Estates and houses before 1851: The lesser estates

Pages 13-18

Survey of London: Volume 38, South Kensington Museums Area. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1975.

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In this section

The Lesser Estates

The plan illustrating the pattern of land ownership before 1851 (fig. 1) shows that there were about a dozen lesser holdings in the area besides the three large estates so far described. In addition there were two places of long-established settlement, in the vicinity of Gore Lane and at the eastern end of Cromwell Lane, where the estate pattern had been largely blurred by the middle of the nineteenth century.

On some of these lesser estates significant building development had already started by 1851, and their history is described separately, e.g. the Lee estate (now Clareville Grove area, Chapter II), and the Campden Charities' Butt's Field estate and the adjoining land once belonging to J. F. Hanson (now Hyde Park Gate and Kensington Gate, Chapter III). The history of the remaining lesser estates before 1851 is described below: their building history is described in Chapter XXII, with the exception of Palace Gate (laid out on the site of Noel House and its grounds) which is described in Chapter III.

Eden Lodge


As has already been stated, the Gore House estate once formed part of a larger holding which stretched, in present-day terms, from the Albert Hall in the west to Ennismore Gardens in the east. Most of this large estate was copyhold of the manor of Knightsbridge with Westbourne Green, and in the late seventeenth century the copyhold part was divided into two, the land later occupied by Eden Lodge and its grounds lying at the western edge of the larger, or two-thirds, share, which was acquired by Henry Hassard or Hazard. (fn. 1)

In 1744 John Swinhoe, then the owner of Brompton Park Nursery, obtained the copyhold tenure of the land, which was already largely occupied by the nursery, from Hazard's grandson, also named Henry Hazard. (fn. 2) Swinhoe disposed of some parts of his new estate, but the bulk of it eventually descended to his grand-daughter, Olivia Searle. (fn. 3) She died in 1844, bequeathing part of her copyhold property to Mrs. Mary Plummer, widow of John Plummer, esquire, of Bedford Square. (fn. 4)

Among the possessions to which Mary Plummer succeeded was a mansion standing in about two and a quarter acres of grounds, then on lease to George Eden, Earl of Auckland, and known as Eden Lodge. In 1847 Mrs. Plummer sold the copyhold of the house and grounds to a trustee for Lord Auckland for £9,280. (fn. 5)

Eden Lodge had been built in c. 1745 and first occupied by John Swinhoe. (fn. 6) Later occupants whose names appear in the parish ratebooks include Isaac Corry, the Irish politician, the second Earl of Rosse and James Stephen, Master in Chancery, the grandfather of Sir Leslie Stephen. (fn. 7) In 1842 George Eden, second Baron (and recently created first Earl of) Auckland, took up residence in the house on his recall from the position of Governor-General of India, having apparently already acquired a leasehold interest in the property some time previously. (fn. 8) On his death in 1849 the Barony (but not the Earldom) passed to his brother, Robert John Eden, then Bishop of Sodor and Man and later Bishop of Bath and Wells, (fn. 9) and his estates were bequeathed to trustees for the Bishop and his two sisters. (fn. 10)

The Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851 were particularly anxious to purchase Eden Lodge in order to secure possession of all of the land within the rectangle formed by Queen's Gate, Cromwell Road, Exhibition Road and Kensington Road, but the Bishop, who handled the negotiations, refused to sell because his sister, Emily Eden, had made her home at Eden Lodge and the house had been specifically reserved for her use under the Earl's will. Shortly after her death in 1869 the copyhold was enfranchised for £6,000 and the house and grounds were sold by the Bishop's successor to William Lowther. (fn. 11) Eden Lodge was demolished soon afterwards for the building in 1873–5 of Lowther Lodge, now the home of the Royal Geographical Society (see page 327).

