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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Mount Street and Charles Street before Rebuilding
Mount Street was the longest uninterrupted east-west thoroughfare laid out on the Grosvenor estate (Plate 88b: see also Plate 8e in vol. XXXIX). Like Mount Row and the Mount Coffee House in Grosvenor Street, it took its name from Mount Field, which lay around a modest earthwork called Oliver's Mount; this was said to be a remnant of Civil War fortifications and rose close to the present west corner of Mount Row with Carpenter Street, where the Oliver's Mount public house was to be established. (fn. 3)
So long a street was naturally divided up into a large number of different building 'takes' of varying size. Development continued over about twenty years from 1720 and appears chiefly to have been in the hands of building tradesmen who also worked elsewhere on the estate. Most of the houses had quite narrow fronts and were of three storeys above ground plus garrets. There are some indications that shops were from the first concentrated to the east of South Audley Street, but they were certainly not excluded (as is now the case) from the western section of Mount Street stretching through to Park Lane.
The pattern of small, irregular houses mostly having workshops or stables behind was broken on the south side between South Audley Street and the present cul-de-sac in front of the Farm Street Church. Here the freehold of one and a half acres of back land behind this part of the street, abutting on the Berkeley estate, was sold by Sir Richard Grosvenor in 1723 to the 'Fifty Churches' Commissioners for use as a burial ground for the new church of St. George, Hanover Square. (fn. 4) In front of this ground, on leasehold land now chiefly occupied by No. 103 Mount Street, was erected the parish workhouse, built to a plan prepared by Benjamin Timbrell and Thomas Phillips in 1725–6 (fn. 5) (Plate 88a). (fn. 1) This plain, well-ventilated building, of some 160 feet in frontage to the street, included on the ground floor a working room in the centre and dining-rooms and charity schools for either sex in the wings, with living space for between 150 and 200 persons in two storeys above, and a simple cupola over the middle. As it was considered 'a Model worthy of the Imitation of other Places', its plan and elevation were engraved and printed with a note that 'such a building … may be built in any Part of the Kingdom with Wood, Stone or Brick'. (fn. 6)
Enlargements of the workhouse soon became necessary, the first one occurring in 1743. (fn. 7) In 1772, when some six hundred paupers were said to be inhabiting the buildings, 'Numbers of them lying three and four in a Bed', additional rooms were erected at a cost of £800 to a plan by Charles Little, surveyor, (fn. 8) but these hardly alleviated the problems. In 1784–5 efforts were vainly made to secure a new site for the workhouse. In the event the Vestry decided to acquire additional premises for lunatics and children at Little Chelsea and to reconstruct and enlarge the Mount Street workhouse in stages. This duly occurred between 1786 and 1788 to the designs of William Porden, who had since 1785 been the Vestry surveyor. He also undertook the joiner's work in the enlargement himself, a fact which together with his powerful position as surveyor to Earl Grosvenor roused the opposition of a committee of ratepayers among whom the architect Henry Holland was prominent. They protested against Porden's 'appearing in the different character of Measurer, Assessor of the Poor Rate, Surveyor, Joiner, workman, Agent for purchases and the only referree [sic] of complaints against his own miserable Rate, and whose knowledge and experience on the different points could only have been gained by being paymaster in Lord Sheffield's Regiment and a copying clerk, in the office of an architect'. (fn. 9)
The appearance of the workhouse after reconstruction is not recorded. It seems to have been heightened all round, while the front and back courtyards were filled in; this centre part included 'plaster floors' supplied by John Papworth, like those at the St. Marylebone workhouse. At the west end, additional space was taken to build a watchhouse with premises over, and here the Vestry met regularly from this time until 1886. The watch-house was the chief object of aggression during riots of June 1792 in Mount Street. (fn. 10) Subsequent alterations at the workhouse appear to have included the formation of a chapel at the eastern end of the burial ground, and other changes may well have been made by the time of its demolition in 1886.
