Survey of London: Volume 42, Kensington Square To Earl's Court. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1986.
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Nos. 11 and 12. These two well-preserved houses - the only ones in the square to merit a description in the volumes of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (fn. 100) - were built as a pair, probably in the first year or two of the eighteenth century. The earliest mention of either of them is in 1702, when No. 12 was described as ‘a new house not inhabited’. (fn. 101) In their outward appearance they exhibit more fully than any of the other houses in the square some of the features usually thought of as characteristic of the William and Mary or Queen Anne period. This is particularly evident in the hipped roof with its dormer windows and modillioned eaves cornice. Equally characteristic are the enriched shell-shaped hoods over the two front doors, though that at No. 12 is a replacement (Plate 4a, fig. 5).
Built on what in the 1690s was called a ‘parcel of waste’, (fn. 1) both houses stand outside the original limits of the square as conceived by Thomas Young in 1685, and this is probably the reason why they project forward some twelve feet from the line of house fronts on the south side of the square. In an early document No. 11 is described as being in a ‘passage’ (now represented by Thackeray Street) leading out of the south-east corner of the square. (fn. 102) The ground here was among the properties mortgaged by Young to Thomas Sutton in 1687 (see page 8), and it was from Sutton that the builder of Nos. 11 and 12, William Partridge, purchased the site in 1693. (fn. 1) A locksmith and ironmonger by trade, Partridge lived in a house of his own building on the north side of the square, where he died in 1714.
Building work on Nos. 11 and 12 probably did not begin until about 1700. They must have been finished or nearly so by 1702, for by then Partridge had sold both houses to a Colonel Thomas Taylor, but neither was inhabited before 1704. (fn. 103) At No. 11 the first occupant, until 1707, was a Madam St. John, succeeded by Colonel Taylor, who lived there until his death in 1716. No. 12 was first occupied by a Madam Campbell. She was succeeded as ratepayer from c. 1706 to 1710 by ‘Mr. Campbell’, (fn. 18) doubtless the Captain Dugall Campbell (of Colonel Mac-cartney's Regiment of Foot) who is known to have lived at No. 12 in 1707 and 1709 and was killed at the siege of Douai in 1710. (fn. 104) The next occupant of No. 12, from 1711 to 1716, was the Dowager Countess of Thanet, widow of the third Earl, who paid a rent of £30 a year. (fn. 105)
In the early years of the eighteenth century Colonel Taylor purchased the freehold of several other properties in and around Kensington Square; these included the large adjoining house at No. 13, Nos. 41 and 42 on the north side of the square, two houses in Young Street immediately to the north of the present No. 16, and various other houses eastward of No. 11 both within the present site of Esmond Court and on the east side of what is now Ansdell Street. On the death of Colonel Taylor all this property, together with his estates elsewhere in London, passed to his son, Major Thomas Taylor. (fn. 106) Major Taylor lived at No. 12 from 1717 to c. 1719, while No. 11 continued in his mother's occupation until her death in 1746. (fn. 107)
A list of some furnishings which the Major had inherited from his father and which in 1720 passed to his widowed mother gives a hint of what No. 11 had contained in Colonel Taylor's day. No colour scheme emerges from this fragmentary evidence - curtains of striped dimity, grey cloth, red silk and unspecified blue are mentioned, and tapestry hangings. The furniture, including various ‘buroes’ and ‘scrutoes’, was mostly of walnut, or sometimes oak (‘wainscot’). Some ‘Indian’ cabinets and a japanned cupboard are listed. There was a Turkey carpet and two Persian carpets in the house. Numerous glass sconces, and pier-glasses, that brightened the candle-lit rooms, are mentioned. The house contained a respectable number of books (69 folios and 296 quartos and octavos) and a great number of prints and oil paintings - nearly a hundred pictures in all. Conspicuous among these, and very apt in Kensington Square, were ‘King William and Queen Mary in carved frames’. Perhaps also referring to service by Colonel Taylor in William's wars was a field bedstead, a ‘Grenadier Under Arms painted’ and some military weapons. Other firearms, however, seem to betoken only house-security and rough shooting over the Kensington fields. Softer pleasures are indicated by two spinets, four card-tables, tea-kettle stands, a coffee mill and a marble punch bowl. (fn. 108)
Major Taylor survived his father by only four years, dying in Paris in 1720, and by his will his property was vested in trustees for the benefit of his widow, his sisters and his infant daughter. (fn. 109) But after his death ‘several questions arose … touching the estate’ which was passed into Chancery until 1744, when a private Act of Parliament appointed new trustees to make a partition of the estate between Taylor's three surviving sisters. (fn. 110) (fn. n1) As far as the Kensington properties were concerned this, for an unknown reason, did not happen, and they remained in the hands of the trustees and their descendants until the ownership was dispersed by sales at various dates between 1803 and 1805.
In the 1760s Nos. 11 and 12 were both occupied as part of the academy or drawing school established next door at No. 13 by the painter and drawing-master John Gardnor in about 1763. (fn. 18) After Gardnor's departure in 1770 the houses were again separately tenanted until 1785. Between 1771 and 1780 No. 11 was occupied by William Harvest, ‘late Writing Master and Accomptant at Mr. Rose's Academy at Chiswick and formerly Teacher of the same Branches at Mr. Eaton's in Tower Street’, who opened an academy here for the education of young gentlemen ‘in every Branch of useful and polite Literature’. In an advertisement Harvest flattered himself that ‘his long Experience in the Business, the Opportunities he has had of examining the most approved methods of teaching, and consulting the Tempers and Dispositions of Youth’ would induce his friends and the public ‘to think him not incapable of such an undertaking’. The number of boarders was to be restricted to twenty-five. (fn. 112) In 1780 Harvest moved his academy out of Kensington Square to a larger house, formerly Sir George Baker's, at South End, where it continued until about 1796. (fn. 113)
From 1785 to 1790 Nos. 11 and 12 were united again in the occupation of a Mr. Defeau. (fn. 18)
With the break-up of the former Taylor estate in the early years of the nineteenth century Nos. 11 and 12 passed for the first time into separate ownerships. No. 11 was the first to be sold, in 1803. This was acquired for £700 by John Edison of Cooper's Hall in the City, gentleman. (fn. 114) He then assigned the house to his mother, who was the occupant from 1803 to 1811. (fn. 115) She was succeeded by Jonathan Hamston, a local builder, carpenter and undertaker, who lived there from 1811 until his death in 1819. Hamston purchased the freehold, which remained in the possession of his trustees until 1844. (fn. 116)
No. 12 was sold by the heirs of the Taylor estate for £395 in 1805. The purchaser was Peter Fourmy of High Holborn, a victualler, who let the house to tenants. (fn. 117) In 1849 Fourmy's son sold it to John Ebenezer Davies of Leonard Place, Kensington, (fn. 118) who about this time also acquired No. 13, which he shortly afterwards rebuilt (see page 20).
Between 1874 and 1885 the two houses were reunited in ownership in the possession of John Horne Payne, a barrister living nearby at No. 20 (see page 25); it seems likely therefore that the uniform dressing of the front windows with stucco architraves took place during this period. (fn. 119) After 1885 the two houses were again separately owned until 1908, when they were purchased by King's College, London, to provide extra accommodation for the Ladies' Department then housed next door at No. 13. The College did not immediately take over Nos. 11 and 12, which for a few years until 1911 were tenanted by a firm of antique dealers. The Ladies' Department, renamed King's College for Women in 1908, left the square in 1915, (fn. 120) and the houses were subsequently sold. They are now once again in separate ownerships.
