Grosvenor Square: Introduction

Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2 (The Buildings). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1980.

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'Grosvenor Square: Introduction', Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2 (The Buildings), (London, 1980), pp. 112-117. British History Online [accessed 24 June 2024].

. "Grosvenor Square: Introduction", in Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2 (The Buildings), (London, 1980) 112-117. British History Online, accessed June 24, 2024,

. "Grosvenor Square: Introduction", Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2 (The Buildings), (London, 1980). 112-117. British History Online. Web. 24 June 2024,

In this section


Grosvenor Square

The great square which lay at the heart of the Grosvenors' Mayfair estate was notable more for its size, and fame, than for its architectural distinction. Like the rest of the estate it represented rather the common run of good building practice in its diverse modes than any higher aspiration, although it did not lack impressiveness of a kind from its large disregard of magnificence or sustained uniformity. For much of its history, until the most recent phase of rebuilding, it would have been easy to see it in terms of the rather proudly muted individuality the English had come to think of as their characteristic.

Projected by 1720, the Square was built between about 1725 and 1731. Apart from Lincoln's Inn Fields it was, and remained, the largest in the West End. The method of development was, nevertheless, conventional, by disposing of blocks or, more usually, single plots for long terms, and mainly to numerous building tradesmen. No fewer than thirty builders or partnerships were lessees or sublessees at the fifty-one sites: thirteen carpenters, seven bricklayers, three plasterers, three joiners, a paviour, and a painter: three builders' merchants were also lessees.

The history of the mostly ineffectual early attempts to give the Square architectural uniformity are discussed in volume XXXIX, where they are shown to have been unsuccessful in proportion to their high aim—John Simmons's unaspiring symmetry deployed along one whole side of the Square, Edward Shepherd's Palladian façade-making limited to three houses, and Colen Campbell's palatial projects quite unrealized (Plates 4b, 5 in vol. XXXIX). For the individual house fronts the evidence is that even with the comparatively wide frontages available the dignity of a central entrance—a desideratum with mature Palladians like Ware—was rarely attempted, and then perhaps only on the east and north sides. Generally the builders and their clients were content with the greater ease and convenience of arrangement that resulted in the off-centre front door of the average London house. The evidence of the surviving No. 9, to which the easternmost house in the north range was similar, is that some of the fronts were very 'average' indeed.

The conventional method of development itself made uniformity difficult to achieve in the absence of a determined will towards it on the part of the ground landlord, and it has already been said in volume XXXIX that the legal instruments to dispose of sites in the Square were hardly more tightly drawn than elsewhere. Whether in addition a positive preference for some measure of variety was at work in about 1724 is hard to say. For what it is worth, John Gwynn (b. 1713)—who can, however, have had no direct knowledge of the matter—said much later, in 1766, that there had in fact been a 'reason given' for building the Square irregularly. This was that if uniformly designed 'it would too much have resembled an Hospital'. (fn. 9) It seems clear that Gwynn was here referring to what he thought, rightly or wrongly, to have been a contemporary apologia. (He considered it a ridiculous one.) Published comments on the Square, however, from 1734 onwards, treat the irregularity as a defect, more or less excusable.

The obscure question of the architectural auspices under which the Square was developed is touched upon in volume XXXIX. It remains only to add that Roger Morris, a resident nearby, who occurs supervising the finishing of a house for Lord Clinton on the north side at No. 11 in 1728 and surveying a house on the east side for Lord Marchmont in 1731 may just conceivably have had a rather more extensive 'connexion' in the Square than most others. At No. 50 in the south-east corner a 'Mr. Morris' worked for Lord Guilford in the 1730's, and at No. 12 the style and client evoke the designer or designers of Marble Hill House, Twickenham. (fn. 1) But in any event it is manifest that no man's 'style' predominated.

The total effect of the Square was no doubt pleasing in its moderate variety, but the chief impression must have derived from the lowness of the buildings in relation to the eight-acre expanse they surrounded. Even before its most recent rebuilding this effect had been lessened by the accretion of added storeys, so that on the east side, for example, only No. 1 retained its original height, and was latterly one of the lowest buildings on that side whereas originally most of the others were even lower (Plates 28a, 30a). The sense of spaciousness was increased by the way in which the central garden was laid out. Here, at least, formality and regularity prevailed, permitting long views across it (Plate 28a: see also Plate 5 in vol. XXXIX).

