Survey of London: Volume 42, Kensington Square To Earl's Court. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1986.
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West side: its development and the making of Derry Street
The development of the west side of Kensington Square was very long-drawn-out, some of the sites there being left vacant for fifty years. While there is no obvious explanation for this the circumstances which allowed it to happen were created by Thomas Young himself, who at an early stage in the development of the square sold his freehold interest in the land on the west side without, it seems, imposing on the new owners any obligation to continue the development there.
In the south-west corner the carpenter John Hayward agreed to develop the site of No. 23 and in 1686 was said to be possessed of the site of No. 25. (fn. 242) It seems likely, therefore, that at this stage he had a lien on all this corner including the intervening site of No. 24. But in the event he built only No. 23, and the construction of Nos. 24 and 25, the first houses to be erected on the west side, passed into other hands.
To the north of No. 25 a large plot (H on fig. 1) comprising the sites of the future Nos. 26–32 was sold by Young in April 1686 to Ralph Hutchinson of St. James's, Westminster, gentleman; and at about the same time another large plot (L on fig. 1) comprising the future sites of Nos. 33–36 Kensington Square and the southern end of King (now Derry) Street was sold to the brothers William and Henry Lobb, joiners and carvers (see page 6). (fn. 243) The Lobbs' plot may also have included the sites of Nos. 37 and 38. (fn. 244)
The development of Hutchinson's plot did not begin until after 1693, when he sold part of his holding to John Kemp of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a woodmonger, who in the 1690s was also building in the West End — in Berwick Street, Soho Square and the Haymarket. (fn. 245) By 1697 Kemp had erected two houses, Nos. 26 and 27, on the ground purchased from Hutchinson, and was occupying the larger, No. 27, as his own residence. (fn. 246) By 1699 he had built two more houses, Nos. 28 and 29, to the north of No. 27, though whether he was here operating as the freeholder or under lease from Hutchinson is not known; (fn. 247) the former seems the more likely. The remainder of Hutchinson's land, comprising the sites of Nos. 30–32, was built up before 1708. Hutchinson relinquished his freehold interest in these sites which were in the hands of their respective developers by 1698. (fn. 248)
At No. 30 this was John Hall of Kensington, citizen and haberdasher. Hall was one of the first inhabitants of the square, occupying No. 40 from 1688 until his death in 1703. He may well have been more deeply involved in the development of the west side of the square than the surviving documents show, for in the early 1690s he had bought a strip of land immediately west of these sites from the adjacent landowner, Francis Barry. This allowed developers here to purchase from Hall some seventy feet of extra ground to add to the west end of their plots, otherwise only eighty feet deep. (fn. 249)
Nos. 31 and 32 were developed by a lawyer, Richard Milner, who was steward of the manor of Earl's Court. He lived in Bloomsbury Square, in the parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, where he involved himself in speculative building in Lewknor's Lane (now Macklin Street). (fn. 250)
Until at least 1766 Nos. 30, 31 and 32 remained in the possession of their builders' descendants, latterly represented by members of the Lloyd family, heirs of both John Hall and Richard Milner. (fn. 251)
The development of the Lobb brothers' take on the west side of the square was even slower, and did not start until well into the eighteenth century, when both brothers were dead. After they had died — William in 1697 and Henry in 1706 — their joint estate in the square passed to their children, in whose ownership it remained until 1717, when William's heirs assigned their share to Henry's only son, Thomas, thereby making him the sole owner. (fn. 252) Thomas Lobb, who lived in Norfolk, was a barrister and a member of the Inner Temple. One house, No. 36 Kensington Square, was built on part of the property in 1721–2, (fn. 253) but the rest remained undeveloped, and in 1728 Lobb sold the whole estate (including the site of No. 36) to John Walsh of Catherine Street, Strand, a highly successful musical-instrument-maker and the pre-eminent musicpublisher of his day. (fn. 254) Walsh's firm was responsible for printing a great many of Handel's scores, although a regular relationship between composer and publisher did not develop until c. 1730, when Walsh's son, John Walsh the younger (1709–66), assumed control of the business. At his death in 1736 Walsh senior is said to have been worth £20,000 or (in another source) £30,000. (fn. 255)
