Survey of London: Volume 42, Kensington Square To Earl's Court. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1986.
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Warwick Gardens is a relatively short street, but house-building along its length took nearly fifty years to complete, and its history illustrates many of the problems of urban development in far-flung outskirts of the metropolis. Building began in 1822, at its northern end, when an elongated ‘square’ called Warwick Square was laid out, but this was never finished and eventually the roadway was extended as far south as Pembroke Gardens under the name of Warwick Gardens. To the south of Pembroke Gardens, in the curved part of the street, the terrace of houses on the south-west side of the curve was originally called Warwick Crescent while the houses on the opposite side were briefly and very confusingly known as Warwick Gardens East. In 1869, when all of the houses along the street had at last been completed, the name Warwick Gardens was adopted for its entire length. The present numbers were assigned in two stages, those to the north of Pembroke Gardens in 1864 and the remainder in 1869.
By the early 1820s the ill-fated project at Edwardes Square was at last acquiring some momentum, and Lord Kensington decided to release his remaining land with a frontage to the Hammersmith Road (now Kensington High Street) for building development. Accordingly in July and August 1822 respectively he entered into agreements for the building of Kensington Crescent (see below) and Warwick Square. The land on which the latter was intended to be laid out consisted of eight acres bounded on the east by what is now the roadway of St. Mary Abbot's Place, on the south by the line of Pembroke Gardens, and on the west by Warwick Road (which was at first and very briefly known as Moiety Road, presumably because the boundary between this land and that let for the building of Kensington Crescent to the west ran down the middle of the road). (fn. 167)
The developers to whom the building of Warwick Square was entrusted were Joseph and Thomas Brindley. Although usually described as builders in the documents relating to this speculation, the Brindleys were in reality large-scale entrepreneurs with many interests, including a stake in the promotion of the Kensington Canal (see page 322). Building was only a sideline which developed from their involvement as builders' suppliers in the timber trade and in the allied trades of brickmaking and lime-burning.
Shipbuilding was, however, their principal occupation, their main yards being at Frindsbury on the Medway, where during the Napoleonic Wars they had built a number of men-at-war. They also owned considerable estates, both freehold and leasehold, including a five-hundred-acre farm at Frindsbury, and they had wharves on the Thames, the Medway and at the Regent's Park canal basin. (fn. 168)
Under the terms of their agreement with Lord Kensington the Brindleys contracted to spend at least £14,000 in building not less than fifteen and not more than twenty-three houses, each to contain a minimum of ten rooms. All the houses were to be completed within seven years and erected under the supervision of Lord Kensington's surveyor, William Cutbush, according to plans and elevations approved by him. Lord Kensington agreed to grant leases to the Brindleys or their nominees for ninety-nine years from Michaelmas 1822 or equivalent terms at an annual rent which was not to exceed 15s. per foot frontage. He also undertook to lay out a fifty-foot-wide road along the eastern boundary of the site parallel with the wall of the Horticultural Society's garden; and as there was an open sewer there, to construct a mound on the east side of this road which he would plant with ‘healthy forest trees’ in order to conceal the sewer. Less than a year after being signed this agreement ‘in so far as it related to the Mode and Scale of building the houses’ was modified by a further agreement of July 1823 of which no details are known. (fn. 169)
On 13 September 1822 the Brindleys began to lay out the site for building according to a plan prepared by Cutbush. (fn. 167) This has not survived, but a plan of 1841 by Cutbush probably represents the original intention. This shows a long, narrow ‘square’ (named Warwick Square, no doubt, after the Earls of Warwick and Holland, former owners of the estate) opening off the Hammersmith Road, and extending as far south as the present-day course of Pembroke Gardens. (fn. 170)
In 1825 Lord Kensington offered to present a site for a church at the south end of the square, (fn. 171) but this proposal was given up in 1826, probably on account of the financial misfortunes of the Brindleys which are described below, and the new church was built on Lord Holland's estate as St. Barnabas's, Addison Road. (fn. 172)
The Brindleys engaged Cutbush on their own account to prepare the designs of the houses to be built, for which he later claimed a fee of £50. They also employed him to organize the building of the carcases of the houses, and his subsequent claim for digging the foundations and for bricklayer's, carpenter's and mason's work amounted to £740, most of the materials being evidently supplied by the Brindleys. Cutbush also designed and built a lodge (now demolished) at the entrance to the square, which he later used as his ‘counting house’ or office. (fn. 173)
