Survey of London: Volume 42, Kensington Square To Earl's Court. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1986.
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CHAPTER XVIII - The Edwardes Estate: East of Earl's Court Road
Up to the mid 1860s the substantial portion of the Edwardes estate which lay to the east of Earl's Court Road—an area originally of some thirty-eight and a half acres—remained entirely undeveloped, the land having been let for several decades past to market gardeners, (fn. 1)In 1864, however, the passing of two Acts of Parliament authorizing the construction of both the Metropolitan and Metropolitan District Railways across the eastern part of this land provided the stimulus for development. About eleven acres were acquired by the railway companies, the formal conveyances taking place in 1866 and 1867, (fn. 2) and as half an acre had already been sold in 1859 for an addition to the site of the workhouse of the parishes of St. Margaret and St. John, Westminster, which abutted on the northern boundary of Lord Kensington's land. (fn. 3) approximately twenty-seven acres were left for speculative development (fig. 118).
The first step towards this was taken in 1866 when Lord Kensington arranged in conjunction with his neighbouring landowners, Robert Gunter and Henry Browne Alexander, to extend Cromwell Road from Gloucester Road, where it then ended, to Earl's Court Road. A successful tender of £7,779 was submitted by the builder John Sprake of Kinnerton Street, Belgravia, for constructing a sewer and an eighty-foot-wide roadway flanked by twelvefoot-wide pavements. (fn. 4)
In October 1869, when the new road had been completed, Lord Kensington's surveyor, Martin Stutely, submitted a plan for the formation of Lexham Gardens (then called Lexham Road) and the extension of Wright's Lane to Cromwell Road. (fn. 5) This was approved by the Metropolitan Board of Works and the roads were laid out, apparently at Lord Kensington's expense, the money later being recouped from builders who took plots of land under agreement. (fn. 6) The communal garden towards the eastern end of Lexham Gardens (which no doubt accounted for the change of name from Road to Gardens in 1878) was, however, added to the original layout in 1877, (fn. 7) and the positions of the various mews were determined by the builders. The reason for choosing the name Lexham for the new road is obscure; East and West Lexham are villages in Norfolk and the Edwardes family had at one time owned or leased Heydon Hall in the same county, (fn. 8) but they are some distance apart.
First Developers of the Area
It was not apparently until the roads had been completed that Lord Kensington entered into arrangements with builders to erect houses on the street frontages. Slightly under twenty-three acres were available (presumably after deducting the area taken up by roadways) and by some half-dozen agreements these were let at a total ground rent of £3,400, or almost exactly £150 per acre. (fn. 9) The leasehold terms were to be for ninety-nine years calculated from 1870, 1871 or 1872, depending on the date of the agreement concerned. The builders who initially took land under these agreements were Thomas Huggett, John Sprake, William Henry Cullingford, George Gregory (who, however, only built one house, No. 171 Cromwell Road, before Cullingford took over his remaining ground) and Samuel Juler Wyand.
Thomas Huggett: Nos. 99–105 (odd) Earl's Court Road, Tower House and 255 Cromwell Road (demolished)
Huggett, who was currently developing West Cromwell Road (see page 287), took two areas, the frontage to Earl's Court Road to the south of Lexham Gardens and a much larger piece of ground at the eastern end of Lexham Gardens, where, however, he does not appear to have undertaken any building himself but arranged for other builders to take plots. He was the first—in January 1871–to give notice of his intention to begin building in the area, commencing with the now-demolished No. 255 Cromwell Road at the south-east corner with Earl's Court Road. (fn. 10) In the following year, on the opposite side of Cromwell Road, he built Tower House, a detached Italianate villa in white brick with stucco dressings which has a distinctive belvedere tower with oval windows at the corner (Plate 116b). (fn. 11) The first occupant, for whom the house may have been built, was Thomas Plews, a solicitor. (fn. 12) A later resident was Imre Kiraldy, who was for many years associated with the Earl's Court Exhibition (see page 333). He lived there from 1896 until 1919, the year of his death (when he left over £136,000). (fn. 13) The house is now occupied by the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. In 1873 Huggett also built the four-storeyed Italianate terrace to the north of Tower House, which was originally numbered 103–109 (odd) Earl's Court Road and is now Nos. 99–105 (odd). (fn. 14) Of stock brick with stucco dressings, these houses differ from the general run of those erected by Huggett and from most of the houses in the Lexham Gardens area in having Ionic rather than Doric porticoes.
