Green Street Area: Introduction

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

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

'Green Street Area: Introduction', in Survey of London: Volume 40, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2 (The Buildings), (London, 1980) pp. 185-187. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

In this section


Green Street Area

The development of Green Street extended over some thirty-five years and was not substantially completed until the mid 1760's. The slump in the volume of building in London which lasted from the late 1730's to the late 1740's was very much in evidence here, and the intermittent progress was marked by several unusual features.

Green Street is not shown on Mackay's map of 1723 of the intended layout of the estate, but its course had been decided upon by 1727, (fn. 3) its position closer to North Row than to Upper Brook Street being no doubt determined by the need to provide the houses on the north side of the latter street with plots deep enough for the formation of a mews at their rear (now Lees Place). This modification of the original plan for the estate was probably facilitated by the fact that the estate surveyor himself, Thomas Barlow, and the Grosvenors' agent, Robert Andrews, had by a building agreement of March 1725 taken the large area bounded by North Row, North Audley Street, Upper Brook Street and Park Street, for the successful layout of which an extra east-west street was clearly required. Three years later all of the ground on both sides of Green Street between North Audley Street and Park Street was leased to Barlow and Andrews jointly by Sir Richard Grosvenor. (fn. 4)

The street is almost certainly named after John Green, the builder, who erected a house at the south corner with North Audley Street (fn. 5) and in 1733 was granted a lease of a large plot adjoining, where he built another house for his own occupation. (fn. 6) Green lived here until his death in 1737, when he fell into a well which he was inspecting at another house he had built, No. 43 Upper Grosvenor Street. In a notice of his death The Weekly Miscellany described him as 'a very wealthy Builder'. (fn. 7) (fn. 1)

In 1781 a second house was built within the curtilage of Green's house, (fn. 8) which had evidently not occupied the whole frontage of the plot. This and other examples of infilling nearby (fn. 9) indicate that the south side of the eastern part of Green Street did not originally present the unbroken 'terrace' frontage generally prevalent elsewhere, and that the kind of arrangement at the still surviving Nos. 60 and 61, where the two houses were at first separated by a courtyard, was not unique. Some 230 feet of ground in this part of the street were originally occupied by only four houses, the first occupants of all of which were building tradesmen, namely John Green, Roger Morris, carpenter, James Richards, carver, and Robert Umpleby, carpenter; and it seems likely that the intervening spaces were occupied by their building yards. In its early years Green Street seems, indeed, to have been a very popular place of residence for builders. (fn. 2)

On the north side a more conventional terrace of narrow-fronted houses was erected over several years, but development on both sides was slow and uneven and by the 1740's had still not reached Park Street. By that time the sharp downturn in the London building industry was becoming very apparent here, as can be seen in the unfinished state of the street shown on Rocque's map of 1746 (Plate 2 in vol. XXXIX). At the south-east corner of Green Street and Park Street the plot now occupied by Nos. 51–54 Green Street had been let to Benjamin Timbrell in 1739, (fn. 10) but it was not until 1762–3 that the ground was built on by Timbrell's son, William, and John Spencer, who erected St. Mary's Chapel and a single house there. (fn. 11)

To the west of Park Street some building had taken place in the 1730's, but it was not of the normal speculative kind. In 1735–6 Roger Morris, then living in his large house (now part of Hampden House) in Green Street, had obtained possession of the ground bounded by Green Street, Park Street, Wood's Mews and Park Lane. (fn. 12) He had recently been appointed master carpenter to the Board of Ordnance, (fn. 13) and his principal purpose in taking this ground was evidently to build stables for the Second Troop of Horse Guards (the Second Life Guards). These buildings, which included a riding house, had a long frontage to Wood's Mews and were eventually surrounded by houses on the other three sides. Built in 1738, the stables were ranged around a central courtyard with access from Park Street through an arched passageway. (fn. 14)

The stables remained in the possession of the Life Guards until c. 1784, (fn. 9) when the premises were taken over by Murdoch Mackenzie of St. Marylebone, a coachmaker, who used them as a place to manufacture, display and sell carriages which he called a rhedarium. 'Small stables … for gentlemen's horses to stand at livery' were also provided, and an advertisement in 1787 extolled the virtues of two stallions kept there for breeding purposes. (fn. 15) For a short period after 1803 part of the premises was used by Frederick Albert Winsor for his early experiments in the manufacture of gas for lighting. (fn. 16) After Mackenzie's death in c. 1810 (fn. 17) the stabling was divided between several tenants. The buildings survived with modification and rebuildings until 1914–15 when the last of them were cleared away for the laying out of Green Street garden which now occupies most of the site.

