The Boltons and Redcliffe Square area: The Gunter estate to 1864, the Boltons area

Pages 202-211

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

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The Estate of Robert Gunter the Elder and Younger, to 1864: The Boltons Area

In 1819 James Gunter had died, leaving his son Robert a life-interest in his estate, which on Robert's death was to pass to the latter's eldest son. Robert was empowered to grant ninety-nine-year building leases, a right fortified by a private Act of Parliament in 1820. (fn. 106) So far as this part of Kensington was concerned, the property that had come into Robert's hands was an area of land at D, E, I and O (fig. 58), with a separate, less extensive, rectangle further west at A, G. The former area was particularly useful, being partly developed in villas at its northern end, immediately adjacent to the new Thistle Grove (now part of Drayton Gardens) on its east, and having access both to Old Brompton Road and to Fulham Road — this last, however, being limited at the junction with Fulham Road to little more than the width of the communicating entrance-way itself.

Robert Gunter lived at Earl's Court Lodge (at what is now the northern corner of Earl's Court Road and Bolton Gardens) from his father's death until his own in 1852. (fn. 55) In 1831 his eldest son, also Robert, was born, and in 1833 his second son, James. In 1836 Robert senior bought the plot L on fig. 58, in which the Gunters had long had a mortgage interest (fn. 107) (see page 198). Apart from some villa-building mentioned above, Robert Gunter's venture into estate development in this locality seems to have begun on his property in Chelsea, where in 1845–7 he had what is now the northern end of Sydney Street built between Fulham Road and Cale Street. (fn. 108) It is wholly in the late-Georgian tradition of urban building, with terraces of flat-fronted houses in stock brick over stuccoed ground storeys. Two architects figured among his building lessees there, in 1845–6: W. W. Pocock and George Godwin the younger. George Godwin the elder, also an architect, had a lease a few years later. (fn. 109)

On Robert Gunter's Kensington property the important one of these names was the younger George Godwin's. In 1846 Robert Gunter made his will, in which Godwin was named as one of the executors and one of the guardians of Robert Gunter's daughter (the latter provision being later changed). In 1851 a codicil to the will specifically authorized Godwin to receive his professional fees as architect from the trustees of Robert's estate despite Godwin's status as executor. (fn. 110) This was very much to the point, for by 1851, and still more by the time of Robert Gunter's death in the following year, important building operations were in progress on the large easternmost portion of Robert's estate, in a different manner from that of Sydney Street and doubtless showing George Godwin's hand as designer. They were essentially in the suburban mode of Thistle Grove, with a layout generally permitting front gardens before the houses.

The scheme was evidently settled in outline by May 1849. It comprised a vesica-shaped layout of facing crescents (The Boltons), joined to Old Brompton Road by an extension of the roadway serving South Bolton Gardens and to Fulham Road by a new long road (Gilston Road), with side roads corresponding to Tregunter Road, Priory Walk and Milborne Grove (fn. 111) (fig. 58). The centre of the vesica was to be a plantation divided into two by the site of a church. In May 1849 Godwin set the whole enterprise moving by intimating Robert Gunter's intention to the Commissioners for Building New Churches, and soon a church of his designing, with an out-of-town air about it, was being raised, in advance of the houses themselves. This is described on pages 232–4.

House-building 1850–2: Methods and Personnel

The houses built on the estate in 1850–2 were confined to Robert Gunter's property lying east of the line of what is now the roadway of The Little Boltons and (after a turn of that boundary eastward along the south side of properties in Tregunter Road) the line of Bolton Studios so far south as No. 5 Gilston Road. The work proceeded fairly rapidly and by the time of Robert Gunter's death in October 1852 the houses that were sufficiently completed to be made over to their building lessees constituted the eastern crescent of The Boltons, most of the south side of this part of Tregunter Road, most of Gilston Road, most of Milborne Grove, the north-east end of Harley Gardens, and Priory Walk.

The procedure was generally by the normal granting of leases to building tradesmen or, sometimes, to their nominees. The latter were often intending occupants. In two respects particularly Robert Gunter's practice was to be followed until almost the whole ground on his sons' estates was covered a quarter of a century later. A separate lease was granted of every house-plot, and no period of a year or two's peppercorn rent was conceded to the lessee. As in Sydney Street, Chelsea, the term granted was generally eighty-one years, and that remained the usual term in this part of the estate under his successors until the early 1860's. Initially the term ran from 1850 but ultimately the terms of the leases, which from the 1860's became almost always ninety-nine years, gave expiry-dates extending from 1931 to 1984.

House-building began in the summer of 1850. One of these first operations was, as it happens, apparently at least a partial exception to the leasing-procedure referred to above. This was the building of the terrace of houses at Nos. 1–12 Priory Walk and No. 26 Gilston Road (Plate 84a). Eight of these were begun in July and September 1850 by a builder, Robert Trower, who had an address in Chelsea and had participated in the building of Sydney Street. (fn. 112) The district surveyor's returns which record the work at Priory Walk describe him as 'owner' as well as 'builder' but no building leases to him have been found. Something also delayed the progress of the work. It was 1853, after Robert Gunter's death, when Trower began the remaining houses, (fn. 113) and there were then only five of these, to make a total (including the westernmost now numbered 26 Gilston Road) of thirteen, although in 1851 Godwin had applied to the Metropolitan Commissioners of Sewers on Gunter's behalf for leave for Trower to lay drains from fourteen houses here. (fn. 114) In 1854 it was necessary for Trower to rebuild Nos. 7 and 8 (fn. 115) and by January 1855 Godwin as supervising architect had to invite tenders 'for completing houses in Priory-grove' (as Priory Walk was called until 1938). One of the other builders active nearby, Charles Delay, submitted the lowest tender of £2,259. (fn. 116) The only instance of a lease to a building tradesman in this terrace had occurred in December 1854, when trustees for the younger Robert Gunter's estate granted one eighty-one-year lease, of No. 12, to Patrick Buckley, a plumber and glazier of Brompton. (fn. 117) These houses came into occupation in 1855–7. The earliest resident, at No. 12, was an architect, J. H. Strudwick. (fn. 55)

