The Administration of the Estate 1785-1899: Introduction

Page 34

Survey of London: Volume 39, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1977.

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The Administration of the Estate 1785–1899

Between the completion of the first building development in c. 1780 and the accession of the second Duke of Westminster in 1899, which may be regarded as the start of the modern phase of the history of the estate, four members of the Grosvenor family held the property. During this period Baron Grosvenor was created Earl Grosvenor in 1784, and his son and great-grandson were respectively advanced to the Marquessate of Westminster (1831) and to a dukedom (1874), the latter being the only wholly new dukedom in the peerage of the United Kingdom (apart from those connected with the Royal House) to be created in the whole of the reign of Queen Victoria. (fn. 1) Two younger brothers of the second Marquess of Westminster also held distinct peerages, one as Earl of Wilton and the other as Baron Ebury, and in 1886 the Marquess's youngest son was created Baron Stalbridge. (fn. 2) Thus in the closing years of the nineteenth century four members of the Grosvenor family sat in the House of Lords, all of them being, moreover, closely related by the marriages of both the second Marquess and the first Duke to the almost equally resplendent dynasty of Leveson-Gower, possessors since 1833 of the Dukedom of Sutherland, plus (in 1846) the Earldom of Ellesmere. And in the House of Commons other members of the Grosvenor family sat in one of the two seats for the City of Chester from 1715 to 1874 without a break. For forty-two years of this period they held both the Chester seats, while other members of the family often represented other constituencies. (fn. 3)

This rapid social or dynastic advancement was matched by a corresponding growth in the wealth of the family, which was increasingly based upon the London estates. At a dinner party in 1819 the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Nicholas Vansittart) informed the American minister in London that the property-tax returns showed that Earl Grosvenor was one of the four richest men in England, with an annual income of 'beyond one hundred thousand pounds, clear of everything'. (fn. 4) At that time the enhancement of revenue from the Mayfair portion of the estate by the renewal of the original building leases was still at an early stage, and the development of Belgravia and Pimlico had hardly even begun. In the succeeding decades these two sources produced a torrent, and in 1865 the Grosvenors were described as 'the wealthiest family in Europe —perhaps . . . the wealthiest uncrowned house on earth'. (fn. 5)


  • 1. Gervas Huxley, Victorian Duke. The Life of Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, First Duke of Westminster, 1967, p. 101.
  • 2. G.E.C.
  • 3. Romney Sedgwick, The House of Commons 1715–1754, 1970, vol. I, p. 203; vol. II, pp. 87–8: Sir Lewis Namier and John Brooke, The House of Commons 1754–1790, 1964, vol. II, pp. 557 9: J. Vincent and M. Stenton, McCalmont's Parliamentary Poll Book. British Election Results 1832–1918, 1971, passim: G.E.C.
  • 4. Richard Rush, The Court of London from 1819 to 1825, 3rd ed., 1873, pp. 8–10: see also Prince Pückler-Muskau, Tour in England, Ireland and France in the Years 1826, 1827, 1828 and 1829, 1940, pp. 40–1.
  • 5. John Langton Sanford and Meredith Townsend, The Great Governing Families of England, 1865, vol. I, p. 112.