After 1739 no further building took place anywhere in Green Street until the 1750's, the prevailing depression in the London building trades being no doubt felt with particular severity in such places as this, then on the extreme edge of the metropolitan built-up area. Even so successful a builder as Roger Morris was reduced to using some of his land fronting Green Street as a 'dung place' for the Guards' stables. (fn. 18) This site was not developed until 1785, when Murdoch Mackenzie built himself a house there, with an arched passage leading to his rhedarium at the rear. (fn. 19) The rest of Morris's undeveloped land seems to have been divided up into rectangular cultivated plots surrounded by a brick wall, somewhat in the manner of present-day allotments. (fn. 20)

From 1755 onwards newly completed houses on the south side of Green Street are again recorded in the ratebooks, but many gaps still remained. On the north side building had not even reached Park Street when the slump had begun. Here no building leases were granted between 1735 and 1751, when Robert Andrews (who had by then obtained sole leasehold title to the undeveloped part of the large parcel of land which he and Thomas Barlow had taken jointly in 1725) sub-let the remaining frontage as far as Park Street. (fn. 21) Most of this ground was let to John Willan, a stable-keeper, who built stabling around a yard called North Row Mews on Horwood's map of 1794 (now the site of the modern Red Place). In 1752 the remaining ground, including the east side of Park Street between Green Street and North Row, was made over by Willan to Joseph Kell of St. Giles in the Fields, carpenter, (fn. 22) and during the next decade nine small houses—two facing Green Street and seven in Park Street—were built here. (fn. 23)

To the west of Park Street the principal undertaker on the north side was John Spencer, carpenter, who by two building agreements of 1750 and 1757 contracted to develop the rectangular area bounded by North Row, Park Street, Green Street and Park Lane. (fn. 24) Spencer was an important builder on the estate during the third quarter of the eighteenth century though none of his work there now survives. From 1756 until 1765 he lived in a house built by himself at the north-west corner of Green Street and Park Street (on the site of the present No. 25 Green Street) before moving to the still-surviving No. 60 Green Street. (fn. 9) In 1771 he was declared bankrupt. (fn. 25)

By the 1760's the development of Green Street was largely complete, although some later in-filling of vacant plots took place. Few habitués of the fashionable Mayfair world of the eighteenth century were attracted hither, though Roger Morris's large house (now No. 61) and the house to the east of it built by John Green both had titled residents. In 1790 some twenty houses were occupied by tradesmen, eight of them in the building and allied trades, who were continuing the tradition established when the street was first developed. There were also a banker and an 'operator to their Majesties for the hands and feet', as well as three out-servants who waited on noble households nearby. (fn. 26)

During the 1820's, when the first leases were falling in, some fifteen houses were evidently rebuilt or substantially refurbished, principally on the north side between North Audley Street and Park Street, and on the south side to the west of Park Street. (fn. 27) Edward Lapidge, the architect, was involved in the redevelopment of the north side and occupied one house from 1812 until 1825 before moving to another further along the the street until 1831. (fn. 28) Daniel Robertson, who exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1827 from Lapidge's former address (where the house had perhaps been rebuilt by then), was almost certainly the same Daniel Robertson who, with Alexander Robertson, had entered into an abortive scheme for the development of Belgravia in 1813. (fn. 29) Another 'architect' and exhibitor at the Academy was Samuel Erlam, who occupied two different houses on the north side during this period and was certainly engaged in building work in the street: from 1814 to 1816 his address was one house away from the east corner with Park Street, and from 1823 to 1826 it was a few doors further east. (fn. 30) In the latter year he moved to a new house built by himself at the south corner of Park Street and Lees Place (now demolished) which he used as an office, his place of residence being then at Turnham Green. (fn. 31)

Another notable builder working in Green Street in the 1820's was John Elger, who was operating from an address in South Street. He rebuilt two—possibly three—houses on the north side approximately on the site of the modern Red Place (see Plate 23c in vol. XXXIX), and also built a large house on a site formerly occupied by two at the north-east corner of Green Street and Norfolk (now Dunraven) Street in 1826–8. (fn. 32) This house, which had detached coachhouses nearby and was highly rated, was first occupied, from 1828 to 1838, by Lady East, the widow of Sir Gilbert East, baronet, latterly with her second husband, John Westenra. (fn. 33) It was demolished in 1896 for the building of the present No. 32 Green Street.