The creation of this central garden was a purposeful act carried through successfully by Sir Richard Grosvenor and the undertakers around the Square who had entered into articles of agreement with him to build there. By 1729 the cost was computed at some £2,871, (fn. 10) borne by Sir Richard and recouped, with greater or lesser success, from the undertakers, with whom he had come to an agreement for the purpose in June 1725. (fn. 11) Of this total no less than £1,114 was taken by the gated wall and fence which encircled the central garden, £970 by the 'mould, gravel or other stuff procured by Sir Richard mostly from the newly excavated foundations of the houses round the Square, £396 by the payments to a gardener, John Alston, for laying out this central garden, and £273 by payments to the sculptor John Nost for making (and repairing) a statue and its pedestal at the centre. The remainder included £57 for drainage and £40 to Robert Andrews for legal services.

Alston, who about that time became surveyor to the Kensington Turnpike trustees, (fn. 12) provided the plan (signed by him) for the laying-out of the garden, (fn. 13) and may be presumed to have designed it. The oval shape, adumbrated on John Mackay's map of the projected estate in 1723, seems to have pleased by its novelty. The enclosure was by a wall of grey brick surmounted by an oak fence designed by the carpenter John Simmons, (fn. 14) and was punctuated at intervals by octagonal red-brick piers rising above the fence. This fence-wall (generally thought ungainly by commentators) was interrupted at the centre of each side of the Square by iron gates hung from brick piers. The gates, which cost £31 10s. each, were made in accordance with a 'draft … drawn by Mr. Cartwright', (fn. 11) perhaps John Cartwright, blacksmith, who was a building lessee in 1723 in Grosvenor Street.

They gave admission to the central pleasaunce, said by Alston to be designed 'in Wildernesse worke' but formal in its layout. Paths of grass and gravel dissected the area into geometric plots closely planted with flowering shrubs, probably of eight different kinds, and some evergreens. The hedges bounding the plots were to be of elm. Alston was required to keep these hedges trimmed to a maximum height of eight feet. Views of the Square, however, suggest the height of the plantations was kept generally below eyelevel, but with some of the hedge-elms rising higher at intervals. In the centre, on a large, slightly raised, square, grass platform, stood the statue.

This was an equestrian effigy of King George I, made of lead and wholly gilded, on a stone pedestal, for which Sir Richard contracted with John Nost in July 1725. (fn. 15) It was to be based on Nost's statue of the king at Canons, except that it was to be in Roman martial dress. The statue was erected, facing east, in about August 1726. (fn. 16) It was subjected to malicious damage in March 1727, but was promptly repaired by Nost. (fn. 17)

The work on the garden was much subdivided, the tradesmen whose bills survive numbering sixteen. Most of them had interests in the houses round the Square. (fn. 2) Alston was evidently engaged thereafter to maintain the garden, inside the enclosure, at £40 per annum. (fn. 18) To meet the maintenance costs the lessees round the Square were to be charged a yearly rent of 9d. per foot frontage (fn. 11) —a provision that was to prove insufficient.

The work on the houses round the Square had meanwhile proceeded fairly continuously from 1725 and, as the dates of the leases seem to show, in a generally westward direction from the north-eastern and southeastern corners. By 1729 all but the four houses south of No. 4 on the east side were completed in carcase. Those four, perhaps delayed by the difficulty in disposing of No. 4, were finished in 1731. (fn. 3)

At No. 4 some indications of possibly defective work occur so early as 1743 and similar hints are encountered at No. 24 (1803), No. 5 (1810), No. 47 (1813), No. 50 (1847), No. 15 (1849) and No. 3 (1876). Generally emanating from the tenant, these probably do not amount to anything objectively very informative on the quality of the work. One surveyor, the architect Roger Morris, thought the house put up by Simmons on the east side which he inspected in 1731 was stoutly and well built: even in its slightly unfinished state, he told a prospective buyer, 'I could not build it for £5,000'. By implication Morris suggests the other houses in the Square set a good standard of comparison. (fn. 19) Of the fifty-one houses, twenty-nine in fact survived until the most recent phase of rebuilding (and, at Nos. 9 and 38, to the present day), though with varying degrees of reconstruction which in some instances amounted almost to rebuilding. The other twenty-two had been entirely rebuilt from 1814 onwards—one of them (No. 47) twice. (fn. 4)

As has been said in volume XXXIX, by about 1738 at least sixteen of the thirty or so builders or partnerships taking plots round the Square were insolvent or actually bankrupt. (fn. 20) Their commitments in the Square may not in all instances have been the cause of this rather astonishing state of affairs. But it is apparent that the great undertaking often proved a bad venture for those whose enterprise bridged the gap between the ground landlord and the ultimate owner. The fact seems to be that the houses in the Square were rather slow to 'take' with intending oc cupants. No doubt such big houses were not to be bought lightly or fitted-up and furnished quickly. But it may have been a matter of timing as well as size and related to the decline in the market in house-property in London about 1726.