John Sprake: No. 97 Earl's Court Road, and Nos. 120–146 (even) and 150 Lexham Gardens
John Sprake, from Belgravia, had recently constructed Cromwell Road and was thus on hand to undertake a speculation in the area. He took two plots, one in the north west of the area and the other a very small one in the southeast, on the south side of Cromwell Road. He began building in March 1871 in Earl's Court Road, where he erected the three-house terrace to the south of St. Philip's Church. (fn. 15) These houses were originally numbered 97–101 (odd) Earl's Court Road, but Nos. 99 and 101 have been joined together and renumbered as 150 Lexham Gardens (Mulwarrie House). They are straightforward Italianate houses with a basement, three main storeys and attics, stuccoed to first-floor level and faced with stock brick and stucco dressings above. In the following year Sprake began building the first houses in Lexham Gardens and over the next three years was responsible for the range now numbered 120–146 (even). (fn. 16) These are equally conventional Italianate terrace houses with four storeys over a semibasement. The façades, which are of white brick with stucco dressings, have bay windows up to first-floor level and Doric porticoes (Plate 119a). Sprake assigned the small plot on the south side of Cromwell Road to William Watts, another builder from Belgravia, whose work here is described below, and after about 1875 he ceased building in the area, although as late as 1885 he was granted leases of stables in Lexham Mews, which were apparently built for him by another firm. (fn. 17) By then he had become a partner in the large contracting firm of Sprake and Foreman. (fn. 12)
William Henry Cullingford: Nos. 162–198 (even) and 173 Cromwell Road (162–186 demolished), 1A and 2A Marloes Road, and Pennant Mews
William Henry Cullingford came from a family of builders which had erected a number of houses in Ledbury Road and Pembridge Crescent, to the north of Notting Hill Gate, in the 1840s and 1850s. He had then moved on to the Phillimore estate, on the north side of Kensington High Street, and built houses in Phillimore Gardens in the early 1860s. (fn. 18) In 1871 he was living in one of these houses, No. 7 Phillimore Gardens, with his wife and two servants and described himself as a master builder, employing thirty-two men and three boys, and a landowner. He was then forty-one years of age. (fn. 19)
In April 1871 Cullingford entered into an agreement with Lord Kensington to develop the whole of the northside frontage of Cromwell Road to the east of Huggett's corner plot (the site of Tower House) as far as the Metropolitan District Railway. He began building almost immediately in the section between the north-south arm of Lexham Gardens and Marloes Road and by 1872 had erected nine large houses. Six were built as linked pairs, but the westernmost three had wider frontages of about forty-two feet and were quasi-detached, that is joined at the rear only. (fn. 20) All of these houses, Nos. 162–178 (even) Cromwell Road, have been demolished, and their sites are now occupied by the Cromwell Hospital and the Elizabetta Hotel. To the west of Marloes Road, in 1872–6, Cullingford erected another ten houses of the quasi-detached variety, Nos. 180–198 (even) Cromwell Road (Plates 116c, 117). (fn. 21) Of these, Nos. 188–198 survive, although No. 190 has been reconstructed with different storey heights and fenestration after suffering damage during the war of 1939–45. Originally these houses were all given Scottish names and were known as the ‘Scotch Houses’, suggesting that the Cullingford family may have been of Scottish origin.
In 1872 The Architect took particular interest in Cullingford's work here, noting that he proposed to build some fifty houses in all at a cost of about £4,000 each, which meant that ‘the extent of the entire undertaking, with its various other accessory expenditure, may be roughly stated at a quarter of million of money. Nine houses are already in hand, and all that are completed have been sold’. After inspecting one of the houses, the correspondent reported that ‘The staircases throughout are of Painswick stone, supplied by Tuffley, of Gloucester. The hall has a fire-proof floor, with tile arches, and is laid with Minton's encaustic tiles … Hot water is provided throughout the various floors for baths, &c, as required; the work executed by Messrs. Pensom, of Great Portland Place, who have also laid on the gas throughout … The bell-hanging throughout, and also the open ornamental iron railway [sic] enclosing the front courts, are by Mr. [Joseph] Marter of Notting Hill. As regards the external elevations, the facing is of gault bricks from the Burham Company, and the dressings in cement from Messrs. Francis; the character Classical, rather unusually bold in detail. Each house has a portico, with two banded stone columns and a dentil cornice, which also runs as a string along the front; the one-pair windows have angular pediments with bold enriched trusses, and the two-pair windows plain architrave mouldings with the line broken at the angles. Above is the main cornice, about 4 feet in girth, with an enriched fascia, and the windows of the floor above, with plain dressings complete the elevation. The modelling and execution of the enrichments for the interior have been carried out by Messrs. Herbert & Son, of Parker Street, Drury Lane; and the decorations will be in the hands of Mr. Woods, of Kensington [probably Charles Woods of No. 2 Earl's Court Terrace, now 69 Earl's Court Road].’ The author also thought it ‘worth notice that throughout the houses there are no woodenframed partitions, brick walls of various thicknesses dividing the various rooms, and being carried, where required, upon rolled wrought-iron joists’, a feature of construction which no doubt helps to explain why, in 1908, the billiardroom at No. 192 was on the first floor. At that date this house had in addition three reception rooms (on the ground floor), twelve bedrooms, two dressing-rooms, two bathrooms, two lavatories, seven water closets, and the usual extensive domestic offices in the basement. (fn. 22)
The article in The Architect described at length a scheme of interior finishing for one of the houses which had been carried out under the direction of the architect Thomas Harris, but his was an individual commission for the purchaser of that house, and no other architect's name is cited. The surveyor and architect Philip Wilkinson applied to the Metropolitan Board of Works on Cullingford's behalf for permission to form Pennant Mews, but in a curriculum vitae which he later submitted to the Royal Institute of British Architects he does not cite the design of any houses here, and he was probably acting solely as a surveyor. (fn. 23) It is likely Cullingford was sufficiently experienced to act as his own architect, and some of the motifs used on the façades of his houses here can also be found on his earlier houses in Pembridge Crescent and Phillimore Gardens, in particular the banded columns to the porches, though here with plain Doric capitals rather than idiosyncratic Composite ones as in the earlier houses, the continuous dentilled string at first-floor level and the distinctive guilloche-band ornament in the frieze of the main cornice. Overall, however, the houses in Cromwell Road are in a more mature classical manner, better proportioned and with more ‘correct’ ornament, than their predecessors.
Cullingford built one more house on the south side of Cromwell Road (No. 173, Plate 118b) in 1874–5 and this is a fine double-fronted house, similar in design to his houses on the north side, but with the main cornice (and a crowning balustrade) above the third floor and bold strings at first-floor level (ornamented with a guilloche band) and second-floor level (with a Greek key motif). (fn. 24) He also built two smaller terraced houses on the east side of Marloes Road (Nos. 1A and 2A) in 1877 (see page 292), (fn. 25) and stables and coach-houses in Pennant Mews and Lexham Mews (Nos. 19A and 20). (fn. 26) Even Cullingford's mews buildings are of a superior description. Most of those on the south side of Pennant Mews have been demolished but on the north side there is an impressive two-storeyed range, which is now being sympathetically converted into consulting rooms and offices for the Cromwell Hospital under the direction of the Holder and Mathias Partnership. Elsewhere on his building ground Cullingford appears to have left the actual building to others, though he may have been quite closely involved in the work of George Stevens and George Colls (see below).