In addition to the estate which had formerly belonged to the Lobb brothers, Walsh also purchased from Thomas Lobb the adjoining house at No. 37 Kensington Square built by Henry Lobb in the 1690s. (fn. 256) In 1735 Walsh picked up the freehold of No. 20 Kensington Square and a public house in James (now Ansdell) Street at an auction. (fn. 257) In 1737 his son extended the family holdings in the vicinity by acquiring some recently developed property in Kensington High Street to the north-west of the former Lobb estate (see page 80). (fn. 258)
During the lifetime of the elder Walsh the only development to take place on the former Lobb estate was the erection c. 1731–2 of No. 33 Kensington Square, probably at the expense of Walsh himself. (fn. 259) But after his death (in March 1736) his son was quick to let the rest of the property for building, granting a sixty-one-year lease of the undeveloped portions to John Skynner of Kensington in July 1736. (fn. 260) Variously designated citizen and merchant taylor, wine and brandy dealer, bricklayer, and brickmaker, Skynner was at this time also a party to the development of the nearby land in the High Street shortly to be acquired by Walsh. (fn. 261) In 1736–7 he built Nos. 34 and 35 Kensington Square, completing the development of the western range and of the square as a whole. (fn. 262) At the same time he undertook the construction of a row of eleven small houses immediately to the north of No. 35. These were erected on the west side of a newly formed roadway ‘intended to be left’ between the garden wall of No. 36 Kensington Square on the east and the new houses on the west. (fn. 263) At its northern end this new roadway joined up with a right of way granted to Thomas Lobb by the adjoining owner, William Hanwell, in 1728, thus allowing Walsh's tenants to gain access from the square to Kensington High Street. (fn. 264) Previously the only recognized way out the square into the High Street had been along Young Street. For many years the new road was identified only as ‘Lo(b)b's Fields’, a designation which remained in use until the early 1780s when the name King Street was adopted. (fn. 265) It was renamed Derry Street in 1938.
Of the eleven houses erected on the west side of the new street in 1736–7, most appear to have been built by Skynner himself, although another local bricklayer, John Clarke, built the southernmost house in the row, later No. 13 King Street. (fn. 266) The houses were very modest, being only two storeys high with garrets and two windows wide (Plate 22c). One was leased to a local butcher, perhaps for his own occupation, and another was first inhabited by a carpenter. (fn. 267) Five houses, Nos. 8–12 King Street, survived in something like their original state until c. 1929, being demolished for the new Derry and Toms building. (fn. n1)
When John Walsh the younger died (reportedly worth £40,000) in 1766 his property in Kensington was inherited by his younger brother, Samuel, and on the latter's death in 1778 it passed to his executors, under whose auspices the estate was split up and sold in 1779. (fn. 269)
No. 24. The original house here, of which there may still be some trace in the front elevation of the present building, was erected in the late 1680s by a local carpenter and joiner, Richard Beckington (d. 1702). The site was in Beckington's hands by July 1687, (fn. 270) and he may by then have already purchased the freehold. This was to remain in the ownership of his descendants until 1760. (fn. 271) On the south side of the site Beckington erected stables, a coachhouse and a brewhouse. (fn. 272)
The first inhabitant of No. 24, from 1690 to 1694, was Willem Van Loon, Serjeant Chirurgeon to William III. He was succeeded until about 1704 by Justice (Thomas) Gratwick. (fn. 273) Later occupants include: Captain (Admiral) Charles Wager Purvis, c. 1750–7, and Alexander Ramsay Robinson, who inherited the Sheffield House estate in northern Kensington. Admiral Purvis later occupied No. 17. (fn. 274)
In 1820 the house was bought by Frederick Pratt Barlow, a lawyer and magistrate. (fn. 275) Barlow lived there until 1839, (fn. 18) when he removed to one of two new houses he had built on the south side of the square (see page 27). He still retained the freehold of his old house, then renumbered 25A and later 24A, and when after his death his estate was sold in 1859, it was one of several houses in the square bought by the Convent of the Assumption. In 1864–5 it was occupied by a Carmelite monastery and was not taken over by the Convent of the Assumption until c. 1869. (fn. 276)
The Convent rebuilt the whole house in about 1960–2 to designs by C. Lovett Gill and Partners, preserving only the stuccoed facade to the square (Plate 5a). (fn. 241) Of uncertain date, this appears to have been extended on its south side by the addition of a slightly lower, slightly recessed wing containing the front door—the latter in a wide, round-headed opening under a handsome fanlight, flanked by narrow windows. The most likely date for this addition is the mid 1790s, when a rise in the rateable value suggests some improvements had taken place. (fn. 18) If the front door was then moved to its present position a fairly radical recasting of the house is implied.
