The Development of the Estate 1720-1785: Other Features of the Development

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


'The Development of the Estate 1720-1785: Other Features of the Development', in Survey of London: Volume 39, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History), ed. F H W Sheppard( London, 1977), British History Online [accessed 15 July 2024].

'The Development of the Estate 1720-1785: Other Features of the Development', in Survey of London: Volume 39, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History). Edited by F H W Sheppard( London, 1977), British History Online, accessed July 15, 2024,

"The Development of the Estate 1720-1785: Other Features of the Development". Survey of London: Volume 39, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History). Ed. F H W Sheppard(London, 1977), , British History Online. Web. 15 July 2024.

Other Features of the Development

Of the two features often considered essential for the success of a large scheme of development—a church and a market—the Grosvenor estate initially provided only the former. In some ways this might have been considered the less needed, for the large new church of St. George, Hanover Square, was consecrated in 1725 and the Grosvenors assisted firstly the 'Fifty Churches' Commissioners and then the authorities of the new parish after its formation in 1725 in a series of ways. In 1723 they sold the freehold of one and a half acres near the southern boundary of their estate to provide a burial ground for the church. (fn. 1) The price of £315, or £210 per acre, if calculated on the normal basis of thirty years' purchase of an assumed ground rent of £7 per acre, was little more than the agricultural value of the land and was well below the potential value realized in the course of development. They later also sold the freehold of No. 15 Grosvenor Street at thirty years' purchase of the ground rent of £4 10s. to the Commissioners as a residence for the rector of St. George's, (fn. 2) and allowed a workhouse for the parish to be built in Mount Street on a ninety-nine-year lease. (fn. 3)

The provision of a chapel near the western boundary of the estate was, however, planned from the first, (fn. 4) and when the land for it was made available in 1730 to the three building tradesmen and Robert Andrews who were jointly to build it, the words of the agreement made it plain that spiritual considerations were subordinated to practical aims. The preamble stated that, 'As well for the Conveniency and Accomodation of the severall Tenants or Inhabitants of new Houses lately built . . . lyeing in and about Grosvenor Square . . . As also for the Encouraging and promoting of building in Generall upon such parts of the said Estate as yet remain unbuilt It hath been adjudged and thought proper to erect a Chappell'. (fn. 5) Sir Richard Grosvenor assisted the chapel's proprietors by granting contiguous building land in South Audley Street to them at very low ground rents, but apart from reserving pews for his family and servants he did not directly involve himself in its erection and management, even though it eventually became known as the Grosvenor Chapel (Plate 12b; fig. 7 on page 119). In 1732 he sold the fee simple of its site to the rector and churchwardens of St. George's as a means of resolving the problem that the vaults under the chapel could not be consecrated for burials unless the ground were held freehold by the parish. (fn. 6)

The burial ground and the sites of the rectory and chapel were the only parts of the estate sold freehold during the eighteenth century. Another Anglican proprietary chapel, St. Mary's, was, however, built in 1762 on leasehold ground at the south-east corner of Park Street and Green Street. (fn. 7)

The Grosvenors did not promote the development of a market on their estate until the 1780's when Grosvenor Market, occupying an inconveniently situated site at the north-east corner of the estate in the northern part of the triangle bounded by South Molton Lane, Davies Street and Davies Mews, was erected partly by speculative building and partly under contract. (fn. 8) It was not a success, for a rival market called St. George's Market had just been established to the east of James (now Gilbert) Street. This was on part of a large plot on the north side of Brook Street which had been leased in 1726 to Edward Shepherd for ninety-nine years, and in this lease the only trades listed as noxious had been those of brewer and melter of tallow. (fn. 9) The ground landlord therefore had virtually no control here, and in many other areas of the estate few trades were restricted and shops had been established from an early date. A petition by the builders of Grosvenor Market complained of such shops, particularly those of butchers, who, the petitioners thought, were defying their lease covenants, in Oxford Street, Chapel Street, North and South Audley Streets, North Row, Park Street, Davies Street, Mount Street and Duke Street. (fn. 10) Both the Westminster poll books of 1749 and a list of householders in the parish of St. George, Hanover Square, dating from c. 1790, show that a substantial proportion of the occupants of these and other streets were indeed tradesmen (see Chapter V). (fn. 11) Grosvenor Market nevertheless struggled on for some decades, but it gradually ceased to be a centre for retail trade, and the whole site was redeveloped in 1890.

