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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Hereford Street and Hereford Gardens
Few areas of the estate have changed so drastically as the part of Oxford Street now occupied by Hereford House where not only is the present building quite different in function, type and scale from the houses which previously existed on the site, but also in the process of its erection a whole street was swept away. This was Hereford Gardens (formerly Hereford Street) which ran parallel to Oxford Street about forty-five feet to the south. Joining Park Street at its east end, it was closed on the west by a wall separating it from the courtyard of Camelford House, but a short north-south arm gave access to Oxford Street.
The large rectangle bounded by Park Street on the east, Park Lane on the west, Oxford Street on the north and North Row on the south was the last parcel of ground to be taken under a building agreement during the initial development of the Mayfair part of the Grosvenor estate. In June 1765 John Phillips, carpenter, contracted to pay £320 per annum after a two-year peppercorn term—a rent well in excess of that previously paid by speculators on the estate—for ninety-nine-year leases of this north-west corner. (fn. 2) Phillips was the nephew of Thomas Phillips, carpenter, and he lived in the house built by his uncle at No. 39 Brook Street. (fn. 3) By this time he had himself established a considerable reputation as a master carpenter both in London and elsewhere.
The agreement makes no reference to a new street being cut through the area, but by 1773, when the first building leases were granted, both the line of the street and its name had been determined. It was originally intended to extend all the way from Park Street to Park Lane but the intended western end was in the event used as the courtyards of the two large mansions built there.
On the north side of Hereford Street between Park Street and the return arm joining Oxford Street Phillips, and, after his death in 1775, (fn. 4) his executors, sub-let the ground to building tradesmen who built a conventional terrace of three- and four-storey houses facing south. Among the tradesmen were John Barlow, bricklayer and coal dealer; William Barlow, bricklayer; John Dibbs, painter; John Elkins, bricklayer; William Phillips, builder; and Thomas Webb, plumber. The sub-leases date from 1774–8, but the houses were not all occupied until 1787. (fn. 5) Originally they had short gardens at the rear on the Oxford Street side but shops were later built there and can be seen in Tallis's view of Oxford Street in 1838–40 (fig. 42).
On the remaining plot on the north side, between the north-south arm of Hereford Street and the stable block of the mansion which came to be known as Camelford House, a substantial house with a coach-house and stabling was built, probably by John Phillips, and completed in 1774. (fn. 6) Originally numbered in Oxford Street, the house later became No. 10 Hereford Street, and, after 1870, No. 12 Hereford Gardens. Lieutenant-General Sir Hildebrand Oakes lived there from 1815 until his death in 1822, and he was followed by Sir Hudson Lowe, governor of St. Helena during the exile of Napoleon, (fn. 7) who, perhaps after making substantial embellishments, persuaded the Estate to grant him a new fifty-six-year lease in 1837, even though the existing lease still had twenty-seven years to run. (fn. 8) Tallis's view of the Oxford Street front at about this time (fig. 42) shows that the main body of the house was of four tall storeys, with a long two-storey wing to the east. Lowe lived there until 1840. (fn. 9) In later years the house was turned into bachelor chambers (fn. 10) and refronted (Plate 45a), but the grant of a new lease in 1837 eventually proved of some embarrassment to the Estate. The presence of the building had an adverse effect on the letting of the grand new houses built in Hereford Gardens after 1864, and when, in 1885, the leaseholder, John Galsworthy (probably the father of the novelist in his capacity as a man of property) applied for renewal terms he was informed that no extension could be granted. The house was demolished promptly on the expiry of the lease in 1893 and its site made into a garden. (fn. 11)
The south side of Hereford Street was developed after John Phillips's death under direct leases from Lord Grosvenor to the architect John Crunden, at the direction of Phillips's executors, in 1777, at a total ground rent of £180 per annum. (fn. 12) Crunden also took the return frontage to Park Street under sub-leases from the executors in 1778. (fn. 13) For this small site he designed a symmetrical group of three houses which he had built under contract, but in Hereford Street a terrace of nine houses numbered 11–19 (consec.) from west to east was erected under sub-leases from Crunden, mostly to building tradesmen. (fn. 1) Illustrations of the terrace in early nineteenth-century views of the west end of Oxford Street (fn. 14) show a group of four large houses at the west end, one of them (No. 13 leased to Cox) having a pediment and pilasters which were no doubt intended to close the vista from Oxford Street down the north-south arm of Hereford Street.