The known prices for which the new houses sold ranged from £1,166 to £7,500, the lowest two prices being probably depressed by the monetary straits of the two building lessees.

The houses were generally assigned to their first occupants by the building lessees and were thus 'owner-occupied' from the beginning. But this was by no means invariably so, and about a dozen houses were first inhabited under some more dependent tenure.

The high social status of the Square was nevertheless one of the constants of the estate. Naturally enough, in the expanding 'West End' of Georgian London Grosvenor Square was never quite as intensely aristocratic as St. James's Square had been: its houses were more numerous and, large though they were, narrower than those in the older square. In the 1730's Lord Mountrath, Lord Chesterfield and Lord Portmore moved directly from a house there to Grosvenor Square, but later instances occur of the reverse movement—for example, by Sir Watkin Williams Wynn in c. 1774, the Duke of Leeds c. 1793–4, and William Tatton Egerton in 1797. In 1851 the statesman fourteenth Earl of Derby also preferred St. James's Square. Others in the 1730's had moved to a new house in Grosvenor Square from addresses in northern St. James's—for example the Bishop of Durham, Henry Talbot, Lord Weymouth and Sir Charles Wills, but, again, there are instances of migration from the Square to the streets north of Piccadilly—William East in c. 1732, Lord Dysart in 1739, Sir Edward Dering c. 1758 and Richard Vernon in c. 1761. Yet in its early years the Square was grand enough for it to be rumoured that George II was considering it as a place of residence for the Prince of Wales, (fn. 21) and people of title consistently made up half or more of the residents down to very recent times. Some member of the Grosvenor family lived in the Square from at least 1755 to 1885 (and again in this century), and for most years from 1755 to 1802 the head of the family himself was to be found there.

Of the fifty-one first ratepaying residents who between 1727 and 1741 brought the houses into occupation, eleven were women. There were sixteen peers (including two dukes and nine earls), six children of peers, four baronets, four knights, and five titled widows (to whose number the Duchess of Kendal might be added): these made up thirty-five titled folk. Members of Parliament (including some lordlings) probably numbered nineteen. Their average age on moving in was probably about forty. The youngest, Viscount Weymouth, was only twenty-one, and another young nobleman was the Earl of Rockingham, whose entry into No. 18 when he was twenty-three in 1737 gave retrospective point to James Ralph's jibe in 1734 that its architecture was apt to 'take in some young heir'. (fn. 22) The oldest entrant, the veteran General Lord Carpenter, was seventy. Fellow-seniors were a rich bishop and another retired general. Soldiers perhaps gave, in a slight measure, the one distinctive colouring to the Square in its first days. Apart from Lord Carpenter and General Wills, survivors of the French war, there were the still-active General Handasyde and Lord Scarbrough, and the younger Earl of Albemarle. Otherwise the first occupants were not, on the whole, very outstanding. Few were active politicians and of those who were none was of the very front rank: Sir William Strickland and Sir William Wyndham were perhaps the most prominent. Two, William Mabbatt and Frederick Frankland, might be called businessmen. Of the forty male residents, twenty-five can be identified as subscribing to some of the early-Georgian architectural publications—with one woman, Anne Jennens or Jenyns, who subscribed to Gibbs's A Book of Architecture of 1728. Again, however creditable, this was a slightly less patrician effort than that of the St. James's Squareites. In Grosvenor Square the most assiduous subscribers were John Aislabie, whose house was rather notably Palladian, and Lord Scarbrough, whose house was probably not.

The first occupants stayed, on average, for twelve or thirteen years. Despite the month-to-month mobility of the rich, a house in the Square seems to have encouraged a good measure of long-term stability. The count of families that at some period lived there for fifty years or more numbers at least thirty, and seven lived there for a hundred. (fn. 5) Not very surprisingly, the least turnover of families was at houses well situated in the east, north and west ranges (Nos. 4, 12 and 27), and the most at houses less grandly placed at the corners (Nos. 9, 10 (east), 35 and 51).