The two houses, which by reason of their enriched dressings and forward projection under their own hipped roof have something of the air of substantial houses in a country town, are each three bays wide and three storeys high over basements, with a garret storey in the roof. The door and window openings are vertically aligned and rather close set. The ground-floor fronts are stuccoed as is the bandcourse at first-floor level but above they are of plain brick, the second-floor level being marked by a simply moulded bandcourse returned against the face just short of the outer boundaries. The front is finished with a finely modelled cornice with egg-and-dart ovolo moulding and modillion consoles (similarly returned just short of the eastern boundary of No. 11), supporting the eaves of a hipped and slated, though formerly tiled, roof. In this is set, at each house, a pedimented dormer window furnished with sideways-sliding sashes. The dressings of the windows in the front were probably added in the late 1870s or early ‘80s, but the conspicuous dressings of the doors, although slightly truncated at No. 11 (Plate 10a) and represented by a modern copy (c. 1931) at No. 12, exhibit the original design. The architraved doorcases are finished with boldly projecting door-hoods which are supported on richly carved console-brackets and hollowed into coves decorated with foliage scroll-work. (fn. n2) The front door at No. 11 is surmounted by a late-Georgian fanlight.
Allowing for some minor variations the houses have mirrored plans (fig. 6). Each is two rooms deep, with a small closet wing at the back, and an open-well staircase laterally placed between the front and rear rooms. No. 11 still retains a narrow entrance passage (Plate 11b), but at No. 12 the wall between this passage and the front room has been removed to make an entrance hall occupying the full width of the house (Plate 11a). The rear rooms have corner chimney flues. Many of the rooms are fully panelled (Plates 10c, 11a).
At No. 11 the ground-floor rear room is in the neoclassical style of the early-nineteenth century. There is an arched alcove for a sideboard in the centre of the east wall and a matching blind archway in the party wall opposite. Both have reeded architraves and are decorated with lion-head masks. The blind archway in the party wall may indicate the position of an eighteenth-century opening between Nos. 11 and 12 made when the two houses were in joint occupation and later blocked up. A photograph of about 1910, when Nos. 11 and 12 were again jointly occupied, shows this archway opening into the rear room of No. 12. (fn. 121)
The staircase at No. 12, which is probably original, has turned balusters, moulded strings, square newels and a broad handrail (Plate 11c). At No. 11 the staircase appears to have been altered. Between the ground and first floor it is dog-legged and early-Georgian in character, with carved tread-ends and two slim turned balusters per tread (Plate 11c). From the first floor upwards the original open-well staircase, similar to that at No. 12, survives.
In the back garden of No. 12 there is a moulded lead cistern embossed with the initials R.A. 1685.
No. 13 (St. James's House). This perplexing looking building is not, as might be supposed, a plain late-Georgian house with mid-nineteenth-century trimmings, but a complete rebuilding from the ground upwards in 1850.
The deep modillioned cornice between the third and fourth floors of the present building is perhaps an allusion to the fine late-seventeenth-century house which had previously occupied the site (fig. 7). This, one of the largest two houses in the square with a frontage of forty-six feet, was also one of the earliest. It is called ‘new built’ in June 1685 (fn. 1) and seems to have been erected by Thomas Young himself. In early deeds it is sometimes referred to as the ‘Great Messuage’. (fn. 122) The predimented centre was perhaps unique in the square. The accommodation is described in a mid-eighteenth-century advertisement: ‘In the Ground Floor a large Parlour with a light Closet and two eating Parlours and a Hall, with a pleasant easy Stair-Case and back Stairs; in the one Pair of Stairs, a large Dining Room twenty-five foot by twenty, and Drawing Room and Bed Chamber, and light Closet; in the two Pair of Stairs, seven private Bed-Chambers; below Stairs, a large Kitchen, Servant's Hall, Store-Room, Wash-houses with Coppers fixed, two Pantries, with very good Vaults’. There was a large walled garden, well planted with fruit trees, at the bottom of which were coach-houses and stabling for nine horses. (fn. 123)
This was probably the house which Nicholas Bagnall, esquire, the first inhabitant of the square, occupied from 1687 to 1691. (fn. 124) The third Duke of Schomberg, who had taken part in William III's Irish campaigns, seems to have lived there in 1696 and 1697, and from 1699 to 1700 the occupant was probably the Dutch envoy to Britain, M. Geldermalsum. (fn. 125)
By 1702 Thomas Young had disposed of the freehold of No. 13 to a Colonel Thomas Taylor, and it remained in the ownership of Taylor's descendants until the break-up of the Taylor estate in the first decade of the nineteenth century (see page 18). (fn. 126) Neither Taylor nor his heirs occupied the house, which was inhabited by tenants. These included: Lady Pierrepont, 1711–12; Murrough Boyle, 1st Viscount Blessington, 1714–17; Lord Chief Justice (Sir John) Pratt, who moved here from No. 18, 1719–21; Sir Archer Croft, 2nd bart., c. 1736; and a Lady Tyrell, c. 1741–c. 1753. In 1743 Lady Tyrell's rent was £55 a year. (fn. 111)
From 1763 to 1770 the house was occupied as a drawing school or academy kept by the painter and drawing-master John Gardnor, who later turned clergyman. The academy was clearly a success, for in 1764 Gardnor took over the adjoining No. 12 and from 1766 No. 11 as well. (fn. 127)
The next inhabitant of No. 13, from 1772 to 1775, was Camilla, Dowager Countess of Tankerville, widow of the second Earl. A former Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Caroline and afterwards to the Princess Augusta, she was described by Lord Hervey in 1735 as ‘a handsome, good natured, simple woman (to whom the King had formerly been coquet)’. Sir Robert Walpole advised the Queen that ‘Lady Tankerville was a very safe fool who would give the King some amusement without giving Her Majesty any trouble’. (fn. 128) Her successor at No. 13, from 1777 to 1783, was an engraver, John Bullock. (fn. 129)
In 1803 the freehold of No. 13 was sold by the heirs of the Taylor estate to John Walker, esquire, the occupant of the house since 1791, and it remained in the ownership and occupation of the Walker family until 1848. (fn. 130) It was then or shortly afterwards purchased by John Ebenezer. Davies, the Secretary of The Honourable The Irish Society in the City who lived in Kensington, at No. 3 Leonard Place. Davies promptly demolished the old house and erected the present No. 13 as a speculation in 1850. His initials together with the building date appear on the front of the building. Davies's architect was probably William Barnes of Church Court, Old Jewry. (fn. 131) The builders were William Brass and Son of Silver Street in the City. (fn. 132)
Although evidently designed to look like one large house (Plate 4b), it is in fact a pair of houses on a mirrored plan which were originally known as Nos. 1 and 2 Kensington Square South. The numbering of the western house, No. 2, was afterwards changed to 2A, and later to No. 13A. Each house contained two rooms per floor separated by a laterally positioned top-lit open-well staircase. On the ground floor the front room was originally a breakfast-parlour and the back room a dining-room. The still-surviving staircase in the eastern house has stone steps, simple moulded iron balusters and a mahogany handrail. The corresponding staircase at the former No. 13A was removed in 1930. (fn. 133)
