The Smith's Charity Estate: Evelyn Gardens

Pages 117-120

Survey of London: Volume 41, Brompton. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1983.

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In this section

Evelyn Gardens

When Sir Charles James Freake died in October 1884 a large parcel of ground in the south-western corner of the estate, which he had taken under a building agreement with the Smith's Charity trustees in February 1883, was still largely undeveloped. The trustees appointed under his will were his widow, Dame Eliza Freake, his long-time assistant, James Waller, and Charles Townshend Murdoch, a banker and later M.P. for Reading. (fn. 241) Waller soon repudiated his trusteeship, (fn. 242) and Lady Freake and Murdoch decided to find another builder to take on the remainder of Freake's obligations under the agreement. The ground was advertised and in October 1885 an acceptable tender was received from the building firm of C. A. Daw and Son. The approval of the Smith's Charity trustees was obtained, and a building agreement between Freake's trustees and Daws was signed on 24 April 1886. (fn. 243) Under this agreement Daws paid £4,000 for Freake's plant and equipment, (fn. 244) and undertook to pay an ultimate ground rent of £2,486 18s. (from 1890) to Lady Freake and Murdoch. This represented an improved ground rent of over £1,800 above the ground rent which the executors had to pay to the Charity's trustees under Freake's original building agreement, although his firm had done some preliminary work on the site. Daws eventually bought the improved ground rents at twenty-two-and-a-half years' purchase, a sum amounting to nearly £50,000, or an average of about £700 per house.

Charles Adams Daw, the founder of the firm, was Devonshire-born and had migrated in the early 1860's to London, where he engaged in small-scale speculative building in various parts of Kensington, Paddington and St. Marylebone in partnership with two brothers. In the early 1870's he had branched out on his own and was shortly afterwards joined in business by his son, William Adams Daw, who had been born in 1856. (fn. 245) From the mid 1870's their firm had been building houses and flats in De Vere Gardens and Palace Gate, and had encountered some difficulties in disposing of the large houses in De Vere Gardens. In Evelyn Gardens (which was named after William John Evelyn, one of the Smith's Charity trustees), therefore, they sought permission from the charity's trustees to build smaller houses than had been stipulated in Freake's building agreement. (fn. 246) After some negotiation the trustees concurred, and, large as they may seem by modem standards, the houses in Evelyn Gardens are modest by comparison with those in De Vere Gardens or with Freake's later Italianate houses in Onslow Gardens and Cranley Gardens. One result was the provision of an abundance of communal garden space, which was even further increased when Daws decided to dispense with the stabling Freake had proposed to build on the north and west of the site, in continuation of Cranley Mews, and lay out those sites as garden ground also. Otherwise the layout which had been devised by Freake was basically adhered to, apart from the extension of the north-south arm of Evelyn Gardens northwards to communicate with Roland Gardens.

The Chronology of Development

Daws began building in 1886 with Nos. 1–7 (odd) and 2–10 (even) Evelyn Gardens. (fn. 247) These are in fact larger than subsequent houses in the development, the evennumbered houses on the north side having four main storeys, attics and basements, while those on the south side, although having only three main storeys, have wider, twenty-five-foot, frontages. The firm then concentrated in 1887 on building the northernmost terrace, consisting of Nos. 31–44 (consec), originally called Evelyn Terrace, where the houses are narrower, with twenty-one-foot frontages for the most part, and have only three main storeys. (fn. 248) The building of the two ranges which had been begun in 1886 was resumed in 1888, but with narrower, or lower, houses. (fn. 249) The long north-south range, consisting of Nos. 45–70 (consec), was begun in 1890. Here the southernmost part of the long communal garden at the back of the houses occupied the site of an organ factory which had been made available to Daws by the Smith's Charity trustees by a separate building agreement of May 1892. (fn. 250) By 1895 only Nos. 59, 60 and 64 Evelyn Gardens remained untenanted, and these were all occupied in the following year, (fn. 91) thus bringing the whole development of seventy houses to a conclusion in ten years.