The sequence of changes made to these so wellinhabited houses, externally and internally, seems to invite comment; but the record is insufficiently complete to say anything certain of the tides of taste: what is known is largely shaped by the dearth or wealth of recorded information about individual architects. Even the dates of major alterations and extensions may not be known, because (as in the rest of the area) the assessment of properties in the Square for rates remained unaltered for such long periods that it looks unlikely to have been a realistic indicator of improvements. With this proviso, it seems that the first phase of widespread renovation was in the 1760's, extending into the 1770's. (This was, too, when the Square saw its highest flights of political life, the 1760's witnessing the residence of three present or future Prime Ministers, Rockingham, Grafton and North.) Architects involved at that time ranged from the Palladian to the postAdam generation and included Flitcroft at No. 4, Vardy at No. 37, Stiff Leadbetter probably at No. 7, Kenton Couse at Nos. 2 and 29, Chambers at Nos. 20 and 25, the Adam brothers at Nos. 5, 19, 28 and, pre-eminently, at Derby House (No. 26), John Johnson at No. 38, and James Wyatt at Nos. 16 and 41. Other work was probably done at Nos. 31, 10 (west), 12, 24, 35, 40 and 49. Some fronts were then stuccoed—perhaps first at No. 4 in 1763. How agreeable in its mixed way the Square looked by the 1780's and 1790's is well shown in Dayes's and Malton's views (Frontispiece and Plate 28b).

These also show that an important change had taken place in the centre of the Square. By 1774 the garden rent levied on the lessees of houses, yielding some £70 per annum, was proving insufficient. (In the nine years or so between 1729 and c. 1738 the Grosvenors as ground landlords seem to have spent some £920 on the centre of the Square—this presumably including Alston's £40 yearly (fn. 23).) In 1774 the residents in the Square obtained an Act of Parliament constituting twenty-one trustees, appointed by and from their own number, to manage the Square, with power to levy a rate of up to 4s. in the £ for the purpose. The residents' petition for the Act mentioned their wish 'to inclose the said Garden in a more substantial Manner, and to alter and embellish the same'. (fn. 24) The records kept by the trustees have not come to light but it seems that, perhaps soon after 1774 and certainly by 1785, the renovation of the houses had been matched by alterations to the garden. In the latter year the wife of the American ambassador John Adams, living at No. 9, described the centre of the Square to her sister. (fn. 25) The old fence-wall (which had still been in place, to be criticized by John Gwynn, in 1766 (fn. 26) ) had been removed, and she describes 'a neat grated fence', around which lamps were lit each night (she herself had seen the lighted ring only on summer evenings). Within the fence, Alston's many sections had been reduced to four quarterings around the central grass platform. These were 'filled with clumps of low trees thick together which is called shrubbery', and although this sounds rather like the previous close planting, Dayes's and Malton's views (published in 1789 and 1800) and Horwood's map of 1792 show that Alston's shrubs had been replaced by naturalistic clumps growing up perhaps more luxuriantly.

The three decades around 1800 saw much recorded work in the Square, latterly including what was doubtless the first complete rebuilding, in 1814–16. Soane's welldocumented career included work at Nos. 14, 25, 39 and, particularly, at No. 49, which was as expressive of his mature style as No. 26 had been of the Adams'. Jeffry Wyatt (Wyatville) and, of an older generation, Samuel Wyatt, each occur at a number of houses (Nos. 5, 6 and 7; and Nos. 10 (west), 40 and 45 respectively). One or two little-known architects also occur. At No. 47 in 1814–16 Lord Grimston seems to have avoided a famous name (rather as Lord Bristol was to do at No. 6 St. James's Square in 1819–20), and to have entrusted the rebuilding to a Thomas Martin.

In 1754 a commentator on the houses in the Square, probably then still largely unaltered, had dwelt on the generous provision of main and subsidiary staircases in them, and on the handsomeness of the principal staircases he had seen there, with 'inlaid and perfect Cabinet-work, and the Paintings on the Roof and Sides done by the best Hands'. (fn. 27) At least five houses, on the west and south sides (Nos. 25, 29, 40, 44, 45), are known in all probability to have had these painted staircases, but having been so pleasing to one generation such spectacular eye-catchers were doubtless correspondingly tiresome to later taste, and were, it seems, often the victims of these late eighteenth-century alterations, the shift of the staircase backwards permitting the front drawing-room on the first floor to be made longer and grander.

