gable on one house, a triangular on another. The frontages vary in width, but most of the houses have less depth than those to the north, leaving room at the rear of each plot for a small private garden. As already indicated, the architect of these houses was Charles Henry Thomas, but he was acting as Freake's employee and the building leases were granted to Freake. (fn. 190)
The majority of Freake's houses conformed to the standard London terrace-house plan with a side hallway leading to a dog-leg stair at the rear, in many cases constructed of stone, and two main rooms to a floor in the upper storeys. The basement contained the kitchen and other service quarters, and on the ground floor it became increasingly common from the 1860's as the houses were extended further back on their plots to provide, besides the dining-room and parlour, a third large room which might serve as a library or as the increasingly fashionable billiard-room (fig. 29). In some houses with wider frontages, however, particularly at the ends and centre of terraces, Freake did vary the plan and was able to include substantially more accommodation. In these the staircase was sometimes moved to the centre of the house, or was of the open-well variety, winding around a much-enlarged hall. No. 57 Onslow Square, a particularly spacious house with a forty-foot frontage on the north side of the square, not only had an open-well staircase supported on marble columns, but an additional servants' stair at the side. It had a dining-room, library, morning-room and billiard-room on the ground floor, two ‘noble’ drawing-rooms on the first floor and thirteen bedrooms and dressing-rooms above. It was also equipped with a four-stall stable and double coach-house at the rear of a large private garden. (fn. 191)
Such a house was, of course, large even by the standards of those Freake built towards the end of his development, and was rare in having its own stables attached. It was not, indeed, until the building of Onslow and Cranley Gardens that the number of stables and coach-houses with living quarters above, erected in Onslow Mews, Ensor Mews and particularly the long Cranley Mews, began to keep pace with the number of houses being built and even then fell a little short. Livery stables on a modest scale were also provided at the rear of the houses and shops in Old Brompton Road on a site now occupied by the garage numbered 109 Old Brompton Road. (fn. 192)
The early residence of Baron Marochetti in Onslow Square, and later the conversion of his foundry into studios, helped to give the square the reputation of an artistic quarter. ‘South Kensington’ associations were reinforced by the residence of (Sir) Henry Cole at No. 24 in 1856–7 and at No. 17 in 1857–63, and of (Sir) Theodore Martin, the parliamentary agent who wrote a biography of the Prince Consort, at No. 31 from 1852 until his death in 1909. Architects who lived in Freake's houses on the estate included William Railton, whose best-known work is Nelson's Column, at No. 65 Onslow Square from about 1858 until his death in 1877, Anthony Salvin at No. 19 Cranley Place from 1865 to 1881, Joseph Aloysius Hansom, the founder and first editor of The Builder and inventor of the Hansom Cab, at No. 27 Sumner Place from about 1873 to 1877, and Henry Clutton, cousin of the estate surveyor of the same name, at No. 76 Onslow Gardens from 1885 until his death in 1893. (fn. 91) (Sir) Edwin Lutyens was born at No. 16 Onslow Square, the London home of his father, the painter Charles Lutyens, on 29 March 1869 and spent much of his early life there. (fn. 193) Commemorative plaques mark the residences of Thackeray at No. 36 Onslow Square, Hansom at No. 27 Sumner Place, the historians J. A. Froude and W. E. H. Lecky at Nos. 5 and 38 Onslow Gardens, and the prime minister Andrew Bonar Law at No. 24 Onslow Gardens. (fn. n2)
Thackeray was certainly pleased enough with the situation of his new house at first, describing it in 1853 as ‘a pretty little house … looking into a very pretty square’, (fn. 195) but by 1858 he was tiring of it and called it ‘a shabby genteel house’. (fn. 196) This sort of sentiment was echoed by Margaret Leicester Warren, the daughter of the second Baron de Tabley, whose diaries give a fascinating glimpse of life in the square and its vicinity during the 1870's. She and her sister were forced to leave their Mayfair house at No. 86 Brook Street in 1871 after the second marriage of their father, and lived in reduced circumstances at No. 67 Onslow Square. Her view is, therefore, a somewhat jaundiced one, and she was evidently not impressed when Freake told her ‘what a capital situation Onslow Square was and how it used to be called “the vale of Health”. ‘He owns all the houses there,’ she added by way of explanation. In May 1872 she commented ‘What shall I write of this long Sunday afternoon, sitting in the quiet and sadness of Onslow Square, the trees outside shivering in such a bitter winter wind and the architect's wife next door [Mrs. Railton] playing over and over again “a few more years shall roll, a few more seasons pass,” always wrong at the same chord!’ In September of the same year she wrote, ‘The inhabitants of Onslow Square are very neighbourly and send each other small bits of food and old newspapers. They are all very poor.’ (fn. 197)