Elsewhere in the streets developed in the elder Robert's lifetime, in 1850–2, leases were granted, and predominantly to, or with the participation of, building tradesmen. There were ten of these. Unlike John Glenn of Islington, who, as well as working on St. Mary's Church, did two estate buildings directly for Robert Gunter at the bottom of Gilston Road, all of the ten had addresses in this part of south-west London. The most important lessee, in terms of the sites committed to him, was H. W. Atkinson of Chelsea, builder, whose role as lessee in the eastern crescent of The Boltons must be noticed separately below. Three other Chelsea builders were John Atkinson and Daniel Tidey (a bricklayer), who participated in the leasing of Nos. 21 and 23 Gilston Road to the first occupants in 1851, (fn. 118) and Thomas Eames, who in 1852 received the leases of Nos. 14 and 16 Gilston Road (and in 1854, after the elder Robert Gunter's death, was a party to those of Nos. 10, 12, 41 and 43). (fn. 119) Pimlico supplied H. J. Clarke (later a bankrupt) at Nos. 13–23 (odd) Tregunter Road (fn. 120) and Charles Delay at Nos. 13–19 (odd) Gilston Road (fn. 121) in 1851–2. Each was a participating party to the leases, which in Gilston Road were granted to a 'gentleman' and an 'esquire' buying two houses apiece doubtless as an investment, and in Tregunter Road were made to four of the first occupants, two of whom also bought an adjacent house. James Bonnin, junior, of Alfred (now Alexander) Place, who participated in the leases of Nos. 3 and 4 Harley Gardens (Plate 83b) in 1851 to the first occupants (that at No. 3 being J. S. Quilter, an architect) (fn. 122) and who took the leases of Nos. 1 and 3 Tregunter Road in 1852, (fn. 123) was son of a notable builder in Kensington. Thomas Holmes, a party to the leases of Nos. 1–8 Milborne Grove to a baker in Pimlico and a widow in Brompton (neither of whom were buying for occupation), had an address in Hereford Square. (fn. 124) A third very local man was Stephen Peirson of Elm Cottage, Old Brompton, who built at least eight houses in Gilston Road, probably Nos. 25–39 (odd, Plate 83d), in 1850–1. (fn. 125) He participated in 1851–2 in the leasing of Nos. 25–35, mostly to non-occupants, (fn. 126) and was also joined with John Atkinson or Daniel Tidey as a party to the leasing of Nos. 21 and 23. (fn. 127) In 1853 he took three leases in Sydney Street, Chelsea. (fn. 128) More significant in that respect was the builder William Harding, of North End, Fulham, the recipient or nominator of leases at Nos. 18–24 Gilston Road (Plate 83c, fig. 60) and Nos. 1 and 2 Harley Gardens (Plate 83a) in 1851–2. He had in 1846–51 been the building lessee on Robert Gunter's land in Chelsea, at the Gunter Arms public house and other properties nearby on the south side of the Fulham Road and in Gunter Grove and Edith Grove, where George Godwin's hand is evident as architect. (fn. 129)

Figure 60:

No. 24 Gilston Road, plans and elevations as in 1970. William Harding, builder, 1852

Generally the evidence of the building leases and that of the district surveyor's returns agree on the identity of the builder. An exception is that the fifteen leases of the chief houses of this early development, on the eastern side of The Boltons, were all made with H. W. Atkinson as the sole participating builder, (fn. 130) whereas the district surveyor's returns seem clear that the eight houses begun in February 1851 were divided four and four between him and the builder Daniel Tidey, and that of the remainder, begun in August, Atkinson was responsible for four and Tidey for three. (fn. 131) Atkinson was at that time in a comparatively small way of business, employing only four men and living in Cheyne Walk with only one servant. Tidey employed fourteen men, but lived in a house in Elystan Street that he shared with another couple, where one young servant looked after his family of nine. (fn. 132) He had some sort of hand in Nos. 21 and 23 Gilston Road, (fn. 133) and later, before the common fate of bankruptcy befell him, ventured largely in building at Belsize Park and Chalk Farm. (fn. 134)

Figure 61:

No. 12 The Boltons, plans and elevation. H. W. Atkinson, building lessee, 1851

From what has been said of the transmission of leases direct to 'lay' purchasers it is apparent that this undertaking of Robert Gunter was in general a success (unless the uncertain evidence of Priory Walk is taken as an exception). This is also suggested by the fairly short interval of a year or two between the completion of the houses in carcase and the filling-up of the streets with ratepaying occupants. The designation of such owneroccupiers as are known smacks of respectability — 'esquires', 'gentlemen', architects, doctors, a jeweller, as well as the spinster and widow. One of the earliest, and longest staying, was John Wilkinson, senior partner in Sotheby's and book-auctioneer, who was at No. 1 Harley Gardens from 1851 until his death in 1894. (fn. 79) Another was Wilkinson's friend, the scholar and bibliophile, J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps, who was at No. 11 Tregunter Road from 1856 until his death in 1889. (fn. 79) A younger brother of George Godwin, James Godwin, an artist, was at No. 23 Tregunter Road from 1854 to 1876. (fn. 135)

The house-types chosen represented the 'mix' that was to prevail over the whole area. There were comparatively modest-sized houses in terraces (at that stage all arranged with mirrored plans), a very few detached houses, and a great emphasis on semi-detached houses often of large size. The layout of streets was, with one great exception, conventional, and this continued to be so as the network spread westward. Apart from one late instance at Moreton Gardens, the arrangement so popular in Kensington, of a communal ornamental ground behind the houses, called 'Gardens', was not adopted on this side of Old Brompton Road. The architecture, generally less harsh than it became in the western streets, was also more frequently screened and ameliorated by the greenery of front gardens. The possible intention in 1851 to give Robert Gunter's estate a perceptible 'entrance' from Fulham Road has been noticed (see page 173). Gilston Road, which forms the approach thence to the centrepiece of this part of Robert Gunter's estate, still retains in a higher degree than some other streets the dignity formerly given it by solid balustraded front-garden walls and handsomely rusticated gate-piers (Plate 79b).