No. 25 seems to have been erected about 1693–4. John Hayward, the carpenter who built No. 23, was in possession of the site in 1686, but by 1693 it had passed, still apparently undeveloped, into the hands of William Munden of Kensington. (fn. 277) Variously described as innholder and barber-surgeon, Munden was the developer of parts of Young Street, where on the west side he let sites to builders on long leases. In Kensington Square there is no evidence of his having leased the site of No. 25 to a builder, but it may be significant that by 1702 the house was owned by the locksmith and ironsmith William Partridge, who had built his own house in the square, at No. 39, and also Nos. 11 and 12. (fn. 278) After Partridge's death in 1714 No. 25 passed into the ownership of his eldest daughter and her husband, Daniel Merigeot of St. James's, Westminster, periwig-maker, who sold it in 1737. (fn. 279)
The first inhabitant of No. 25 in 1694 was a Dr. Ambrose Adams who soon moved to Young Street, where he was the first occupant of No. 16 in 1695. From 1698 to 1704 No. 25 was occupied by Richard Longbottom, Barber-in-Ordinary to William III, and from 1707 to 1712 by a Lady Rawlinson. (fn. 18)
In 1791 the house was let on a repairing lease to the local builder and carpenter Jonathan Hamston who undertook to put the premises into repair and to raise the roof to the height of the adjoining houses. (fn. 280) This suggests that No. 25 had originally been only two storeys high above ground with roof garrets. Hamston may also have been responsible for stuccoing the front. Between 1801 and 1807 the house was occupied by John Hollingsworth, Warden of the Ironmongers' Company. (fn. 281)
In about 1864 No. 25 was leased to the directors of the adjoining Kensington Proprietary Grammar School (see page 35) who wanted its back garden to replace the school's old playground which had been taken for the construction of the underground railway. A classroom was erected on part of the garden adjacent to the house, but No. 25 itself was sublet to one of the assistant masters, the Rev. C. T. Ackland, as a boarding house for pupils. (fn. 282) In 1873 Ackland, who had bought the freehold in 1870, conveyed the house to the Kensington Foundation Grammar School, successor to the Proprietary School, of which he was the first headmaster. (fn. 283) The back garden continued to be used as a playground but the house was let to private tenants to produce an income for the school until it closed in 1896. (fn. 284)
Together with the other houses on the west side of the square formerly occupied by the school, No. 25 was purchased by the Crown in 1900 and let to Derry and Toms for use as a warehouse and staff dormitory. (fn. 285) Shortly afterwards an arched entrance was cut through the house to make a way for vehicles from the square into Derry and Toms' premises behind (see fig. 31 on page 90).
Today the stuccoed front of No. 25 (Plate 5a) appears bald and plain, with flat architraves round the windows. The one clue to antiquity is the narrow front door which is squeezed into a corner. The door itself and its hood (fig. 11) may date from 1693–4, but the fanlight is probably of c. 1820. The plan is of the conventional type with a closet wing at the rear. Several of the rooms retain simple panelling and box cornices, but there are some signs of early-nineteenth-century alterations.
No. 26. This is the smallest of the four houses (Nos. 26–29) originally built by John Kemp, woodmonger, in the 1690s. It was erected between May 1693, when Kemp bought the sites of Nos. 26 and 27 from Ralph Hutchinson (see page 29), and January 1697. (fn. 286) The first occupant, in 1698 until 1700, was a Colonel John Rivett. (fn. 18) The front was altered at some time in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century and not many early features can be seen inside, but the essentials of the original plan survived until 1977 and are still just discernible, while the staircase and a little panelling look to be of early date.
In 1706 Kemp sold the house, together with an extension to the back garden which he had bought in 1702 from John Hall, citizen and haberdasher, to John Ilford of Kensington, gentleman, for £450. (fn. 287) Ilford's heirs sold it in 1727, together with a house in Young Street, to John Stevens of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, distiller, for £712 15s. (fn. 288) In 1741 Stevens, then described as a brewer, of Kingston, sold it and the Young Street house for £500 to Joseph Wedgbrough, a Kensington carpenter. The house was said to be then empty. (fn. 289) Whether Wedgbrough did any rebuilding at that time is not known.