An early occupant of No. 2, from 1852, was the railway engineer, Thomas Russell Crampton, designer of the Crampton engine, and the man responsible for laying the first practical submarine cable between Dover and Calais. (fn. 134) By 1862 Cramption had also taken over No. 1, where he turned the breakfast-parlour into a library and the dining-room into a billiard-room; (fn. 135) and in 1871 he purchased the freehold of the two combined houses from Davies's widow. (fn. 136)
In 1876, Crampton having moved away, the whole property was sold at auction for £10,600. (fn. 137) The purchaser was a local builder, Thomas Hussey, who laid out in the back garden the cul-de-sac now called Ansdell Terrace and formerly St. Alban's Road North (see page 54). (fn. 138)
In 1885 Hussey sold the house and what little still remained of its back garden to King's College, London, (fn. 139) who used the premises to accommodate its Ladies' Department, then temporarily housed at the present No. 9 Hornton Street. The College was negotiating with Hussey to buy No. 13 in 1882, and had agreed to give £7,500 for the freehold. But the sale did not then go ahead because some members of the College Council, headed by the veteran builder Sir Charles Freake, who had made a fortune as a speculator in South Kensington, thought it would be better to erect a new college on an undeveloped site rather than buy an old and incovenient house at an exorbitant price. A site in Kensington Court was chosen and the College entered into a provisional agreement to buy it. But in 1885 (Freake being by then dead) they reverted to their original scheme and acquired No. 13 for the price previously agreed. Various alterations and repairs were carried out in the summer of 1885 and the building was formally opened in the following October. (fn. 140)
The Ladies' Department - from 1908 King's College for Women-remained at No. 13 until 1915, when it moved to purpose-built premises on Campden Hill (now Queen Elizabeth College). Latterly the College had also occupied the adjacent Nos. 11 and 12, which were purchased in 1908 and subsequently brought into use as a library, common room, staff-room, class-rooms, tutorial rooms and a refectory. (fn. 141)
In 1920 No. 13 was bought by John Barker and Company, whose advertising department occupied the premises from about 1926 to 1929. (fn. 142) Barkers then sold No. 13 to Leslie and Company, a local building firm installed nearby at an old house on the south side of Thackeray Street on part of the site of Esmond Court. Alterations, including the removal of one of the staircases, to convert No. 13 into offices for Leslie and Company were carried out by Richardson and Gill, the architects of Esmond Court, (fn. 143) and on moving there about 1931 Leslies transferred to their new offices the name of their former premises, St. James's House. The firm remained at No. 13 until 1957.
No. 14. Although very much altered No. 14 is basically a house of 1685–6 which still retains one or two original features. It was erected by William Crosse of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, ironmonger, operating under a fifty-one-year lease from Young, dated 22 June 1685. (fn. 144) Crosse financed the building by borrowing £400, secured on a mortgage, from a widow in Whitechapel, Sarah Evans, the money being channelled through a London merchant. But when Crosse failed to make the repayments Mrs. Evans brought an action against him in Chancery and obtained a decree ordering Crosse to pay her just over £622 by Michaelmas 1691 or forfeit the lease. In addition to the principal and outstanding interest this sum included £100 which Sarah Evans had herself spent on repair work to prevent the house from becoming ‘ruinous’ through Crosse's neglect of the building. Among those employed on this work were Daniel Narraway, carpenter John Barnes, bricklayer, Charles Woodfield, painter, and John Wilkinson, paviour. A few small payments were to labourers for work in the garden. Crosse evidently failed to comply with the decree and lost the lease when Sarah Evans foreclosed on the mortgage. (fn. 145)
The house itself seems to have remained uninhabited until about 1698 when it appears in the ratebooks in the occupation of a Mr. Masters. (fn. 18) He was succeeded in 1701 by Thomas Lee, gentleman, who in 1702 bought Crosse's lease from Sarah Evans' executors for £355. (fn. 146) Lee remained there until his death in 1724, being succeeded by his son Baptist. (fn. 147)
No. 14 was one of the houses sold by Young to Thomas Sutton in 1687 (see page 8), and the freehold continued in the hands of the Sutton family until 1759. (fn. 148) Sutton's son, Thomas Sutton junior, occupied the house in the 1740s and '50s. (fn. 149)
In 1830 No. 14 enjoyed a brief spell as a Bazaar, for which it had apparently been specially fitted up and adapted. (fn. 150) This was evidently not a success for in June 1830 the house was on the market, being advertised as ‘very desirable for a seminary upon a superior plan, or family residence’. A building at the bottom of the back garden was rather hopefully described as ‘calculated for many useful purposes, and singularly well suited to a billiards establishment’. (fn. 151) (fn. c1) In spite of its suitability for institutional use the house reverted to private occupation until 1848, when it became a preparatory boarding-school which continued until about 1871. (fn. 84)
One of the larger houses in the square, No. 14 is four windows wide and three storeys high with a basement and, since about 1975, an additional storey in the roof. The front is plainly stuccoed and the front door dressed with a sturdy pillared portico probably of late-eighteenth-century or early-nineteenth-century date. At the back there were originally two closet wings. Inside, several rooms have corner chimney flues, and on the ground floor the rooms are simply panelled with box cornices. The best feature of the interior is the open-well wooden staircase, which is probably original and has square newels, a broad moulded handrail, closed strings, and bulbous balusters. This occupies a central position at the back of the house flanked by rooms on both sides (Plate 7a).
From the ground floor an enclosed staircase at the back of the house leads down into a large single-storey ballroom erected in the back garden some time between 1895 and 1914. (fn. 152)
Much of the back garden was taken for the building in 1967–8 of Nos. 16 and 17 Ansdell Terrace (see page 54).
Other occupants include: Harrison Gordon Codd, chairman of the Kensington magistrates and equerry to H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex, 1816–19 (later at No. 16); Maj.-Gen. Sir William Douglas, 1831–4; Frederick Newenham, portrait painter, 1845–8; Rev. John Richard Green, (d. 1883) and his wife, Alice (Stopford) Green, historians, 1880–1903.
No. 15 was refronted in red brick in 1883, but behind this slightly clumsy essay in the revived ‘Queen Anne’ style (Plate 8b) the basic structure is probably the original late-seventeenth-century house. It has not been possible to inspect the interior but sixty years ago it included a number of early features and modern plans show corner chimney flues in some of the rooms.
Like No. 14, it was erected in 1685–6 under a fifty-one-year lease granted by Thomas Young, the lessee here being the plasterer Henry Margetts (see page 6). (fn. 1) The house was cerntainly inhabited by 1692 for in that year, according to the parish burial registers, ‘Mrs. Claudine de Bragelone one of the Duchess of Mazarin's women … died at Mr. Margaret's house in the Square’. (fn. 153) If the Duchess herself was also lodging at No. 15 at the time it could only have been for a very short period.
