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.
CHAPTER V - The Alexander Estate
During the first half of the nineteenth century the Alexander estate in South Kensington consisted of six separate plots of land having a total area of some fifty-four acres. (fn. 1) Only one of these plots is within the area described in this volume—a triangular block of some fourteen acres bounded on the north-west by Thurloe Place, on the east by Brompton Road, and on the south (approximately) by the underground railway and South Kensington Station (see fig. 15). Three more of the six plots were described in Survey of London volume XXXVII, where a general account of the estate is to be found on pages 8–11. The other two plots, consisting of a tiny piece of land now part of the site of Barker's store in Kensington High Street, and of some twenty acres on the west side of Gloucester Road, will be described in volume XLII.
The whole estate is here called after its nineteenth century owners, the Alexanders, under whose auspices it was developed, but it has often been known as the Thurloe estate, after the Puritan statesman John Thurloe (1616–1668). His association with the estate is supposed to derive from a present of some land which he is said to have received from Oliver Cromwell himself. (fn. 2) However, no documentary proof that either Cromwell or Thurloe ever owned land in this area has been found: on the contrary, the surviving evidence suggests that Thurloe could never have been the owner of this estate. The tradition of his ownership no doubt developed because in the eighteenth century one of his descendants acquired an interest in the property through marriage (see below). (fn. 3)
The Ownership of the Estate
In the early seventeenth century most of the lands which were later to make up the Alexander estate belonged to a vintner, Sir William Blake, who at the time of his death in 1630 owned some 370 acres in Kensington, Knightsbridge and Chelsea. (fn. 4) Soon afterwards this large holding was broken up, and several pieces of land, including most of what was to become the Alexander estate, descended to his son and grandson. By the early eighteenth century these had passed into the ownership of Sir William's great great-grand-daughter, Anna Maria Harris, whose first husband was John Browne (see fig. 1 on page 11). But after his death she in 1712 took as her second husband John Thurloe's grandson, John Thurloe Brace, and it is from this marriage that the estate's peripheral connexion with John Thurloe stems.
Anna Maria Brace died in 1760 leaving the bulk of her property in Brompton and South Kensington to Harris Thurloe Brace, her only son by her second husband. (fn. 5) Excluded from this inheritance, however, were some eleven acres of copyhold land of the manor of Earl's Court which had already passed to William Browne, Anna Maria's grandson by her first marriage, and a small piece in the vicinity of Trevor Square. The eleven copyhold acres, though usually described as being in Knightsbridge, were in fact on the south side of Brompton Road with a frontage to that highway extending (in modern terms) from Sloane Street almost to Brompton Place. They remained the property of the Browne family and their heirs until purchased by the second Lord Kensington in 1842 and have never been owned by the Alexanders. Their development and later history are described in Chapter II.
When Harris Thurloe Brace died unmarried in 1799 he left his estates to his mother's two great-grandsons by her first marriage, the brothers John and James Wadman Alexander. (fn. 6) James received land and property in the town and county of Bedford, while John, a lawyer then aged about thirty-seven, inherited the Brompton and South Kensington estate. After his death in 1831 this passed to his son Henry Browne Alexander, and in 1885 to his grandson William Henry Alexander; and on the latter's death in 1905 to Lady George Campbell, a grand daughter of James Wadman Alexander, who in 1879 had married the fourth son of the eighth Duke of Argyll. (fn. 7) Lady George Campbell died in 1947 leaving the estate to her daughter Joan. On Joan Campbell's death in 1960 the property passed by her will in trust (under terms varied in 1974) for Ian Anstruther, a grandson of Lady George, and his family.
In 1799, when John Alexander inherited the estate, the greater part of the area under consideration here was being cultivated as a nursery garden. (fn. 8) The proprietor was then John Harrison, but the nursery had been founded some fifty years earlier by Henry Hewitt (d. 1771) and his brother Samuel (d. 1793). (fn. 9) (fn. n1) After Henry's death the business was carried on by Samuel in partnership with his nephew, Henry Hewitt junior, and William Smith. By 1789 Samuel had retired and Henry junior was in partnership with his nephew, John Harrison, and John Cook. Cook soon dropped out, and in 1790 Hewitt assigned his share to Harrison, who thereby became the sole proprietor. The nursery was then held under a thirty three-year lease from Harris Thurloe Brace expiring in 1821, at £60 per annum. It stocked fruit trees and also specialised in herbaceous and greenhouse plants, and in vegetable and flower seeds. The seed-shop and counting house were on the western part of the site next to the road,a where the Thurloe Street entrance to South Kensington Station is situated (see Plate 2a). (fn. 11)
John Harrison was succeeded by his brother Samuel, who in 1815 increased the size of the nursery by leasing a further eight and a half acres from the trustees of the adjoining Smith's Charity estate. (fn. 12) (This is the area where Pelham Crescent, Place and Street were sub sequently built.) In 1819 Harrison entered into partner ship with William Bristow, (fn. 13) and in 1821 they obtained a new lease from John Alexander extending their tenure of the nursery on his estate up to 1842, subject to Alexander's right to repossess a small part of it if he should require it for building. (fn. 14) But the firm continued in business only until November 1832, when both Harrison and Bristow were declared bankrupt. (fn. 15) Two years before the crash Harrison had become the first occupant of one of the new houses in Alexander Square, (fn. 16) built, as described below, on land which up to 1826 had formed a part of his nursery.
The Bell and Horns
Adjoining the nursery were two old-established public houses. To the west, in the vicinity of its present-day successor, stood the Hoop and Toy, and to the east, at the junction of what are now Thurloe Place and Brompton Road, was the Bell and Horns. The site of the Bell and Horns was a small detached portion of the manor of Earl's Court and had formed no part of John Alexander's inherited estate. (fn. 17) But when the property came on to the market in 1808 Alexander bought the freehold for £l,260. (fn. 18) There had been a public house on the site since at least the 1720's. It was then called the Bell, and this is the name under which it was licensed until the late 1780's. (fn. 19) The name Bell and Horns suggests a merger of two taverns, and in fact there had been a public house called the Horns in Brompton, ‘over against the Pond’, in the early eighteenth century. Latterly known as the Ship and Horns, this survived until the early 1780's. On the other hand the Bell is referred to as the Bell and Horns in the abuttals of a lease in 1773. (fn. 20) Salway's view of 1811 (Plate 11b) shows it after a refronting of 1808–9. (fn. 21) (fn. n2)
In 1824–5 the old Bell and Horns was replaced by a new brick-built public house erected for Thomas Goding of Knightsbridge, brewer and wine and spirit merchant, to whom Alexander granted a thirty-five-year lease of the property. (fn. 22) Goding's architect was Francis Edwards (1784–1857), who later designed the Lion Brewhouse on the South Bank for Messrs. Goding and Company (1836) and was frequently employed by the firm for public houses and other works. (fn. 23) Although never again completely rebuilt, the Bell and Horns was altered, enlarged and partially reconstructed for the Lion Brewery in 1855–6, when it was given the Italianate stucco façades which survived until the building was demolished in 1915 (Plate 42a, 42b). At the same time a yard next to the Fulham (now Brompton) Road was covered with single-storey buildings, including a shop and a coffee-room. Francis Edwards was again the architect, in association with his son, also Francis, and the contractor was William Chutter of Upper Stamford Street. In 1879 further improvements and alterations costing not less than £500 were made for the Lion Brewery, this time by a J. Edwards, architect. (fn. 24) The site of the Bell and Horns is now occupied by the eastern corner of Empire House.
The Hoop and Toy
This inn, which unlike the Bell and Horns had descended to John Alexander with the rest of the estate, was apparently a building of some antiquity, if an article in The Builder of 1874 is to be trusted. The writer there—perhaps the editor, George Godwin—recalls it as ‘a brick and timber building of the latter part of the fifteenth or the commencement of the sixteenth century’. (fn. 25) The main front was not to the roadway but faced southwards over a garden. At the west end, immediately next to the road, was a small two-storey weather-boarded cottage which was latterly occupied by a gardener called Dunn. (fn. 26) How long the building had been in use as a public house is difficult to determine, but it had certainly been licensed since 1760, when it was called the Hoop and Grapes. Its name was changed to the Hoop and Toy in c. 1775. (fn. 27)
The old house was pulled down in 1844 and replaced by a differently oriented two-storey stucco-faced building fronting directly on the roadway. This was erected by John Carnelly, the licensee, under an agreement with H. B. Alexander of July 1844, and with financial assistance from Whitbread and Company, the brewers. Carnelly was to spend at least £1,000 on the new building, whose elevations, plans and specifications had been approved by Alexander's surveyor. In the following December Alexander granted a sixty-year-lease of the premises to Carnelly at £60 per annum. (fn. 28) This building survived until the Hoop and Toy was reconstructed in its present form in 1927 (see page 86).
The Development of Alexander Square
In 1826 John Alexander exercised his right (reserved in the lease of 1821) to repossess for development part of the ground in the occupation of Harrison and Bristow; and in June he entered into an agreement to let this plot to the builder James Bonnin. (fn. 29) The area in question was a piece of about four acres on the eastern side of the estate which included the whole of Alexander's frontage to the Fulham (now Brompton) Road southwards of the Bell and Horns. Here the development was to comprise what are now Alexander Square, North Terrace, the eastern halves of Alexander Place and South Terrace, and some building in Thurloe Place and Brompton Road.
The James Bonnin with whom Alexander concluded the agreement was the builder who more effectively than any other left his stamp on present-day Brompton. Born in about 1782, (fn. 30) he is first encountered hereabouts in 1806, when he was living in a house in Exeter Street, Hans Town, Chelsea. (fn. 31) He was soon involved in a number of developments in the Hans Town area, some of them under lease from the contractor Henry Rowles. (fn. 32) By 1810 he had moved to North Street, where his premises were described as formerly part of Richard Holland's timber yard. (fn. 33) Bonnin was then calling himself a carpenter, but in a directory for 1816–17 he is listed as a timber merchant with an address in Sloane Place. (fn. 34) In c. 1819–20 he was involved in building on Viscount Dungannon's estate at Knightsbridge (including Trevor Square), (fn. 35) and in 1821 he undertook the initial development of Brompton Square, where he was briefly the first occupant of No. 1. (fn. 16) In 1822 he entered into an agreement to erect a row of houses, called Onslow Terrace, on the Fulham Road frontage of the Smith's Charity estate, immediately to the south of Alexander's property. At the rear of this he built a cottage, with a workshop and timber yard, for his own occupation, where he lived from 1826 until 1838. (fn. 36) His career ended in bankruptcy in 1846 (see page 101), but by then he was able to claim that he had built no fewer than three hundred houses in Kensington, the majority of them on the Alexander and Smith's Charity estates, and inhabited, moreover, ‘by parties whose respectability is of great advantage to the Parish’. (fn. 37)
From about 1830 onwards Bonnin was assisted in his business by his second son, James Bonnin junior (b. 1808), variously described as pewterer, carpenter or builder, who in the 1840's was perhaps the dominant figure. In 1848 he too was declared bankrupt. (fn. 38)
Under the terms of his agreement with Alexander the elder Bonnin was required to lay out streets and build houses in accordance with a plan approved by Alexander's surveyor. Who this was is not certain, although two years earlier it had been a Mr. Leonard—perhaps the T. Leonard of King Street, Covent Garden, who was a land surveyor. (fn. 39) The plan annexed to the agreement provided for the layout of the new streets to be in the form of a reversed capital E, the upright being represented by the roadway in front of the two east-facing terraces of Alexander Square, and the lateral strokes by the three westward-leading streets now called North Terrace, Alexander Place and South Terrace. (fn. n3) Alexander Square, which is unnamed on the plan of June 1826 but so called by May 1827, (fn. 40) bears rather a pretentious designation for what is little more than a pair of terraces set back from the Fulham (now Brompton) Road behind ornamental planta tions. On the plan the streets leading out of the ‘square’ terminate abruptly at the eastern boundary of Harrison's nursery, but their westward continuation at a future date is clearly implied, and in the case of Alexander Place and South Terrace this was done some fourteen years later. In the meantime they were closed by iron railings on dwarf walls. This was no doubt a concession to Bonnin by Alexander who had originally required a high brick wall to be built down the western side of the site in compliance with his own undertaking to Harrison (in the lease of 1821) to wall off the nursery from the ground Alexander took back for building. (fn. 41) Harrison, whose acquiescence in this change must be presumed, was still able to train his trees and plants against the blank return fronts and garden walls of the westernmost houses in these streets. (fn. 42)
The layout provided for seventy-two houses—four more than were eventually built. In the east-facing ranges of Alexander Square the houses were to be four storeys high over basements. Here the two corner houses and two centre houses in each range were to be 22 feet wide and 30 feet deep, and the intermediate houses 18 feet wide and 28 feet deep. On the short north and south frontages of the square and along the streets leading out of it the houses were to be three storeys high over basements and not less than 17 feet wide and 27 feet deep. (fn. 43)
By provisions usual in such agreements it was laid down that as soon as the houses were built and covered in they were to be leased by Alexander to Bonnin or his nominees for a term of eighty years from Midsummer 1826 at ground rents ranging between £2 and £10 per house. During the first two years the total of these ground rents was to be £50, and thereafter it was to rise by stages to £400 in the seventh year. At least two houses were to remain unleased until the whole building programme was completed.
The building agreement does not mention any architect's name, nor is there any reference to the houses having to conform to an approved elevation. But Bonnin undertook to work to a precise and comprehensive set of specifications which even extend to the details of the interior finishing.
Externally the houses were to be faced with good malm stocks, not inferior in quality to those used in Brompton Square, and stuccoed on the ground storey. The round headed front doors were to have ‘large handsome fanlights’ and the first-floor front windows ‘handsome wrought iron balconies’, whilst the areas were to be protected by stout iron railings. All the houses were to have two rooms on a floor (fig. 16), finished at each level in a manner appropriate to their use—kitchens in the basement, parlours on the ground floor, drawing-rooms on the first floor, bedrooms on the second, and in the taller houses, attic rooms above. The two drawing-rooms were to communicate by folding doors. The parlours could either connect in the same way, or could be treated as separate rooms, in which case the intervening wall was to contain (probably on one side only) a ‘handsome’ segmentally arched recess for a sideboard. Drawing-rooms and parlours were to have ‘large handsome cornices’ (fig. 16), papered walls with gilt mouldings, and marble chimneypieces; and the joinery was to include a ‘deep handsome moulded skirting’, four-panel doors moulded on both sides, and double-faced architraves or pilasters around the doors and windows. The houses had only one staircase, which was to be of wood with a ‘handsome’ mahogany handrail. The bedrooms and attics were to have Portland stone chimneypieces, papered walls, and 'neat' cornices. In the kitchens there were to be two Portland stone chimneypieces, a deep skirting of wood or compo, deal floors, proper cupboards and large dressers and shelves with three drawers.
