Clareville Grove area: The Lee Estate

Pages 19-25

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

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CHAPTER II - Clareville Grove Area: The Lee Estate

In February 1789 Edward Lee of Brompton, gentleman, was admitted to the tenancy of a small copyhold estate of the manor of Earl's Court, anciently known as Round Close. It consisted of some six acres of land situated at the east corner of Gloucester Road and Old Brompton Road (fig. 3) and had previously been in the tenure of the Parsons family for more than a hundred years. (fn. 1) Edward Lee's tenancy lasted until his death, at the age of seventy-eight, in 1797. Under the terms of his will the estate then passed to his unmarried daughter Catherine, who in May 1810 purchased the enfranchisement from the lord of the manor for £770. (fn. 2)

For the first two decades of the nineteenth century the estate was mostly sub-let to nurserymen, but in May 1820 Catherine Lee agreed to let the ground to William Blake of Pear Tree Lodge, Little Chelsea, a builder and bricklayer. (fn. 3) It appears from the little that is known of this agreement that she undertook to lease the estate to Blake or his nominees for a term of ninety-nine years from midsummer 1820, and that Blake covenanted to build houses there of at least the standard laid down in the London Building Act of 1774 for a 'fourth-rate' house. Two houses already standing on the estate, Lee Cottage and Lee House, the latter formerly occupied by Catherine Lee herself, were excluded from the area to be leased. (fn. c1) (fn. 4)

During the twenty or so years needed to complete the primary phase of this development some seventy-five new houses were erected. They were generally very small, even by comparison with others built in the vicinity at the same time, and, rather surprisingly, they were not built to a uniform design. There were single detached villas, semi-detached pairs and short terraces, some completely stuccoed, some partly stuccoed and others with plain brick fronts. The building of modest-sized houses with relatively large private gardens was in marked contrast with most later developments in South Kensington, and gave the estate a distinctly intimate character which it still retains, despite much subsequent rebuilding and infilling.

Blake began building along the frontages of the two existing roads, Old Brompton Road on the south, and Gloucester Road on the west. The rows of houses here were originally called Gloucester Terrace and Gloucester Place respectively. In the course of the development two new roads, now Clareville Grove and Clareville Street, were laid out. Clareville Grove was originally called Gloucester Grove West; the north-south arm of Clareville Street, Gloucester Grove East; and its east-west arm, Gloucester Grove. The modern names recall the nearby presence of Clareville Cottage which was not, however, on the Lee estate but stood in Old Brompton Road a little to the west of Gloucester Road.

Figure 3:

Clareville Grove area: the Lee estate. Based on the Ordnance Survey of 1894–6

The first houses to be finished were a semi-detached pair in Old Brompton Road, now Nos. 108 and 110, which were largely reconstructed in 1885–6 (see below). At Blake's nomination the two leases, executed in September 1822 and November 1821 respectively, were both granted to Harriet Lloyd, a widow already resident nearby, who herself occupied No. 110 from 1821 to 1825. (fn. 5) Next door to No. 108, at the west corner with Clareville Grove, Blake built a detached villa (now demolished), which was leased to its first occupant in April 1823, and in the same year leases were granted for a terrace of five houses between Clareville Street and Clareville Grove. (fn. 6) A few years later a butcher's shop (known as No. 5½ Gloucester Terrace) was added to the west end. (fn. 7) Four of the houses in this group still survive (now Nos. 94–100 even Old Brompton Road), though with the addition of one-storey shops built over their front gardens. They are three storeys in height and faced in stucco. West of No. 110 Blake erected a terrace of six houses which were all leased to John Mackenzie of Old Brompton Road, gentleman, in January 1825. (fn. 8) Now Nos. 112–122 (even) Old Brompton Road, these six houses were either rebuilt or reconstructed in the second half of the nineteenth century, and have stuccoed ground storeys with canted bay windows and two upper storeys in red brick.