Margaret Leicester Warren moved into No. 67 on the day after the census of 1871 was taken, and the facts revealed by the enumerators' books present a different picture. (fn. 198) Of the eighty-six houses in Onslow Square, seventy-two had their regular heads of households present on the night of the census and can be presumed to have been in substantially normal occupation. There were 565 inhabitants in these seventy-two houses, of whom 306 were servants, an average of 7.85 persons (including 4.25 servants) per house. The bigger houses in the westward extension of the square at Nos. 85–109 (odd) had the highest complements, averaging exactly ten persons per house, of whom 5.8 were servants. The largest household was fifteen at No. 99, but the highest number of servants was at No. 9 where a butler, a housekeeper, a cook, a nurse, a nursery maid, two housemaids and a footman waited on a young East India merchant, his wife and three children.
Of the seventy-two householders five were titled (a baronet, a dowager baroness, a baronet's widow and two widows of knights, one of whom was an earl's daughter), nine others Lived on income from land or property, and two who described their occupation as ‘magistrate’ can probably also be placed in the same category. Eight were annuitants, derived their income from dividends or had ‘private means’. Of the professions the law was clearly dominant; nine of the householders were barristers (including a Scottish advocate), (fn. n3) two were solicitors and one was a ‘law student’. There were eight army and navy officers (including a baronet and a landowner already noted above), some of them retired and others of a venerable age, and two officials of the War Office, one superannuated. Other public employees were an inspector of hospitals, a Poor Law Board inspector, a member of the Queen's household, the Director of the Meteorological Office and a clerk in the Foreign Office. There were seven merchants, two stockbrokers, two clergymen, a physician, a painter (Charles Lutyens), a banker, a sculptor (J. Edgar Boehm at Marochetti's old house. No. 34), a professor of music, the French Commissioner General for the London International Exhibition of 1871 (at No. 52). a retired clerk, and the architect William Railton, who described himself as ‘Gentleman retired’. One man and three unmarried women provided no information about their occupations.
Onslow Gardens were still in the early stages of building in 1871 and only twenty houses had what appears to be their normal complement of occupants on the night of the census. There were 175 inhabitants in these twenty houses (an average of 8.75 per house), of whom 106 (5.3 per house) were servants. The largest household was at No. 41, where a thirty-five-year-old stockbroker, his wile and three children were attended by nine servants. At the top of the social scale among the householders were a dowager baroness (Lady Monteagle at No. 17, A, whose grandson, the second Baron, was living with her) and two sons of earls, one describing himself as a landowner and the other as a late captain of the First Lite Guards. There was one other landowner and three other army officers, including a retired colonel who was a Justice of the Peace for Northamptonshire. Another occupant was late assistant military secretary to the Horse Guards. Two householders held high public office, the Accountant General of the Court of Chancery and an Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, and two had retired from the Indian civil service. Of the remainder, two lived on income from securities or a jointure, one was the stockbroker mentioned above, and one a ship and insurance broker; the others were a barrister, a clergyman (who was also Secretary to the Church Missionary Society), a newspaper proprietor (William Reed) and the historian J. A. Froude, who described himself as 'Man of letters' and lived very comfortably with his wife and two children and seven servants at No. 5.