The Boltons

The centrepiece is The Boltons. The plan was submitted to the Commissioners of Sewers by George Godwin on Robert Gunter's behalf in March 1850, when it showed one more house on the western side than was built. (fn. 136) The name Boltons was used by Godwin but seems not to occur before 1850–1, when it was applied in that form to the houses now so called and to the immediately surrounding area, which was also known as Bolton's Field or Bolton's Estate. (fn. 137) It presumably referred back to the family of Boulton from whom James Gunter had acquired the land.

The eastern crescent, as has been seen, was erected in 1851–2 by the builders H. W. Atkinson and Daniel Tidey. These big houses (Plates 81, 82a,82b, 82c, fig. 61) constituted the boldest venture of Robert Gunter's enterprise here, which was considered, as Godwin himself witnessed a quarter-century later, 'uncertain in its results'. (fn. 138) Doubtless for that reason Gunter, exceptionally, conceded to Atkinson his first two years' tenure at half the ground rent of £15 a house. (fn. 139) As it happens, this crescent was quickly successful in attracting occupants. The western crescent did not, however, follow until after Robert Gunter's death, when in 1856 an important transaction introduced to the Gunters' estates a builder who was to become one of South Kensington's bigger operators. In August of that year the younger Robert Gunter agreed to lease a large area to John Spicer, a builder in Pimlico. It embraced not only the western crescent of The Boltons but also the north side of Tregunter Road so far west as The Little Boltons and the east side of The Little Boltons (then called Tregunter Grove) so far north as the grounds of White Cottage (later Rathmore Lodge). (fn. 140)

The western crescent (Plates 80, 82d, figs. 62, 65f) was leased to Spicer as he finished the houses, working from north to south, between 1857 and 1860. (fn. 141) They were a little slower to be taken than the houses in the eastern crescent, although substantially similar to them. (fn. 54) In neither crescent, so far as the lease-plans show, were all the ground floors identically arranged, but one general difference between the sides was that in Spicer's houses the ground floors were planned so that the staircase compartment was not aligned on the front door, as it was in the houses in the eastern crescent (figs. 61–2). The planning of some of Spicer's houses here followed a lead given in Gilston Road.

Another difference was that at three of his pairs of houses on the west side Spicer carried the outer bays up to the full height of the house, instead of leaving them as one-storey wings. Nos. 20–25 thus form more massive six-bay blocks than the other pairs of houses in either crescent (Plate 80a, 80b). Most of the one-storey wings in both crescents have, however, been heightened by a storey, some in very recent times.

The eastern crescent filled up in 1852–4, the western in 1858–65. (fn. 54)

The first occupants were very respectable if not remarkable. Two army officers (one of whom was to have a command in the suppression of the Indian Mutiny), an artist (Charles Vacher at No. 4), an amateur artist and author (John Hughes, father of Thomas, the author of Tom Brown's Schooldays, at No. 7), a ship-owner, a landowner, a notable physician (Benjamin Golding, founder of the Charing Cross Hospital, at No. 28), the editor of the Art Journal, Samuel Carter Hall, at No. 21, a clergyman at No. 18, and Mrs. Gunter herself, the elder Robert's widow, at No. 16, indicate the tone. (fn. 142)

Godwin later said that the first houses in 'Boltons' were sold in the early doubtful days for so little as £1,350, which by the mid 1870's had risen to £3,000. (fn. 138) Prices at the end of the fifties are indicated by the £2,200 paid for No. 28 in 1859, (fn. 143) the £2,280 for No. 20 in 1861, (fn. 144) and the £2,300 for No. 7 in 1858. (fn. 145) The last was then valued at £175 per annum if let at a rack rent. A sale advertisement of that year details the attractions of this 'Villa Residence, elegantly finished, and in a most delightful situation'. One was the privilege of admission to the 'select Promenade and Ornamental Pleasure Grounds' in the centre, adjacent to the church, for which the ground landlord added £2 to the ground rent. The elevation was 'neat and pleasing', with plate glass in the windows. Water was laid on as high as the top (second) floor, and there was a 'Well of capital Spring Water' in the basement. Water closets were provided at that level and on the ground and first floors. As usual the butler's bedroom was in the basement but his pantry was on the ground floor. The outbuildings, abutting on Cresswell Place, included 'a large Room used for Gymnastics'. (fn. 146) The auctioneers were, however, unable to speak, as they would have done a few years later, of the access to underground railway stations, and the previous occupant, John Hughes, writing as one of the pioneer residents in The Boltons about 1853 had humorously referred to it as 'this wild back-settlement, 2 miles beyond Hyde Park Corner . . . I consider myself, for all social purposes, as living in the country, out of the pale of the Red Book'. (fn. 147) But The Boltons achieved and has maintained a steadily respectable social level. So much so, indeed, that when in 1937 a telephone exchange was about to be built in the northern limb of The Boltons Sir Ronald Gunter's solicitors pleaded (unavailingly) with the Postmaster General to put it somewhere else, 'where the staff of a Telephone Exchange would mingle unobtrusively with the normal type of foot-passenger.' (fn. 148)

A notable feature of The Boltons is its shape. Facing crescents can be found on Horwood's map of London in the 1790's — generally, however, with roads traversing them. A very humble precursor of the vesica shape with a planted centre was The Oval at Hackney but on a very much smaller scale than The Boltons, and with terrace houses. In The Boltons the houses, with the exception of Nos. 15 and 28 at the southern end (and disregarding Nos. 29 and 30 which are not historically part of The Boltons) are semi-detached. They demonstrate, like some of the houses in Kensington Palace Gardens of a few years earlier, the high social and economic level at which this arrangement was acceptable.