The firm obtained the money to finance its building operations from both institutional and private lenders. Several mortgages were negotiated with the Union Assurance Office, amounting by 1894 to £31,950 at four-and-a-half per cent interest on the security of eighteen houses. (fn. 251) A further £24,516 was borrowed from the County Fire Office, principally to buy up improved ground rents from Freake's executors. (fn. 252) Individual mortgages were usually arranged through solicitors, the lawyers and their families sometimes supplying money themselves. For instance, in 1887 several mortgages to members of the Torr family were arranged through the solicitors, Torr, Janeways, Gribble and Oddie. (fn. 253)

Sometimes the initiative seems to have come from would-be mortgagees, especially in times of easy money conditions. Thomas Peel of Bradford must have made the first approaches, for in December 1887 he was informed by Daws that, ‘Just at present we are not desirous of raising any money having recently sold some property but we are almost sure to be able to offer you some securities on our Evelyn Estate within the next 3 or 4 months’, and in March 1888 they offered him No. 35 as security for £1,500 but wanted a quick reply ‘as just now there is a good deal of money to be had on good terms Mr. Goschen's conversion having disturbed a lot of capital’. (fn. 254) Daws were often able to pick and choose, negotiating more favourable interest rates with one potential mortgagee than another. In 1895 they told one particularly irksome individual that he was ‘the most nervous and fidgetty mortgagee we have ever had to deal with’. (fn. 255)

In the normal manner of Victorian building developments, Daws let some houses in Evelyn Gardens at rack rents, usually on twenty-one-year leases, and sold others outright. No. 1, a spacious end house, was the first to be taken, at a rent of £250 per annum, by John Henry Clutton of the firm of surveyors who managed the Smith's Charity estate. (fn. 256) No. 44, also an end house, was let at £290 per annum, but generally rents ranged between £170 and £210. (fn. 257) In the early stages of the development rents were kept deliberately low, however, in order to attract tenants. One house was both let and then sold for low sums for exceptional reasons, as William Adams Daw explained. ‘We have sold 2 Evelyn Terrace (No. 32 Evelyn Gardens] cheap’, he wrote, ‘because Sir F. Burrows [Sir Frederic Abemethy Burrows, baronet and solicitor] is our lawyer and as he acts for Freake's trustees and wished to buy as an investment it suits us to be on the best of terms with him. We pay some £2,000 a year in ground rent to Freake's trustees and are constantly wanting slight alterations in the building agreement and variations of plan etc. which we could not ask for were we on bad terms (or anything but the best of terms) with everybody concerned. And secondly we sold this house for £1,900 … because it is let for 21 years at £145 and if this tenant were to leave she would certainly underlet with a premium as similar houses are let for£l60 and we now ask £170, so we would derive no further benefit from the house for 21 years’ (fn. 258)

The highest price known to have been paid for a house in Evelyn Gardens was £3,400, which Philip Norman, the antiquary, scholar and artist, agreed to give for No. 45, a larger house at the north end of the north-south range with an extension at the rear for a studio. The house was fitted out to Norman's specifications, five fireplaces being selected from the Coalbrookdale Company, for instance. (fn. 259) More usual prices ranged from £2,100 to £2,900. (fn. 260)

Daws were frequently informing investors or potential purchasers that they had few houses left on their hands, and in 1894 Henry Trollope of George Trollope and Son, on being informed that the cheapest house left would cost £2,600, or £190 per annum, remarked, ‘I liked the houses very much and wish I could afford one, but am pleased to see that they have gone off so well’. (fn. 261) The firm estimated that it made a profit of about £250 on the sale of each house, but as the estimate was for income tax purposes this figure was probably on the low side. (fn. 262)


All of the houses in Evelyn Gardens are in the red-brick, Anglo-Dutch, Domestic Revival idiom, but there are variations between groups of houses which generally correspond to their different building dates (Plates 59a, 59c. fig. 32). There is no evidence, however, about the authorship of the designs. One practice which the firm used elsewhere was to approach an outside architect for either sketch or detailed elevations, to which it would then fit plans. C. F. A. Voysey, to whom Daws went for elevations for houses in Chelsea, rather disparagingly called this a ‘shirt-front arrangement’, (fn. 263) another example of the firm's use of this system occurs in Hans Road (see page 15).

