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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Culross Street east of Park Street, and Blackburne's Mews
This part of Culross Street was known as King Street until 1886, when it was renamed Northop Street, before being again renamed in 1899 as Culross Street. In 1914 all the buildings in the street were renumbered. Blackburne's Mews originally comprised a main north-south arm between Upper Brook Street and Upper Grosvenor Street, and a subsidiary arm extending behind the houses on the north side of King Street. As was often the case in other mews on the estate, the entrances were originally very narrow, a house in each of the principal streets projecting across half the width of the mews. Elsewhere these projecting houses have usually been demolished, but here they survive as No. 53 Upper Brook Street and No. 6 Upper Grosvenor Street. Both these houses were originally taverns, probably with their entrances in the mews, and both were apparently rebuilt in the early part of the nineteenth century. The whole of the east side of the mews, where the stables were attached to the houses on the west side of Grosvenor Square, was demolished for the building of the American Embassy in c. 1957. On the west side the only independent building is No. 4, which was converted from stabling, probably in the 1920's.
The subsidiary east-west arm of Blackburne's Mews provided stabling for the houses on to which it backed in Upper Brook Street, and in most of King Street houses rather than stables were therefore built, under sub-leases granted in 1730–3. (fn. 1)
In 1871 all except three of the sixteen inhabited dwellings in Blackburne's Mews were occupied by coachmen, but in King Street the householders included a milkman, a piano-tuner, a builder, a publican, a lodginghouse keeper and a clergyman's daughter with a small school, and there were only two coachmen—at Nos. 5 and 7 (formerly 3A and 3), which were the stables attached to Nos. 10 and 11 Upper Grosvenor Street. (fn. 2)
In 1914 all the houses on the north side of Culross Street east of Park Street were due to be demolished as part of a redevelopment scheme which also involved the adjacent houses in Park Street and Upper Brook Street. Soon after the outbreak of war, however, the whole project was put into abeyance, and in the changed social conditions of post-war times, when there was much demand for small houses, the Grosvenor Board decided to rejuvenate the existing fabric wherever possible. In 1924 several of the houses in the range were in hand pending consideration of proposals for the future of the area, and in the following year Fernand Billerey (doubtless at the instigation of Detmar Blow) made plans for improving the rear elevations to a uniform line. (fn. 3) These were not adopted, however, and alterations to the houses were carried out piecemeal by individual occupants over the next few years, except at No. 2 where complete rebuilding took place (fig. 57: see also Plate 50a, 50b in vol. XXXIX).
As part of the improvements the Estate decided to clear away the stables between King Street and Upper Brook Street and make a small communal garden on the site of the east-west arm of Blackburne's Mews. This was designed by Edmund Wimperis in 1925–6, (fn. 4) and the work was carried out in 1928–9 at a cost of £1,200, paid by the Estate. Early eighteenth-century wrought-iron gates and railings, acquired from Crowther's, were erected at the entrance from Blackburne's Mews, and a red-brick threebay garden shelter with a pantiled roof was built on the north side. The central arched recess contains a lead cistern dated 'WLM 1721'. The layout, with a central stone-paved path, plots of mown turf and hardly any planting, forms a neat architectural foil to the rebuilt rear elevations of the Culross Street houses (fn. 5) (Plate 58c).
On the south side of Culross Street east of Park Street all the dwellings were refurbished between 1927 and 1932, except No. 5 which was rebuilt at the same time (Plate 58d). Although not strictly a mews the transformation of this part of Culross Street provides a good example of the type of development referred to in the architectural press in 1928 as 'the metamorphosis of the mews'. (fn. 6)
No. 2 was completely rebuilt in 1926–8 by W. A. Forsyth and H. P. G. Maule for Mrs. Mary Margaret Macindoe who herself did the interior decoration in conjunction with the architects (fig. 57). When newly complete, the house was considered 'a satisfying little building thoroughly in sympathy with its surroundings'. (fn. 7) It is in fact larger than it looks because it overlaps the site of No. 4 at the rear, and the total accommodation included a library, drawing- and dining-rooms, a schoolroom, eight bedrooms, three bathrooms and a servants' hall. In order to remove the nuisance of cooking smells and noise the kitchen was placed in the attic, with the dining-room on the first floor.