A comparison can be made between the pattern of occupancy in Onslow Square and Onslow Gardens in 1871 and that of the houses in the vicinity of Queen's Gate, Queen's Gate Gardens and Cromwell Road described in volume XXXVIII of the Survey of London. There the average number of inhabitants was 10.9 per house compared with 8.04 in Onslow Square and Gardens combined, and the number of servants waiting on each household was 6.2 compared with 4.5. There was a higher proportion of titled occupants in the larger houses of the Queen's Gate area, and the more purely middleclass character of the Onslow Square area immediately to the south was one of the factors that militated against it in the eyes of Margaret Leicester Warren. One noticeable characteristic of both areas was the small proportion of occupants who could be classified as rentiers when compared with Pelham Crescent, Pelham Place and Egerton Crescent twenty years earlier—perhaps an indication that the houses built by Freake were too big and expensive for most of the people who lived on the modest proceeds of small investments
Time has been relatively kind to the external appearance of most of Freake's houses. Some additions were made almost immediately, an application to raise No. 75 Onslow Square by a storey in 1862 receiving his endorsement on the grounds that ‘there is no objection to adding another store to am of the houses if it does not interfere with the top of the front wall, and that sooner or later all the lessees will require it ’. (fn. 199) The alterations to No. 23 Onslow Gardens have been described above, and No. 1 Sydney Place has also been much altered, probably in 1870, when the premises were first adapted for use as a bank. (fn. 91)
Some houses have been demolished, a group of six at the north-eastern corner of Onslow Square, latterly numbered 1–6 Onslow Houses, and No. 2 Pelham Street being replaced by Malvern Court in 1930–1, and Onslow Crescent making way for Melton Court in 1935. The building of the latter also involved the demolition of the Royal Exotic Nursery, one of South Kensington's bestknown horticultural establishments, which was at the back of Onslow Crescent and had a frontage to Old Brompton Road. The nursery buildings consisted of a small shop at the side of No. 16 Onslow Crescent and a long conservatory in the form of a Gothic nave and aisles with its gable end towards the street. The conservatory was built (probably by Freake, who was the lessee) in 1872 for John Wills, the florist and nurseryman, who moved to No. 16 Onslow Crescent in that year from another shop further along Old Brompton Road. Wills, who was born in Somerset in 1832, had come to London in 1867 and rapidly established himself as a leading pioneer in the field of floral decoration. In 1882 he entered into partnership with Samuel Moore Segar and the firm still flourishes as Wills and Segar. Wills died in 1895 and No. 16 Onslow Crescent was latterly the residence of the Segar family until its demolition. (fn. 200)
These rebuildings presaged a more extensive programme of redevelopment which, but for the intervention of the war of 1939–45, would have transformed Onslow Square and Gardens. In 1939 the Smith's Charity trustees decided to replace Nos. 1–8 Onslow Gardens with a new terrace of houses designed by W. E. Masters sporting Odeon-style entrance doorways, and a building agreement was concluded with Holland, Hannen and Cubitts in July 1939 but was surrendered on the outbreak of war. Plans were also afoot at the same time to redevelop Nos. 103–109 (odd) Onslow Square and the stables behind in Onslow Mews East. (fn. 201)
After the war, however, a conservative programme of rehabilitation was considered more appropriate, and, apart from the replacement of the war-destroyed Nos. 25–39 (odd) Onslow Square by two blocks of flats, one, on the site of Nos. 25–31, reproducing the original facade in facsimile, and the other to a modern design by John V. Hamilton of Cluttons, changes have generally been confined to the conversion of houses into flats. In many cases, however, this has involved extensive rebuilding behind existing facades and, at Nos. 77–109 (odd) Onslow Square, considerable alterations to the ground floor. Nos. 1 and 2 Sumner Place were destroyed by bombing and have been replaced by garages.
St. Paul's Church, Onslow Square
The terms of the building agreement of 1850 with (Sir) Charles James Freake under which the ground on the west side of Onslow Square was laid out had anticipated the provision of a church or chapel as part of The development and in March 1859 Freake approached the Smith's Charity trustees, who agreed to present a site here as a free gift. (fn. 202) The Ecclesiastical Commissioners readily accepted his proposal to erect a church, to the cost of which he was prepared to contribute at least £5,000. (fn. 203)
By June 1859 the designs for the church were sufficiently advanced to be the subject of a comment in The Building News, which thought that they did great credit ‘to those who have been engaged upon them, under the direction of Mr. Freake’. (fn. 204) The British Almanac for 1861 attributed the design to Freake, (fn. 205) but Derek Taylor Thompson, in his booklet entitled The First Hundred Years commemorating the centenary of the church in 1960, stared that the architect was James Edmeston (presumably the elder James Edmeston, architect and hymn-writer, who died in 1867, rather than his son, also an architect, who died in 1888 (fn. 58) ). No earlier source naming Edmeston has been found, but Thompson may have had access to church records which have since been lost and there is no reason to doubt his attribution to this rather obscure church architect.