Cullingford, who throughout this period is entered in the ‘Court’ section of the Post Office Directory but not in the ‘Trade’ section, continued to live at No. 7 Phillimore Gardens until about 1887, when he moved to No. 198 Cromwell Road. He lived there for about seven years before retiring to Tunbridge Wells, where he died on 8 April 1898, leaving effects of £67,000. (fn. 27)
George Gregory: No. 171 Cromwell Road
The fourth of the builders who originally agreed to take ground here from Lord Kensington, George Gregory, had an address in Harrow Road, and was currently building houses near South Kensington Station. He need hardly concern us further, however, as he withdrew from the scene after building No. 171 Cromwell Road, a very ordinary Italianate terraced house, in 1872–3. (fn. 28)
Samuel Juler Wyand: Nos. 1–35 (odd) and 2–26 (even) Marloes Road, 2–30 (even) Stratford Road, 40–104 (even) and 57–105 (odd) Lexham Gardens, and Radley Mews
Samuel Juler Wyand, the last of the original group of builders, was an entirely different proposition and was eventually to prove the most prolific of all builders in the area, erecting over 100 houses and numerous mews buildings between 1872 and 1884. The Wyand family came from Halvergate in Norfolk (where Wyands were still farming in 1887 (fn. 29)), and the first indication of their presence in London was in the early 1850s when Samuel Juler Wyand senior, Wyand's father, was operating as a speculative builder in Hereford Road, Paddington, before becoming insolvent in 1855. (fn. 30) Samuel Juler Wyand the younger (as he is first recorded in deeds) then appears to have begun an independent career as a builder and was being granted building leases of houses in St. Pancras by 1858, (fn. 31) when he would have been about twenty-four years old. Over the next decade he built houses in Paddington and North Kensington, and in 1871, when he was living in St. Lawrence Terrace, North Kensington, with his wife and six children, he described himself in the census return as a retired builder aged thirty-seven (fn. 32)
Any ‘retirement’ was brief, however, for in January 1872 Wyand began building in Marloes Road, probably so named after Marloes village in the Edwardes family's home county of Pembrokeshire. In the course of 1872–4 he built the four terraces on either side of the street-openings into Lexham Gardens, consisting of Nos. 1–35 (odd) and 2–26 (even) Marloes Road. (fn. 33)
Even in this relatively short stretch of Marloes Road Wyand varied the appearance of his terraces, a practice which he continued to adopt throughout Lexham Gardens. Nos. 1–15 (odd) Marloes Road have four main storeys above a semi-basement and are of a conventional Italianate design with Doric porches and bay windows on the ground floor supporting a continuous balustraded balcony and white brick façades above with stucco window architraves, those on the first floor having pediments which are segmental in the centre of the terrace and triangular at the ends. North of Lexham Gardens, however, at Nos. 17–33 (odd), the houses have only three main storeys above a basement, plus attics with prominent arched windows interrupting a crowning balustrade. Other differences are that the bay windows continue up to the first floor with triple windows above the bay at second-floor level, while there is a modillion cornice instead of a deep bracketed one as in the southern terrace. Nos. 17–21 form a sub-group within the terrace in having flat doorcases with half-columns instead of Doric porches. These doorcases have friezes embellished with a Greek key motif, which Wyand also used on houses in Lexham Gardens. No. 35 is a shallow two-storey building with a shop on the ground floor and was first used by Wyand himself. (fn. 12) On the opposite side of Marloes Road, Nos. 2–12 and 14–26 (even) are virtually identical terraces which are similar to Nos. 23–33 but once again revert to four main storeys. Nos. 1A and 2A Marloes Road, which were built by Cullingford, as indicated above, basically harmonize with Wyand's terrace to their north but have bay windows up to the second floor.
In 1873–4 Wyand also built two terraces on the south side of Stratford Road, Nos. 2–20 and 22–30 (even), separated by the entrance to Radley Mews, which he laid out in the angle between Stratford Road and Marloes Road. (fn. 34) Nos. 2–20 Stratford Road have ground-floor shops and three floors of living accommodation above faced in stock brick with elaborate stucco dressings, while Nos. 22–30 are plainer three-storey houses, though embellished with a similar modillion cornice. Wyand also built all of the stabling in Radley Mews with the exception of Nos. 18–20 (consec.), which were erected by William Watts (see below).
Wyand began building in Lexham Gardens in 1874, his first houses there being Nos. 90–104 (even), the tall range on the north side immediately to the west of Marloes Road (Plate 119a). (fn. 35) These houses, with five full storeys above basements, have fully stuccoed façades and are flat-fronted apart from deep Doric porches and contrastingly shallow balconies in front of the very elongated first-floor windows. Wyand himself had moved into No. 104 by 1876, and as Nos. 98–102 were seemingly not occupied for over ten years he may also have been using those houses to store materials or for some other purpose connected with his business. (fn. 12) He added Nos. 106 and 108 to this range in 1877, (fn. 36) though these houses were probably built without the topmost storey, that at No. 106 appearing to be an addition, and have two windows rather than one large one on the ground floor. They are also slightly different in plan.