Along the Gloucester Road frontage, south of Clareville Street, Blake built twelve houses, Nos. 129–151 (odd), for which leases were granted between 1825 and 1827. (fn. 9) They were all originally semi-detached, though asymmetrically arranged, each pair consisting of one three-bay and one twobay house. Most have been either rebuilt or very much altered. Nos. 135 and 137, however, retain something of their original appearance, although No. 137, formerly a two-bay house, has been extended on its north side. Both houses are of two storeys over a basement, and are built in yellow stock bricks. No. 137 (fig. 4) is entered by a door in what was originally the northern of its two bays: the doorcase, flanked by Doric pilasters, supports an entablature with a fanlight above. The south bay is slightly recessed, and its flat-headed groundstorey window is contained within a shallow niche. These houses were leased in 1826 and both were occupied from 1828, though not by their respective lessees, Blake (No. 137) and Robert Ashton of Brompton, gentleman (No. 135). (fn. 10)

Figure 4:

No. 137 Gloucester Road. Later north (left-hand) bay not shown

In Clareville Grove the first house to be built was No. 2, a two-storey stuccoed cottage, now extended at both ends (fig. 5), which was leased in February 1826 to a local carpenter, John Sparham, who lived there from 1826. (fn. 11) The site of this house, like that of all the other houses on the east side, originally had a frontage to both Clareville Grove and Clareville Street. North of No. 2 Blake built another eight houses (Nos. 4–18 even; Nos. 12 and 14 now demolished) for which leases were granted to his nominees at various dates between 1827 and 1832. They included John Sparham and two other building tradesmen, Thomas Ashton of Golden Square, a stonemason, and George Augustus Northedge of Little Grosvenor Street, variously described as a plumber or a painter and glazier. (fn. 12) Of the eight houses the least altered externally is No. 16, a small, two-storeyed, stuccoed building with a slate roof, which was leased to John Mortimer, a New Bond Street jeweller, in 1832, and was occupied from 1831, though not by the lessee. (fn. 13) The adjoining house, No. 18, was enlarged during the second part of the nineteenth century and now has two principal storeys in yellow stock brick, with a heavy stuccoed cornice and a full attic storey contained within a mansard roof. It was leased in 1829 to John Reekes of Park Place, Chelsea, gentleman, who lived there from 1831 to 1837. (fn. 14) Both Nos. 16 and 18 are set well back from the road with secluded gardens behind high walls.

Figure 5:

No. 2 Clareville Grove in 1974

On the west side of Clareville Grove, where much of the ground was let for gardens to houses already erected along Gloucester Road, there was at first comparatively little development, the only houses to be built there before 1830 being a semi-detached pair (Nos. 7 and 9) leased in 1828. No. 9 still survives in altered form (fig. 6): it was originally only two bays wide. The lessee of this house was Mary Taylor of Sidney Place, Clapham, widow, who occupied it herself from 1828: the lessee of No. 7 was John Mortimer. (fn. 15)

The only part of Clareville Street to be built up before 1830 was on the east side, immediately north of Lee Cottage, where Blake erected some half-dozen houses between 1826 and 1830. None of these still survive. (fn. 16)

In March 1830, after nearly a decade of development, all the remaining unlet parts of the estate were leased to Blake by Catherine Lee at a peppercorn rent. (fn. 17) Over most of this area building had not even begun, and as the subsequent development of these parts did not proceed under building leases granted by Miss Lee it is not so well documented, even the extent of Blake's own involvement being uncertain. He was, however, almost certainly the builder of No. 124 Old Brompton Road, one of the first houses to be completed after March 1830, and occupied from 1832. (fn. 18) But at about the same time three more houses on the west side of Clareville Grove were erected under a building lease granted by Blake in April 1830 to George A. Northedge. These three, now Nos. 1, 3 and 5, have been considerably altered: originally they comprised a detached villa and a semi-detached pair, and were known as Berkeley, Capel and Penzance Cottages. (fn. 19) Another three houses, which no longer survive, were erected by Blake in about 1830–2 along the Gloucester Road frontage between Clareville Street and the northern boundary of the estate. (fn. 20) They were called Johnson's Cottages, apparently after Thomas Johnson of Little Chelsea, a corn chandler, to whom Blake mortgaged the site. (fn. 21)

Figure 6:

Nos. 9 (left) and 9c Clareville Grove in 1974

After about 1832 there was a general full in building activity in the area, apart from the erection, by 1835, of two pairs of semi-detached houses on the north side of Clareville Street (now Nos. 30–40 even). (fn. 20) When building revived towards the end of the 1830's another eight houses were erected on this side between 1839 and 1841. (fn. 20) They comprised a semi-detached pair (Nos. 26 and 28), a single villa (No. 24), and a terrace of five (Nos. 12–20 even). At about the same time seven more houses were built on the east side of Clareville Street, of which the most northerly, on the site of the present No. 10, was a public house called The Royal Pair. These seven, together with Nos. 12–20 (even), were known collectively as Colchester Terrace. (fn. 22)

