Survey of London: Volume 41, Brompton. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1983.
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Brompton Road and Egerton Gardens Area
In the mid 1880's the Smith's Charity trustees decided not to renew the leases of Novosielski's houses in Michael's Place, Michael's Grove and Brompton Crescent for further short-term periods, but to demolish the houses and let the ground for building. In so doing they were making an investment for the future, as there was a loss of income when rack rents were exchanged for ground rents, albeit in this instance quite high ones. The largest piece of ground, comprising the present-day sites of Nos. 227–251 (odd) Brompton Road and all of Egerton Gardens except Nos. 1–7 (consec.) and 36–50 (even), was let under one building agreement dated 25 March 1886 at an ultimate ground rent (payable from 1891) of £1,425. At about the same time the sites of Nos. 209–225 (odd) Brompton Road, Egerton Gardens Mews and Nos. 17 and 19 Egerton Terrace were taken under several separate agreements at a total ground rent of £642 per annum, while Crescent House was replaced by the large mansion called Mortimer House at a ground rent of £240. The houses at the eastern end of Egerton Gardens, Nos. 1–7 (consec.) and 36–50 (even), were erected under a separate building agreement in 1888 at a rent of £500. Finally Egerton Place and Nos. 4–28 (even) Yeoman's Row were built under another agreement of 1891 (modified in 1893) at £700 per annum. (fn. 272) The leasehold terms granted under these agreements ranged from ninety years in Egerton Gardens to ninety-nine years in Egerton Place and Yeoman's Row. Some eight-and-a-half acres of land were involved, and the total ground rent received (£3,507) was, at over £400 per acre, very substantially larger than the £75 per acre received on average from Freake's various takes. A higher sum was, however, to be expected from the redevelopment of an established area than from the opening up of new territory.
Nos. 209–251 (odd) Brompton Road and Egerton Gardens
The agreement of 25 March 1886 was with Alexander Thorn, builder, of Cremorne Wharf, Lots Road, Chelsea. In April Thorn applied to the Metropolitan Board of Works for permission to form a new street between Brompton Road and the street then still known as Brompton Crescent, and in June the course of this road and its name, Egerton Gardens (after the Honourable Francis Egerton, son of the first Earl of Ellesmere, one of the trustees), were approved. (fn. 273)
In the same month Thorn commenced building at Nos. 227–235 (odd) Brompton Road, (fn. 274) a group of groundfloor shops with three main storeys and high attics above decked out with characteristic ‘Queen Anne’ trimmings of gables, red brickwork with occasional lighter bands, ribbed chimneys, and round-arched and segmental-headed windows openings, and sporting little semi-circular balconies in front of the central windows on the second floor (Plate 25a, fig. 33). Above the shops in Brompton Road these buildings were intended to provide very spacious single dwellings entered from Egerton Gardens, where the numbers 67–75 (odd) were assigned, but within a few years most of them were occupied as flats. (fn. 91)
Thorn was also involved in extensive building operations in Elm Park Gardens, Chelsea, and by 1887 he was apparently in financial difficulties. He entered into an arrangement with his creditors (fn. 275) whereby he divested himself of his responsibilities in the Egerton Gardens area to Matthews Brothers and Company, who were then building in Bramham Gardens. Nos. 229–235 Brompton Road were assigned to Matthews Brothers in the names of the company's partners, Andrew Rogers, Maurice Charles Hulbert and Henry Arthur Matthews, for £3,000 per house (sums which would indicate that they were then practically finished). (fn. 276) No 227 had already been sold to Charles Leonard Hacking, an ironmonger, (fn. 277) hence the ceramic plaque with the initials CLH on the side of the building.
Building had also begun in 1886 at Nos. 209–225 (odd) Brompton Road, a range of shops with flats above. Here individual or pairs of buildings were erected under separate agreements, and the flats, which were given the collective name of Egerton Mansions, are approached from entrances between the shops in Brompton Road. They also consist, above the shops, of three storeys and attics with gables or prominent dormers but are treated in a mixture of more restrained styles than Thorn's houses, ranging from simple brick façades verging on neo-Georgian to neo-Elizabethan fronts with squared-off stone bays of a kind which were to become increasingly common along commercial street frontages.