It was perhaps this partial renewal of the original fabric which from the 1830's attracted rather more titled residents to Green Street, some of whom are listed below. But the best-known resident was the Reverend Sydney Smith, the raconteur and wit, who in 1839 bought No. 56 (on the site of the present No. 59), and was soon describing it as 'the essence of all that is comfortable'. A drawing made shortly before the house was demolished shows it to have been a modest Georgian house of three main storeys, three windows wide, with iron balconies and a heavy Ionic porch. It had probably been built in c. 1765 to fill in a vacant plot or courtyard between two existing houses. Smith died here in February 1845. (fn. 34)

Thomas Willement (1786–1871), the writer on heraldry and artist in stained glass who provided windows for Pugin, Salvin and Butterfield among others, lived in Green Street for almost the whole of his life. His premises were at No. 25 (approximately on the site of the modern No. 27) and consisted of a large house with workshops at the rear which were approached through passageways from Green Street and North Row. Another Thomas Willement, presumably his father, who was described as a coach and house painter, had lived there from c. 1786 and in 1811 claimed that he had spent £2,000 in rebuilding the greater part of the premises. His son remained here until 1866 when he retired to Davington Priory, Kent, a country house which he had restored and where he died in 1871. (fn. 35) His successor in Green Street was Henry Hughes, also an artist in stained glass. (fn. 36)

In 1876 the Grosvenor Board refused to renew the lease of a house on the south side of Green Street which was due to expire in 1885 (fn. 37) and it is clear that plans for extensive rebuilding were already being tentatively formulated. In 1880 the Duke of Westminster approved the rebuilding of the west end of the street 'in small private houses as the leases expire' (fn. 38) and in 1882–3 occupants of shops were told that shops would not be allowed after the current leases had expired. (fn. 39) Rebuilding began at the south-east corner with Park Street, where St. Mary's Chapel was demolished in 1882, (fn. 40) and continued intermittently for some forty years. During this period the hitherto predominantly stock-brick eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century house fronts which had hitherto prevailed were replaced by façades of red brick with terracotta or stone dressings, relieved only by the occasional house faced completely in stone. Now only Hampden House at Nos. 60 and 61 Green Street survives as a reminder of the appearance of the street architecture before 1880, although even here the bricks have a reddish hue, originally no doubt an exception to the norm. If the universality of Georgian brick façades provided the kind of insipid vistas which the Victorians so much disliked, the reinterpreted free classical forms gathered under the labels of Queen Anne or Domestic Revival which were hung on the four-storey façades of the new houses under their multi-gabled roof lines hardly escape here from an equally pervasive overall monotony. The extent of the transformation was more remarkable than the manner of it.

One feature of the reconstruction of the area was of some importance for future Estate policy. This was the creation of a large private garden to be shared communally by the residents of the houses, which backed on to it (Plate 50c: see also Plate 47b in vol. XXXIX). Green Street garden was laid out in 1914–15 to the designs of Edmund Wimperis, the estate surveyor, though the idea had been first suggested by his predecessor, Eustace Balfour, in 1910. (fn. 41) It took the place of the now tumbledown stables and garages which, with much rebuilding and alteration, were the remnants of the Guards' stables built by Roger Morris in 1738. The cost of the work, paid for by the Estate, amounted to some £1,500, but Wimperis considered this money to have been well spent, for in 1914 he claimed 'that the undertaking to form the garden has resulted in largely increased ground rents being obtained [for the adjacent building plots, while at the same time greatly improving the character of this part of the Grosvenor Estate'. (fn. 42) The annual cost of the upkeep of the garden was shared by the tenants of the houses around it, and the experiment was soon repeated in the south-east corner of the estate when the South Street garden was formed.

One effect of the rebuildings in Green Street was to drive out the remaining vestiges of commerce, and until the war of 1939–45 most of the houses remained in singlefamily private occupation, despite the occasional incursions of doctors and dentists. Since the war, however, many houses have been converted into flats and others adapted for office use.

Occupants of demolished houses in Green Street not already mentioned include: Edward Jerningham, poet and dramatist, 1786–1812. 2nd Baron Hartland, 1819. William St. Quintin, owner of the St. Quintin estate in North Kensington, 1825–35. Dow. Duchess of Newcastle, wid. of 3rd Duke, 1829–34. 2nd Viscount Frankfort, 1831–41. Gen. Sir William Lumley, son of 4th Earl of Scarbrough, 1833–50. Rev. Edward Thomas Daniell, traveller, 1836–42. Sir Thomas Digby Aubrey, 7th bt., barrister, 1841–56. Lewis William Buck, M.P., 1841–58. Gen. Sir Howard Douglas, 1851–61. Benjamin Travers, pioneer in eye surgery, 1853–8. George Ward Hunt, M.P., later Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1859. John Timbs, writer and publisher, 1861–3. 3rd Earl of Romney, 1866–8. 12th Earl of Westmorland, 1868–70. Norman de L'Aigle Grosvenor, grandson of 1st Marquess of Westminster, 1883–92. Sir George Osborne Morgan, bt., M.P., Q.C., 1885–95. 6th Earl of Bessborough, 1888–95. 5th Earl of Orford, 1896.