The Honourable George Byng, later the third Viscount Torrington, was an occupant, probably in the 1740s, and from 1785 to 1790 the house was occupied by Anthony Stokes, sometime Chief Justice of Georgia, who then moved to No. 34. (fn. 290)
By 1804 the freehold was held in two moieties by Stokes' widow, and William Territt, a judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court of Bermuda who was the occupant in the late 1790s. (fn. 291) In 1839 a solicitor who had married a Territt sold the house to trustees for the Kensington Proprietary Grammar School next door, and until 1896 its history is part of that school's and of its successors’. No. 26, however, seems not to have been utilized for classrooms but for office, library and masters' use (see page 35). Bought by the Crown in 1900, it was leased to Derry and Toms, who used it for their staff and the former school premises at the back for workshops. (fn. 292)
The house consists of three full storeys and a garret storey, over a basement. The completely plain brick front (Plate 5a) is approached, up four steps, between iron railings of which those guarding the adjacent area of No. 27 are modern. The small width of the house gives a crowded ground-floor front, containing a doorcase of lateeighteenth-century type, with a fanlight in a rectangular opening (fig. 11), and two straight-headed windows set in shallow reveals. In the storeys above the window-openings are more generously spaced, the proportions suggesting a late-Georgian date - possibly 1790–1, as hinted by the ratebooks. The front is finished with a stone coping, behind which dormer windows are set in the slated face of a mansard roof. The front door opens to the customary side entrance passage, Long and narrow, with simple and perhaps orginal panelling, and divided in two by a wooden arch supported by moulded imposts and panelled pilasters (Plate 19a), it leads to a wooden dog-leg staircase at the rear. Ascending the full height of the house, this is very similar to the staircase at No. 36 (of 1721–2). It has squaresection, simply, moulded handrails houses into square newel-posts with moulded caps and turned pendants, good turned balusters and simply moulded closed strings. The dado is renewed.
The ground-floor plan (fig. 31 on page 90) gives the usual front and rear room to one side of the entrance passage, with a small closet (now a water closet) behind the staircase. A noticeable feature of the ground-floor plan in 1911 (fn. 293) was that the rear room (like the corresponding room above) was not rectangular but slightly L-shaped. Although this looks on plan like the effect of alteration it was doubtless the original arrangement. If so, it reflected what seems to have been a flexible or unsystematized approach by Kemp to the planning of his houses and was probably occasioned by a wish to give up as little of the meagre width of the house to the entrance hall and staircase as possible. Alterations in 1978 changed this arrangement in many respects. On the ground floor the front room was (in accordance with many late-eighteenth -century precedents) extended backward to make a large dining room at the expense of the rear room, which became a kitchen. A similar change gave an extended drawing-room on the first floor, with the rear room being reduced to a small study. (fn. 294)
No. 27. With a frontage of thirty-six feet No. 27 has always been the largest house on the west side of the square. The present house is the second to be erected on the site and dates from 1833–4. The original house here was built in the mid 1690s by the woodmonger John Kemp (see page 29) Who was himself the first inhabitant, from 1696 to 1699. (fn. 295) Later occupants included the ‘Marquis du Court’ 1700–1, ‘Lady Illey’ 1722, and Stephen Ashby, benefactor of St. Bartholomew's Christ's and Bethlehem Hospitals, c. 1732–52. (fn. 296)
No illustration of Kemp's house is known, but a brief auction notice of 1771 describes it as a ‘substantially built’ four-storey house containing ‘three rooms and a closet per floor’. At the back it had a walled garden ‘planted with evergreens etc.’ (fn. 297)
The present No. 27 was built to accommodate the Kensington Proprietary Grammar School for boys, an institution which in its heyday occupied several adjoining houses on the west side of the square.
The school had been established nearby at No. 31, where it opened on 24 January 1831 with twenty pupils. The proprietors had taken that house on a short tenure, the intention being that if after a trial period of two years the school was a success they would either take a lease or go else where. The school quickly established itself. Within a year of opening the number of pupils had doubled and the schoolroom had had to be enlarged. (fn. 298) The proprietors nevertheless decided against taking a lease of No. 31, where it would have cost £600 to put the house into ‘substantial repair’, and in June 1833 they purchased the freehold of No. 27. (fn. 299) The old house had stood empty for some years and the proprietors planned to rebuild it. At the same time they leased two-and-a-half acres of ground behind the house, previously William Cobbett's nursery (see page 82), for use as a playground. (fn. 300)
The rebuilding of No. 27 was carried out by George Todd of Chelsea in 1833–4 at a cost of some £3,500. (fn. 301) The school minute books show that as far as the directors were concerned the architect was William Crake of Notting Hill, ‘a gentleman of professional eminence and skill.… whom the Proprietors have the good fortune to number amoung their members’. (fn. 302) In trade directories, however, Crake is listed only as a builder with an address in Old Quebec Street, St. Marylebone, which he shared with the architect John Crake, who was doubtless a relation, and it may be that the buildings erected under William's supervision and for which he received the nominal credit were actually designed by John.