In 1687 the house was sold by Young to Thomas Sutton (see page 8), and the freehold remained in the possession of the Sutton family and their heirs until the end of the eighteenth century. (fn. 154) In 1741 the occupant was Matthias Mawson, Bishop of Chichester, who afterwards moved to No. 23. (fn. 155) Thomas Sutton's widowed daughter-in-law was living here in 1760 until 1765. (fn. 18)
The refronting of the house in 1883 was carried out on behalf of the owner by Toten and Sons, builders and decorators of Gloucester Road, perhaps to their own design. This was to have included a new porch but in the end the house was allowed to retain its late-eighteenth-century doorcase. (fn. 156)
In 1906 No. 15 was bought for his own residence by the sculptor Frederick W. Pomeroy, a leading figure in the New Sculpture movement whose works include four of the eight monumental statues on Vauxhall Bridge (1905–6) and the figures in the pediment of Old Bailey. (fn. 157) Pomeroy lived at No. 15 until his death in 1924, and in the back garden he erected two studios, one measuring sixty feet by twenty-two feet with Diocletian windows in the end walls and full-length roof-lights. (fn. 158)
In 1924 the house was advertised for sale as ‘a freehold Queen Anne residence built about 1712’. The dining-room ceiling and the panelling in the principal rooms were said to be original, and the ‘handsome’ mahogany doors and chimneypieces in the reception rooms to be ‘of the period.’ (fn. 158) Lord Ponsonby, in his history of the square (1936), mentions what he thought a good early plaster ceiling in the house, decorated with ‘clusters of fruit and flowers’, and likened it to a ceiling in Kensington Palace. (fn. 159) This suggests strongly that it was the work of the plasterer-lessee Margetts himself, who, moreover, also worked at Kensington Palace. (fn. 160)
No. 15 was acquired by Barkers in about 1937 and was latterly occupied by their building department. (fn. 161) In 1965 the house was bought, together with its former rear premises at No. 19 South End, by the College of Estate Management, then in St. Alban's Grove, and used partly for offices. (fn. 162) The College's extensions to No. 19 South End involved the demolition of Pomeroy's large studio. No. 15 Kensington Square was brought back into wholly residential use in about 1972 and is now divided into flats. (fn. 163)
No. 16 was built in 1876–7, replacing what was probably the original house erected here in 1685–6 by Thomas Young himself. The former house was one of those mortgaged by Young in 1687 to Thomas Sutton (see page 8), who later claimed he had difficulty in letting it. The first occupant, from Michaelas 1690, was a ‘Mr. Lamplugh’, who paid an annual rent of £44 here until 1696. He was probably the Dr. Thomas Lamplugh (son of Archbishop Lamplugh of York) who lived at No. 8 from 1695 (see page 14). In 1696–7 Major-General Richard Leveson, an important career soldier in the army of William III, was living here. (fn. 61)
In 1699 Sutton sold the freehold of the house, which was then in the occupation of Madam Knightley, to Michael Noble, esquire, of the Middle Temple, who had been a party to some of Sutton's financial transactions. (fn. 61)
Later occupants of the original house include a Lady Pierrepont, 1716–21; Harrison Gordon Codd, chairman of the Kensington magistrates and equerry to H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex, 1833–40; and Mrs. Anne Evans, poet and composer, 1857–70.
The rebuilding of 1876–7 was undertaken as a speculation by John Horne Payne, a barrister in his mid thirties then living at No. 20 Kensington Square, who acquired the freehold of No. 16 in 1874. (fn. 164) At about the same time Payne also undertook the rebuilding of No. 6 and the refronting of No. 5. Both there and at No. 16 he employed the same firm of architects, Goldie and Child, one of whose partners, George Goldie lived in the square. (fn. 165) He also used the same local firm of builders, Lucas and Sons of St. James's House, James Place. (fn. 166)
At No. 16 the rebuilding of the house was preceded by the rebuilding in 1875 of the stable (now No. 18 South End, see page 54) at the bottom of the garden, Lucas and Sons being the contractors. (fn. 167)
In 1877 the nearly completed house with its ‘bright spick and span brick front’ was warmly welcomed by the Building News as a striking example of a building in which the architects ‘have sought to reproduce the older architectural features of the locality’ (Plate 8b). The interior, which has been substantially altered, was described in considerable detail. One the ground floor there was originally a morning-room at the front, alongside the entrance hall, a central laterally positioned staircase, and, at the back, a dining-room occupying the whole width of the house. The Building News missed ‘the usual back passage arrangement’ and considered the provision of a back lobby and water closet opening out of the dining-room ‘an arrangement which will hardly commend itself to modern notions’. (fn. 165)
The original staircase, in ‘a thoroughly Queen Anne manner’ with painted balusters and a mahogany handrail, survives, but the entrance hall and morning-room have been thrown together to make one large front room. This has a high oak dado, beamed ceiling, and an oak Jacobethan chimneypiece and overmanted inset with leather panels embossed with Biblical scenes. Heraldic glass in the windows completes the ‘Wimbledon-Baronial’ effect. The changes here were introduced by Mr. and Mrs. Cozens-Smith, who occupied No. 16 from 1905 to 1928. (fn. 93) They were also responsible for installing in the first-floor front drawing-room an undistinguished circular ceiling painting depicting six muse-like figures seated on clouds. The white and gold decoration of this room was probably introduced at the same time as the painting. In 1877 the three upper floors were occupied by seven bedrooms (one with a dressing-room), a housemaid's closet and water closet (second floor) and a ‘spacious’ bathroom (third floor).
The newly built house was occupied for the first time in 1878 (fn. 93) - the Building News had thought it would probably let for about £300 a year. Horne Payne himself lived there from 1892 to 1896, when he sold the house for £6,000. (fn. 168) In 1905 it was bought by Edward Cozens-Smith for £5,000. (fn. 169)
One feature of the old house to survive the rebuilding was the iron gates into the forecourt, these being in the opinion of the Building News ‘unquestionably genuine specimens of old ironwork’. They are no longer in situ, having been removed by a later owner to No. 12 Stanford Road, where they remain. (fn. 170)
No. 17. Built by Thomas Young himself and known to have been under construction in 1686, (fn. 171) No. 17 is the largest of the surviving original houses in the square, with a well-preserved interior. The house is five windows wide with a frontage of some thirty-five feet (Plates 4c, 8b), but as originally built it was only two storeys high with basement and garrets. It was raised to its present height some time after 1819. (fn. 172) The rendering of the original brick front is probably of late-eighteenth- or early-nineteenth-century date.
Mortgaged by Young in 1687 to Thomas Sutton (see page 8), No. 17 was first inhabited by a Lady Ann Edgecumbe, who leased it from Midsummer 1689 to Christmas 1691 and paid a rent of £39 per half year. The house then stood empty for about a year before being let at £52 a year to George Pitt, esquire (father of the first Baron Rivers of Sudeley Castle). In the ratebooks he is shown as the occupant of No. 17 in 1693–4. The next tenant, from 1696, paid a rent of £52 a year. He was James Smyth, esquire, who in 1699 bought the freehold from Sutton for £735. (fn. 173) Smyth continued as occupant until 1711, and the house remained in the ownership of the Smyth family (chiefly represented by the Smyths of Hill Hall, Theydon Bois, Essex) until 1775. (fn. 174)
A plan of No. 17 is given in figure 8. On the ground floor the layout of rooms is still the same as it was in 1819, when an advertisement for the house designated the front room a dining-room, the larger of the two rear rooms a breakfast-room, the smaller a gentleman's or morning-room, and the two closet rooms a dressing-room and a powdering-room. (fn. 175) The disposition of the rooms on the first floor in 1819 was the same as the ground floor, but later in the nineteenth century the partitions were largely removed to create one big L-shaped drawing-room (Plate 12c).