The foundation stone was laid in 1859 and the completed church (Plates 56a, 57, fig. 30) was consecrated at Christmas 1860. (fn. 206) It seared 1,550–1,180 in rented pews and 370 in free seats—and the income was derived entirely from pew rents. The first minister, the Reverend Capel Molyneux, formerly minister of the Lock Chapel in Paddington, was appointed by Freake, who was patron of the living, and a district chapelry was assigned to the church in 1861. (fn. 207) The best-known vicar was Hanmer Webb-Peploe, whose incumbency lasted from 1876 to 1909, and who made the church a noted centre of Evangelicalism. (fn. 208).
The design of St Paul's, with its entrance at the east end and originally only a very shallow chancel at the west end, is defiantly Low Church. The exterior (Plate 56a) is faced with Kentish rag in a basically Perpendicular style. The nave is divided into seven bays by slender buttresses, and the most prominent features are the tower and spire supported by angle buttresses in the centre of the east front. The junction between lower and spire is unusual, the transitional stage being achieved by chamfering the corners of the tower immediately beneath the spire and placing four crocketed pinnacles on top of the buttresses.
Inside, the ‘preaching-box’ characteristics of the wide nave (Plate 57) are emphasized by deep galleries around three sides supported by thin octagonal columns with plain capitals, the gallery fronts showing the merest hint of Gothic tracery, and by an open timber roof with prominent tie-beams. Originally a large wooden pulpit and reading desk were placed in the centre and ‘quite shut out the west, or communion end’. (fn. 209)
The chancel dates largely from 1888–9 when the west (or liturgical east) end of the church was reconstructed and extended by some fifteen feet. The ostensible reason was to provide, by building staircases at the west end, a means of escape from the galleries in case of fire, but the opportunity was taken to embellish the hitherto plain appearance of the interior. A new seven-light window was installed with glass depicting scenes from the life of St. Paul by Clayton and Bell, who also provided the rest of the glass in the chancel. Beneath the large window is a Gothic arcade with ogee-headed arches which originally contained panels of Mexican onyx on which the Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Creed were inscribed, but in 1936 these were replaced with pink alabaster. The oak pews and panelling, the pulpit of Caen stone with onyx panels and columns of Devonshire marble approached by winding stone stairs with a brass railing, and the brass lectern in the shape of an eagle all date from the alterations of 1888–9. The roof of the new chancel, like that of the nave, is also wooden, but with hammerbeams instead of tie-beams.
The architect for these alterations was William Wallace; one of the principal donors Towards the work was the Countess of Seafield, whose title was Scottish and who may have preferred a Scottish architect. The contractors were Langdale, Hallett and Company, and the cost, apart from the main window, the pulpit, the reredos and the communion rails which were donated by parishioners, was £4,463. Thomas Potter and Sons made the brass eagle lectern and Alfred J. Shirley designed the communion rails, which were paid for by the servants of members of the congregation. The new chancel was consecrated on 23 October 1889. (fn. 210)
In 1935–6 renovations and redecoration were undertaken by Trollope and Colls under the architects Gordon and Gordon at a cost of £2,219. (fn. 211)
A gabled church hall with ragstone facing was erected on the south side of the church in 1876 to the designs of Edward C. Robins of Southampton Street, Covent Garden, and enlarged by Wallace in 1893. (fn. 212) Another smaller hall in ragstone was built in front of the earlier one in 1932 to the designs of William Doddington, (fn. 213) but this was demolished in 1969 for new parish rooms, built as part of a scheme which also included a three-storey building incorporating a vicarage and a curate's maisonette. A small courtyard separates the vicarage and maisonette from the church halls. The architect, who chose a modern style in brick in contrast to the earlier church halls, was Eric Brady of Maidment and Brady, and the builders, who carried out the work in 1968–70, were William Blood Limited. (fn. 214)
The memorial tablets in the church include ones to Freake, set within a Gothic canopy at the east end, to Webb-Peploe of marble and alabaster in the chancel, and to Anne and John King, an elaborate marble memorial with drapes, a scrolled cartouche and a cherub's head, in the nave Besides the stained glass by Clayton and Bell, there is a window by Arild Rosenkrantz, made in 1930, on the north side of the nave. The large organ in the eastern gallery was installed in 1885–6 by Lewis and Company and incorporates the stops from the previous organ. The Lewis organ was in turn substantially reconstructed by J. W. Walker and Sons in 1899–1900. (fn. 215)
In 1977 St. Paul's was united with Holy Trinity, Brompton. The last service was held in the church on 1 May of that year, and at the time of writing (1982) the future of the building is uncertain.