There is some reason to think, however, that in Evelyn Gardens the firm may have dispensed altogether with the services of an outside architect. When its initial plans were submitted to an agent acting for Freake's trustees he commented about one set of designs that ‘The elevation … is very ugly as to the upper part. It would be well for you to get out an architect's plan for this … I think you may get over the shops in front if you were to design a good elevation.’ (fn. 264) (A proposal to build shops along part of the frontage to Fulham Road was quickly dropped.) The absence of any reference to an architect in the voluminous correspondence about these houses which survives among the firm's records, and the changes made as building progressed, suggest that all the designs may have been prepared in the firm's own drawing office. Purchasers who wanted alterations made, like Philip Norman who had his own surveyor, negotiated with the firm's foreman, a Mr. Kerswell. (fn. 265) According to W. A. Daw, the houses ‘were all built together under the same foreman and by the same gangs of workmen who were shifted from one house to another as occasion required’. (fn. 266)

Figure 32:

Evelyn Gardens, typical plans of Nos. 31–44 at top and of Nos. 2–10 (even) at bottom. C.A. Daw and Son, builders. 1886–7

Of the first houses to be erected, Nos. 2–10 (even) have ‘back to front’ features of a kind sometimes found elsewhere in conjunction with communal gardens (Plate 59c). They are four-storey houses with basements and garrets and have projections at the front rising through three main storeys. These projections, which are more usually placed at the rear of houses to accommodate the staircase or to provide additional rooms off its half-landings, contain four storeys at different levels from those of the main house and arc capped with free-standing pediments. At their bases, entrance porches project further forward (except at No. 2 where the entrance is at the side), and above the porches are loggias set within arched recesses and entered from half-landings. At three of the houses the pediments are decorated with cut-brick ornament, and a bold modillion cornice and frieze of terracotta (fn. n1) (for the most part now painted over) tie the houses together at both front and rear. At roof level Nos. 2 and 4 have similar but not identical gables while Nos. 6, 8 and 10 have dormer windows with projecting semi-pyramidal hoods. (No. 4 has a twenty-one-foot frontage and No. 6 twenty-two-foot but Daws thought them of equal value is No. 4 had the ‘better top floor’. (fn. 268) ) The rear elecations to the communal garden arc fully embellished and have bay windows on the lower floors.

These arresting designs were not repeated, and the differences even from house to house within this group are characteristic of the variety introduced into the development as a whole. Nos. 1–7 (odd) opposite, which were erected at about the same time in 1886, arc three-storey houses with wider frontages and dispense with projections at front and back. All of the remaining houses have three main storeys, basements and attics, and enclosed porches with arched openings to the street, some with decorated brick panels at the sides and others cement rendered. Nos. V-29 (odd) also ha\e deep projections at the front containing four storeys, with some inevitably clumsy joins where they meet the main front wall, but in the other houses such projections are more conventionally placed at the back.

Symmetry is, in general, eschewed, although Nos. 31–44 (consec.) form a nearly symmetrical terrace with two slightly projecting, gabled end houses framing three groups of four houses. The outer groups have sash windows with segmental heads dressed with red rubbed bricks, but the middle group is in a ‘Jacobethan’ style with stone mullioned-and-transomed windows and Dutch gables. A similar style to the latter but with variations in the gables was used on the middle group of houses in each of the other east-west ranges, namely Nos. 12–22 (even) and 9–19 (odd), and throughout the long north-south range consisting of Nos. 45–70 (consec), although here further variety was introduced by providing sash windows set in stone or artificial stone surrounds for the upper storeys (Plate 59a).

The houses have been little altered externally but have inevitably undergone much internal change and modification. One small job is perhaps worth mentioning; in 1930 Sir Edwin Lutyens designed a new bathroom for the top of the rear extension of No. 50, probably for Sir Edward James Reid, baronet, a director of Baring Brothers, who was shortly to take up residence here. (fn. 269)

The layout of Evelyn Gardens pleased contemporaries and near-contemporaries. Muthesius had this area specifically in mind when he commented that ‘In this system of unbuilt-up garden squares the layout of London's residential quarter may almost be described as exemplary’, and in 1906 A. E. Street thought that both in its general disposition and in its architectural features Evelyn Gardens was commendably superior to earlier work in the same neighbourhood (fn. 270) Most of the occupants of the houses were evidently equally satisfied. Of the seventy families who first moved into the new houses, thirty-eight lived there for ten years or more and nineteen for at least twenty years. (fn. 91)