The 1820's–1840's probably saw comparatively little actual work done on the houses of the Square. In the centre, conservatism long prevailed. Tom Moore, writing not later than 1827, celebrated the oil lamps, the watchmen and the unMacadamized carriageway. (fn. 28) It would seem, however, that Macadam's surfacing was introduced not long after this, for in 1835 it is specifically mentioned as the mode by then employed, in an Act for the better management of the Square. (fn. 29) This Act did not materially alter the system, which continued to be run by the trustees. Two changes, however, were to give them more summary powers of removing nuisances of humankind, such as cabmen plying for hire, and explicit powers to lay gaspipes. The provisions to be taken against the contamination of the water supply by gas were carefully set out. The actual introduction of gas, which had been rejected in 1819, was, on the evidence of Moore's journal, accomplished in 1839. (fn. 30)

Around the Square a significant move towards modernization, of a kind, was at least heralded in the 1840's, for in the last year of the first Marquess of Westminster's life a more or less extensive recasting of the face of the Square was foreshadowed when in 1844 the estate surveyor, Thomas Cundy II, persuaded him to re-style the Square 'by the addition of stucco-work to the fronts with porticos, window dressings, cornices and balustrades to such of the houses as may be thought to require it'. This policy was to be effected when leases were renewed. (fn. 31)

In the same year the Marquess's son, Earl Grosvenor, was interesting himself in clearing some trees from the garden, (fn. 32) perhaps in the same tidying spirit, and, succeeding as second Marquess in the following year, kept the refronting plans alive. In 1845 and 1849 there were schemes for a general recasting of the exteriors on the south side. (fn. 33) Except at No. 50 in 1849, however, it was the 1850's before the Square began to show the effect of the second Marquess's measures. In this, his known pride in the Square as the centrepiece of the Mayfair estate played a part, (fn. 34) but the manner of its expression was not very different from elsewhere on the estate. Between 1853 and 1866 some dozen of the houses were rebuilt or refaced with hard, squared-up Italianate fronts in stucco or (more usually) white brick, designed by Thomas Cundy II, with the help of his son and successor, Thomas Cundy III, in a style approximating to that proving successful in London's western suburbs. At the same time the building line was set back behind wider areas. The fronts were not quite uniform but enough evidence survives to suggest there may have been some attempt at uniformity on each side of the Square separately considered. On the south side Nos. 38, 40 and 42 were very similar, as were Nos. 2 and 4 on the east, Nos. 26 and 30 on the west and Nos. 10 and 20–21 on the north. The last were virtually identical and hint particularly strongly at a uniform scheme for the north side distinguished by the pilasters and columns which the Marquess shunned elsewhere. The failure or disinclination to enforce pilasters at William Burn's new house at No. 18 in 1865–6 marks the end of this phase in the Square. In some ways that big house was a culmination of what had been the typical Square house, with, behind its plain front, an increasingly specialized and tightly planned battery of rooms and service quarters, laid out in formidable but well-established sequence (fig. 36 on pages 134–5).

As it happens, the two houses of this 'Cundifying' period of which most is known, Nos. 10 and 21, were each new-built from the ground by lessees whose architectural tastes would seem to have lain far from such staid Italianate: Lord Lindsay (later twenty-fifth Earl of Crawford) and William Brougham both inclined naturally to the more picturesque styles of their homelands in the north, but were perfectly content with Cundy in Mayfair. (Each also in some degree found the means to meet the cost directly or indirectly from coal-mining.)

This phase gave the Square the aspect—mixing worked-over Georgian with Victorian of the most straightfaced kind—that predominantly characterized it until its recent rebuilding. Meanwhile, in the centre the statue of George I had disappeared, probably between 1844 and 1854, either by demolition or removal to a destination now unknown. Possibly the partial clearance of the shrubbery in 1844 revealed something shabby or seemingly out of date. (fn. 35) (fn. 6)

At the individual houses much work was done after the 1860's and much money spent, but externally the changes were not as bold and widespread as in some other parts of the Mayfair estate. Perhaps the courage of the first Duke, who succeeded (initially as third Marquess) in 1869, failed him a little here. Leases were often arranged to permit rebuilding of adjacent houses in the latter part of the century that was not carried through when the time came. For example, at Nos. 43–48 the leases had been renewed in 1864–5 for simultaneous expiry in 1881 but further renewals preserved them until 1901 and thereafter.