Mary Plummer's copyhold estate

The process whereby Mrs. Mary Plummer, a widow, came to acquire the copyhold interest of land to the east of the Gore House estate has been described above. After the sale of Eden Lodge and its grounds in 1847 Mrs. Plummer was left with approximately eleven and a half acres, including an irregularly shaped tongue of land which provided a narrow frontage to Kensington Road. The tenants had for many years been successive proprietors of Brompton Park Nursery, and a seed shop stood on the frontage to the main road. (fn. 12)

In 1851 the builder Charles James Freake contracted to buy Mary Plummer's land, and after purchasing the copyhold enfranchisement from the Dean and Chapter of Westminster in 1852 for £3,680, she sold the estate freehold to Freake for £24,000, equivalent to more than £2,000 per acre. (fn. 13) Freake, who then laid out Exhibition Road in part through his new property, entered into arrangements with the 1851 Commissioners for the rationalization of their respective holdings in the vicinity of the new road. These are described on page 57.

Gore Lane area

The northern parts of the Harrington-Villars and Gore House estates were separated from each other by a wedge-shaped piece of land situated on either side of Gore Lane (Plate 2a), which extended southward from Kensington Gore. Some form of settlement had existed here for a considerable time, this part of Gore Lane (or Park Lane as it was also sometimes called) having been known as The King's Gore in the seventeenth century. (fn. 14) The northern end of Jay Mews follows the course of the lane and represents all that survives of it. By the mid nineteenth century there were over fifty houses and cottages along Gore Lane and this portion of the south side of Kensington Road, ranging from the humblest tenements to stuccoed terrace houses of some architectural distinction. In addition there were public houses, schools and even a police station. The chief proprietors were Lord Kensington and John Aldridge.

Lord Kensington was the freeholder of all of the property on the west side of Gore Lane and some on the east side, the land here having no doubt originally been waste or common of the manor of Earl's Court, which had descended to him from Sir Walter Cope through his ancestors the Earls of Warwick and Holland. (fn. 15)

John Aldridge owned the terraces of houses on the south side of Kensington Road between Gore Lane and Grove House. He had inherited them from his father and their sites had probably formed part of the possessions of Humphrey Tomlinson, from whom the descent of the Gore House estate can be traced. (fn. 16) The houses consisted of two groups of six, divided from each other by the boundary between the parishes of Kensington and St. Margaret, Westminster. The westerly terrace, known as Nos. 1–6 Lower Kensington Gore, dated from at least the 1760's, (fn. 17) although there were houses on the site at an earlier date. (fn. 18) The eastern terrace was built under an agreement of 1829 between Robert Aldridge Busby, John Aldridge's father, and George Newen, gentleman. (fn. 17) Called Hyde Park Terrace, it had replaced a group of older houses and consisted of a symmetrical composition of six four-storey stuccoed houses, the terrace ends being brought forward as pavilions and treated with a Corinthian order of pilasters; a central pediment was inscribed 'Hyde Park Terrace' (Plate 79b). (fn. 19) The overall effect was very similar to a later terrace built by Grissell and Peto at Nos. 5–8 Hyde Park Gate (see page 34). Most of the houses in Hyde Park Terrace and Nos. 1–6 Lower Kensington Gore, renumbered as 11–22 (consec.) Kensington Gore in 1879, survived (some in considerably altered form) until the erection of new buildings for the Royal College of Art in 1960. (fn. c1)

Aldridge also owned the copyhold interest of the site of the police station to the south of the mews behind Hyde Park Terrace. He had purchased the copyhold tenure, held of Knightsbridge manor, for £1,200 in 1829, and obtained its enfranchisement, with the rest of his copyhold land, in 1852. (fn. 20) On the east side of Gore Lane, to the south of the police station, a two-storey brick and timber dwelling called Ivy Cottage stood in about one third of an acre of grounds. This house, which was owned directly by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, was leased to John Inderwick, the pipe-merchant and developer of Kensington Gate, although he did not live there himself. (fn. 21) The parochial authorities of Kensington owned the National School which was situated on the west side of the police station. A pesthouse had been built at this spot in the plague year of 1665 by the lord of the manor of Earl's Court, and had afterwards been adapted as almshouses for the poor of Kensington parish. In 1758 the almshouses, which were then in a ruinous state, were rebuilt. For several years after 1803 they were used to provide homes and a rudimentary education for female children who would otherwise have been accommodated in the parish workhouse, but on the building of a large new workhouse in 1847–9 they were converted into a parish school conducted under the principles of the National Society. In 1857 the Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851 bought the school, the £800 which they paid being used in 1860 towards the purchase of a site in Church Court and the building of a new school for girls which now forms part of St. Mary Abbots School. (fn. 22)

After the properties along the lane were acquired by the 1851 Commissioners (fn. 23) most of the buildings were quickly demolished and virtually no trace of this small 'village' now survives.