St. Peter's Church, Cranley Gardens
Now called St. Peter's Armenian Church, this is the second of the two churches which were built by (Sir) Charles James Freake to serve the needs of the occupants of the houses he had built or was about to build on the Smith's Charity estate. St. Peter's (Plates 56b, 56c, 58, fig. 31) was erected in 1866–7 from designs prepared in Freake's own office, but much of its architectural interest arises from a number of alterations which were made to the interior during the present century under the direction of W. D. Caroe.
The church was built on ground which Freake held from the Smith's Charity trustees by virtue of a building agreement of 1862. Early in 1865 he approached Dr. A. C. Tait, then Bishop of London and later Archbishop of Canterbury, with a proposal to build a church at his own expense, and sought Tait's aid in obtaining a sufficiently large district for the church. (fn. 216) By May 1865 he had obtained a promise from the charity's trustees to convey the site to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners as a free gift, and in June 1866 he made a formal proposal to the Commissioners, through his solicitor Charles Fishlake Cundy, for the erection, endowment and perpetual patronage of a church to seat 1,500 (500 in free seats) which he estimated would cost £7,000 and for which he was prepared to provide an endowment of £1,000. (fn. 217) The Commissioners agreed, and the foundation stone was laid by Mrs. Freake on 21 July 1866. After a dispute with the sponsors of the proposed new church of St. Augustine's, Queen's Gate, over the size of the respective districts to be allotted to the two churches, which was resolved by the intervention of Bishop Tait, St. Peter's was consecrated by him on 29 June 1867. (fn. 218)
Freake seems to have been at pains to conceal the identity of the actual architect or architects of the building. Some contemporary journals attributed the design to him personally, but The Builder was probably more accurate in stating that the church was built by Freake ‘from drawings prepared in his own office’, with J. Brown as clerk of works and general foreman. (fn. 219) A number of fledgling architects are known to have worked under Freake (see page 104), and his principal executant on work of about this date in Grosvenor Square was William Tasker. (fn. 220) If experienced outside advice on church-building was needed, however, Thomas Cundy II, who was the brother of Freake's solicitor, Charles Fishlake Cundy, and who was involved in the work in Grosvenor Square as the Grosvenor estate surveyor, would have been well qualified to assist.
The first incumbent to be appointed by Freake, the Honourable and Reverend F. C. E. Byng, was a son of the second Earl of Strafford. Some of the cost of the church appears to have been met by him, perhaps merely the interest charges on a loan which Freake had evidently had to take out, as (Sir) Henry Cole recorded in his diary instances when he was called upon to mediate between the two men on monetary matters. (fn. 221) Byng resigned the living in 1890 and nine years later succeeded his brother as fifth Earl of Strafford. (fn. 222)
St. Peter's has been described as the High Church equivalent of St. Paul's, Onslow Square, but its services were never particularly ‘High’. A later vicar said that it has been difficult to define or place from the party, or the theological point of view, except that it has been certainly “Church of England” ’. He characterised the congregation as one that ‘has always been fortunate in its men. Men who are earning their living in London can hardly live in that part of London unless they are efficient, and on the other hand it is not so expensive as to make it impossible for the returned Colonial Governor, the retired Admiral or General, the retired or senior Civil Servant to live there. We always had a large number of knights in the congregation, which indicates the type of men. Not great men perhaps, not of the first rank, but faithful servants of the State, men who had done something (fn. 223)
The large and prosperous congregation which the church attracted for much of its history provided the means for extensive embellishments to be carried out. The most important of these were undertaken in two schemes of 1907–9 and 1922–3, in both of which most of the cost was defrayed by Percy C. Morris of Elm Park Gardens, Chelsea, a barrister by profession, and members of his family. (fn. 224) Moms appears to have been instrumental in obtaining the services of W. D. Caröe as architect for the work, and the latter's association with the church continued until his death in 1938, when his memorial service was held in St. Peler's. (fn. 225) In the work Caröe was assisted by Herbert passmore, who later became his partner, and whose connexion with the church as an architect and a member of the congregation (in which he served as both churchwarden and sidesman) continued until his death at the age of ninety-eight in 1966. (fn. 226) Alban Caröe, W. D. Caröe's son, was architect to the fabric during the final period of the church's history as an Anglican place of worship, having taken over the position in 1958. (fn. 225)
The church is basically cruciform on plan with a very broad nave and aisles, wide transepts, a spacious crossing, ant) a short apsidal chancel. To the north of the chancel is a morning chapel which was added by Caröe in 1907–9, replacing a vestry, and to the south is a large organ chamber which is also principally Caröe's work of the same date.