The identical terrace to Nos. 90–104 on the opposite side of Lexham Gardens at Nos. 57–75 (odd) was begun in 1875 by Wyand, (fn. 37) who also went on to build the remaining group of houses on the south side, Nos. 77–105 (odd), in 1875–9, either under his first or a subsequent building agreement (fig. 119). (fn. 38) The first six of this latter group, Nos. 77–87, continue the façade treatment of the earlier houses with minor variations, such as the placing of a bay window on the ground floor and the restriction of a pediment to the central window on the first floor instead of to all three, but they are different on plan, with far less depth to the ground floor. At Nos. 89–105, however, Wyand used an entirely different design. These houses are faced in white brick with stucco dressings and have bay windows up to the first floor. They have four main storeys instead of five and were probably originally without attics. Moreover their storey heights above the ground floor are lower than at Nos. 57–87 so that the join between Nos. 87 and 89 is visually disturbing, and only the similarity of the Doric porticoes (though that at No. 89 is wider) and the ironwork gives a clue that these two houses were by the same builder. Of the later group of houses, Nos. 101–105 are larger, with wider frontages, and have a slightly different treatment of the upper-storey windows. These variations in façade design and plan in a terrace of twentyfive houses erected by one builder over four or five years are probably the result of a conscious attempt on the part of Wyand to provide a wide range of choice for potential tenants or purchasers. There is no clear evidence from directories that the larger houses were any slower of occupancy.
To the east of Marloes Road, Wyand also built all of the houses which are ranged around the north side of the communal garden of Lexham Gardens, namely Nos. 40–44 and 48–88 (even), between 1877 and 1884 (Plate 118a). (fn. 39) Once again there are variations in the design of groups of houses, though here more clearly related to the dates of building. Wyand began with Nos. 72–78, which have five full storeys above a basement and are similar in façadedesign to Nos. 77–87, except that they are faced with white brick and stucco dressings rather than stuccoed all over. At Nos. 80–88, which followed next, and Nos. 48–70 and 40–44, which completed his work in the area, Wyand reverted to the four-storey building type of Nos. 89–105 with triple windows in the upper storeys as at Nos. 101–105. A minor variation at Nos. 80–88 is the use of cement balustrades above the porticoes rather than the ornamental iron rails between thick dies of his other houses.
Wyand's houses were well-appointed internally. Sale particulars of No. 87 in 1907 stressed the ample domestic offices, stone staircase, numerous bedrooms, and goodsized reception rooms, including a lofty double drawingroom divided ‘by a carved Moorish arch’, (fn. 40) The architect George Devey provided schemes for the interior embellishment of No. 65 and possibly other houses in Lexham Gardens. The designs appear to date from 1885, when Wyand may have been fitting out houses for new tenants or purchasers. By that time his main area of building operations had moved to Lennox Gardens. Chelsea, where Devey designed some of the houses he erected. If the work at No. 65 was carried out, no trace of it now survives. (fn. 41)
At the time of the census of 1881 Wyand was living at No. 104 Lexham Gardens. By then he had eight children, and could afford to employ a housemaid, cook and nursemaid, whereas ten years previously he had apparently had no servants. He described himself as a builder employing twenty men. He continued to live at No. 104 until shortly after his wife's death in 1911. (fn. 42) Thereafter the house was sub-divided. He himself died in late 1918 or early 1919 at the age of eighty-five, (fn. 43) but no will or administration of his estate has been found.
The second group of builders in the Lexham Gardens area, who took land by arrangement with the original recipients of building agreements, were, in chronological order of their work, William Watts, George Edward Mineard, William Ashfold, George Stevens and George Colls, James Whitaker, William Reid and William Adams, William Henry Willis, Myers and Company, William Douglas, Thomas Hussey, and William Cooke.
William Watts: Nos. 161–169 (odd) Cromwell Road and 18–20 (consec.) Radley Mews
William Watts, of Motcomb Street, Belgravia, was quickly on the scene, and by March 1872 he had taken over from John Sprake the small triangular piece of ground at the extreme south-east corner of this part of the estate, to the south of Cromwell Road. (fn. 44) Watts was an experienced builder of long standing, having built houses in Mayfair as early as 1856 and others of a very substantial nature in Queen's Gate and Queen's Gate Terrace, Kensington, in the 1860s. (fn. 45) His business address in Belgravia was in an adjoining street to Sprake's. In 1872 he erected a pair of unexceptional Italianate houses in white brick with stucco dressings at Nos. 167 and 169 Cromwell Road, (fn. 46) but was then left with a very awkwardly shaped plot to the east. Accordingly, in the following year, Lord Kensington and Robert Gunter exchanged land here to rationalize their estate boundaries for building purposes, (fn. 47) and Watts was able to obtain sufficient ground for three houses, numbered 161–165 (odd) Cromwell Road (Plate 118c) though the entrance to No. 161 is actually in Knaresborough Place. He began building the houses in May 1874, (fn. 48) but instead of adhering to a conventional builder's Italianate design he called in the architect. T. R. Parker of Parliament Street to give them more flair. The result is a group of richly ornamented houses with four tall storeys above a semi-basement, plus an attic storey with high pedimented windows above the cornice. They are unusually, for their date, faced with red bricks and copious stucco and stone enrichments including Doric porticoes with triglyph friezes, balconies carried on heavy brackets and bay windows up to the second floor. The journal The Architect took interest in the houses during their construction, reporting that the bricks were supplied by Mr. Bird of Hammersmith, the Portland stone for the columns of the porticoes, the window sills and elsewhere by Dike and Bruton, and Portland cement for the dressings by John Bazley White and Brothers. Rolled iron was used in construction, and came from Matthew T. Shaw of Cannon Street, and for the finishings John Floyd Gibbs of Knightsbridge was to supply marble chimneypieces. Hot water apparatus was to be provided ‘for service on all the different floors’ and particular attention was paid to the trapping and ventilation of the drainage; in addition there was a special ventilating air-shaft running up above the height of the chimney-stacks. (fn. 49)
Watts also erected three spacious coach-houses and stables in Radley Mews (Nos. 18–20) and as he was granted leases of these on the same day as the houses in Cromwell Road, (fn. 50) it seems likely that they were intended to provide stabling for those houses despite their distance away.