The house has a squareish entrance hall, two storeys high, containing the main staircase, or ‘Grand Staircase’ as it was called in 1757. (fn. 176) This rises against three walls as far as the first floor. Immediately behind the hall a secondary staircase, lit by means of a narrow light well against the party wall, rises from the basement to the top of the house. Both staircases are of wood, the front stairs having an early-eighteenth-century character with slim turned balusters, two to a tread, and carved tread-ends (Plate 12b). The wooden fascia of the landing is decorated with a Vitruvian scroll. The back stairs are much plainer, with straight strings, a sturdy square handrail and late-seventeenth-century-type turned balusters (Plate 12a, fig. 8).
The hall has a panelled dado and a plaster modillioned cornice. The other principal rooms on the ground and first floors have moulded panelling and box cornices. A number of rooms retain their corner chimney flues. In the 1750s the house contained five or six marble chimneypieces (fn. 177) but the only survivor of these appears to be the early-eighteenth-century flush marble chimneypiece with a segmental arch and keystone in the smaller of the two ground-floor back rooms. At the back there are two closet wings, both original, with in the basement what look like original mullioned windows. A selling point in 1819 was the ‘excellent kitchen and offices supplied with the finest spring water’. (fn. 175)
Unlike some of the other larger houses in the square No. 17 seems always to have been in demand by private tenants and was never occupied as a school or academy.
In 1874 it was bought by the bibliophile and connoisseur Alfred Henry Huth who was probably responsible for the re-organization of the first floor. (fn. 178) According to a later inhabitant Huth carefully redecorated the rooms and ‘left his signature in the shape of his crest carved in wood on the mantlepieces’ but these do not survive. (fn. 179) In 1881 Huth rebuilt the old stable block at the bottom of the garden (now part of No. 17 South End) giving it a quite handsome eighteenth-century-style elevation on the garden side (Plate 19c). There is a possibility that this was designed by Norman Shaw who was soon to be commissioned by Huth to design Bolney House in Ennismore Gardens (1883–5), where Huth lived after leaving Kensington Square in 1885. The builder of the new stable was Edward Conder of Baltic Wharf, Kingsland Road. (fn. 180)
The next owner of No. 17 was another of Shaw's clients. He was the composer C. Hubert Parry for whom Shaw had built a house in Sussex in 1880–1. Parry bought No. 17 from Huth in 1886, (fn. 181) and occupied it as his London home until his death in 1918. A plaque commemorating his residence was erected here in 1949. (fn. 182) Parry's widow continued to live at No. 17 until her death in 1932, when the house passed into the possession of her elder daughter, Lady Ponsonby, wife of Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, leader of the Labour Opposition in the House of Lords. (fn. 183) Before being elevated to the peerage in 1930, Arthur Ponsonby, as he then was, had served as an M.P. and a minister in the Labour Governments of 1924 and 1929. In 1936 he produced a detailed and well-researched history of Kensington Square which although not published survives in typescript.
Other occupants include: Rev. Dr. Thomas Doyley, Prebendary of Ely, from before 1760 to 1769; Admiral Charles Wager Purvis, who died here, 1770–2; Richard Clarke, Indian civil servant and adviser to the Privy Council on Indian affairs, 1832–55.
No. 18 was erected in about 1686–7 by Stephen Emmett of St. Margaret's, Westminister, bricklayer, to whom Thomas Young granted a fifty-year lease of the site in September 1686. (fn. 171) The first occupant, in 1688, was George Hawes, a mercer and former resident of the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden, who bought Emmett's lease for £320 in February 1688, and at the same time purchased the freehold for £120. (fn. 184) Hawes lived here until c. 1705, when he moved to a house with four acres of ground in Wright's Lane (see page 107), (fn. 185) but No. 18 remained in the ownership of his descendants until 1746. From 1714 to 1718 the occupant was Sir John Pratt, a judge of the King's Bench and Member of Parliament, who was appointed Lord Chief Justice in 1718. In the following year he moved to the ‘Great Messuage’ at No. 13. (fn. 18)
In 1746 Hawes' heirs sold No. 18 to Joseph Wedg-brough, a local carpenter. (fn. 186) Wedgbrough gave £134 for the house but sold it twenty years later for £600, which suggests that he had probably undertaken substantial improvements. (fn. 187)
In 1767 it was bought by the lawyer (Sir) Richard Heron, later secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, who lived here briefly in 1771–2, before moving to Grosvenor Square. Heron retained the ownership of No. 18, which remained in his family until 1828. (fn. 188)
A schedule of fittings in 1788 shows that No. 18 was then only two storeys high above ground with garrets in the roof. (fn. 189) In 1766 it still had a brick front but this had been stuccoed over by 1788. (fn. 190) Inside, several rooms, including the two parlours on the ground floor, were fully panelled. On the first floor, the drawing-room overlo the square was ‘wainscotted Dado high and papered a white sprigged paper’. The staircase was ‘papered wainscotted from the Top to the Entry’. (fn. 191)
Between 1837 and 1851 No. 18 was the home a philosopher John Stuart Mill who wrote both his and his Political Economy here. Mill's residence is memorated by a plaque placed here by the L.C. 1907. (fn. 192)
The front of No. 18 seems to have undergone negl changes over the last century and a half. It retains its Georgian coating of stucco over what may be judg be the original brick elevation of 1686–7, the early of the house being betrayed by the close spacing a windows. A curious element is the blank inset pan the right-hand side of the front rising through the main storeys, a feature which also occurs at No. 19. may point at both houses to the original presence he a small ‘closet’ window on the two main storeys. second-floor front and present attic storey at No. 1 additions made after 1788, perhaps about 1830, a which would fit the character of the moulded archit around the windows and front door. These feature in keeping with window dressings at No. 17, and the houses share a continuous bandcourse between gr and first storeys.
The rear elevation (Plate 7b) is of painted brick with some generous mid- or late-Georgian windows ing to lighten the house. An intriguing survival is a storey extension in timber against the party wall No. 19, comprising a garden room with a shed belo definite trace of this can be found in the schedule of but the basic structure (in particular the columns corners) appears to be old.
Like most houses in Kensington Square, No. 18 h conventional terrace-house plan, with staircase to one two rooms on each floor and a closet wing. The panelled and separated from the staircase by an archilar to one next door at No. 19. Up to first-floor lev staircase has closed strings and turned balusters appear to be essentially original, though some restore has taken place; above first-floor level the balustra simpler, lighter and of a late-Georgian character reception rooms have lost their panelling, except i window embrasures. They too have a mid- to Georgian character with doors and wooden firepla match. At the back of the house the fireplaces rem their former positions across the corners of the room
No. 19 was built in about 1686–7 probably by The Wood ward, joiner (who also built No. 3), on beh Cadogan Thomas, a timber merchant. (fn. 193) Thomas, a scale building entrepreneur, was an important figure the development of Soho Fields in the years immed after 1677 and must have known Thomas Young, when worked for him at Monmouth House in Soho Squ the early 1680s. (fn. 194) The first occupant of No. 19, from to c. 1701, was Abraham Rottermondt, Apothecary-in-Ordinary to William III. In 1709 and 1710 it was occupied by Sir James Gray, baronet, who then moved to No. 42, and from 1717 until c. 1736 by (Sir) Henry Vincent. (fn. 18)
No. 19 was one of four houses in the square sold by Young in 1686 to Francis Butler of St. Bride's in the City, gentleman. (fn. 20) In 1695 Butler sold it for £450 to George Hawes, the owner-occupier of the adjoining No. 18, (fn. 16) who in 1716 assigned No. 19 to his daughter Charity, on the occasion of her marriage. It remained in the ownership of her descendants until 1775. (fn. 195)
In 1793 the house was let at £46 per annum to the Honourable Mrs. Sarah Murray, the topographical writer, who had previously lived at the much larger No. 23. (fn. 196) Mrs. Murray remained at No. 19 until 1806, (fn. 18) when she and her second husband, George Aust, removed to the newly built Noel House on the site of Palace Gate.