Apart from the houses just described Bonnin also undertook to erect ten small semi-detached cottages along the road frontage (now called Thurloe Place) immediately to the west of the Bell and Horns, and a little row of shops along the short frontage of the Fulham Road between the Bell and Horns and North Terrace. They were to be ‘equally respectable’, built of good materials, and finished to the satisfaction of Alexander's surveyor. Erected over basements, the cottages were to have two storeys, and the shops three.
A builder of Bonnin's experience would hardly have needed a professional architect to translate the specifications into plans and elevations, so precisely do they describe the characteristic terrace house of the 1820's. However, it has been argued that the greater sophistication of the main ranges of Alexander Square as compared with Bonnin's houses in Brompton Square points to the hand of an architect, and the name usually mentioned in this connexion is that of George Godwin the elder (1789–1863), a surveyor now remembered, if at all, as the father of George Godwin, junior (1813–88), the architect, social reformer and, for many years, the editor of The Builder. (fn. 44) Godwin senior was certainly involved in the development (where he was also an early resident), though in circumstances which suggest he was acting as Bonnin's rather than Alexander's surveyor. In May 1828 he applied to the Westminster Commissioners of Sewers for leave to build two sewers, one in front of Onslow Terrace, Fulham Road (one of Bonnin's developments on the Smith's Charity estate), and another in Alexander Square. When originally submitted by Bonnin himself in December 1827 this latter application had been refused, and it may be surmised that Bonnin then decided to employ the services of a surveyor in his dealings with the sewers commissioners. (fn. 45)
Alexander had allowed Bonnin seven years in which to complete the development, a realistic schedule which should have produced about ten new houses a year. In fact the rate of progress was very uneven and the greatest number of leases—for half the intended number of houses—was granted in 1827. The properties leased in that year comprised the ten cottages to the west of the Bell and Horns and the five shops to the south, the sites on the north side of North Terrace and on the south side of South Terrace, and the north and south ranges of Alexander Square (Nos. 1–4 and 21–24).
Not all these houses were built by Bonnin himself, and the very first lease to be granted by John Alexander under the agreement of 1826 was in fact to Charles Henry Blore, builder. Dated 11 January 1827, this was for No. 7 York Cottages, (fn. 46) as the ten small houses to the west of the Bell and Horns were originally called (probably in commemoration of the Duke of York, who had died only a few days earlier); later the cottages were renumbered Nos. 2–11 (consec.) Thurloe Place. Blore himself occupied No. 7 from 1828. (fn. 16)
Another builder here was William Barrat(t) of North Street near Sloane Street, Chelsea. He erected Nos. 9 and 10 York Cottages and subsequently lived at No. 10, where he had built a large ‘shed’ adjoining the west side of the house, no doubt to be used in connexion with his business. In 1863 the then occupant of No. 10, William Henry Marler, estate agent, was given permission to convert the ‘shed’ into an estate agent's office. (fn. 47) Bonnin himself was not directly the lessee of any of York Cottages, though he probably built Nos. 3–6 and 8, and perhaps also Nos. 1 and 2, the latter pair being leased to the licensee of the adjoining Bell and Horns. (fn. 48) All ten houses here were demolished in 1909 and the site is now covered by Empire House, Dalmeny House and the Rembrandt Hotel.
At Alexander Place (Plate 42a), as the Fulham Road frontage between the Bell and Horns and Alexander Square was originally called, the builders appear to have been Bonnin himself and Lancelot Edward Wood of King's Road, Chelsea, statuary, who had previously been associated in the building of Trevor Square. One of the first inhabitants of Alexander Place was Bonnin's nineteen-year-old builder-son, James Bonnin junior, who occupied No. 2 from 1827 until c. 1838. (fn. 16) In 1841 the five shops here were in the hands of an ironmonger, a plumber (Wright Maydwell), a stationer, a statuary (George Sams) and the proprietor of a ham and beef shop. (fn. 49)
The north side of North Terrace and the south side of South Terrace were both leased in December 1827 to John Bailey, esquire, the proprietor of Bailey's Hotel in Berkeley Square. (fn. 50) (These two streets were then called North Street and South Street.) Bailey, who had dabbled in speculative building in Berkeley Square, (fn. 51) was not, of course, himself the builder of any of the houses here, but he was evidently financing the building and the leases to him were a device, frequently encountered on the Alexander estate, of securing the lessee's investment. In these circumstances the lessee would often sub-let the properties to the actual builders at an enhanced ground rent. (fn. n4)
In North Terrace the builder of part, if not the whole, of the northern range (Plate 43b) was probably the statuary Lancelot Edward Wood, who was Bailey's lessee at No. 5, and a party to the lease at Nos. 6 and 7. (fn. 52) Only four of the seven houses here had been built when the lease of the whole range was granted to Bailey in 1827 but the others were added soon afterwards. No. 7, which had a bigger frontage than the others and also its own private back entrance from Thurloe Place, was sold in 1830 for £1,327 10s. (fn. 53) All the houses on the north side of North Terrace were demolished in c. 1909.
In South Terrace, where the houses leased to Bailey are now numbered 1–11 (odd), only No. 3 was subsequently sub-let to a building tradesman. This was John Skinner of Cumberland Street, Chelsea, bricklayer. (fn. 54) Nos. 1–9 were first occupied in 1828–9, but No. 11, a slightly wider house than the others, had been leased to Bailey as a vacant site and was not built until about 1830, being first occupied in 1831. (fn. 16) Both Nos. 1 and 7 have been raised a storey, the former in 1982.
The short northern and southern arms of Alexander Square, numbered respectively 1–4 and 21–24 (consec.)— the former now completely demolished—were really little more than extensions of the two ranges on the north side of North Terrace and the south side of South Terrace, and except for the two double-fronted corner houses (Nos. 1 and 24 Alexander Square) there was nothing in their appearance to distinguish them from their neighbours numbered in those two streets (Plate 43b). None of these eight houses was leased to Bonnin and there is no evidence that he was involved with the building of any of them. On the north side, where all four houses were occupied by the end of 1828, (fn. 16) the lessees were William Paul of Sloane Street, Chelsea, plumber and glazier (No. 1), Robert Badcock of Michael's Place, Brompton, livery stable keeper (No. 2), Elizabeth Purkis of South Audley Street, widow (No. 3), and John Latchford of Warwick Row, Pimlico, esquire, the last of whom took up residence at No. 4 in 1828. (fn. 55)
On the south side the occupancy of the houses was not completed until 1829, (fn. 16) although they included in No. 24 the first house in the square to be taken. Here the occupant, from before December 1827, was Bonnin's own surveyor, George Godwin the elder. He was also the lessee of the house from John Alexander, in September 1827, at which time he gave his address as Brompton Square: previously it had been New Street (now Hans Crescent), Brompton. (fn. 56) In 1836 he moved from Alexander Square to No. 11 Pelham Crescent and for several years No. 24 was let to tenants, though Godwin continued to pay rates for what the collector described as ‘offices’ in Alexander Square.
From 1845 until 1863 (the year of the elder Godwin's death) No. 24 was the business address of the firm of George Godwin and Son, architects, (fn. 57) although it was not until 1847 that the younger George Godwin made his home here, (fn. 16) removing to Cromwell Place in 1872. A life-long bachelor, George junior shared the house for many years with one of his younger brothers, the architect Henry Godwin, also a bachelor, who remained here after George had moved to Cromwell Place. (fn. 58) Yet another brother (and architect), Sidney Godwin, was also living here in 1851. (fn. 59)
Like the former No. 1, No. 24 Alexander Square presents only a single-bay return front to the square, its main three-bay façade with central front door being on the east side facing Brompton Road, from which it is separated by a private garden, now somewhat curtailed. There is no back garden. An extension on the south side is contemporary with the main structure and probably served as the office for which Godwin paid rates. Originally only one storey high, with stuccoed walls and three large east-facing windows, it was heightened in brick in 1972. (fn. 60)
The lessees of the other three houses on the south side of the square, none of them residents, were Joseph Bennett of Yeoman's Row, builder (No. 21). Wright Barringer of Onslow Terrace, Brompton, gentleman (No. 22) and Margaret Murray of Sloane Street, Chelsea, spinster (No. 23). (fn. 61) (Neither the bay window at No- 23, nor the attic storey at No. 21, is original.)
All the lessees in Alexander Square were granted the privilege of ‘walking’ in the two plantations. In September 1827 these were described as ‘lately laid out’, though the enclosing brick walls and iron railings were not completed until October. (fn. 62)
The year 1827 also saw the start of work on the southern of the two east-facing ranges of Alexander Square (Nos. 13–20, Plate 44a), and it is this date, rather than the daw of completion, which appears in the little pediment above the centre of the range. The eight houses here were leased by Alexander in 1828 (Nos. 16–20) and 1829 (Nos. 13–15) and first occupied between 1829 and 1831. (fn. 63) Apart from Bonnin, the lessees were William Whitehead of Little Cadogan Place, Chelsea, builder and bricklayer (No. 13), James Whitehead of Sloane Street, Chelsea, plumber (No. 20), and two booksellers, for whom this was evidently a speculation, David Murray of Chelsea (No. 18) and John Murray the younger of Coventry Street, St. James's (No. 19). In 1832 John Murray sold his lease to the then occupant of No. 19 for £875; but David Murray let his house to tenants for short periods at a rack rent (of £60 per annum), and this continued until 1854 when his executors sold the lease for £705. (fn. 64) Particulars of the house prepared for that sale show how closely No. 18 conformed to the specifications of 1826. By 1854, however, the two former parlours on the ground floor had been made into one ‘spacious’ dining-room- The walls of the bedrooms were, as before, hung with paper, but the dining-room and the two 'elegant' first-floor drawing-rooms (the latter still communicating by folding doors) were ‘painted, grained, and decorated’. In the hall the paintwork was grained and the walls were papered with ‘marble paper varnished’. The window lighting the staircase contained stained glass. Whatever the provision of water closets may have been in 1826, by this time there were three, one on the second floor, one on the ground floor ‘conveniently placed’ in a lobby at the back of the hall, and one in the basement for the servants. (fn. 65)
The two main ranges of Alexander Square are separated by Alexander Place, which also falls chronologically between them. Slightly wider than the two parallel streets to north and south, as befitting its central position, Alexander Place was in 1828 intended to be called Eton Street. (fn. 66) But that designation quickly gave way to York Place, the name used in the earliest leases, and by the time the first occupants of the houses were in residence in 1831 it had been renamed, for no very obvious reason, Alfred Place. Also known as Alfred Place East (in differentiation from Alfred Place West, now Thurloe Street), it was given the name Alexander Place only in 1920, the original Alexander Place next to the Bell and Horns having by then been demolished. Eight houses (two fewer than originally intended) were built here in 1829 in two short facing terraces (now numbered 4–10 even, and 1–7 odd), and they were all leased in December of that year to John Gibson, esquire, of Reading. (fn. 67) Like John Bailey in North and South Terraces, Gibson had evidently invested in the development by lending money to the builder, or builders, and the houses were first leased to him in order to provide adequate security. Bonnin was undoubtedly the principal builder here but only Nos. 1,3,4 and 10 were subsequently leased back to him by Gibson in 1830. (fn. 68) Gibson's other lessees were James Bonnin, junior, in his first appearance on the estate in that role (No. 6), William Jarman of Knightsbridge, paper-stainer (No. 8), and two ‘gentlemen’ investors (Nos. 5 and 7). (fn. 69) All eight houses have attractive bow windows on the ground floor—a feature expressly prohibited by the building agreement unless sanctioned by both Alexander and Bonnin; and although each range is only four houses long they form self-contained architect ural units in which the two end houses are slightly projected (Plate 43c, fig. 17). The houses are finished with a moulded cornice instead of the simple brick parapet and three-inch-thick coping stone which was all that was required by the specifications. Nos. 1 and 4 each have a pretty Gothick window let into the east flank wall at first floor level. At the other end of the ranges the west-facing flank walls of Nos. 7 and 10 overlooking Harrison's nursery were reserved for the nurseryman to train his plants against and probably had no windows.
The gardens at the rear of the houses on the north side were somewhat shorter than originally intended because Bonnin had already appropriated the piece of back land now occupied by No. 2 Alexander Place for the newlyz founded Western Grammar School (see page 67). The entrance to the school was by the passageway alongside No. 4 now used to give access to No. 2. (fn. 70)
In 1830, the only year between 1827 and 1833 in which no building leases were granted, work started on the northern of the two cast-facing ranges of Alexander Square (Nos. 5–12, Plate 44c). This was built by Bonnin himself and with only one exception he was the lessee of all the houses there. While work on this range was still in progress John Alexander died (in January 1831) and his estate devolved on his elder son, Henry Browne Alexander, who continued the development without interruption. The leases for Nos. 5–12 Alexander Square were granted by him at various dates between June 1831 and October 1832 and the houses filled up with inhabitants between 1832 and 1834. (fn. 71) At No. 7 the lessee was one of Bonnin's mortgagees, Robert Bradley, a silk merchant of Shoreditch then resident at Michael's Place, who lived here from 1836 in succession to William Bradley, the first occupant. (fn. 72)
In appearance the northern range is very similar to the southern, but some of the details are different, and one in particular suggests that Bonnin was having to make some modification in the design of the houses in order to conform to the requirements of the estate's new surveyor. He, unlike his probable predecessor, Mr. Leonard, was a distinguished architect, George Basevi (1794–1845). According to the Architectural Publication Society's Dictionary (of 1852) Basevi became surveyor in 1829; but the Dictionary also says he was appointed surveyor to the adjoining Smith's Charity estate in the same year, whereas in fact he had held that post since September 1828. (fn. 73) Whether or not the Dictionary's date is entirely reliable it is clear that Basevi did not become the Alexander estate surveyor (a post he retained for the rest of his life) until after the development was well under way—too late to make any significant changes, but not too late to introduce small alterations in the design of the houses still to be built.
The particular feature which points to Basevi's influence here is the form of the front doors in the northern range of Alexander Square. In the earlier southern range, in Alexander Place, and in South Terrace the houses have conventional six-panel front doors, the largest panels being at the top and the smallest in the centre. But in the northern range the panels of the front doors are differently proportioned, with iron-studded frames (Plate 44b, fig. 16). In her history of the Alexander estate Miss Dorothy Stroud drew attention to Basevi's use of these iron-studded doors in other, later, houses known to have been designed by him on both the Alexander and Smith's Charity estates, (fn. n5) and she traced the source of the design to a seventeenth-century illustration of the great bronze doors of the Pantheon in Rome. Basevi probably picked up the idea from his master, (Sir) John Soane, who had used this type of door at his own house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and at the Bank of England. (fn. 74) On Bonnin's development these doors occur at Nos. 5–12 Alexander Square, at Nos. 8–11 North Terrace, and at No. 4 South Terrace, all houses erected in or after 1830.
Basevi presumably sanctioned the bow window on the southern return flank of this range, at No. 12 Alexander Square, but it seems unlikely that he was answerable for Bonnin's use here of the very conventional anthemion patterned ironwork for the balcony windows. Like the southern range, the northern range of Alexander Square has a small pediment embossed with the date when work started, in this case 1830.
