Survey of London: Volume 37, Northern Kensington. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1973.
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CHAPTER XII - The Portobello and St. Quintin Estates
AT THE BEGINNING of the nineteenth century there were two large farms at the northern extremity of the parish of Kensington. Portobello Farm—so named in honour of the capture of Puerto Bello by Admiral Vernon in 1739—had been purchased in 1755, subject to two life interests, by Charles Henry Talbot, esquire, of the Inner Temple. It was then described as 170 acres of land, 'parcel of the Manor of Notting Barns', and was let to a farmer at an annual rent of £170. (fn. 6) Access to it was by way of Portobello Lane (now Road), and the farmhouse (plate 5d) stood on the east side of the road upon the site now occupied by St. Joseph's Home. By the early 1830's, when a large part of the farm was threatened with inundation by an abortive scheme for the formation of a reservoir by the River Colne Water Works Company, the estate had passed to Sir George Talbot, baronet, and was described as 'a very valuable Grass Farm' of 182 acres, in lease to Mr. Wise at £800 per annum—a more than four-fold increase of rent over the previous seventy-five years. Within a short while, moreover, the property would become eligible for building, when its value was expected to rise to £3,000 per annum. (fn. 7) The reservoir was not, of course, built, but Sir George died in 1850, before development could begin, and bequeathed the estate to his two daughters, MaryAnne and Georgina-Charlotte Talbot. (fn. 8)
The other farm was known as 'the Manor or Lordship of Notting Barns', and belonged in 1767 to Thomas Darby of Sunbury, esquire. In that year he conveyed it to William St. Quintin of Scampston Hall, Yorkshire, to whom he was related by marriage. (fn. 9) St. Quintin subsequently inherited his father's baronetcy, but after his death in 1795 the title became extinct, (fn. 10) and the estate passed to William Thomas Darby, who assumed the name of St. Quintin. (fn. 11) He died in 1805, leaving his property to his eldest son, William St. Quintin, (fn. 12) upon whose death in 1859 it passed to the latter's brother, Matthew Chitty Downes St. Quintin, (fn. 13) formerly colonel of the 17th Lancers. (fn. 14) The St. Quintin family owned extensive estates at Scampston and Lowthorpe in Yorkshire, where as landed gentry they played an active part in the affairs of the county; William St. Quintin also had a house in Bruton Street, Mayfair (fn. c1). The 'Manor' of Notting Barns was described in 1767 as consisting of 225 acres, then in lease to Samuel Verry at an annual rental of £150. (fn. 9) By 1843 it had been reduced by sales to the Great Western Railway Company and other purchasers to 188 acres. (fn. 15) The farmhouse (Plate 5c) stood at the junction of the modern St. Quintin Avenue and Chesterton Road.
Talbot Road Area
Owing to their isolated situation, particularly in the case of Notting Barns, hardly any building development took place on either estate during the first half of the nineteenth century, except at Kensal Green cemetery and the adjacent works of the Western Gas Light Company. In 1852, however, the Misses Talbot attempted to sell the whole of Portobello Farm, now reduced by sales to the Great Western Railway and the gas company to 166 acres. The estate was described as 'admirably adapted for Building ground, Nursery grounds or Market gardens', and was offered either as one lot or in separate lots of not less than ten acres each, the price being £1,000 per acre. (fn. 16) But except at its south-eastern extremity the estate was still too far from the suburban frontier for building speculators to be interested at this price, and even for the south-eastern limb there was only one buyer—the unfortunate Dr. Samuel Walker, whose ill-fated speculations on the neighbouring Ladbroke estate have already been described in Chapter IX. He needed the southernmost part of the Portobello estate in order to provide suitable access from Paddington to his sprawling empire further west on the Ladbroke estate, and by a series of agreements which he signed with the Misses Talbot in 1852 he contracted to buy fifty-one and a half acres of their land for £51,500. Only the site of the great church (All Saints') which he intended to build on his estate was, however, immediately conveyed to him, and the remainder was left on mortgage at 3/12 per cent interest, Dr. Walker undertaking to complete the whole purchase within three years. In May 1853 he paid the Misses Talbot £24,500 and another seventeen acres were conveyed to him. (fn. 17) Owing to his subsequent financial misfortunes he was never able to complete the purchase of the rest of the land for which he had contracted.
The building of All Saints' Church began in 1852 (Plates 14, 15,). Sewers were laid in Colville Gardens and Terrace (fn. 18) but elsewhere on Dr. Walker's seventeen acres hardly any house building took place, the years 1853 to 1856 being a period of steep decline in the total volume of building throughout West London. By 1854 Dr. Walker's financial position was already extremely precarious; the advances which he had made to builders on the security of building leases (mostly on the Ladbroke estate) now amounted to over £66,000, (fn. 19) and in March 1855, when his own mortgage debts amounted to some £90,000, he handed over the management of all his property in Kensington to three trustees, H. M. Kemshead, a West India merchant, Edmund Robins, an auctioneer, and Richard Roy, the solicitor who for the previous ten years had dominated the building development on the Ladbroke estate. (fn. 20) In October of the same year the trustees sold the northerly ten of Dr. Walker's seventeen acres of the Portobello estate to W. J. Roper of Great Coram Street, gentleman, for an unrecorded sum. (fn. 21) The southern portion was, however, retained until 1860, when the upward curve of building activity enabled Dr. Walker (who had by now resumed control of his own affairs) to sell it to a builder, George Frederick John Tippett of Paddington, (fn. 22) who later in the same year also bought Roper's land to the north (see fig. 78). (fn. 23)
G. F. J. Tippett was thirty-one years of age in 1860. (fn. 24) He was a builder of considerable substance who at about this time was building a number of large terrace houses in Prince's Square, Leinster Square and the surrounding vicinity of Paddington. (fn. 25) On his Kensington estate two relatives, Thomas Sheade Tippett and John Tippett, assisted him, and another builder, John May, was associated with him as a trustee, a relative of May, Thomas Bassett May, being also concerned. G. F. J. Tippett was, however, the man in charge, combining the roles of ground landlord, developer, builder, and probably architect as well.
The development of his estate took place between 1860 and 1875, when it was virtually complete. Almost all the houses consist of long stucco-faced ranges, four to six storeys in height over deep basements, many having projecting porches supported on columns. None of them has a wider frontage than 22 feet, and the total depth of each plot ranges between 60 and 100 feet. Three ranges—one each in Colville Square (Plate 74b), Colville Gardens and Powis Square back on to shallow communal gardens, (fn. 1) a feeble imitation of the earlier and more spacious paddocks on the Ladbroke estate, and a device which had already been adopted in Prince's and Leinster Squares. These three ranges are, indeed, very similar to Tippett's slightly earlier work in Paddington, each house on its street front having a doorway projecting across the basement area to the line of the pavement, the projection being carried up through three storeys above the entrance. (fn. 2)
The whole estate presents an unusually homogeneous appearance in marked contrast with the more varied developments in the surrounding streets, the frontiers of Tippett's property being still clearly revealed by the sudden changes of house type in Powis Terrace, Colville Road (between Nos. 21 and 23, for instance) and elsewhere. Tippett evidently intended to cram in as many large houses as he could on his land, and their consistent though undistinguished style suggests a single authorship for their design very probably (in the absence of any evidence on the point) that of Tippett himself.
Building development proceeded by the normal leasehold method. Through his trustee, May, Tippett was himself the lessee of a large number of plots, and other builders to whom he granted ninety-nine-year leases during the 1860's included T. S. Tippett, (fn. 26) Henry Saunders and Walter Blackett (architect and surveyor), all in Colville Terrace; John Wicking Phillips, Edward Gurling and John May for the whole of Colville Square; (fn. 27) John Tippett and Thomas Bassett May for eight plots in Powis Square, and the latter also in Portobello Road. (fn. 28) The building of All Saints' Church was resumed after an interval of some years, and at the time of its consecration on 9 April 1861 The Building News commented that in recent months 'speculating builders have gradually and timidly approached the church. What has so long been deemed a quicksand has turned out good solid ground, and roads are now being cut, and buildings are rising, north, east, south, and west, around it'. (fn. 29) Powis Square, where G. F. J. Tippett himself built thirteen houses, and Powis Terrace, where he built nine, were among the last parts of the estate to be completed, his own work being supplemented in the early 1870's by three builders from a distance—Colls and Sons of Camberwell, J. A. Miller of Upton, Essex, and (prior to his removal to Ladbroke Grove) Walter Lethbridge of Plymouth. (fn. 30)
Between 1860 and 1875 some 250 houses were built on Tippett's seventeen acres of land, and if the average cost to the builder of each house is taken to have been £1,000, the total fixed capital invested amounted to some £250,000. Nothing like this sum was, of course, needed as working capital at any one time, but the financial resources required were nevertheless substantial. At first Tippett was able to mortgage the remaining vacant land, the mortgagees including George Penson, the successful City cheesemonger who also invested heavily on the Ladbroke estate, Edmund Robins, the auctioneer who had acted as one of Dr. Walker's trustees in 1855, a solicitor, and a clergyman. (fn. 31) Some of these early mortgages were repaid within a few months, to be replaced by larger leasehold mortgages on the security of completed or semi-completed houses, while other houses were sold, either leasehold or freehold. (fn. 32) All of these mortgages were arranged through solicitors, Tippett's often being Alexander Copland Hemsley of Albany, Piccadilly, who was doubtless a descendant of Alexander Copland, the speculative builder of Albany, and who was therefore likely to understand the financial requirements of the building business.
But to meet the rapidly growing capital needs for the development of both his Kensington estate and his land in Leinster and Prince's Squares, Paddington, Tippett turned increasingly to insurance companies for his mortgages. As the ground landlord or head lessee he was able to decide with which company all his new houses should be insured against fire; and his undertakings to bring all such new insurance business on a part of his property to a particular company no doubt provided a powerful incentive to its directors to lend him the capital which he needed for the building of the houses. In 1861 he mortgaged six houses in Colville Road to the County Fire Office, (fn. 33) and by September 1864 his total loans from this company amounted to £19,000, secured on parts of his property in both Kensington and Paddington. (fn. 34) A month later he was able to obtain a loan of £45,000 from the Sun Fire Office on the security of thirty-three houses in Leinster and Prince's Squares, and by April 1865 he had arranged for the insurance of these houses with the Sun for £100,000. (fn. 35) In October of the same year he obtained a five-year loan of £6,000 at 5 per cent interest on five houses in Powis Square from the London Assurance Corporation, (fn. 36) and in 1866 another £4,500 from the County, plus £3,000 from Ransom, Bouverie and Company, bankers, of Pall Mall. (fn. 37) In 1868 he sold thirty-one houses, mostly in Portobello Road, and repaid the mortgage of £45,000 from the Sun. (fn. 38) Later in the same year he transferred a number (perhaps all) of his remaining loans from private mortgagees, and those from the London Assurance and Ransom, Bouverie, to the Law Life Assurance Society, (fn. 39) which presumably offered better terms, and with which he had assured his life for £10,000. In April 1870 his total mortgage debt to the Law Life amounted to over £125,000. (fn. 40)
The builders to whom G. F. J. Tippett granted ninety-nine-year leases seem to have sold their leases for a lump sum when each house was nearing completion. In July 1864, for instance, T. S. Tippett agreed to sell his ground lease of a house which he was then building in Colville Terrace to a lady in Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, for £1,150. She paid a deposit of £150, but before payment of the remainder became due, T.S. Tippett had to meet a debt to a stone merchant, no doubt for building materials, and assigned the benefit of the agreement to him in settlement. (fn. 41) We have already seen that G. F. J. Tippett sold some of his houses, but he also retained as many as his overall financial situation would permit, particularly those of the best quality, and let them on short leases of between three and twenty-one years' duration, for rents ranging up to £140 per annum for a single house in Powis Square. By 1869 his total annual receipts for rents amounted to well over £3,800 from his Kensington property, and to over £4,500 from that in Paddington. (fn. 42)
The census of 1871 shows the social composition of the inhabitants of Tippett's houses. Forty-six houses, all of four or five storeys over basements, are recorded in the north-south ranges of Colville Square, Colville Gardens and Powis Square. One of these was uninhabited, and the remaining forty-five houses contained 402 residents, of whom 135 were servants. The average number of occupants per house was thus 8.9, of whom 3.0 were servants. Each house was occupied as a single household, but half-a-dozen were used as schools. Three of these were for girls, but the other three, which occupied contiguous houses in Powis Square, evidently consisted of a coaching establishment for young men. In Colville Square a 'classical and mathematical tutor' combined teaching with taking in boarders (who, judging from their advanced ages, were not pupils). Several of the many boarding-houses which were later to become such a feature of this district were already in existence in 1871, for Colville Gardens contained two, in one of which the boarders were of very lowly social status journeyman printer, 'domestic servant out of employ', and milliner.
Other householders included seven merchants, four stockbrokers and four lawyers, three manufacturers and three retired army officers, two bankers (one the manager of the Hanover Square branch of the London and County Bank) and two physicians, and one jeweller, woollen draper, civil servant and baronet's widow. The largest single household (excluding the girls' schools) was that of a 'wholesale book manufacturer', which consisted of himself, his wife, their eight children and four servants.