Two schedules of fittings, one of 1793 and the other of 1818, (fn. 197) show that No. 19 was then probably only two storeys high above the ground with garrets in the roof. The later schedule also lists an ‘observatory’, perhaps on the roof. This could have been built either for Mrs. Murray or her husband, or her husband, or for the succeeding occupant, the Reverend Hans Mortimer Sanders, who lived at No. 19 from 1807 to 1818. (fn. 18)
The house now has four full storeys above ground and a wholly stuccoed elevation. The basic structure is original, but a major recasting of the front seems to have taken place in the late eighteenth century. To this period may be attributed the doorcase (with Ionic half-pilasters and Adam-style frieze), the fanlight, the iron gateway from the street and the stuccoing of the brickwork. The blank inset panel running through the three main storeys on the right-hand side of the elevation (a feature also seen at No. 18) suggests that there may originally have been small closet windows here.
Within, No. 19 retains many elements of a high-class panelled interior of early date (Plate 16). The plan is arranged on the usual lines with two main rooms per floor and a closet wing at the back. An arch with a central voussoir in plaster divides the hall from their stair, and a similar feature recurs in a niche on the landing between the ground and first floors (Plate 16a). The main rooms are fully panelled and retain their six-panel doors. There is some evidence of later-eighteenth-century changes, presumably contemporary with those to the exterior; the front room on the ground floor was extended backwards at about this time to allow a larger dining-room (Plate 16b), while the staircase balustrade, in a minimally Chinese-Chippendale style, seems also to date from this period (Plate 16a). There are two Adam-style chimneypieces, but these may be relatively recent importations.
No. 20. This stucco-fronted house received its present rather ordinary mid-nineteenth-century appearance as a result of ‘alterations’ carried out in 1850–1. (fn. 198) These evidently amounted to a very thorough recasting of the existing building, which was probably the original house erected here c. 1686 by Thomas Young himself, (fn. 1) and vestiges of which presumably survive in the present structure.
It was one of several properties mortgaged by Young in 1687 to Thomas Sutton in order to raise money for further building (see page 8). (fn. 1) In the following year Young sold the house for £220 to Thomas Streeter of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, a painter with whom he had shared the lease of a house in Gerrard Street, Soho, in 1684. (fn. 199)
No. 20 first appears in the ratebooks in 1691, when the ratepayer was Streeter himself, possibly as occupant but more likely as landlord paying rates for tenants. (fn. 18) Sir Robert Hamilton, a former Commissioner of Inspection in Ireland who was briefly imprisoned by William III, lived at No. 20 from c. 1692 until his death in 1703. (fn. 200)
After Streeter's death the house passed to his brother Robert, the King's Serjeant Painter, and then to the latter's son, also Robert. In 1735, by order of the Court of Chancery, the younger Robert Streeter's estate was put up for sale by auction and No. 20 was bought by the musical-instrument-maker and music-publisher John Walsh, who already owned property in the north-west corner of the square (see page 30). (fn. 201)
In 1783 the house was described in an advertisement as being four storeys high, and containing two rooms and a closet on each floor, ‘the drawing-room papered with blue paper and gold borderie’. (fn. 202)
After the break-up of the Walsh estate No. 20 was bought by a wine merchant in St. Martin-in-the-Fields, whose heirs retained the freehold until 1850, when they sold the house for £900 to Frederick P. Barlow, a near neighbour at what was then No. 24 (see page 27). (fn. 203) Barlow immediately put in hand the ‘alterations’ already mentioned, and the house was inhabited again from 1852. It is not known whom he employed to carry out this work.
No. 20 was one of several houses, all formerly belonging to Barlow, bought by the Convent of the Assumption (see below) at the auction of Barlow's estate in 1859. In that year the Convent moved into Nos. 23 and 24, but as it did not then own the two intervening houses No. 20 was let to private tenants until 1892. (fn. 204)
The last of these was John Horne Payne, a barrister and Q.C., (fn. 205) who in the 1870s acquired a number of houses in the square, rebuilt two from the ground (Nos. 6 and 16) and refronted another (No. 5).
The interior of No. 20 is unremarkable. Some mid-nineteenth-century plaster cornices and ceiling roses survive on the ground floor, as do two simple marble chimneypieces. The staircase has thin wooden balusters evidently intended to look like iron.
Other occupants include: Sir Gilbert Pickering, 1714–18; General Gilbert Primrose, 1722 until his death here in 1731; Sir Archer Croft, 2nd bart., c. 1732; Rev. F. M. Ziegenhagen of the German Chapel (now the Queen's Chapel) in St. James's, c. 1735 to 1776; James White-house, editor for the Religious Tract Society, 1860–2.
Nos. 21 and 22. This site is now occupied by the chapel of the Convent of the Assumption, which is separately described below with the rest of the convent buildings.
The two houses which previously stood here were both erected c. 1685–6 under leases granted by Thomas Young to a James Debnam (or Debenham), about whom nothing is known. At No. 21 the construction work had evidently been completed at the expense of Thomas Sutton, to whom Young sold the freehold of both houses in 1687 (fn. 206) (see page 8). Neither house appears to have been inhabited until about 1695. (fn. 18) At No. 22 the first occupant was Sutton himself, until 1705, when he sold both houses for £630 to Sir Hele Hook, who had recently purchased the adjoining No. 23 for his own residence. (fn. 207) The first occupant of No. 21 was Mrs. Worthington, probably Elizabeth Worthington, laundress of Queen's Court, and perhaps the widow of James Worthington, a page of the back stairs. (fn. 208)
As built Nos. 21 and 22 are known to have been only two storeys high with basements and garrets. When valued for insurance in 1744, they each had six wainscotted rooms and one or more marble chimneypieces. (fn. 209)
After the death of Sir Hele Hook in 1712 the freehold descended to his nephew Thomas Grove of Ferne, Donhead St. Andrews, in Wiltshire, and then to the latter's son, who sold No. 21 in 1793 and No. 22 in 1805. (fn. 210) The houses remained in separate ownership until 1869–70, when they were bought by the Convent of the Assumption, which was already established at No. 23 and also owned No. 20. (fn. 211) Construction of the chapel began in 1870, but the southern end was built first in the back gardens of Nos. 21 and 22; the houses themselves were demolished in 1874.
Other occupants included: No. 21. Alfred Weigell, miniature painter, 1867–9: No. 22. Letitia, Dowager Countess of Radnor, widow of 1st Earl, 1706 until her death here in 1714; Benjamin Drake, esquire, former Groom of the Wardrobe to William III, 1715–c. 1724 (he was previously at No. 9); John Henry Walsh, writer and surgeon, editor of The Field, 1860–7.