By the end of the eighteenth century the different portions of Mount Street had begun to establish their own identity. On the north side in particular, where there was good access to the back premises from Mount Row, Bishop's Yard (Plate 88e), Adam's Mews and Reeves Mews, a number of tradesmen and craftsmen who merit notice established quite sizeable businesses. Along this side from east to west at the turn of the century, there were two masons' yards between Davies Street and Charles Street, those of John (and previously Robert) Tombling and of William Storey. (fn. 11) Next door to Storey, at the old Nos. 13–14 (where the curve into Carlos Place now begins), flourished from 1785 the very fashionable cabinetmaking and upholstery business of William Marsh and of his partners and successors George Elward, Thomas Tatham, Edward Bailey and Richard Saunders. (fn. 12) (fn. 2) As the principal cabinet-makers to George IV this firm worked at Carlton House and Buckingham Palace and its members were in large measure the successors to John Linnell, who had operated from nearby on the north side of Berkeley Square. (fn. 13) In about 1807–8 their premises, which comprised two houses and a variety of workrooms and storerooms including a sawpit, drying places for timber and veneering rooms, (fn. 14) acquired a new shop front designed by John Linnell Bond. This lost design (by a refined but unprolific architect) enjoyed in its time a special réclame as the 'first shop front, acknowledged to have been worthy the name of architecture, and from which we may date the origin of all the expense and splendour that has succeeded, in adorning the houses of business … Of this magnificent shop front, we had to regret in our respect for the fame of the architect, that it was almost lost, from its situation in a street so little frequented.' (fn. 15) Nevertheless the front may not have worked entirely to the advantage of the proprietors, for when the lease was renewed in 1814 a fine of nearly £6,000 was charged, although the shops themselves consisted of what Bond called 'buildings of such a slight and precarious nature'. (fn. 16) Members and associates of the firm also occupied the nearby No. 11 Mount Street (old numbering) between 1801 and 1821. (fn. 12)
Still on the north side, a few doors further west came the junction of Mount Street with Charles Street, which led quickly through to Grosvenor Square and had a handful of houses in its southern half. Though these houses were mostly private, in 1815 Francis Grillon set up a hotel here which was the ancestor of the modern Connaught and which by 1820 occupied three houses on the west side of Charles Street. (fn. 12) Opposite at No. 5 Charles Street, Josiah Wedgwood briefly had his first West End premises at the sign of 'The Queen's Arms', in fact no more than two rooms rented between 1766 and 1768 from a shoemaker, John Ivison. (fn. 17) No. 6 was taken by John Ruskin for the Season in 1853, at the time he was writing the third volume of The Stones of Venice. (fn. 18)
The northern side of Mount Street between Charles Street and South Audley Street was devoted chiefly to trade, the section opposite the workhouse being referred to in 1818 as 'the worst part of Mount Street'. (fn. 19) Nevertheless there was one considerable set of premises here, the houses and workshops occupied by the sculptors Westmacott and then by the cabinet-maker Thomas Dowbiggin and his successors, Holland and Sons. They were all preceded by a less well-known but significant Georgian cabinet-maker, John Whitby, who lived and worked here between about 1738 and 1769, having for a couple of years previously occupied premises close by. The Westmacotts took over Whitby's shops somewhat later, but enjoyed a long connexion with Mount Street, dating back to 1773 when a Thomas Westmacott was first rated for a house here. (fn. 12) Richard Westmacott the elder, the first member of the family to take up sculpture, inhabited Whitby's old premises at No. 25 Mount Street (approximately on the site of the modern No. 10) from 1782 until his death in 1808, when he was succeeeded by his son Henry Westmacott. Next door at No. 24 another son, the future Sir Richard, lived separately from 1797. The brothers continued at these addresses until about 1818 when, finding their premises too small, Richard transferred his house and works to No. 14 South Audley Street and his brother moved elsewhere. (fn. 20) During their tenancy there were extensive workshops behind connected to the houses and entered from a yard off Adam's Mews, but at about the time that the Westmacotts moved away Nos. 24 and 25 were substantially rebuilt