This social structure was extremely similar to that of Kensington Park Gardens in 1861 (see page 235), but whereas the houses in the latter street were in large measure to retain their place in the Victorian social hierarchy, Tippett's great tall terraces were soon to prove to have been the wrong sort of buildings for their topographical situation. In the more prosperous middle-class strongholds of Bayswater and South Kensington houses of such size could retain their social cachet, even though much modified internally: but in Tippett's part of North Kensington, at the bottom of the further side of St. John's Hill, with a street market in Portobello Road (fn. 3) growing up on one side and a slum in Bolton Road on another, (fn. 43) a gradual decline was inevitable; and once it had set in, it proved irreversible. Tippett had started to build his great solid ranges in the early 1860's at the moment when the future social character of much of North Kensington was about to be transformed by the Hammersmith and City Railway, opened in 1864. Except in the principal street of the locality (Ladbroke Grove), smaller, lower houses, either terraced or paired (in Oxford and Cambridge Gardens, for instance), were now to answer the social requirements of residents who depended mainly on the railway for transport. In the 1880's the carriage-folk for whom Tippett had catered, and for whose equipages he had provided three rows of mews and stables, did not wish to live any longer on a social island surrounded by a sea of predominantly lower middle-class housing. When their twenty-one-year leases expired many of them evidently moved away, and in 1885 Tippett, now describing himself as a house owner and dealer in house property, was declared bankrupt. His total liabilities amounted to some £860,000, on which he claimed that there would be a surplus of some £60,000. He attributed his failure to 'his inability to let a large portion of his property and to the pressure of secured creditors'. (fn. 44)
Internal sub-division of houses had begun at least as early as 1881, when two in Powis Terrace had been converted into flats. (fn. 45) By 1888 two houses had been sub-divided in each of Colville Gardens, Colville Terrace and Powis Square, while in Colville Houses there were three and in Powis Terrace thirteen sub-divided. Inhabitants of the district included a Member of Parliament, a Major-General, a Baron and (in Colville Terrace) four army officers of field rank. (fn. 46) The vicar of All Saints' Church could nevertheless state that 'there is no wealth or even moderate means in the parish to any appreciable extent', (fn. 47) and several houses were already in institutional use; in 1888, for instance, there was a convent, a college of music and dramatic art, a ladies' college, and a home for French governesses. By 1900 seven out of thirteen houses in Colville Houses had been sub-divided, ten plus five boarding-houses out of twenty-five in Colville Gardens, ten out of thirty-five in Colville Square (with several others in institutional use), and thirteen plus three boarding-houses out of forty-eight houses in Powis Square. Three houses here were still occupied by private tutors, who now specialized in coaching for the Indian Civil Service examinations. Most of the divisions were into two or three flats or maisonettes, but in Colville Houses one house had already been divided into six. The number of boarding-houses in these and other streets was, in fact, probably larger than the figures given above, for very many householders in the locality were women, some of whom, it may be conjectured, relied on taking in lodgers for part of their living. (fn. 48) In 1911 the vicar stated that 'the neighbourhood grows poorer year by year'. (fn. 49)
Soon after the war of 1914–18 the Kensington Borough Council bought twelve houses in Powis Square and converted them into a total of sixty-eight flats. By 1922 only five of the fortyeight houses in the square were listed as still in single occupancy, and except in Colville Square and Terrace, where only about half the houses had been divided, the pattern was much the same in the surrounding streets. The tenants housed by the Council in Powis Square probably accelerated (or were thought to have accelerated) the continuing social decline, and internal sub-division into ever smaller units continued. (fn. 50) In 1928 the locality was described as 'rapidly becoming poorer and more Jewish', and in 1935 as a 'largely slum area: and partly large houses turned into one-room tenements and small flats'. (fn. 43) By the 1950's and 1960's, some hundred years after Tippett had created it for a very different clientèle, the district had become a profitable field for the exploitation of poor tenants, and Nos. 1–9 Colville Gardens provides a case in point. 'The entire terrace, let off a floor at a time to [rent-]controlled tenants, was bought in 1954 for £8,000. Between this date and 1962, it produced an estimated gross income of £78,000. But between 1962 and 1966, only four years later, the income was again £78,000: the result of easing out the former tenants and reletting by the room.' (fn. 50)
The building of the Hammersmith and City Railway
In the layout of the remainder of the Portobello estate the developers were catering for a new clientèle for whom suburban living had for the first time become possible by the building in the early 1860's of the Metropolitan Railway and the branch line from Paddington to Hammersmith. The large, or at any rate spacious houses, some of them paired and all of them with either their own gardens or with access to a large communal open space, which had hitherto been built in such large numbers on the Ladbroke and Norland estates, did not answer the social needs of North Kensington in the 1860's. On the Portobello estate the speculators were also the ground landlords and therefore had a free hand in determining the type of building development to be undertaken, subject only to the general supervision of the Kensington Vestry, the Metropolitan Board of Works and the district surveyors. Their object was to cover the ground with as many modestlysized dwellings as possible. Narrow three-storey terraced houses, mostly with basements and only a small back yard, are therefore the predominant type here. In marked contrast with the earlier layout of the Ladbroke and Norland estates, there were no squares, (fn. 4) crescents or communal gardens, and even that other characteristic feature of Georgian and early Victorian suburban layouts, the mews, was noticeably less frequently to be found, for few of the residents could afford a carriage, and the railway was nearby to supply their travelling requirements.
On the St. Quintin estate, rather more remotely situated, the developers were subject to a measure of control by the ground landlord. The streets were wider than on the Portobello estate, the house-plots (which provided both a front and back garden) were larger, and in the first phase of building during the 1860's and 1870's in Cambridge Gardens and Oxford Gardens west of Ladbroke Grove, and in Bassett Road, the houses were detached or paired, and substantial in size. Even here, however, the almost complete lack of mews accommodation demonstrates that this, too, was from the first a suburb primarily intended for frequent or even daily users of the railway.
The building of such a suburb in North Kensington had been made possible by the construction of the Metropolitan Railway from Paddington to Farringdon Street, on the outskirts of the City—the first underground railway in the world. The first building contract had been awarded in December 1859, but formidable constructional difficulties were still being encountered in June 1862, and the line was not opened to the public until 10 January 1863. During the first six months of its operation the railway carried a daily average of 26,500 passengers, trains running at fifteen-minute intervals throughout most of the day, with a ten-minute service at the rush hours. The third-class return fare was five pence, and in May 1864 a workmen's fare of threepence return was introduced. (fn. 51)
This first stretch of the Metropolitan Railway provided quick, cheap access to the City from the northern and western suburbs of London, and in order to extend its catchment area still further afield several new feeder lines were within a few years connected to it. The first of these (and the only one to serve North Kensington) was the Hammersmith and City Railway, an independent company incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1861 and supported by both the Great Western and the Metropolitan Railway. It extended from the Great Western main line at Green Bridge about a mile west of Paddington Station—southwestward across North Kensington and into Hammersmith, where it terminated near the Broadway. A branch line from Latimer Road provided a connexion with the hitherto moribund West London Railway, opened in 1844 from Willesden to West Kensington near the modern Olympia. Throughout almost its whole course the new line passed across the fields adjoining the suburban frontier, and when it was inaugurated in 1864 its half-hourly service through Paddington Station on to the Metropolitan and thence to Farringdon Street, for a third-class return fare of sixpence, opened almost all the remaining undeveloped parts of North Kensington to the building speculators. (fn. 52)
Three of the original directors of the Hammersmith and City Railway Company had, indeed, been already engaged in building speculation in the area for some years. These were Stephen Phillips, a City merchant, who in addition to extensive building interests in Islington and at Westbourne Park, Paddington, also owned some ten acres of the Ladbroke estate around Camelford Road (see page 220); James Whitchurch, an attorney of Southampton origin who owned a large quantity of partially developed land in the vicinity of Bramley Road (see page 344); and much the most important, Charles Henry Blake, esquire, whose extensive speculations on the Ladbroke estate, largely completed by 1860, have been described in Chapter IX. His contribution to the direction of the new company, and those of his co-director, John Parson, are worth examining in some detail for the murky light which they cast upon the ethics of mid-Victorian business behaviour.
Blake had probably been the principal promoter of the Hammersmith line. In 1861 he had recently completed the development of Kensington Park Gardens, Stanley Crescent and Stanley Gardens, and was beginning to exploit land in the vicinity of Blenheim Crescent which had formerly belonged to Dr. Walker. In March of that year, when he had been the principal witness for the embryo company's Bill during its passage through Parliament, he had stated that the proposed railway was 'very much wanted', and that it would double the value of property adjoining his own. (fn. 53)
By this time the Misses Talbot, who owned about two thirds of the land in Kensington needed for the construction of the railway, were once more finding buyers for their Portobello estate, and had in December 1860 sold seven acres on either side of Westbourne Park Road to Edward Vigers, a timber merchant, and his associate, Samuel Burbury of Leamington, the latter having probably been drawn into metropolitan land speculation through a relative who was a lawyer of Lincoln's Inn. The price was £1,000 per acre—the same as that paid for adjoining land by Dr. Walker in 1853—and the conveyance also granted to the purchasers a five-year right of pre-emption over any ten other acres of the estate which they might select. (fn. 54) (fn. c2)
Blake was not the man to let a profitable opportunity slip by, and in or before November 1862 he took the greatest risk of his life when he agreed with the Misses Talbot to buy the whole of the remainder of their estate, which was then estimated as 130 acres in extent, subject to Burbury's and Vigers' right of pre-emption. The purchase price was to be £107,500, equivalent to about £828 per acre, the reduction from £1,000 per acre being no doubt due to the right of preemption and to Blake's willingness to take the whole property. (fn. 55)
In order to finance this colossal investment Blake immediately offered a one-fifth share to Rummins, the contractor for the building of the railway, who refused, and then to the chairman of the company, John Parson, who accepted. Blake's own solicitors, Benjamin Green Lake and John Kendall, each took a one-tenth share, and Blake himself retained the remaining three fifths. (fn. 56) (fn. 5)
When Blake signed the agreement to purchase the whole estate, the Hammersmith Railway Company had already given notice to the Misses Talbot of its intention, pursuant to the powers conferred by its Act of 1861, to buy two acres. (fn. 55) The land now had to be acquired from one of the company's own directors, acting in association with the chairman, and in December 1862 Lake and Kendall demanded £7,500—a figure subsequently raised, after Burbury and Vigers had filed a bill in Chancery against Blake to enforce their right of pre-emption, to no less than £20,000, i.e. £10,000 per acre. (fn. 56) The directors of the company, with Parson in the chair, made no objection, and the purchase price was referred to the Board of Trade for arbitration in the usual way. (fn. 57)
Parson, who besides being chairman of the Hammersmith and City was also deputy chairman of the Metropolitan and a director of the Great Western, (fn. 56) had already had experience of situations of this kind. He was a solicitor by profession, specializing in railway business. In 1850 he had become (to quote Professor T. C. Barker) 'legal adviser and virtual dictator' of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway, but his reign there had ended in 1856 'after he had been openly accused of jobbing in shares and bringing a vast amount of lucrative business' to his own firm. (fn. 58) He was not, therefore, likely to have any qualms about involving himself in an attempt to sell land at an extortionate price to a company of which he was himself chairman.