No. 4 is a reconstruction of an eighteenth-century house (erected under a sub-lease of 1732 to John Barnes, bricklayer (fn. 8) ) of which the front survives, the work being carried out in conjunction with the rebuilding of No. 2 by Forsyth and Maule for Mrs. Macindoe in 1926–8 (fig. 57). A new wing was built at the back to contain the staircase and additional bedrooms which 'freed the front portion for the more important reception rooms and bedrooms'. (fn. 7) The interior and rear elevation are now entirely modern. The front elevation, of yellow stock brick, is eighteenth century, with an eighteenth-century-style timber doorcase and iron area railings. (fn. 9) The rainwater heads are dated 1927. The internal accommodation resulting from the reconstruction was nearly the same as that in the new house at No. 2, namely, eight bedrooms, three bathrooms, drawing-room and dining-room, servants' hall, and kitchen offices. The rooms are plainly detailed but the first-floor drawing-room has an eighteenth-century neoclassical chimneypiece, brought in recently, and a segmentally apsed end.
No. 6, which was erected under sub-leases of 1733 granted to Israel Russell, painter-stainer, (fn. 10) was remodelled in 1926–7 for Lady Ossulston by Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie (fn. 11) (fig. 57). The additional mansard storey, with tall segmental-headed dormers and panelled parapet, was put on in 1935, probably to the design of Walter Sarel of Chester Terrace. (fn. 11) No. 6 was a tavern for most of its existence, being first recorded as such in 1736. The publican then was John Mason, who was the first occupant from 1734. (fn. 12) Its original name was the St. Luke's Head, but this was occasionally corrupted to the Duke's Head. (fn. 13) It continued as a public house until it was closed (probably at the first Duke's instigation) in 1885, and was subsequently used as 'dining rooms'. (fn. 14)
No. 10 is a rare survival on the estate of a small unpretentious Georgian house, which was erected under a sub-lease granted in 1732 to John Barnes, bricklayer (fn. 15) (fig. 57: see also Plate 50a, 50b in vol. XXXIX). In the late eighteenth century it was occupied by a school teacher. (fn. 16) The narrow three-storeyed front is now stuccoed and there is a later slated mansard roof. The neo-Georgian doorcase is a modern replacement (post-1958). The interior contains plain painted panelling which is largely original, particularly that in the first-floor room. Works of improvement have been carried out at various times in this century. In 1927, during the occupancy of the second Duke's valet, £556 was spent on repairs and in 1932 there were further unspecified alterations but these have not affected the character of the building. (fn. 17)
No. 12 is also basically an early eighteenth-century house with a later stuccoed front and slated mansard roof, but has undergone much improvement in this century (fig. 57: see also Plate 50a, 50b in vol. XXXIX). This house, like No. 10, was erected under a sub-lease of 1732 to John Barnes, bricklayer. (fn. 18) In 1926 over £1,000 was spent by the Estate on modernisation under the direction of Edmund Wimperis for Mrs. Dudley Coats, a friend of the second Duke. Detmar Blow seems to have had a hand too, and 'approved' the works, which were again in progress in May 1928. (fn. 19) The panelling in the ground-floor dining-room is evidently twentieth-century and probably dates from this time. That in the first-floor drawing-room, however, though stripped, is original simple eighteenth-century work. The rear room also retains an original corner fireplace, though the chimneypiece is a neo-Georgian replacement.
No. 14 like Nos. 10 and 12 with which it ranges, was erected under a sub-lease granted to John Barnes, bricklayer, in 1732. (fn. 20) Like its neighbours it acquired a stucco facing and was further reconstructed in 1927–8 by Frederick Etchells and Gordon Pringle at the expense of the Estate (fig. 57: see also Plate 50a, 50b in vol. XXXIX). The present appearance of the front, which has a neo-Adam doorcase and louvred shutters, is largely modern. (fn. 21) In c. 1927 Rex Whistler designed some mural decoration for a bedroom here for Lady Castlerosse, but it was not carried out. The scheme consisted of trompe l'oeil Corinthian columns and pilasters on a high base with intervening niches and scenes depicting the Judgement of Paris. (fn. 22)
On the south side of Culross Street east of Park Street all six houses in varying degrees owe some aspect of their present appearance to Frederick Etchells.