The last houses to be erected under the agreement of 1826 were Nos. 2–8 (even) South Terrace and Nos. 8–11 (consec.) North Terrace. The four in South Terrace were probably built together in 1832, Nos. 6 and 8 being leased in October of that year to James Lowther of Osnaburgh Street, Regent's Park, gentleman, who shortly afterwards moved into No. 8. (fn. 75) But the leases for Nos. 2 and 4 were held back by Alexander (as provided for in the building agreement) until the whole of the development had been completed, and are dated 9 September 1833. (fn. 76) Here the lessee was James Bonnin, junior. Nos. 2, 4 and 6 were all occupied in 1834, the residents of Nos. 2 and 4 having bought their houses from Bonnin (and his mortgagee) for £630 and £600 respectively. (fn. 77) The ironwork of the balconies at the four houses is, uniquely on this develop ment, the same as in Pelham Crescent.
Of the four houses on the south side of North Terrace, No. 11 is conspicuously unlike any other house on the estate. Leased in March 1833, it has a wholly stuccoed front, with a bow rising through all three storeys, while the windowless flank wall on the east side, which is also stuccoed, has been dressed with Doric pilasters and is finished with a pediment. The lessee here was Lewis Kennedy, esquire, a lawyer and one of Bonnin's mortgagees. (fn. 78) He was then living in Hans Place, Chelsea, but soon afterwards removed into the recently completed No. 5 Alexander Square, the back windows of which directly overlook the flank wall of No. 11 North Terrace. (fn. 79) From these circumstances it may be conjectured that Kennedy, with the intention of occupying the house in Alexander Square already in mind, had agreed with Bonnin to buy No. 11 while it was yet unbuilt, and in order to enhance the view from his own back windows had the house erected to a more ‘interesting’ design, presumably with the permission of Alexander's surveyor. It is not known whether Bonnin was employed as the builder. Kennedy himself paid the rates for No. 11 (from 1834) but the house was evidently let to tenants. (fn. 80)
Westwards of No. 11, Nos. 8–10 North Terrace were leased in July 1833 to John Latchford, esquire, lessee and first occupant of No. 4 Alexander Square, who was evidently financing their building; and in 1834–5 his widow granted sub-leases to Bonnin (of No. 10) and to two other building tradesmen, Wright Maydwell of Alexander Place, Fulham Road, plumber and glazier (No. 9) and John Legeytt Colchester of North Terrace, builder (No. 8). (fn. 81) No. 8 was first occupied in 1835 and Nos. 9 and 10 in the following year. (fn. 16) The design of the houses is basically as prescribed in the agreement, though Nos. 9 and 10 have bowed ground-floor windows, (fn. n6) and at the latter house the two upper floors project as a canted bay ill-related to the ground-floor front. In the early 1860's, when No. 8 was in the hands of the proprietors of the Turkish baths recently opened on the site of No. 2 Alexander Place (see page 85), it was extended over its back garden to make an entrance from North Terrace to the ‘private baths’. (fn. 82)
Most of the houses built under Bonnin's agreement were occupied within a year of their being leased by the ground landlord, and by 1836 every house on the estate had been taken. (fn. 16) From 1833 some of the residents had been deemed worthy of inclusion in Boyle's Court Guide, and the respectability of the development as a whole is confirmed by the returns of the census of 1841, where 65 per cent of the householders in the four principal streets (including the square) described themselves as of independent means. (fn. 83) Among those who did deign to give their occupations the professions were represented by an accountant, a barrister, a surgeon and a student at law (William Hazlitt, son of the essayist, at what is now No. 4 Alexander Place (fn. 84)); the armed services were represented by a naval man, and ‘trade’ by a wine merchant, a bookseller, a mine agent, and a navy agent. There were also several ‘clerks’, and one artist (Thomas Harper) at No. 23 Alexander Square. Most families had one or two servants (generally female) living in, and in the four-storey houses in Alexander Square the number was usually either two or three.
Among the nineteenth-century inhabitants of this part of the estate were few interesting or well-known names, although one or rwo architects occur. There is a Blue Plaque in Alexander Square to the younger George Godwin, whose family's long association with No. 24 has already been described. In 1841 the young Edward Charles Hakewill, architect son of Henry Hakewill, was living at No. 17 Alexander Square, where his widowed mother had taken up residence in 1839 (later he had a house of his own at No. 8 Thurloe Square); (fn. 85) and in the early 1880's Herbert Gribble occupied No. 10 Alexander Square, no doubt on account of its proximity to the Oratory, which was then building. (fn. 86)
Not many of Brompton's large theatrical community chose to live on the Alexander estate and some of the few who did are mentioned in the Appendix at the end of the volume. One intriguing figure, whose presence as a lodger at No. 23 Alexander Square is revealed only in the census of 1851, is a thirty-year-old Irishman calling himself Dion Page. Married, with an eighteen-year-old Spanish-born wife, ‘Jessey’, Page gave his designation as ‘gentleman and dramatic author’, and this description, taken together with Page's date of birth and unusual Christian name, suggests that he may have been the Irish dramatist Dion Boucicault living incognito. (fn. 87)
At No. 3 South Terrace the first occupant, from 1829 until 1832, was William Glascock, a naval captain and author of several now-forgotten works of fiction, ‘whose pen’, in the opinion of T. Crofton Croker, ‘has enriched the nautical novel literature of England with the same racy humour which has distinguished his professional career.’ In 1832 Glascock moved to No. 21 Alexander Square where he resided until 1834. (fn. 88)
Other residents have included the nurseryman Samuel Harrison at No. 12 Alexander Square from 1830 until his bankruptcy in 1832, (fn. 16) and the journalist G. A. H. Sala, who was briefly the occupant of No. 1 Alexander Square in c. 1870–1. (fn. 57)
The Estate in the 1830's
The failure and bankruptcy of Harrison's nursery in 1832 presented Alexander with an unexpectedly early opportun ity to press ahead with the development of the area to the west of Alexander Square, Harrison's lease having been not due to expire until the end of 1842. (fn. 89) But although the nursery ground was repossessed there was no immed iate development, unlike on the adjoining Smith's Charity estate where some of the land formerly in Harrison's occupation was being laid out for building in 1833 (see page 92). In both cases the advice as to whether to proceed or not would have been Basevi's, as surveyor to the two estates, and it may be that at a slack period for the building industry in London generally, he was trying to limit the amount of land being made available to builders in order to reduce the risk of overbuilding. If he seemed to be favouring the Smith's Charity estate it was probably because no significant development had taken place there for some thirty years. Whatever the reason for holding back on Alexander's property, seven years elapsed between the granting of the last leases under the 1826 agreement (in September 1833), and the first moves to develop the area to the west early in 1840.
The Western Grammar School
In 1835, however, a small piece of Harrison's former nursery at the west end of North Terrace was used to provide a new site for the Western Grammar School, which had hitherto been occupying premises erected by Bonnin on a plot of land at the back of Alexander Square, where the present No. 2 Alexander Place now stands. (fn. 90)
Founded in 1828, the Western Grammar School was one of the new independent proprietary schools. The first of these was probably the Liverpool Institute, which had opened only in 1825, and was quickly followed by many others, both in London and the provinces. The new schools were financed by the sale of shares rather like a joint-stock company. Control of the school and of its curriculum was thus placed in the hands of the share holders or proprietors, who were, of course, frequently the parents. In 1831 The Quarterly Journal concluded that the reason why so many such schools had been established was that for parents it was easier ‘to found a school, and make it good, than run the doubtful chance of placing their sons where they may learn nothing to any purpose.’ (fn. 91)
At the Western Grammar School, where the shares cost £15 apiece, the proprietors were each permitted to hold up to three of the one hundred shares originally available, and had the right to nominate one pupil to the school in respect of each share. They had also to pay nine guineas annually towards the running expenses. The school was managed by an elected committee of proprietors and honorary officers, many of them local residents, under the presi dency of Sir Theophilus Lee of Crescent House, Bromp ton, one of Bonnin's mortgagees. (fn. n7) Other members of the committee included the journalist William Jerdan, the master builder Seth Smith (both of them proprietors), and William Fuller Pocock, the school's honorary architect, who designed the premises in Alexander Place. (fn. 93)
The school originally offered an ‘efficient system of Education’ using the ‘Madras system… practised at Charterhouse’. This was the method, also known as the monitorial system or the system of mutual instruction, by which the masters taught only the monitors who in turn passed on the instruction they had received to their school fellows. But it soon proved to be ‘inefficient in its application to the course of studies of this institution’ by ‘comparison with the more ancient and established methods of tuition’, and after only four years was abandoned. The school's curriculum included Latin, Greek, French, English language and literature, compo sition, elocution, mathematics and drawing, with occa sional lectures in science and art. (fn. 94) Interest in the performing arts was not, however, encouraged, as the actor and local resident John B. Buckstone discovered in 1838. Wishing to place his son at the school, Buckstone applied to become a proprietor and was turned down ‘on the ground that I am an actor, and that such a person in a public school would incite in the boys a desire to see plays, which would unsettle their minds’. (fn. 95)
At first the teaching was free of any religious or denominational bias, thereby reflecting the interdenom inational character of the early committee, which included several prominent Nonconformists (Smith and Pocock) as well as ordained ministers of the Church of England. In 1836, however, the proprietors applied to be taken into union with King's College, London, and in order to be accepted the school had to adopt an Established Church stance. Thereafter the headmaster and permanent staff had to be practising members of the Church of England, and pupils received instruction in ‘the doctrines and duties of Christianity as taught by the Established Church’. (fn. 96)
According to a report in The Morning Post the proprietors’ decision to erect new premises in North Terrace was occasioned by the imminent expiry of the lease of their building in Alexander Place. (fn. 92) This explanation, however, does not quite fit the known facts, for no lease had been granted, but the report may perhaps refer to some difficulty over the tenure of the old building, which in the absence of the school's records cannot now be determined. Nor is there evidence to show why Alexander and his surveyor were willing to see North Terrace turned into a permanent cul-de-sac, unless, of course, they found compensation in the prospect of a handsome building to close the vista down the street.
As honorary architect Pocock was responsible both for designing the new school, to which he gave an impressive façade in his favourite Greek Doric style, and for supervising its construction. The foundation stone was laid in June 1835, the ceremony being attended by both the architect and the (unnamed) builder, and under the stone was placed a plaque bearing Pocock's name and the inscription ‘Bromptoniae et Musarum Gratiâ Idibus Junii— A.D. 1835’. (fn. 92) The cost of the new premises, or at any rate some part of it, was defrayed out of a building fund created by levying a charge of £1 per annum on the proprietors. (fn. 97)
That the builder was not Bonnin is clearly demonstrated by an incident relating to the wall which under the terms of the 1826 agreement he had previously erected across the west end of North Terrace where it abutted on Harrison's nursery. In order to obtain access to the school site from North Terrace the wall had to be taken down, and on 25 May 1835 this was duly effected. But its removal was evidently done without Bonnin's consent for on the same day he and his workmen erected a temporary wooden fence in its place, and a fortnight later the temporary fence was replaced by a permanent new dwarf wall with iron railings. This new wall was allowed to remain until the school building was completed in March 1836, when Alexander had it removed. Once again Bonnin responded with another temporary wooden fence, soon followed by the building of a solid brick wall completely shutting off the new school from North Terrace. In the summer of 1836 Alexander sued Bonnin in the Court of Common Pleas, but the final verdict of the Court, given in 1838. was for the latter The dispute seems to have been settled privately later and the wall was eventually removed for good. (fn. 98)
In August 1839 Alexander granted an eighty-year lease of the site jointly to Pocock and Joseph Fuller of Stewart's Grove, Chelsea, esquire, presumably on behalf of the proprietors (fn. 99) Whether the new building had by then been brought into use is not clear, for it was not until 1843 that the school began to pay rates on its new premises and stopped paying them on the old ones. On the other hand the old building in Alexander Place, which was subsequently converted into a Nonconformist chapel, was hired out to a congregation of Baptists from 1838, though perhaps only on Sundays. At the time of the 1841 census the budding in North Terrace was in the care of a ‘janitor’. (fn. 100)
Only the front part of the school still survives. This is the pedimented stucco-faced building at the head of North Terrace, which is now occupied as a private house. It is five bays wide and two storeys high over a basement, but little more than one room deep (Plate 43a, b). This part of the building may perhaps have served as the headmaster's house. (fn. n8) Behind was a Urge hall or schoolroom (see fig. 18), which may originally have been open to the roof. (Such an arrangement was better suited to the. Madras system of teaching, which did not require the provision of separate classrooms, than to the ‘established methods of tuition’ to which the school had recently returned.) By the 1920's the back building contained at least two storeys (fn. 102) and had probably undergone extensive alteration.
The Western Grammar School closed in 1912, but its last headmaster, the Reverend Elias James Huelin, who had held the post for more than fifty years, continued to live there until his death in 1917 at the age of eighty-eight. The building was subsequently used as a furniture repository. (fn. 103) The conversion of the site into two private residences in 1927–9, is described on pages 84–5.
The Development of the Thurloe Square Area
The dispute over the wall in North Terrace did not lead to any lasting breach between Bonnin and H. B. Alexander, and within a few years both Bonnin and his son James were playing leading roles in the early development of Thurloe Square.
The first intimation that the ten acres or so of ground repossessed by Alexander after Harrison's bankruptcy in 1832 was to be laid out for building came in April 1840 when Bonnin applied to the Westminster Commissioners of Sewers to build a sewer along the south side of ‘a new square proposed to be laid between Pelham Road [now Street] and Old Brompton Road … intended to be called Thurloe Square’. This sewer was to continue eastwards ‘along a new road about to be formed’—the western half of South Terrace—and to connect at its west end with the sewer in Pelham Place. (fn. 104) Bonnin's application was accompanied by a printed, though undated, plan showing the proposed layout of the development drawn up by H. B. Alexander's estate surveyor, George Basevi. (fn. 105) This layout, which is virtually that built, calls for little comment except to note that at this early stage Basevi envisaged more, and therefore smaller, houses in the square itself— sixty-two as compared with fifty-six when first completed; while in the ‘new road’ entering the west side of the square (now Thurloe Street), where forty houses were later built, the plan calls for only fifteen ‘cottages’, ranged in two terraces with very substantial gardens.
Basevi himself is known to have provided the designs for the houses in Thurloe Square, and there is a strong probability that he did the same for a row of ‘villas’ in Thurloe Place of which four (now Nos. 18–21) still survive. But there is no evidence that he was the architect of any of the other houses erected on the estate during the period of his surveyorship. Similarly on the Smith's Charity estate Basevi is only known to have designed the more important groups of houses, for example Pelham Crescent and Egerton Crescent.