Three of the lessees of the buildings in this range were the occupants of previous buildings on the site, namely Charles Patrick Smith, upholsterer, James Hume, baker, and Mrs. Caroline Corby, lodging-house keeper, while another, Charlotte Adele Jeffreys, was presumably related to Mrs. Harriet Jeffreys who also ran a lodging-house at the old No. 219. (fn. 278) Neither the new shops nor any of the flats above were, however, occupied by the lessees, all of whom apparently undertook the rebuildings as speculations. The builders were Smith for No. 209, G. and G. Green of Hackney (who submitted the lowest tender at £3,125 to execute a design by R. J. Worley (fn. 279)) at No. 211, Samuel Chafen of Rotherhithe for Nos. 213 and 215, and Mark Manley of St. Pancras for Nos. 217–225. (fn. 280) Manley was also the builder, at this time, of Nos. 17 and 19 Egerton Terrace. (fn. 281)
Further along Brompton Road the range begun by Thorn was completed in 1887–8 by the erection of Nos. 237–249 (odd) in a similar but simplified style retaining the same storey heights and gabled roofline (Plate 25a, right). The lessee here was William John Stuart of Thornton Heath, builder, but the notices to the district surveyor of the commencement of building operations were in the name of the local builders, S. and R. Cawley of Hornton Street. (fn. 282) As with the other buildings in this range, the flats above the shops are entered from the rear in Egerton Gardens where they are numbered 53–65 (odd).
No. 251 Brompton Road, a sharply angled building on the south corner of the short street opening from Brompton Road into the middle of Egerton Gardens, was built by Matthews Brothers in 1889 for The Working Ladies' Guild which had been founded in 1877 ‘with the aim of helping “necessitous gentlewomen” and encouraging them to develop their own skills and sell their work’. The building, which has thin Ionic pilasters between large window openings and ornately decorated pediments, had a showroom on the ground floor and presumably workshops above. A handsome shop front originally stretched around both street frontages, surmounted by a coat of arms at the corner. The activities of the Guild were boldly advertised on the showroom windows and included art needlework, china painting, poker work, church work, tapestry repairs and the making of trousseaux, layettes and emigrants' and servants' outfits. The Guild's motto, ‘Bear Ye One Another's Burdens’, is carved in the pediment above the entrance from Brompton Road. The Guild retained the premises until 1958. (fn. 283)
In Egerton Gardens Nos. 17–25 (odd) had been begun by Thorn in 1886, (fn. 284) and have some features which are common with Nos. 227–235 (odd) Brompton Road, but, like those houses, they were handed over to Matthews Brothers for completion. No. 17 was let, on their direction, to Major-General Charles Edmund Webber, who was the first occupant to move into the street in 1887, (fn. 285) and Nos. 19–25 were let individually to Rogers, Hulbert and Matthews in the same year. (fn. 286) They then proceeded to build the remainder of Egerton Gardens with great despatch. By 1890 all of the houses were occupied with the exception of No. 50, which was taken in the following year. (fn. 287)
Maurice Charles Hulbert, who had recently joined the building firm as a partner, was an Associate of the R.I.B.A. and had latterly been in private practice as an architect. (fn. 288) It seems inherently probable that he was the architect of the houses in Egerton Gardens (Plate 60a, 60c) with the exception of No. 31, where another architect was certainly employed, and probably of Nos. 17–25, which seem to have been designed, at least in part, by an architect employed by Thorn. Hulbert was to design several buildings for Matthews, Rogers and Company (as Matthews Brothers were later called) on the Grosvenor estate in Mayfair, where he later proved himself to be an architect of some flair and distinction. (fn. 289) In Egerton Gardens, however, there is little evidence of a talent much above the average, and the rapid rate of occupancy may be testimony more to the appeal of Brompton as a residential quarter than to the attractiveness of Matthews Brothers' houses.
These have basements, three or, more usually, four main storeys and high attics behind gables of various shapes and sizes. Their red-brick façades, treated with a modicum of ornamental brickwork, arc sometimes relieved by bands and voussoirs of Portland cement, and most of the houses have canted bays through two or three storeys. Although there is some repetition of house-types, and the terraces are tied together by continuous iron-railed balconies carried on large brackets, symmetry is carefully avoided. Nos. 18–50 (even) have their principal fronts on the south side overlooking the communal garden which serves all the houses (Plate 60a), and their street fronts are of a familiar ‘back-to-front’ kind with split storey levels. Some of the upper storeys have been disfigured by alterations and addition and the brilliant-white painting of the cement work has produced a striped effect which was not intended originally, as early photographs testify.
