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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In this section
Park Street and Culross Street
Park Street is the longest street on the estate, extending north to south across the full depth of the Grosvenor lands in Mayfair. It crosses two of the principal streets on the estate—Upper Brook Street and Upper Grosvenor Street—for the corner houses of both of which it originally provided the return frontages. Park Street also provided access to the mews behind these two streets, as well as traversing North Row, Green Street, Mount Street and Chapel (now Aldford) Street. It therefore had no long uninterrupted frontages, the plots into which it was originally divided were for the most part shallow, and except at the northern and southern extremities the houses were correspondingly small. They received their present numbers in 1866, when the previous confused numerical sequence was abolished.
Building first began here in the late 1720's (when the street was for a few years known as Hyde Park Street), but was not completed until the late 1770's, the sole presentday survivors of this original development being Nos. 70–78 (even) (Plate 59: see also Plate 8b in vol. XXXIX). In 1790 some fifty out of the 119 houses in the street were occupied by tradesmen, and another eight by servants. (fn. 1) This petty commercial element has been displaced by the substantial private houses and blocks of flats which were erected from the 1890's onwards under the auspices of the first and second Dukes of Westminster; but the feeling of subordination to more powerful neighbours is still preserved in much of Park Street by the rear or return fronts of such modern giants as Aldford House, Fountain House and Grosvenor House at the south end and Hereford House and Park House at the north end.
The ground on the west side of the southern part of Park Street, upon which the first three of the blocks mentioned above now stand, was, however, originally occupied by houses of some substance. Their principal fronts were to Park Street, but at the rear they enjoyed fine views over their gardens westward to Hyde Park. They are described below on page 256. The only other houses of note (also now demolished) in the first development of Park Street were near the north end, where in 1778 John Crunden designed and built three houses on the west side between North Row and Hereford Street, one of them achieving some prominence as Mrs. Fitzherbert's house (see page 174).
Elsewhere most of the original houses were small, only three bays wide with a narrow entrance passage and staircase, two moderate-sized rooms on each floor and closet wings at the rear. Early nineteenth-century newspaper advertisements commonly referred to them as suitable for a 'single gentleman' or 'a small genteel Family'. (fn. 2) The one prominent non-domestic architectural feature in the street was St. Mary's Chapel (commonly known as the Park Street chapel), on the south-east corner with Green Street, built in 1762–3 and demolished in 1882 (Plate 49a, 49b).
The early years of the nineteenth century saw some rebuilding in Park Street and a considerable amount of new development along the return fronts of sites at the corners of the east-west streets. In 1811 Samuel Baxter, a builder later active in Upper Grosvenor Street and elsewhere on the estate, was putting up five new houses later numbered 44–52 (even), (fn. 3) one of which (No. 44) was subsequently occupied by Sir Humphry Davy from 1826 until his death in 1829. (fn. 4) In 1825–6 the two adjoining houses to the north, later Nos. 54 and 56, were rebuilt, Henry Harrison being their architect and also the occupant of No. 54 from 1828 to 1839. (fn. 5) That prim house was a little later the first married home of John Ruskin and Effie, from 1848 to 1851, during the time when he wrote The Seven Lamps of Architecture and the first volume of The Stones of Venice. (fn. 6) Harrison was also the architect of the stillsurviving No. 62, built on the site of stabling in 1843–4. Nearby, Nos. 58 and 60 were erected within the curtilage of No. 12 Upper Grosvenor Street in 1826–7, and further north five new houses, of which Nos. 84–90 (even) still survive, were built in 1824–5 on the site of stables and coach-houses behind No. 13 Upper Brook Street. South of Reeves Mews the architect James Gallier provided designs for the coachbuilder John Robson for four or five new houses later numbered 34–42 (even), at least two of which were of the second rate specified under the London Building Acts. (fn. 7) The builder of this range, in 1829–31, was Thomas Waller of Chapel Street. (fn. 8) At about the same time Gallier was also concerned in work at the southernmost range of the east side of Park Street (see page 331).
In the later nineteenth century much of the street was taken up with lodging-houses, estate agents' offices, dressmakers, grocers and the carriage-building works of Thomas Peters and his successors, which were situated for nearly a century (1823–1914) at No. 53, at the corner of Culross Street. (fn. 9) In 1865 there were half a dozen public houses in Park Street, none of which now survive, the first casualty being the Swan at No. 81, suppressed at the first Duke's behest in 1880. (fn. 10)
In the 1880's and 90's about half of the east side of Park Street was rebuilt with substantial private houses. All of this work was near the north or south ends of the street, and almost all of it was more the sequel of extensive rebuilding schemes in adjoining streets than the product of a considered scheme for Park Street itself, the subordinate character of which was thus again apparent. At the north end the redevelopment of the site of the Park Street chapel (as Nos. 51–54 Green Street) and the rebuilding of Nos. 106–116 (even) in the 1880's formed part of the first Duke's redevelopment scheme in Green Street, as, on the west side of Park Street, did the rebuilding of Nos. 105–115 (odd) in 1892–4. Similarly at the south end, where the whole eastern frontage from South Street to Reeves Mews was renewed in the 1890's, redevelopment was primarily a continuation of the rebuilding schemes for the Aldford Street area and Mount Street.
In the early years of the second Duke it was the turn of the central, more commercialised, part of the street to be renewed. In 1902 Eustace Balfour, the estate surveyor, reporting on the rebuilding of Nos. 13 and 14 Upper Grosvenor Street and of the houses behind them on the west side of Park Street as far as Culross Street, recommended for the latter the erection of five shops 'as Park Street is essentially (in this part) a shop street'; and he even thought that the corner with Upper Grosvenor Street would be 'an admirable site for a branch bank'. (fn. 11) Soon afterwards, however, there seems to have been a change of intention about the central part of the street, and on this particular site a range of grandiose houses was erected in 1908–11 in a vivacious Baroque style to designs by W. D. Caröe (Plate 46b in vol. XXXIX), followed nearby, on the eastern side of the street, by Nos. 44–50 (even) Park Street and 37 and 38 Upper Grosvenor Street, a proud piece of Beaux-Arts classicism by Detmar Blow and Fernand Billerey, built in 1911–12 (Plate 63c, 63d, 63e, 63f, fig. 56). Further north the building to designs by Wimperis and Simpson of yet more substantial houses in the range between Wood's Mews and Green Street (Nos. 91–103A Park Street and 48 Green Street), which constituted the last instalment of the Green Street schemes, was begun in 1913, and, after interruption by the war of 1914–18, completed in 1925 (Plate 52d). Proposals for the similar rebuilding of Nos. 66–68 (even) were, however, postponed by the war, and afterwards the old houses were individually restored, like those round the corner in Culross Street.
All these newcomers were substantially larger than their predecessors, and when the reconstruction of Park Street again got under way after the war there was a further increase in the scale of the architecture. In place of individual houses, large blocks of flats were now erected and the eighteenth-century scale of the street was lost. Upper Feilde (1922–4) and Upper Brook Feilde (1926–7), both by Wimperis's firm (Plate 49a, 49b in vol. XXXIX) introduced the new scale, and were quickly followed by the even larger new Aldford, Fountain and Grosvenor Houses which succeeded the individual mansions with gardens and views of Hyde Park, hitherto the principal attractions of the south end of Park Street. These new buildings totally changed the character of the street. Its present canyon-like appearance illustrates more forcefully than anywhere else on the estate the problem mentioned in an architectural periodical in 1927 'of giving architectural interest to a large block of flats with tall façades showing a multiplicity of windows of almost equal dimensions'. (fn. 12)