Here on the Alexander estate the development continued on conventional lines, under building leases granted by H. B. Alexander for terms of between eighty and eighty-five years. But instead of placing the responsibility for the whole in the hands of a single builder, as his father had done with Bonnin senior in 1826, Alexander, no doubt on Basevi's advice, appears to have entered into separate agreements with several builders. (fn. 106)
In the course of this development, which was spread over a decade though concentrated in the period between 1840 and 1846, 149 new houses and two mews were erected on the estate. Together they yielded ground rents totalling nearly £1,200 a year, a sum equivalent to about £120 an acre. This was perhaps rather more than Alexander would have received if he had entrusted the work to a single builder. (On the Smith's Charity estate in the early 1840's the developer C. J. Freake successfully offered a ground rent equivalent to just over £50 an acre for the large plot of land where Onslow Square was subsequently built.)
Although Bonnin and his son James Bonnin, junior, were still prominent during the early stages of this new phase of development, three other builders were also very much to the fore, and after about 1843 they had almost all the work in their hands. These were Thomas Holmes, John Gooch, junior, and Henry William Atkinson.
Between them these three were responsible for the west side of Thurloe Square, the whole of Thurloe Street, and Thurloe Place between York Cottages and the Hoop and Toy public house. Holmes and Gooch make their debut on the estate in 1842 as the builders of Nos. 12–16 (consec.) Thurloe Place, a short terrace of five houses immediately to the east of Thurloe Square. (fn. 107) They were both young, Holmes being only twenty-one, and Gooch twenty-four; both their fathers were in the building trade, and they may even have been related by marriage. (Holmes's father, Lauret, was a builder and stonemason of John (now Crawford) Street, Edgware Road, who in the late 1830's and early '40's was involved in the development of part of the Bishop of London's estate in Paddington. (fn. 108))
In 1842 Thomas Holmes was the building lessee of a house in Norland Square in northern Kensington, and in 1845, while still heavily engaged on the Alexander estate, he agreed to develop the whole of Hereford Square on the Day estate in Gloucester Road. (fn. 109) During these years his address was in Belgrave Street South (now Lower Belgrave Street), where he is variously described as mason, statuary and builder. On both the Alexander and Day estates much of the finance for his building operations was supplied by a local resident, George Pinckney Whitfield (successively the occupant of No. 9 Alexander Square, 1841–7, No. 27 Thurloe Square, 1847–54, and No. 27 Hereford Square, 1854–7), who had also lent money to Holmes's father. A Yorkshireman in his late fifties, Whitfield is described as an ‘independent’ in the census of 1841, and ten years later as a ‘proprietor of houses’. (fn. 110) On the Alexander estate nearly all the houses built by Holmes were leased in the first instance to Whitfield and subsequently re-leased by him to Holmes or the latter's nominees.
Whitfield's financial support did not prevent Holmes in 1847 from following Bonnin senior into the bankruptcy court, a fate which also overtook John Gooch in the same year. (fn. 111) Later, however, both he and Holmes recovered, and in 1851 Gooch (already a widower at the age of thirty-three) was describing himself as a builder employing four men. He was then living with his father in Montpelier Street, where a few months later he died. (fn. 112)
Unlike Gooch and Holmes, who were both Londoners by birth, Henry William Atkinson came from the provinces. Born in Salisbury, he was aged about thirty-four in 1842. He managed to avoid bankruptcy in 1847, and in 1851, when he described himself as a builder employing four men, he was engaged in erecting some of the very big houses round the cast crescent of The Boltons. (fn. 113) From 1845 to 1851 he lived at No. 35 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. (fn. 57) Another builder, John Atkinson, of Queen Street, Chelsea, who was doubtless a relation, witnessed several of the leases granted to H. W. Atkinson, and in one case (that of No. 6 Thurloe Street) was himself the recipient of the building lease.
South Terrace and Alexander Place
The first houses to be built on this part of the Alexander estate were in South Terrace and Alexander (then Alfred) Place, both newly extended westwards to connect with Thurloe Square. Now numbered 10–22 (even) and 13–33 (odd) South Terrace and 9–19 (odd) and 12–22 (even) Alexander Place, these houses contrast sharply with the earlier ranges in these streets by reason of their greater height and somewhat austere aspect. Rising to four full storeys (over basements), they have stuccoed ground floors, jointed to imitate stone, above which are three storeys of the plainest brickwork surmounted by a stuccoed cornice. The front entrances are flanked by Doric pilasters. Each house is two bays wide and conventionally planned. The ranges are contiguous with the earlier houses but set back further from the roadway. At three of the four junctions of the older and newer ranges this set-back is partly concealed by a portico or porch. It is difficult to believe that Basevi had anything to do with the design, apart from giving his approval, and none of the houses have studded front doors.
In South Terrace, where building began in 1840, all but two of the houses were leased in the first instance to Stephen Phillips, a timber merchant who lived in Clerkenwell and had a business address at No. 76 New Broad Street, City. He was a big investor in suburban building developments in Islington, Paddington and Kensington, and an important source of finance for the Bonnins on both the Alexander and Smith's Charity estates. (fn. 114)
On the south side of South Terrace James Bonnin, junior, was evidently the principal builder, being the lessee either directly from Alexander, or indirectly from Phillips, of Nos. 13–25 (odd) and No. 33 in 1840–1. (fn. 115) Another builder here was Henry Thomas Adams of Rutland Terrace, Brompton, to whom Phillips sub-leased No. 27 in 1841. (fn. 116) Some of the houses were first occupied in 1841, and apart from No. 25 the rest had filled up by the endofl844. (fn. 16)
On the north side five houses (now Nos. 12–20 even) were erected by John Chapman of Marlborough Road, Chelsea, builder. (fn. 117) Of these Nos. 12 and 14 were sub-leased by Phillips to Chapman in 1842–3, and, after the latter's death in August 1843, sub-leases of Nos. 18 and 20 were granted to his brother-in-law and acting executor, the builder Thomas Holmes. (fn. 118) The two other houses on the north side, flanking Chapman's five and now numbered 10 and 22, were sub-let respectively to James Buckley of Onslow Place, Brompton, plumber, in 1841, and John Thorne of Caroline Street, Pimlico, builder, in 1844. (fn. 119) Nos. 10–22 were first occupied between 1842 and 1845, John Chapman being briefly the first resident of No. 12, from 1842 until his death. (fn. 16)
In Alexander Place, where James Bonnin, junior, was the main builder, (fn. 120) the northern range (Nos. 12–22 even) was erected in 1840–1 and the southern range (Nos. 9–19 odd) in 1840–2. Bonnin himself was the lessee, in December 1840, of Nos. 9 and 11, and, in 1841, of Nos. 12, 14 and 18; and he was the sub-lessee at Nos. 15, 16, 17 and 20. (fn. 121) At these last four houses the head lease had been granted, in 1841–2, to Stroud Lincoln, esquire, of Alexander Square, who in addition to the four houses which he is known to have let to Bonnin, also had the head lease of No. 22. (fn. 122) Like Stephen Phillips, Stroud Lincoln was one of the Bonnins’ more important financial backers, both on the Alexander estate and more partic ularly on the Smith's Charity estate. In the 1830's he had provided Bonnin senior with standard mortgages on the security of houses in Alexander Square, where he himself was successively the first occupant of No. 23 (1827–33) and No. 8 (1834–50). (fn. 16)
The other lessees in Alexander Place, apart from Bonnin and Lincoln, were James Quance of Marlborough Road, Chelsea, oil and colourman (at No. 13) and Henry Hart of Knightsbridge, house decorator (at No. 19), both leases being dated 1842. (fn. 123)
Nos. 9–19 Alexander Place were first occupied between 1841 and 1845, and Nos. 12–22 between 1842 and 1844. (fn. 16) From 1848 to 1852 James Bonnin, junior, lived at No. 15. This was the period when he was trying to rebuild his career after his bankruptcy (in 1848), and by 1851 he had regained his position sufficiently to have two women servants living in, while in his business he was employing five men and a clerk in the timber yard. (fn. 124)
Behind Nos. 12–22 Alexander Place the ground now occupied by Thurloe Close was laid out in 1842 as a small mews often stables. Known as Thurloe Mews, it was built by the younger James Bonnin and Edward Saul of Brompton, carpenter, though at Bonnin's request the lessee, in November 1842, was G. P. Whitfield. (fn. 125) This was the first time a mews had been built on the Alexander estate. None had been provided for the houses in Alexander Square, and Basevi had not thought it necessary to include any in his layout plan. Whether or not Thurloe Mews was built with any particular residents in mind, nine of its ten stables were first taken by occupants of houses in Thurloe Square (including Whitfield himself). (fn. 16)
The entrance to the mews was by a narrow roadway adjacent to No. 22 Alexander Place, which survives as the approach to Thurloe Close, but which originally continued northwards into Thurloe Place, (fn. 126) where the northern end also survives as the private cul-de-sac giving access to Nos. 17 and 17A Thurloe Place. On Basevi's layout it is shown a little to the east of where it was actually constructed, with sites for ‘cottages’ along its eastern frontage. The connexion between the two ends was severed in 1848 when the middle section of the roadway and some adjoining land behind the Western Grammar School (now part of the site of No. 17a Thurloe Place) were taken to provide extended back gardens at Nos. 26–28 Thurloe Square. (fn. 127)
The square was laid out for building in 1840 and the houses erected over a period of some six years. The south side (Nos. 1–12 consec.) was the first to be built, in 1840–2. This was followed by the north-east range (Nos. 20–33), which was begun late in 1842 and completed in 1844. All the other ranges were started during 1843. On the west side the southern range (Nos. 45–56) was completed in 1845, the northern range (Nos. 34–44) in 1846; and on the east side the southern range (Nos. 13–19) was also completed in 1846. No. 33 was the first house in the square to be occupied, in 1843, and No. 15 the last, in 1849. (fn. 16)
Thurloe Square is the only development on the Alexander estate for which Basevi is definitely known to have been the architect, his authorship being acknowleged in contemporary sources. (fn. 128) Although none of his drawings for the square has survived, an undated lithograph (Plate 45a) of the south-east range (Nos. 13–19) evidently represents a stage earlier than the final design, since what it shows differs in several respects from what was built. The whole block is there given a fully stuccoed or (less probably) ashlared front; it has no dormer windows, no balconies overlooking the square, open instead of enclosed porches at Nos. 13 and 19, and six-panel front doors like those used in Alexander Square.
Already at the time the lithographic view was made a sequence of projecting pillared porticoes was intended to be ranged along the front—an early instance of what was about to become the hall-mark of respectable residential London. The earlier design nevertheless has a more traditionally late-Georgian air about it than was to be possessed by Thurloe Square as built, where a different effect was produced by the substitution of grey gaults plentifully dressed with stucco for the uniform facing shown in the lithograph. This emphasized the rectangularity of the design and gave advance warning of some of the more forbidding aspects of later South Kensington. It contrasts with the luxuriance of the neo-rococo ironwork of the balconies (see fig. 19).
The five ranges of houses are not (and never have been) absolutely identical in appearance. The most noticeable variation occurs on the south side, where, instead of pilasters, long and short quoins were used to define the terminal pavilions which here, on the evidence of the sole survivor (at Nos. 11–12), had the width of two houses, not one as elsewhere. This range also differs from most of the square (and conforms to the lithograph) in lacking dormer windows. In the long north-east range the façade is articulated by the projection forward of two of the houses near the centre, each being defined by pilasters (Plate 45c, fig. 19). A unique and certainly original feature is the three-storey stuccoed porch facing the Victoria and Albert Museum on the return face of the north-east corner house (No. 33), which forms a conspicuous object in Thurloe Place (Plate 45b). In the south-west range the ground-floor windows are segmentally arched, not straight-headed, and this range has in the dressing of all the first-floor windows the added frieze and architrave which in the north-west range are used to accentuate the centre and ends.
Apart from the corner houses, which have their entrances on the return fronts (see plan on fig. 19), the houses in Thurloe Square have internal plans that follow the conventional arrangement for two-bay houses with entrance halls at one side. Despite their greater size than the earlier houses on the estate they still have only one staircase (fig. 20). Basevi's characteristic studded doors, here having only two panels (see fig. 19), survive at more than half the houses.
The south side of the square was largely built by James Bonnin, senior; but all twelve houses here were first leased, in 1841–2, to one of his financial backers, the timber merchant Stephen Phillips. (fn. 129) In 1841–3 Bonnin took sub-leases from Phillips of Nos. 1, 3–5, 7–10 and 12, (fn. 130) which he then promptly mortgaged, many of them either to Robert John Ashton of Pelham Crescent, solicitor, or to Alexander Frederick Ashton of Brompton, gentleman. (fn. 131) Phillips sub-let the other three houses in this range to Henry Hart, house decorator (No. 2), James Buckley, plumber (No. 6) and Henry Thomas Adams, builder (No. II). (fn. 32)
Perhaps because the south side was finished well in advance of the rest of the square, these houses remained unoccupied until the latter part of 1845, No. 8 being the last to be taken, in 1846. (fn. 16)
In c. 1867 five houses here (Nos. 1–5) were demolished for the construction of the underground railway, and part of this site was subsequently redeveloped as studios, now No. 5 Thurloe Square (see page 81).
The entire east side of the square (with the possible exception of Nos. 13 and 18) was evidently built by James Bonnin, junior, and he himself was in May 1843 the lessee of No. 33, this lease being witnessed by John R. Murfey and Thomas Cary, ‘carpenters in the employ of the said James Bonnin jnr’ (fn. 133) All the other houses on this side were first leased to G. P. Whitfield, from whom Bonnin took sub-leases of at least twelve. (fn. 134) For the north-east range (Plate 45c, fig. 19), where the houses were occupied between 1843 and 1848, (fn. 16) the leases to Whitfield are dated 1843 (Nos. 25–32) and 1844 (Nos. 20–24). (fn. 135) In the south-east range, the shortest in the square, but the longest in building, the houses were leased over a period of some three and a half years, the first in December 1843 (Nos. 18 and 19) and the last (No. 13) in May 1846. (fn. 136) They were first occupied between 1845 and 1849. (fn. 16)
After completing their work on the east and south sides of the square neither of the Bonnins played any further part in the development of the Alexander estate. This was presumably by their own volition, as they had in 1843 entered into fresh commitments on the Smith's Charity estate (see page 97), which doubtless absorbed the greater part of their attention thenceforward.
