Kensington Square and environs: Individual houses (east side)

Pages 11-16

Survey of London: Volume 42, Kensington Square To Earl's Court. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1986.

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In this section

Kensington Square: Individual Houses

East side

No. 1. The Greyhound. The earliest known reference to this public house by name is in 1710, when ‘Benjamin Jackman at the Greyhound Tavern in Kensington Square’ took out an insurance policy for his goods; (fn. 37) but the establishment of licensed premises on this site probably goes back to at least 1697, when Jackman, a licensed victualler by trade, first took up residence here. (fn. 18) The houses which he then ocupied, and which survived until c. 1899, had been built in the mid 1680s by the bricklayer Henry Webb, to whom Thomas Young granted a fifty-one-year lease in June 1685. (fn. 38) By April 1686 it had been let to an unknown tenant for about £30 a year. (fn. 39)

In 1686 Young sold the freehold to a gentleman living in Fulham (who also bought up Webb's leasehold interest) (fn. 40) and until 1796, when the licensee in occupation acquired a quarter share in the freehold, (fn. 41) the owners of The Greyhound were non-resident and unconnected with the licensed victuallers' trade of their tenants. In 1805 the freehold was bought by two brewers, Harvey Christian Combe and Joseph Delafield, (fn. 42) whose present-day successors, Watney Mann, still own the property.

During the eighteenth century the courts of the manor of Earl's Court were sometimes held at The Greyhound. (fn. 43)

The house erected by Webb was a modest two-storey brick building with a steep tiled roof, dormer windows and closets at the rear (Plate 8a). Some time between 1714 and 1730 a ‘timber apartment’ was added at the back—possibly the weather-boarded closet wing shown in a watercolour of 1890. (fn. 44) Another addition, probably of the early nineteenth century, was a porch supported on slim (possibly iron) columns, on top of which were two stone greyhounds. (fn. n1) In the 1880s an inhabitant of the square thought the house was in much the same state as when first built: ‘the rooms are but little altered; the fireplaces are in the angles, and there are the remains of an old skittle alley’. (fn. 46)

In 1898 news of the impending demolition of the old building prompted a perceptive appreciation from the Builder's Journal. ‘The Greyhound is said to be about 350 years old, but we may knock off about 150 years off this without doing any great damage to probability. It presents all the features of those plain, substantial, roomy, and comfortable domestic buildings, free from all architectural affectation, which began to rise up in the latter half of the seventeenth century, and continued to be built, with very little departure from the early type, until nearly the end of the following century.’ (fn. 47)

The present building, described as ‘a commonplace gin palace’ by the novelist Angela Thirkell, (fn. 48) who as a child had lived next door to its predecessor, was erected in 1899. The architect was a Mr. Dobb, doubtless Henry William Dobb of the firm of Borer and Dobb, and the contractors were the building department of John Barker and Company. (fn. 49) In 1977 the fabric was badly damaged in a gas explosion (fn. 50) but has been reinstated.

Nos. 2 and 3. This building was erected in 1874–5 as a combined stable entrance (at No. 2) and coachman's house (at No. 3) for Baron Grant's Kensington House (see page 62), and is now the only part of that short-lived monument to megalomania still to survive. (fn. 51) The architect was presumably James Knowles junior, the designer of Kensington House, while the contractors were Thorne and Company of Cremorne Wharf, Chelsea. (fn. 52) Built of grey brick with dour Italianate dressings of Bath stone from Coombe Down (now painted), it presents a lopsided front to the square, in part because of the uneven spacing of the windows. The front was originally finished with a stone balustrade, replaced since 1938 by a solid parapet. The archway (Plate 8a), whose heavy wooden gates remain, formerly led through to a range of generous, well-appointed stabling containing sixteen stalls and four loose boxes, a large coach-house and a lofty clock tower. (fn. 53) These back premises survived the demolition of Kensington House in 1882, and were not pulled down until the early 1950s.