For Rummins, the contractor, however, the claim put forward by Lake and Kendall on behalf of Blake and Parson meant ruin. In addition to contracting to build the railway for £150,000, he had also bound himself to acquire all the land needed, in both Kensington and Hammersmith, for £46,000. Faced with the formidable competition of two of the directors of the company, he now demanded (successfully) that the latter part of the contract should be cancelled. By March 1863 rumours of misconduct were circulating, and in July one of the shareholders, a stockbroker named Cornelius Surgey, convened a meeting of the proprietors at which he revealed the whole situation. A resolution was then unanimously carried that 'the conduct of the two Directors in purchasing land, part of which they knew at the time would be required by the Company, and the subsequent demand from the Company of an enormously enhanced price for it, was in the judgment of this meeting, inconsistent with their position as Directors of the Hammersmith and City Railway Company . . . and with the retenof their offices as such Directors . . . .' (fn. 59)
Blake, who had been the prime mover in the purchase of the Portobello estate, offered no defence and at the half-yearly meeting of the company held in February 1864 he did not seek re-election to the board. (fn. 60) His long delay in disassociating himself from the company was no doubt due to his wish to await the outcome of the action for defamation which Parson brought against Surgey. At the hearing it was asserted that Blake, with Parson's consent, had instructed his solicitors, Lake and Kendall, to make a claim for the land needed by the company, 'but giving express directions not to refer to themselves'. Lake and Kendall (each of whom, it will be recalled, also had a one-tenth share in Blake's purchase) were, in fact, to make whatever claim they thought fit without further reference to their clients; and the price claimed was in any case only intended to be a starting-point for negotiations. Parson successfully asserted that the claim for £20,000 had been made without his knowledge, and he therefore gained the verdict of the court, but the damages awarded were only for the nominal sum of £25. (fn. 61) Despite the unfavourable remarks made by the Lord Chief Justice about 'the impropriety of Directors speculating in land through which their railway is intended to pass', Parson claimed this result as a vindication of his personal reputation. But he nevertheless resigned from the board immediately afterwards, and the shareholders passed a resolution congratulating Mr. Surgey for his 'essential service not only to this Company but to the public at large'. (fn. 60)
Apart from the damage to their personal reputations, neither Blake nor Parson suffered by the severance of their connexion with the company. The dispute over the price of the land required was in due course settled at £2,105 per acre, (fn. 56) substantially less than the claim for £10,000 per acre, but nevertheless representing a handsome profit over the figure of £828 per acre to which Blake had induced the Misses Talbot to agree less than two years earlier. This was, moreover, only the first of a series of profitable bargains for Blake and Parson, for the railway (opened from Hammersmith on 13 June and from West Kensington on 1 July 1864) proved an instant commercial success, the total number of passengers exclusive of season ticket holders for the half year ending in March 1865 being over 1,270,000. (fn. 61)
Development by C. H. Blake on the Portobello and St. Quintin estates
Blake's agreement of November 1862 with the Misses Talbot to buy the whole of their estate had been subject to Burbury's and Vigers' right of pre-emption over ten acres. This right was exercised in 1862 and 1864, when the ten acres bounded on the north by the Hammersmith and City Railway, on the east by St. Luke's Road, on the south by St. Luke's Mews and on the west by All Saints Road were conveyed to Burbury and Vigers, who were already developing the adjoining land further east in Paddington. The price was £1,000 per acre. (fn. 62) The whole of their estate, including the land which they had purchased in 1860, is shown on fig. 78. Two acres had also been sold by the Misses Talbot in April 1862 to the Franciscan nuns for the establishment of the convent (now Dominican) on the west side of Portobello Road. (fn. 63)
The whole of the remainder of the Portobello estate (fig. 78), now consisting of 130 acres, was sold to Blake in three stages. In July 1863 the south and east part of the estate, consisting of forty-eight acres and including a few acres on the north side of the Great Western main line in Kensal Green, was conveyed to him for £40,000, of which he subscribed £24,000 (/35), Parson £8,000 (/15), and Lake and Kendall £4,000 each (/110 each). (fn. 64) A year later he bought another fortyone acres to the north of the Franciscan convent between Ladbroke Grove on the west and the Great Western Railway on the north-east, plus another small piece in Kensal Green. The price was £33,750, of which he himself subscribed £22,500 (/23) and Parson £11,250 (/13). (fn. 65) Lastly, in 1868, he bought the remaining forty-one acres, all to the west of Ladbroke Grove, for £34,000, of which his share was again two-thirds and Parson's one-third. (fn. 55) The total price actually paid for the whole 130 acres was thus £107,750, equivalent to £829 per acre, Blake's own personal outlay being £69,166.
He was able to finance this enormous investment because the total volume of house building in Kensington had begun to grow again, very slightly, as early as 1859, and continued to grow almost without interruption until 1868. This renewed activity had enabled him to find new backers in 1860 in the persons of William Honywood of Berkshire, esquire, William Harrison of St. Helen's Place, City, merchant, and Henry Cobb of Lincoln's Inn Fields, land agent and surveyor. They had lent him £18,000 at 5 per cent interest, and accepted transfers of many of his existing mortgages, all on the security of his property on the Ladbroke estate (see page 235). Other mortgages had been paid off with the proceeds of sales, principally of land and improved ground rents to the west of Ladbroke Grove, and by 1863 his total debts had been reduced to £46,000, of which Honywood, Harrison and Cobb held £33,500 (representing a nominal value of £52,000). The interest payments on these liabilities, some at the rate of 4/12 per cent interest and others at 4/34 per cent, amounted to about £2,153 per annum, but the net rental from his property on the Ladbroke estate now stood at £3,535, and would increase in 1864 to £3,988. (fn. 55) His overall financial position was therefore strong enough for him to obtain another loan, and in July 1863 Honywood, Harrison and Cobb advanced him an additional £25,000 at 4/34 per cent interest, with which he paid his £24,000 share of the first purchase from the Misses Talbot, (fn. 66) this land being added to the Ladbroke lands as an additional security for the mortgagees. His total debts now amounted to £71,000, mostly at 4/34 per cent interest, which represented annual outgoings of £3,339. With the rental income of £3,535, the surplus income from his whole property was only about £196 in 1863, which on his investment of £71,000 represented a return of less than one per cent.
In July 1864, when Blake bought the second portion of the Portobello estate from the Misses Talbot, he was able to secure another loan of £20,663 (at 5 per cent interest) from Honywood, Harrison and Cobb, this new land being added to their overall list of securities covering the whole of Blake's property. His total debts to them now stood at £79,000, but Honywood's own personal share amounted to only about one eighth of this amount, and Harrison and Cobb appear not to have directly involved their personal fortunes at all. They acted as City money dealers, the greater part of the money being subscribed by their clients, about a dozen private individuals with money to lend, of whom the Lake family, relatives of Blake's solicitors, Lake and Kendall, were the most substantial. The whole arrangement, which provided Blake with a reliable source of capital for the continuation of his speculations, was rounded off by the appointment of Henry Lake, and, after his death, of his partner Benjamin Green Lake, solicitor, as receiver of all the revenues of the estate, with power to pay the mortgage interest to Honywood, Harrison and Cobb, and the surplus, if any, to Blake. (fn. 55)
In addition to buying 130 acres of freehold land from the Misses Talbot, Blake was also the lessee for some twelve acres of ground on the adjoining St. Quintin estate (see fig. 78). He evidently took this land because in order to provide satisfactory access to the northern part of his Portobello estate, it was necessary to extend Ladbroke Grove due north from the northern boundary of the Ladbroke estate. This involved traversing land belonging to Colonel Matthew Chitty Downes St. Quintin, with whom in December 1864 Blake signed a building contract. He agreed, inter alia, to take a ninety-nine-year lease of all the frontage land, amounting to about four acres in all, on both sides of the intended extension of Ladbroke Grove between Lancaster Road and a point half-way between the modern Bassett and Chesterton Roads, where Ladbroke Grove entered Blake's Portobello lands. He covenanted that within nine months he would build the road, sixty feet wide, and lay sewers along it, and that within two years he would continue it across his own freehold land to the Admiral Blake public house beside the Great Western Railway, access to it from St. Quintin's lands further west being also guaranteed. At the same time he also took an option (which he subsequently exercised) on another eight acres of St. Quintin's land to the east of the land fronting the east side of Ladbroke Grove, and bounded on the south by the Hammersmith Railway and on its east side by Portobello Road and the Franciscan convent. (fn. 55)
In order to provide advantageous access and lines of communication the general layout plans of the two estates were drawn up in mutual conjunction. But in many other respects building development diverged at once, and the results of this may still be seen in the social character of the area to-day. Colonel St. Quintin was an absentee ground landlord who lived in Yorkshire and employed a well-known London architect to supervise his estate in Kensington. This was Henry Currey, whose father had acted as solicitor on the Holland estate, and whose large practice included the design of St. Thomas's Hospital. His layout plan provided long straight parallel streets (now Cambridge and Oxford Gardens and Bassett Road) leading westward from Ladbroke Grove, and extending via St. Mark's Road to St. Quintin Avenue, which provided access to the more distant parts of the estate. The streets were fifty feet wide, and (except in Blake's eight-acre leasehold property east of Ladbroke Grove) lined with substantial detached or paired houses, each with its own front and back garden. Those in Cambridge and Oxford Gardens and Bassett Road were probably designed by Currey. All development (at any rate in the 1860's and 70's) proceeded under leasehold building agreements, the lessees being closely controlled by the terms of their agreements with St. Quintin. Blake, for instance, in his agreement with St. Quintin for the land fronting Ladbroke Grove (where terraced houses were permitted), had to covenant to build at least seven shops, each to be worth not less than £700, and at least fifty-four houses, each of £1,200 in value. He was to submit all plans and elevations for Currey's approval, to comply with a detailed constructional specification, and to complete the whole programme within four years. In return, St. Quintin was to grant him ninety-nine-year leases at a peppercorn rent for the first twenty-one months and then at £610 per annum, equivalent to a ground rental of about £152 per acre. (fn. 55)
On his own freehold lands on the Portobello estate Blake, by contrast with St. Quintin, was both ground landlord and speculator in personal charge of operations. Although he frequently consulted his principal partner, Parson, on business matters, it was Blake who always initiated and decided. He lived in one of his houses on the Ladbroke estate, within half a mile of his Portobello lands, and in addition to his almost daily visits to his solicitors, Lake and Kendall, in Lincoln's Inn, he evidently exercised close personal supervision on site as well. His sole object was to exploit his land as rapidly as possible, either by granting building leases or by outright sales, in order that he might free both his Ladbroke and Portobello lands from his enormous mortgages. For his layout plans he was therefore satisfied with the services of a local surveyor, J. C. Hukins of Westbourne Grove, assisted by a clerk of works to supervise building lessees. The building agreements which he granted stipulated the minimum value of the houses to be built, but they do not seem to have contained any constructional specification or requirements of design. Most of the houses erected here were of the three-storey terraced variety with basements. The plots were usually only some 18 to 20 feet wide and 60 feet deep, compared with some 30 to 35 feet by 100 feet on the St. Quintin estate, and there was therefore only room for a yard at the back. Some of the streets developed by these means have in the twentieth century achieved nationwide notoriety as the scene of some of the worst housing conditions in all London; and it is therefore worth noting that even as early as 1868, Colonel St. Quintin's agent was so perturbed by the type of housing in course of erection on Blake's lands that he threatened, during negotiations over an adjustment of boundaries, to prevent all access to them from the St. Quintin estate 'unless arrangements were come to regulating the class of houses to be built by Mr. Blake'. And in the following year he 'declined to enter into any arrangements as to roads until he knew what class of property would be erected' on an adjoining section of Blake's property. (fn. 55)
Blake seems not to have repeated his previous unhappy experiment in Stanley Gardens of building houses on his own account by contract with a builder, and the development of his Portobello and St. Quintin lands was mainly by the traditional procedure of building agreements followed by the grant of building leases. In the autumn of 1864, for instance (to take one example, probably typical of hundreds of others) he agreed with William and James Rickett of Paddington, builders, to lease one acre of ground on the north side of Lancaster Road between Basing Street and All Saints Road. The term was to be for ninety-nine years from Michaelmas 1864, but payment of the ground rent of £143 per annum was not to commence until December 1867. Building was to commence by Christmas 1864, and in October Blake's surveyor, Hukins, was applying to the Kensington Vestry to lay a sewer along Lancaster Road. W. and J. Ricketts were to spend over £12,000 on the building of at least twenty houses plus stables, and fifteen of the houses were to be completed by September 1866. Each house was to have three storeys and a basement, and a frontage of eighteen or nineteen feet. Until September 1866 the Ricketts were to have the option of buying the land for £2,388, but if they did not exercise this option Blake covenanted that as soon as the ground rent of £143 had been secured by the building of houses, he would grant them the remaining land in fee. (fn. 67)
Most of Blake's building agreements with individual builders were for a score of houses or less, but the field of operations of the Land and House Investment Society Limited was very much larger, ultimately comprising the greater part of the land bounded by Portobello Road, the Great Western main line, and Acklam Road. The directors of the company included Alexander Fraser, a civil engineer of Campden Hill, (fn. 68) who on his own account also bought some two acres from Blake in the vicinity of Tavistock Crescent and Road, (fn. 69) and its solicitor was Frank Richardson of 28 Golden Square, doubtless a relative of the Charles Richardson of the same address who had organized the development of the Norland estate in the 1840's. In the winter of 1864–5 the company's architect and surveyor, Joseph Houle, was supervising the building of the roads and sewers in the area between Golborne and Acklam Roads, (fn. 70) and in 1866 Blake and the company granted thirty-three building leases of individual houses in this vicinity, almost all of them to builders. In 1868–9 they granted a total of nearly four hundred leases there, nearly all of the houses in these long monotonous streets being of the narrow three-storey terraced type, mostly with basements and projecting bay windows at groundfloor level (Plate 74a). The paving of the roads as well as the building of the sewers was paid for by the company. (fn. 71) By 1870 vacant land and a number of completed houses south of Golborne Road were sold to the company. By 1875 this pattern had been repeated in the area to the north of Golborne Road, and in 1878 the company was would up voluntarily. (fn. 72)