  • 1. Later occupants of this house included the sisters of the second Baron Conway, 1741–50, and their distant relative the third Earl of Orford, 1751–72.
  • 2. Other first building lessees who paid rates on houses in the street for periods long enough to suggest that they were living in them and not merely fitting them out for other occupants included John Brown, bricklayer; John Doley, carpenter; William Gray, bricklayer; John Ingman, mason; Joseph Kell, carpenter; James Lee, bricklayer; John Lloyd, bricklayer; John Mayhew, carpenter; Edward Nickson, joiner; and John Spencer, carpenter.
  • 3. M.D.R. 1731/5/13.
  • 4. GLB VII/182–3.
  • 5. M.D.R. 1731/2/305.
  • 6. Ibid., 1732/2/462: R.B.
  • 7. The Weekly Miscellany, 15 July 1737.
  • 8. R.B.: GA, lease of 7 Dec. 1819 to J. Fisher.
  • 9. R.B.
  • 10. M.D.R. 1739/5/206 7.
  • 11. G.O., St. Mary's Chapel chest, agreements dated 13 July 1762.
  • 12. GBA 53, 76: M.D.R. 1728/3/78; 1738/5/29; 1746/2/519.
  • 13. P.R.O., WO 55/517, f. 80.
  • 14. M.D.R. 1738/5/29 30: J. Rocque, Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster …, 1746.
  • 15. M.D.R. 1785/4/113: The World, 15 May 1787.
  • 16. William Matthews, An Historical Sketch of the Origin, Progress and Present State of Gas-Lighting, 1827, pp. 287–9: D.N.B.
  • 17. P.R.O., PROB 11/1522/241.
  • 18. GLB XVI/407: M.D.R. 1753/4/342; 1755/3/403.
  • 19. M.D.R. 1785/4/113: G.O., survey plans, rhedarium in Green Street.
  • 20. J. Rocque, Plan … ut supra: M.D.R. 1746/2/519; 1753/4/342; 1755/3/403.
  • 21. M.D.R. 1750/3/599; 1751/1/10.
  • 22. G.O., building agreements, bundle 5, 1 Nov. 1752, J. Willan and J. Kell.
  • 23. R.B.: R. Horwood, Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster …, 1792–9.
  • 24. GBA 88–9.
  • 25. P.R.O., B4/21, S.22.
  • 26. G.L.R.O.(M), TC/St. G./1.
  • 27. R.B.: GBM 6/299: G.O., survey plans, Green Street: G.L.R.O.(M), WR/B/C/1888, nos. 616–17.
  • 28. R.B.: W.C.S. 179, p. 136: GA, leases of 20 and 21 Feb. 1824 to E. Lapidge: GBM 3/516; 9/420: Colvin.
  • 29. R.B.: Hermione Hobhouse, Thomas Cubitt, Master Builder, 1971, p. 89.
  • 30. R.B.: GBM 5/301; 9/56.
  • 31. R.B.: GBM 10/273.
  • 32. G.O., survey plans, Green Street: R.B.: GA, lease of 20 Dec. 1828 to J. Elger.
  • 33. R.B.: Burke's Peerage.
  • 34. Stuart J. Reid, A Sketch of the Life and Times of the Rev. Sydney Smith, 2nd. ed., 1884, pp. 340 1, 389–90: The Letters of Sydney Smith, ed. Nowell C. Smith, vol. II, 1953, pp. 693, 695: R.B.
  • 35. G.O., box R, bundle 146, letter of 22 May 1811 from T. Willement; survey plans, Green Street: GA, lease of 7 Oct. 1822 to T. Willement the Younger: R.B.: D.N.B.: information kindly provided by Mr. Clive Wainwright.
  • 36. P.O.D.
  • 37. GBM 19/68.
  • 38. Ibid., 20/371.
  • 39. Ibid., 21/19, 219.
  • 40. Ibid., 20/494.
  • 41. Ibid., 38/239–40.
  • 42. Ibid., 41/119–20, 247.
  • 43. M.D.R. 1728/2/258–9; 1730/6/155–6; 1731/5/191; 1732/2/462; 1734/5/134; 1755/3/403: GLB XIV/360; XVI/422 3: G.O., building agreements, bundle 5, 1 Nov. 1752, J. Willan and J. Kell: R.B.