The two houses which originally occupied this site were both erected in the late 1680s, No. 2 by a bricklayer, William Jay, and No. 3 by a joiner, Thomas Woodward, who was also involved in the building of No. 19. (fn. 54) The first occupant of No. 2, from 1689 to 1692, was Charles Hellow, ‘citizen and haberdasher’, and the first occupant of No. 3, from 1687 to 1688, was a Mr. Tyringham. (fn. 55) No. 3 is known to have been a two-storey house having two rooms on each floor, a basement and roof garrets. (fn. 56) In 1799 it was purchased by a local builder and carpenter Jonathan Hamston, but there is no positive evidence that he altered the house. (fn. 57) The Ordnance Survey map of 1869–72 shows a passageway between the houses with an arched entrance into the square under the upper storeys of No. 3. This led to a court of small houses behind the east side of Young Street known at the time as Shephard's or Shepherd's Gardens after John Shephard (owner of No. 3 from 1844 to 1865 (fn. 58) ), but previously called Russell Place or Russell Rents. This court was built up no later than 1830 and demolished by Baron Grant in about 1873. (fn. 59)

Other occupants include: No. 2. Barton Parkinson Hall, solicitor, 1801–49 (also at No. 3, 1832–45); No. 3. Richard Chase, esquire, 1762–86 (when he moved to No. 7); Barton Robert Hall, Vestry Clerk, 1845–54; Alexis Soyer, chef, 1851; Henry Mayhew, ?author and philanthropist, 1858–61.

No. 4. This tall narrow-fronted house, made rather ungainly by the later addition of an over-large top storey, was built in 1837–8 for Edward Leech Leake, esquire, the occupier and, since 1832, freehold owner of the previous house on the site. (fn. 60) That house was probably the original one erected in 1685–6 by a James Selway, about whom nothing is known, and first inhabited in 1692. (fn. 61)

Before it was heightened the present house rose through four storeys over a basement, having a plain front of greyish stock brick. Marks in the brickwork show that it may originally have had a verandah at first-floor level. Neither the architect nor the builder is known. J. J. Merriman's comment in the 1880s that Leake's rebuilding represented the ‘first break in the line of houses in The Square’ (fn. 62) seems to mean no more than that it was the first of the obviously nineteenth-century intrusions. At least five houses (Nos. 7,9,27,41 and 42) had been rebuilt by 1837, all of them in a late-Georgian style.

The top storey, which is finished with a quasi-pediment, was added in either 1875 or 1883, unspecified ‘additions’ to the house being recorded in both years. (fn. 63)

Occupants include: John Kendall, candle manufacturer, 1802–19 (when he moved to No. 28); Henry Hob-house, M.P. and Chairman of Somerset County Council, 1881–90.

Nos. 5 and 6. Both these houses have tall, gabled, redbrick fronts in the ‘Queen Anne’ style. That at No. 5 is a refronting of an existing house in 1876, while No. 6 is a complete rebuilding of 1877. Both works were carried out to the designs of Goldie and Child, who had their office in the square. The freehold owner of the houses was John Horne Payne, (fn. 64) a barrister living at No. 20, for whom No. 16 was also rebuilt to Goldie and Child's designs at the same time. (fn. 65) (Horne's monogram H. P. and the date 1876 appear on the front of No. 5) At all three houses Payne employed the same local firm of builders, Lucas and Sons of St. James's House in James Place (now Thackeray Street). (fn. 66)

In 1883 £7,000 was being sought for the freehold of No. 5, which was said to comprise nine bedrooms, bath-room, double drawing-room, boudoir, dining- and morning-rooms, library and the usual offices. (fn. 67) No. 6, a much narrower house with only a twenty-foot frontage, contains basically two rooms per floor separated by a central, laterally positioned staircase. On the ground floor the front room was originally designated a library and the back room a dining-room. (fn. 68)

Both houses were for many years occupied as ware-houses by John Barker and Company, who purchased the freeholds in 1919 (No. 5) and 1922 (No. 6). The interiors are now largely devoid of interest. (fn. 69)

The original No. 5, parts of which may survive vestigially in the present building, was erected in 1686–7 under a fifty-one-year lease dated 1 July 1686 granted by Thomas Young to the masons Nicholas and John Young (evidently no relation). (fn. 70) It was one of the houses purchased from Young by Thomas Sutton in 1687 (see page 8); in 1691 Sutton sold it to John Gibson, a joiner of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. (fn. 71)