No. 1A (formerly Nos. 28 and 29 Blackburne's Mews) is a conversion designed by Etchells and his partner Gordon Pringle and carried out in 1927–8, when two 'particularly uninviting' stables were said to have been 'largely rebuilt' (Plate 58d). The result was a fair-sized neo-Georgian house with a pretty 'Adam' doorcase, and some typical Etchells ironwork to the first-floor windows. On the ground floor the accommodation included two bedrooms, sitting room, and bathroom and w.c. for the servants, as well as a large dining-room, lounge hall, kitchen and other offices. (fn. 23)
The client for the conversion, and briefly the first occupant, was D. G. Somerville, a speculator who was at the same time employing Etchells and Pringle for works at Nos. 1, 3 and 5. (fn. 24) In October 1928 Lady Kathleen Rollo called in Lenygon and Morant to make internal alterations before taking up residence. (fn. 25) An attic storey with a pitched roof and modillion eaves cornice was added in 1934 from the designs of Sidney Parvin for Turner Lord, and on the third floor former bedrooms and a billiard-room were thrown together to make one large studio. (fn. 26) The house is now divided into flats and the external brickwork has been whitewashed.
Nos. 1 and 3
Nos. 1 and 3 are basically a pair of early-Georgian houses erected under sub-leases of 1730 to the carpenter Robert Scott. (fn. 27) First occupied in about 1732 they had mirrored plans with corner fireplaces in the ground-floor back rooms. (fn. 28) In 1790 the occupants were a carver (at No. 1), and a coachman employed by a lady living in Harley Street. (fn. 29) By 1806 both houses were in the tenure of a carpenter, William Caps, who occupied No. 1 himself and let No. 3 to tenants. (fn. 30) Behind them he had a two-storey workshop raised high enough to get light from above the roofs of the adjoining houses. (fn. 31)
In 1927–8 both houses were remodelled for D. G. Somerville by Etchells and Pringle who added the projecting hoods over the front doors and the iron window guards (Plate 58d). The original brick fronts had by then already been stuccoed. At the back, where Caps had had his workshop, two small paved gardens were formed. (fn. 32)
No. 5 was designed by Etchells and Pringle, and built in 1927–8 on the site of stables erected for No. 10 Upper Grosvenor Street in 1843–4 (Plate 58d). The contractors were E. A. Roome and Company. (fn. 33) It is rather more assertive in character than the other houses in this part of Culross Street with four tall square storeys, three of them in red brick. The ground storey is set back behind a row of square pillars to form a recessed area which admits light into the basement without either encroaching on the pavement (with an area) or sacrificing space on the upper storeys. At the back immediately behind No. 9 Upper Grosvenor Street the architects converted a single-storey building into a music room with two north-facing windows looking into the garden of No. 3 Culross Street. (fn. 34)
The Architect and Building News thought the house 'scholarly and attractive' and the proportions of the front 'exactly right'. The detail was described as late eighteenth century in inspiration but 'none the worse for that'. (fn. 35)
No. 7 (Plate 58d). Built by James Ponsford as stables for No. 11 Upper Grosvenor Street in 1843–4, No. 7 was turned into a garage and chauffeur's flat in 1926 and converted into a house in 1931–2. The architect for the conversion (on behalf of a builder, William Dean) was James Cannell, who designed the present second and attic storeys. His proposal for a bow window on the ground floor was, however, disallowed by the London County Council and in 1932 Cannell was displaced as architect for the ground storey when the new owner, Mrs. Dorothy Hamilton, called in Etchells to provide a neo-Georgian treatment similar to that already given to No. 9. (fn. 36) Later that year Harper's Bazaar described No. 7 as 'the perfectly converted mews'. As in some of the other conversions the separation of living rooms and kitchen was achieved by moving the latter to the top of the house, and here it was accessible only by means of a spiral staircase from the floor below. There was, however, a service lift to the ground-floor dining-room. A bedroom and bathroom for Mrs. Hamilton's 'amazingly small staff of two' adjoined the kitchen. (fn. 37)
No. 9 was erected in 1843–4 by James Ponsford at the same time as he was building Nos. 10 and 11 Upper Grosvenor Street and No. 62 Park Street. It may have been designed by the architect of those three houses, Henry Harrison, or by Ponsford himself who was both an architect and a builder. The front is built of grey bricks (now whitewashed) with stucco window dressings. The neo-Georgian treatment of the ground storey dates from 1930 and is by Etchells, who also removed the first-floor balcony and substituted iron guards to the windows (fn. 38) (Plate 58d).