and separated from the back premises. (fn. 21) The workshops were taken over in 1819 by the well-known upholsterer and cabinet-maker Thomas Dowbiggin, who for the previous four years had occupied relatively small premises on the south side (on the site of the modern No. 128 Mount Street), with workrooms some distance away in Street's Buildings. (fn. 22) Dowbiggin now moved his shop into No. 23 Mount Street, in which the Westmacotts had had an interest and which was also rebuilt at about this time with a classical front; and in 1821–2 he took thirty-one-year leases of Nos. 23–26 (most of which were sub-let) and a longer lease of the workshops behind. (fn. 23) When the shorter leases ran out, Dowbiggin was obliged by the Estate to refront Nos. 24–26, for which Thomas Cundy II produced characteristic elevations for turning the three houses into two. These were duly executed in 1853 by the firm of Holland and Sons, which from 1851 was involved in the business of Dowbiggin (who died in 1854). Though the names of both firms continued at these addresses for some years, Hollands were now preeminent and remained in business in Mount Street until 1960. (fn. 24)
The rest of old Mount Street seems not to have boasted business concerns of quite the same size, except for John Robson's coach manufactory at the north-west corner with South Audley Street, with workshops in Reeves Mews. (fn. 25) There were however assorted taverns and eating houses. At the door of one such coffee house the poet Shelley waited in order to elope with Harriet Westbrook of Chapel Street early one morning in August 1811, exclaiming to his accomplice as he flung the shells of oysters on which he had breakfasted across the street, 'Grove, this is a Shelley business'. (fn. 26) To the west of South Audley Street, as has been said, more of the houses were confined to domestic use, and close to the park the neighbourhood was quite fashionable. At the north-east corner with Park Street (the site of the present No. 54 Mount Street) a discreet private hotel was established, probably by Michael Lemm in 1828; at first known as Lemm's Hotel but from 1840 as the Grosvenor Hotel, it had for a time an extension almost opposite, on the west side of Park Street. (fn. 25) On the north side of Mount Street there was only one house west of Park Street, the rest of the frontage up to Park Lane being taken up by the end of the garden to Grosvenor House.
On the south side of Mount Street towards the west end, a number of rebuildings took place in the 1820's and 1830's. A major operator here was William Skeat (father of the philologist), whose claim to undertake redevelopment was admitted by the Estate in 1820, 'his Ancestors having built a considerable part of the adjoining Houses': (fn. 27) this doubtless refers to Thomas Skeat. At this date William Skeat's own premises comprised a large irregular dwelling (No. 65 Mount Street) with sheds and an ice-house beyond to the west at the corner of Park Lane. (fn. 28) It was eventually agreed that so long as he lowered these sheds so as to make them invisible from Grosvenor House, he could erect a short range of three new houses (originally Nos. 65–67 consec.) between Park Lane and Park Street. (fn. 29) This range was built in about 1829–31, and towards Mount Street had a stucco ground floor and brick upper storeys with Ionic pilasters at the ends, rather in the manner of some of Cubitt's work in Bloomsbury (Plates 73d, 88c: see also Plate 23b in vol. XXXIX). Skeat soon let No. 66, the middle house, which was taken in 1832 by William Brougham, brother of the Lord Chancellor and himself later second Lord Brougham, but the smaller house nearest the park (No. 65) remained empty for several years. (fn. 12) From about 1835 Skeat's workshops to the west of No. 65 were in the hands of the builder John Elger who converted part of them into stables for General (Sir) Henry Wyndham, Brougham's successor at No. 66 from 1838. In that year Wyndham ran Nos. 65 and 66 together, and this double house with a fine view over the park was usually known subsequently as No. 66. Between 1864 and 1875 George J. Goschen, M.P., lived here; (fn. 30) after he left, in 1875, an open portico was added by the architects Joseph and Pearson. (fn. 31) Less is known about the next-door house, No. 67 Mount Street, which Skeat retained for his own occupation until 1838, but photographs of 1913 show that a new tenant, Eustace Pandia Ralli, had just installed rich woodwork and fine carpets on the first floor. (fn. 32) All three houses, having survived the first Duke's rebuildings, disappeared with the construction of Fountain House in 1935–8.