By October 1824 the first houses had been covered-in, and Lord Kensington therefore granted leases to the Brindleys of Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Warwick Square East, now Nos. 1–5 (odd) Warwick Gardens, at an annual ground rent of £10 per house. (fn. 174) As it was the Brindleys' practice ‘to barter their work as builders with plumbers, plasterers and others who were to complete the Houses erected by them’, they placed contracts for this purpose with John Smith, plasterer, W. Dutton, plumber and painter, and Thomas Blackford, smith, for the payment of each of whom the Brindleys undertook to secure a ground lease of one house from Lord Kensington. (fn. 175)
Work accordingly began on the completion of the three houses on the east side, whilst on the west side the Brindleys started to erect five carcases; and in June 1825 Lord Kensington executed the lease of No. 1 Warwick Square West (later No. 2 Warwick Gardens, now demolished) to Cutbush, who had been nominated as the lessee by the Brindleys in part payment for his services to them. (fn. 176) By August, however, the Brindleys owed Lord Kensington over £1,500 for bricks made upon an adjoining part of his estate, and when they applied to him on behalf of Smith, Dutton and Blackford for leases of three of the carcases on the west side, he refused to comply, alleging that the houses in question were still ‘in a very unfinished state’ and not even protected from the weather. Thereupon Smith, Dutton and Blackford refused to continue to work on the houses on the east side. (fn. 177)
The underlying cause of these problems was the credit crisis which first became apparent towards the autumn of 1825, (fn. 178) and which helped to precipitate the collapse of the great post-war building boom. In February 1826 the Brindleys were declared bankrupt with total debts of over £66,000. Most of these debts were not associated with the speculation in Warwick Square, but they did include £1,387 owed to Lord Kensington. The Brindleys' assets (including debts owed to them), however, were valued at £71,000, leaving a balance in their favour of some £5,000. (fn. 179)
In March 1826 the Brindleys' estates were conveyed to three assignees in bankruptcy, one being John Nash, the architect, to whom they owed money in connection with their business interests at the Regent's Canal basin. (fn. 180) The assignees quickly made arrangements to complete the two unfinished houses on the east side, (fn. 181) one house (now No. 3 Warwick Gardens) having been completed but not occupied before the Brindleys' bankruptcy. But Lord Kensington had other ideas and served them with a declaration of ejectment on the grounds of a breach of the original building agreement. Nash and the other assignees riposted with a complaint in Chancery requesting an injunction to restrain Lord Kensington, but they were unsuccessful and in November he obtained possession. Two months later the assignees started another suit to obtain an injunction to prevent Lord Kensington from selling the houses. (fn. 182)
After a delay of over two years the whole matter was settled out of court in March 1829. Possession of one of the two disputed houses (now No. 5) was confirmed to Lord Kensington, who agreed that if within six months the assignees could find a purchaser to complete the other one (No. 1), he would grant a new lease of it; but if they failed the house was to revert to him. The assignees also surrendered all their interest in the remaining undeveloped land covered by the original agreement of 1822 with the Brindleys. (fn. 183)
The assignees in fact found a purchaser for No. 1 in John Timbs, a builder from Clerkenwell, to whom Lord Kensington, with their consent, granted a lease towards the end of 1829. (fn. 184) At about the same time he also found a lessee for No. 5 in Anthony Aslat, a Hammersmith builder; (fn. 185) but (perhaps because of the open sewer at the end of the back gardens here, which he had evidently never screened with the stipulated mound and trees) he had to wait for ten years for a lessee for the remaining two plots in the range (the sites of Nos. 7 and 9), in Richard Stanham of Edwardes Terrace, builder. (fn. 186)
On the west side, where the five houses (all now demolished) begun by the Brindleys backed on to Warwick Road, the lease of the northernmost (later No. 2 Warwick Gardens) was confirmed to Cutbush. (fn. 187) Leases of the other four houses in the range were all granted in 1829–30—No. 4 to George Hodgkinson Barrow (occupation unknown). No. 6 to John Smith of Rupert Street, Haymarket, bricklayer and plasterer, and Nos. 8 and 10 to John Timbs. (fn. 188)
Even the surviving eastern range (Plate 112b) is only a fragment of Cutbush's original intention for Warwick Square. As in his contemporaneous Kensington Crescent, Nos. 1–9 (odd) Warwick Gardens have some of the trappings of Nash's terraces around Regent's Park applied to the standard late-Georgian terrace, but the bowed northern end (No. 1) and the pedimented projection of No. 3 are not echoed at the southern end, and the whole group has an air of being unfinished which accurately reflects its history.