A particular interest attaches to No. 5 as one of the houses in the square known to have been first occupied by a royal servant in order to be close to the Court and Kensington Palace. He was Adam Lisney, a Groom of the Bedchamber to William III, who ‘by reason of his post [being] obliged often to wait on the court at Kensington and for better and more easy performancing his service and doing his duty made an enquiry after a convenient house fore his residence’; and finding that No. 5 ‘would suit his purpose’ came to an agreement with Gibson's widow to lease the house for three years from 1695 at £20 a year. (fn. 72) Lisney remained at No. 5 until about 1733 (when he removed to No. 8), spending, he claimed, large sums of money on fitting up and repairing the house and garden, the latter being in a ‘ruinous’ state and ‘very much out of repair’ when he first moved in. (fn. 73) Eighteenth-century insurance records show that the house had two closet wings at the back. (fn. 74)

In the 1690s a number of royal servants lodged with Lisney, among them the courtier and poet Sir Fleetwood Sheppard, Usher of the Black Rod, and Robert Spencer, second Earl of Sunderland, the Lord Chamberlain, whom the Dictionary of National Biography stigmatizes as ‘the craftiest, most rapacious, and most unscrupulous of the politicians of his age’. The cost of their lodgings was paid for by the Treasury. One of the chaplains-in-waiting to the Court had lodgings with Lisney in 1706. (fn. 75)

At the adjoining No. 6 the original house on the site was erected under a fifty-one-year lease granted in 1685 to William Ford, a glazier, and first inhabited in 1696 by a Madam Burroughs, who lived there until 1703. (fn. 76) It was one of several houses in the square and Young Street sold by Young to Francis Butler of St. Bride's in the City, gentleman, and the freehold remained in the ownership of Butler's heirs until 1746. (fn. 77) William Herbert, Viscount Montgomery and later third Marquess of Powis, was occupying No. 6 in the mid 1730s. (fn. 78)

No. 7 is now essentially a house of 1808–9. But certain vestiges of an earlier type of house-plan show that it was not then rebuilt in its entirety. The original house, described as ‘new built’ in 1686 and first inhabited in about 1689, had been erected by Charles Woodfield, a painter, presumably operating under a lease from Thomas Young. (fn. 79) Like several other houses in the square, it had two closet wings. (fn. 80) By 1702 the freehold was in the hands of William Pannett, a local butcher, who in 1708 sold the house to John Partridge, a goldsmith in Cheapside. (fn. 81) Partridge (in 1713 Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths' Company) lived here from 1708 until his death in 1719. (fn. 82)

The remodelling of the house in 1808–9—reflected in a threefold rise in its rateable value over this period—was carried out by Richard Chase, esquire, of Horsted Place in Sussex, whose family had lived at No. 7 since 1787 and who bought the freehold in 1805. (fn. 83) It is not known whom he employed for his architect and builder. Chase continued to live in the house until 1820. (fn. 18)

Apart from a period in the 1850s and ‘60s when it was a school for young ladies, No. 7 remained in undivided private occupation until 1945. (fn. 84) In 1948 it was converted to staff flats by John Barker and Company for letting to ‘senior ladies’. (fn. 85)

It is a large double-fronted house nearly forty feet wide, comprising a basement, three main storeys and an attic and faced in stucco. To judge from the ground storey, the whole front elevation was once five windows wide, but at some point the fenestration of the first and second storeys was changed to four windows. The fanlight over the front door and the iron balcony which runs across the length of the front at first-floor level may be attributed to the alterations of 1808–9, but whether the change in fenestration and the stuccoing of the front took place then or at a later stage cannot certainly be said. As the window dressings and the iron railings to the area appear to date from 1850–60, it is possible that the enlargement of the windows took place at that time also. The rear of the house is also wholly stuccoed, and here most of the windows still retain their early-nineteenth-century character and narrow glazing bars.

Inside, the house has a centrally positioned entrance hall, but the plan (fig. 3) is not fully symmetrical, the rear rooms on the north side having been enlarged and extended when the house was remodelled. On the south side the full-height closet wing is probably a survival from the original late-seventeenth-century house, as are also some corner chimney flues.