East of Park Street, Skeat also rebuilt Nos. 70 and 71 Mount Street with stables behind in 1831–2. (fn. 33) The elevation of No. 70 was similar to that of its western neighbour, a house rebuilt at the same time by Wright Ingle, (fn. 34) suggesting that Skeat and Ingle were required to adhere to a uniform elevation. Somewhat further east, between Street's Buildings and Portugal Street, the Three Compasses public house was reconstructed quite grandly on an enlarged site in 1853–4, with elevations by Thomas Cundy II, (fn. 35) while between Portugal Street and South Audley Street, Thomas Oliver may have carried out some rebuildings in 1822 as part of his improvements hereabouts. (fn. 36)
Between South Audley Street and Davies Street the low status of the old houses on the south side of Mount Street was governed by the proximity of the workhouse and their own lack of depth, since the burial ground and the boundary of the Grosvenor estate came close behind. One exception was a large house set well back from the street to the east of the workhouse, and accessible only from a long covered entrance passage. Numbered 108 on Horwood's map of 1792 it was later known as No. 111 Mount Street. Though mainly on Grosvenor land, it enjoyed a sizeable garden and by 1811 also a two-storey octagonal extension on the Berkeley estate. (fn. 37) Only the plan is known of this ample house, which had been built in about 1724–5 by John Elkins, bricklayer, and by him assigned to Samuel Nociter; its later residents included John Conyers, esquire, (1776–1811) and Sir George Philips, M.P., (1813–45). (fn. 38) When the Farm Street Catholic Church was built in 1844–9 it abutted to its east on the garden and octagon of this house, which was subsequently acquired for the accommodation of Jesuits, and its site is now filled by the Farm Street Presbytery at No. 114 Mount Street.
One or two houses further east were of fair quality, but the only one of real note on this side of Mount Street was at its extreme eastern end, at the corner with Davies Street. The building lease for this house was granted to Francis Commins, mason, in 1732, (fn. 39) but Commins died shortly afterwards and in 1735 his widow granted a sub-lease of the still unfinished house to Thomas How, upholsterer. (fn. 40) Although numbered in Mount Street until c. 1840, the house fortuitously acquired a fine southward aspect over Berkeley Square when that square was laid out in the 1740's, and it was eventually given the more prestigious address of No. 34 Berkeley Square. This was because the west side of the square at its northernmost point was set back some forty feet from the entrance to Davies Street, thus turning what had been the back of the easternmost plot in Mount Street into a forty-foot 'frontage' to the square, an effect which has now been entirely lost by the widening of the roadway at the junction of Mount Street, Berkeley Square and Davies Street.
The location of the house clearly made it one of the most desirable on the estate and this is reflected in its inhabitants. Of the first occupant from 1736 to 1751, Madame D'Acunha, nothing is known, but she was followed by the Hon. George Compton who became sixth Earl of Northampton in 1754. The Earl died in 1758 and in 1761 his widow married Claudius Amyand, son of the serjeant-surgeon to George II and himself a placeman and former M.P. Robert or James Adam produced a design for a very elaborate enclosed porch for this house for Amyand (Plate 15c in vol. XXXIX) but it is not known whether it was ever executed. Amyand died in 1774 and in the following year Lady Northampton, as she was still known, sold the house to Lady Mary Coke, daughter of the second Duke of Argyll and an inveterate diarist and letter-writer. (fn. 41)
Lady Mary was 'perfectly satisfied' with her new house although she thought the purchase of it would make her 'extremely poor'. (fn. 42) Nevertheless in 1780 Lancelot (Capability) Brown and Henry Holland undertook a major remodelling of the interior, after which she pronounced herself 'much pleased with my little Apartment'. (fn. 43) She retained the house until her death in 1811. Succeeding occupants were the second Earl of Abergavenny, 1812–43; his son, the third Earl, 1843–5; and Sir Charles Wetherell, a former Attorney General, 1845–6.
On Wetherell's death in 1846 his widow sold the house to Samuel Pratt, an upholsterer of New Bond Street, (fn. 44) who converted it into two houses. A complete rebuilding does not seem to have taken place, but very extensive alterations were made to the designs of the architect Thomas Little. The two new houses shared a common elevation to Berkeley Square and here Little dressed them in the full Italianate manner with porticoes, columns, pediments, balconies and a deep bracketed cornice. (fn. 45) The easternmost house, which did not have an entrance in the square, was at first numbered in Mount Street but this was quickly changed to 33 Berkeley Square, while the western of the two was numbered 34 Berkeley Square. Admiral Lord Colchester, the second Baron, lived in the latter house from 1856 until his death there in 1867.
The newly converted houses had a relatively short life, however, for in 1879 they were demolished and a large part of their site was thrown into the roadway at a new junction between the north-west corner of Berkeley Square and Mount Street (see page 329).