No. 23 is a pair of houses (formerly Nos. 23 and 24) now occupied as part of the Convent of the Assumption (see below). The two houses were erected in 1837–9 and predate the establishment of the convent here.
Previously the site had been occupied by one big house built in 1686–7, by the carpenter John Hayward, who went on to construct the Queen's Staircase at Kensington Palace in the early 1690s. Hayward was probably assisted by his son Henry, also a carpenter, who after his father's death in 1695 inherited the business. Building was carried on under an agreement with Thomas Young whereby Hayward undertook to erect ‘a messuage or mansion house’ and Young undertook to let the site to him for fifty-one years at an annual rent of £12 10s., but there is no evidence that a lease was ever executed. In 1687 the freehold of No. 23, together with that of several other houses in the square, was sold by Young to Thomas Sutton (see page 8). (fn. 212)
With a frontage of just over forty-six feet this was one of the two largest houses in the square, the other being No. 13, which occupied a corresponding position at the east end of this southern range. A plan of the ground-floor is given in figure 9. A notable feature of the interior was the wide main staircase. To the west of the house was an L-shaped range of buildings including a coach-house and six-stall stable enclosing two sides of a courtyard, the third side being the west wall of the house itself.
The first occupant, from 1696 until c. 1702, was John, Baron Cutts of Gowran, a distinguished soldier and supporter of William III, who, having made a name for himself at the battle of Buda in 1686, came over to England with the King and played a prominent role in William's Irish campaigns, for which he was rewarded with an Irish barony in 1690. (fn. 213) Richard Steele, who for several years acted as Cutts's private secretary, was living here as a member of the household in 1696–7. (fn. 214)
From 1705 to 1712 No. 23 was inhabited by Sir Hele Hook, baronet, previously the occupant of No. 7, who bought the house for just over £1,700 in April 1705. (fn. 215) A few months later Hook purchased an adjoining piece of land to the west, originally intended as the site of a twenty-foot-wide street leading out of the south-west corner of the square, and incorporated it in the garden of No. 23. (fn. 216)
After Hook's death in 1712 his widow, later the wife of Dr. Richard Lilly, continued to occupy No. 23 until her own death in 1733. (fn. 217) By the terms of Hook's will the freehold descended to his nephew Thomas Grove of Ferne, Donhead St. Andrews, in Wiltshire, and remained in the Grove family until it was sold in 1805. (fn. 218)
Other occupants of the original house included: Lady Wiseman, probably Arabella, wife of Sir William Wiseman, 2nd bart., of Canfield Hall, Essex, c. 1702–5; Matthias Mawson, Bishop of Chichester and later Bishop of Ely, who moved here from No. 15 before 1750, and died at No. 23 in November 1770; Hon. Sarah Murray, topographical writer, 1782 to 1793, when she moved to No. 19. (fn. 219)
In 1782 the property was let to Joseph Haynes of Kensington, a gardener. (fn. 220) He did not occupy the house himself but he was responsible for a erecting a small group of cottages in the north-west corner of the garden next to the stables in about 1794. Originally called Haynes' Rents and later Haines' Buildings, these were on a very small scale, most of the cottages having only two rooms. (fn. 221)
In 1800 No. 23 succumbed to the fate of many of the larger houses in the square and became a young ladies' boarding-school. The proprietors were the Misses Burnett, who in 1812 purchased the freehold of the property. (fn. 222) When their school came to end in 1822 it was succeeded until 1836 by a preparatory boarding academy for boys. (fn. 223) In the following year the surviving Miss Burnett sold the house to the occupant of No. 24, Frederick Pratt Barlow, a lawyer and magistrate, who immediately pulled down the old No. 23 and erected in its place the two tall plain brick houses which are now part of the convent. (fn. 224) These were numbered 23 and 24 while Barlow's old house was renumbered 25A. They were both occupied from 1839, No. 23 by an underwriter and insurance agent, Dennis A. Rougemont, at an annual rent of £140, and No. 24 by Barlow himself. (fn. 225) Neither the architect nor the builder is known.
The houses are four storeys high over basements, the ground storey—now masked by the ‘gallery’ added for the convent in 1925—being originally stuccoed, and the front doorways dressed with pillared porches (Plate 9b). The only note of decoration in these otherwise austere elevations was provided by the fancy cast-iron balustrade which extended across the whole width of the front at firstfloor level. Each house had large rooms and water closets were provided in the basement (for servants) and on the ground and second floors. (fn. 226)
Barlow lived at No. 24 until his death in 1855. (fn. 18) During this time he added to his estate by purchasing property in and around South End, in Young Street, and in the square itself, where in addition to the three houses he already owned (Nos. 23, 24 and 25A) he bought Nos. 20, 38 and 40. (fn. 226)
His biggest purchase, in 1841, was the site of Young's bowling green and ‘Spring Garden’ (see page 8), a plot of some four acres adjoining the garden of No. 23. The ground here was then, and continued, under cultivation as a market garden, but in the south-east corner Barlow promoted some small-scale, short-lived development in c. 1843–7, ambitiously called Albert Villas and Albert Square. (fn. 227) These are briefly discussed on page 146.
After Barlow's death his property passed to trustees, who in 1859 offered it for sale at auction in sixteen lots. Many of these were bought by the Convent of the Assumption, then temporarily housed in Earl's Court, which thus acquired Nos. 20, 23, 24, 25A, 38 and 40 Kensington Square, the site of the former bowling green and ‘Spring Garden’, Haines' Buildings, Albert Villas, Albert Square, and some cowsheds and other buildings on the south side of South End. (fn. 228)
The convent removed from Earl's Court to Kensington Square in 1859.
The Convent of the Assumption
The Roman Catholic Convent of the Assumption today occupies Nos. 20, 23 and 24 Kensington Square, the site between Nos. 20 and 23 where its chapel stands, and some three acres behind stretching back south and west to the railway and east to South End (Plate 9). The convent was first established here in 1859 in existing houses. The sisters' first new buildings consisted of a chapel (1870–5), an elementary school (1873–4) and a large educational block (1875–89), all designed in a brick Gothic idiom by George Goldie. These have since been much supplemented, particularly in 1959–62. Today the convent is a centre for various Christian educational and pastoral organizations.
