The Development of the Estate 1720-1785: The Estate Agent

Pages 9-11

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 Estate Agent

Little is known about the background of Richard Andrews, who was variously described as the agent, steward or 'receiver of the rents' for the Grosvenors' London estates when building began in Mayfair in 1720. He was then living 'next door to the blew Boar' in Great Russell Street, St. Giles-in-the-Fields, (fn. 2) and had first been employed as steward by Dame Mary Grosvenor in 1700, when he was some thirty-five years old. (fn. 3) In 1706 he was dismissed for alleged malpractice but was reinstated again in 1716 largely as the result of entreaties by Anne Grosvenor, Sir Richard's sister. (fn. 4) By 1730 his salary was £80 per annum and he also had an assistant, his second son Robert, at £50 per annum. (fn. 5) Robert Andrews was a member of the Inner Temple, being admitted in January 1725 when he was about twenty years old, (fn. 6) and he practised as a solicitor. He not only acted as London agent for the Grosvenors but also conducted the family's legal business in the capital. (fn. 7) No doubt partly because of his professional position Robert Andrews took a more considerable role in the management of the estate than his father, even before the latter's death in 1734 or 1735. He lived in a house in Grosvenor Street (No. 10, now demolished) from 1730, (fn. 8) and was also involved in parish affairs. He acted as attorney for the Vestry of St. George's, Hanover Square, between 1736 and 1744 and was a Vestryman from 1741. (fn. 9) In 1763, the year of his death, he was still acting as London agent for the first Baron (later first Earl) Grosvenor.

A brief hiatus occurred, however, in the long stewardship of the Andrews family on the death of Sir Richard Grosvenor, the fourth baronet, in July 1732, when, as indicated earlier, his successor Sir Thomas Grosvenor wished to put his own man in charge. His agent was Robert Barbor, a contemporary of Robert Andrews at the Inner Temple, but the Andrewses refused to give Barbor the books and papers necessary to run the estate. Sir Thomas brought an action in the Court of Exchequer to force them to hand over the documents, but he died in Naples in February 1733, probably before the case had come to a decision. The Andrewses always had the confidence of Robert Grosvenor, now sixth baronet, and Barbor dropped out of the picture. He submitted a bill for services rendered to the late Sir Thomas, but he was probably little involved in the affairs of the estate. (fn. 10)

Both Richard and Robert Andrews were more directly involved in the development of the estate than their positions as agent would seem to warrant. Both took areas of the estate under building agreements and leases and proceeded to develop them as independent speculators by granting sub-leases to builders. (fn. 11) Robert Andrews, in particular, secured some handsome profits in improved ground rents: (fn. 1) for instance he obtained over £130 per annum from one large plot which he held under a direct Grosvenor lease, and £120 from another. (fn. 12) He was also concerned with others in the building of the Grosvenor Chapel in South Audley Street, eventually becoming its sole proprietor. (fn. 13) Both he and his father lent money to builders on mortgage, (fn. 14) but it is not always possible to distinguish those occasions in which they were advancing their own capital from those in which they were acting for the Grosvenors. The possible conflict between the Andrewses' role as agents (and trustees) negotiating with other developers and builders, especially after 1730 when there was no estate surveyor, and their activities as speculators profiting from the development themselves, did not seem to concern either themselves or the Grosvenors (with the possible exception of Sir Thomas Grosvenor, who, among other charges in the case brought against them in the Exchequer, alleged that they owed money in ground rents). (fn. 15)

Certainly Robert Andrews was a successful, and, by whatever means, a relatively wealthy man at the time of his death in 1763. His salary from the Grosvenor family was then £150 per annum, (fn. 15) but, besides his solicitor's business, he also held a post in the Excise Office and was the lessee of some revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall called the Post Groats, worth £400 per annum. Besides his residence in Grosvenor Street he also had a house in Acton, and his estate and effects were valued at £18,000. (fn. 16)

One of Robert Andrews' executors was his son-in-law and successor as the Grosvenors' London agent, Thomas Walley Partington, also a solicitor. Andrews' will established very complicated trusts, and the difficulty in carrying these out led to a case in Chancery in 1789, Andrews v. Partington, (fn. 17) in which certain legal principles were laid down on how long the number of persons eligible to claim a share in a settlement (in this case the number of Robert Andrews' grandchildren) could remain uncertain. The problem arose because Andrews' son, the Reverend Robert Andrews, had twelve surviving children at that time and claimed that he might have still more. The decision in Andrews v. Partington that a numerically open class of beneficiaries normally closes when the first member becomes entitled to claim his share (in this instance when the first grandchild reached the age of twenty-one) constituted an important legal precedent. (fn. 18)