The projected garden in the centre seems never to have been formed, but the space for it was partially utilized in 1934, when the polished marble column which had stood in Kensington High Street near the parish church had to be removed as part of a road-widening scheme and was re-erected in Warwick Gardens with a small traffic island around it. The column, designed by H. L. Florence, had originally been erected in memory of Queen Victoria by the inhabitants of Kensington. (fn. 189)
Although by the settlement of 1829 with the Brindleys’ assignees Lord Kensington had regained possession of all the remaining undeveloped land covered by the agreement of 1822, twenty years elapsed before he found a speculator willing to complete the Brindleys' take. This was Thomas Earle, who in 1842–4 had been the principal contractor for the building of the West London Railway (see page 325), and who in November 1849 agreed to take these four acres and build at least twenty houses. (fn. 190)
In January 1850 Martin Joseph Stutely, who had replaced William Cutbush as Lord Kensington's surveyor about 1844 (see page 243), applied to the Metropolitan Commissioners of Sewers for permission to build a sewer along Warwick Gardens, and soon afterwards house-building began under the direction of John Brooks, a builder who acted as ‘agent’ for Earle. (fn. 191)
In 1851–2 leases of six houses on the east side were granted to Earle or his nominees. (fn. 192) This group of houses, Nos. 11–21 (odd) Warwick Gardens, consists of three pairs of stuccoed villas, each with a semi-basement, three full storeys and a low slated roof with overhanging eaves (fig. 111a). They exhibit a variety of façade designs in a basic Italianate idiom, perhaps supplied by Stutely, who had, as ‘the architect’, given notice to the district surveyor of the commencement of building operations by Earle in Warwick Road nearby. (fn. 193) The southern pairs of houses were progressively stepped forward as the width of the roadway was reduced once the concept of a square had been abandoned. Of these houses, No. 17 was at first in Earle's own occupation. (fn. 36)
On the west side the artist Richard Redgrave, who lived at No. 27 Hyde Park Gate, was Earle's nominee in 1855 for the grant of the leases of three semi-detached houses, and two of his sisters were granted the lease of a fourth. (fn. 194) These houses, later Nos. 12–18 (even), were demolished in about 1930.
In the autumn of 1855 Thomas Earle, who four years earlier had asserted that he employed 356 men, (fn. 195) suffered the same fate as the Brindleys before him when he was declared bankrupt. (fn. 196) Two more leases were, however, granted at the nomination of his assignees in October and November of that year, one of them to the builder Richard Stanham, who had earlier been the lessee of Nos. 7 and 9. (fn. 197) They were of Nos. 23 and 25, another pair of houses of similar design to their neighbours to the north.
After this second débâcle the new Lord Kensington (the second Baron having died in 1852) seems to have followed the example of his father in regaining possession of the remaining undeveloped land, for in December 1856 another builder, Samuel Johns, entered into an agreement with him to take over the speculation. (fn. 198) Johns, who at first had an address in Leinster Street, Paddington, and later in Harrow Road, proved to be a more reliable operator, or perhaps he was merely lucky in catching the beginnings of a prolonged building boom shortly after commencing operations here. At all events he quickly built four more pairs of houses on the east side of Warwick Gardens, Nos. 27–41 (odd), of which Lord Kensington granted leases to him or his son, Henry William Johns, in 1858–9. (fn. 199) They are houses with fully stuccoed façades similar to Earle's houses further north but more uniform in their detailing (fig. 111b). Soon afterwards Johns built seven more pairs on the west side, Nos. 20–46 (even) (Plate 113c), all now demolished, the leases of these being granted to him in 1860–1. (fn. 200) By 1862 all the houses on both sides of Warwick Gardens as far as Pembroke Gardens were inhabited. (fn. 36)
Round the corner on the north side of Pembroke Gardens Johns built a detached house for his own occupation, the lease of which was granted to him in 1860. (fn. 201) This pleasant villa with old-fashioned detailing for its date was originally called Garibaldi Villa and is now No. 35 Pembroke Gardens (fig. 112).