The Order of the Assumption was founded in Paris in 1839 by Anne-Eugénie Milleret (1817–98), usually known as Mother Marie-Eugénie. She was much influenced by Lammenais, Montalembert and other Catholic intellectuals of the French Restoration period, and the vocation of her order was explicitly educational. (fn. 229) In a few years its work began to expand abroad. Its first English house having been started in 1850 at Richmond, Yorkshire, Cardinal Wiseman invited the order to set up a branch in the newly established diocese of Westminster. To this end a mother superior, six sisters and two postulants took up residence in Earl's Court Lodge, Earl's Court Road, in 1857 (see page 200). Finding that the house was not for sale, they secured at the auction of F. P. Barlow's property in 1859 Nos. 20, 23 and 24 (now together No. 23), 25A (now No. 24), 38 and 40 Kensington Square, along with much back land behind the square stretching south and east. The sum paid for these properties was £18,000; most was raised on mortgage, but £6,000 came from one of the nuns, Sister Rose (Rose Stafford-Jerningham) and another £2,000 from a Miss Porter, who later also joined the order. (fn. 230)
At first the nuns occupied only Nos. 23 and 24 (now No. 23) together with the long and handsome garden behind, where they kept cows and chickens. No. 25A (now No. 24) they let briefly to the Carmelite Order in 1863–5, but did not take over themselves until about 1869. No. 20 remained privately let until 1892. Nos. 38 and 40 on the north side of the square were never occupied by the order, No. 40 being sold in 1868 for £2,200 and No. 38 in 1874 for the same sum. The proceeds from these sales went towards the acquisition of Nos. 21 and 22 in 1869–70 and towards the building of the chapel on their site. No. 19 in the square was also briefly tenanted by the sisters between about 1874 and 1878, on behalf of a society sheltering Catholic converts summarily ejected from their homes by their families. (fn. 231)
Before the sisters had been long established, they had in 1865 to acquiesce in the loss of a large slice from their garden for the Metropolitan Railway— in their case a specially tiresome neighbour, as the tracks here were open and trains clattered over points in and out of High Street Kensington Station. (fn. 232)
After Manning succeeded Wiseman as Archbishop of Westminster in 1865 the work of the order grew quickly, and two schools were started in 1867–8: an elementary school for the poor of the district, initially in stables next to South End, and a higher-class secondary school, perhaps commenced in the present No. 24 Kensington Square. (fn. 233) As new buildings were needed George Goldie (of Goldie and Child), already architect for Our Lady of Victories nearby and from 1868 a resident of the square, was commissioned to supply them. The priority was a chapel, made feasible by the purchase of Nos. 21 and 22. Funds at first sufficed only for the ‘oratory’, or choir and apse, which were raised behind the houses in 1870–1, the foundation stone being laid in July 1870 by Princesse Marguerite d'Orléans and the ninth Lord Stafford (Sister Rose's uncle). (fn. 234) For the time Nos. 21 and 22 were not demolished, but used to house refugees from the FrancoPrussian War. (fn. 233) They were taken down only shortly before Goldie completed the nave and north front of the chapel in 1874–5. Both parts of the chapel were built by Jackson and Shaw. (fn. 235)
As completed, the chapel was a simple apsidal vessel, abutting against houses at the sides but open on the north towards the square and south towards the convent garden (Plate 9a, 9b, 9c, 9e, fig. 10). Goldie opted for a plain stock-brick style of early French Gothic, relieved with bands of black and red brick and sparing dressings of Bath stone, just as at Our Lady of Victories (see page 388). The main external show is towards the square, where the central entrance is dignified with its own projected arch and gable, and the upper part of the front boasts a blunt rose window of very French character, adorned with eight colonnettes like spokes in a wheel.
Within, the rose window lights a gallery separated from the body of the chapel by three pointed arches. The public portion of the nave is short, curtailed by a low screen, and graced only with a pair of altars in arched alcoves left and right. The whole chapel is lit from a clerestory, since a low passage runs round the three sides of the nuns' portion (breaking out at one point in the south-west corner into a small side-oratory). The nuns' section of the nave is furnished with elaborate stalls along the side walls, again explicitly French in style. The roof throughout was originally groined in stained deal. Its tripartite shape in the nave is echoed in the three arches at the entrance to the sanctuary — an arrangement indicative of Goldie's love for the stranger proportions of early French Gothic, with heavy capitals perched on high columns of polished granite and side arches squeezed to practical insignificance. Formerly these arches led on to a close semi-circle of similar columns and capitals, attached to the angles of the apse and arrayed around the high altar (Plate 9d). The rich carving of the capitals and supporting corbels, which included the heads of ‘saints and religieuses’, was the work of Thomas Earp. (fn. 236) Ironwork and lamps were generally supplied by Hart, Son and Peard, but the elaborate metal superstructure for the high altar (not installed until about 1875) was the work of P. Russaud of Paris. (fn. 237) The only major enrichment in the years immediately ensuing was the painting of the wall above the sanctuary arch in 1881 by N. H. J. Westlake, who may also have stencilled the sanctuary vault at the same time. (fn. 238) All the windows were filled with stained glass by degrees.
A serious fire in 1957 led to the reconstruction and redecoration of much of the chapel in 1957–9 at the hands of Bartlett and Purnell, architects, with Dove Brothers as builders. (fn. 239) The nave roof was rebuilt in concrete, simplified in shape internally and painted blue, while the columns round the high altar were cleared away. In addition the metal tabernacle and high altar gave way to a plain stone structure and backdrop, and the encaustic tiled floor was replaced with stone. Today the chapel exemplifies the fashionably bare, ‘international’ taste in Roman Catholic church decoration.
Before the chapel could be finished, the sisters embarked on a proper building in the south-east part of the site next to South End for their elementary school. This was erected in 1873–4 and cost £1,400. Its simple brick Gothic style confirms it as George Goldie's work. It remained in use as a school until 1956 and is currently known as St. Andrew's Hall. (fn. 233)
Next came a major new building, designed to house both the nuns and their flourishing secondary school, in the capacious pocket of land to the west of No. 23 and south of No. 24 Kensington Square. This was designed by Goldie and built by L. H. and R. Roberts of Islington in several stages, of 1875–6, 1882 and 1888–9. (fn. 240) It is a handsome example of institutional Gothic, its high, barrack-like bulk being relieved by the breaking-up of its surface with coloured brickwork, pilaster strips and the simplest of tracery patterns in the arched windows (Plate 9a).
Last of the buildings in this style was a small threestorey block which once stood at the end of the garden of No. 20 Kensington Square, just north of the elementary school. This may have been built as late as 1892, when No. 20 itself was taken over by the convent for use as a boy's ‘preparatory’ school. At first called ‘St. Margaret's’ and used for training girls for domestic service, the block in the garden later became a finishing school known as ‘St. Catherine's’. (fn. 233) As it was built after George Goldie's death it is attributable to his son Edward, head of the firm of Goldie, Child and Goldie.
A further small contribution to the convent by the Goldie family came in 1925, when Joseph Goldie, Edward's son, added the little passage or ‘gallery’ along the north side of No. 23 Kensington Square, making a new entrance to the convent and linking the two old houses here more firmly together. (fn. 233)
Thereafter no further building of importance took place at the convent until after the war of 1939–45. Having been evacuated during that war, the secondary school did not return. Its place was taken by a Catholic teacher-training foundation, Maria Assumpta College, which operated from these premises between 1946 and 1978. With some Government funding, major improvements to the college's facilities were undertaken in 1959–62 and 1966–7. These comprised the raising of a nine-storey student hostel at the south end of the convent garden, additions at the west end of George Goldie's main block of 1875–89, the reconstruction of No. 24 Kensington Square behind its front, and the erection of a new convent building for the nuns in the area south of the chapel in part previously occupied by ‘St. Margaret's’ or ‘St. Catherine's’. All these were the work of C. Lovett Gill and Partners, architects. (fn. 241) The pleasantest portion is the new conventual building, a quiet brick affair with a pitched roof and bellcote.
Happily the convent garden is big and mature enough to have accommodated all these encroachments successfully. With its tall planes, spreading oaks and venerable mulberries, it still offers an unexpected oasis behind Kensington Square and recalls, albeit remotely, the presence hereabouts of Thomas Young's bowling green and ‘Spring Garden’.