Survey of London: Volume 45, Knightsbridge. Originally published by London County Council, London, 2000.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
Rutland Gardens and South Place
Rutland Gardens was laid out in 1870–1 by Mitchell Henry, an Anglo-Irish businessman and politician who had acquired the freehold of the ground a few years earlier. The small estate was then occupied by two old mansions: Kent House and Stratheden House. The new development involved the demolition of Kent House but left Stratheden House, which was Henry's own London residence. This house was pulled down about 1900 and replaced by the blocks of flats comprising Rutland Court.
Development on Henry's estate petered out after the building in the early 1870s of a new Kent House, a few smaller houses, and a mews (Kent Yard). In the 1880s and '90s the remaining vacant sites were bought and partly built up in connection with South Lodge, a large house on the strip of ground between Henry's property and the old floorcloth factory at the corner of Trevor Place and Knightsbridge. The sites of South Lodge and the factory are now occupied by offices and housing built in the late 1970s. (The history of the factory is given in Chapter V.)
The development of the area from c. 1770
Until 1862, the ground now occupied by Rutland Gardens, and the South Lodge site, formed a single freehold property, which in the eighteenth century belonged to a family named Shakespear. The eastern part, where South Lodge eventually came to be built, was by the 1760s occupied by a largish house and some cottages, but the rest of the ground was undeveloped. (fn. 1) In the early 1770s a large plot on the west side was leased for the building of the mansion later called Stratheden House, and the existing house was rebuilt or improved by the master carpenter and builder George Shakespear, on a long lease from his relations William and John Shakespear. (fn. 2) This house was later known as No. 3 South Place. A third house, the kernel of the future Kent House, followed in the early 1790s, by which time George Shakespear had become the freeholder of the whole estate. On his death, the property passed to his niece Mary Phillips, the daughter of his brother-in-law and partner John Phillips; she married Shakespear's Pimlico neighbour and trustee, William North, (fn. 3) whose family retained the land until 1862. No. 3 South Place was then sold to the sitting tenant, Sir Anthony Sterling, who built South Lodge over part of the garden at the back of the house. (fn. 4) The rest of the ground, with Kent House and Stratheden House, was sold to George Duddell of Albemarle Street, who disposed of it in November 1863 to Mitchell Henry. (fn. 5) In April 1864 Henry acquired the short residue of the original leases of Stratheden House and its stabling; the leasehold interest in Kent House he did not acquire until 1866. (fn. 6)
Henry carried out lavish improvements at Stratheden House before turning his attention to the development of the Kent House estate. In the summer of 1870 Kent House was pulled down, and the German-born architect and decorator Frederick Sang, Henry's interior designer at Stratheden House, sought approval from the Metropolitan Board of Works on Henry's behalf for a plan to build a road (Rutland Gardens) and houses on the site. (fn. 7)
The main-road frontage of the Kent House estate was divided into three large plots for mansions, but in the event only the westernmost plot was sold, where work on the present Kent House began in 1872. Sang entered into an agreement with Henry to buy the rest of the Kent House estate, (fn. 8) but a portion of it, at the rear of the new Kent House, was sold in 1872 to Colonel R. C. S. Clifford for a 'family mansion', together with a plot for stables in what became Kent Yard. (fn. 9) Sang's purchase was never completed, though he did build one house in Rutland Gardens – Rutland Lodge, at the corner of Kent Yard.
Instead of a single mansion, Clifford built a row of four houses on his ground (Rutland House and Nos 1, 2 and 3 Rutland Gardens), at which point the development stalled. Apart from the replacement of Stratheden House with flats, the subsequent nineteenth-century building up of Rutland Gardens, and of the vacant ground adjoining Kent House, consisted essentially of improvements to the South Lodge estate. Rutland Gardens Mews was created as part of this process.