Survey of London: Volume 41, Brompton. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1983.
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The first large block of flats to be erected on the Smith's Charity estate was Sussex Mansions, built in 1896–1900 to replace Sussex Terrace on the south side of Old Brompton Road. Constructed in three sections, the outer ones of five storeys and the centre of six, with shops on the ground floor, Sussex Mansions is in a minimal ‘Queen Anne’ style characteristic of the 1890's, with red-brick facades, decorative iron balconies and three small Dutch gables over the centre bays. The developer was William Henry Collbran, architect, who was at the same time building studios in Yeoman's Row (see above), and who may have provided the designs here. (fn. 318) Under a building agreement with the Smith's Charity trustees dated 14 December 1895 he paid an ultimate ground rent of £700 per annum; James Carmichael of Wandsworth was the contractor. (fn. 319)
In 1899 Collbran let part of the ground behind the flats to the National Telephone Company for a telephone exchange, which was built by William King and Son of Vauxhall Bridge Road. To the south of the exchange a ‘Motor Car Warehouse’ was erected in 1901 for the Locomobile Company of America. (fn. 320)
The buildings erected in and near Pelham Street as a result of the construction of the various railways which now form part of the London Underground system have been described on page 117. The present London Transport offices at Nos. 63–81 (odd) Pelham Street were originally built as a sub-station and workshops, with offices and a board room on the street frontage, for the Kensington and Knightsbridge Electric Lighting Company. The original design, of 1924–5 by C. Stanley Peach, was for a two-storey building in stone, and this was duly erected on land belonging partly to the Metropolitan District Railway and partly to the Smith's Charity estate. The main feature of Peach's design is a double-storey portico in antis with large square columns capped by palm-leaf capitals drawing their inspiration no doubt from Basevi's work nearby in Pelham Crescent. Two further red-brick storeys were added to the building in the 1950's by the successors to Peach's practice, Stanley Peach and Partners, and in 1975 the building was taken over by London Transport. (fn. 321)
Shortly after the completion of the original building the Kensington and Knightsbridge Electric Lighting Company found that it needed more land for its works, and in December 1930 it entered into a building agreement with the Smith's Charity trustees for the redevelopment of a large site on the north corner of Pelham Street and Fulham (now Brompton) Road. Peach drew up a scheme for the extension of the engineer's department on the ground floor with shops on the street frontages and the erection of flats, partly intended for the company's employees, above. In May 1933 he commented that ‘The flats are intended to be fitted throughout with the most modern development of electricity. My clients hope to demonstrate on a large scale in these flats, that the use of electricity for labour-saving appliances, heating and lighting, is a practical and economical commercial proposition, even for small houses, and the size and accommodation of the flats has been carefully considered with this end in view.’ (fn. 322)
In July 1933 the building agreement was assigned to a subsidiary company, Kenbridge Estates Limited, and the flats, named Crompton Court, presumably after R. E. B. Crompton, who was a pioneer in the development of the electrical supply industry, were virtually completed by April 1935. The builders were W. Moss and Sons Limited. (fn. 323)
Crompton Court is a six-storey block of flats (with additional penthouses on top) in red brick and cement. A wide opening at ground-floor level in Brompton Road allows access to the works behind, and the fenestration is given a horizontal emphasis by the unusual use of outside shutters.
A short distance to the north of Crompton Court another six-storey block of flats named St. George's Court was erected at the same time in a neo-Georgian style in red brick and stone with shops and showrooms on the ground floor. Together with a service station and garage called St. George's Garage, the building replaced the remaining houses of Onslow Terrace. The architects were Robert Angell and Curtis and the contractors were Sir Lindsay Parkinson and Company Limited. (fn. 324)
At the west end of Pelham Street, where the junction with the northward extension of Onslow Square forms an acute angle, seven houses which had been built by (Sir) Charles James Freake in the late 1840's were demolished for the erection of Malvern Court in 1930–1. Designed by H. F. Murrell and R. M. Pigott, Malvern Court has seven main storeys and an additional floor within the roof and is in a neo-Georgian style with multi-coloured red bricks, stone dressings including two canted stone bays on the main frontage to Onslow Square, and a tiled roof. The contractors were J. Knox and Dyke. (fn. 325)
Opposite to Malvern Court the demolition of Onslow Crescent for redevelopment in 1935 provoked an exchange of letters in The Times. Arthur Dasent, the author of several books on the history of London, who lived nearby in Cromwell Place, was particularly concerned at the loss of the garden enclosure in front of the houses in Onslow Crescent, remarking that ‘not only was this unobtrusive Victorian crescent doomed to be blotted out but that its entire garden was marked out for destruction. And for what purpose, it may be asked, has this act been set in motion? It is to erect a huge cinema with rows of shops and towering flats, which, so far as I can gather, are not desired by anyone living in the immediate neighbourhood. (fn. 326)
The cinema failed to materialize, and Melton Court, an eight-storey block of flats with ground-floor shops, was erected in 1936–8 under a building agreement of 23 July 1936. (fn. 327) The agreement was made with Edmund Howard of St. James's Street, ‘architect’, who was described as a man of'substantial means’, but the building, which is faced with brown bricks and cream-coloured stone or faience, was designed by Trehearne and Norman, Preston and Company. The contractors were Harry Neal Limited. (fn. 328) Most of the former garden enclosure was used by Kensington Borough Council to create the complex road junction between Old Brompton Road, Onslow Square and Pelham Street.
The building of Melton Court was intended to be followed by the further redevelopment of parts of Onslow Square and Gardens. The outbreak of the war of 1939–45 and the Smith's Charity trustees’ subsequent change of policy in favour of the rehabilitation and conversion of the houses built by Freake has been described above (sec page 112). In pursuit of this policy the unexpired leases of 154 houses and mews dwellings were acquired in 1949 from the Freake family for £110,000, a move thought advisable by the trustees as ‘it would put us in closer touch with the occupiers at a time when the character of the Estate is changing and needs close attention if the property is not to deteriorate too badly’. (fn. 329)
Elsewhere on the estate, the present office of Cluttons, the estate surveyors, at No. 48 Pelham Street and the flats above numbered 42–46 (even) Pelham Street were built in place of numbers 44 and 46 Fulham Road (formerly Nos. 7 and 8 Onslow Place), which were destroyed during the war. The small neo-Georgian houses at Nos. 9–11 (consec.) Crescent Place also replaced war-damaged buildings in 1956. (fn. 330) In Yeoman's Row the houses which had been built in the 1840's on the site of Novosielski's Brompton Grange were in turn replaced in c. 1953 by a small three-storey red-brick block of flats numbered 38–62 (even). (fn. 331) (fn. n1) These modest and restrained rebuildings of the post-war period were all designed in the architect's department of Cluttons, headed by John V. Hamilton.
The policy of restoration and rehabilitation of the original nineteenth-century building fabric, coupled with piecemeal small-scale rebuilding instead of comprehensive redevelopment under building leases, bore fruit in the 1960's and 1970's as the rise in the income from rents outstripped inflation. In 1964 the total rental income amounted to £290,000; by 1977 this had been increased to £1,464,000, and when a further £440,000 received from interest on investments is added to this, the total income from the Kensington and Chelsea estate was little short of £2,000,000. (fn. 5)