Sobriety of aspect was sometimes abandoned—first in 1875 at No. 3 and then in 1877 at No. 39, where the redbrick revival was tentatively introduced—neither by architects of the first rank and the latter, at least, unworthily designed. The years 1884–8 saw three other rebuildings, at Nos. 27, 33–34, and 41, which also went quite outside the old range of styles—and the last also preeminently so in its planning by George Devey. In 1888 Lord Harrowby at No. 44 complained of the spoiling of the Square by 'the recent erection of houses like public institutions'. (fn. 36) But the Square never became an important example of the Duke's architectural innovations. (fn. 7)

To the extent that 1869 had brought some loosening of style it also marked some social change in a Square that had for more than a century and a quarter largely held out against occupation by businessmen, and the next decade saw the arrival of (Sir) William Cunliffe Brooks, a Manchester banker, Sir Henry Meux, a brewer, (Sir) Edward Henry Scott, a banker, (Sir) Charles Palmer, a ship-builder, Sir John Kelk, a contractor, and Charles Wilson (later Lord Nunburnholme), a ship-owner. About 1876 Edward Walford could still say of the houses in the Square 'there is not a plebeian "professional" man—not even a titled M.D.—living in them', (fn. 37) but in 1878 a physician took up residence at No. 2. Wealth continued to be needed to live there, and correspondingly advanced years: in 1871 the householders were on average in their late fifties. The average household numbered thirteen or fourteen, of whom ten or eleven were servants: two thirds of these were women. (fn. 38)

In 1853–4 and 1864–5 an 'institutional' use of houses made an appearance, with the French and Belgian embassies at Nos. 25 and 3 for a year or two, evidently under sub-leases. (fn. 39) A club was refused a lease in 1869 (and again in 1906) (fn. 40) but the Italian embassy came permanently to the Square in 1887. The Japanese embassy took a house here in 1913 and others followed. The now-famous American presence dates only from 1938—reviving, however, earlier connexions going back to the Adamses at No. 9.

By the late nineteenth century high prices were being paid for long leaseholds of houses in the Square—£50,000 for No. 33, £60,000 for No. 10 and £65,000 for No. 27. At that period houses in the Square were very likely to have white-and-gold Louis Quinze intercommunicating firstfloor drawing-rooms, and white, brocade-hung Louis Seize boudoirs opening off them: downstairs an English manner might prevail—perhaps recast to a more luxuriously enriched imitation of the period of the house's own building, or perhaps receding to Restoration or even Jacobean, to give a sturdier and homelier setting for the ground-floor pursuits of eating, reading or business.

When changes to the actual fabric were made in the later nineteenth century they often served to extend the accommodation to meet the wish for greater privacy, servant-segregation, and hygiene, and were therefore in the bedroom quarters and domestic offices: houses were heightened (and the first Duke's tastes sometimes expressed in more prominent dormers on the skyline). In the early years of the second Duke's time, however, from 1899 until 1914, the main reception areas were also likely to be recast and the planning opened up to provide for a spectacular type of social life with the staircase often rebuilt again and prominently displayed.

The exterior alterations in the early days of the second Duke were generally much more reticent than under his two predecessors, even if sometimes notable for the fashionable fronting in stone. At No. 51 in 1908 and No. 47 in 1913, however, the neo-Georgian front in brick appeared. Increasingly the changes in the forty years since 1875 had tended to be at or near the corners of the Square or on the south side. Compared with the changes a hundred years earlier it is noticeable that many of the names of the architects, whether for rebuildings or the many lesser changes, are of little-known practitioners.

The alterations of the Edwardian period might have been greater but for the fall in the value of houses in the Square, of which contemporaries were very conscious. By 1909 ten of the houses were to let and it was asserted that values had sunk by fifty per cent since 1901. (fn. 41) One of the most spectacular rebuildings, of Nos. 22–23 in 1906–7, failed to attract a permanent private occupant; and so did that of No. 47 in 1913–14. At No. 43 in 1909 estate agents successfully put the doctrine of falling values to the stiffest test, winning from the Estate a big reduction in the estimated annual value of the house. (fn. 41)

After the 1914–18 war the changes in the individual houses in the Square were outwardly inconspicuous until it was transformed by the latest phase of rebuilding. Inside, however, considerable outlay was still made by private occupants. Nos. 16, 24, 25, 44 and 47, for example, were all enhanced between the wars.