Another remarkable feature of The Boltons is the spaciousness of the whole layout, where twenty-eight houses with their private and communal gardens (the latter admittedly accommodating a church) occupy some eleven and a half acres. On a map the contrast with the comparative density of the surrounding streets is very noticeable. Much of this is due to the size of the back gardens: it is a private type of suburbanism different in effect from the Gunters' 'Gardens' north of Old Brompton Road and those on the Smith's Charity estate.

The exteriors of the houses, of a distinctly worldly cast, except perhaps for the plain relaxed villa at No. 28, present the usual contrast to the style of the accompanying church (Plates 80, 81, fig. 61). Discounting later alterations, the pairs of houses are three storeys high under the overhanging eaves of a shallow slated roof and each house is two bays wide with a slightly recessed one-storey wing (or, at Nos. 20–25, three bays wide). The entrance, dressed with a Roman Doric portico, is placed at the outer bay of each house in the eastern crescent; and in the western crescent is either placed in the one-storey wing or (at Nos. 20–25) grouped with the adjacent entrance in the centre of the block. Fully stuccoed in front, the houses have the separate elements of the façade strongly stressed. The first-floor windows are surmounted by elaborately bracketed straight hood-moulds crowned with crestings of scrolls and acanthus leaves, and the corners of each main block are accentuated by heavily faceted quoins.

Figure 62:

No. 18 The Boltons, plan as originally built. John Spicer, builder, 1857.

In their general composition as stuccoed semi-detached houses under eaves-cornices and with slightly recessed wings the houses in The Boltons resemble a run of houses begun about 1847 at Ealing, on the north-east side of the road called The Park, on the estate of General Sir Edward Kerrison of Oakley Park in Suffolk. (fn. 149) Two of these in particular, Nos. 21 and 22 (both now altered), had additionally distinctive cresting on the hood-moulds of the ground-floor windows and accentuated quoins that especially call to mind similar features at The Boltons. (fn. 150) Good evidence indicates that George Godwin had a hand in the design of these houses and tried there some ideas used at Brompton. This is strongly suggested by the close conformity of the ground-floor plans of some of the houses in The Park to those of houses in and around The Boltons (fn. 151) and is virtually established by the identity of office-style in the draughtsmanship of lease-plans for Ealing and Brompton. (fn. 152)

The treatment of the interiors in The Boltons, so far as what survives can show us, was less assertive than that of the façades. The plans made no great visual feature of the staircase and allowed the large reception rooms to create the chief effect. The walls, ceilings and chimneypieces were not very greatly elaborated, each being supplied with adequate, conventional, but by no means consistent, adornments from a mixed menu of 'florid Classic' and 'after Owen Jones'. The occupants' furniture, soft furnishings, mirror-ware and china were evidently depended upon further to heighten the 'tout ensemble'. Probably the best 'period' interior surviving in The Boltons is at No. 12, where the double drawing-rooms on the main floor have painted doors, gilded cornices, and pretty 'aesthetic' tiles in the fireplaces which reveal that the scheme of decoration dates probably from around 1880 (Plate 82a, 82c, fig. 61).

In 1858 a resident at No. 9 The Boltons, J. Keating, employed an architect, Thomas Burton, to design or perhaps only to supervise the building of two villas for him, evidently as a speculation, in the immediate neighbourhood. They were quite substantial, for the lowest tender for the work from builders was at £3,150. (fn. 153) Where they were is uncertain.

Architects and Builders

Nevertheless, the probability is that all the houses here in The Boltons and adjacent streets were designed by George Godwin as architect and surveyor to Robert Gunter and later to his two sons Robert and James. From at least the later 1860's, when the work had moved westward, George Godwin was joined by his younger brother Henry, who continued for at least a little while as the Gunters' surveyor or 'agent' after George Godwin's death in 1888. (fn. 154) Henry, however, only came of age in 1852, when George Godwin was thirty-seven, and this first phase of the work here in the early and mid fifties is perhaps likely to have been in the elder brother's hands alone.

A view of the 'styles' employed in these streets in and around The Boltons gives a rather bewildering impression of the shuffling and dealing-out of architectural motifs, defeating the question whether particular groups of houses compared with each other are 'like' or 'unlike'. This characteristic, if it can be so called, of mixed motifs and an ambiguity of effect continued in all the later work hereabouts under the 'Godwin' auspices, and not only on the Gunters' estates.

Here in the fifties, with a greater number of building tradesmen taking leases than later, it is evident that their areas of activity had for the most part little significance in the distribution of stylistic devices. One important and distinctive motif at that period, for example, was the peculiar form of curved hood-mould over segmentalheaded window-openings, which occurs at the end pavilions of Priory Walk (Robert Trower, Plate 84a), Nos. 3 and 4 Harley Gardens (James Bonnin, Plate 83b) and Nos. 9 and 11 Gilston Road (Thomas Holmes), as well as in the work of other builders at the Gunters' Edith Grove, Gunter Grove and Netherton Grove in Chelsea. Holmes's work at Nos. 9 and 11 Gilston Road does not resemble his houses at Nos. 1–8 Milborne Grove; nor does Thomas Eames's in Gilston Road at Nos. 10 and 12 resmble his other houses there at Nos. 14, 16, 41 and 43. Eames's No. 10 is, however, in the same Cheltenham-Swiss-Italianate style (otherwise very little used in the whole area) as William Harding's detached houses at Nos. 22 and 24 Gilston Road (Plate 83c, fig. 60). These last have a grouping of triple round-headed windows with prominent keystones in common with Harding's semi-detached houses at Nos. 1 and 2 Harley Gardens (Plate 83a), but this in no way makes the Gilston Road houses resemble the late-Georgian 'stock-brick-box' style of the pair in Harley Gardens. For a stronger hint at the insignificance, stylistically, of the identity of the building lessee in this eastern part it is necessary to look forward a few years to the leases granted in 1861–3 to local builders, Benjamin and Thomas Bradley, of contiguous plots at Nos. 9–14 Harley Gardens and Nos. 9–14 Milborne Grove (Plate 84c). (fn. 155) (Subsequently, the Bradleys built Slaidburn Street in Chelsea for the younger Robert Gunter. (fn. 156) ) At the Harley Gardens houses, which were separated from the earlier-built houses in Harley Gardens by a vacant site and from the Bradley's Milborne Grove houses by the width of a roadway, a fiercer and more up-to-the-minute type of detailing was used than at the existing houses in either street. But for the new Milborne Grove houses, which immediately adjoined the existing terrace at Nos. 1–8, the urbane style of those houses was continued. That this discrimination was at George Godwin's prompting as the younger Robert Gunter's architect seems to be shown by the resemblance of the motifs used at Nos. 9–14 Harley Gardens to those being employed at the same time in the work of different builders on a different property at Redcliffe Road (Plate 87a), where Godwin as the instigator of that undertaking was the connecting link with Harley Gardens.