Figure 3:

No. 7 Kensington Square, ground- and first-floor plans, before conversion to flats

The best parts of the interior are the early-nineteenth-century entrance hall and staircase, both of which have a modillion cornice. The former is divided into an inner and an outer hall by a set of internal double doors under an elegant semi-circular fanlight containing a hexagonal lantern. Between the inner hall and the staircase is an arched opening supported on pairs of fluted pilasters decorated at the top with lion-head masks. The staircase itself, in a semi-circular bow at the back, extends in one continuous, elegant sweep from the ground floor to the top of the house, and in its final flight sails over the well unsupported by the walls (fig. 4). The slim mahogany handrail and plain square section balusters conform to the standard pattern, but the tread-ends are prettily decorated with Gothick arches, acorns and quatrefoils (Plate 18a). Some of the doorways opening off the hall and staircase have reeded architraves with lion-head masks at the corners.

No. 7 is the only house on the east side of the square still to retain a back garden. This is now only a fraction of its size in the early nineteenth century when it included a sizeable portion of what is now the west side of Kensington Court.

Other occupants include: Sir Hele Hook, bart., 1694–1706 (when he moved to No. 23); John Shephard, Registrar of the Diocese of London, 1836–47; James Nathaniel Merriman, medical attendant to the Royal Family and Apothecary Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1847–54; Sir John Macneill, civil engineer, 1868–71; Col. Sir Thomas Gore-Brown, Colonial Governor, 1876–87.

Nos. 8–10 (Abbotts Court). This block of flats over shops with a longer return front to Thackeray Street was built in 1901–2 (see page 53).

When the site was first developed in the mid 1680s two houses were built here, each having a frontage of some forty feet. The northern house, No. 8, was erected by William Barnett, carpenter, of St James's, Westminster. He had a fifty-one-year building lease from Thomas Young, and while the house was still under construction he purchased the freehold. To finance the building Barnett borrowed £200 (secured on mortgage) from Elizabeth Monteth, the widow of a London merchant. This proved insufficient and Mrs. Monteth agreed to lend a further £100 to be paid in two instalments of £50 each, the first when the house was covered and the floors laid, and the second when it was finished and let. The first payment was made in January 1687. But Barnett seemed in no hurry to complete the house, although ‘he doubted not when he had done so it would let for £50 a year’, and it was unfinished in November 1687 when Mrs. Monteth brought an action against him in Chancery to recover her loan and the outstanding interest. Barnett, in his defence, claimed that he had been unable to complete the house because Mrs. Monteth, whom he had not expected to be ‘soe rigorous with him in pressing for her money’, had withheld the last £50. (fn. 86)

The Court ordered Barnett to repay the sums owing to Mrs. Monteth—plus the interest and the costs of her action—by July 1691 or forfeit the equity of redemption in the mortgage. But he evidently failed to do so, for the freehold of No. 8 passed into the ownership of Mrs. Monteth, who hereself occupied the house from 1692 until her death in 1695. (fn. 87)

Several residents of No. 8 claim attention. The earliest, rated for the houses in 1691 only, was a Mr. Worthington, probably James Worthington, First Page of the Bed-chamber to Queen Mary. (fn. 18) Between 1695 and 1703 the occupant was Dr. Thomas Lamplugh, D.D., son of Archbishop Lamplugh of York, and (according to Thomas Hearne) ‘a little sneaking stingy self-interested fellow who 'tis said hinder'd his father from many good works which he was naturally inclin'd to do’. (fn. 88) Another royal servant, Adam Lisney, a Groom of the Great Chamber, who had previously occupied No. 5, moved to No. 8 about 1733. (fn. 89) When he died in 1741, aged over ninety, an obituary described him as the ‘eldest servant under the Crown, having had his Place almost ever since the Restoration’. (fn. 90) The portrait painter George Knapton lived at No. 8 from 1771 until his death in December 1778. (fn. 91)

Sale particulars of the house in 1881 describe it as ‘a very convenient old fashioned residence’ of three storeys above a basement containing, on the ground floor, a large entrance hall with stairs at the back, a front drawing-room communicating with a back dining-room, a small sitting-room opening on to a large artist's studio and a breakfast-room. (fn. 92) The studio had doubtless been built for the painter John Collingham Moore, who occupied the house from 1868 to 1877. (fn. 93) Another minor painter, David Carr, exhibited from No. 8 from 1882 onwards, at a time when his brother Jonathan Carr was busy developing Kensington Court immediately to the east. (fn. 94)