The new school was in two parts: a front building, on the site of the old house, and a separate schoolroom behind. The front building (Plate 4d), known as School House, was intended primarily as the headmaster's residence, but it also contained a directors' room, a dining-room for the boys, both on the ground floor, and bedrooms and a dormitory for boarders. (fn. 303) Noticeably larger-scaled than its older neighbours, the school house is four storeys high, slightly raised above a basement, with an austere brick front of four bays' width. There is a cement cornice between the third and fourth storeys and a plain cement bandcourse between the first and second. The wide two-leaved front door, approached up a flight of seven steps, is set in a round-arched opening, the upper part of which is filled with a large radially patterned fanlight. The front area and front steps are protected by spear-headed iron railings now painted black but originally intended to be ‘stone color’. (fn. 304)
Inside, the house has been altered and on the ground floor (see fig. 31 on page 90) a small parlour immediately to the right of the entrance disappeared when the lower part of the staircase was rebuilt in the early 1880s. The original staircase survives above the ground floor and has square wooden balusters, which the builder was required to paint in ‘imitation of bronze’, and a mahogany handrail. The walls of the staircase, the entrance lobby and the little parlour were to be painted fawn colour with the skirting darker, the cornice lighter and the ceiling coloured to suit. (fn. 304) The ground-floor front room to the left of the entrance was ‘kept at the service of the directors and proprietors for their meetings’. (fn. 305) This has a moulded plaster cornice and ceiling rose, and a plain marble chimneypiece. The walls were originally painted ‘light Tea-Green’, the skirting a shade darker and the cornices lighter: the colour of the ceiling was to be either ‘a reflection of the wall’ or cream ‘as may be designed best to Harmonise the General Appearance of the Room, Observing that the prevailing color of the furniture is Red’. The large ground-floor back room occupying the whole width of the house was originally the boys' dining-room. This has an enriched moulded plaster cornice and ceiling rose and the original colour scheme was fawn, as in the little parlour. The boys' bedrooms were on the top floor. (fn. 304) The first and second floors were evidently occupied by the headmaster, to whom the house was let for £80 a year. (fn. 306)
The schoolroom was housed in a free-standing single-storey building at the back of the main house from which it was separated by a paved playground covered by a corrugated-iron roof. Known as the ‘tectum’, this covered playground was for use on wet days. (fn. 307) A passageway through the basement storey of No. 27 (which still survives) gave direct access to the playground and schoolroom from Kensington Square. Inside the schoolroom the woodwork was painted oak colour, but not grained, and its three west-facing windows were fitted with roller blinds of white holland. On the west side of the building there was a projecting ‘shade’ above the windows. Twenty-two feet long by four feet wide, this was made of slates painted white underneath supported on curved iron cantilevers. (fn. 308)
West of the schoolroom was the large open playground, part of which was taken for the headmaster's garden while another piece was let to a tenant. The remaining one-and-a-half acres were laid out with a twelve-foot wide gravel path all round and a turfed centre for cricket. (fn. 309)
A few days before the school opened in 1831 the first headmaster, the Rev. T. S. Evans, prepared a sketch of the system of education to be adopted. Approximately one third of the boys' time was to be devoted to the study of Latin and Greek, slightly more time to religious instruction, history, mathematics and arithmetic, and slightly less to French, geography and writing. Teaching was to be by the monitorial system, whereby the masters taught only the monitors who in turn passed on the instruction they had received to their schoolfellows. (fn. 310) This method was abandoned just as the school was about to take possession of the new schoolroom in January 1834. Instead the boys were divided into six separate classes for teaching purposes. (fn. 311)
Originally these classes were all held in the one large room, (fn. 312) (fn. n2) an arrangement which continued until 1837, when two new classrooms were added to the existing building. They were designed by John Crake (so named in the minutes) and built by Stephen Bird. (fn. 314) In 1838 the proprietors acquired the next-door house at No. 26, where two more classrooms were erected in the back garden. The architect was again John Crake and the builder George Todd. At the same time the covered playground or ‘tectum’ was extended behind No. 26. (fn. 315) The house itself was leased to the school's second master for £65 a year. (fn. 316) In 1845 another two classrooms were built on top of the original schoolroom, the architect this time being a Mr. Gibbins and the builders S. and H. Bird. (fn. 317)
The school meanwhile had been widening its curriculum, and following the resignation of the first headmaster in 1834, dancing and drawing were introduced. (fn. 318) More far-reaching was the decision in 1841 to provide special courses to prepare boys for the East India Company's colleges at Haileybury and Addiscombe. As a result Hindustani, military drawing, fortification, drill and fencing were all gradually introduced. And the school's connection with the East India Company was further strengthened by the award in 1842 of a cadetship at Addiscombe to be competed for annually. (fn. 319)