Figure 63:

Fig. 63. Elevations of houses built on the estates of Robert and James Gunter. a. No. 7 Harley Gardens, 1867 b. No. 36 Tregunter Road, 1865 c. No. 20 Tregunter Road, 1865 d. Nos. 10–16 (even) Tregunter Road (type), 1859

The correctness of the simplest and most obvious hypothesis regarding the source of the tantalizing mix of styles in this whole area—that it originated in the Godwins' office throughout—is supported by the similarity of draughtsman's style in the ground-floor plans on the leases memorialized in the Middlesex Deeds Registry. That some, and therefore presumably all, of these were in physical fact supplied by the Godwins is shown in the later correspondence of the builders Corbett and McClymont, which speaks of parchment leases being sent to the Godwins' office for plans to be drawn upon them. (fn. 157) The same office-style of plan occurs on the leases granted by George Godwin to a builder, Edwin Curtis, on his own freehold in Fulham Road and Redcliffe Road (see page 175).

House-building 1852–63

To revert to Robert Gunter the elder, at his death in October 1852 the estate which had come to him from his father, James, passed to trustees for his eldest son Robert, then about twenty-one, and the property he had himself bought, at L on fig. 58, was bequeathed for the second son James, who came of age two years later. (fn. 110) Both sons were destined for military careers, in the Dragoon Guards, and in 1854–6 both fought in the Crimean War. In 1854 Robert, by a deed to which his brother James was a witness, barred the entail of his estate, and in the same month conveyed it in trust to James and the brother of their step-mother, W. E. Maude. In 1856 James, Maude and the family's solicitor, J. L. Tomlin, conveyed it back to Robert, who in turn conveyed it to Tomlin to his, Robert's, own use. In 1858 James similarly conveyed all his land in trust to Robert and Maude, and they reconveyed it in 1862. (fn. 158) This was not the last of the legal to-and-froing, which did not, however, affect the brothers' separate equitable ownership of their properties. Since 1854 both had been advised by a solicitor, J. L. Tomlin (in succession to J. L. Wetten), who handled their affairs throughout the long campaign of building development, himself lived in Bolton Gardens from 1866, and acquired freehold property hereabouts in his own right. The dealings of Robert and James at his guidance are, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, suggestive of a co-operative relation between the fraternal property-owners.

In 1857 building had advanced enough for Robert to raise a mortgage of £10,000 on his property, redeemed in the same year, and then later in the year no less than £56,000 on the security of land north and south of Old Brompton Road. (Part of this mortgage was paid off in 1868 and the rest in 1878.) (fn. 159) In 1857 he moved from Earl's Court to Wetherby Grange in Yorkshire. There he was a prominent landowner, colonel commandant of a Yorkshire regiment, and from 1884 Conservative Member of Parliament for the Barkston Ash division. (fn. 160)

The continuation of the elder Robert's development has already been touched upon. At Nos. 5–11 (odd) Tregunter Road Peirson had the leases in 1853–4 of four houses filling-in between Bonnin's and Clarke's. (fn. 161) His houses 'went' decidedly quicker than Bonnin's had done. (One difference was that his houses were planned in the traditional London way in so far as they had a long entrance-and-staircase-compartment on one side and on the other front and back reception rooms which could communicate, whereas Bonnin had placed his staircase compartment between the front and back rooms.) In 1854 Eames or his nominees had leases of Nos. 10, 12, 41 and 43 Gilston Road. (fn. 162) At Nos. 9 and 11, where Holmes had had a lien on the latter site in 1852, (fn. 163) the leases were made in 1855 to a 'laceman' in the City, who was the first occupant of No. 9. (fn. 164) In the same year the detached house at the south-east end of Tregunter Road, now numbered 29 The Boltons, was leased to its first occupant: (fn. 165) the builder employed by the lessee was Walter Taverner of Bayswater. (fn. 166) B. and T. Bradley's work finishing Milborne Grove with Nos. 9–14 in 1861–2, and adding to Harley Gardens with Nos. 9–14 in 1862–3 has been mentioned above. (Later, in 1867, the gap in Harley Gardens, hitherto occupied by an additional garden to a large house, The Grove, at No. 98 Drayton Gardens, was filled by two builders involved in the works then going forward further west, Thomas Hussey and Thomas Huggett, both of Kensington. (fn. 167) The two pairs of semi-detached houses built by them at Nos. 5–8 Harley Gardens are in a more full-blooded Victorian manner than the houses around them, with features suggestive of Redcliffe Square (Plate 86a, fig. 63a).