Meanwhile on the east side of Clareville Grove an attractive group of three linked pairs of semi-detached brick houses with stuccoed ground storeys (Nos. 20–30 even) had been built at the north end in about 1838–9 (Plate 80a; fig. 7). (fn. c2) (fn. 20) They are three storeys high, with hipped roofs and centrally placed chimneystacks. The ground storeys have segmentally arched windows with moulded surrounds and the first-floor windows have decorative iron balconies. The entrances are situated in linking blocks, originally one storey high, recessed behind the principal building line. Apart from No. 30 these houses were all occupied from 1839, and by 1841 two were in divided occupation. The residents in that year included an artist, a conveyancer, a coal and lime merchant, and a special pleader. (fn. 23)

Figure 7:

Nos. 20–30 (even) Clareville Grove

During Catherine Lee's lifetime the only properties to be alienated from the estate were Lee House and Lee Cottage which she sold in December 1842 to George Maugham of Old Brompton, esquire, whose father was then occupying Lee House. (fn. 24) Both properties were later acquired by the builder, C. J. Freake, and in 1870 they were the subject of an exchange between Freake and the adjoining landlord, H. B. Alexander, Freake being then about to lay out the southern end of Queen's Gate and build houses there (fn. 25) (see page 301). The sites of Lee House and Lee Cottage are now occupied by Nos. 2–6 (even) Clareville Street, Nos. 25–29 Manson Mews and parts of Nos. 102–107 Queen's Gate, all first built under leases from Alexander to Freake.

Catherine Lee died in January 1847 and under the terms of her will the estate was divided equally between three nephews and a niece. (fn. 26)

Subsequent building in the area has been either by infilling or redevelopment. Infilling had, indeed, begun even before Catherine Lee's death, with the building of two detached villas on the west side of Clareville Grove in the back gardens of houses in Gloucester Road. The only survivor of these, though no longer detached, is the much altered No. 23 which appears to date from about 1845. (fn. 27) In 1854 the house at the north corner of Clareville Street and Gloucester Road (now part of the Hereford Arms public house) was completely rebuilt by Messrs. Robert Thompson and James Mason of Hereford Square, who at the same time also erected a pair of semi-detached cottages (now Nos. 42 and 44 Clareville Street) in the back garden. (fn. 28) Nos. 153 and 155 Gloucester Road (originally Argyle Villas) were built in the back garden of No. 124 Old Brompton Road in about 1860–1, and the remarkably oldfashioned Nos. 11–21 (odd) Clareville Grove (originally Nos. 1–6 Percy Terrace) were erected in the back gardens of Nos. 137–141 (odd) Gloucester Road in about 1862–3 (Plate 81d). The first occupant of No. 153 Gloucester Road, in 1861, was a sculptor, Felix Martin Miller. (fn. 29)

Stables were erected in the 1870's and 1880's, especially along the west side of Clareville Street, where a smithy was still in use in 1926 at No. 3. (fn. 30) In 1882 a group of stables, now Clareville Grove Mews, was built in the yard behind the Royal Pair public house by George Green of Clapton. (fn. 31) Most of the houses on the east side of Clareville Street were demolished in c. 1880 for the building of a Board School (see below). In Gloucester Road No. 133 probably acquired its present appearance in 1884–5 when the original house was altered by G. H. and A. Bywaters of King Street, Regent Street, builders. (fn. 32) (fn. c3) From 1895 until 1902 this house was the home of J. M. Barrie. (fn. 33)

Few of the houses built in the area since 1900 call for comment. The most unusual are undoubtedly Nos. 9c and 11A Clareville Grove, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield's son, Austin, and erected in the back garden of No. 143 Gloucester Road in 1929 by Messrs. Gee, Walker and Slater Limited, of St. James's Street, Westminster. (fn. 34) The bay window at No. 9c is an addition. Several houses in the area were damaged or destroyed during the war of 1939–45, including No. 10 Clareville Street, which was rebuilt in neo-Georgian style in 1968 to the designs of Peter Wood and Partners. (fn. 35)

Nos. 108 and 110 Old Brompton Road

Plate 103c; fig. 8

Formerly known as Nos. 7 and 8 Gloucester Terrace, these two houses are in their basic structure the semi-detached pair built by William Blake which Catherine Lee leased to Harriet Lloyd in 1821 and 1822 (see above). Their present appearance, however, is chiefly due to refacing in 1885–6, when the houses were adapted as studios for Messrs. Elliott and Fry of Baker Street, a firm of photographers specializing in portraiture. The architect was William Flockhart, with George Shaw of Wigmore Street as the general contractor. John Thompson McCulloch carved the stonework and Alfred A. Newman, the art-metal worker, supplied wrought-iron railings, gates and name-plates. (fn. 36) Describing the reconstruction in a letter to The Builder, Flockhart wrote that 'An effort has been made in the treatment of the front elevation to recall the character which prevailed in English work towards the end of the sixteenth, and beginning of the seventeenth century. (fn. 37)