Nothing is known of the early building history of the former No. 9. The house appears to have been first inhabited from 1694 to 1697 by Lady Mary Kirke, widow of Percy Kirke, one of the most noted of William III's army commanders. (fn. 18) Lady Mary, the recipient of ‘Royal Bounty’, had her rent paid by the Treasury. (fn. 95)

By 1701 the freehold was in the hands of Benjamin Drake of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a former Groom of the Wardrobe, who occupied the house himself from 1707 to 1715 (when he moved to No. 22). (fn. 96) In 1785 the old house was purchased by Richard Payne of Gerrard Street, Soho, Doctor of Physic, who pulled it down and erected two new houses on the site. (fn. 97) Numbered 9 and 10, they were of unequal size, the smaller No. 9 having a frontage of under twenty feet. No. 10 was first inhabited from 1787 by Payne himself, who at the time of his death, in 1813, owned six freeholds in the square, on the east, south and north sides. (fn. 98)

Figure 4:

No. 7 Kensington Square, plan and sections of the staircase

In the 1860s the two houses were united in the occupation of Henry Hall Dixon, the sporting writer known as ‘The Druid’. Dixon took up residence at No. 10 in 1863, and occupied both houses from 1864 to 1868. (fn. 99)

He was succeeded in 1868 by the architect George Goldie, who was to obtain several commissions for work in the square, beginning in 1870 with a chapel for the Convent of the Assumption. Goldie occupied the united house - then numbered 9 - as his private residence, but from 1870 his firm, Goldie and Child, is listed in directories at ‘No. 10 Kensington Square’. (fn. 93) Possibly the firm had an office at the back where there is known to have been a ‘Long Drawing Office’ and a separate entrance from James Place. (fn. 53) Sale particulars of 1879 treat Goldie's house as a single dwelling house described as ‘Brick Built with Slated Roof and Compoed Front’, and containing four storeys over a basement. The only clue to its having been formerly two houses was the presence of two staircases both rising from the basement. (fn. 53)

George Goldie lived at the house until his death in 1887 and his architect son Edward continued there until 1889. The firm of Goldie and Child - from 1878, Goldie, Child and Goldie were at ‘No. 10’ until 1892, being succeeded until 1898 by Edward Goldie alone. (fn. 93)