Except for No. 29, which was destroyed by enemy action in the war of 1939–45, all the houses on the east side of Warwick Gardens between Kensington High Street and Pembroke Gardens still survive. No. 11 was the home of G. K. Chesterton (1874–1936), the poet, novelist and critic, during his childhood and until his marriage in 1901. (fn. 202)
The artist William Holman Hunt occupied the first house on the west side, No. 2 (now demolished), at the time of the census of 1881, but his residence there was probably brief as he is not listed at the address in directories, and later in the same year he purchased Draycott Lodge, Fulham, where he was to live for over twenty years. (fn. 203)
All the houses on the west side as far south as Pembroke Gardens have been demolished and replaced by blocks of flats. These were erected by the Prudential Assurance Company, which acquired the freehold of the site after the sale of this part of the Edwardes estate in 1903. The process began in 1926–7 with the demolition of Nos. 2–10 (even) and the building of the first of three neo-Georgian red-brick blocks called St. Mary Abbot's Court. This one has a frontage to Kensington High Street with shops and a bank at ground-floor level. The joint architects for the company were C. H. Roberts and Messrs. Joseph. The other blocks of the same name and of similar design were erected in 1930–3 and 1933–5 in place respectively of Nos. 12–18 and 20–26 (even). In 1970–1 Durrels House, which is also brick-faced, but in a plainer modern style, replaced Nos. 28–46 (even). The design was supplied by L. H. Nixon of the company's Architect's Department. (fn. 204)
In the curved part of Warwick Gardens, to the south of Pembroke Gardens, building began in the late 1850s on the south-west side. Here the builder James Hall erected twenty-seven houses, numbered at first as 1–27 Warwick Crescent from south to north, but renumbered in 1869 as 50–102 (even) Warwick Gardens from north to south (Plate 113b). Despite their original name the houses here do not form a true crescent but are arranged in three straight terraces at a slight angle to each other. A small gap between Nos. 76 and 78 led to a vacant triangular site at the rear which was not part of the ground taken by Hall and was soon afterwards let to the Kensington Vestry as a site for a depot (see page 283). For the most part Hall built conventional two-bay terraced houses containing a basement and three main storeys with a bay window on the basement and ground floor and grey brick façdes with stucco dressings above. Occasionally a double-fronted house is included in the sequence, wider but shallower than its neighbours. Hall was granted leases of all the houses in 1859, (fn. 205) but some were not occupied until 1866. (fn. 36) By this time Hall himself had been declared bankrupt, largely as a result of over-extending himself on the Holland estate to the north of Kensington High Street, which had been his principal sphere of operations over the preceding decade, (fn. 206) and several of the houses he had built in Warwick Gardens were then in the leasehold ownership of Coutts Bank. (fn. 207) At that time the site of St. Barnabas's Church House (now the New Apostolic Church) to the north of No. 50 was still vacant, having originally been intended for an extension of the roadway of Pembroke Gardens as far as Warwick Road, but the small Gothic structure (Plate 113c), which served both as a parish hall and as an additional church for the large congregation of St. Barnabas's, was built there shortly afterwards under a building lease granted in June 1868. (fn. 208) Most of Hall's houses survive, but Nos. 82–88 (even) were damaged during the war of 1939–45 and were replaced in 1949–52 by flat-fronted brick houses to the designs of Alexander G. Black, architect. (fn. 209)
The north-west side of the curve, opposite Hall's houses, was built up in the 1860s. The first leases to be granted here were of Nos. 67–73 (odd) in December 1863. (fn. 210) The lessee was Peter Keeley, the publican at the nearby Kensington Arms public house in Warwick Road, and the builder was probably Henry William Johns' to whom leases of Nos. 63 and 65 were granted in March 1866. (fn. 211) These three pairs of houses are virtually indentical, each house having a side entrance, a stuccoed semi-basement and ground floor with a bay window, and two brick-faced storeys above with stucco dressings that have been drastically ‘scraped’ in recent years. To their north two short terraces of five houses each, Nos. 43–51 and 53–61 (odd), were built by the prominent Kensington builders, Thomas Huggett and Thomas Hussey, evidently acting in partnership, Hussey being granted leases of Nos. 43–51 and Huggett of Nos. 53–61, all in 1867. (fn. 212) These houses are similar to Johns' further to the south, though with more prominent columned porches. Apart from No. 43, which has been much simplified and possibly largely rebuilt, and No. 61, which has been demolished, their decorative features have also been better preserved. All the houses in this part of the street were occupied by 1870, when the long saga of the original development of Warwick Gardens came to an end. The first occupant of No. 59, from 1868 to his death there in 1870, was the sporting writer Henry Hall Dixon (‘The Druid’). (fn. 213)
To the north of No. 43 the large plot at the south corner with Pembroke Gardens was occupied by a Wesleyan chapel (see page 393) until its demolition in 1927. It was replaced by three pairs of semi-detached houses, Nos. 41A and 41B Warwick Gardens and 31–34 Pembroke Gardens, which were designed in an attractive amalgam of styles by the Estate Department of the Prudential Assurance Company, Chief Surveyor G. A. Coombe (Plate 114a). They have basement garages which are entered from a communal courtyard at the rear, and the ground floors are supported by steel and concrete rafts, an arrangement which was then described as a ‘very novel’ experiment. The builders were James Smith and Sons (Norwood) Limited. (fn. 214) Nos. 33 and 34 Pembroke Gardens were virtually completely rebuilt to their original designs after the war of 1939–45, in which they had been severely damaged by enemy action.