In 1845, when the number of pupils had reached 130, of whom 85 were boarders, the directors decided to buy No. 28 Kensington Square and use it as a boarding house, thereby relieving some of the pressure on the headmaster's own house. (fn. 320) It seems, however, that only a part of No. 28 was used in this way, the rest of the house being let to the second master at £70 per annum, (fn. 321) while his former residence at No. 26 was added to the headmaster's house. In 1849, the year in which gas-lighting was instaled in the lower rooms at Nos. 26 and 27, the headmaster offered the front parlour at Nos. 26 as an office for the school's secretary and treasurer. (fn. 322) Later the school library was in No. 26. At No. 28 a ‘new building’ was erected at the back in 1846, (fn. 323) but when further work was being carried out here in 1851 the adjoining owner at No. 29 complained, and the directors decided to take a lease of that house, which they later sub-let to the second master. (fn. 324) (fn. n3) More classrooms were built in the back garden of No. 28 in 1853. (fn. 326)
In the 1860s the school's fortunes began to wane, and it lost an important amenity when the large open playground at the back was compulsorily acquired in 1865 for the line of the new Metropolitan Railway. (fn. 327) A new but much smaller playground was made in the back garden of No. 25, which the directors had taken on lease in about 1864 and which they sub-let as a boarding house to one of the assistant masters. (fn. 328)
By 1869, when there were only 45 pupils left, the school had accumulated debts of over £2,000 and could no longer be made to pay. (fn. 329) In July 1869, therefore, the proprietors voted to close it down. (fn. 330) At the same time they agreed to sell the school buildings to the Rev. Charles Tabor Ackland, one of the assistant masters. The intention was to open an Endowed Grammar School here but this did not take place until 1873. In the meantime Ackland assumed the headmastership and carried on the school on his own responsibility as the Kensington Foundation Grammar School. When the new school was formally established under this name in July 1873, Ackland transferred the property to the trustees, including the freeholds of Nos. 25 and 29 which he bought at his own expense in order to safeguard the school's light and air. (fn. 331)
Under Ackland's headship the school flourished and within ten years of re-opening it had 130 pupils. (fn. 332) Later the numbers began to fall off, particularly after the opening in 1884 of St. Paul's School in Hammersmith, only one-and-a-quarter miles from Kensington Square, which was seen as a ‘formidable rival’. (fn. 333) In 1881, the year of Ackland's resignation, the trustees spent £3,650 on building works at the school, for which the architect was a Mr. Baker (probably Arthur Baker) and the contractor Thomas Hockley of Kensington High Street. (fn. 334) Some of this money went on enlarging classrooms and building fives courts behind Nos. 28 and 29, and the rest on various alterations at Nos. 26–28. At No. 27, where an enlarged entrance hall was made by throwing together the original entrence lobby and the adjoining little parlour, the lower part of the original staircase was removed (fn. n4) and a new staircase from ground to first floor was built on the north side of the enlarged hall (Plate 19a). Made of oak, the new staircase has early-eighteenth-century-style turned balusters.
The alterations at the three houses were partly intended to prepare them for letting to private tenants as the school contracted, and in his last report as headmaster Ackland warned the trustees that great improvements would be necessary if they were to secure enhanced rents for the houses. (fn. 336) A further £1,500 was spent on alterations at Nos. 26 and 27 in 1890 and 1891 in order to prepare them for separate letting. (fn. 332) By then the school itself was in a parlous state. Already in 1890 the head master had tried to close it but the trustees would not allow this, and it struggled on for a few more years until in 1896, When there were only ten or twelve pupils, it did finally close. (fn. 337)
The trustees, who by then had let all five houses fronting the square to private tenants, (fn. 338) still hoped to use the back premises for educational work, and in 1898 a scheme for a new school here to be known as the Kensington School of Science and Art received the approval of the Charity Commissioners. It was abandoned (with out any school having been established) when the trustees found themselves unable to pay off the mortgage debt on the property. (fn. 332) The whole site was then offered for sale at auction but failed to attract a buyer, and in 1900 the trustees agreed to sell it to Derry and Toms for £20,500. (fn. 332) This arrangement was superseded when the Crown, which had been negotiating to buy the free hold of various properties occupied by Derry and Toms, agreed to buy the freehold of the Grammar School site and let it to Derry's on a lease expiring in 1949. (fn. 339) The conveyance of the school property to the Crown took place in December 1900. (fn. 340)
While Nos. 28 and 29 Kensington Square continued to be occupied by private tenants, the other three houses in the square were used to provide accommodation for Derry and Toms' staff, and the back premises were converted for use as workshops (see fig. 31 on page 90).