  • n1. When the old building was demolished the then headless greyhounds were removed to the forecourt of No. 36 Kensington Square. One was later taken to No. 19, where it was still to be found (with a restored head) in 1953: it is now, reportedly, somewhere in East Grinstead. The other has disappeared.
  • 18. R. B.
  • 35. Kensington News, 8 Nov. 1946.
  • 37. Guildhall Library, MS. 11936/1, p. 50 (569).
  • 38. P.R.O., C8/552/59.
  • 39. Ibid., C8/324/83.
  • 40. Ibid., C8/324/83; C8/552/59.
  • 41. M.D.R. 1796/3/611.
  • 42. Ibid., 1805/3/527.
  • 43. E.C.R., 25 May 1726: M.D.R. 1756/3/467.
  • 44. Guildhall Library, MS. 8674/13, p. 622; /41, p. 22; /77, p. 224: watercolour of No. 27 Young Street by Sir Philip Burne-Jones, reproduced in Angela Thirkell, Three Houses, 1931, opp. p. 28.
  • 45. Ponsonby, p. 104: Angela Thirkell, op. cit., p. 39: photograph of 10 March 1953 in possession of the G.L.C., Historic Buildings Division: information kindly supplied by Mrs. G. Christiansen.
  • 46. J. J. Merriman, Notes on Kensington Square, 1887, p. 22n.
  • 47. Builder's Journal and Architectural Record, 21 Sept. 1898, p. 105.
  • 48. Angela Thirkell, op.cit., p. 39.
  • 49. University of Glasgow, House of Fraser Archives, HF8/1/ 2, May 1899: D.S.R. 1899/14.
  • 50. The Daily Telegraph, 11 April 1977.
  • 51. D.S.R. 1874/208: G.L.R.O., Acc. 54.105.
  • 52. D.S.R. 1874/208.
  • 53. G.L.R.O., Acc. 54.105.
  • 54. P.R.O., C8/552/59: M.D.R. 1794/5/468.
  • 55. R.B.: P.R.O., PROB 11/409, f. 86.
  • 56. Berkshire Record Office, D/E Sv (M) F 131.
  • 57. M.D.R. 1799/1/172.
  • 58. Ibid., 1844/1/702.
  • 59. K.P.L., MS. 12423.
  • 60. J.J. Merriman, op. cit., p. 6: R.B.: M.D.R. 1832/4/544.
  • 61. P.R.O, C8/647/44: R.B.
  • 62. J.J. Merriman, op. cit., p. 6.
  • 63. D.S.R. 1875/38; 1883/149.
  • 64. M.D.R. 1875/27/44–55; 1878/13/516.
  • 65. B.N. 20 April 1877, pp. 384–5.
  • 66. D.S.R. 1876/3; 1879/93; 1877/20.
  • 67. G.L.R.O., Acc. 64.72.
  • 68. M.D.R. 1878/13/516.
  • 69. University of Glasgow, House of Fraser Archives, HF8/1/ 8, Sept. 1919, Dec. 1922: P.O.D.
  • 70. P.O.D.: P.R.O., C8/647/44.
  • 71. P.R.O., C8/647/44; C7/66/12.
  • 72. Ibid., C5/618/105.
  • 73. R.B.: P.R.O., C5/618/105.
  • 74. Guildhall Library, MS. 8674/62, p. 279 (55324).
  • 75. Calendar of Treasury Books, vol. 13 (1697–8), 1933, pp. 348, 379; vol. 14 (1698–9), 1934, p. 244; vol. 21, part II (1706–7), 1952, p. 336.
  • 76. P.R.O., E 134/7 Geo. 2/E12; C8/647/44: R.B.
  • 77. P.R.O., C54/4654, no. 15: M.D.R. 1746/2/791–2.
  • 78. R.B.: M.D.R. 1746/2/791.
  • 79. P.R.O., C54/4654, no. 15: R.B.
  • 80. Guildhall Library, MS. 8674/3, p. 167 (6270).
  • 81. K.P.L., 63/1379, p. 185, Mr. William Pannett's deed: Guildhall Library, MS. 8674/3, p. 167 (6270).
  • 82. Information kindly supplied by Mr. David Beasley of Goldsmiths’ Hall Library: P.R.O., PROB 11/568, ff. 33–35: R.B.
  • 83. M.D.R. 1805/5/172: R.B.
  • 84. R.B.: P.O.D.
  • 85. B.R. 67302: T.P. 42353: The Kenbar (house magazine of the Barker's group), vol. 2(2), July 1951, p. 11.
  • 86. P.R.O., C9/336/4; C78/1645/7.
  • 87. Ibid., C78/1645/7; PROB 11/425 ff. 276–7: R.B.: M.D.R. 1767/1/353–4.
  • 88. D.N.B.: Remarks and Collections of Thomas Hearne, Vol. 2 (1707–10), ed. C. E. Doble, Oxford Historical Society, 1886, p. 48.
  • 89. R.B.: M.D.R. 1734/2/328.
  • 90. London Magazine, vol. x, 1741, p. 621.
  • 91. R.B.: D.N.B.: P.R.O., PROB 11/1048, ff. 191–2.
  • 92. G.L.R.O., Acc. 64.72.
  • 93. P.O.D.
  • 94. Algernon Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts, A Complete Dictionary of Contributors. . ., 1905, vol. 1, sub Carr.
  • 95. Calendar of Treasury Books, vol. 11 (1696–7), 1933, pp. 190, 197, 378; vol. 12 (1697–8), 1933, p. 287.
  • 96. Hand-in-Hand Insurance Company, policy register 1, policy 1532 (in possession of the Commercial Union Assurance Company): R.B.: M.D.R. 1751/2/583.
  • 97. M.D.R. 1786/2/39: R.B.
  • 98. R.B.: P.R.O., PROB 11/1542, ff. 425–29.
  • 99. P.O.D.: J. B. Booth, Bits of Character. A Life of Henry Hall Dixon, ‘The Druid’, 1936, pp. 54, 235.