By 1926 the central garden had taken on the character usual in London's residential squares, with great trees irregularly grouped, and a tennis court. (fn. 42) This last had replaced one of the four symmetrically arranged walks leading to the centre. The pedestal of the vanished statue, however, seemingly remained in situ (fn. 43) — perhaps until the rearrangement of 1948. In 1936 a proposal from the architect Fernand Billerey, then interesting himself in redevelopment round the Square, that an underground car-park should be made in the centre (as had been suggested in the previous year for St. James's Square) was not pursued by the Estate. (fn. 44)

Of the rebuilding which over some forty years, spanning the 1939–45 war, has ended the Square as an assemblage of houses, something will be said below in addition to the account in volume XXXIX. Of the older phase thereby terminated it remains to note the end of private occupation as recorded in the Post Office Directories. Apart from No. 20, used as an embassy since 1887, the first casualties were at the corners of the Square. No. 10 became an embassy in 1913 and No. 22 in 1917. In the latter year No. 48 also failed of a permanent tenant, and so did No. 46. No. 45 followed in 1924, Nos. 49–50 in 1926 and Nos. 14, 36, 39 and 40 in the years 1928–31. It was thus mainly in the south and south-east parts that the Square's houses were being given up, and some stood many years without private occupants. In 1939, however, (when blocks of flats had already been built on twenty-one of the old house sites) twenty-two houses remained in entire private occupation, including all on the west side of the Square. Seven houses were more or less seriously damaged by bombing in the 1939–45 war (Nos. 6–7, 16–17 and 22–24), but in 1948 six still remained in family occupation—four of them rather strangely being on the early-abandoned south side. The last to be given up, No. 44, was retained in private occupation until shortly before its demolition in 1968.

By then the central garden, too, had changed its character. In 1948 it became public—a place, or platz, rather than the garden of a London square. The establishment of the American embassy in the Square in 1938 had been followed by a very extensive occupation of houses during and after the 1939–45 war by American civil and military services. It was therefore chosen as the site of the British memorial to President Roosevelt, unveiled by Mrs. Roosevelt in April 1948. To this end the garden was made over to the management of the Ministry of Works, and was radically rearranged by the architect B. W. L. Gallannaugh. The old forest trees were thinned out and new planes and cherry-trees planted. The whole was given a north-south axis, leading to a masonry platform incorporating water basins, which forms the setting for a standing bronze statue of President Roosevelt by the sculptor Sir William Reid Dick (fn. 45) (fn. 8) (Plate 32d).