The Smith's Charity Carpet Ground

The total extent of the estates in or near Kensington owned by the trustees of Henry Smith's charity amounted to approximately eighty-five acres, almost all of which were outside the area described in this volume. The charity had been established under the will of Henry Smith, alderman of the City of London, dated 1627. This provided that two sums of £1,000 each were to be spent in the purchase of land, the rents and profits of which were to be used for the relief of the 'poore Captives being slaves under the Turkish pirates', and for the relief of the poorest of his kindred. Claimants under the first provision soon proved hard to find, but by the nineteenth century several of Smith's descendants were receiving money from the charity. (fn. 24)

The detached part of the estate, consisting of about two and three quarter acres between the Gore House and Harrington-Villars estates in the parish of St. Margaret, Westminster, was known in the mid nineteenth century as the Carpet Ground, presumably through the practice of beating carpets there. (fn. 25) In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, however, it had, in common with much of the surrounding land in the area, formed part of Brompton Park Nursery. (fn. 26)

The 1851 Commissioners after some negotiation were able to acquire this parcel of ground by offering in exchange an outlying three-and-three-quarter-acre piece on the south side of Old Brompton Road which had formerly belonged to the Harrington-Villars estate.

Noel House

Plate 79a. Demolished

This house, whose site is now wholly occupied by Palace Gate, was built in 1804 for George Aust, Secretary to the Royal Hospital at Chelsea. The architect was George Byfield. (fn. 27) Its three-and-a-half-acre site was leased to Aust for ninety-nine years in February 1805 by Gerard Noel Noel, who had inherited the property from his father, Gerard A. Edwards. (fn. 28) Six years later Aust bought the freehold. (fn. 29)

The house was remarkably plain and simple in design. Although only three storeys high with a semi-basement and a full attic storey contained within the mansard roof it presented an impression of unusual height. Full-width balconies on both the north and south fronts provided almost the only architectural decoration. Internally there was a lofty entrance hall with open galleries to both the first and second floors. The house was set back from Kensington Road among pleasure grounds laid out by Aust's wife, Sarah, who under the name of the Honourable Mrs. Murray had published a guide book to the 'Beauties of Scotland'. (fn. 30)

Aust died in 1829 and under the terms of his will Noel House passed to his second wife, Catherine, for life, with a reversion to his cousin, Robert Brymer Stanser. (fn. 31) In November 1861 the building firm of William Cubitt and Company purchased the estate from one of the trustees of Robert Stanser's will, demolished the house and laid out the site for building (see page 38). (fn. 32)

The Mills' Charity estate

This small estate of some four acres was situated close to the north side of Old Brompton Road (fig. 1). In March 1736 this land and the two houses then standing on it were conveyed to trustees by the Reverend Richard Mills of Perivale (in enlargement of a charity previously established by his mother), for the benefit of the poor of the parishes of St. Giles, Cripplegate, and St. Luke, Old Street. (fn. 33) In the mid eighteenth century part, at least, of the estate was in the tenure of Henry Hewitt, one of the nurserymen of the area. (fn. 34) In 1828, when the tenant was William Wightman, it provided an income in rent of £90 per annum for the charity. (fn. 35)

To the south of the Mills' Charity estate was a narrow strip of land, formerly waste ground, (fn. 35) which fronted on to Old Brompton Road and on which several small buildings had been erected. This strip was at one time held on lease by the trustees of Mills' Charity, and later came into the possession of Charles James Freake, the builder, who, at the time of the development of the estate in the 1870's, conveyed it to the trustees in exchange for building plots on the east side of Queen's Gate (see page 301). Its site is now entirely contained within the widened roadway of Old Brompton Road.