An important function of the developer was to keep up the momentum of building once it had started. Blake, with an ample supply of capital at his disposal, was able to do this by lending money to the builders with whom he had made building agreements, usually at 6 per cent interest reducible to 5 per cent for prompt payment. A large proportion of these loans was to builders working in Ladbroke Grove, where it was particularly important to maintain the progress of building (see also page 331). This was the principal line of northsouth communication across Blake's property, and speculators would be more likely to take land in the side streets if building in Ladbroke Grove were already well advanced. Blake's partner, Parson, who also made loans of this kind, did so, for instance, to F. and J. Gait when they were building in Ladbroke Grove in 1873, and some of the building agreements even contained a schedule of the loans to be made to the builders by Blake and Parson as work progressed. By this means the builders were protected from unforeseen fluctuations in the money market, and development proceeded smoothly, even during the financial crisis of 1866. There is no record of any of these loans being dishonoured, and in 1873 (the year after Blake's death) loans outstanding to builders amounted to over £10,000, most of which were to the executors of J. W. Phillips for houses in Ladbroke Grove, and to Messrs. McFarland and Nance for work in St. Lawrence Terrace. Loans to builders continued to be made in diminishing amounts by Blake's executors throughout the 1870's; they were all repaid by 1884. (fn. 55)
Another way in which Blake assisted the builders while at the same time making a profit for himself was by the purchase and sale of improved ground rents. By purchasing the improved ground rents of newly completed houses from the builders to whom he had granted building leases, he provided them with a quick return of their capital and thus enabled them to enter into fresh building agreements elsewhere on the estate. In 1872, for instance, he bought improved ground rents in Bonchurch Road from the builder John Howell at a price equivalent to eighteen times the annual ground rent (i.e. 'eighteen years' purchase'). Two years later his executors granted fresh building leases to the same builder, to whom they were also making mortgage loans, for houses in St. Charles Square. (fn. 73) Blake's own large capital resources allowed him to wait for the profit which he could hardly fail to make by selling investments of this kind a few years later, for the value of both land and houses was constantly rising in the 1860's and 1870's. In the five years 1874–8 his executors spent an average of some £920 per annum on the purchase of newly improved ground rents, while at the same time selling others; and sometimes (as in the case of Howell, who bought the freehold ground rents which he had himself created in St. Charles Square) they sold the freehold interest for rates as high as twentyfour years' purchase. The buyers included builders and other private investors (particularly spinsters and clergymen), and corporate owners such as the Tallow Chandlers' Company and the Prudential Assurance Company. (fn. 74)
The financial assistance which Blake was able to provide for the builders on his estate was probably partly responsible for the infrequency of bankruptcies there during the 1860's and 70's. The majority of the builders cannot, however, have been assisted by Blake, either by loans or by the purchase of improved ground rents, for in 1871, for instance, there were no less than thirty-seven different builders at work on the Portobello and St. Quintin estates. The total number of houses and stables in course of erection was 172, the average number for each builder being therefore between 4 and 5. The largest number of houses undertaken by any one builder in that year was 13—by J. W. Phillips, and 13 also by Messrs. Pargeter. (fn. 75)
The outright sale of vacant land was another profitable means by which Blake and later his executors maintained the progress of building, the receipts being used either to reduce the mortgage debt or to finance fresh capital outlay. As early as 1865 he considered selling the greater part of the Portobello estate (a hundred acres) to the West London Freehold Ground Rent Association (Limited), at a price of £1,350 per acre—a useful profit on the £828 per acre which he had agreed in 1862 to pay to the Misses Talbot. In its public announcement of its provisional agreement to purchase, the Association stated that it expected to make a profit of some £150,000 within ten years by the formation and ultimate sale of improved ground rents. (fn. 76) This bargain did not, however, materialize, and no large sales of vacant land took place until 1868, when the purchase of the third and last part of the estate, consisting of forty-one acres, from the Misses Talbot required the payment of £34,000, of which Blake's two-thirds share was £22,666. His mortgagees, Honywood, Harrison and Cobb, evidently refused to increase their loans to him, which then stood at about £55,000, and so too did the Scottish Union Insurance Company, to whom he applied for an advance of £9,000. Honywood, Harrison and Cobb did, however, agree to the sale of parts of the property comprised in Blake's first and second purchases from the Misses Talbot (1863 and 1864), in exchange for the third portion being included in their list of securities. In October 1868, when payment of the £34,000 was already four months overdue, the lawyers acting for the Misses Talbot were 'very pressing', and the matter was not completed until December, by which time Blake had become 'unwell' (fn. 55)
This crisis was surmounted by large sales of land between 1868 and 1870 at very high prices. The Land and House Investment Society bought 19 acres in the area between Golborne and Acklam Roads at c. £1,816 per acre and contracted to buy another 15 acres north of Acklam Road and cast of Portobello Road for c. £1,787 per acre. Messrs. Pargeter, builders, paid £2,062 per acre for 1/12 acres probably in Bonchurch Road, and there were other sales in this price range. By 1870 all of the 48 acres of Blake's first purchase (1863) from the Misses Talbot had been sold or contracted for, either as vacant land or in the form of improved ground rents, plus 24 of the 41 acres of the second purchase (1864). (fn. 55)
On the third portion of 41 acres, only acquired in 1868, Blake also made two large sales by 1870, but at slightly lower prices, probably due to the more remote situation of the area. The Freehold Securities Company Limited (which was closely associated with the Land and House Investment Society, having the same solicitor, Frank Richardson, and which had previously participated in development in Golborne Road), bought eight acres in the vicinity of the present St. Charles Hospital for prices ranging between £1,400 and £1,600 per acre. (fn. 77) The other purchaser, who had also previously worked elsewhere on the Portobello estate, was a builder, Gaius Foskett. In 1866 he had been granted leases by Blake of plots in Portobello Road and in Edenham Street (north of the Great Western main line) (fn. 78) before buying freehold land in Bevington Road in the following year. (fn. 79) He subsequently built houses on the south side of Chesterton Road, (fn. 80) and in 1884 blocks of artisans' dwellings in Charing Cross Road, Westminster. (fn. 81) In 1869 he paid £1,700 per acre for eight acres of land to the north and east of the present St. Charles Hospital. This hospital was originally built in 1878–81 by the Guardians of the Poor Law Union of St. Marylebone as an infirmary for their sick poor, and in 1876 both Foskett and the Freehold Securities Company sold part of their lands to the Guardians for the site. (fn. 82)
In almost all these sales Blake obtained double the price of £829 per acre which he had himself paid to the Misses Talbot and sometimes he obtained substantially more than double. With the proceeds, and the proceeds of sales of his property on the Ladbroke estate to the west of Ladbroke Grove, he was able to repay much of his mortgage debt, and when he died at the age of seventy-seven on 22 March 1872 at Bournemouth (where he had been living for several years owing to ill health), his total mortgage liability had been reduced from £79,000 in 1864 to £17,155. In May 1873 the value of the estate stood as follows: (fn. 83)
There was therefore a surplus of assets over liabilities of some £120,879, which yielded a gross income of £3,905. (fn. 55)
This last figure represents a return of only about 3/14 per cent on the capital invested— not a very high rate for Blake's twenty-two years' assiduous attention to his property, for the imminence of ruin in 1859 on the Kensington Park estate and for the acquisition, perhaps, of a reputation for unscrupulousness through his dealings with the Hammersmith and City Railway Company in 1862–4.
By his will Blake bequeathed one third of his residuary estate to each of his two sons and one sixth to each of his two daughters, all subject to his widow's life interest. (fn. 84) His two executors his elder son, also named Charles Henry Blake, who was a barrister and had assisted his father in the management of the estate for some years, and the solicitor B. G. Lake, continued to lease freehold and leasehold ground for building, make loans to builders, and buy improved ground rents. Other ground rents were sold in order to reduce the mortgage. After John Parson's death in December 1874 they bought his one-third share in the Portobello and St. Quintin estates for £20,000, temporary accommodation being provided by a loan of the full amount from the London and County Banking Company. The money was later raised by the sale of land, the largest purchaser being Cardinal Manning. In 1872 he had bought two acres for St. Charles Roman Catholic College at £1,800 per acres (an unusually high price for land so far north), (fn. 85) and in 1875 he bought another seven-and-a-half acres of adjoining land for the same purpose at £1,763 per acre. (fn. 86) At about the same time five acres of contiguous land were sold for £1,735 per acre to the Duke of Norfolk for the building of a Carmelite monastery, a Roman Catholic enclave of nearly fifteen acres at St. Charles Square being thus formed. Other smaller sales included one of a single acre for £2,000. These prices exceeded the executors' expectations, and in 1876 the rents of house property were also still rising. (fn. 55)
By 1876, when Blake's widow died, all the outstanding charges on the estate had been paid off, and the value of the residuary estate was £75,890. This produced a net income of £5,000 per annum, which was equivalent to a return of over 6/12 per cent on the capital. Blake's four children were now entitled to possession of their residuary interest, and they were, indeed, the chief beneficiaries from their father's long labours, one of them having a house in Scotland at Blairgowrie as well as a London residence on the Kensington Park estate. In 1877–8 they received £14,000 of capital, and between 1879 and 1882 an average annual income of £4,007, the latter representing an average annual return of 6/12 per cent on the total value of the estate. (fn. 55)
In 1883 the net rental yielded £5,072, of which £4,097 was in respect of the Kensington Park estate and only £974 of the Portobello and St. Quintin properties. In the following year, however, there was a substantial fall in the amount available for distribution as income. The cost of repairs was rising, a number of houses were unlet, and when a taker could be found a lower rent had to be accepted. The area was, in fact, already beginning to decline, and it was probably for this reason that the executors decided to divide the estate among the four beneficiaries, who could then individually decide whether to sell or keep their respective shares. This was done in 1886, and in the following year C. H. Blake junior, who was probably the most knowledgeable of the beneficiaries, sold twenty-three of his leasehold houses in St. Lawrence Terrace. (fn. 55)
At the time of the division in 1886 the estates consisted of: (fn. 55)
Small samples taken from the census returns of 1871—the most recent at present open to public inspection—illustrate the social status of the inhabitants of some of the houses built on the Portobello and St. Quintin estates. In Acklam Road (Plate 74e) there were sixty-four occupied houses, most of them having three storeys with basements. Twenty-seven of them were already in divided occupation (although none of them had been built more than eight years previously), and in fifteen of these there were three or more households. The average number of inhabitants per house was 8.1, but in one case there were as many as 23 occupants. Only 22 of the 518 residents in the street were servants, but there were at least 40 lodgers. In St. Ervan's Road (Plate 74a), where the houses were very similar to those in Acklam Road, thirteen of the nineteen inhabited houses were in divided occupation, and ten of these contained three or more households. The average number of inhabitants per house was 10.8, but one house contained 27 people. Only two of the 206 residents in the street were servants, and there were only five lodgers.
The occupations of the householders in the two streets were in general similar, workers in the building trades (21 in Acklam Road and 7 in St. Ervan's Road) and on the railways (6 in Acklam Road and 16 in St. Ervan's Road) predominating in both cases. But the residents of Acklam Road were evidently marginally higher in the social scale than those of St. Ervan's Road; they included nine widows, eight clerks, three accountants, two secretaries, two army officers (both only lieutenants), two surgeons and two publishers, as well as two cooks, two bakers, two tailors, and one laundryman, toll collector, pawnbroker, cheesemonger, butler, groom, sailor and messenger. In St. Ervan's Road there were three widows and three clerks, and other householders included four policemen and four labourers.
The houses in both these streets were built under the aegis of the Land and House Investment Society Limited. Nearby, however, in Cambridge and Oxford Gardens east of Ladbroke Grove, the situation was strikingly different. The houses here were built under Blake's aegis on land which he had leased from Colonel Matthew Chitty Downes St. Quintin. Here he had had to covenant to build houses of at least £800 in value, whereas a house in Acklam Road sold leasehold a few years later fetched only £365. In Cambridge and Oxford Gardens the houses were therefore larger, having four storeys over basements, and the small front gardens, the columns flanking the doorways, and the liberally applied coarse stucco enrichment all expressed aspirations to gentility. Here in 1871 there were fifty-five inhabited houses, of which only five were in divided occupation. The average number of residents per house was only 6.0, and 84 of the 332 inhabitants were servants, two households in Cambridge Gardens containing as many as four each, and only four having none. The householders included seven widows, five merchants, five clerks, four 'independents', three lawyers, two builders, and one naval captain, lieutenant-colonel, minister, architect, corn broker, fish factor and draper. Here, in fact, the social structure was analogous to that of the southern part of the Norland estate in 1851 (see page 292), but whereas the latter district was able (despite the presence of the adjacent Potteries) to retain its position in the social hierarchy, the eastern portions of Cambridge and Oxford Gardens were within a generation to be engulfed in the generally deteriorating conditions prevalent on the Portobello estate—a matter discussed in more detail in Chapter XIV.
Later development of the St. Quintin estate
We have already seen that effective development of the St. Quintin estate had begun in 1864, when Blake had acquired leasehold rights from Colonel Matthew Chitty Downes St. Quintin over some twelve acres of land in the south-east corner of the estate to the north of the Hammersmith Railway. At about the same time Colonel St. Quintin started to grant ninety-nine-year leases to builders of his land to the south of the railway in Lancaster Road. Some three or four years later the same process began in Cambridge and Oxford Gardens, followed by Bassett Road in 1876. (fn. 87) These were the three long parallel streets planned by St. Quintin's architect, Henry Currey, to provide access from Ladbroke Grove to the main portion of the estate to the north-west. They were all to be intersected diagonally by St. Mark's Road, which extended north-westward from the Ladbroke estate across Lancaster Road and under the railway to the western extremity of Chesterton Road (which marks the site of Notting Barns farmhouse). From there it turned due north, parallel with the boundary of Blake's Portobello property, to the remoter parts of the estate, while another arm—St. Quintin Avenue—continued north-westward to the point known as the North Pole.
