Survey of London: Volume 45, Knightsbridge. Originally published by London County Council, London, 2000.
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Raphael Street was laid out on part of the former estate of the gunmaker Durs Egg by Lewis Raphael of Hendon, who bought it from Egg's heirs in 1838. A member of an affluent Roman Catholic family of Armenian descent, Raphael was a dairy farmer with a mansion and a splendid estate at Bush Hill Park, Edmonton.
In November 1843 Raphael entered into a building agreement with Edward Nangle, builder (later 'surveyor'). Nangle laid out a new road, called Raphael Street, running from Lancelot Place eastward to Knightsbridge Green, where it curved southwards to avoid Egg's former house (fig. 22). (fn. 1)
Nangle's building operations began in 1844, with the conversion and enlargement of the old house as the Pakenham Tavern, and the erection of terrace-houses along the north side of the new road. The Pakenham, which took the address of Knightsbridge Green not Raphael Street, was perhaps named as a compliment to the Duke of Wellington, whose wife was a Pakenham. Nangle himself became its first landlord, in 1848, when at his direction the pub was leased to the brewers Elliot & Watney of Pimlico. (This was the only house on the estate to be leased to Nangle or his nominees.)
With the exception of two houses, Nos 10 and 11, the north side of Raphael Street was completed by 1847 and mostly occupied over the next two or three years. The sites of Nos 10 and 11, somewhat larger than the rest, were probably left at the time with a view to a future roadway as part of development on the Rose and Crown or the neighbouring Dungannon Cottage properties. (fn. 2)
On the south side of the street and the corner of Lancelot Place, Nangle got into difficulties, probably as a consequence of the widespread depression at that time, and development was halted, leaving six houses still only partly built. Several years later, in March 1849, Nangle gave notice that he was resuming work on two, but does not appear to have completed them: at the time he was being pursued in court for debt. (fn. 3)
Further activity in Raphael Street took place in 1852–3 with the erection of a row of five shops (which became Nos 33–37) on the shallow plots opposite the Pakenham. They were the work of a Kensington builder, Francis J. Attfield. Another builder, George Day of New Kent Road, was responsible for the remainder of the south side of the street, built up in 1854–5, and Nos 10 and 11 on the north side, built in 1854. Both Attfield and Day were presumably working under contract not as speculators, for in August 1853 all their houses and Nangle's (apart from the Pakenham), together with the Rose and Crown property, were leased directly by Raphael's heirs to a West End solicitor, Frederick William Dolman, to whom Nangle had mortgaged his interest in the estate in 1847. (fn. 4)
Nangle's houses were of three storeys over half-basements, two windows wide, with stuccoed ground-floor fronts and iron balconettes at the first-floor windows (Plate 52a). Day's houses, on shorter plots, were built close to the pavement edge, with gratings to light the basements or cellars. They had stuccoed window surrounds and roundarched entrances. The Pakenham Tavern was large and showy; its curved and fully stuccoed façade was echoed across the road by Attfield's shops (Plate 52b, 52c).
On the corner of Lancelot Place, Nos 19 and 20 were later knocked together to form the Royal Oak public house.
From the beginning the houses of Raphael Street were in multi-occupancy, the tenants including many grooms and coachmen, as well as soldiers, clerks and domestic servants. (fn. 5) By the early 1860s the respectability of the street was threatened by the popularity of several singing and dancing venues near by, including the Pakenham Tavern, where 'Free and Easy' musical evenings were prone to lead to disturbances and fights. Householders complained that respectable early rising workpeople were giving up their lodgings because of the noise. (fn. 6)
Arnold Bennett lodged in Raphael Street around 1890, in his early days in London, as did the hero of his first novel, A Man From the North (1898).
In the twentieth century, if not earlier, many of the houses were overcrowded, dilapidated and insanitary, attracting the attention of Westminster City Council. (fn. 7) Boarding– or lodging-houses continued to dominate. 'Very handy for poor but respectable gentlemen like myself,' says a character, not without irony, in a novel of 1926, 'Single ladies not taken without luggage and references. Very good address for out-of-work actors or lady typists … Almost as good as Rutland Gate, if you don't happen to have seen the cards in the windows'. (fn. 8) But many of the 'lodging-houses' were occupied by prostitutes and prosecutions for brothelkeeping in Raphael Street were frequent. The seediness of the area was usually blamed on its proximity to the barracks.
The Pakenham and the Raphael Street houses survived the Second World War largely intact, and were pulled down about 1956–7 for office development.