George Edward Mineard: Nos. 31–55 (odd) Lexham Gardens (45–53 demolished)
George Edward Mineard was another builder who came south from North Kensington or thereabouts in the early 1870s. He had been born in St. John's, Newfoundland, in about 1838, and appears to have lived in Devon before moving to the London area. (fn. 51) At some time in the 1860s he was living in Islington, but, like George Gregory, he had an address in Harrow Road when, in 1872–3, he built Nos. 111–115 (odd) Earl's Court Road (now demolished) to the south of Redtield Lane. These were on land which then belonged to Lord Kensington but which was not part of the original Edwardes estate, having been purchased by the third Baron in 1866 (see page 220). The building leases of the houses were granted to Mineard by Gregory's direction, and this ground probably formed part of the latter's original ‘take’. (fn. 52) Mineard went on over the next twenty years to build extensively on the Edwardes estate.
In 1875–6 he built Nos. 31–55 (odd) Lexham Gardens, to the east of Marloes Road. (fn. 53) The ground here had been agreed for by Thomas Huggett and he was a party to the building leases which were granted to Mineard. (fn. 54) Of this range, only Nos. 31–43 and 55 (Plate 119b) survive, the intervening houses having been destroyed or severely damaged by bombing in the war of 1939–45 and replaced by a pedestrian red-brick block of flats (Lexham House). Mineard's houses are of gault brick with stucco dressings and have four main storeys above a basement. They are not dissimilar to Wyand's later houses (and may even have provided a model for those) but are more assured in façade-treatment.
William Ashfold: Nos. 19–29 (odd) and 20–34 (even) Lexham Gardens
Most of Huggett's remaining ground in Lexham Gardens was taken by William Ashfold, who had previously been building in Hogarth Road to the east of Earl's Court Road (see page 220) and whose address was No. 4 in that street. In 1875–6 he erected Nos. 20–34 (even) and 19–29 (odd) Lexham Gardens, and, as in the case of Mineard, Huggett was a party to all of the building leases. (fn. 55) Ashfold's houses, which provide yet another type in Lexham Gardens, are tall, with for the most part five full storeys above basements, and deep, especially at Nos. 20–34 (even), where the house plots back on to the railway. In elevational treatment they are busy, with heavy Doric porticoes, bay windows up to the first floor, and profuse cement ornamentation of a basically Italianate kind, but are hardly elegant.
William Douglas: Nos. 36 and 38 Lexham Gardens and Lexham Gardens Mews
To move slightly out of chronological sequence, the completion of Nos. 20–34 on the east side of the north-south arm of Lexham Gardens left a small part of Huggett's ground to the north of No. 34 still undeveloped. There may have been some thought of providing a roadway here over the railway tracks to link up with Cornwall Gardens, then in the course of building, as the lack of east-west communication here posed problems for the occupants of Lexham Gardens (eventually leading to the formation of Lexham Walk, see below). Nothing came of this, however, and in 1882–4 the builder William Douglas erected Nos. 36 and 38 Lexham Gardens and laid out Lexham Gardens Mews on the north side of No. 38. (fn. 56) Douglas was one of the biggest builders in South Kensington, his main area of operations being in Queen's Gate and that vicinity. (fn. 57) Here in Lexham Gardens the architect Henry Godwin submitted a layout plan for the houses and the mews and steered the project with some difficulty through the Metropolitan Board of Works, (fn. 58) and he may well have provided the designs for Nos. 36 and 38 though they are perhaps more orthodox than would normally be expected from his somewhat idiosyncratic pencil. Certainly these houses, with five tall storeys over a semi-basement, bring a touch of the size and grandeur of Queen's Gate to Lexham Gardens. The first leases of the houses were granted to Douglas, with Huggett as a consenting party, (fn. 59) but Douglas went spectacularly bankrupt in 1888 with liabilities of £657,156, (fn. 60) and the leases of the stables and coachhouses in Lexham Gardens Mews were granted in 1891 to two solicitors who were no doubt acting for his creditors. (fn. 61) Douglas's operations were on a vast scale and there is no indication that his work here contributed materially to his bankruptcy. He had in any case let or sold Nos. 36 and 38 to one occupant, Henry Benjamin Lewis, who joined these already very large houses together. (fn. 12)
James Whitaker: Nos. 110–118 (even) Lexham Gardens
Further west, on the north side of Lexham Gardens, another builder, James Whitaker, took over ground which John Sprake had originally intended to develop and in 1876–7 erected Nos. 110–118 (even) Lexham Gardens in continuation of Sprake's range (Plate 119a). Cullingford was also a party, with Sprake, to the leases which were granted to Whitaker, but in what capacity is not known. (fn. 62) Whitaker, who also hailed from the nether reaches of North Kensington (his address being in Kensal Road), produced a highly individual group of houses which relate neither to Sprake's on the west nor Wyand's on the east, and suggest that the estate surveyor's influence over the elevational appearance of houses here was minimal. Basically classical in their stucco dressings, they nevertheless contain hints of the stylistic uncertainty which was beginning to creep in at that time. This is especially evident in the porches which are round-arched and supported on piers with alternate bands of brickwork and cement. The original striped effect is now only evident at No. 110, however, because of overpainting and other alterations at the remaining houses. No. 110 has a wider plot at the rear than the other houses because of the slight bend in the road here and all of the main living-rooms could be accommodated on the ground floor, a feature which was later made a selling-point of the house. (fn. 63) Whitaker went on to build extensively on the Gunter estate and eventually went bankrupt in 1887, but later recovered (see page 206).