William Dryden's land

The two small estates, each approximately one acre in extent, which lay to the east of the Mills' Charity lands (fig. 1) had constituted one holding in the mid eighteenth century, and were again united in 1851 when Thomas Dowbiggin, the freeholder of Bute Street, purchased the adjoining plot from its then owner William Dryden. (fn. 36)

In 1762 Joseph Bates of Chelsea, a shopkeeper, sold the two acres to David Burnsall of St. George's, Hanover Square, an auctioneer. (fn. 34) Within two years Burnsall had leased the western half of this land to Jacob Leroux, the architect and speculative builder, at a rent of £25 per annum after a two-year peppercorn term. (fn. 37) Leroux built a terrace of five houses, presumably to his own designs, along the frontage to Old Brompton Road. (fn. 38) This terrace, known as Prospect Place, was demolished in 1875 for the erection of the present Nos. 48–60 (even) Old Brompton Road.

Bute House


In 1769 David Burnsall (see above) granted a ninety-nine-year lease of the eastern half of his two-acre holding at an annual rent of £34 to James Adam of St. George's, Hanover Square, architect, (fn. 39) brother of the more famous Robert Adam. At that time there were two houses on the site, but a mortgage deed of 1776 contains the information that Adam demolished one of them, converted the other into outbuildings, and erected a new house. (fn. 40) In this deed he is described as 'of Brompton', and the appearance of Mr. (sometimes James) Adam or Adams in the ratebooks during the years 1770 to 1781 also indicates that this new house was built for his own occupation. In 1782, when Adam sold the house for £1,000, he was described as 'late of Brompton but now of Robert Street in the Adelphi'. (fn. 41) Although James is not listed among the occupants of Robert Street in the ratebooks for that year, Robert Adam was rated for No. 3. (fn. 42) Their biographers generally state that the Adam brothers combined their residential and business premises during these years, firstly at Lower Grosvenor Street until 1772 and then at various houses in the Adelphi, (fn. 43) but James clearly possessed a 'country' villa at Brompton as well. No drawings relating to the house have been found, and, unfortunately, no illustration of it has come to light. The house is shown on various large-scale maps, the earliest of which is Starling's map of 1822, and its approximate shape from the evidence of these is shown on fig. 1, but there is no certainty that it had not been altered since erection. When advertised for sale in 1823 it was described as 'a singularly elegant and compact Leasehold Villa, constructed by Mr. Adam, the architect, according to the Italian taste', and as having been 'planned and constructed at great expense'. (fn. 44)

Between 1795 and c. 1804 the house was occupied by the first Marquess of Bute, (fn. 45) and was subsequently known as Bute House. In 1833 it was purchased by Thomas Dowbiggin, head of the famous firm of upholsterers responsible for Queen Victoria's state throne in 1837. (fn. 46) Dowbiggin may have lived in the house himself at first, (fn. 45) but by 1841 it was in the occupation of Viscount Ingestre (later third Earl Talbot and subsequently eighteenth Earl of Shrewsbury) who probably continued to live there until he moved to Brompton Park in 1845. (fn. 47) In that or the following year the house was demolished.

Between 1846 and 1848 Dowbiggin and his associates, John Newson of Grosvenor Mews, builder, and Joseph Clutterbuck of Kensington Gravel Pits, brickmaker, laid out Bute Street along the length of the former grounds of Bute House, leases being granted to half-a-dozen builders who erected two rows of three-storey stucco-fronted houses. (fn. 48) Of these the only survivors are the Zetland Arms public house at the east corner of Bute Street and Old Brompton Road, and its counterpart on the west corner, both evidently built by Edwin Curtis of Bayswater. (fn. 49) The latter building, now Nos. 44–46 (even) Old Brompton Road (Plate 81c), was originally a pair of houses and shops and was first occupied in 1847 by a chemist and a china merchant. (fn. 50) On its Bute Street elevation it retains a blocked shop front framed with reeded pilasters. When the Metropolitan and Metropolitan District Railways were constructed in 1865–8 under the present course of Harrington Road the northern end of Bute Street was swept away. The rest of the street was largely rebuilt in two phases, c. 1953–4 and c. 1965–6, but uniformly and still to a modest scale with small residences over shops.