The development was briefly noticed for the first time in The Builder in November 1843, when one builder was singled out for mention by name among those then engaged on the work. This was not, as might have been expected, either of the Bonnins but Thomas Holmes. (fn. 137)
In Thurloe Square Holmes built nine houses (Nos. 34–42) in the north-west range where work started in 1843. (fn. 138) He himself was the lessee of No. 42, and he was the first occupant, in 1S45–7, of No. 36, this latter house having been first leased, in 1844, to G. P. Whitfield, as were Nos. 34–35, 37–38 and, in 1845, Nos. 39–41. (fn. 139)
At the southern end of this range No. 44 was evidently built by H. W. Atkinson, who was the lessee of the house from H. B. Alexander in September 1845. (fn. 140) But at the adjoining No. 43 the identity of the builder is uncertain. According to the district surveyor in 1845 it was Evan Jones of Marlborough Road, Chelsea, a builder not otherwise known to have been involved in the development. (fn. 141) But when the house was leased, in January 1846, to a widow living in Knightsbridge, one of the witnesses was the builder John Gooch, junior, who had also witnessed Atkinson's lease of No. 44 and may perhaps have been involved in the building of both these houses. (fn. 142)
In the south-west range, which was leased between 1843 and 1845, Gooch was the builder of Nos. 45–48, 50 and 51 (though the lessee of No. 48, in 1844, was the house decorator Henry Hart), and Atkinson, who had applied to lay the drains at all the houses, the builder of Nos. 49 and 52–56. (fn. 143) Gooch's nephew, William Gooch, a builder, of Albert Terrace, Knightsbridge, witnessed some of the leases, as did the builder John Atkinson, and both men were probably involved in assisting their respective namesakes.
In the south-west range the houses were occupied between 1844 and 1846, and in the north-west range between 1845 and 1848. (fn. 16) Five houses at the southern end of the west side (Nos. 52–56) were demolished for the underground railway in c. 1867.
With the possible exception of the south-west range, all the houses on the east and west sides, including those at the corners, originally had a single pedimented dormer window overlooking the square (see Plate 45b and fig. 19), and a few, for example Nos. 16, 26, 33, 37 and 41, still retain this feature. At some of the corner houses, however, these original dormers were soon displaced by prominent round-headed windows set in steeply pitched mansard roofs (see for example No. 20 in Plate 45c). When this was done is not generally recorded, but at No. 34 it took place between 1856 and 1861. (fn. 144) A rather distant view of the south and east sides of the square in c. 1872 shows only Nos. 19 and 20 (and perhaps also No. 13) with mansard roofs and round-headed windows, all the other houses on the east side still having their original dormers. (fn. 145)
The communal garden of nearls two acres in the centre of the square was laid out informally with shrubs and small trees, though not quite along the lines suggested by Basevi in his original plan, which had envisaged two enclosures separated by a road linking Alexander Place and Thurloe Street. All the lessees in the square were granted the privilege, ‘under due regulations’, of walking in the communal garden, which was to be maintained out of an annual charge levied on the lessees of £3 10s. This money was also to cover the cost of maintaining the roadway and lighting the square. The original iron railings around the enclosure were removed during the war of 1939–45 and their replacements, which were erected in 1977 by Mr. Ian Anstruther, are of a slightly different pattern.
The nature of the occupation of the houses in the square when they were still recently built is shown by the census of 1851. (fn. 146) On the night of the census only four of the fifty-six houses were either uninhabited or in the care of servants, and many were still in the occupation of the first residents. On average each house contained six or seven occupants, of whom two or three were servants.
Over half of the householders were pursuing (or had retired from) careers in the professions or in trade and business. In the former category the law was well represented with four practising barristers (among them William Digby Seymour, who lived at No. 29), an attorney, and a barrister not in practice who described himself as ‘retired judge Slave Trade ‘department’. This was the forty-six-year-old resident at No. 56, Michael S. Melville. Banking, medicine, insurance and accounting all had at least one representative. At No. 49 the householder was the Inspector-General of Inland Revenue, William Garnett, author of a Guide to Property and Income Tax, and next door to him at No. 50 lived the Principal Committee Clerk of the House of Commons, Robert Chalmers.
About a dozen householders could be said to be in trade or business. These included a bookseller (David Murray, at No. 4, who was also a brewer and employed four men), a cheesemonger, a tobacco manufacturer and ‘hop merchant master’, a distiller, a retired brewer, a coal merchant and an engraver.
The armed services were represented by a naval captain (later Admiral Sir Edward Belcher, the first occupant of No. 22 (fn. 16)), and by two army officers, one of them retired. A third retired army man was absent from his house on the night of the census. This was Lieutenant-Colonel H. B. Smith, formerly of the Madras cavalry. He was the first occupant of No. 34, which he had bought from Holmes (the builder) and G. P. Whitfield (the lessee) for £1,660 in October 1845, Holmes receiving £1,500 and Whitfield £160. (fn. 147) In the conveyance the house is said to have been ‘very much added to and improved by Thomas Holmes’. In 1846 Smith incurred the displeasure of the ground landlord, H. B. Alexander, by erecting an observatory on top of his house without permission—perhaps the box-like structure just visible above the cornice in Plate 45b. ‘I will not, as it is done, object to it’, said Alexander in a testy letter to Mrs. Smith, ‘—tho’ it ought not to have been done without previous assent from me and approval by my Surveyor. I hope this will not be forgotten in the future.’ (fn. 148)
Two of the householders in 1851 were clergymen: Guillaume Daugars, minister at the French Protestant Church in St. Martin's-le-Grand, whose establishment at No. 13 consisted of himself, his wife, five daughters and a sister-in-law, but no living-in servants; and Richard Boyne of the established church, who ‘not having the care of Souls’ lived in retirement with his wife and son at No. 18 in the care of one male and four female servants.
Another ten householders (seven of them women) described themselves as fundholders or annuitants, while seven (including two who also described themselves as fundholders) derived their income from land or houses, or both, among them G. P. Whitfield, who lived at No. 27. One of the ‘fundholders’ was the entomologist and conchologist, Thomas Vernon Wollaston, the occupant of No. 25 from 1849 until 1855. (fn. 149)
Other householders included a lodging-house keeper (at No. 42, where two lodgers were in residence); two gentlemen describing themselves only as Master of Arts (one from each of the two ancient universities); an actor, Thomas P. Cooke (at No. 35); and the professor of Italian language and literature at University College, London. This last was Antonio Carlo Napoleone Gallenga who occupied No. 21 from 1847 until 1851. (fn. 16) Born in Parma, Gallenga had been forced into exile after taking part in political activity in Italy in 1830, and in 1846 he had become a British subject. As well as holding various academic posts, both here and abroad, he was successively a newspaper correspondent, leader writer for The Times, author, and a deputy in both the Piedmontese Parliament and the Italian Chamber. (fn. 150)
Other residents of Thurloe Square have included the architect and district surveyor, Edward Charles Hakewill, who lived at No. 8 from 1854 to 1867, (fn. 151) and Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the South Kensington (now Victoria and Albert) Museum. Cole moved into No. 33, for which he had offered a rent of £250 a year, on 22 December 1873, having resigned from the museum in the previous May. In the following June he was making unspecified alterations at the house. He left it in 1877. (fn. 152)
The development described here comprises all the houses built in the 1840's along the south frontage of what was then called Old Brompton Road, between York Cottages on the east and the Hoop and Toy public house on the west. These buildings did not form one continous range, Thurloe Square making a sizeable break in the middle, and the two parts were originally distinguished as Thurloe Place and Thurloe Place West, each with its separate sequence of house numbers.
Basevi had not intended to have any north-facing houses along the eastern section of Thurloe Place. On his layout the frontage here is marked by a wall enclosing the garden of the northernmost of a row of seven ‘cottages’ facing a narrow roadway which linked Thurloe Place with Alexander (then Alfred) Place. This roadway, which extended behind the back gardens of the houses in the north-east range of Thurloe Square, was laid out in about 1842, (fn. 126) and (as previously mentioned) its northern end still survives as the cul-de-sac leading southwards out of Thurloe Place next to No. 16. But the seven cottages were never built, and instead of a garden wall next to Old Brompton Road there arose a terrace of five houses, originally Nos. 1–5 (consec.) and now Nos. 12–16 (consec.) Thurloe Place.
Begun in 1842, they were built by John Gooch, junior, and Thomas Holmes, and first occupied by the end of 1843. (fn. 16) Nos. 13 and 14 were leased directly to Gooch in November 1842, while at the same time two (Nos. 12 and 16) of Holmes's three houses were leased to his financial backer, G. P. Whitfield. Holmes's third house (No. 15) was leased in the following year to its first occupant, Edward Paul Bocquet of Robert Street, Adelphi, esquire. (fn. 153) In 1843 Gooch sold his two leases to a furnishing undertaker, Abel Birch, of Middle Row, Knightsbridge, who in 1851 was living at No. 13. (fn. 154)
This short range is broadly similar in style to the brick and stucco manner of Basevi's Thurloe Square and the studded two-panel from doors are identical. There are, however, no columned porches, and for its date the ironwork is decidedly old-fashioned. Originally all five houses contained only three full storeys over basements with a dormer window in the roof, (fn. 155) but subsequently (probably in the 1870's) the two end houses, Nos. 12 and 16, which project forward from the central three and have channelled stucco quoins, were each given an extra full storey (in a matching style) and steep mansard roofs with two dormers.
Holmes was doubtless also the builder of a pair of very small semi-detached cottages fronting on to the narrow roadway leading south out of Thurloe Place. These were leased to Whitfield in 1843, and first occupied later that year. (fn. 156) Originally called Thurloe Cottages, they survive only in a completely recast form as the present No. 17 Thurloe Place (see page 83).
In 1878–9 the Kensington Vestry planted plane trees along the eastern section of Thurloe Place between the north-east corner of Thurloe Square and No. 6 York Cottages. The cost (and that of similar planting elsewhere in the parish) was defrayed out of Kensington's share (£100) in a private gift for this purpose made available in 1878 to ten metropolitan parishes. (fn. 157)
The western pan of Thurloe Place, from the north-west comer of Thurloe Square to the Hoop and Toy public house, was developed between 1843 and 1847. It originally comprised five pairs of linked semi-detached ‘villas’ (instead of the five pairs of semi-detached but unlinked ‘cottages’ proposed on Basevi's plan), a short terrace of four two-storey houses (Nos. 28–31 Thurloe Place), and two very plain three-storey houses (Nos. 32 and 33).
Of the ten ‘villas’ only four still survive (now Nos. 18–21 Thurloe Place), and these are perhaps the most distinguished of any of the original houses on the Alexander estate (Plate 46b, fig. 21) although, facing north, they are not much noticed. Their design cannot with certainty be ascribed to Basevi. But in November 1843 The Builder told its readers that ‘Beautiful villas’, as well as ‘a splendid square’, were being built on Alexander's estate ‘under the direction of Mr. Basevi, the architect’. (fn. 137) The ‘villas’ are doubtless those under construction in Thurloe Place West, since this description is inapplicable to any other houses on the estate. That Basevi's ‘direction’ here amounted to architectural authorship is suggested partly by the quality of the design and partly by the fact that he is known to have been the architect of the ‘splendid square’ (Thurloe Square) with which the villas are coupled in The Builder's comment.
The builders of these ten houses, originally numbered 1–10 (consec.) Thurloe Place West and later Nos. 18–27 (consec.) Thurloe Place, were Thomas Holmes (Nos. 18–23) and John Gooch, junior (Nos. 24–27). All Holmes's houses were, as usual, leased to G. P. Whitfield, the leases being dated in July, October and November 1843, while those leased to Gooch were granted in December of the same year. (fn. 158) Some of the houses were occupied in 1844 and the rest in 1845. (fn. 16) Nos. 22–26 were demolished for the extension of Exhibition Road in c. 1867, and No. 27 in c. 1895.
After the completion of No. 27 there was no more building in Thurloe Place West until 1846, when John Gooch, junior, assisted by H. W. Atkinson, started work on six houses. These included a short terrace later renumbered 28–31 (consec.) Thurloe Place, for which the leases were granted to the builders in February and June 1847. (fn. 159) Originally composed of four two-bay houses (No. 28 was demolished in c. 1895), this terrace is only two storeys high over a basement, with a stuccoed ground storey, and a deep bracketed cornice which was probably once crowned by a balustrade. Nos. 29 and 31 have had single-storey shops built out in front, and only No. 30 still retains its original Doric porch and attractive area-iron work. Among the first occupants of this range was the history painter James Clarke Hook, who took up residence at No. 30 (then No. 13 Thurloe Place West) in 1848. (fn. 160)
The architect of Nos. 28–31 was John Blore (1812–82), a local man living in Michael's Place, whom Alexander had appointed as estate surveyor after Basevi's accidental death in October 1845. (fn. 161) The son of an ‘experienced Builder of many years’ standing in this neighbourhood’—perhaps the builder C. H. Blore of York Cottages mentioned on page 62—John Blore had received what he himself described as ‘the basis of my practical education’ in his father's workshops and on his father's buildings, before being articled for five years to the architect Robert Wallace in 1827. During that time he worked on some of Wallace's best buildings, including the Athenaeum, Post Office and Royal Hotel in Derby. Blore's own buildings in Kensington comprise, among others, Hereford Square, Drayton Terrace and Drayton Grove (all on the Day estate), and in Chelsea, on the Colvill estate, Anderson, Coulson and Lincoln Streets and a prominent range in the King's Road built as part of the same development. (fn. 162)
Blore himself claimed responsibility for a ‘range of residences called Thurloe Place West’ in the curriculum vitae which he submitted with his unsuccessful application for the post of Superintending Architect to the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1855. This certainly included Nos. 28–31 Thurloe Place, but may not have extended to Nos. 32 and 33, two plain three-storey houses erected in 1846–7 by Gooch and Atkinson. These were first occupied by a baker (at No. 33 in 1847) and a grocer (at No. 32 in 1848); but the shops which now mask the ground storey of both houses were added much later. (fn. 163) Westwards of No. 33 the Hoop and Toy public house was completely rebuilt in 1844 (see page 60).
Until it was renamed in 1939 Thurloe Street was known as Alfred Place West, perhaps on account of Basevi's original intention to link it directly with Alfred (now Alexander) Place by means of a road cutting Thurloe Square garden in two. Building began here in the autumn of 1844 (fn. 164) and by the end of 1846 most of the houses had been leased, though (for reasons explained below) there was a delay in completing some of the houses on the north side, where No. 25 was not leased until January 1851.
On the south side, the first to be completed, there were originally two terraces, each comprising nine houses. The three central houses in each range (Nos. 8–12 and 26–30 even) were three storeys high over basements, and the flanking houses generally two storeys high. (fn. n9) The central houses are conventionally planned with side hallways and dog-leg staircases at the rear. But the surviving two-storey houses have a less commonly encountered plan in which there are two back rooms occupying the whole width of the house, and the staircase, starting at the rear of the hallway, rises steeply towards the front of the house. In elevation the two-storey houses have many similar characteristics to Nos. 27–37 (odd) Egerton Terrace on the Smith's Charity estate (see Plates 43d and 51c), which were erected at precisely the same time and also have unconventional plans (see page 100). Different builders appear to have been involved, although H. W. Atkinson, one of the principal operators in Thurloe Street, was also building elsewhere in Egerton Terrace. A common denominator was Basevi's surveyorship of both estates, though the houses would not have been finished at the time of his death.