Taverns and coffee houses were also, originally, extremely numerous, and the very first building to be completed on the estate was probably the Mount Coffee House at the eastern end of Grosvenor Street. (fn. 12) Although some attempt was made in early building agreements to restrict them to the mews or minor streets they were soon to be found in all parts of the estate except Grosvenor Square. In the main streets they were generally confined to corner sites where the entrance and sign could be sited less obtrusively in a side street or alley. (fn. 13) The death in 1739 of Mr. Fellows, master of the Three Tuns tavern in Grosvenor Street, was reported in The London Daily Post, where he was described as 'well known among the Builders; and is said to have died rich'. (fn. 14) Building workers no doubt provided a large part of the clientele of such places in the early years.

A supply of water was obtained from the Chelsea Water Works Company, which was incorporated under an Act of 1722 and which obtained a royal warrant in 1725 to build a reservoir at the eastern edge of Hyde Park to supply inter alia the new buildings about Oliver's Mount (Plate 2). Water for the reservoir came from a system of basins and canals connected with the Thames on the Grosvenors' Pimlico property, and at first had to be raised to the higher levels of Mayfair by horse power until pumping machinery was installed in 1742. The reservoir was converted into an ornamental basin with a fountain in the middle in 1835 and its (much diminished) site is now occupied by the fountain to the south of Grosvenor Gate. (fn. 15)

The Chelsea Company's supply was, however, by no means adequate at all times and for all purposes. In 1742 a man who was employed by the inhabitants of Grosvenor Street to water the roadway during the summer complained to the Westminster Commissioners of Sewers of irregularities in supply, 'the said Water not coming in sometimes for a fortnight together'. He sought permission to obtain the water which he needed from the common sewer flowing under Avery Row, and this request was granted. (fn. 16) Some houses had private wells, as is evidenced by the fate of John Green, the builder, who drowned when he fell into one at No. 43 Upper Grosvenor Street.

An ancient conduit pipe, which originally carried water from springs at Paddington to the City of London, ran under the north-west corner of the estate a short distance to the south of Oxford Street. Clauses were written into agreements and leases of plots in the area protecting the rights of the proprietors of the London Bridge Water Works Company (who had been granted a lease of the conduit system by the City Corporation) to have access to the pipes and any conduit heads. When the present No. 449 Oxford Street was being rebuilt in 1875 a conduit head was discovered underneath the former house on the site in a good state of preservation, and drawings were made of it. Another was situated further west, on the east side of Park Street near the corner with Oxford Street, and was housed in a building which belonged to the City Corporation, presumably by right of the medieval charters granting to the City the ownership of the pipes and other features of the system. In 1866, when this corner of Park Street and Oxford Street was first being redeveloped, the Grosvenor Estate paid £2,470 to the Corporation to buy the freehold of the ground on which the 'conduit house' stood. (fn. 17)


  • 1. P.R.O., C54/5236, no. 7.
  • 2. Lambeth Palace Library, MS. 2691, p. 254; MS. 2714, f. 59.
  • 3. GLB VI/161.
  • 4. G.O., John Mackay's map of the Grosvenor estate, 1723.
  • 5. GBA 67.
  • 6. W.C.L., C766, pp. 207, 210, 212–13, 229, 245; C766a, copies of deeds at back.
  • 7. G.O., Park Street Chapel box, agreements of 13 July 1762.
  • 8. GLB XXI/551–69: GBM 1/42–3, 211, 230, 262, 266, 290, 297: G.O., box Q bundle 35; box S, bundle 157.
  • 9. GLB IV/99.
  • 10. G.O., box S, bundle 157, undated petition.
  • 11. G.L.R.O.(M), TC/St/G/1–2.
  • 12. M.L.R. 1721/6/196–7.
  • 13. GLB VIII/219.
  • 14. The London Daily Post, 13 June 1739.
  • 15. Information kindly provided by Mr. G. C. Berry: Jacob Larwood, The Story of the London Parks, 1881 ed., p. 95.
  • 16. G.L.R.O.(L), W.C.S. 53, p. 322.
  • 17. A. Morley Davies, 'London's First Conduit System: A Topographical Study', in Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, n.s., vol. II, 1913, pp. 9–59: G.O., early deeds and papers, no. 44; misc. box 17, papers re conduit house, 1865–6: GBA 91–3: GLB IV/120; XVI/428 53; XVIII/454–60: GBM 14/8, 389–90, 400; 15/78 9, 182, 264: W.C.L., watercolour, C138 Oxford St. (6).