The building firm of Henry Holland the younger and Lancelot (Capability) Brown appear to have worked on the four westernmost houses and on the houses in Park Street. (fn. 15) Crunden himself was an assistant to Henry Holland the elder and it is possible that he maintained an association with the same building firm when run by Holland's son and used it in his speculations. (fn. 16) Of the building tradesmen who were granted sub-leases by Crunden only Thomas Carter, mason, the lessee of No. 15, is known to have been connected with Holland and Brown. He was presumably the stone-carver who had a yard near Piccadilly and specialized in fine chimneypieces. (fn. 17) John and William Hinchliff, the lessees of No. 19, were also noted masons, (fn. 18) and it may be significant that in 1864, when fittings of some of the houses were to be sold prior to their demolition, the Marquess of Westminster asked that 'the valuable chimney pieces' should be reserved from the sale (fn. 19) (see Plate 75b).
The majority of the houses on the south side of Hereford Street were occupied by 1785. (fn. 9) In that year, however, Thomas Pitt, now Baron Camelford, who was living at the adjoining Camelford House, offered Nos. 11 and 12 (at the west end) to the Society of Dilettanti for conversion into a museum and library to a design prepared by his friend, John Soane (Plate 69d). In his proposal he stated that, 'They have cost him above three thousand pounds, no expense having been spared upon the timbers and other materials', and thought that they could be finished for the Society's purposes for a further £2,500. (fn. 20) The Society, however, considered that this sum and the cost of upkeep were beyond their resources, and the houses were occupied as normal dwelling houses by 1789. (fn. 9)
The success of the terrace can be judged from the social status of its early occupants. Before the end of the eighteenth century the inhabitants of these nine houses included the Dutch ambassador; the Dowager Countess of Darnley; Lord Seaforth; Lady Archer, widow of the second Baron; two baronets—Sir Alexander Craufurd and Sir John D'Oyley; Ladies Finch and Winn; Generals Morrison and Stibbert; and Colonel Hastings. (fn. 9) Besides the chimneypieces, several of the houses must have had fine decorative features. Soane undertook work at No. 14 in 1794, (fn. 21) and when No. 12, first occupied by Lady Archer, was demolished in 1865 twenty-four paintings thought to be by Henry Howard were removed from two drawingroom ceilings. (fn. 22) Paintings were also preserved from No. 13. (fn. 23)
The three houses in Park Street designed by Crunden are illustrated in a lecture drawing by Soane which shows an elaborate composition for such a small and inconspicuous site (Plate 13c in vol. XXXIX). In the centre Crunden placed a wide, five-bay house of three storeys, the third being a full attic storey as defined by a classical frontispiece of pilasters, entablature and pediment framing the three central bays. The pilasters had capitals freely derived from the Tower of the Winds in Athens, an Order used by Crunden at Boodle's Club in St. James's Street of approximately the same date. (fn. 24) On each side were plainer two-bay houses, heightened by an extra storey in the roof and advanced slightly from the main façade of the centre house, having long return frontages to Hereford Street and North Row respectively. All three houses were either faced with stucco jointed in imitation of stone or possibly stone faced, and were finished by 1778. (fn. 9)
The centre house, which was later known as No. 62 Park Street, was let by Crunden at a rack rent of £160 to Thomas Fitzherbert. (fn. 25) He died in 1781 and his widow, the celebrated Mrs. Fitzherbert, married the Prince of Wales (later George IV) at this house in 1785. (fn. 26) Soane undertook repairs here in 1801 for Kenelm Digby, esquire, who took up residence in that year. (fn. 27) The southern house (No. 63 Park Street) was probably also let for short terms; between 1812 and 1837 it was occupied by Crunden's 'much esteemed relation', Sarah Stevenson, to whom he left £1,000 in his will. (fn. 28) The northern house (No. 20 Hereford Street) was occupied by Crunden himself from 1778 until his death in 1835 in his ninety-fifth year. (fn. 29)
In 1863, one year before the leases granted under John Phillips's building agreement of 1765 were due to expire, the Marquess of Westminster decided that Hereford Street should be rebuilt (with the necessary exception of No. 10, the lease of which had been renewed in 1837). Measured by the standing of their occupants, the houses on the south side could hardly be said to be at the end of their useful life. The inhabitants in that year included Lords Delamere, Rivers and Saltoun and Lady Charles Townshend, and, until recently, one house had been used as the Spanish Embassy. The income in fines and rents from renewals of the existing leases would certainly have equalled if not exceeded that eventually obtained from the ground rents of the new houses, and, apart from a general desire for 'improvement' there were no obvious reasons for redevelopment. Thomas Cundy III was, however, given the opportunity to provide another architectural essay in the Second Empire manner of Grosvenor Gardens. (fn. 30)