Reid and Adams: Nos. 36–46 (even) Stratford Road
A little way to the north of Whitaker's plot, Nos. 36–46 (even) Stratford Road, a terrace of six modest-sized brick and stucco houses with basements, three main storeys and attics, were erected in 1876–8 on ground in which both Sprake and Cullingford had an interest. The builders were William Reid and William Adams of Hammersmith, (fn. 64) but two of the building leases were granted to Cullingford and two to Eli Plater of Leonard Place, Kensington, an architect. (fn. 65)
George Stevens and George Colls: Nos. 158 and 160 Cromwell Road, and 1–7 (odd) and 2–10 (even) Lexham Gardens
The builders of these large and rather grand houses (fig. 120) in 1875–7, on land which had originally formed part of Cullingford's ‘take’, were the partners George Stevens and George Colls of Notting Hill, (fn. 66) who were at the same time building on the south side of Harrington Road at its eastern end. (fn. 67) There is little similarity between their work in the two places, but an undoubted affinity exists between their houses in Lexham Gardens and Cullingford's. The first to be erected, Nos. 1–7 (of which only Nos. 1 and 3 survive), formed two linked pairs and were almost identical on plan to Cullingford's first group of houses in Cromwell Road, and although Stevens and Colls' elevations are more heavily ornamented they embody some of the features of Cullingford's façades. There are similar banded columns to the porticoes, though here fluted in the upper part with Corinthian capitals, and guilloche bands are used in the frieze of the portico, on the first-floor window architraves and as a continuous string at second-floor level. The doorcases, too, are identical with (where they survive) handsome four-panelled doors with embossed bands around the panels. All of the building leases to Stevens and Colls were granted at Cullingford's direction, as holder of the ground under agreement. (fn. 68) The former appear to have benefited little from their speculation here, however, and were both soon declared bankrupt, Stevens in 1880 and Colls in 1881. (fn. 69)
William Henry Willis: Nos. 9–17 (odd) and 12–18 (even) Lexham Gardens, and 241–253 (odd) Cromwell Road (demolished)
Further north in Lexham Gardens, on land which had also been taken by Cullingford in 1871, William Henry Willis, a builder who drifted in and out of the South Kensington, scene, erected Nos. 9–17 (odd) and 12–18 (even) in 1877–8. (fn. 70) He basically copied the design of Ashfold's house-fronts immediately to the north though in smaller houses with generally only four instead of five main storeys. There are also the minor differences in the stucco dressings that could be expected from two builders using an elevation which was perhaps not to be treated with too much reverence.
In 1879–82 Willis also built Nos. 241–253 (odd) Cromwell Road, a terrace of seven houses on the south side of that road towards its western, end together with stabling behind in Redfield Lane, once again on ground for the development of which Cullingford was norminally responsible. (fn. 71) All of these buildings have now been demolished, most of them during the 1970s when West Cromwell Road and the approaches to Earl's Court Road were widened. (fn. n1)
Myers and Company: Nos. 175–239 (odd) Cromwell Road, Lexham Mews and Redfield Lane
Further east on the same side of Cromwell Road, Cullingford let the ground on the west side of his own No. 173 to another building firm, Myers and Company, in the persons of David Myers of Holland Road, builder, and George Hughes of Campden House Road, architect. In 1879–80 they built Nos. 175–191 (odd) Cromwell Road, a terrace of nine five-storey brick-and-stucco houses of the sturdy, correct, but grim-visaged Italianate kind that marked the fag-end of that stylistic period. (fn. 73) By the 1880s, however, the market for such houses had become well and truly saturated, and when in 1884 the estate surveyor, Daniel Cubitt Nichols, sought permission from the Metropolitan Board of Works to erect a different kind of house to the west of No. 191, four of Myers' and six of Willis's houses to the west were marked as empty on his plan. (fn. 74) Cubitt Nichols was proposing to erect buildings with projecting bay windows through all six storeys, and although they were referred to as houses he may have envisaged that they would be sub-divided into chambers. His application was refused, but three years later George Hughes was successful with a plan to erect mansion blocks with projecting bays on the site. (fn. 75) These were duly built by Myers and Company as Nos. 193–239 (odd) Cromwell Road (Cromwell Mansions) in two blocks in 1887–9. (fn. 76) Each block contained twelve flats arranged on six storeys (including the basement) and cost about £25,000 to build; the flats were let at rentals of approximately £200 per annum on average. (fn. 77) They are of more than usual interest in being the first purpose-built blocks of flats to be erected on the Edwardes estate, and their cheerful red-brick façades with extensive stone or cement dressings and multiple iron-railed balconies certainly set a different tone from the dour Italianate houses which immediately preceded them. George Hughes, whose signature appears on the plans, was probably the architect.
Myers and Company also built a large number of stables and coach-houses, both in Redfield Lane behind Cromwell Road and in Lexham Mews, where they were probably responsible for the erection of Nos. 6–18 (consec.) in 1884–5. (fn. 78) The first leases of Nos. 6–12, however, were not granted by Lord Kensington until 1898, and then to Cullingford's widow, while those of Nos. 13–18 were granted to John Sprake in 1885. (fn. 79) Likewise in Redfield Lane Cullingford was the direct lessee of Nos. 24–36 (even), though the whole of the impressive three-storeyed range at Nos. 20–38 (even) and the two-storeyed Redfield Mews were almost certainly built by Myers in 1882–3. (fn. 80) No. 20 was used as a mission hall from shortly after its building up to the war of 1939–45 (fn. 12) and is now a small factory. The remaining buildings in this range have been sympathetically converted into dwelling houses with ground-floor garages and most of the brickwork has been painted in pastel shades.
Thomas Hussey: Huntingdon House, Nos. 200–222 (even) Cromwell Road
When the building of Cromwell Mansions was begun in 1887 on the south side of Cromwell Road, another group of flats was nearing completion almost opposite on the north side of the road. These were in the block now known as Huntingdon House at Nos. 200–222 (even) Cromwell Road (Plate 116c), though here what had been intended as a group of terrace houses had been converted into flats during the course of construction. As the very first flats to be erected on the estate and as a work of the architect Richard Norman, Shaw, Huntingdon House is of more than usual interest.