The exterior (Plate 56b, 56c), which is in the Decorated style and faced with Kentish ragstone, has been relatively little altered from the time of first building, apart from the addition of a porch on the north side as part of the alterations of 1907–9, and an untidy jumble of accretions at the east end, visible only from Selwood Place. Only the west front can be seen clearly from a distance and here the architectural effect has been concentrated in the form of a tall gabled front with a five-light window and a large tower with a broach spire rising to a height of 160 feet.
In the interior (Plate 58) the walls of the nave and transepts are faced with brick, which was originally cream-coloured with patterns in red and black, but the intended polychromatic effect was largely obliterated by whitewashing in the 1930's.
The west end of the nave is dominated by an elegant stone gallon which is supported on four slim clustered columns and decorated with figure sculpture and other carvings. Originally galleries were only provided in the transepts, but that in the south transept had to be reduced in size when the organ chamber was rebuilt in 1907–9, and to compensate Caröe added the present west gallery. Above the gallery the stained glass in the west window is by Ward and Hughes and dates from the establishment of the church, but it was badly damaged during the war of 1939–45 and is no longer complete.
The nave and aisles arc separated by simple stone arcades of wide arches carried on clustered columns. The arcades are continued into the crossing in a more complex and unusual arrangement of triple arches, the outer ones narrow and sharply pointed and the inner wide and high and supported by round columns with crocket capitals. The clerestory windows are alternately pairs of trefoilheaded lights and quatrefoils with glass of 1904–6 by the Arts and Crafts stained-glass artist Mary Lowndes. (fn. 227) The remaining glass in the nave and transepts is richly varied and includes work by Ward and Hughes, Clayton and Bell, and Heaton, Butler and Bayne. The roof of the nave is of open timberwork.
The constricted nature of the east end apparently caused problems from the beginning, as the large corbels which once supported the chancel arch were attributed in 1872 to an early alteration in which the lower part of the opening had been widened. (fn. 228) The choir projects into the crossing, from which it was originally separated by a dwarf stone screen, but in 1900 this was replaced by marble walls and an ornate wrought-iron screen. (fn. 229) The latter was removed when the marble walls were advanced by six feet in 1922–3, but parts of it have been re-erected at the sides of the choir. (fn. 230)
The apsidal sanctuary itself was much embellished in 1922–3 to Caröe's design at a cost of over £7,400, partly to remedy its dark and cramped condition and partly to serve as a war memorial. The main structural alteration was the insertion of dormer windows, each consisting of three simple segmental-headed lights filled with stained glass, between the ribs of the roof. A new stone reredos with a sculpture of the Crucifixion was flanked by arcades incorporating a bishop's scat, sedilia and piscina with richly caned Gothic canopies above, all being the work of the sculptor Nathaniel Hitch. (It should, however, be noted that the fine carvings of angels playing musical instruments in the spandrels above the lancet windows, no doubt inspired by the sculptures in the Angel Choir of Lincoln Cathedral, are earlier work which was retained.) A new altar, altar-rail and choir stalls were made by Dart and Francis of Crediton, Devon, a firm much used by Caröe. The glass was by James Powell and Sons, that in the main lights replacing some ‘excellent stained glass’ by Ward and Hughes, but Powells' glass in these windows has in turn been so badly damaged by bombing that only fragments remain, re-used as decorative borders to clear glass. The general contractors for the alterations were F. Hitch and Company of Ware, Hertfordshire. (fn. 231)
If the present appearance of the chancel is largely due to alterations carried out to Caröe's designs, the morning chapel to the north (Plate 58b), which was formed in 1907–9 and originally called the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, is entirely of his creation. Opening off the north transept through a tall stone arch with a low bronze rail and gates, the chapel is faced with Bath stone and has two bays in its upper part and three in the lower including a deep recess beneath the east window which contains the altar and reredos. The chapel is lierne-vaulted in stone and the springers of the main ribs are decorated with statues of angels, apostles, prophets and other Christian figures including, in the mediaeval tradition, Frederick Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had died a short time previously. The main bosses of the vault are carved with the head of Christ and the Holy Dove, while on the subsidiary bosses are angels bearing symbols of the Passion and the insignia of various learned institutions. These include those with which the Morris family were associated, and those of Trinity College, Cambridge, where Caröe studied, and of New College, Oxford, the college of the vicar, the Reverend W. S. Swayne. The lower parts of the walls are arcaded and have sedilia on the north side and a piscina on the south. An opening on the south side of the western bay allows communication with the chancel through an intervening passage.