The houses to the west of Ladbroke Grove in Cambridge Gardens, Oxford Gardens as far as St. Helen's Gardens, and in Bassett Road were all built between about 1867 and 1890, (fn. 75) building proceeding from east to west under leases granted by the St. Quintins. By 1890, when building came to a halt, a few houses had also been built in St. Mark's Road to the north of Chesterton Road, in St. Quintin Avenue and in the northern part of Highlever Road. (fn. 88)
The house plots in Oxford Gardens and the north side of Cambridge Gardens are about 45 feet in width. Those in Bassett Road and the south side of Cambridge Gardens are slightly narrower, but the latter have a greater depth, some 170 feet compared with 100 feet in the other ranges. On the north side of Cambridge Gardens Nos. 60–68 (even) are large three-storey detached houses, raised on shallow basements and with centrally placed doorways flanked by columns and projecting bay windows. They are of stock brick, stuccoed at basement and ground-floor level. Westward from No. 70 the houses were built in pairs in order to reduce cost, but the fronts remain as before. On the south side there are three-storey paired houses, again with shallow basements, each house being two windows wide and the projecting bay beside the columned entrance extending up to first-floor level. All have front gardens with enough space for mature trees.
East of St. Mark's Road the pattern is very similar in Oxford Gardens and Bassett Road, most of the houses in the former being detached (figs. 79–81) while in the latter many are paired; some have projecting porches supported on columns, the entablature being surmounted by a balustrade which extends across the full width of the house at first-floor level. Some of the stuccowork at ground-floor level is grooved and partly rusticated. Between St. Mark's Road and St. Helen's Gardens the houses in Oxford Gardens are built of red brick, paired but without basements. They have projecting wooden porches with gabled roofs, and wooden balustrades extend across the full width of each house at first-floor level.
The building over a period of more than twenty years of some two hundred houses of this nature indicates that there were plenty of buyers for them; and indeed their complacent air of quality and substance even recalls the equally repetitious grandeurs of the somewhat earlier mansions in Pembridge Square and Holland Park. The close common affinity which these two hundred houses possess also suggests that they were all designed by one architect—probably Henry Currey—and this conjecture is strengthened by the fact that they were built by a dozen or more different builders.
Between 1871 and 1890 some four hundred houses were built on the whole of the St. Quintin estate, some eighteen different building firms being involved. The largest of these builders was John Gimbrett, who built 74 houses in Cambridge and Oxford Gardens, St. Mark's Road and St. Quintin Avenue between 1871 and 1886; John Bennett, with 69 in the same streets between 1872 and 1885; J. E. Mortimer, with 54 in Maxilla Gardens (now almost totally demolished for the elevated motorway), Bassett Road and St. Quintin Avenue in 1878–90; James Rutter, with 50 in Highlever Road and St. Quintin Avenue in 1880–3; Edward Bennett, with 34 in Bassett Road and St. Quintin Avenue in 1876–1885; and Walter William Wheeler with 25 in Cambridge and Oxford Gardens in 1877–88. The other dozen firms built an average of between 7 and 8 houses each. The peak years of activity, when over 30 houses were commenced on the estate, were 1873, 1876, 1878–80, and 1883; the low years, when less than 10 were commenced, were 1871, 1875, 1884–5 and 1889–90. (fn. 75)
When Colonel St. Quintin died in 1876 his 'effects' were valued at £60,000, (fn. 89) compared with the £25,000 of the previous owner, his elder brother, who had died in 1859. (fn. 90) Colonel St. Quintin was succeeded by his son, William Herbert St. Quintin. At the time of his marriage in 1885 the ground rental of his Kensington estate amounted to £3,510 per annum. (fn. 87)
Between 1891 and 1904 virtually no building took place on the estate, (fn. 75) and in 1902 St. Quintin was probably glad to sell three acres of land freehold at the northern extremity to the Great Western Railway Company. (fn. 91) Development was resumed, however, in 1905, under the auspices of Trant, Brown and Humphreys, a firm of civil engineers acting on St. Quintin's behalf. A building agreement was signed with the building firm of E. T. Daley and A. S. Franklin, and between 1905 and 1914 several hundred two-storey red brick houses with projecting bay windows were built in terraces (or occasionally in pairs) in the south-west corner of the estate (Plate 74f). They stand in the streets now known as Oxford Gardens (west of St. Helen's Gardens), Finstock Road, Wallingford Avenue, Balliol Road, Highlever Road, Kingsbridge Road, Kelfield Gardens and St. Quintin Avenue, for the layout of which Trant, Brown and Humphreys were responsible, their plans superseding those prepared by Henry Currey in 1878. Almost all the houses here have frontages of only about twenty feet, but their plots extend to a depth of about a hundred feet. They have no basements. Most of them were built by Daley and Franklin, but other builders included Thorning and Son, W. H. Eyeles and Company, and H. G. Gates. (fn. 92)
After the war of 1914–18 most of the remaining land on the St. Quintin estate was used for the provision of working-class housing, either by the Kensington Borough Council or by the numerous housing trusts then active in the Borough. In 1919 the Council bought nine acres in the vicinity of Methwold and Oakworth Roads, and by 1926 had built 202 cottages or cottage flats, to designs by the architect A. S. Soutar. The total price paid for the land was £13,500, equivalent to an average of £1,500 per acre, though the price for one part of it was £2,000 per acre. (fn. 93) In 1929–30 the Sutton Dwellings Trust built 540 flats on land to the north of Dalgarno Gardens, (fn. 94) and in 1932 the Council bought some nine-and-a-half acres of land to the east for more housing the last remaining vacant building site of any size in the Borough. The price here was £3,100 per acre. (fn. 95) One acre was sold to the Sutton Trustees, another acre was leased at a nominal rent to the Kensington Housing Trust, and the Peabody Donation Fund took some five acres of the remainder on similar terms. By 1938 some 545 flats had been built here by these three bodies. (fn. 96)
A playground was provided to the east of the adjoining premises of the Clement Talbot Motor Company. The land for another, consisting of some six acres on the west side of St. Mark's Road, had been bought in 1923 with funds provided by the Kensington War Memorial Committee. This was presented to the London County Council and was officially opened as the Kensington Memorial Recreation Ground on 24 June 1926. (fn. 97) In the same year the foundation stone of the Princess Louise Kensington Hospital for Children (hitherto the Kensington Dispensary and Children's Hospital in Kensington Church Street) was laid on a site on the east side of Pangbourne Avenue. The hospital was opened by King George V on 21 May 1928. The architects were George A. Lansdown and J. T. Saunders. (fn. 98)
In 1933 the ground landlord of the estate, William Herbert St. Quintin, still of Scampston Hall, Yorkshire, died, leaving 'effects' valued at some £380,000, (fn. 99) compared with the £60,000 of his predecessor in 1876. By this time the freehold of large parts of the estate had been sold, and the process of dispersal has continued in more recent years. (fn. 100)
The social evolution of the Portobello and St. Quintin estates is described on pages 348–51.
All Saints' Church, Talbot Road
Plates 14, 15; fig. 82
In the minds of many of the developers of London's Victorian suburbs the provision of a church was often thought to be essential for the success of their speculations, and the motives which underlay their gifts of sites and their contributions to the building funds were not, perhaps, always entirely disinterested. But here at least, at All Saints', the motives of the ground landlord, the Reverend Dr. Samuel Walker, were evidently entirely unworldly, and the unfinished state of his great and beautiful church provides a sad monument to his financial innocence.
In 1851 Dr. Walker had inherited a very large fortune from his father, Edmund Walker, a Master in the Court of Chancery. As rector of St. Columb Major in Cornwall, the richest living in the county, to which his father had presented him some years previously, he had rebuilt the rectory there at great cost, hoping that it might become the palace of the bishopric of Cornwall which it was his dearest wish to see established. He had even offered his living as an endowment for this great object, and it was apparently in order to improve the value of his offer that he had started to speculate in building at Notting Hill. Between 1852 and 1855 he bought or contracted to buy some ninety acres of land on the Ladbroke and Portobello estates (see page 223), and on 17 July 1852, within a year of his inheriting his father's fortune, the corner stone of the 'free and open church' which was to be the spiritual centre of his new estate, had been laid. (fn. 101)
The architect was William White, who had worked in (Sir) George Gilbert Scott's office before setting up in independent practice at Truro, where Dr. Walker had put him in charge of the rebuilding of St. Columb's rectory. (fn. 102) The designs for All Saints' Church, which included a group of collegiate buildings in addition to the church itself, at once attracted attention, and in August 1852 The Ecclesiologist noted that the 'internal arrangements are . . . very correct; and an effect of great internal breadth will be produced, especially in the choir'. (fn. 103) All the outer walls and the spire were to be built of Bath stone, while the columns of the arcade were to be of marble. (fn. 104) No expense was, in fact, to be spared, but in March 1855 the collapse of Dr. Walker's building speculations obliged him to hand over control of all his estate to trustees (see page 233), and work at All Saints' stopped. By this time the church had been covered in and glazed, but the interior was undecorated and unfurnished, neither the tower buttresses nor the spire had been commenced, (fn. 105) and a debt of £2,000 remained due to the builder, Myers of Lambeth. (fn. 106)
Dr. Walker was never able to provide funds for the completion of the church, and in this semiderelict state, with Myers in possession, and surrounded by the equally derelict carcases of numerous half-completed houses, it remained for some four or five years, being commonly referred to as All Sinners' in the Mud. In about 1859, however, the Reverend John Light, who had been nominated to the incumbency by Dr. Walker as patron, organized a committee to raise funds, and after some £4,000 had been spent on decorations, the purchase of an organ and the discharge of the debt to Myers, the church was at last consecrated, still without its spire, on 9 April 1861. (fn. 106) It provided 880 sittings, of which only 200 were free, and a district chapelry was assigned later in the same year. (fn. 107) The total cost is said to have been about £25,000. (fn. 108)
William White, the original architect, was not concerned in the works of completion of 1859 60. According to The Ecclesiologist these were 'entrusted to another hand, (hitherto, we believe, only conversant with civil engineering), to whom are due the strange painting, and the feeble reredos of sham materials'. (fn. 109) This 'other hand' is said to have been a brother of the incumbent, John Light. The decorations and fittings in general were regarded as 'deficient in taste'. (fn. 110)
As built, in the Gothic style of the fourteenth century, the church consists of a four-bay nave and aisles with short transepts gabled out from the nave roof, and a two-bay chancel with halfaisles on either side. The two principal entrances are at the base of the great tower at the west end, and through a gabled porch projecting from the south aisle. The exterior is of pale honey-coloured Bath stone, with bands and voussoirs of red, grey and buff stone.
The tower is in the Flemish manner, and provides a conspicuous landmark throughout Notting Dale. Its three lower stages are severely plain, but the belfry stage has pairs of traceried lights, and the octagonal top stage, pierced with traceried lights in continuous sequence, contains much constructional colour, both in bands and shafts. The elegant angle buttresses become freestanding at the octagonal stage, to which they are joined by discreetly detailed short flying arches.
The main body of the church is unusually lofty, the clerestory on each side containing three pairs of large plate-traceried windows, each of four lights, surmounted by trefoil windows. The aisles are of considerable height, but owing to the need to accommodate the clerestory the pitch of their roofs is too low in relation to that of the nave. The transepts, although not of great projection, possess a nobility of scale emphasized by their height and the confines of the site. Each is pierced by a rose window, that to the south having a tall traceried light set under the rose.
All Saints' is not large, but White nevertheless obtained an appearance of great size for the interior. He boldly carried the nave arcades (the pillars of which are of Devonshire marble) across the transepts, filling in the space above with stone arcading, and formed a continuation of the clerestory, an arrangement frequently found in medieval Italian churches. The spandrels between the heads of the side and middle lights of the clerestory are inlaid with mosaics by Steven of Pimlico, while the walls were lined all round below stringcourse level with black, red and buff tiles, and bricks in courses, graduated so as to increase the lightness upwards. (fn. 105)
The sills of the north aisle windows are raised to allow for the incorporation of the cloister which it was intended should connect the church with the collegiate buildings to be erected on the north side. In the north transept the space below the rose window was designed by White for the organ, but was unaccountably not used for this purpose, Light placing it in the south transept instead, where it obscured the windows. After the war of 1939–45 the organ was moved to a new gallery at the west end of the church.
Few of the original fittings survive. The original reredos, carved by J. F. Redfern in 1878, was replaced in 1933 by the present one, which was designed by G. F. Bodley's partner, Cecil G. Hare, in the fifteenth-century Flemish Gothic manner. The marble and alabaster pulpit has been replaced by a wooden pulpit, designed by Romilly B. Craze in 1951. The hanging rood was erected in 1934, and a new reredos was put into the Lady Chapel to the south of the chancel in 1936. Canopies over the shrines of Our Lady and St. Joseph were supplied by Beyaert of Bruges, and the statues of St. Joseph, St. Anthony and St. Mary Magdalene were made by Dupont of Bruges. (fn. 111)
The interior of the church was painted during the 1930's, obliterating the rich colours of the stone and much of its Victorian character. It was perhaps at this time that the mural painting of the Annunciation, executed by Henry Holiday in the chancel and highly praised by Charles Eastlake in 1872, was lost. (fn. 112)
All Saints' was severely damaged during the war of 1939–45. On 29 September 1940 an incendiary bomb closely followed by a high explosive bomb destroyed the Lady Chapel and the chapel in the south transept. Further damage occurred in 1944, when the glass (by Alexander Gibbs) (fn. 113) and the tracery of the east window were shattered, the roof was damaged, and the high altar was wrecked.