  • 1. It is perhaps just worth mentioning here that a late eighteenth-century reference to Sir Andrew Fountaine's improvements at Narford Hall, as quoted in 1884, says: 'Mr. Roger Harris, an ingenious bricklayer, who had been foreman at the works of Grosvenor and Hanover Squares, was here director. This was done in 1718'. No Roger Harris has so far come to light, and it seems possible that Roger Morris is meant. If so, it may record very inaccurately some later association with Grosvenor Square.
  • 2. The brickwork cost £7 a rod. The bricklayers were the partnership of William Gray and John Brown, the two William Barlows, senior and junior, Thomas Hipsley and John Jenner; the carpenters Thomas Cook and Caleb Waterfield (in partnership), John Neale, Thomas Richmond, Robert Scott, John Simmons and Benjamin Timbrell; the masons Francis Commins and John Peddle; the paviour John Worrington; and the digger Stephen Whitaker. Edward Shepherd submitted bills for work in various trades.
  • 3. The house-numbers in the Square before the most recent phase of rebuilding are indicated on Plan A in the end pocket of vol. XXXIX and the present numbers on the plan in the end pocket of this volume.
  • 4. Two unidentified interiors dating from about the period of the Square's first building and said to have come from houses there are the room now preserved in the Cincinnati Art Museum (see page 144 note) and that illustrated by Margaret Jourdain in 1923, when it was in the hands of dealers.
  • 5. The Maynards at No. 43 for 100 years in all, the Stanleys at No. 26 for 101 years, the Ryders at No. 44 for 104 years, the GoughCalthorpes at No. 38 for 133 years, the Benyons at No. 39 and then No. 18 for 150 years, the Ashley Coopers at No. 27 for 153 years, and the Watson-Wentworths (Fitzwilliam) at No. 4 for 190 years.
  • 6. Already in 1828 Thomas Allen had said the statue had gone, but it is mentioned by Charles Knight in 1844 and Weale in 1851. Although it is not unknown for topographers to mention objects no longer in existence, Charles Knight described it, like Malcolm in 1807, as almost concealed by foliage in the summer, and it may be that it was Allen who was mistaken. In 1854 The Builder said it had disappeared and it is not mentioned again.
  • 7. One change perhaps disturbing to Lord Harrowby was the renumbering of most of the houses in the Square in the year of his complaint.
  • 8. General contractors, Trollope and Colls; bronze-founders, Morris Sayer and Co.; layout of inscriptions, W. H. Sharpington; cutting of inscriptions, Miss Mary Jenks.
  • 9. John Gwynn, London and Westminster Improved, 1766, .p. 119.
  • 10. G.O., misc. box 6, 'An Account of ye Charges of making up and enclosing ye Garden in Grosvenor Square', 1729.
  • 11. W.C.L., deed 143/1 a-b (original in possession of Williams and Glyn's Bank, Bishopsgate).
  • 12. Kensington Central Public Library, Kensington Turnpike Trustees, board minutes and surveyor's reports, passim.
  • 13. G.O., plan attached to agreement of 11 Nov. 1725, John Alston and Sir Richard Grosvenor.
  • 14. Ibid., misc. box 6, memo., 19 Dec. 1725; John Simmons's bill, 1 July 1727.
  • 15. Ibid., agreement of 26 July 1725, John Nost and Sir Richard Grosvenor.
  • 16. The St. James's Evening Post, 16–18 Aug. 1726.
  • 17. The Daily Journal, 14, 16 March 1727: The Daily Courant, 16 March 1727: G.O., misc. box 6, bill from John Nost, 25 May 1728; 'An Account of ye Charges …', ut supra (contingent expenses).
  • 18. Ibid., draft agreement of 1729, John Alston and Sir Richard Grosvenor.
  • 19. Scottish R.O., GD158/1380, f. 286 (information kindly supplied by Mr. H. M. Colvin).
  • 20. G.O., 'The State of the Accot. for making up Grosvenor Sq.'
  • 21. H.M.C., Var. Colls., VIII, 1913, p. 401.
  • 22. J. Ralph, A Critical Review of the Publick Buildings … In, and about London …, 1734, pp. 108–9.
  • 23. G.O., misc. box 6, 'An Account of ye Charges ...', ut supra; and 'The State of the Accot ...', ut supra.
  • 24. 14 Geo. III, c. 52, public: Journals of House of Commons, vol. XXXIV, pp. 506–7.
  • 25. American Antiquarian Society, Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 15 Aug. 1785.
  • 26. Gwynn, op. cit. (ref. 1), p. 80n.
  • 27. John Strype, A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, 1754–5 ed., vol. II, p. 688.
  • 28. Thomas Moore, The Summer Fête (written between 1827 and 1831).
  • 29. 5 and 6 William IV, c. 43, local.
  • 30. The Times, 18 May 1819, p. 3a: Memoirs, Journal and Correspondence of Thomas Moore, ed. Lord John Russell, vol. VII, 1856, pp. 254–5.
  • 31. GBM 12/117.
  • 32. Diary of Earl Grosvenor in possession of Count Guy de Pelet, 31 July 1844.
  • 33. Papers of John Liddell, architect, in stock of B. Weinreb, Architectural Books Ltd., Lord Westminster to Lord Carnarvon, 22 May 1845: GBM12/426–7.
  • 34. John Rylands University Library of Manchester, Crawford MSS., Lord Lindsay to Earl of Crawford, April 1865.
  • 35. J. P. Malcolm, Londinium Redivivum, vol. IV, 1807, p. 331: T. Allen, The History and Antiquities of London, vol. IV, 1828, p. 359: London, ed. Charles Knight, vol. VI, 1844, p. 202: Weale, London Exhibited in 1851, vol. 2, p. 829: B. 27 May 1854, p. 276.
  • 36. GBM 23/485.
  • 37. Edward Walford, Old and New London, n.d., vol. IV, p. 341.
  • 38. P.R.O., RG 10/95, 98.
  • 39. P.O.D.
  • 40. GBM 16/91; 34/29.
  • 41. Ibid., 34/384.
  • 42. See, e.g., N.M.R. Bedford Lemere photos., no. 28682 (No. 41 Grosvenor Square).
  • 43. Reginald Colby, Mayfair, 1966, p. 48.
  • 44. G.O., Estate Surveyor's unnumbered letterbooks, 16 March 1936, p. 193.
  • 45. The Architect and Building News, 9 April 1948, pp. 323, 342, 377, 378: B. 7 May 1948, pp. 538–40.
  • 46. The Times, 18 April 1884, p. 4b, letter from J. C. Robinson (information kindly supplied by Mr. H. M. Colvin).
  • 47. G.O., misc. box 6, memo., 19 July 1726.
  • 48. M. Jourdain, English Interiors in Smaller Houses, from the Restoration to the Regency, 1660–1830, 1923, pp. 49–51.