Most of these back premises have now been rebuilt but there is one survival from the days of the school. This is the ‘cottage’ behind No. 28 which is evidently the ‘new building’ of 1846. By the 1880s it was being used for class rooms and later for workshops. (fn. 341) Now known as No. 27A Kensington Square, it was converted into a dwelling houses in 1933 for Mr. Charles Pritchard, whose intention then was ‘to occupy it personally with a man servant’. The architects for the conversion were Sydney Tatchell and G.C. Wilson. (fn. 342)
No. 28 Like Nos. 26 and 29 this is vestigially a house of the 1690s and one of the four for which John Kemp, woodmonger, was responsible (see above). Below the third floor, which was added in the nineteenth century, the front, although extensively reconstructed in about 1967, (fn. 343) looks as if it represents in its essential features the first building of the house.
In 1693 the site was in the hands of Richard Davis, painter-stainer, (fn. 344) but in January 1697 the house was probably still unbuilt. (fn. 345) It was completed, however, by September 1699, when Kemp insured it for £400. (fn. 346) The first occupant, from 1700, was a John Fox, esquire, who evidently stayed there until his death in 1726. (fn. 347)
The nature of Kemp's lien on the house is not known, but in 1713 the freehold was acquired, with that of No. 29, by John Gawthorne of Hackney, gentleman (see below), and in 1737 the freehold of No. 28 alone by Charles White of Kensington, esquire, whose family retained it until 1813. (fn. 348) Charles White himself occupied the house until the 1750s, but for most of the years from 1760 to 1817 the ratepaying householders were women. (fn. 18) In 1813 the house was bought by John Gregory, esquire, who sold it in 1818 to John Kendall, a candle-maker, who had previously occupied No. 4. (fn. 348) He was, again, an owneroccupier, being succeeded in the house on his death a year or two later by his widow and then his son John. The latter sold it in 1846 for £1,600 to the Kensington Proprietary Grammar School at No. 27, who raised No. 28 a storey (perhaps in 1848 (fn. 349) ) and added buildings at the back (in 1846, 1853 and 1881, see page 35). It was owned by the school and its successors until 1896 and, like the other school premises, was bought in 1900 by the Crown.
An iron overthrow with lamp-holder spans the approach, up four steps, to the front door between iron railings like those that guard the area. The boundary with No. 29 is marked by a shoulder-high parapet wall, similar to others now or formerly existing in the square. The wholly brick front (Plate 4d) has a width of twenty-two feet, permitting three window-openings on all storeys and a consequently regular vertical alignment of the openings on the ground and upper floors. The third floor, its front finished simply with a small coping, is, together with the garret storey, an unobtrusive addition. Below this level, the square-headed window-openings are of equal height on all floors, and line through with those of the adjacent No. 29 and also approximately with those of No. 26. The windows are set in almost-flush frames. Plain bandcourses mark the first- and second-floor levels. The entrance door, set in a round-headed opening under a fanlight (fig. 11), is of a type suggestive of about 1820 and conceivably dates from 1814–15 or 1818–19. (fn. 18) It gives on to an entrance hall where the doorcases and a round-headed arch dividing the front and rear parts exhibit wooden reeded architraves and lion-head stops of the same period. Formerly the plan of the house was conventional, with front and back groundfloor rooms to one side of the entrance hall, with a third, smaller, room beyond, and a staircase (now a Victorian replacement) at the rear of the hall, with a closet behind it. The first floor repeated this arrangement except that the front room extended the full width of the house. In 1951–2 the interior was altered for the conversion of the house into flats and maisonettes to designs by A. J. Fowles, architect, of Thorpe Bay, Essex, who inserted a second staircase. (fn. 350)
No. 29 is the best-preserved of the four adjoining houses erected in the 1690s by the woodmonger John Kemp. It was begun not earlier than June 1697 and finished by December 1699, when Kemp insured the house for £400. (fn. 351) It was first occupied in 1704 by a Mr. Fowles who lived there until 1707. (fn. 18)