Thomas Walley Partington, who was born in 1730, came from a prominent Chester family. (fn. 19) His father, Edward Partington, was an attorney who acted for the Grosvenors in that city. (fn. 20) Thomas Walley was admitted as a student to the Inner Temple in 1746 (fn. 21) and in 1750 he was working as a clerk to Elisha Biscoe, a solicitor whose clients included a number of builders on the Grosvenor estate. (fn. 22) By 1753 he was associated with Andrews (fn. 23) and in the following year he married the latter's daughter, Elizabeth. (fn. 24) From 1757 he occupied a house in Brook Street and shortly afterwards also took over an adjoining house (the joint plot, later numbered 55, being on the site of Claridge's Hotel). (fn. 25) At the time of his death in 1791 he also had houses in Shepherd Street (probably the modern Dering Street near Hanover Square) and at Offham in Sussex. He does not appear to have been as directly involved in the development of the estate as his predecessors, but like Robert Andrews he had achieved relative prosperity when he died. According to the terms of his will his personal estate alone was worth at least £20,000. (fn. 26)

By 1779 Partington had formed a partnership with Edward Boodle, (fn. 27) who had at one time probably been his assistant (an Edward Boodle witnessed a Grosvenor estate deed in 1767). (fn. 28) After Partington's death Boodle became the London solicitor for the Grosvenors and occupied the premises in Brook Street which had been Partington's (they are entered in the ratebooks in 1789–91 as Partington and Boodle's). (fn. 25) The firm of Partington and Boodle, which became Boodle Hatfield and Company at the end of the nineteenth century, continued to occupy premises on the estate, in Brook Street until 1836 and then at No. 53 Davies Street, where its present offices are situated. (fn. 29) Thus a remarkable degree of continuity can be traced from Richard Andrews, who was appointed receiver of the rents for Dame Mary Grosvenor's estates in Middlesex in 1700, to Messrs. Boodle Hatfield and Company, who are solicitors to the Grosvenor Estate at the present day.


  • 1. I.e., the difference between the total rent which he obtained by his sub-leases to builders and the rent which he had to pay to the ground landlord under his head lease.
  • 2. Lambeth Palace Library, MS. 2714, f. 12.
  • 3. G.O., misc. box 3, deposition of Rd. Andrews [c. 1714].
  • 4. E.H.P., personal papers, 4th Bt., letters of 10 June, 6 Nov. 1706 and 15 May 1716.
  • 5. G.O., cash book no. 2.
  • 6. Inner Temple Admissions Register, vol. II, p. 251, f. 1378: P.R.O., C24/1588/54, deposition of Rbt. Andrews.
  • 7. G.O., misc. box 6, solicitor's bills.
  • 8. R.B.: M.L.R. 1730/4/301.
  • 9. W.C.L., C767, p. 34; C768, pp. 1, 106.
  • 10. P.R.O., E112/1181/954: Inner Temple Admissions Register, vol. II, p. 252, f. 1379.
  • 11. E.g. GBA 37, 58: GLB IV/115, IX/247–51: M.L.R. 1725–63 sub Andrews, Rd. and Rbt.
  • 12. GLB IV/115, XI/278: M.L.R. 1726–47 sub Andrews, Rbt. (sub-leases).
  • 13. GLB IX/236: W.C.L., C766a (at rear): M.L.R. 1751/1/ 567–8.
  • 14. E.g. M.L.R. 1729/6/95; 1736/5/337.
  • 15. B. H. Johnson, Berkeley Square to Bond Street, 1952, pp. 10–21.
  • 16. E.H.P., item 1194, account book 1756–63.
  • 17. P.R.O., PROB 11/891/415; C12/1086/1: The Gentleman's Magazine, vol. XXXIII, Sept. 1763, p. 465.
  • 18. P.R.O., C12/1086/1; C12/1092/3.
  • 19. R. E. Megarry and H. W. R. Wade, The Law of Real Property, 3rd ed., 1966, pp. 237, 508–9.
  • 20. Parish Register of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in the City of Chester 1532–1837, ed. L. M. Farrell, 1914, p. 175.
  • 21. G.O., misc. box 5, solicitor's bills.
  • 22. Inner Temple Admissions Register, vol. II, p. 316, f. 1476.
  • 23. M.L.R. 1750/3/117.
  • 24. GLB XVI/412.
  • 25. Harleian Society Publications, Registers XI, St. George's, Hanover Square, Marriages, vol. 1, 1725–1787, 1886, p. 53.
  • 26. R.B.
  • 27. P.R.O., PROB 11/1203/146.
  • 28. G.O., chest C, bundle 10, 'State of Lord Grosvenor's Affairs', 1779.
  • 29. GLB XVII/434.
  • 30. R.B.: P.O.D.