Cundy's first design was for nine houses on the south side of the street and stabling on the north side, his role evidently being merely to provide the elevations, the internal planning being left to the developer concerned. Charles James Freake applied for terms but he thought that the houses would be too expensive to build and he would not offer sufficient ground rent. (fn. 31) George Trollope and Sons, after some negotiation, ultimately agreed in 1866 to pay a total ground rent of £1,200 per annum for ninety-nine-year leases, provided that some modification of the scheme would be permitted. This condition was accepted, and the changes made at Trollopes' insistence, apart from minor alterations to Cundy's elevations, were the substitution of a garden for the proposed stabling on the ground between Hereford Street and Oxford Street, and, after some prevarication, the building of eleven houses rather than nine. (fn. 32)
The rebuilding of Hereford Street was much bedevilled by the great financial crisis of 1866, which was followed, in 1869–71, by a sharp downturn in the volume of building in London. Before the building contract had even been exchanged Trollopes applied unsuccessfully to borrow £20,000 from the Estate, giving as their reason the present 'money market difficulties'. Nevertheless they signed the agreement, (fn. 33) and building began in 1866 from the west end. By 1869 only five houses had been covered in, all of them having stabling at the rear in North Row. This slow progress was causing some concern, however, and references in the Board minutes to 'Messrs. Trollope's want of capital' elicited in 1869 the response that the crisis of 1866 was 'still preventing houses of this class being taken'. (fn. 34) Two of the houses for which leases were granted were apparently not occupied until 1875. (fn. 35)
Trollopes also criticized the decision to erect railings instead of a wall between the garden ground and Oxford Street. The main purpose of this proposed wall was to reduce the noise of traffic, but the Vestries of St. Marylebone and St. George's, Hanover Square, objected to its intended height, which was ultimately in 1870 fixed at only four feet six inches, topped by iron railings. In the same year the name of the street was changed to Hereford Gardens, ostensibly to avoid confusion with Hertford Street, but perhaps also to provide an address more suggestive of rus in urbe. (fn. 36)
In 1871 G. F. Trollope asked to be allowed to substitute plainer elevations for Cundy's design in the remaining houses so that they could be sold for £8,000 rather than £11,000. He complained of the noise from Oxford Street and the lack of depth of the plots, and stated that 'neither his firm, nor any other could, he thought, make a fair profit out of the houses if built according to the present elevations'. As it seemed unlikely that anyone else would take over the contract on reasonable terms, the Board agreed and the firm's revised elevations for the remaining houses in Hereford Gardens and an additional house at the corner with Park Street (known as Hereford House and later No. 117 Park Street) were approved by the third Marquess (later the first Duke of Westminster). (fn. 37) These houses were built without attached stables, land for which was provided on the east side of Park Street where they were grouped around a courtyard called Hereford Gardens Mews entered from North Row (Plate 48e). The elevations of this stable block were designed by Cundy with inevitable modifications by Trollopes. (fn. 38)
The leases of the remaining houses in Hereford Gardens were dated 1873 and that of Hereford House December 1874, (fn. 39) but it was not until 1876 that all the houses were finally occupied. Despite the protracted history of their erection they attracted several notable inhabitants. The first occupants included the third Marquess of Exeter, the sixth Earl of Glasgow, the twenty-second Baron Dacre and the fourteenth Baron Inchiquin. P. C. Hardwick, the architect, lived at No. 2 from 1874 until his death in 1892. By 1880 his neighbours included a marquess, three earls and a baron. (fn. 35)
In completing Hereford Gardens Trollopes, either out of their own aesthetic sense or at Cundy's insistence, used his design for one more house to complete a uniform composition in the western half of the terrace. This consisted of six tall houses with high roofs and attics lighted by elaborate dormer windows; the end houses were advanced from the general building line and their roofs were heightened in a full French pavilion treatment with long, tapering iron finials as in Grosvenor Gardens (Plate 45a; see also Plate 14b in vol. XXXIX).