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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Duke Street: West Side
Duke Street Mansions: Nos. 54–76 (even).
The rebuilding of the houses between Hart Street (now the north side of Brown Hart Gardens) and No. 415 Oxford Street became necessary when Stalbridge Buildings, the first of the series of working-class dwellings here, was erected immediately behind in 1886. At the suggestion of H. T. Boodle, the Duke of Westminster's solicitor, the site was offered to the architect J. T. Wimperis, who had just been building Audley Mansions at the corner of South Audley Street and Mount Street as a speculation on his own account. Wimperis took the site, which was in two parts, on a ninety-year lease from 1887 at £2 per foot frontage, agreeing to build shops with capacious flats over. His designs, in a minimal Queen Anne style with plenty of projecting bays, iron balconies and angle turrets to the south, were speedily agreed and shown at the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1887. The block, in red brick with dressings of Doulton's terracotta (now painted over), was erected by E. C. Howell and Son of Lambeth in 1887–8. (fn. 1)
Duke Street Electricity Sub-station.
This unusual and stylish edifice, together with the paved garden on top, was built in 1903–5 for the Westminster Electric Supply Corporation to the designs of C. Stanley Peach, with C. H. Reilly as assistant. The Corporation had for some years enjoyed close relations with the Grosvenor Estate, having in 1890–1 been allowed to build a generating station and shops and chambers designed by Peach at the corner of Davies and Weighhouse Streets. But when in February 1902 their secretary, Captain Bax, first suggested a scheme to replace the communal garden (see page 97) with a chamber for transformers one hundred feet by fifty in dimension and seven feet in height and housing a replanned garden on top, the Board was not enthusiastic. Nevertheless, continuing complaints about the nuisance from 'disorderly boys', 'verminous women' and 'tramps' in the garden, together with the second Duke's readiness to entertain the proposal, swayed their minds. Terms were with some reluctance agreed in September 1902 whereby for the sum of £4,000 the Corporation was to have a sixty-year lease at an annual rent of £200.
Once the decision became known it aroused some protest among neighbouring tenants, who regretted the loss of trees and amenity, but they were to an extent placated by the promise that the garden would be restored by the Westminster Electric Supply Corporation with new trees in tubs. In the summer of 1903 the old garden was closed, its furniture, fountain and shelter were distributed to other sites in London, and work proceeded from then until 1905, with Kennedy and Jenkin acting as engineers and George Trollope and Sons as contractors. The new garden (Plate 31b in vol. XXXIX) was opened on 16 June 1906 (about a year after its completion) by the Mayor of Westminster, Lord Cheylesmore. (fn. 2)
As built, the sub-station rose to a greater height than had been contemplated but retained Peach's original layout, with a tall 'kiosk' or pavilion and steps at either end (Plate 22c), a balustrade all round, and Diocletian windows along the sides to light the galleries of the engine rooms, which occupied deep basements. The garden above was paved and allotted the trees in tubs suggested, though these no longer exist. As to the style of the design, Peach was then recognized as the leading British architectural authority on electrical works, having designed some large and functional but elegant installations for which he and his assistant of the time, C. H. Reilly, had earned praise. In the richer and more ornate architecture deemed proper for such an ample open space in central Mayfair they were not, however, so well versed. Although the bold Baroque composition in Portland stone that Peach ultimately produced proved acceptable to the Estate and was evidently liked by the second Duke (who toyed with the idea of employing him again), it was not attained without effort. Eustace Balfour, who as chairman of the St. James' Electric Light Company also had some interest in such works, was in 1908 to record diffidently that the final design was only arrived at 'after a great amount of trouble and alterations by him' as estate surveyor, and that in his view Peach was possessed of 'no artistic perceptions'. (fn. 3) Nevertheless, the sub-station remains one of the most confident and capable buildings in this part of Mayfair; and the 'garden' is perhaps the only place in London where quarrelling is specifically forbidden by law.
Nos. 78 and 80 and the Barley Mow (No. 82).
Rebuilding on the northern part of this site went less smoothly than elsewhere in the street. Edward Burden, the chemist and occupant here, wished to renew his lease as early as 1881. Though the Estate would have preferred shops with flats over them, Burden was in 1886 eventually allowed a ninety-year lease and permission to build two shops with houses over. He then submitted a design by his brother, the surveyor R. H. Burden, which the Grosvenor Board found 'not quite worthy of the situation'. After J. T. Wimperis had given advice the revised elevations were passed, but the building as erected in 1886–7 by the contractors Killby and Gayford still does not live up to its neighbours. (fn. 4)
To the south of this stood a private house, then next to it the Barley Mow, and an arch over the entrance to George Yard. Here the leases expired in 1895 and 1898. Although it was originally contemplated to do away with the public house in setting back the site, in the event it was the house which disappeared when rebuilding occurred. After some haggling over the hours of opening, the licensee, F. W. Bevan, agreed to accept John Evelyn Trollope as architect and George Trollope and Sons (who were working opposite at Nos. 75–83 odd) as builders, and in 1895–6 the Barley Mow was duly rebuilt with a small wing behind in George Yard. J. E. Trollope was required to adhere to the storey heights and cornice lines of Nos. 78 and 80, but he chose a plainer and pleasanter style of brick architecture with stone dressings. The interior of the public house retains some of its original fittings. Two years after completion in 1898, during the public-house boom, the lease of the Barley Mow changed hands for £11,030 although the Estate had not guaranteed a continuation of the licence. However this and subsequent licences were eventually confirmed, and the business has continued to the present day. (fn. 5)
Nos. 84 and 86 (demolished).
Between the flank elevation of No. 10 Grosvenor Square and George Yard stood two small houses numbered in Duke Street, which projected slightly in front of the building line. These were taken down and replaced in 1898–9 by a small speculative stable block designed by Ernest A. E. Woodrow and Horace J. Helsdon for the local builder Jonathan Andrews. By 1915 No. 84 at the corner had been converted into a shop for the interior decorators E. Elden, previously (from 1904) a few doors north at No. 80. (fn. 6) Together with No. 10 Grosvenor Square the buildings were demolished in about 1961.