The eastern range, Nos. 2–18 (even) Thurloe Street, was begun in July 1845 and substantially completed by the following January. In the records of the district surveyor H. W. Atkinson (wrongly called J. W. Atkinson) appears as the builder of all nine houses, but other builders were also involved, including John Atkinson and John Gooch, junior. H.W. Atkinson himself was the lessee from H. B. Alexander of Nos. 2 and 4 (in November 1845) and Nos. 14 and 16 (in May 1846). No. 6 was leased to John Atkinson (in June 1847), Nos. 8–12 to Wright Maydwell, of Alexander Place, Fulham Road, plumber (in November 1845), and No. 18 to John Gooch, junior (in November 1846). (fn. 166) The houses were all occupied in 1846–7, two of the first inhabitants being the painter Robert Hannah, at No. 2 (1847–65), and R. W. Skeffington Lutwidge, uncle of Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), at No. 4 (1846–64). Carroll himself often stayed here with his uncle, who was a barrister and a Commissioner in Lunacy, and had a fondness for acquiring new gadgets. After a visit in 1852 Carroll wrote: ‘He has as usual got a great number of new oddities, including a lathe, telescope stand, crest stamp, a beautiful little pocket instrument for measuring distances on maps, refrigerator, &c. &c.’ (fn. n10) No. 6 was the town house of the actress Marie Litton (Mrs. Wybrow Robertson) who died there in 1884. (fn. 167)
The western range (Nos. 20–36 even) was built in 1845–6 by John Gooch, junior, probably with assistance from his nephew William Gooch, also a builder, and H. W. Atkinson, both of whom witnessed some of the leases. All nine houses were leased by Alexander in February and May 1846, eight of them directly to Gooch, and they quickly filled up with occupants. (fn. 168) The whole range was demolished for South Kensington Station in c. 1867, but the western end of it can be seen in a photograph of the 1860's showing the construction of the underground railway in Harrington Road (Plate 47a). Just visible is the two-storey bow which graced the west end of No. 36. This, the westernmost house in the range, occupied a triangular site tapering towards the junction with Pelham Street, and was double-fronted. (For the present Nos. 20–34 even Thurloe Street sec page 80.)
Between Nos. 18 and 20 was the entrance to Alfred Place Mews, which extended behind both ranges on the south side of the street. Laid out in 1846–7, it contained eighteen stables, the majority being originally leased to the builder, John Gooch, junior. (fn. 169) Several of the residents of Thurloe Square were among the tlrst to take stables here. (fn. 16) The entire mews was demolished in the late 1860's for South Kensington Station and the underground railway.
On the north side of Thurloe Street there are two ranges of houses, originally contiguous but now separated by Exhibition Road, which was extended southwards into Alfred Place West in c. 1867. To the east Nos. 1–13 (odd) were begun, though not completed, during the lifetime of George Basevi (whether to his designs is not known), while to the west of Exhibition Road Nos. 25–43 (odd) were built after Basevi's death to the designs of his successor, John Blore.
In the eastern range, which originally comprised eleven houses (Nos. 1–21 odd), the buildings are three storeys high over basements and two bays wide, with fully stuccoed if plainish fronts, Ionic porches and a bracketed cornice surmounted by a balustrade—this last feature now surviving in part only at No. 13. There is a continuous balcony at first-floor level, with an iron railing of the same lacy pattern as that used in Thurloe Square. Like the houses opposite on the south side, Nos. 1–13 are set back from the street behind small front gardens. The builders of this range were John Gooch, junior, (with assistance from William Gooch) and Thomas Holmes. Nos. 1–11 (odd), begun late in 1844, were all leased to Gooch in the following January (Nos. 1–5) and May (Nos. 7–11), and were first occupied between 1845 and 1847, (fn. 170) Gooch himself being the first ratepayer, from 1845–7, at No. 5, which may have served him for an office as well as a house. (fn. n11) At No. 9 an early occupant (from 1850 until his death in 1887) was the dramatist and novelist, John Palgrave Simpson. (fn. 171)
Thomas Holmes began work on the adjoining Nos. 13–21 in 1845, and the houses here were all leased in March and May 1846, the lessees being Holmcs's financial backer, G. P. Whitfield (Nos. 15–21) and Henry Hart of Knightsbridge, house decorator (No. 13). Nos. 13–21 filled up with inhabitants in 1847–8. (fn. 172)
The contrast in styles between the two ranges on the north side of Thurloe Street has been somewhat diminished by the cutting-through of Exhibition Road in c. 1867, but must have been quite striking when the houses were new and the ranges contiguous. For, as in Thurloe Place West, Blore scorned to continue the style of the houses already erected and produced instead his own more up-to-date designs. His houses are taller—four full storeys over basements, rather than three—and being built mainly of grey Cowley bricks they are unmistakeably Victorian (Plate 47c), whereas Nos. 1–13, though Victorian in date, belong in appearance to the Georgian tradition. Blore did not, however, altogether ignore the earlier houses, giving his range the same channellcd-stucco ground store) and Ionic porches; but the ironwork of the balconies is different and there arc no front gardens. Blorc's terrace, now slightly curtailed by the removal of one house (No. 23) at the east end, was evidently at first symmetrical in its basic composition. It has a central projection three houses in width with the central house (No. 33) projected further forward, and, to judge from the westernmost house at No. 43, which also projects, the now demolished No. 23 (the site of which was thrown into Exhibition Road) formed a balancing pavilion at the eastern end. In the middle house, No. 33, (and also at No. ) the three upper storeys have centrally positioned tripartite windows, that on the first floor topped by a small pediment, but as usual Blore was unwilling to sacrifice a conventional ground-floor plan for the sake of his elevation and the symmetrical effect is spoilt by the off-centre porch. (fn. n12) (How Blore composed the ground floor at No. 43 is not known, but here he was able to avoid the problem by placing the entrance on the return front.)
The whole of the western range (Nos. 23–43 odd) was built by Thomas Holmes, who started work at the west end in May 1846, and by August the carcases of four houses (Nos. 37–43) were ready to be leased. (fn. 173) The lessee of these, as of all the others houses in the range, was Holmes's financial backer G. P. Whitfield, who sub-leased some of them back to the builder. The leases for Nos. 31–35 followed in December 1846. (fn. 174) The extent to which the houses were unfinished at the time of leasing is shown by an agreement which Holmes made in December 1846 to sell No. 41 for £700. Much work was then still outstanding, including the whole of the plastering and the glazing and hanging of the sash windows, all of which Holmes undertook to complete. (fn. 175)
The remaining four houses in Blore's terrace (Nos. 23–29) were begun in September or October 1846. But after work had gone on for some six weeks disaster struck, and on 12 November three of the houses, Nos. 23–27, collapsed, killing one of the labourers. (By another account all four fell down.) At the inquest, held nearby in the Hoop and Toy, Thomas Hanniland, a carpenter employed by Holmes, said he thought the cause of the fall was that the houses had been run up too quickly in damp weather. ‘They had been only five weeks in erecting, when they ought to have been two months.’ Against this, however, the district surveyor, T. L. Donaldson, said that ‘a house might as well be run up in six weeks as in six months’, and he could not complain of haste. Hanniland said the weather had been very wet and he thought the lower parts were not sufficiently set to bear the weight of the upper parts. (fn. 176)
Several witnesses said that since the use of bonding timber in party walls had been prohibited by the recent Building Acts party walls were not so sound as they had previously been. Criticism was also levelled at the iron hoops which Blore had required to be used in the party walls. Hanniland, who (being a carpenter) not surprisingly considered iron an unsatisfactory substitute for timber, thought that the wall would not have buckled if bond timber had been used in it.
Blore, on the other hand, thought that iron, though not as good as timber, was a satisfactory substitute. He blamed the accident on ‘the reckless system of running up a heavy weight of materials to the height of twenty feet or more, without any support, and to a number of men running up a scaffold with a wall in such a state’. He also thought the materials were not of the best.
During the investigation Holmes revealed that he was employing Messrs. Emmins to supply the lime and labour while he himself supplied the bricks. On the question of the quality of the materials the foreman of the bricklayers, who had worked for the prominent public-works contractor, Thomas Grissell, said he had used worse mortar on Government buildings, and he could not account for the fall.
Faced with conflicting ‘expert’ evidence, the ‘very intelligent’ jury came to the unexceptionable conclusion that the houses fell down because they were not ‘securely built’. This the jurymen blamed on the speed of building, the dampness of the weather, the height of the houses and the lack of timber in the party walls. They also believed that ‘an effectual supervision of the work in all its divisions was not exercised by the persons having authority over it at the time.’
The whole incident was reported in some detail in The Builder, where the editor, George Godwin, delivered himself of some trenchant comments on the working of the Building Acts. He offered no criticism of the builder, Thomas Holmes, however, ‘a very respectable man, [who] has executed some dozens of houses under our own eyes’. But it can have been of little comfort to Blore that to avoid ‘the chance of being misinterpreted’ Godwin decided to ‘withhold comment’ on Blore's ‘share in the transaction’, and furthermore identified him as ‘the same gentleman who recently thought fit to advertise an impudent piece of special pleading, to contradict a fact stated in our columns.’ Godwin added, ‘Were we actuated by motives such as he was silly enough to ascribe to us on that occasion, the present occurrence would offer opportunity far too tempting to be passed over’.
As a result of the accident, further compounded no doubt by Holmes's bankruptcy in June 1847, the completion of Nos. 23–29 was delayed by a year or more, and the leases for Nos. 23, 27 and 29 were not granted until December 1847, while that for No. 25 was held back until January 1851, by which time the house was already occupied. (fn. 177) Holmes considered the accident to be one of the principal causes of his misfortunes in that immediately afterwards his creditors began to press for payment, thereby forcing him into bankruptcy. (fn. 178) It seems also to have cast something of a damper over the other houses in this range, with the result that they all remained unoccupied for several years. (fn. 16)
The first inhabitants of these houses included a fanner (with ninety-seven acres), two solicitors, a landed proprietor, a mine owner, a Church of England clergyman (‘not having the care of souls’), the proprietor of a boarding school and two widows with private incomes. (fn. 179) The boarding school was at No. 39, where on the night of the census in 1851 nine pupils were in residence. Among later occupants were (Sir)J. C. Robinson, superintendent of the art collections at the South Kensington Museum, who lived at No. 33 from 1858 until 1861, and Joseph Aloysius Hansom, the architect and inventor, who first occupied No. 25 in 1867–9 and then moved next door to No. 27 where he remained until c. 1872. Hansom's architect son, Joseph Stanislaus Hansom, continued at No. 27 until 1913, though for most if not all of that time this was only his office. In 1888 J. S. Hansom wrote to his patron, the Duke of Norfolk, ‘I have spent several hundreds on 27 Alfred Place West… Now I have got my office back there and have let the upper part, having had to do it all up at a cost of over £100… My desire to keep house and office together (probably at Palace Gardens Terrace) has been a failure which I shall not repeat.’ (fn. 180)
South Kensington Station and the Extension of Exhibition Road
In the late 1860's two events occurred which significantly altered the appearance and to some extent the character of the western end of the estate. These were the construction of South Kensington underground station and its approaches, largely on Alexander's property, though also on part of the adjoining Smith's Charity estate, and the related extension of Exhibition Road southwards from Cromwell Road into Alfred Place West (Thurloc Street). In 1864 the Metropolitan Railway Company had obtained Parliamentary authority to extend its line from Notting Hill Gate to a new station at South Kensington; and in another Act, passed at the same time, a new company, the Metropolitan District Railway Company, was authorised to build a line extending eastwards from South Kensington to lower Hill, and westwards, via Gloucester Road, to join the West London Railway at West Brompton. Both Acts authorised the building of a station at South Kensington and the extension of Exhibition Road. (fn. 181)
As the owner of an already developed urban estate H. B. Alexander was naturally concerned to minimise any disturbance to his property, and he had a clause inserted in the Acts requiring the railways to run in covered cuttings where they crossed his land, a rather futile provision as it turned out, for the only two places where the railway was to traverse the estate were at Gloucester Road and South Kensington stations. The former was erected on undeveloped land, but at South Kensington the proposed site, at the junction of Alfred Place West and Pelham Street, was already built up. In evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Lords the railway companies’ engineer, (Sir) John Fowler, stated that this site had been chosen after consultation with other interested parties, including the Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851, and the builder C. J. Freake, who had just finished developing part of Alexander's property on the south side of Cromwell Road and in Cromwell Place. But in countering the suggestion that Freake's opposition to the siting of a station next his houses had been a decisive factor he was less than convincing: ‘Mr Freake represents a great number of influential persons in that neighbourhood —The Duke of Rutland and some of his tenants and lessees live in that district, he represents them, and 1 therefore was very glad to be possessed of Mr Freake's views on the subject.’ The attitude of the 1851 Commissioners was known to be uncompromising. They wanted a station in the vicinity because their own recently acquired estate was poorly served by public transport, but they would not have it on their property. When asked if he regarded the Commissioners as rivals Alexander replied ‘They are neighbouring but not very neighbourly land owners’. (fn. 182)
Alexander himself was really no more neighbourly than the Commissioners, sharing their view that other people's property would make a better site for the station than his own built-up land. A nearby alternative which he favoured was Brompton Hall, an old house in extensive grounds at the comer of Old Brompton Road and Cromwell Lane (Harrington Road). (fn. 183) But he was unable to persuade Parliament, or the railway companies, to reconsider their preferred site.
The 1851 Commissioners, not content merely to keep the station off their own land, had clauses inserted in the Acts requiring that it should be used only by passengers, and that the building itself should be of ‘an ornamental character’. In 1864 Fowler had told the Select Committee that the railway companies were proposing that the north side should have ‘a handsome elevation… so that people going down the [extended] Exhibition Road would sec a good looking building’; and in 1867, when there was evidently still a possibility that the station would have a frontage to Alfred Place West, or be visible from Exhibition Road, the Commissioners produced a plan for an entrance here looking up Exhibition Road. (fn. 184) Had this latter suggestion been carried into effect emerging passengers would at least have been pointed firmly in the direction of muscumland. As it is the present two-way exit from the station at what was always a confusing road-junction leaves many passengers bewilderingly disoriented.