The stone caning in the chapel, which was carried out by Nathaniel Hitch and his assistant Harold Whitaker, reaches its apogee in the finely detailed reredos which has three niches with lacy canopies above containing figure sculpture, that in the central niche depicting the Crucifixion. The altar beneath is of oak and was made by Dart and Francis to Caröe's design. The marble floor, which was laid Cosmati fashion, is by Arthur Lee and Brothers of Hayes, and the glass of the six-light east window is by James Powell and Sons. Like much else in the chapel, it is of very high quality and rich in detail while restrained in colouring so as to allow a great deal of light to pass through. The general contractors for the construction of the chapel were Collins and Godfrey of Tewkesbury. (fn. 232)
The alterations which were made to the organ chamber on the opposite side of the chancel at the same time as the building of the morning chapel constituted but one stage in the history of the organ, which is almost as complex as that of the church itself. The first organ, by Messrs. Hill and Sons, is famous as the instrument on which (Sir) Arthur Sullivan played from 1867 to 1871 as the church's first organist. This was replaced in 1893 by a Willis organ which, in turn, was largely rebuilt in 1908 by J. W. Walker and Sons when the organ chamber was much enlarged and new cases were designed by Caröe. Further alterations were made in 1922–3, and after damage during the war of 1939–45 repairs were carried out. Finally a major restoration was undertaken by Hill, Norman and Beard in 1958. (fn. 233)
Of the church's other fixtures and fittings, the present pulpit, which is of wood on a stone base, is the third and dates from 1902; it was designed by John Samuel Alder, architect. (fn. 234) An elaborate Gothic wooden canopy at the west end of the north aisle formerly housed the font which is now in the south transept. Another font, which was introduced by the Armenians from a church in Birmingham, is in the morning chapel. A large memorial to Frank Macrae (d. 1915) with an inset painting of St. George, which is in the north aisle, is by Jesse Bayes. At the west end of the nave is a Gothic memorial to Freake similar to that in St. Paul's, Onslow Square, and a memorial to the war of 1914–18 which was designed by Caröe.
The vicarage to the north of the church (Plate 56b) was built in 1870 to the designs of Alfred Williams at an estimated cost of £2,570, for which the endowment of £1,000 given by Freake was used in partial payment. (fn. 216) Although built before its Italianate neighbours, it now forms an end-of-terrace house in a contrasting Gothic style in red brick and stone. Its principal feature is a tall recessed arch, asymmetrically placed, at second- and third-floor level containing paired window openings which are divided vertically by decorated stone panels. Above the arch is a gable with an iron finial. The house has been much altered and is now divided into flats.
A two-storey building containing vestries on the ground floor and a church hall with an open-timber roof above was erected to Caröe's designs behind the vicarage as part of the alterations of 1907–9, when the new morning chapel replaced the original vestry.
In January 1973 the last Anglican service was held in the church and its parish was united with that of St. Mary, The Boltons. In June 1975, however, St. Peter's was re-consecrated by the Supreme Catholicos of all Armenians as the cathedral church of the Armenians in London. (fn. 235)