John Spicer, Builder

The largest work of continuation, however, was the building of the north-east end of Tregunter Road and the east side of what is now The Little Boltons (formerly Tregunter Grove) by John Spicer, on the western part of the large property agreed in 1856 to be leased to him for his side of The Boltons. At the south end, Nos. 2–16 (even) Tregunter Road (Plate 83e, fig. 63d) and Nos. 2 and 4 The Little Boltons were leased to Spicer or his nominees in 1857–9. (fn. 168) Nos. 6–20 and 22–36 (even) The Little Boltons followed in 1862 and 1864 (Plate 85b). (fn. 169) At No. 36 The Little Boltons, a detached house near the north end, Spicer let (or rather sub-let) the house to the first occupant, in 1866, for £125 per annum. (fn. 170) All these houses of Spicer's were occupied fairly promptly. (fn. 54) The first residents on this side of The Little Boltons included two clergymen, a lady of title, a barrister, a government clerk, a civil engineer, a brewer, a West India merchant, at least one man of no profession, and a 'dealer in fancy goods'. (fn. 171) They were provided, by Godwin and Spicer, with some of the least elaborated house-fronts in the neighbourhood. Only the eaves-brackets, here and at Nos. 2–16 (even) Tregunter Road, catch the eye.

In 1859–66 Spicer also received leases for Bolton Mews, now Bolton Gardens Mews — rather squeezed-in, to the curtailment of the gardens of Nos. 16 and 17 The Boltons. (fn. 172)

Much later, in 1883, when George Godwin in his capacity as editor of The Builder published Spicer's obituary, he spoke of him with great respect. (fn. 173) Just conceivably, and exceptionally, the architectural sobriety which characterized Spicer's work here at this time, once he had done with The Boltons, in some way reflects his influence in a matter of design.

This aspect of Spicer's house-building is even more noticeable in the next major undertaking of Robert Gunter on his property east of The Little Boltons. This was the building of eight large houses on a detached site fronting Old Brompton Road at Nos. 1–8 Bolton Gardens, where Spicer was granted leases in 1863–4 (Plate 79c, fig. 65a). (fn. 174) Their rectitude of composition is by no means characteristic of Godwin, however appropriate for houses whose first occupants included a solicitor, two barristers and a senior civil servant. The arrangement was perfectly normal, as four pairs of semi-detached houses facing the road, with ample gardens behind each. They looked across the road, however, to a large planted enclosure, leased by Robert Gunter to Spicer, and thus formed part, both in name and in the minds of the house's occupants, of the greater portion of Bolton Gardens which was laid out by Spicer in the course of the next few years on the northern part of Gunter's estate, to be discussed in volume xlii of the Survey of London. (fn. 175) These were some of the 'best' houses in the area. In 1870 they were assessed appreciably higher for rating purposes than the houses in The Boltons — perhaps, however, chiefly because they were newer. The first occupant at No. 1 was the colonial civil servant and economist, Sir Louis Mallet. An even more significant token of approbation was given by the residence here of J. L. Tomlin, Robert Gunter's own lawyer, who moved to a new house at No. 5 from St. James's Street in 1866. (It is perhaps a sign of a confidential relationship between Tomlin and Spicer that when two years later the former set up in a new office at No. 9 Old Burlington Street Spicer's son, himself a solicitor, moved to the same address from the City and stayed there for some three years.) At No. 4 Bolton Gardens the first occupant was Albert Silber, a manufacturer of lamps and patent gas-burners. (fn. 81) Mallet paid £3,370 for the lease of his house, and the barrister Rupert Potter £3,700 for his next door at No. 2. (fn. 176) This latter house was also the residence of the owner of the most famous name in Bolton Gardens, Peter Rabbit, whose mistress, Beatrix Potter, was born there in 1866 and remained until her marriage in 1913. (fn. 177)

The site of Nos. 1–6 Bolton Gardens is now taken into that of the Bousfield School. No. 8 retains the tactfully unobtrusive westward extension given it in 1876 by the architect E. N. Clifton. (fn. 178)

Occupants in 1871

The census of 1871 gives a comparative view of some of the streets so far discussed, in the heyday of southern Kensington. (fn. 179) In The Boltons the 26 houses in 'normal' occupation on the night of the census contained in all 87 members of the owners' families, outnumbered by the 97 servants (including in the latter two governesses). Among the servants were four butlers and two coachmen. Five heads of households were widows, five were merchants, active or retired, and two clergymen. The others whose designation is known included one industrialist (a brickmaker), a civil engineer, two landowners, a house-property owner, a shipowner and broker, a magistrate, a retired servant of the East India Company and an artist.

On the eastern side of The Little Boltons the 16 houses in normal occupation accommodated 57 members of the 'family' and 48 servants, including one butler and two governesses but no coachmen. Four heads of households were widows, two were barristers, two active or retired merchants, one an industrialist (a brewer), one a 'dealer', one a clerk in a public office, one a civil engineer, one was of no profession, two were architects and one was a professor of music. (One of the architects, William Harvey, aged thirty, had a family of six brothers and sisters living with him.)

In Gilston Road 27 houses had a lower ratio of servants again, accommodating 94 'family' and 53 servants, including one butler and no governesses or coachmen. Two of the houses had lodgers in them. Otherwise the type of occupant was rather similar. The largest single class of head of household was again the widow (five). There were two army officers (one a lieutenant-general), again one industrialist (a bootmaker), two merchants and one civil engineer. There were two architects. Four declared themselves 'of no profession', 'independent', or 'gentleman'. There were two surgeons (one retired from the East India Company), a stockbroker, a ship and insurance broker, a 'mercantile clerk', and a thirty-twoyear-old 'student at law'. There was again a slight representation of the humanities with an author and botanist (Robert Fortune) at No. 9. At No. 13 the owner was secretary to a goldmining company and at No. 43 a restaurant proprietor.