The result is an attractive composition in red brick with stone dressings which, perhaps, owes more to seventeenth-century Dutch sources than any actual English building inspired by them (Plate 103c). The design of the principal façade is dominated by two prominent gabled bays. The entrance to the studios was by an arched doorway on the ground storey of the eastern bay. Above this is a balcony with delicate wrought-iron railings which originally included the name-plates of the firm. The first-floor window, which extends for almost the full width of the bay, is of five lights divided by stone mullions, the central and outer lights being decorated with carved lunettes. The bay is capped by a pretty shaped gable containing a three-light, mullioned-and-transomed window supporting a mannered pedimental feature above. The western bay is similar to the eastern bay, except on the ground storey, which has a plain five-light mullioned window.

A drawing of the front elevation was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1886 when The Builder admired its 'character' and in particular the treatment of the first-floor windows. It was less happy, however, about the 'twisty-twirly' gables, and thought the projecting curls would be certain to chip off some day. (fn. 38)

Figure 8:

Nos. 108 and 110 Old Brompton Road, plan in 1886
a Area
D Dark Room
G Gentleman's Room
H Hall
L Ladies' Room
R Reception Room
S Studio

Inside, the ground floors of the two houses were rearranged to provide an entrance hall, large reception room, ladies' room, gentlemen's room, and a darkroom. The walls of the hall and reception room were hung with brown canvas above a low panelled dado (painted white in the hall): ornamental plaster ceilings of a simplified Jacobean ribbed design were provided by Messrs. Battiscombe and Harris, a firm of 'architectural interior decoration manufacturers' in Great Marylebone Street. A short corridor connected the reception room to the new studio or 'glass house', which was built at the back to take advantage of 'the fine pure light available behind'. (fn. 39) When the studio was opened in the summer of 1886 Elliott and Fry issued a brochure drawing particular attention to its ground-floor location and 'facility of access' which, they hoped, would 'prove a convenience to their patrons, and especially to Ladies in Court Dress or other elaborate costume'. (fn. 40)

Part of the first floor was taken for a ladies' dressing-room and a dining-room. The remaining rooms on the upper floors were made into a selfcontained dwelling with a separate entrance on the west side. About £3,000 was said to have been spent on the adaptation, which in the opinion of one journal had produced 'the most architecturally perfect photographic studios in London'. (fn. 41)

The studio premises continued to be used by photographers until 1919. A lease was then acquired by the sculptor, Cecil Thomas, who subsequently bought the freehold and was responsible for the recent sensitive restoration of the building. (fn. 42)

Our Lady of Victories Roman Catholic Primary School, Clareville Street

In 1878–9 the London School Board acquired by compulsory purchase all the houses on the east side of Clareville Street between the present Nos. 6 and 10 as the site for a new Board School. The residents of the area had, of course, objected, preferring that the school should be built behind Hereford Square, but they did concede that the Clareville Street site, 'in as much as it affected only property of an inferior character', was preferable to the Board's alternative choice in Gloucester Road. (fn. 43) The new school, intended to accommodate 600 pupils, was begun in June 1880 and opened in April 1881. (fn. 44) Designed, at least nominally, by E. R. Robson, (fn. 45) the Board's architect, the building is an unmistakable though not very distinguished example of the 'Queen Anne' style favoured by the Board. The builder was John Grover of New North Road, Shoreditch, whose tender was for £5,620. (fn. 46)

Originally called Gloucester Grove East School, it was renamed Bousfield, after Sir William Bousfield, a former chairman of the managers, in 1913 when Gloucester Grove East was itself renamed Clareville Street. In 1957 the Bousfield School moved to new premises in The Boltons, and the old building was taken over by Our Lady of Victories Roman Catholic Primary School. (fn. 47)