The enumerators' books for the census of 1891 are not yet open for public inspection and so less is known about the first inhabitants of Evelyn Gardens than about those of earlier developments; but some information can be derived from directories. Several occupants can be identified as merchants with firms in the City, and a number belonged to the professions and the armed forces. The latter were represented by two generals, three colonels, a major and two captains. Those connected with the law included four barristers and three solicitors. Among the other occupants were a clergyman, an engineer and a surveyor (J. H. Glutton at No. 1). Charles Digby Harrod, the proprietor of Harrods, was the first occupant of No. 31 from 1888 to 1894, and Sir William Mackinnon, a surgeon-general to the army and honorary surgeon to Queen Victoria, who lived at No. 28, was pre-eminent in his profession. (fn. 271) Philip Norman, the joint editor of the Survey of London from 1909 to 1931, whose purchase of No. 45 has already been noted, lived there from 1890 until his death in 1931.


  • n1. These are probably the house, for which Gibbs and Canning of Tamworth offered to deliver the terracotta cornice on site at six shillings per foot run.
  • 91. P.O.D.
  • 241. P.P.R. 1885, will and codicils of Freake.
  • 242. M.D.R. 1890/5/700.
  • 243. Records of C. A. Daw and Son Ltd., letter book 1879–89, 9 Oct., 3, 9 Nov. 1885; in–letters, boxes 3 and 4, letters from Burrows and Barnes, and Chinnock, Galsworthy and Chinnock.
  • 244. Ibid., letter book 1879–89, 28 April 1888.
  • 245. Ibid, ledger with family dales in back; information kindly provided by Major A.'F. Daw. P.O.D.: M.D.R. 1862–72 passim, sub Daw.
  • 246. Daws’ Records, in-letters, box 3, Burrows and Barnes, 29 Jan. 1886.
  • 247. D.S.R. 1886 110–14, 162–7.
  • 248. Ibid., 1887/115, 141–4, 197–8,292–8.
  • 249. Ibid., 1888/118–21, 159,232–7; 1889/57–9, 127–31.
  • 250. Daws’ Records, in-letters, bov 1, Bames, Pears and Ellis: D.S.R. 1890 28–32, 204–7; 1891/68–72; 1892/60–5; 1893/33–8.
  • 251. Daws’ Records, register of mortgages.
  • 252. Ibid., deed for consolidating mortgages of 28 Dec. 1893.
  • 253. Ibid., letter book 1879–89, 29 April, 16 June, 7 Nov. 1887; register of mortgages.
  • 254. Ibid., letter book 1879–89, 19 Dec. 1887, 22 March 1888.
  • 255. Ibid., letter book 1894–8, 12 July 1895.
  • 256. Ibid., letter book 1879–89, 28 April 1887.
  • 257. Ibid., letter book 1889–94, 2 May 1893.
  • 258. Ibid., letter book 1879–89, 21 April 1888.
  • 259. Ibid., in-letters, box 13A, Norman.
  • 260. Ibid., unlabelled ledger 1877–1910.
  • 261. Ibid., in-letters, box 17m, Trollope, 29 Jan. 1894.
  • 262. Ibid., unlabelled ledger 1877–1910, ff. 133–4, 171–2.
  • 263. Ibid., in-letters, box 17a, Voysey, 4 July 1891.
  • 264. Ibid., in-letters, box 4, Chinnock, Galsworthy and Chinnock, 5 Jan. 1886.
  • 265. Ibid., in-letters, box 13A, Norman; box 17, Tarbutt.
  • 266. Ibid., letter book 1889–94, 10, 31 May 1893.
  • 267. Ibid., in-letters, box 8, 5 July 1886.
  • 268. Ibid., letter book 1879–89, undated letter of Nov. or Dec. 1886.
  • 269. B.A 66386: P.O.D.
  • 270. Hermann Muthcsius, The English House, English ed., 1979, p. 140: The Architectural Review, vol. xix, May 1906, p. 204.
  • 271. Boasc.