Here the builder, once again with Cullingford's consent, was Thomas Hussey of Kensington High Street, who has recently been required to build to a design of Shaw's at Albert Hall Mansions. There, too, what Hussey had originally planned as a terrace of houses had, in the course of a long and complex building history, been erected as blocks of flats. (fn. 81) The front blocks of Albert Hall Mansions had already been completed, however, when, in November 1882, Hussey began building a terrace of seven houses to the west of Cullingford's No. 198 on the north side of Cromwell Road. (fn. 82) The designs for the houses were provided by Shaw, presumably this time at Hussey's request, as the evidence suggests that this was a straightforward speculative venture on Hussey's part, and the architect's pencil sketches of typical elevations and house-plans have survived. These are undated, but are on paper watermarked in 1878. (fn. 83) No finished drawings by Shaw have been found, and this is probably an example of the fairly limited role that even famous architects could sometimes play in speculative ventures.
The houses were sufficiently completed in carcase for Lord Kensington to grant leases of at least six of them in 1883–4 to Hussey, who promptly mortgaged three of the leases of a resident of Chelsea for £3,500 each. (fn. 84)
At this date, however, it was becoming increasingly difficult to dispose of large houses in this part of Kensington, and by 1886 there had been a change of plan, for in March of that year Hussey gave notice to the district surveyor that he was about to ‘convert dwelling houses’ into twelve flats. (fn. 85) Additional pencil drawings by Shaw show plans for converting the interiors of the range of houses into flats with a minimum of structural alterations. The central house was adapted to contain the main entrance hall and staircase for the whole block and the three houses on either side were joined together by running lateral corridors through the party walls to create two large flats on each floor, except on the basement and ground floors which housed four double-storey flats, those at the eastern and western ends having their own street entrances. The individual back extensions of the houses were retained, producing some very awkward room arrangements. (fn. 86) Hussey added a double-storey centrepiece and porch to the block (fn. 87) and the individual entrances were omitted, except at either end, but otherwise the house façades as Shaw had designed them were left intact, even to the narrower windows in the right-hand bay of each (house) unit at first- and second-floor levels.
In 1888 Hussey was granted a new lease of the whole block, and he promptly mortgaged this to the Gresham Life Assurance Society. (fn. 88) The change of intention appears to have been justified in that all twelve flats were occupied by 1890. (fn. 12) The block suffered severe damage during the war of 1939–45, and was refurbished and further subdivided about 1950, when the name Huntingdon House was adopted. (fn. 12) The top two storeys have been rendered and somewhat simplified.
Hussey also proposed to build another block of flats on the vacant ground on the north side of Cromwell Road immediately to the west of his first block and in 1891 he engaged the architect F. E. Williams to prepare plans for a six-storey building. (fn. 89) Construction began early in 1892, (fn. 90) but for an unknown reason work stopped when only the foundations had been completed. In 1897 W. H. Cullingford made over the site, in which he still had an interest. through his original building agreement of 1871 with Lord Kensington, to another builder, William Cooke, who had already been responsibly for several speculatively built blocks of flats in South Kensington. (fn. 91) Williams was replaced as architect by Everard White of Queen Anne's Gate, and building work resumed in 1898. Moscow Mansions, as the new block was named, was completed by 1900. (fn. 92) A lease of the building was granted by Lord Kensington to John Coburn of Fulham, gentleman. (fn. 93) Moscow Mansions is an ebullient building, faced with the reddest of red brick and extensive terracotta decoration, and has remained virtually unaltered externally (Plate 116c).
Alma Studios, Startford Road
By the end of the nineteenth century only two small sites remained undeveloped in the whole area. One of these, in Stratford Road, to the west of No. 30 at the corner of an entrance to Radley Mews, was filled in 1902 when the building called Alma Studios was erected. This threestorey red-brick block with large segmental-headed studio windows on the Stratford Road front and balconies to Radley Mews was built by John Barker and Company's Building Department to the designs of Charles R. Guy Hall, a speculating architect who was also the building owner. (fn. 94)
The second site was in the angle between Lexham Walk and No. 48 Lexham Gardens. Lexham Walk had been formed in 1887 after a long campaign by the Vestry to provide a means of communication between Lexham Gardens and Cornwall Gardens. At first both Lord Kensington as the freeholder and Samuel Juler Wyand as the leaseholder had refused to give up land for the purpose, but after a memorial had been received from the inhabitants of Lexham Gardens urging the improvement both acquiesced. Lord Kensington accepted £1,150 for his. Problems were still encountered, however, with the owners of the Broadwood estate in Cornwall Gardens and William Willett, their building lessee. Eventually the Vestry agreed to erect posts at the entrance from Lexham Gardens to prevent any use of the walk by vehicles and Willett accepted £390 for his claims. The construction of the footway was carried out by Nowell and Robson for £525, and they heavy ornamental iron posts which they erected still stand. (fn. 95)
A number of proposals were made for building on the vacant land on the north-west side of Lexham Walk, including one in 1896 by Alfred G. Wyand, architect, the nephew of Samuel Juler Wyand, on behalf of his uncle, for the erection of a block of flats. This is objected to by the Committee of the Kensington Infirmary immediately to the north and was turned down by the L.C.C. (fn. 96) After several more abortive schemes, including, one by Percy Morley Horder for a terrace of three houses, (fn. 97) two houses were built here in 1909–10 to the designs of Stanley-Barrett and Driver, for whom Herbert Stanley-Barrett appears to hav been the active partner. (fn. 98) Originally called The Tiled House and The Studio, or Nos. 46 and 46A Lexham Gardens, these are now Nos. 1 and 3 Lexham Walk (Plate 120a). They were built for the Misses M. R. and E. S. Leith and for J. Boyden Barrett (possibly a relation of the architect) respectively and are sub-Voyseyish in character with rough-cast walls and tapering chimneys. Inside there was much woodwork, polished floors and beamed ceilings. The entire ground floor of No. 3 was occupied by a large studio with an inglenook and balcony at one end (Plate 120b). (fn. 99) Both houses have been altered by the addition of windows, and the contrast provided by small exposed areas of brickwork has been eliminated by overpainting; the leaded panes ot the windows and the crenellation have also disappeared.