Restoration was completed in 1951 under the direction of Milner and Craze. The roof now differs considerably from White's design, and much of the richness was lost in the rebuilding. Some of the fixtures from St. Columb's, Lancaster Road, which had served as the parish church while All Saints' was derelict, were moved to the restored church, including the altar of St. George and its reredos by Martin Travers, now in the south transept, and the Lady altar, now the altar of St. Columb in the north transept.
Sir J. Ninian Comper designed the sounding board above Romilly B. Craze's new pulpit, and also restored the Lady Chapel, which contains a reredos of 1953 and windows of 1955 typical of Comper's later manner. All the glass existing today, apart from that by Comper, was designed and executed by Gerald E. R. Smith of the A. K. Nicholson Studios.
The vicarage, in Clydesdale Road, was designed by Edgar P. Loftus Brock in 1891. (fn. 114)
The Church of St. Andrew and St. Philip, Golborne Road
This church was erected in 1869–70 upon a site purchased by the trustees of the Bishop of London's Church Building Fund, a large part of the building cost of £12,000 being contributed by an anonymous 'Christian lady in Bayswater'. The architect was E. Bassett Keeling. The church provided 820 sittings and was consecrated on 8 January 1870. A consolidated chapelry was assigned in the following year. (fn. 115)
St. Andrew and St. Philip's was in the 'Early Gothic and Italian' style, (fn. 116) and was built of red brick with Bath stone mouldings. It was cruciform on plan, and consisted of nave, aisles, transepts and chancel, with a belfry at the south-east end. There were no galleries. According to William Pepperell, writing in 1872, the church was 'a credit to the architect'. He had here been 'forbidden the versatility of device' which he had displayed at St. Mark's, Notting Hill and St. George's, Campden Hill, and had proved unusually restrained. The church was said to be 'admirably adapted for the free passage both of light and sound, and the plain but variously stained glass windows . . .' contributed to the 'beautiful effect of the whole structure'. (fn. 117)
In 1951 the benefice was united with that of St. Thomas, Kensal Road, and the church was subsequently demolished. Its site now forms part of the eleven acres recently redeveloped for housing by the Borough Council.
The Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Ladbroke Grove
Plate 18a, b; fig. 83
The site for this church was given by C. H. Blake and John Parson, the two principal developers of the Portobello estate, on condition that building was completed within two years from 30 December 1869. The funds were provided by J. E.Gray, who was the first patron of the living and the father of the first incumbent, the Reverend Edward Ker Gray, and the foundation stone was laid on 1 November 1870 by a cousin of the Grays, J. R. Mowbray, M.P. (afterwards Sir John Mowbray, baronet). The architect was James Edmeston, in partnership with J. S. Edmeston, and the builder was J. D. Cowland, a local man who became one of the first churchwardens. His contract was for £4,300 exclusive of the fittings and the upper part of the tower. The church originally provided some 700 sittings. It was consecrated on 17 May 1871 and a district chapelry was assigned later in the same year. (fn. 118)
The style chosen—Rhineland Romanesque in brick with terra-cotta, red Mansfield and Forest of Dean stone dressings—was a curious one for the time, when architects were tending to favour late Gothic for ecclesiastical buildings. The exterior is gritty, bare and uncompromising, the main points of interest being the apsidal projections containing the east sanctuary, the west baptistry and the south chapel, and the tower, which was to have had a gabled spire. The details of the richer parts, notably of the south wall of the nave and of the western baptistry with the picturesque stair turret to the tower and western gallery, are strong and boldly modelled. The western apse, the polygonal turret between it and the middle of the tower, and the tower itself, of which only the first two stages were built, combine to form one of the few notable architectural features at the northern end of Ladbroke Grove.
The building is basically one large almost barn-like space with no aisles, and is lit by semicircular headed windows set within shallow recesses. It has an apse at both the east and west ends, an apsidal south chapel, and a rectangular Lady Chapel to the north. The steeply pitched wooden roof is carried on large double trusses spanning the full width of the church. These trusses rest directly on the walls, extra support being provided by semi-circular wooden arches which spring from brackets set into the walls. The trusses are tied by iron bars, which contribute to the utilitarian character of the church. The west gallery, erected in or soon after 1877, is supported on cast-iron volute brackets and cylindrical columns, and cuts off the apsidal west baptistry from the main body of the church.
The chancel is defined by a dwarf screen of alabaster, formerly bearing eagle lecterns, erected in the late 1880's, while the sanctuary occupies the eastern apse, which is approached through a semicircular headed arch without capitals. On the north side of the nave a similar though smaller arch leads into the Lady Chapel, which was added in 1882 to Edmeston's designs, and a marble mural tablet records that the opening of what was then the 'North Transept' was performed by the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh. (fn. 119) In the east wall of the nave a door on the north side of the sanctuary arch opens to the sacristy and vestry, while on the south side a broader segmental-headed archway leads to a chapel used for the reservation of the sacrament—a beautifully furnished little room, almost domestic in character, which is approached through wrought-iron gates painted amber red.
The finest object in the church is the Baroque reredos, an opulent Flemish design of indeterminate date, but probably of the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, which was presented to the church during the incumberncy of Prebendary H. P. Denison in about 1914. (fn. 120) The winged plaster putti, now on the wall of the south chapel, were originally seated on scrolls above the entablature of the reredos, and were replaced there by two figures in Franciscan habits which formerly flanked the large painted panel in the centre. The reredos is shown, shortly after its installation, in the frontispiece of Denision's book, Seventy-Two Years' Church Recollections. The painted panel which forms the centrepiece of the reredos was given by the widow of the second incumbent in his memory. (fn. 121)
The wooden pulpit, approached by a curving stair, is in the Gothic manner of the early nineteenth century. The font, of quatrefoil section on plan, is of two different marbles on a stone base, and has an octagonal spire-shaped cover. The Jacobean reredos in the Lady Chapel was erected in the late 1880's. (fn. 121)
By the 1890's the church had been richly decorated with mural paintings and diaper-work, and further murals were added during the incumbency of Prebendary Denison. These have all now been obliterated by a general redecoration carried out in 1955 under the direction of Milner and Craze, when the walls were painted a creamy grey.
The vicarage was built by Cowland in 1876 to designs by J. and J. S. Edmeston, the first stone being laid by the Duchess of Teck. (fn. 122) The short cloister which joins the adjacent parish hall to the church has been obscured by later additions.
During E. K. Gray's incumbency (1871–86) St. Michael's was a fashionable church, famous for its music and frequented by members of the Royal Family. Its services were advertised on the front page of The Times, and the Duke of Edinburgh was known to play the violin in the orchestra. By the latter part of the 1880's, however, the social character of the area was changing, and with Gray's departure for the Curzon Street Chapel in Mayfair, St. Michael's fashionable hey-day was over. (fn. 121)
Christ Church, Telford Road
Plate 18d. Demolished
This church was built in 1880–1 by Messrs. Hook and Oldrey to designs by J. E. K. Cutts. It provided seats for 744 people and cost £5,103. It was consecrated on 14 May 1881. (fn. 123)
It was built in the French Gothic style of the thirteenth century in stock brick with bands of black and red brick, and consisted of a clerestoried nave with aisles of five bays, a chancel, and a narthex containing the baptistry. Vestigial transepts gabled out from the nave walls contained the organ chamber and part of the clergy vestry. The steeply pitched roof of slate was crowned by a tall flèchesited over the chancel arch.
In 1940 the benefice of Christ Church was united with that of St. Michael and All Angels, and the church was subsequently demolished. The site is now occupied by the Notting Hill Adventure Playground.
St. Helen's Church, St. Quintin Avenue
Between 1867 and 1884 the area served by this church had formed part of the consolidated chapelry of St. Clement (see page 352), whose indomitable incumbent, the Reverend Arthur Dalgarno Robinson, mindful of the rapid progress of building development on the St. Quintin estate in the latter part of the 1860's, had built the parsonage of the cure in North Pole Road in 1874–6. Until its demolition some years ago this enormous house, consisting of sixteen rooms besides 'various offices, bathroom and dressing rooms', (fn. 124) stood on the sites now occupied by Nos. 1A–4A North Pole Road and Coronation Court. Its building was soon followed by the building of a church, upon a triangular island site presented by the ground landlord of the surrounding estate, W. H. St. Quintin, who also gave £1,000 towards the building costs on condition that work began forthwith. The architect was Henry Currey, who was also acting for St. Quintin in the layout of his property, and most of the remainder of the costs was met by private benefactions and by funds accruing from the recent union of the benefices of two churches in the City. The builders were Perry and Company, whose contract was for £9,374. The new church, which provided some 900 sittings (all free), was dedicated to St. Helen and consecrated on 15 January 1884. In that year it became the parish church of the cure, but the name of the cure itself continued (very confusingly) to be St. Clement's, Kensington. (fn. 125)
St. Helen's Church was destroyed by enemy action in the war of 1939–45, and in 1951 the benefice was united with that of Holy Trinity, Latimer Road, Hammersmith. (fn. 126) The present Church of St. Helen, which was designed by J. B. Sebastian Comper, was completed in 1956 at a contract cost of £44,440. It is the principal component in an ingeniously planned group of pale pinkish-red brick buildings intended for church purposes. The ancillary buildings—vicarage, church hall, parish room and stores—are clustered round the church, which is in a freely treated late Gothic style, with elements of Perpendicular and of North European sixteenth-century architecture. It is approached through a forecourt, an attractive paved space flanked by the vicarage and the hall. The west front is of brick, pierced by the stone-dressed west door and two flanking rectangular windows, above which is a canopied niche and a small rose window high up. A bellcote surmounted by a thin spirelet caps the composition.
The church consists of a five-bay clerestoried nave with aisles and a much lower Lady Chapel which projects to the east, allowing a window above the high altar to be inserted. Dominating the west end of the church is the organ case, a handsome design by the architect's father, Sir J. Ninian Comper. It is this organ case that contributes to the Netherlandish character of the interior, with its whitewashed, Calvinistic appearance and the sparse use of colour and elaborate fittings.
The five-light east window above the high altar and the three-light east window of the Lady Chapel contain glass by Sir J. Ninian Comper in the flat manner of his later period, with much use of clear or uncoloured glass.
There is a fine brass lectern which was saved from the former church, and some robustly designed pews by R. Norman Shaw, brought here from Holy Trinity, Latimer Road.
Besides building the churches of St. Clement and St. Helen, several schools and a parsonage, Dalgarno Robinson also had a hand in the building of Bracewell Road and Brewster Gardens, in the parish of Hammersmith. In 1868 he had persuaded the Bishop of London, as lord of the manor of Fulham, to grant five acres of ground here as glebe land for the endowment of the chapelry of St. Clement, and part of this ground had subsequently been used as a site for the parsonage. In 1883 he signed a building agreement with James Rutter, a builder then active in Highlever Road and St. Quintin Avenue, for the development of the remainder of the glebe. But while he was impatiently awaiting the approval of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners the pace of building slackened and Rutter filed a petition in liquidation. Much to Dalgarno Robinson's annoyance, the terms offered in 1884 by Peter Tinckham, the builder ultimately responsible for the development of Bracewell Road and Brewster Gardens, were substantially less advantageous. (fn. 127)
Dalgarno Robinson died at his parsonage in 1899, after some forty years' work in North Kensington. (fn. 124) Dalgarno Gardens, a street-name approved by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1887, commemorates his connexion with the area, as also does Dalgarno Way, approved by the London County Council in 1936.
Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Sava, Lancaster Road. Formerly the Church of St. Columb
A mission church dedicated to St. Columb was built here in 1888, the dedication being doubtless intended to commemorate the Cornish connexions of Dr. Samuel Walker, the founder of All Saints' Church, in whose parish the new church was situated. It was designed by Edgar P. Loftus Brock and built at a cost of some £1,400 (fn. 128) upon a site which had had to be purchased. (fn. 129) After the erection of the present church in 1900–1 it was used as a parish hall until its demolition in 1970 to make way for the social centre of the Serbian community in London.
In 1898 W. A. Pite prepared plans for an impressive new church, (fn. 130) but probably for reasons of cost they were not executed, and the architect of the present church was C. Hodgson Fowler of Durham. Building began in 1900, and St. Columb's was consecrated on 15 June 1901. It provided 668 sittings, and a district chapelry was assigned in 1902. (fn. 129)
The church, which is orientated north-south, is in the manner of the early Christian basilicas of Italy and is very broad in relation to its length. It is built of stock brick and has a low-pitched roof. The plain north front has a lean-to narthex and is pierced by a range of seven narrow roundheaded lights beneath a large circular window.
The interior walls are of bare unplastered brick. The four-bay nave is flanked by three-bay lean-to aisles, and at the south end by short galleried transepts which do not project beyond the walls of the aisles. The one-bay sanctuary extends across the full width of the nave. The aisles are separated from the nave by arcades carried on stout stone columns and large brick piers. The clerestory is lit by two tall lights to each bay, and the west transept by three large windows. The east transept has no lights. The wooden roof is carried on simple trusses with semi-circular arches between the struts.