At the 12 terrace houses in normal occupation in Priory Walk the situation was rather different. There 55 'family' lived with 16 servants, although this ratio was distorted by the unusual establishment at No. 7, where the head, a professor of fencing, had nine of his family living with him and no servants at all. Apart from four female heads of households Priory Walk seems to have attracted the 'clerk' — doubtless of the top-hatted Victorian rather than the billycock-hatted Edwardian status.

In none of these streets was any house in the occupation of more than one family.

Testimony, of a kind, to the respectability of this area in 1871 is the presence at No. 14 Harley Gardens in 1870–2 of 'Sir Roger Charles D. Tichborne', that is, Arthur Orton of Wapping, who was then pursuing his sensational claim to the baronetcy until its collapse in court in March 1872. He and his family of five occupied the house with a young lady's-companion, a butler, a nurse and three other servants. The 'Claimant' was 'bravely championed by the tradespeople in the neighbourhood'. (fn. 180)


  • 54. R.B.
  • 55. R.B. P.O.D.
  • 56. Ibid., 1808/8/323: K.P.L., sale particulars, ut supra.
  • 57. K..P.L., MS. 58/5630.
  • 58. Samuel Johnson, Lives of the English Poets, with an introduction by L. Archer-Hind, 2 vols. (Everyman Library), [n.d.], vol. 2, p. 22.
  • 59. The Parish Registers of Kensington from A.D. 1539toA.D. 1675, ed. F. N. Macnamara and A. Story-Maskelyne, 1890, p. 36.
  • 60. Ibid., p. 40.
  • 61. G.L.R.O., MR/TH/3.
  • 62. P.R.O., E179/252/32, book 40.
  • 63. G.L.R.O., MR/TH/40, 93: K.P.L., MS. 58/5630.
  • 64. K.P.L., MS. 63/1379, p. 172.
  • 65. M.D.R. 1723/6/102–3.
  • 66. Ibid., 1730/6/231.
  • 67. National Monuments Record, BB67/737.
  • 68. M.D.R. 1723/6/101–3: K.P.L., MS. 58/5630.
  • 69. K.P.L., MSS. 58/5630, 63/1379.
  • 70. M.D.R. 1735/4/61–2: G.L.R.O., Mddx. MS. 131(3).
  • 71. M.D.R. 1739/2/50–1; 1739/3/328.
  • 72. Ibid., 1749/2/439–40.
  • 73. Ibid., 1751/1/644–5.
  • 74. Ibid., 1762/1/347.
  • 75. Ibid., 1810/7/183.
  • 76. G.L.R.O., Print Collection, no. 14720.
  • 77. The Journal of Beatrix Potter from 1881 to 1897, transcribed by Leslie Linder, 1966, p. 56.
  • 78. D.S.R. 1871/36.
  • 79. R.B.: Boase.
  • 80. M.D.R. 1864/8/682.
  • 81. R.B.: POD.: Boase.
  • 82. O.S. sheets X/8 and X 9, 1867.
  • 83. R.B.: Richard Fawkes, Dion Boucicault, 1979, pp. 144–5.
  • 84. B. 18 Jul. 1863, p. 523.
  • 85. M.B.W. 928, no. 14, 8 Aug. 1866, plan of Redcliffe Estate.
  • 86. O.S. sheets X 8 and X 9, 1894–6.
  • 87. Corbett Letters, xvii, 375; xxi, 75, 116, 194, 695, 972.
  • 88. K.P.L., cutting from The Cycling World Illustrated, 24 June 1896, pp. 337–8.
  • 89. R.B.: Boase: Vincent Orchard, Tattersalls, 1953, pp. 256–'9.
  • 90. R.B.: M.D.R. 1805 1 778.
  • 91. R.B.: P.O.D.: Plan of…. Kensington, published by Thomas Starling, 1822.
  • 92. M.D.R. 1810/3/568.
  • 93. Thomas Faulkner, An Historical and Topographical Description of Chelsea and its Environs, 1810.
  • 94. M.D.R. 1810/3/569.
  • 95. Ibid., 1810/3 570; 1812/2 781; 1813/6/250.
  • 96. Ibid., 1813/3/54.
  • 97. Burhe's Landed Gentry, 18th ed., vol. i, 1965.
  • 98. The Morning Herald, 14 Aug. 1820: K.P.L., GC2420.
  • 99. G.L.C., Legal and Parliamentary Dept., Conveyancing (Records) Division, Bousfield School site, Docket 26551, lease 15 Nov. 1836, Gunter to Nixon: K.P.L., MS. 63 13337, p. 208 (insertion).
  • 100. M.D.R. 1838/3/501.
  • 101. J. and J. A. Venn, Alumni Canlabrigienses.
  • 102. K.P.L., K70/171.
  • 103. M.D.R. 1857/10/162 (schedule): R.B.: P.O.D.
  • 104. R.B.: K.P.L., MS. 63/13349, p. 232 (insertion).
  • 105. R.B.: P.O.D.: K.P.L., K60 18: G.L.R.O., H4/PB/E2/1.
  • 106. 1 Geo. IV, c. 34, private: M.D.R. 1820/ 5/652.
  • 107. M.D.R. 1836/7/201.
  • 108. Ibid., sub Robert Gunter.
  • 109. Ibid., 1846/6/181, 552; 1852/1/960.
  • 110. British Telecom, Conveyancing Dept., deeds re Earl's Court Telephone Exchange, photocopy of will of Robert Gunter.
  • 111. C.C., file 20641.
  • 112. D.S.R. 1850/191–4, 275–8.