In July 1822 Lord Kensington agreed to let some nine acres of land on the south side of the Hammersmith Road, bounded on the west by the Counter's Creek sewer and on the east by what is now Warwick Road, and extending some 650 feet southwards from the main road. (fn. 215) The developer was Adam Tirrell, variously described as of Clerkenwell, baker, (fn. 216) of Kensington, gentleman or builder, (fn. 217) or of Lee in Kent, farmer. (fn. 218) His term was for ninety-nine years from Lady Day 1822, and the rent was to rise from £75 per annum in 1824 to £300 in 1827. (fn. 219)
Tirrell quickly started to build a range of fourteen substantial houses (Nos. 1–14 Kensington Crescent, now demolished), the carcases of which Lord Kensington leased to him in March 1825. (fn. 220) Soon afterwards Tirrell mortgaged several of these houses for £900 (fn. 221) and under-leased six of them, three of his sub-lessees being tradesmen who had done part of the building work for him, namely Thomas Kitson of Holborn and William George Wilmot of Kensington, both plumbers, and John Buckingham of Kensington Place, carpenter. (fn. 222)
Tirrell was pre-eminently a speculator looking for a quick return, for in June 1823 (within less than a year of his agreement with Lord Kensington) he had assigned all the rest of his land to G. T. R. Reynal of Camberwell, esquire. (fn. 223) In April 1827 Lord Kensington granted Reynal leases of another fourteen houses (Nos. 15–28 Kensington Crescent, also demolished) and of all the remaining land originally taken by Tirrell. (fn. 224) A party to these leases was John Plaskett of Gracechurch Street, a City merchant who must have had a considerable financial stake in the building of the crescent. In September of the same year the local builder Benjamin Clutterbuck applied on Plaskett's behalf to the Westminster Commissioners of Sewers for permission to lay drains from all twenty-eight houses into a sewer which was about to be constructed at the back of the crescent. (fn. 225)
Kensington Crescent (Plate 112a) originally consisted of two slightly curved ranges each of fourteen houses, set back from the Hammersmith Road behind a shallow lawn and shrubbery. The two ranges were separated by a road which was intended to lead southwards into a network of narrow streets lined with some eighty houses. Only a hand-ful of these, in fact, ever materialized, all on or near the Warwick Road frontage (see page 287). The architect of the handsome stucco-faced four-storey houses in the crescent was evidently Lord Kensington's surveyor, William Cutbush, who designed the very similar houses in the adjacent Warwick Square (now Warwick Gardens, see above) and whose signature appears on a layout plan for Tirrell's ‘take’. (fn. 226)
Although leases of all twenty-eight houses had been granted within five years of the date of the original building agreement, Kensington Crescent never archieved much distinction. In 1830 only half a dozen houses were in occupation, and even in 1835 three of them were still empty. (fn. 36) There were a number of factors which made it unlikely that the crescent would ever become a desirable place of residence. The large basin of the Kensington Canal, which was constructed in the same years that the crescent was being erected, occupied an area a short distance to the south, there were plans for a railway from Willesden running near or even through the crescent, and there were constant problems of surface water drainage (such as ‘a vast quantity of stagnant water and other offensive matter’ nearby in 1842 (fn. 227) ). When the railway was finally built in 1836–44 the western most house was demolished to make way for it, and during the construction of more lines for the West London Extension Railway in 1859–63 three more houses were demolished. At the same time the vacant ground between the crescent and the canal basin was used for an enormous coal depot, the sidings of which extended to within less than a hundred feet of the back gardens of the crescent.
Lord Kensington, the original progenitor of the crescent, lived out his last miserable penniless years at No. 23 from at least 1845 until his death there on 10 August 1852. (fn. 228) A resident of much greater note was the German-born electrical engineer (Sir) William Siemens, who lived at No. 1 (formerly the residence of the contractor Thomas Earle) from 1853 until his marriage in 1859. (fn. 229) Gottfried Semper, the German refugee architect who was a member of the Science and Art Department during the formative years of the South Kensington Museum, stayed with Siemens in 1853–5. Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows and Secretary of the Bank of England, lived at No. 5 from 1895 to 1900. (fn. 230)
Isolated and increasingly forlorn, the remaining portion of Kensington Crescent was demolished in the mid 1930s. Charles House, a large block of offices now occupied by government departments, was built on the site in 1948–50 to the designs of Arthur S. Ash. (fn. 231)