In 1951 the benefice of St. Columb was united with that of All Saints', (fn. 129) and since 1952 the building has been used as the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Sava. Byzantine paintings and other ornaments have been introduced, but the low arcaded sanctuary screen with ambones of alabaster and marble has been retained. In the baptistry there are three windows with glass by Martin Travers. Other fittings include a bronze memorial tablet to the Serbian guerrilla leader, Drazha Mihailovich (1893–1946), by Dora Gordine.
Dominican Convent, Portobello Road
Plate 25a b; figs. 84–5
This group of buildings on the west side of Portobello Road was originally occupied by nuns of the Third Order of St. Francis, whose convent had been founded in 1857 at the instance of Dr. Henry Manning, then Superior of the Oblates of St. Charles. The first abbess, Mother Mary Elizabeth Lockhart, was a daughter of Mrs. Lockhart, a friend of Manning during his Anglican years, who had entered the Roman Catholic Church in 1846. The young community occupied three houses in Elgin Road from 1857 to 1862, when it removed to the newly-erected buildings in Portobello Road. In 1897 it migrated to Essex, and the premises were sold to the Dominican order. (fn. 131)
The convent buildings are constructed of plain stock brick enlivened by bands of dark blue bricks, and are visible above the high wall along Portobello Road, the principal elements of the design being the little spirelet and the projecting apses of the chapels. The convent is entered through an archway which leads to a long corridor terminating in the cloister. The buildings are grouped round a central cloistered court, and there are gardens to the south and east, surrounded by brick walls.
The architect for the original buildings of 1862 was Henry Clutton, but some additions were made in 1870 to house a girls' orphanage which existed here until 1896. John Francis Bentley, who had been Clutton's assistant, became architect to the convent in 1883, when he built a new chapter room with eight cells above facing the garden, the corridor linking the cloister with the garden to the south, the new infirmary overlooking the high altar, and the octagonal bell turret. (fn. 131) The latter is of brick with stone dressings, capped by a brick spirelet, and is very similar to the belfries at the church and school of St. Francis of Assisi, Pottery Lane, and at the church of Our Lady of the Holy Souls, Kensal New Town.
The most important part of the fabric is the chapel. It is a boldly-handled essay in simplified French Gothic of the early thirteenth century, and originally consisted of nuns' choir, sanctuary, and transept (the latter reserved for the orphans and for visitors). It is of three bays and an apse, and is vaulted, the ribs being carried on columns with simplified foliate capitals attached to the walls. The westernmost bay has a pointed barrel roof with a central transverse rib carried on rich portrait corbels. The transept is also vaulted, with an apse in which is the altar originally dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi but now to the Sacred Heart.
Bentley had designed a brass sanctuary lamp for Clutton's chapel in 1863, and in 1870 he was commissioned to design a high altar and a votive altar to St. Francis. The high altar has a deeply recessed frontal with pilasters inlaid with arabesques, animals and birds. The alabaster tabernacle is aediculated, with a trefoil arched centrepiece inlaid with gold mosaic, and a door of brass depicting the vesica piscis, the chalice, and the alpha and omega motifs. The chapel was enlarged by Bentley by the addition of an ante-chapel at the west end with a flat ceiling supported by coupled columns on high pedestals, and by an extension south of the ante-chapel into an organ chamber open to the nave, the wall being removed and replaced by coupled columns. (fn. 132) The chapel is lit by clerestory windows, that in the south wall overlooking the altar now being sealed, and by borrowed light from the former organ chamber. Three windows open from the infirmary above the flat ceiling of Bentley's ante-chapel so that patients may see the altar. There is also an opening from the priest's room at high level in the transept.
New fronts and backs to the choir stalls have changed the scale of the chapel, and the obliteration of the original colour scheme has further altered its character. Recent changes to the conventual buildings have included additional storeys to parts of the residential wings and the insertion of metal windows.
St. Joseph's Home, Portobello Road
This home for the aged and infirm is managed by the Little Sisters of the Poor, who came to North Kensington from Brittany in 1865. (fn. 133) It occupies the site of Portobello Farm, and while the old buildings were being demolished and part of the present ones erected, the Sisters appear to have lived nearby. They first occupied the new building in 1869. (fn. 134) Three years later this was described as a large brick edifice, giving the impression of a workhouse hospital', in which over two hundred residents were accommodated. (fn. 135) It was considerably enlarged in 1882 to designs by F. W. Tasker, who may also have designed the original building. (fn. 136) The home now consists of a large group of outwardly utilitarian three-storey buildings with semi-basements and attics, built of yellow stock bricks with bands of blue-black brick and stone, and stone dressings.
St. Charles College, St. Charles Square
This college was founded in 1863 by 'command' of Dr. Henry Manning, then Superior of the Oblates of St. Charles. It provided a Roman Catholic education for boys of the upper classes on the system of 'our English public schools', and Manning's nephew, the Reverend William Manning, was its first principal. When its first home in Sutherland Place, Paddington, became too small, it removed to premises adjoining the Church of St. Mary of the Angels (the mother church of the Oblates of St. Charles), where boarders could be accommodated. In 1874 it moved to a new site in St. Charles Square which had been bought at the instigation of Dr. Manning, now Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. Here 'a fine building of noble dimensions' 300 feet in length with a tower 140 feet in height surmounted by the Papal Tiara and Crossed Keys, had been erected in 1873 to the designs of F. W. Tasker. The fifteenth Duke of Norfolk was one of the principal benefactors, and the total cost was £40,000. The college was conducted by the Oblates of St. Charles and in 1876 there were 130 students, several of whom were studying for the priesthood. (fn. 137) In 1878 Manning's abortive Kensington University College was amalgamated with St. Charles College as a higher department. (fn. 138)
In 1903 the college was discontinued, and in 1905 the buildings in St. Charles Square were taken over by the nuns of the Sacred Heart for use as a Catholic teacher-training college. The latter had been established by Reverend Mother Digby in 1874 in a wing of the Sacred Heart Convent at Roehampton, and had shortly afterwards removed to separate premises at West Hill, Wandsworth. From there it moved in 1905, under Reverend Mother Stuart, to the buildings in St. Charles Square, where it assumed the name of St. Charles's Training College for Catholic Women Teachers. In 1908 a chapel (now the Church of St. Pius X) was built to the designs of P. A. Lamb and R. O'B. North. The college remained here until its evacuation to the country on the outbreak of war in 1939. During the war the original buildings were extensively damaged by enemy action, and in 1946 the college returned to its original birthplace at Roehampton, where it took the name of Digby-Stuart College. (fn. 138)
The site and curtilage of the original college in St. Charles Square were subsequently acquired by the Archdiocese of Westminster, and with the help of substantial grants from the London County Council two Catholic secondary schools have subsequently been erected there—Cardinal Manning School for Boys, opened in 1954–5, and Sion-Manning Girls' School, opened in 1957. St. Charles Primary School, which had occupied an adjoining site and had been demolished during the war, was also rebuilt and re-opened in 1953. (fn. 140) The western extremity of St. Charles Square is now occupied by the Catholic Crusade of Rescue, and the Paddington College of Further Education also has premises adjoining the boys' secondary school.
Roman Catholic Church of St. Pius X, St. Charles Square
Plate 23; fig. 86
This church was built in 1908 to the designs of P. A. Lamb and R. O'B. North as the chapel of St. Charles's Training College (see above). The inward-facing stalls which were originally ranged along both sides in the usual collegiate manner were removed when the chapel was converted into a parish church in 1955. (fn. 141)
The church is built of red Essex bricks, with a Staffordshire blue brick plinth. It consists of a six-bay nave with a low passage-aisle on the ritual south side, a one-bay square chancel, and a transept to the ritual south of the chancel. The long Italianate nave, lit by semi-circular-headed windows, has a barrel-vaulted ceiling, with wide transverse arches springing from brackets marking each bay. There are recessed panels with lush borders of fruit and foliage in the centres of each bay of the plaster celling, flanked by garlanded swags.
The short chancel, lit by lunette clerestory windows, is divided from the nave by a semicircular coffered arch carried on deeply fluted Ionic pilasters. Filling the ritual east wall of the chancel is a large reredos in florid Italian Baroque that stands behind the simple marble altar. The tabernacle is domed, as is the exposition throne, above which is a crowned statue of the Madonna carrying the infant Jesus set within a shell-headed niche. On either side are columns of the Corinthian order supporting a segmental arch surmounted by a crown. Above the niche trumpeting angels look down, while behind them a cartouche with papal emblems is linked to the crown above. The rest of the reredos is smaller in scale, and consists of an order of debased Renaissance Ionic pilasters carrying an entablature in low relief crowned by garlanded obelisks. The dies on which the pilasters stand are enriched with entwined serpentine forms, and between them are ornate balusters. Two kneeling angels above panels in low relief depicting the Annunciation flank a central figure of the Madonna, the aediculated treatment and the positioning of the figures recalling the box-fronts of an Italian theatre.
Carmelite Monastery of The Most Holy Trinity, St. Charles Square
Plate 26; fig. 87
This convent was established by the French Carmelite nuns, nine of whom came here in 1878. One of them was a sister of the fifteenth Duke of Norfolk, who appears to have bought the site from the freeholders, (fn. 65) and who was certainly for many years a very generous benefactor of the new community. Building began in the spring of 1877 to the designs of F. H. Pownall, and the first stone of the chapel was laid by Cardinal Manning on 16 July of that year. The nuns entered the convent on 28 September 1878. Substantial additions were made to the buildings in 1893–4. (fn. 142)
The convent consists of a large irregular group of stock brick buildings, roofed with slate and enclosed by high walls. The domestic buildings are austere and plain, but well detailed and proportioned. The chapel is in the High Victorian Gothic manner, and is very little changed from its original condition. It dominates the small entrance courtyard, and is reached by a flight of steps within a vestibule leading directly from the court. On the wall of the staircase is a tablet commemorating Mother Mary of Jesus, who came to England in the year of the convent's foundation and who as prioress subsequently founded thirty-three Carmels in Great Britain. The exposed brick walls of the staircase anticipate those of the chapel itself, which are strongly polychromatic in dark red brick with bands of dark blue and white bricks. They are further enlivened by a deep patterned frieze, and enclose a space six bays long with a varnished wooden roof, lit on the liturgical north side by three windows of two lights each with cinquefoil tracery heads. Above the large white stone reredos, which is raised on steps in a tile-floored sanctuary, is a wheel window in the manner of the French Gothic style of the thirteenth century. The projecting bay on the 'north' side contains the Lady altar, and is reached through a segmentallyheaded arch supported on brick walls flanked by cylindrical stone columns. The nuns' choir and infirmary tribune, also faced with brick, are situated on either side of the sanctuary, and are protected by iron grilles.
Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Holy Souls, Bosworth Road
Plate 23d; fig. 88
The Church of Our Lady of the Holy Souls is one of four churches established in West London by the oblates of St. Charles during the second half of the nineteenth century. It is the furthest north of these, and is in the vicinity of the Roman Catholic cemetery of St. Mary at Kensal Green, which explains the dedication of the church.
The Oblates' first mission in Kensal New Town was established in two small cottages which were used as a school. In 1872 a two-storey red brick building was erected in Bosworth Road to the design of S. J. Nicholl, the upper storey being used as a school and the lower as a church. (fn. 143) This building quickly became too small to meet the demands of a growing number of parishioners, and in 1873 John Francis Bentley was asked to provide a temporary iron church on adjoining vacant land. This was used for several years, but in 1880 the oblates invited Bentley to design a permanent church providing in the plainest manner possible at least five hundred sittings. The site was limited, occupying an irregular parallelogram at the corner of Bosworth Road and Hazlewood Crescent, and Bentley was instructed to provide a design in the 'Roman' (i.e. Italian) style, without pointed arches or stained windows, the materials to be used being stock bricks without stone facings or carvings. The contract for the first stage of this work was not to exceed £1,200. (fn. 144)
By the time that Cardinal Manning laid the foundation stone on 24 May 1881, Bentley had succeeded in entirely diverting the oblates from their original intentions, departing from them over both style and detail. His design, which he estimated would cost over £4,000 to realize, is not at all 'Roman', being an idiosyncratic version of Early English Gothic, and comprising a sixbay nave with narrow aisles, and a three-bay chancel flanked by a sacristy and side chapel. The exterior is of plain red brick with Bath stone dressings. The main roof, continuous over both nave and chancel, was originally covered with green slates. (fn. 145)
The western façade in Bosworth Road has an entrance opening into what was to be only a temporary porch. Over this the wall is pierced by triple lancets set between tall slender buttresses, and in the top stage, between the two central buttresses, the gable is pierced by three more small lancets. At the corner of Bosworth Road and Hazlewood Crescent is a bell turret crowned by a spirelet. The southern elevation to Hazlewood Crescent consists of a plain brick aisle wall pierced at either end by small paired cusped lancets, above which rises the high clerestory pierced by seven pairs of cusped lancets. The projection containing the organ loft forms a transeptal block which is flush with the aisle wall, relieving and terminating the long line of clerestory windows. At street level the transeptal projection contains an entrance to the church and sacristy, while its gable is decorated with stone bands, alternating with brick courses, a favourite device of Bentley's (fn. 146)
The detailing of the interior of the church is sparse and conventional, with the exceptions of the cinquefoil cusping, coupled clerestory lancets, and the tracery of the screen between the sacristy and the chancel. The east end of the church abuts directly upon the presbytery, and there is therefore no east window, but the carved and painted wooden reredos, in the Tudor style, designed by the Reverend Arnold S. Baker, which formerly adorned the whole expanse of the east wall, is now masked from view. There is now no division between the chancel and the nave, a handsome chancel screen in the fifteenth-century style, surmounted by a Rood, having recently been removed. This screen was also designed by Father Baker, painted by Haslop and constructed by Clark. In the north aisle is a wooden altar designed by Bentley and painted by Stacey. The inner side of the wooden entrance porch at the west end was covered with a profusion of painted subjects, both figures and arabesques, arranged in panels, the work of the Marquis d'Oisy. (fn. 145) At some time after George Bodley's death, in 1907, the walls were painted by a former member of his staff, the whole De Profundis being inscribed in Gothic letters beneath the clerestory windows.