No. 31 was designed by Thomas Henry Smith for Lieutenant-Colonel William Wetherly, the lessee and first occupant. (fn. 290) While retaining the storey heights and general disposition of its neighbours (Plate 60c), the house has some individual features including a tall stepped and scrolled gable, ornamental caning in brick and cement by Gilbert Seale and lead-quarry glazing by Campbell, Smith and Company. Inside, the principal feature was a large inner hall and a wide open-well staircase decorated in an early-seventeenth-century manner in dark wood with ornamental plasterwork. Like the majority of houses in Egerton Gardens, it has been turned into flats. No. 17, which is lower than its neighbours, having only two main storeys and a high double attic, also has several individual characteristics. As it occupies a prominent corner position next to Mortimer House, much attention is given to the side elevation, which has exposed chimney-stacks, ornamental brickwork, a shaped gable and an octagonal turret with a lead cupola at the rear.
Officers of the armed forces provided a substantial core of the first occupants of Egerton Gardens. Besides Webber and Wetherly there were three colonels, three majors, two captains and an admiral (Sir Michael Seymour at No. 1). Two barristers and a solicitor can also be identified although there may have been more, as can two stockbrokers and a civil engineer. Her Majesty's Consul-General in Bogota occupied No. 20 briefly, and there were several merchants. A more sizeable upper-class presence here than in Evelyn Gardens is reflected in a number of aristocratic residents, including members of the Cadogan family, a son of the ninth Earl of Galloway, the fourth Earl of Kenmare and the second Baron Romilly, who had only recently moved into No. 38 when a fire broke out there in 1891, killing this unfortunate peer and two of his servants. (fn. 291)
The initial building agreement for the redevelopment of the site occupied by Novosielski's houses in Michael's Grove and the terrace immediately behind in Yeoman's Row was concluded on 24 June 1891 with Harold Malet, a retired colonel, who lived at No. 12 Egerton Gardens. (fn. 292) Malet, who was a friend of the architect (Sir) Mervyn Macartney, ‘had taste and knew people’. He was involved with Macartney, Reginald Blomfield, W. R. Lethaby, Sidney Barnsley and Ernest Gimson in the famous but short-lived design firm of Kenton and Company which was formed in February 1891 with Malet holding, ‘as it were, a watching brief on the whole proceeding’. (fn. 293)
In August 1891 another new company, The Estates Improvement Company Limited, was formed with Malet as secretary, to carry out the building agreement. Among the subscribers were Macartney and his father-in-law, Charles Thomson Ritchie, later Baron Ritchie of Dundee, who was President of the Local Government Board and, as such, had been responsible for the Local Government Act of 1888. Other subscribers included Edward L. Tomlin of Angley Park, Cranbrook, a client of Macartney, and William Henry Collbran, a local architect, surveyor and house agent, who had designed blocks of shops and residential chambers in Earl's Court Road, Old Brompton Road and Gloucester Road. (fn. 294)
Early in 1892 Macartney applied to the London County Council on behalf of The Estates Improvement Company for permission to lay out a new street in the form of a tight, deep crescent off Michael's Grove to be called Egerton Place, and in May 1892 John Grover and Son of Wilton Works, New North Road, gave notice of their intention to build the first houses there. (fn. 295)
Nos. 1–7 (consec.) Egerton Place (Plate 60b, left side, fig. 34a) were built by Grover to Macartney's designs and at once introduced a higher quality of architecture to the generally undistinguished ensemble of the Egerton Gardens area. They have the usual four main storeys with basements and garrets characteristic of most other houses in the development, and are finished in costly two-inch bricks of red and orange, with copious brown stone dressings. Their decorative features are spare and refined—a bold but plain linking cornice in stone at third-floor level, stone doorcases with open segmental or triangular pediments, shallow canted stone bays, and rubbed brick dressings with keystones to other windows. The overall effect is of a suave neo-classicism well in advance of its time, exemplified particularly in the long flank frontage to Egerton Terrace of Nos. 1 and 2 with its central pedimented window at first-floor level.