Brompton Hall

Plate 78a. Demolished

Brompton Hall, which stood at the junction of Old Brompton Road and Cromwell Lane, probably dated from the sixteenth century, but the details of its early history are obscure. In his history of Chelsea of 1829, Thomas Faulkner, when recounting the tradition of the origin of the name Queen's Elm, refers extensively to Brompton Hall. 'Queen's Elm', he writes, 'derives its name from having afforded accidental shelter to Queen Elizabeth, while on a visit to Lord Burleigh, at his neighbouring residence, now called Brompton Hall. This house, now inhabited by Mrs. Griffiths, the widow of the Rev. Joseph Griffiths, still retains some marks of its ancient splendour. There was, till lately, a grand porch at the entrance. The hall, or saloon, is a step lower than the rooms upon the same floor. The diningroom has a richly carved ceiling of oak, displaying in the centre the rose and crown, and in its other compartments the fleur de lys and portcullis; and on taking down some ancient tapestry a few years since, the arms of Queen Elizabeth, carved in oak, and curiously inlaid with gold, were discovered above the chimney-piece. There is also, in another room, the relics of a very curious old wainscot, in small compartments. The house, since it came into the possession of Mr. Griffiths, has been modernized and considerably improved. That it was originally the residence of Lord Burleigh, there is scarcely a doubt; and that his Lordship was occasionally honoured with the visits of his Sovereign, is extremely probable, from tradition still preserved, and well known in the neighbourhood.' (fn. 51)

The extent of the 'modernization' by the Griffiths family, who lived in the house for over fifty years, (fn. 45) can be seen by the illustration of Brompton Hall in the mid nineteenth century (Plate 78a). The tradition that Burghley had lived there must, however, be treated with caution. It seems unlikely that any residence of his, particularly one where he was visited by the Queen, would not have been recorded among the considerable body of surviving material about his life. Shortly before his death Burghley did, however, acquire some land in Brompton as part of the extensive estate attached to Winchester (later Beaufort) House in Chelsea, which had been bequeathed to him by Lady Dacre in 1595, but the location of this land is not known. (fn. 52)

The course approved in 1864 for the Metropolitan and Metropolitan District Railways between Gloucester Road and South Kensington stations passed through the grounds of Brompton Hall and part of the building itself lay within the limits of deviation. (fn. 53) The railway companies purchased the property, but the house was not demolished until the land surplus to their requirements was sold to speculative builders in 1874.

Cromwell Lane area

The small area to the north of Brompton Hall, on each side of Cromwell Lane, was divided between several owners including Lord Kensington. In the 1860's the frontages to the lane were taken up with small houses and shops, including a carpenter's and farrier's premises and a beershop and dining-rooms. (fn. 53) Most of the buildings were simple brick vernacular structures of no more than two storeys in height (Plate 77c). Some of these were swept away when the underground railway was constructed in 1865–8, and others were demolished when the north side of Harrington Road, which was laid out over the course of the railway, was developed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.