In recent years the church has been much altered. The walls are now painted in pale washes, and, as the church was always well lit, the effect is one of glare. The floor is now covered with tiles of the vinyl type, while the sanctuary floor is partly covered by a light-veined simulated marble. The description of the church, written in 1905 by Father Francis Kirk, the founder of the mission in Kensal Green, as 'graceful and pleasing to the eye', now seems sadly inappropriate.
Former Congregational Chapel, Lancaster Road
This pleasant chapel, now used for commercial purposes, is situated at the corner of Lancaster Road and Basing Street. It is in the Romanesque style, and was built in 1865–6 by James Rankin of St. Marylebone in white bricks and rubbed yellow stocks, with stone dressings sparingly used. (fn. 146)
The front to Lancaster Road is symmetrical, with a central gabled section pierced by a door and two small flanking lights, above which are three linked semi-circular-headed lights. In the upper portion is a round window with plate tracery. The wings of the façade contain the gallery stairs, and are each pierced by a door and a window. All the openings have semi-circular heads.
The elevation to Basing Street is plain, with round-headed windows now bricked up. The interior has been completely remodelled.
The Talbot Tabernacle, Talbot Road
In 1869 an iron church was erected by Gordon Furlong near All Saints' Church, Talbot Road, to serve as a 'non-sectarian Church of Christ'. Furlong, who had formerly been a barrister, made his reputation as a preacher in Victoria Hall, Archer Street, and he was able to raise funds to build a temporary church within two years of commencing his meetings. (fn. 147)
The iron church was larger than most similar buildings in Kensington, and had an end gallery, the total capacity being for over a thousand people. (fn. 148) In 1887, during the ministry of Frank Henry White, the present chapel with its Romanesque façade of red brick and terra-cotta was built. The architects were W. G. Habershon and Fawckner. (fn. 149)
Jubilee Hall, Latimer Road
Jubilee Hall (now the Pentecostal Church) was established by the London City Mission, the foundation stone being laid on 17 June 1884. The architect was J. C. Hukins.
The building consists of a five-bay clerestoried nave with aisles, and is constructed of stock brick with red brick voussoirs to the windows and doors. Slender cast-iron columns carry the thin root trusses. Both the clerestory and aisle windows consist of continuous bands of glazing sub-divided by vertical timber bars, similar to the glazing of industrial buildings of the period.
St. Charles Hospital, Exmoor Street
This hospital was built by the Board of Guardians of the Poor Law Union of St. Marylebone as an infirmary for the sick poor of that parish, no site being then available in St. Marylebone itself. Until 1922 it was known as St. Marylebone Infirmary. In 1923 it was renamed St. Marylebone Hospital, and when it was taken over in 1930 by the London County Council under the Local Government Act of the previous year it was given its present name of St. Charles Hospital.
The foundation stone was laid by the chairman of the Guardians in 1879, and the infirmary, which provided accommodation for 760 inmates, was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales on 29 June 1881. The contractors were Wall Brothers, whose contract sum of £109,000 included all fittings and engineering works. (fn. 150)
The architect was H. Saxon Snell, a specialist in the design of hospitals, who practised with his sons, Henry and Alfred Saxon Snell, and was one of the first members of the Architectural Association. During his career he was much involved in the harnessing of new inventions to serve functional buildings, and as a specialist in hospital design, he was the author of Charitable and Parochial Institutions and, with Dr. F. J. Mouatt, of Hospital Construction and Management. He had been an assistant of Sir Joseph Paxton and of Sir William Tite, and in 1851 had won the Royal Academy's Silver Medal for measured drawings of St. Mary-le-Bow. He was later chief draughtsman in the Science and Art Department, South Kensington, assisting Captain Fowke in the Dublin Exhibition, and in 1866 was appointed architect to the St. Marylebone Board of Guardians. He died in 1904. A week before his death he was much occupied 'with his scheme for solving the problem of hospital sites in London by building in the public parks'. (fn. 151)
The excellent plain brickwork, strong selfconfident design, and assured functional planning and detail make St. Charles Hospital a most significant building for its period. It occupies a rectangular site of three and a half acres near the north-west end of Ladbroke Grove, which was purchased from C. H. Blake's executors. The buildings are planned on the pavilion principle, each block being, as far as compatible with facility of communication, isolated from the others. There are five parallel pavilions, the central administrative block being flanked on either side by two blocks of wards. The central block is surmounted by a massive tower, 182 feet in height, which forms a prominent landmark when viewed from the north and west. The chimney-shaft from the boilers below is carried up inside this tower, the upper part of which has a corbelled stage derived from northern Italian work of the Middle Ages. The tower contains a number of large tanks, providing storage for 25,000 gallons of water pumped from a well 500 feet in depth. (fn. 152)
The pavilions on either side of the tower are linked to each other by cast-iron galleries and canopied walks. A block of buildings situated at the entrance contained the residences of the medical officers, and over the spacious arched gateway in the centre there was a chapel 60 feet long by 30 feet wide, with a boarded wagon-roof of trefoil section.
In a report on the infirmary written by Snell, he described the elaborate systems of heating and ventilation. Open fires heated coils of pipes containing water which then circulated, humidity also being contrived so that air would not be dried, a great advance for the time. The lighting was by gas, and fumes were carefully vented away. (fn. 153) This 'Thermhydric' system, patented by the architect, included upright flues in the external walls, inlets being provided for fresh air which was warmed as it entered, and air was also admitted directly through the walls into skirtingboxes between the beds, while flues carried off the foul air and the products of gas combustion.
Nos. 152–168 (even) and 177–193 (odd) Ladbroke Grove
Plate 74c, d
The unusually plentiful documentary evidence available for these two facing ranges of fourstorey terrace houses illustrates in detail a number of important aspects of building development in the area. They stand on part of the four acres of ground fronting Ladbroke Grove which Colonel Matthew Chitty Downes St. Quintin agreed in 1864 to lease for building to Charles Henry Blake. (fn. 55) In 1868 Blake nominated a firm of builders from Canning Town, Essex, George Heritage, senior and junior, for the grant of a building lease from St. Quintin for six houses in the easterly range of nine (Nos. 152–168). (fn. 154) The agreement of 1864 with St. Quintin stipulated that each house was to be worth at least £1,200, and the Heritages' capital outlay therefore amounted to over £7,000. Blake himself lent them £1,000 for each house, but in February 1869 they applied to him for a further advance of £750, offering as security two other houses in Cambridge Gardens. (fn. 55) This request was evidently refused, and in November 1869 the 23—S.L. XCXXVII
Heritages' creditors instituted proceedings in the Court of Bankruptcy. In March 1870, when the building of the houses was probably complete, Blake bought both the creditors' interest and the Heritages' lease, the latter subject to the mortgages to himself. (fn. 155)
Thomas Goodwin and William White, who built the range on the opposite side of Ladbroke Grove (Nos. 177–193) and some thirty-eight houses in Cambridge Gardens, were, in contrast with the Heritages, able to command other financial resources and did not resort to Blake. They were about to invest some £70,000 in the building of fifty-one large houses in Clanricarde Gardens, Notting Hill Gate (see page 270), and in 1872–4 they were able to borrow over £34,000 from the Hand-in-Hand Insurance Society. (fn. 156) In Ladbroke Grove they were granted building leases (at Blake's nomination) by St. Quintin in 1868, and then mortgaged (through a solicitor), firstly to a private gentleman at Newark-upon-Trent and secondly to two London solicitors. In November 1869, when the houses were probably complete, Blake bought both Goodwin and White's lease and the second mortgage; but the first mortgage remained outstanding. (fn. 157)
Blake was now able to sell both ranges of houses and in 1870 he offered thirteen of them at auction, all except one (already let at £90 per annum) with vacant possession. In the case of those built by Goodwin and White, where the first mortgagee was willing to leave his money on loan, he was able, without using any of his own capital, to offer prospective purchasers the extra inducement of mortgages of up to £855 per house. (fn. 55)
The sale particulars were addressed 'To Investors in First Class Leasehold House Property, and Gentlemen desirous of purchasing for present occupation.' The houses were described as 'most conveniently situate, and are especially deserving of the attention of Gentlemen engaged in business in the City, the facilities afforded by the Hammersmith and City Railway, in connection with the whole Metropolitan system, affording the means of speedy access to all parts of London. The Ladbroke Road Station is within a few seconds' walk of the Property. There are excellent Shops close at hand. For their size it would be difficult to find Residences more perfectly planned or finished in better taste, every presumed requirement of their future occupants having been specially studied.' They were held for ninety-nine years from Christmas 1864 at ground rents of £14 per house, and were estimated to let at rents ranging from £98 to £110 per annum.
Before the auction sale Blake fixed the reserve price for the houses built by the Heritages at £1,200 each and for those by Goodwin and White at £1,300. Bidding did not, however, reach these figures, despite the offer of mortgages for purchasers of the houses in the westerly range, and all of the houses were bought in.
In 1884 Blake's executors offered the houses (by this time all occupied) for auction again, but sold only one, and for only £1,000. They regarded this as unsatisfactory, 'but having regard to the waiting nature of the leasehold property, the heavy outlay constantly required for repairs, and the diminishing rents obtained for any of these houses falling vacant', they had considered that this portion of the estate ought to be sold. (fn. 55)
Each house has a frontage of some twenty feet (or twenty-five in the case of those at the corners), and the total depth of each plot is about one hundred feet. The two ranges contain four storeys with basements, and (according to the sale particulars of 1870) (fn. 55) present 'a noble and harmonious elevation, rendered in Suffolk brick, with cement dressings, mouldings and balcony, surmounted by balustrade, relieved at intervals by ornamental vases'.
Except in the four corner houses, where there were minor variations, the accommodation provided in each house was almost uniform. The entrance hall (with tessellated pavement) was approached by a flight of half-a-dozen steps leading over the basement area from the roadway. It was divided by a glass panelled door from the inner hall and a passage, which led to the garden, 'Water Closet and Lavatory', and the stone staircase to the first floor. There were two rooms on the ground floor—at the front the dining-room, with a projecting window, measuring twenty-two feet by fourteen feet, and at the back a 'library'. Both of these rooms had polished slate chimneypieces, and were 'suitably papered and grained light oak, with pollard oak panels'.
On the first floor was 'An elegant front Drawing Room, 18 feet 6 by 17 feet, chastely decorated in mauve and white, the panels described by gilt mouldings, the wood work grained maple, statuary marble chimney piece and French casement, opening to Balcony'. The back room had a veined marble chimneypiece and could be used as either a drawing-room or bedroom.
On the half-landing above there was an enclosed cupboard, and on the second floor were the two best bedrooms, each fitted with 'wardrobe cupboards' and that at the front having a veined marble chimneypiece. On the next half-landing was the bathroom, which was fitted with a bath, sink (both having hot and cold water service), water-closet and a fireplace. The third floor contained four bedrooms, the two larger having 'wardrobe cupboards'. Gas was laid on to the second floor—a fact which was given some prominence in the sale particulars and was evidently thought to provide a considerable attraction.
The basement contained a 'Capital Kitchen', furnished with cupboards, a dresser, and a range supplying 'bath and hot water service'; a scullery, with a sink and a washing copper; a housekeeper's room, larder, wine cellar, water-closet, three vaults and a paved area for the tradesmen's entrance. The corner houses also contained a butler's pantry.
At the time of the census taken in April 1871 only three houses were in permanent occupation, the householders being a stockbroker, a jeweller and an independent gentleman. Caretakers and their families had been installed in another four, all of whom worked in the building industry.
Both ranges of houses were first listed in the Post Office Directories in 1873, when the inhabitants included a clergyman, an army captain and a surgeon. In 1880 No. 183 was occupied by a lieutenant-general, and in 1890 a colonel still lived at No. 181. By 1900 five of the southernmost houses (Nos. 177–181 odd and 152 and 154) were being used as shops, and four others were in professional occupancy (solicitor, doctor, veterinary surgeon). In 1914 seven of the eighteen houses were in divided occupancy, and by 1920 at least eleven of them were in professional or commercial use.