To provide the railway companies with the land they required for the new station Alexander had to convey to them all of his houses on the south side of Alfred Place West, the whole of Alfred Place Mews, and twenty-three houses in Thurloe Square, twelve on the west side (Nos. 45–56) and eleven on the south (Nos. 1–1 l). (fn. 185) The loss of part of Thurloe Square was, of course, the greatest blow; but to preserve as far as possible the amenities and character ot the square the companies were forbidden to put an entrance to the station there; and where houses in the square were demolished ‘an ornamental Wall or Structure’ was to be erected ‘in lieu thereof. (fn. 186)’ For the sale of Nos. 1–11 Thurloe Square Alexander received £3,000 from the Metropolitan District Railway. (fn. 187)
Occupants of houses required for demolition were individually compensated, many of them in the opinion of The Building News claiming ‘ridiculously high prices’ but receiving ‘very little more than one half of the amount claimed’. For No. 52 Thurloe Square £5.250 was sought on the grounds that ‘rents had enormously increased of late years, and the Museum at Kensington had added to the value of the houses in the neighbourhood’. Here the displaced householder, a seventy-two-year-old bronchitic, was ‘much annoyed’ at having to leave his house as he could, so he claimed, ‘only breathe freely in the locality’. He had, therefore, been obliged to acquire another house in the square, at No. 24—on the best side, retorted the railway company. The jury awarded him £3,100, a sum which although considerably less than the claim, nevertheless indicates that the rental value was considered to have doubled in the twenty years since the house was built. (fn. 188) In Alfred Place West (Thurloe Street) £1,980 was sought for a house which in 1850 had been bought for just £850. In this case the jury awarded £1,350, less than the railway company had originally offered in compensation. (fn. 189)’
The station itself was at first to be called Brompton Exchange, but soon acquired the name of South Kensington. Like Gloucester Road Station to its west, it was to be shared between the Metropolitan and the Metropolitan District Railways and laid out jointly for the two companies by Fowler as the common engineer. His original plan seems to have envisaged two sets of double tracks, the northern ones to be used by the Metropolitan and the southern ones by the District Railway. They were to be roofed by a pair of simple curved iron arches, of the type used at other stations along the line, with one span covering either set of tracks and meeting the other upon columns on the central platform.’ (fn. 190)
In 1867–8 the northern tracks only were constructed according to this plan, together with the station building, a simple but pretty essay in the white-brick Italianate style favoured by the two companies (Plate 48a). Metropolitan trains ran west to Notting Hill Gate and District trains east to Westminster Bridge from Christmas Eve, 1868. (fn. 191) From 1 August 1870 District trains continued westwards to Gloucester Road, still using the northern tracks at South Kensington but crossing immediately over to the southern tracks as they left the station. (fn. 192) Partly to case the congestion caused by this arrangement, and partly ‘to increase the accommodation of visitors to the ensuing International Exhibition’, the southern platforms and tracks were added in 1871. (fn. 193) By this time separate sidings were deemed necessary for the two companies, between whom relations had cooled. This meant a change in Fowler's original plans, with one siding being provided for the Metropolitan Railway next to their tracks and another for the District Railway to the south of theirs. As a result, the southern arch had to be broader and more elliptical than its northern counterpart. It came to rest on the south side on further columns, with a lean-to roof covering the District Railway's siding. (fn. 190)
The original exterior of the booking hall was soon masked from view by shops along Pelham Street (1879–80) and Alfred Place West (1881). (fn. 194) It survived until 1905–6, when the arrangement of the station was affected by the construction of the deep-level Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway (Piccadilly Line). The consortium which laid out this line controlled the District Railway and so was able to build its own South Kensington Station adjacent to the District's platforms, with a separate entrance in Pelham Street (Plate 48b). This station, designed by Leslie W. Green, was opened in 1907 (see page 117). (fn. 195) The Metropolitan Railway Company took the opportunity to reconstruct the Metropolitan and District Railway station building and concourse and to re-roof the platforms. This was undertaken by the architect George Sherrin, who had been working at High Street, Kensington. Sherrin took down the old station building and arranged a glazed arcade between Thurloe and Pelham Streets with steps down into a new concourse. Round the corner between the two streets, provision was made for roofing over the open tracks and building single-storey shops, though this seems not to have been carried out for a few years. At platform level, Fowler's iron spans were removed, the tracks were exposed to the elements, and small independent wooden roofs on iron columns were put up on each of the platforms. (fn. 196) This essentially is the arrangement which still survives.
Of the forty-two houses which Alexander had conveyed to the railway companies for the station only nineteen were in the event demolished, though others had their back gardens curtailed. But the companies were under no obligation to sell the surviving houses back to Alexander, and the majority were subsequently sold off as independent freeholds. (fn. n13) In one or two places where the houses had been demolished the surplus parts of the site were redeveloped. The largest of these was on the south side of Thurloe Street (Alfred Place West) between the station and the narrow passage, just west of No. 18, which is all that survives of the way into Alfred Place Mews. In 1879 Arthur Heald, esquire, of Finborough Road, an accountant with an office in the Strand, was proposing to lease this site from the Metropolitan Railway for a range of buildings comprising eight shops with artists’ studios and chambers above. But there were objections and Heald eventually withdrew leaving the development to a builder, John Whittlesea, of St. Stephen's Avenue, Shepherd's Bush, who erected the present Nos. 20–34 (even) Thurloe Street here in 1880–1. (fn. 198) Designed in all probability by Whittlesea's surveyor, the architect Edwin George Wyatt, this commonplace row of houses with ground-floor shops (but no studios) in a debased Italianate style, occupies the site where Fowler had in 1864 hoped to see a ‘good looking building’. The shops were first occupied (in 1882–3) by a bric-a-brac dealer, a glass manufacturer, bakers, a furrier, tailors, a jeweller, florists and a dairy. A later resident of the houses was Alan Cole, younger son of Sir Henry Cole, and a senior official successively in the Science and Art Department and the Board of Education, who lived at No. 20 from 1894 until 1908. (fn. 57)
Whittlesea was also the building lessee (from the Metropolitan Railway Company) of the vacant site on the west side of Thurloe Square, where No. 52 was erected in 1888–9. Here, however, Whittlesea himself was not the builder (perhaps because he was then living in Brighton), and the house was erected for him under contract by Messrs. Cooke and Battson of Airlie Gardens, whose tender, at £1,560, was the lowest submitted. The architect of this rather undistinguished example of the late ‘Queen Anne’ style was the little-known A. Benyon Tinker. (fn. 199) The house was first occupied in 1890. (fn. 57)
Just across the road from the site of No. 52, on the south side of Thurloe Square where the five houses west of No. 6 had been demolished, there was another vacant site, difficult to use for houses by reason of its acutely triangular shape, which was taken by the builder William Douglas for a block of seven artists’ studios (now No. 5 Thurloe Square). Erected by Douglas between 1885 and 1887, (fn. 200) the largely unadorned front which this rather gaunt-looking building presents to the square has big plain north-facing windows and broad stretches of dark-red brickwork. From the west and south the striking wedge shape of the building is very apparent. Plans of the studios (amended several times over) were submitted to the Metropolitan Board of Works on Douglas's behalf by a surveyor, C. W. Stephenson, who is known to have designed other buildings and may have been the architect here. (fn. 201) Artists of no great distinction took studios in this building from 1888.
For the extension of Exhibition Road, authorised by the Acts of 1864 and carried out by the railway companies in c. 1867, Alexander had to give up seven houses on the north side of Alfred Place West (between and including the present Nos. 13 and 25 Thurloe Street) and a further seven in Thurloe Place (Nos. 22–28 consec.). (fn. 202) The reason for the extension was to provide adequate access from the station to Cromwell Road and parts beyond (particularly the estate of the 1851 Commissioners). Old Brompton Road (Thurloe Place) was thought to be too narrow for this purpose, and Cromwell Place, which was parallel to the proposed extension, was then still a private road which could be shut off at any time, as indeed it was during the Exhibition of 1862. (fn. 203)
The frontages of the new road between Thurloe Place and Thurloe Street, originally left undeveloped behind new brick walls, (fn. 204) were partially filled up with shops in the early 1870's. On the west side of Exhibition Road Nos. 1–5 (odd) are the more or less unaltered survivors of a row of five single-storey shops, described as ‘recently erected’ in November 1871, which were designed by E. W. Griffith of Westbourne Grove, architect. (fn. 205) Now, and for many years, the premises of Messrs. Lamley and Company Limited, the booksellers, who took over Nos. 1 and 3 in 1879, they were originally occupied in 1872 by a firm of upholsterers. (fn. 57) The two other shops in this row, Nos. 7 and 9 (first occupied by a cigar merchant and a confectioner respectively), were rebuilt in c. 1895–6 together with the south-west comer of Exhibition Road and Thurloe Place. In that redevelopment two of the original houses in Thurloe Place (Nos. 27 and 28) which had survived the cutting through of Exhibition Road were pulled down. The corner block, now numbered 11–17 (odd) Exhibition Road and 25–28 (consec.) Thurloe Place, is a four-storey building with grround-floor shops and shaped gables in the artisan mannerist style of the early seventeenth century. The architect was W. H. Colibran. (fn. 206) At the southern end of this side the small shop at No. 1a was erected in c. 1897 (fn. 57)
On the east side of Exhibition Road the shops have a more complicated history illustrating the chops and changes to which even a very ordinary piece of London's fabric may be subjected. In 1872 three single-storey shops (Nos. 2, 4 and 6) in the same style as Nos. 1–5 were erected in the back garden of No. 13 Alfred Place West (now 13 Thurloe Street). But they were originally set back from the pavement, presumably in order to avoid interference from the Metropolitan Board of Works, which had previously turned down proposals for shops on this site. (fn. 207) Nos. 4 and 6 were first occupied by a firm of house agents, and No. 2 by a cow keeper, William Follett, who was also the occupant and freehold owner of No. 13 Alfred Place West. (fn. 57) Later extended up to the pavement, they no longer retain their original facades. Neither does the adjoining No. 2a which was built for Follett (though first occupied by a firm of auctioneers) in 1876. Follett's architect here was Henry E. Cooper of Caroline Street, Bedford Square, surveyor, whose florid first designs (not unlike a John Gibson bank) were soon replaced by something much plainer continuing the pattern of pilasters and the balustrade at Nos. 2–6. No. 2a then had a rounded comer and did not extend beyond the front of No. 13 Thurloe Street. But shortly afterwards another architect, George Edwards, was called in to extend the building southwards, and it was probably at this stage (1877–8) that both Nos. 2 and 2a received their present fronts of stripey brickwork (in the case of No. 2a now covered up). (fn. 208) No. 2a nevertheless still has its original pierced balustrade of 1876 with its tell-tale curved end and divisions no longer matching those of the shop front below: at No. 2 most of the balustrading and the two urns which stood on it have been removed. (fn. 209) Both Nos. 2 and 2a together with Nos. 4 and 6 were later occupied by the Belgravia Dairy Company Limited, successors in 1885 to the cow keeper William Follett. (fn. 57)
Northwards of No. 6 the frontage remained undeveloped until William Douglas erected three tall houses here in 1883–4. (fn. 210)Built of stock brick with copious red-brick dressings and steeply pitched slate roofs in the French style, they rise to some sixty feet, perhaps in compensation for the shallowness of the site, which tapers to less than ten feet on the return to Thurloe Place. No. 8, a double-fronted house with two tiers of bow windows, was first occupied by Edward Hyde Hewett, C.M.G. (H.M. Consul for the Bights of Benin and Biafra and the Island of Fernando Po), No. 10 by court dressmakers, and No. 12 by Douglas's son John, a builder and estate agent who continued here until 1939. (fn. 57) The shop front at No. 8 was added by John Douglas in 1891, probably for Messrs. Reeves, the artists ’ suppliers, who took over the building in that year. (fn. 211)
The first opportunity for any large-scale redevelopment on the estate (the railway station and the extension of Exhibition Road being, of course, outside the Alexander family's control) came in 1906 when all the leases granted under the agreement of 1826 expired together in a block. But in the event only a relatively small though important area behind and including the Bell and Horns was selected for wholesale redevelopment (whether by W.H. Alexander, before his death in April 1905, or by his heir Lady George Campbell is not known). Situated at the junction of two important and increasingly busy thoroughfares, this area (see fig. 15) had been the first to be developed, and the houses here were the smallest and least prepossessing on the estate. Another good reason for redeveloping here was the opportunity it provided for some much-needed road widening, particularly on the Brompton Road side.
By 1906 an arrangement had been made with a development company, Metropolis Estates Limited, though under what terms and conditions is not known, and in that year the company's architect, Howard Chatfeild Clarke, submitted proposals to the London County Council to redevelop the Thurloc Place frontage between the Bell and Horns and No. 12. (fn. 212) Since its formation in 1902 under the chairmanship of (Sir) Robert W. Perks, the industrialist, railway lawyer and Liberal M.P., Metropolis Estates had undertaken no other redevelopment; nor did it subsequently have significant interests in any property other than Thurloe Place. Perks and his two co-directors owned just over forty per cent of the shares, but the biggest investors (though not having a controlling interest) were Speyer Brothers, the international banking and finance house with which Perks had had dealings over the setting up (also in 1902) of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London. (fn. 213)
The development received something of a setback when Chatfeild Clarke's scheme was rejected by the L.C.C., and nearly three years elapsed before Metropolis Estates were ready to bring forward any fresh proposals. (fn. n14) These were by Delissa Joseph, Chatfeild Clarke's successor as architect to the company. They received the L.C.C.'s approval in 1909, and in the same year all the old houses on the site (the Bell and Horns excepted) were demolished. (fn. 212) But in the absence of any detailed information about Delissa Joseph's scheme it is impossible to say to what extent the subsequent piecemeal and rather protracted redevelopment of Thurloe Place represents his original intentions.
The first of the new buildings to go up was the Rembrandt Hotel (No. 11 Thurloe Place). Erected in 1910 –11, this was designed by Joseph and built by Messrs. Ford and Walters of Kilburn. (fn. 215) It has a balconied front towards Thurloe Place, with the centre projecting slightly above a tall entrance and culminating at roof level in a high attic and small dome. It bears marked resemblances to the Brompton Road elevation of the Basil Street Hotel, built to Joseph's designs at exactly the same time.
In 1922 the building was extended across part of the then still undeveloped site to the east. This added a further fourteen feet to the frontage in Thurloe Place (where there is now an entrance to the Rembrandt Rooms), and some sixty feet to the rear frontage in North Terrace. The architects for the extension were R. H. Kerr and Sons, and the contractors were again Ford and Walters. (fn. 216) Though designed to match, the extension destroyed the symmetrical composition of the Rembrandt's front to Thurloe Place; but harmony was later restored by the careful treatment given to the front of the adjoining Dalmeny House (see below). In North Terrace this problem did not arise and the architects merely repeated the design of the existing front with no perceptible join between the two. The long facade here is divided up into seven vertical divisions, each three windows wide, alternately faced in stone and red brick. In the stone-faced sections the windows are provided with balconies. (fn. n15)
The eastern part of Thurloe Place is occupied by Empire House, a large office block with ground-floor shops extending along both Thurloe Place (Nos. 1 –7 consec.) and Brompton Road (Nos. 220 –244 even), and having a short return front to North Terrace. Built for the Continental Tyre Company, presumably under a lease from Metropolis Estates, it was begun in the same year as the Rembrandt (1910) but not completed until 1916. The reason for the delay was the continued presence of the Bell and Horns, which was not removed until the autumn of 1915. The odd, if short-lived, effect of this can be seen in Plate 42b, a photograph of c. 1912, where the two seemingly separate buildings to right and left of the old Bell and Horns are in fact both parts of Empire House. The Continental Tyre Company's architect was Paul Hoffmann, and the builders were Perry and Company of Bow (for the main part of the structure, 1910–12), and the General Building Company (for the eastern corner, 1915–16). (fn. 218)
The three portions of Empire House partake of slightly varying architectural character, though all display wreaths and wings in deft classical allusion to the motor-car tyre (Plate 42b, c). Towards Brompton Road the facade curves gently along the line of the road but the architecture is restrained up to the cornice, above which the ends sprout up into pavilion roofs. In Thurloe Place the building at Nos. 6 and 7, which housed the company's main offices, is altogether more bombastic, with bulbous sculpture over the entrance and a heavy top-knot crowning the roof. The later portion, embracing the prominent comer site, is dominated by a hefty but carefully studied angle-tower, all in stone, with metal windows in the middle stages. Generally, the building betrays the influence of Vienna and the Wagnenthule, interpreted, however, with more enthusiasm than comprehension.