  • 1. A.E.P., copy of enfranchisement, 17 May 1810: M.L.R. 1810/4/606: K.P.L., Court Rolls of Earl's Court, passim.
  • 2. The Gentleman's Magazine, vol. LXVII, 1797, p. 355: P.R.O., PROB 11/1289, f. 252: A.E.P., copy of enfranchisement, 17 May 1810: M.L.R. 1810/4/606.
  • 3. A.E.P., copy of enfranchisement, 17 May 1810; copy of land tax redemption contract, 1799: M.L.R. 1821/8/542; 1830/3/73: Underhill's Triennial Directory for 1817–19.
  • 4. M.L.R. 1830/3/73.
  • 5. Ibid., 1822/8/774; 1821/8/542: R.B.
  • 6. M.L.R. 1823/3/739; 1823/5/243; 1823/10/ 865–6.
  • 7. Ibid., 1827/7/102.
  • 8. Ibid., 1825/1/791.
  • 9. Ibid., 1825/1/790–1; 1825/10/97–9, 759; 1826/3/205, 427; 1826/9/416; 1827/2/546; 1827/5/59–60.
  • 10. Ibid., 1826/3/427; 1826/9/416: R.B.
  • 11. M.L.R. 1826/3/206; R.B.: P.O.D.
  • 12. M.L.R. 1827/5/58; 1829/2/357–9; 1829/7/ 356; 1830/3/75; 1832/3/734.
  • 13. Ibid., 1832/3/734: R.B.
  • 14. M.L.R. 1830/3/75: R.B.
  • 15. M.L.R. 1828/6/167; 1828/9/154: R.B.
  • 16. M.L.R. 1825/12/568; 1826/3/195; 1830/3/74, 76.
  • 17. Ibid., 1830/3/73.
  • 18. K.P.L., MSS. 819, 820: R.B.
  • 19. M.L.R. 1830/4/100: G.L.R.O.(L), M.C.S., Sewer plans, P/6/148.
  • 20. R.B.
  • 21. G.L.R.O.(L), M.C.S., Sewer plans, P/6/148: M.L.R. 1830/8/364; 1834/2/596.
  • 22. R.B.: G.L.R.O.(L), M.C.S., Sewer plans, P/6/148.
  • 23. R.B.: P.R.O., H.O. 107/690/10, ff. 28–9.
  • 24. P.O.D.: M.L.R. 1843/6/748–9: A.E.P., release of 2 Dec. 1842, Lee to Maugham; declaration of H. Larchin, 7 Nov. 1861: M.L.R. 1843/ 6/748–9.
  • 25. A.E.P., conveyance of 8 Nov. 1861, H. Larchin to Freake; agreement of 31 Dec. 1870: M.L.R. 1861/16/64.
  • 26. P.R.O., PROB 11/2048, f. 48.
  • 27. Diagrams of the Parish of St. Mary Abbotts, Kensington, 1846–7, p. 151: G.L.R.O.(L), TA 9: D.S.R.
  • 28. G.L.R.O.(L), M.S.C. 297, no. 186/7142: D.S.R.
  • 29. R.B.: P.O.D.
  • 30. D.S.R.: Sale particulars in possession of Mr. Cecil Thomas.
  • 31. D.S.R.: B. 28 Jan., 4 Feb. 1882, pp. 120, 149.
  • 32. D.S.R.
  • 33. G.L.C. Members' Library, file no. 1201.
  • 34. B.A. 63696.
  • 35. Ibid., 107115.
  • 36. B. 9 Oct. 1886, p. 518: The British Architect, 22 April 1887, p. 315: D.S.R.: Oliver Matthews, Early Photographs and Early Photographers, 1973.
  • 37. B. ut supra.
  • 38. Ibid., 12 June 1886, p. 846.
  • 39. Ibid., 9 Oct. 1886, p. 518: The British Artichect, ut supra: P.O.D.
  • 40. Brochure in possession of Mr. Cecil Thomas.
  • 41. The British Architect, ut supra.
  • 42. Information kindly supplied by Mr. Cecil Thomas.
  • 43. Minutes of the School Board for London, Dec. 1877-May 1880,passim.
  • 44. Ibid., 6 Aug. 1879, p. 428, 12 May 1881, p. 881: D.S.R.
  • 45. B. 26 July 1879, p. 844.
  • 46. Ibid.: D.S.R.: Minutes of the School Board for London, 6 Aug. 1879, p. 428.
  • 47. L.C.C., Education Committee Minutes, 26 Nov. 1913, p. 790, 4 July 1956, p. 426, 9 Oct. 1957, p. 237; Education Bulletin, no. 396, 13 June 1956, para. 20, no. 399, 18 July 1956, para. 23.
  • c1. Dawson Turner (1775-1858), the botanist and antiquarian, lived and died at Lee Cottage in the 1850s.
  • c2. The builder was William Long, of Little Chelsea, operating under leases granted to him by Thomas Johnson in May/June 1839.
  • c3. The architect was evidently E. J. May, who submitted a building application in September 1884.