When the census of 1881 was taken by no means all of the houses in Lexham Gardens and Cromwell Road had been completed, but a sufficient number was inhabited to indicate the kind of people who were attracted to the new houses. (fn. 100) They belonged, on the whole, to the prosperous servant-owning middle class, the main distinction between the streets being in the size of the households and particularly in the numbers of servants. In Lexham Gardens there were on average just over four servants to each household, in Cullingford's ’Scotch‘ houses in Cromwell Road over five, and in Marloes Road exactly three. Only in Staratford Road on the northern edge of the development, was there an exception to the general pattern. A number of lodgers found accommodation above the shops at Nos. 2–20 (even) and the five small houses at No. 22–30 (even) were very densely inhabited with no less than fifty-two occupants, mostly artisans, divided between eighteen households.
In Lexham Gardens there was a concentration of army officers, of who nine were retired and five active. One of the serving officers, a captain in the Royal Engineers aged thirty-three, had nine servants (butler, footman, housekeeper, cook, three housemaids and two nurses) to wait on his family of six. There were also two colonels' widows, one of whom ran a boarding-house. Two of the officers were retired from the Indian Army and there were also three retired Indian civilians. The Indian contingent was headed by Sir Henry Norman at No. 27. He was a member of the Council of India and was to rise to the rank of field-marshal, becoming successively Governor of Jamica and of Queensland. (fn. 101) The professions were well represented in the street with six barristers and five solicitors as well as a civil engineer, a surveyor, two doctors and a Chruch of England clergyman. There was the usual contingent of widows living off dividends or annuities, several merchants and some civil servants, but few representatives of industry. In Cromwell Road the pattern of occupancy was little different though the households tended to be larger, but two manufactures resided in these big houses, including Frederick White, the cement manufacturer and art collector who was later to commission Norman Shaw to build him a house at No. 170 Queen's Gate. (fn. 102) In Marloes Road the mixture was mcuh the same, though this street could boast of the private secretary of the Archbishop of Canterbury and a ‘man of letters’ (Andrew Lang, to whom there is a Blue Plaque at No. 1) among its residents.
Among the many barristers of Lexham Gardens was Sidney Woolf at No. 101. He had only just moved into that brand-new house with his wife and children, including Leonard, the future colonical administrator, writer and published, who had been born at No. 72 (now No. 80) West Cromwell Road five months before. In this autobiography Leonard Woolf recalled his childhood in Lexham Gardens and how one summer, when he had stayed in town with this father while the rest of the family were on vacation, he had been asked to walk the length of the street to Lexham Gardens Mews at the far end ‘tol tell Dennis, the coachman, what time the brougham was wanted’. Every morning his father ‘was driven in his brougham from Lexham Gardens to King's Bench Walk, where he had his chambers, and every evening at six the brougham fetched him back just in time for dinner’. (fn. 103)
Among later occupants of the area the most noteworthy, though his residence was very brief, was the composer, (Sir) Edward Elgar, who lived at No. 3 Marloes Road for about two months in the summer of 1889 after his marriage. (fn. 104)
Apart from the replacement in 1954–6 of the war-damaged Nos. 45–53 Lexham Gardens by a six-storey block of brick-faced flats (Lexham House: Morrison, Rose and Partners, architects (fn. 105)), and the conversion of former stabling into bijou mews dwellings which is proceeding apace in Lexham and Radley, Mews, major post-war redevelopment in the area has been confined to the north side of Cromwell Road and closely adjacent street frontages. In 1961–3 another six-storey block of flats, Arden House, was built to the designs of Ronald Salmon and Partners in the former grounds of Tower House. It faces Earl's Court Road, where it was given the number 107 in a general renumbering of this part of the road in 1964. (fn. 106)
In Cromwell Road itself Sherborne Court at Nos. 180–186 was built in 1977–9 to the designs of Szmigielski Katten Associates. (fn. 107) In sharp contrast to this balconied redbrick block is the granite façade of the Cromwell Hospital which stretches along Cromwell Road from the opposite corner with Marloes Road. The original architects of this private hospital were Building Design Partnership, and the first stage of the building was erected in 1978–81 by Bovis Construction. This included the main block of the hospital on the Cromwell Road frontage, which has a facing of Sicilian grantie and windows of blue-tinted glass. The straightforward, unbroken lines of this frontage mark a returen to simpler architectural forms, an effect partly achieved by placing the main entrance at the rear in an octagonal extenstion which is approached from Marloes Road. This building houses a marble-lined reception area, administrative offices and staff quarters. The total construction costs of the hospital were slightly under £13,000,000. (fn. 108) More recent extensions to the rear, including the conversion of former stabling in Pennant Mews, have been designed by the Holder and Mathias Partnership. (fn. 109) The Cromwell Hospital makes a distinguished contribution to the architecutural scene of a part of Kensington which tends to be otherwise dominated by the ragbag of hotels erected after the passing of the Development of Tourism Act of 1969 (see page 338).
Adjacent to the Cromwell Hospital at the corner of Lexham Gardens, the Elixabetta Hotel, one of the hotels spawned by this Act, at least has the merit of being relatively small in scale and is not grossly out of keeping with its surrounding buildings. It was completed in 1972. The architects were H. G. Katten and Partners and the builders H. Fairweather and Company and the Wood Hall Building Group. (fn. 110)
At Nos. 5–7 Lexham Gardens, a new embassy for the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was built in 1972–5 to the designs of Hanna and Manwaring. (fn. 111) Although entailing the loss of a good pair of Victorian houses, the new building, which has a façade of stock brick with white precast grantie features, respects the proportions and scale of its nineteenth-century neighbours while being uncompromisingly modern in design. The plethora of variously shaped radio aerials on the roof, however, does not enhance the building's appearance.