Leases of all seven houses were granted by the Smith's Charity trustees in 1894, that of No. 3 to the house's first occupant, Sir Evan MacGregor, permanent secretary to the Admiralty, and the remaining six to shareholders in The Estates Improvement Company. (fn. 296) Nos. 3 and 7 were occupied in 1894, the latter by another son-in-law of Ritchie, Thomas Barclay Cockerton, a barrister, but either the rate of completion or of occupancy of the other houses was slower than that of the houses in Egerton Gardens. Nos. 1 and 2 were used successively as the company's office before attracting private residents in 1895 and 1896 respectively, and in the latter year Nos. 4, 5 and 6 were also inhabited for the first time. The occupants were, however, invariably people in high stations. Besides MacGregor and Cockerton, they included the Dowager Lady Lawrence, probably the widow of the first Baron Lawrence, at No. 5, Henry Arthur William Hervey, chief clerk of the Foreign Office, at No. 6, (Sir) Henry Fielding Dickens, Q.C., son of the novelist, at No. 2, and a stockbroker at No. 4. (fn. 297)
The original agreement with Malet had, for an unknown reason, been superseded by another in July 1893, and in November 1894 Malet obtained a licence from the trustees to allow William Willett of Sloane Gardens, Chelsea, to take over the ground on which the southern half of Egerton Place was to be erected. (fn. 298) Willett's was an established building firm with its own architect, Amos Faulkner, and by the end of 1894 it had begun the construction of Nos. 8–13 (consec.) Egerton Place to Faulkner's designs (fn. 299) (Plate 60b, right side, fig. 34b). All six houses were completed and occupied by 1897. (fn. 91)
Faulkner retained the general storey heights of Macartney's houses and he completed No. 8 as a pair to No. 7 with common pediments over the doorcases and above the attic storey. There are differences, however, in the size of the window openings and the thickness of the glazing bars, and Faulkner could nor resist the addition of a stone balcony in front of the central window on the first floor. The remaining houses broke from the original line of the crescent and progressively departed from Macartney's design by omitting the linking cornice and adding various features which placed the houses firmly in the context of the 1890's; balconies appeared of the type fashionable at this time, with stone balustrades carried on heavy brackets, and at No. 13 gables were given to both the front and side elevations. (No. 13 has been disfigured by the addition of a five-storey tower at the north-west corner to accommodate a staircase, carried out with the Smith's Charity trustees' consent as recently as 1960–1. (fn. 300)) A. E. Street commented in 1906 on the disparity between the two halves of Egerton Place and thought that the southern half which had been built by Willetts was ‘anything but an improvement’, a view with which one may certainly concur even though Street was writing in The Architectural Review, then under the editorship of Macartney. (fn. 301)
Nos. 4–28 (even) Yeoman's Row
The west side of Yeoman's Row between Egerton Gardens Mews and the present No. 28 was included in the ground taken under Malet's agreement and was intended to be used for stabling, one set of stables (which survive in a converted state) being quickly erected at Nos. 6–10 (even). In 1896, however, the remaining frontage was released by The Estates Improvement Company in a subsidiary agreement to William Henry Collbran, who had taken over from Malet as secretary of the company and was by then its principal shareholder. (fn. 294) Collbran erected one more stable and coach-house at No. 12 (fn. 302) (rebuilt in 1957–8 to the designs of M. Howard-Radley (fn. 303)), but, even though the short Egerton Gardens Mews provided the only other stabling in the area, there seems to have been little demand for such buildings at a time when the practice of keeping one's own carriage in London was decreasing, and Collbran decided to utilise the remainder of the ground for studios.
In 1898 The Estates Improvement Company (then in voluntary liquidation) surrendered its remaining interest in the land, and the Smith's Charity trustees concluded a new building agreement with Collbran. Recognising an already existing state of affairs, this permitted the erection of studios or residential buildings provided that they were no higher than thirty-three feet (in effect three storeys) and that any windows at the rear were glazed with opaque glass unless they lit reception rooms, when clear glass was to be allowed. These and other specifications limiting the extent to which the windows could be opened were no doubt framed with the susceptibilities of the occupants of Egerton Place in mind. (fn. 304)
Collbran was granted leases of the main group of studios, originally designated Nos. 1–8 Egerton Place Studios but quickly renumbered 14–28 (even) Yeoman's Row, in 1898–9, (fn. 305) but he promptly sub-let Nos. 14–22 to Charles E. Brassington of Camberwell, builder, who had erected the buildings. (fn. 306) No 22 (Plate 25d) was designed by Alfred J. Beesley of Tufnell Park (fn. 307) in a simple red-brick manner with bay windows, a roof light and a pedimented brick-and-terracotta doorcase, but the author of the designs for No. 20 and the simpler group with large factory-style windows at Nos. 14–18 (Plate 25c) is not known.