  • 1. C.C., document no. 292079, item no. 12.
  • 2. Ibid., document no. 292078, 30 July 1744: K.P.L., MS. 86.
  • 3. P.R.O., PROB 11/880, f. 434: C.C., document no. 292078, pp. 31–6, 72–3, 154, 181–4.
  • 4. P.R.O., PROB 11/2004, f. 668.
  • 5. C.C., document no. 292078, pp. 239–42.
  • 6. W.P.L., ratebooks of St. Margaret's parish.
  • 7. W.P.L., ratebooks of St. Margaret's parish: G.E.C.: D.N.B.:Leslie Stephen, The Life of Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, 1895, p. 22.
  • 8. W.P.L., ratebooks of St. Margaret's parish: D.N.B.: P.R.O., PROB 11/2087, f. 73.
  • 9. G.E.C.
  • 10. P.R.O., PROB 11/2087, f. 73.
  • 11. C.C., document no. 292078, pp. 336–9:D.N.B.: M.L.R. 1871/6/752.
  • 12. Prideaux, op. cit., pp. 42–3.
  • 13. 1851 Comm., W.A. VIII, 25: enfranchisement of 18 Feb. and conveyance of 2 June 1852 in possession of Messrs. Witham, Weld and Co.
  • 14. K.P.L., MS. 86.
  • 15. M.L.R. 1857/8/491–2.
  • 16. P.R.O., PROB 11/381, f. 115: M.L.R. 1835/2/ 181.
  • 17. M.L.R. 1835/2/181.
  • 18. P.R.O., MPH 258.
  • 19. G.L.C. Photograph Library, 58/1232.
  • 20. C.C., document no. 292078, pp. 184–5, 305–11: G.L.R.O.(M), MR/UP/435.
  • 21. M.L.R. 1858/6/852: G.L.R.O.(M), MR/UP/ 435.
  • 22. K.P.L., Vestry Minutes, 13 Sept., 4 Oct. 1758: Endowed Charities (London), vol. IV, 1901, pp. 431, 440, 459–60: G.L.R.O.(M), MR/ UP/435.
  • 23. M.L.R.1857/8/491–2; 1857/14/113; 1858/6/ 113; 1862/17/403.
  • 24. G.L.C. Members' Library, Collections Relating to Henry Smith: P.R.O., PROB 11/153, f. 1.
  • 25. G.L.R.O.(M), MR/UP/435.
  • 26. K.P.L., MSS. 86, 2726.
  • 27. Faulkner, p. 288: Prideaux, op. cit., p. 48.
  • 28. Faulkner, p. 288: M.L.R.1805/3/329.
  • 29. M.L.R. 1811/5/375.
  • 30. Faulkner, p. 288: D.N.B.
  • 31. R.B.: P.R.O., PROB 11/1752, f. 127.
  • 32. M.L.R. 1861/12/630; 1862/1/230.
  • 33. Endowed Charities (London), vol. v, 1903, pp. 830–2: Charity Commissioners' records, CB 2895.
  • 34. M.L.R. 1762/3/194–5.
  • 35. Endowed Charities (London), vol. v, p. 832.
  • 36. M.L.R. 1851/7/437.
  • 37. Ibid., 1764/3/440: Colvin.
  • 38. M.L.R. 1764/4/186–7.
  • 39. Ibid., 1769/4/295.
  • 40. Ibid., 1776/5/243.
  • 41. Ibid., 1782/3/231.
  • 42. Survey of London, vol. XVIII, 1937, p. 136.
  • 43. Arthur T. Bolton, The Architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, vol. 1, p. 25: Doreen Yardwood, Robert Adam, 1970, p. 93: Survey of London, vol. XVIII, 1937, pp. 105, 110.
  • 44. T. 30 June 1823.
  • 45. R.B.
  • 46. M.L.R. 1833/2/427: H. Clifford Smith, Buckingham Palace, 1931, p. 147.
  • 47. P.R.O., HO 107/690/10, f. 8: G.L.R.O.(L), TA 9.
  • 48. M.L.R. 1846/4/759 and 1846–9 passim sub Thomas Dowbiggin: K.P.L., photographs of 1904.
  • 49. M.L.R. 1846/4/760–1: M.C.S. 290, f. 485.
  • 50. P.O.D.: R.B.
  • 51. Thomas Faulkner, An Historical and Topographical Description of Chelsea and its Environs, 1829 ed., vol. 11, pp. 1–2.
  • 52. Survey of London, vol. IV, 1913, p. 18: information kindly provided by the Librarian and Archivist at Hatfield House.
  • 53. G.L.R.O.(M), MR/UP/683.
  • c1. William Boyce, the composer, lived in Lower Kensington Gore from at least 1768 until his death in 1779.