  • 113. Ibid., 1853/14–17, 42.
  • 114. M.C.S. 292/114.
  • 115. D.S.R. 1854 172–3.
  • 116. B. 13 Jan. 1855, p. 24.
  • 117. M.D.R. 1855/2/281.
  • 118. Ibid., 1851/12/995; 1851/13/495: PRO., HO 107/1473, f. 475.
  • 119. M.D.R. 1852 9 556–7; 1854/10/846; 1854/12 1033–4; 1854/17/404.
  • 120. Ibid., 1852/1287–8; 1852/10/761; 1852/12/214, 971; 1853/2/313.
  • 121. Ibid., 1852/1/285–6; 1852/7/823–4.
  • 122. Ibid., 1851/13/45; 1852/3/422.
  • 123. Ibid., 1852/13/330–1.
  • 124. Ibid., 1851/12/843–5; 1851/14/25; 1852/5/61–4.
  • 125. M.C.S. 291/586: D.S.R. 1850/208–9, 230–1, 261–2, 283–4.
  • 126. M.D.R. 1852/1 289–91, 959; 1857/10/162 (schedule).
  • 127. Ibid., 1851/12/995; 1851/13/495.
  • 128. Ibid., 1853/11/908–10.
  • 129. See M.D.R. 1846–51, index, Gunter to Harding (Chelsea).
  • 130. M.D.R. 1851/12 835–42; 1852/1/961–2; 1852/4/815–16; 1852/8/713–14; 1852/16/705.
  • 131. D.S.R. 1851/74–81, 351–7.
  • 132. P.R.O., HO 107/1472–3.
  • 133. M.D.R. 1851/12/995; 1851/13/495.
  • 134. F. M. L. Thompson, Hampstead: Building a Borough 1650–1964, 1974, pp. 276–88: Donald J. Olsen, The Growth of Victorian London, 1976, pp. 257, 260–2.
  • 135. P.O.D
  • 136. M.C.S. 292 353v
  • 137. Ibid., 290 226; 292 289, 353: D.S.R. 1850 291–2.248–301, 349–50; 1851 74–81. X3–4, 190–1, 324–5, 351–7.
  • 138. B. 4 Sept. 1875. p. 791.
  • 139. M.D.R. 1851 12 835–42: 1852 4 815–16, 961–2; 1852 8 713–14; 1852 16 705.
  • 140. Ibid., 1856 14 433.
  • 141. Ibid., 1857 9 659; 1857 11 821; 1857 15 384, 386; 1859 16 58, 60; 1860 1 782, 1861 1 878–83.
  • 142. POD.: Boast.
  • 143. M.D.R. 1860 I 782
  • 144. The Estates Gazette, 1 May 1861, p. 194.
  • 145. Ibid., 16 Aug. 1858, p. 13.
  • 146. G.L.R.O. Mddx. Acc. 208 2
  • 147. Arundel Castle Muniments, 14th Duke's Correspondence (Undated Letters), 12 Jan [1853?], J. Hughes to Earl of Arundel.
  • 148. Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Town Planning case 16410, Frere Cholmeley to Postmaster-General, 21 Oct. 1937.
  • 149. Ealing Town Hall, ratebooks 1847–54: M.D.R. 1847 10 314, 1849 8 423.
  • 150. John Summerson, ‘The London Suburban Villa’, in The Architectural Review, vol. 104, Aug. 1948, p. 67 (Plate ).
  • 151. Cl. M.D.R. 1853 6 467–8 and M.D.R. I851 7 256; 1853 13 513; 1854 10 846; 1857 14 804; 1859 16 5X. 1862 10 11.
  • 152. Cl. M.D.R. 1853 6 467–8 and M.D.R. 18517 256; 1853 2 313.
  • 153. B. II June 1859. p. 400
  • 154. K.P.L., applications to Vestry from M.B.W., no. 439.
  • 155. M.D.R. 1862 1 349–50; 1862 2 932–3; 1862 15 511–12; 1862 19 138; 1863 4 555; 1863 9 579–80; 1863 12 39–40.
  • 156. Ibid., see index. R. Gunter to Bradley, 1863 onward (Chelsea).
  • 157. Corbett Letters., xix, 209, 214.
  • 158. M.D.R. 1854 12 1036; 1857 1 186, 801–2; 1858 6 461; 1862 15 650
  • 159. British Telecom, Conveyancing Dept., deeds re Earl's Court Telephone Exchange, abstract of title to Sidmouth Lodge
  • 160. The Times, 19 Sept. 1905, p. 4c.
  • 161. M.D.R. 1853 9 321–2; 1854 2 1021–2.
  • 162. Ibid., 1854 10 846; 1854 12 1033–4, 1854 17 404.
  • 163. Ibid., 1852 7 823.
  • 164. Ibid., 1855 8 146–7 R.B
  • 165. M.D.R 1857 10 162 (schedule) R.B.
  • 166. M.C.S 297.
  • 167. M.D.R. 1857 3 783; 1867 17 65–6, 1867 19 564–5.
  • 168. Ibid., 1857 14 884, 1858 5 102; 1858 6 593–4; 1858 9 14–15; 1859 2 954–6; 1859 4 579.
  • 169. Ibid., 1862 10 11–12, 1862 13 460–3; 1862 18 806–7; 1864 13 243–8; 1865 3 103–4.
  • 170. Ibid. 1869 19 685.
  • 171. POD. P.R.O. RG 10 53. ff. 73–7.
  • 172. M.D.R. 1859 4 933–4; 1X60 9 15–19; 1863 16 913–14; 1865 3 105–7; 1866 17 333.
  • 173. B. 20 Jan. 1883. p. 93.
  • 174. M.D.R. 1863 10 281–2, 604–10; 1864 7 239–42: G.L.R.O. C 84 1, 81.
  • 175. The Journal of Beatrix Potter from 1881 to 1897, transcribed by Leslie Linder, 1966, p. 196.
  • 176. G.L.R.O., C 84 3.83.
  • 177. The Journal of Beatrix Potter, ut supra, pp. xv, xvi: The Linder Collection of the Works and Drawings of Beatrix Potter, 1971, p. 30.
  • 178. M.B.W. 22502.
  • 179. P.R.O., RG 10 53. ff'. 52–3, 55–7, 64–6, 73–83.
  • 180. POD.: The South London Press, 17 Aug. 1872.