Nos. 24, 26 and 28 (Plate 25b, 25d) were sub-let by Collbran to a trio of spinster artists, Ida Lovering, Emily McCallum and Sarah Vaughan, who jointly employed William Barber of No. 3 Brick Court, Temple, as architect: Brassington was the builder. (fn. 308) Barber employed a number of motifs in red brick and tile (to which weatherboarding has been added in an extension to the top storey of No. 26) and a variety of window openings in an exuberant manner no doubt thought appropriate for a residential studio. There is perhaps a hint, though, of the more serious-minded studio architecture of Philip Webb or E. W. Godwin at No. 24, but even this is more apparent in design than execution.
No. 4 Yeoman's Row, at the corner of Egerton Gardens Mews, which originally had a bicycle workshop on the ground floor and studios above, was erected in 1900–2 for Collbran by W. Mitchell and Son of Dulwich. (fn. 309)
In 1935 the architect Wells Coates, searching for a suitable ‘pied a terre’ which he could adapt to embody his ideas of ‘planning in section’, settled on No. 18 Yeoman's Row. As he had to share the building with other tenants the space available was limited and he created an ingenious flat on the 2:1 principle out of the top-floor studio, which measured some thirty-six by eighteen feet with a ceiling height of twelve feet (fig. 35). He double-glazed the large studio window and planted a ‘window garden’ between the two skins of glass. The main living space had a hearthscene ‘a la japonais’ with matting and large cushions and easily moveable furniture elsewhere. The principal manifestation of Coates's ideas, however, was in the placing of a double-bed and a single-bed ‘cabin’ above the bathroom and kitchen respectively, with ladders for access. Part of the upper-level storage space could also be used as a projection room for films. A radio, which was uncased and had its chassis exposed, and a gramophone occupied a prominent place in an illuminated niche at the side of the hearth-scene to complete a highly personal interior. Apart from the war years, Coates lived here until 1955. (fn. 310)
This large, detached mansion with spacious grounds at the southern junction of Egerton Gardens with Brompton Road (Plate 61, fig. 36) was built in 1886–8 for Edward Howley Palmer, a merchant with Dent, Palmer and Company of Gresham House, Old Broad Street, City, and a director and former governor of the Bank of England. (fn. 91) His father, John Horsley Palmer, had also been governor of the Bank. (fn. 311) Palmer's builder was William Goodwin of Hatton Garden, (fn. 312) but neither the identity of his architect nor the reason for his choice of name for the new house is known.
Since about 1881 Palmer had been living at Crescent House, which stood on the site of Mortimer House, and in 1885 or 1886 he had entered into an agreement with the Smith's Charity trustees to rebuild the mansion, paying a rent of £100 for the first year and £240 per annum thereafter. (fn. 313) Palmer had recently commissioned Richard Norman Shaw to design a house for him at No. 62 Cadogan Square and Shaw had exhibited his designs for that house at the Royal Academy in 1883, (fn. 314) but Palmer had either built it speculatively or decided not to live in it. The extent of his commitment to Mortimer House is also uncertain. In the lease of the house from the trustees to Palmer, dated 8 May 1889, he is described as of Mortimer House, (fn. 315) but except for 1892, when he is given as the occupant, the house is not entered in the directories, and by that date he also had another London home an ordinary late-eighteenth-century terraced house at No. 16 Lower Seymour Street (now 126 Wigmore Street), St. Marylebone. (fn. 91) In 1896 he sold Mortimer House (fn. 316) and continued to live in Lower Seymour Street where he died in 1901 leaving effects of over £110,000. (fn. 317)
Largely secluded behind a high brick wall, Mortimer House exudes an air of mystery and surprise amid the surrounding terraces of South Kensington. Perhaps most surprisingly of all, it is still in private occupation. Its style is an amalgam of Tudor and Jacobean in red brickwork diapered with blue, with stone mullioned-and-transomed windows, a multiplicity of gables of various shapes, some of them stepped, crested with statuary of griffins or bears supporting shields, and clusters of tall, decorated brick chimneystacks. Inside there is a predictable eclecticism of style, ranging from Jacobean in the long hallway containing an oak open-well staircase with twisted balusters and wide handrail to Adamesque in the double drawing-room at the front. The fittings include fine marble chimneypieces in a late-eighteenth-century manner. A room on the first floor may originally have been used as a chapel. Several changes have been made to the decorative schemes since the house was built, some of them quite recently, and a long conservatory-cum-swimming-pool has been added to the west side of the house, where the detached stables (now converted into garages) with stepped gables and a turret with a conical roof are also situated.