The final stage in the redevelopment of Thurloe Place was the erection in 1926–7 of Dalmeny House (Nos. 8–10A Thurloe Place) on the long-vacant site between the Rembrandt Hotel and Empire House (Plate 42a, c). The developers here were the builders, C. P. Roberts and Company Limited of Hackney, and the architect was Horace Gilbert of Finsbury Circus. Gilbert's plans, submitted to the L.C.C. in December 1926, show that the fifth and sixth floors were originally intended to be let to the Rembrandt to provide extra bedrooms, the rest of the building being taken up by Hats and, on the ground floor, shops. (fn. 219) More liberally fenestrated than its Edwardian neighbours but still stone-fronted, Dalmeny House gives the impression of being a symmetrical composition with a raised centre flanked by two tower wings. The western wing is, however, in reality the front of the 1922 extension of the Rembrandt, the design of which Gilbert repeated in the eastern wing of Dalmeny House in order to obtain an effect of symmetry.
After the completion of the redevelopment of the Thurloe Place site the shareholders of Metropolis Estates voted for the company to go into voluntary liquidation, and in 1928 it was wound up. By then most of the shares (over seventy per cent) belonged to Glyn Mills Bank, though Perks still retained a nominal holding. The company's principal asset was its leasehold property in Thurloe Place, from which it derived an income after all deductions (including the annual ground rent of £975) of just under £1,500 a year. The property there was valued at £58,680 in 1920–4. (fn. 220)
By this time the chic á la mode domestic architecture of the 1920's was beginning to appear on the estate. The harbinger of this new trend was No. 17 Thurloe Place (Thurloe Lodge), which was completely remodelled in 1922–3 for (Sir) Nigel Playfair, the actor manager. For many years a resident in nearby Pelham Crescent, where his lease was soon to expire, Playfair had been enjoying a considerable success with his revival of The Beggar's Opera at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith (1920–3); and although on his own admission his ‘share in the swag was a very small one’, he decided to invest it in rebuilding ‘two little cottages with a large garden’ in the ‘little lane opposite Brompton Oratory’. (fn. 221)
The ‘two cottages’ in question were a semi-detached pair originally erected in 1843, which had been converted into a single dwelling in c. 1867. (fn. 222) Playfair bought up the existing lease and obtained a new long lease of the property from Lady George Campbell ‘at a reasonable sum’. (fn. 223) He entrusted the job of remodelling the house to Darcy Braddell, a personal friend who had previously designed a cottage for the Playfairs at Sandwich Bay. (fn. 224) (Braddell's partner, Humphry Deane, was nevertheless joindy credited with the work in published accounts. (fn. 225)) In the recollection of his son Playfair ‘took as much interest in the building of his house as he had ever taken in one of his productions at the Lyric. Hardly a day passed without his meeting D'Arcy [sic] Braddell to discuss a new idea or to look over a new plan. (fn. 226) With James Gray Limited of Danvers Street as contractors building work began in May 1922. (fn. 227)
The remodelling was extensive—Playfair himself called it a complete rebuilding—and although something of the original cottages may still be vestigially present, what one sees today (particularly within) is mostly by Braddell with some later alterations. The exterior is of plain stock brick under the wide eaves of a shallow-pitched slate roof, with a tripartite window of ‘Venetian’ form on the west front inserted to light the dining-room. For interior decoration Playfair favoured strong bold colours in unconventional combinations. At No. 26 Pelham Crescent friends had admired his use of black, and his yellow dining-room there with red and black furnishings was deemed ‘exceptionally individual’. (fn. 228) At Thurloe Place, perhaps under the influence of Braddell, the colour schemes were more muted if no less individual. In the dining-room the waxed silver spruce of the woodwork was offset by emerald green curtains and a green carpet with a magenta border. In the drawing-room the walls were coloured creamy grey with the overdoors and dadoes picked out in soft jade green and a little coral. A striking feature of Playfair's study was the bold chequer-board patterning of the floor. (fn. 229)
Playfair and his family took up residence in Thurloe Lodge in the spring of 1923. At first he was pleased with it. But it had cost twice as much as he intended and his finances were no longer buoyant: ‘why do we live in this expensive house’' he complained, ‘'I never liked it’. The last straw was the failure of a new light opera. Midsummer Madness, many of whose rehearals Playfair had directed in the garden, and the family gave up the house either late in 1924 or early in 1925. To his surprise Playfair found that the property sold well and his investment in it proved ‘not an unwise one’. (fn. 230)
Towards the end of 1926 official approval was being sought for two separate schemes of redevelopment involving the same architect and the same firm of developers. One was a plan to convert the old Western Grammar School building in North Terrace into two private residences, and the other was a proposal for building ten small houses or ‘bijou residences’ on the site of Thurloe Mews. The architect was Francis Gordon Selby of Westcliffe-on-Sea, who died in 1928 at the age of thirty-eight, and the developers, Simmonds Brothers and Sons Limited, a local firm of builders with an office in the Cromwell Road and works in Kelso Place. (fn. 231)
Under their auspices Thurloe Mews was turned from an ordinary, rather run-down collection of stables into a startling enclave of high-class ‘Tudor’ houses in which timber-framing, roughcast rendering, brick infilling, tile hanging, gables and casement windows were all laid under contribution (Plate 47b). The transformation was signalled by the change of name to Thurloe Close (1927). (fn. 232) Selby had told the London County Council that he planned to retain as much as possible of the existing buildings, ‘including the external and party walls’, but it seems doubtful if very much, if anything, of the old stables was in the end retained. (fn. 231) Working under an agreement with Lady George Campbell dated 14 March 1927, the developers, Simmonds Brothers, began building in Thurloe Close in the following month and the development was completed by the end of 1930 when all but two of the houses were occupied. (fn. 233)
Like the stables which they replaced, the houses in Thurloe Close face inwards onto an open flagged courtyard which also serves as a communal garden. Selby had originally wanted the covered way from Alexander Place to have a rustic flavour (with a roof of oak shingles), and to extend, in Albany-like fashion, down the middle of the courtyard, but the L.C.C. refused its consent for this. (fn. 231).
At the Western Grammar School the original intention, shown on an elaborate set of plans which Selby submitted to the L.C.C. in December 1926, had been to keep the whole of the building for conversion into two separate houses. (fn. 231) (The site was to include part of the back gardens of Nos. 26–28 Thurloe Square of which the leases were expiring. (fn. 234)) But in the end only the eastern portion of the former school was retained. Its conversion into the present No. 7 North Terrace (Alexander House) was carried out to Selby's design by Simmonds Brothers in 1927–8. (fn. 235) Pocock's original Greek Revival faqade (of 1835) was retained (Plate 43a), but behind this the building was virtually gutted and only the staircase compartment and, on the ground floor, the small back room shown on fig. 18 survive from the old building. The staircase itself, which has a mahogany handrail and simple square-section balusters, predates the conversion but is probably not the original. Selby's replanned interior includes, on the ground floor, a pretty octagonal entrance hall flanked, to left and right respectively, by the dining- and drawingrooms. These are both panelled in imitation of mideighteenth-century taste with fluted pilasters, while in the hall the walls are painted to resemble veined marble and the floor paved with black and white marble squares. In the principal bedroom, above the dining-room, the panelling is decorated with rococo-style ornaments. The first occupant of No. 7, late in 1928, was a Mrs. Percy Balfour. (fn. 57)
No. 7 North Terrace was Selby's swansong. In September 1927 poor health had obliged him take a long holiday abroad, and he died in Italy in January 1928. (fn. 236) Whether or not his death had any influence on events, the proposed conversion of the western portion of the school into what would have been quite a large house did not go forward. Subsequently the unconverted parts of the building were acquired by Sir Harold J. Reckitt, second baronet, who called in Stanley Hall, Easton and Robertson (in one account only the latter two are named) to prepare a new scheme for dealing with the property; and with Dove Brothers as contractors a completely new house, now No. 17a Thurloe Place (Amberwood House), was built here in 1928–9. (fn. 237)
Occupying approximately the same position as the old schoolroom, the main body of the house is a three-storey building faced in brindled red Sussex bricks with a wide shallow bow on the west side rising through the three storeys. The bowed rooms were the dining-room (ground floor), the drawing-room and the principal bedroom (top floor). These and the other living rooms occupied the south and west sides of the house, the servants' rooms and service areas being on the north and east sides. On each floor the living and service areas w ere completely separate, each being provided with its own staircase and lift. ‘This excellent (and rare) arrangement’, to quote The Architect and Building News of 1932, ‘gives complete seclusion to the owner and his guests.’
The front entrance, at the southern end of the opening out of Thurloe Place, is in a single storey which contains a small hall and a loggia with French windows opening on to the garden. The loggia was given a marble floor and a ceiling of painted wood, and was furnished in limed oak to designs by the architects. A little barrel-vaulted vestibule lit by a Venetian window connects the loggia to the staircase hall in the main body of the house.
Special attention was paid to the garden, which was laid out on several levels, and for which Eric Munday designed a fountain in the form of a sea-horse and a lead cistern bearing Reckitt's initials. A roof garden was made over the entrance hall, loggia and vestibule, and the servants were provided with a separate garden of their own. (fn. n16)
Reckitt called his new house Little Green Lodge after his country house, Little Green, near Petersfield (it was assigned the number 17a Thurloe Place only in 1951), and he occupied it from 1929 until his death, less than eighteen months later, in December 1930. (fn. 238)
Another completely new house built at this time is the present No. 2 Alexander Place. This was erected as a speculation by Simmonds Brothers in 1929–30 on the site of the Western Grammar School's original premises of 1828.
Since being vacated by the school the old building had been variously adapted to serve as Nonconformist chapel, Turkish baths, and artists' studios. It first served as a chapel in 1838, when the building was hired by a congregation of Baptists, though whether for their exclusive use is uncertain as the school continued to pay the rates until 1843. (fn. 239) Later known as the Thurloe Chapel, its congregations were nominally Baptist until c. 1851, and Presbyterian or Free Church of Scotland, c 1851 to 1856. In 1851 the chapel had 340 sittings of which 300 were free, and a morning congregation of 200. (fn. 240) In the following year the congregation in association with other Nonconformist groups decided to build themselves a new chapel. (fn. 241)A site was secured in Neville Terrace and the new building, known as the Onslow Chapel, was opened in 1856 (see page 143), but the Thurloe Chapel continued in use until c. 1861. (fn. 57)
In April of that year the building was being fitted up as Turkish baths. (fn. 242) ‘Establishments are now springing up everywhere’, commented The Builder knowingly, but ‘these baths are an improvement on any we have seen in the metropolis.’ The facilities here included a forty-foot-square frigidarium, ‘tastefully decorated’, with lantern windows extending all round, hot rooms, and a lavatory with ‘complete water apparatus’. The proprietors, Edward and Charles Pollard, had also acquired the house at No. 8 North Terrace, which (having been extended behind) provided a completely separate entrance to the private baths. (fn. 82)
When the baths closed in 1887 the building was converted into the Alexander Studios, which were first occupied in 1888 by two portrait painters, Henry John Hudson and (Sir) James Jebusa Shannon. Another occupant, from 1911 to 1916, was Gustav Julius Froberg, purveyor of medical massage. (fn. 243)
After clearing away the old building Simmonds Brothers began work on No. 2 Alexander Place in April 1929, and by December this was sufficiently advanced for Lady George Campbell to grant a sixty-one-year lease of the house at an annual ground rent of £75. At the request of the builders, who were paid £5,000 by the lessee, it was granted to Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Du Pré Perton Powney, O.B.E., of Egerton Terrace, who moved into his new home in 1931. (fn. 244)
Situated at the end of a narrow private footpath between the back gardens of Alexander Square and the adjoining houses in Alexander Place, No. 2 lies several feet below the general level of the surrounding buildings in the centre of the old school site, part of which has been laid out as a pleasant garden. The house itself is a two-storey building, consisting of two short wings set at right angles to each other with a central entrance placed diagonally in the corner. Reticently nco-Georgian in style, it has rendered walls and a slate roof. The architect is not known.
At No. 14 Alexander Place the oak front door, curious ground-floor window, wooden shutters and round-headed dormer are the external trappings of a very extensive internal transformation carried in 1929–30 for Mrs. Patrick Morley by R. Douglas Wells. On the ground floor the walls dividing the front room from the hall and the back room were removed to make one large hall-cum-dining-room extending from front to back with a small entrance lobby. The first floor was similarly treated to form a library-cum-sitting-room. This was given a barrel vaulted ceiling (in plaster) and lined with old panelling said to have come from demolished houses in Kensington. In the dining-room the walls were stripped, plastered with Keene's cement and varnished: ‘the result’, according to Randal Phillips in Country Life, ‘giving a kind of cloudy marble effect, of delightful surface and warm tone’. For the garden Wells provided elm trellises to screen the party walls and a pergola across the northern end. (fn. 245)
The only other noteworthy development of these years was the widening of Thurloe Place, west of Exhibition Road, and the consequent rebuilding in its present form of the Hoop and Toy public house. This was carried out in 1926–7 under a long lease from Lady George Campbell to Muggins and Company Limited of the Lion Brewhouse, Broad Street, Golden Square. The architect was Alfred Burr of Gower Street, and the contractors Kirk and Kirk Limited of Upper Richmond Road. (fn. 246) In his design Burr had to accommodate an awkward obtuse angle in the frontage of the site where Thurloe Place changes direction. This he did by placing a conspicuous stone-faced tower, capped in copper, at the angle, with, on either side of it, sober stone and brick elevations rising to four storeys.
The widening of Thurloe Place swept away the surviving front gardens, and before long single-storey shops were being added to the houses there (those at Nos. 29 and 31 in 1930–1 and 1928 respectively (fn. 247)).
The only completely new post-war building is the house at No. 21 Alexander Place. Erected in 1954–7, this occupies a previously unbuilt site originally leased in 1844 to the occupant of No. 19 Thurloe Square for a garden. (fn. 248) The London County Council had wanted the architects, Robert Bostock and Leonard T. Wilkins, to ‘reproduce the existing facades as nearly as possible’. The design nevertheless has a strong flavour of the 1950's about it, the use of glass bricks for the tall staircase window in the west elevation being a particularly telling period detail. (fn. 249)