By 1713 the freehold of No. 29, together with that of No. 28, had been acquired by a gentleman in Hackney, John Gawthorne, whose heirs sold the houses in 1737. No. 29 was bought by Charles Fielding of the Inner Temple, gentleman, and on his death in 1738 it passed to his widow, Elizabeth, who lived here until 1765. (fn. 352) She was succeeded by her unmarried sister, Charlotte Baron, who died in 1767 bequeathing the house and some of its contents to Sir Francis Vincent, baronet. (fn. 353) Items inherited by Vincent included a ‘sea peice’ above the chimney in the diningroom, a landscape over the chimney in the parlour, a pair of pier-glasses between the windows in the dining-room, and looking glasses and a marble ‘slabb’ in the parlour. Vincent never lived at No. 29, which he sold in 1768. (fn. 354)
From 1818 to 1838 the house was let to a Miss Mary Giles and was occupied for at least part of this time as a ‘ladies’ boarding academy’. (fn. 355) In 1838 Samuel Redgrave, the writer on art, bought the lease and together with his younger brother, the painter Richard Redgrave, lived here until 1841. In 1852 the directors of the Kensington Proprietary Grammar School at Nos. 26–28 took a lease of No. 29 which they sub-let to the second master, the Rev. George Frost, who was the occupant here until 1881 (fn. 356) (see page 35n.). By then the freehold of the house had been acquired (in 1872) for the Kensington Foundation Grammar School, which had superseded the old proprietary school on the same site in 1869. (fn. 357) No. 29 continued to be let to private tenants to supplement the school's income, but in the mid 1880s it lost most of its garden for the building of fives-courts and classrooms. In 1900, together with the rest of the former school property, it was purchased by the Crown but is now privately owned.
The house is three windows wide and contains four storeys, a basement and a garret storey, the latter being an addition. The front is constructed of brown brick with red-brick window dressings (Plate 5a). A feature characteristic of its early date is the large proportion of the width of the front wall taken up by the closely spaced windows, which are set in shallow reveals. Symmetry is observed in the central placing of the front door, very unusual in a house of this age and width, and perhaps the result of a later change. The door is now dressed with a mid- to late-eighteenth-century wooden doorcase consisting of two columns with leaf capitals supporting a decorated frieze under a modillion cornice (Plate 13a, fig. 11).
Inside, the house is two rooms deep, with a dog-leg staircase laterally positioned between the front and back rooms and lit (not very effectively) by a narrow well against the north party wall. This type of plan (fig. 12) permits the entrance hall and other rooms to occupy the full with of the building. In 1767 the front room on the first floor over the hall is known to have been used as a bedroom. (fn. 358)
No. 29 is considerably deeper than its neighbours, and the back rooms, which have corner chimney flues, are surprisingly long. The structural evidence revealed during a renovation of 1968 suggested that they have not been extended. Up to that time two ancient oak beams of eightinch square section carried the first floor here, spanning nineteen feet without intermediate support; the joists were of oak and notched for insertion into the beams. In 1968 these beams were replaced with steel girders and the joists renewed. (fn. 359) The rear wall has been rebuilt and the house has lost the closet wing indicated in the insurance survey of 1699. This was probably on the north side, where the window openings are narrower.
On the ground and first floors the rooms have raisedand-fielded panelling, box cornices and stone or marble bolection-moulded chimneypieces (Plate 13c). The original wooden staircase has closed strings, a simply moulded handrail, and barley-sugar balusters (Plate 13b, fig. 12).
Other occupants include: Walter Hungerford, citizen and clothworker, 1706–11; Lady Castlecomer (?Elizabeth, widow of 1st Visct., or Frances, widow of 2nd Visct.), 1719; Richard P. Ebden, Chief Clerk at the Colonial Office, 1881–96; George Stormont Finch-Hatton, 13th Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham, 1897–1901; Frederick Scott Oliver, businessman and publicist, 1901–8.
No. 30. This house, first occupied in 1702, was built as a speculation in about 1699 for John Hall of Kensington, citizen and haberdasher (see page 30). (fn. 360) The first occupant was Judge Gold (later Sir Henry Gold) who remained there until his death in 1710. (fn. 361) In 1705 the house was insured with the Hand-in-Hand Company for £400. (fn. 362)
On the front (Plate 5c) only the coloured brickwork around the first-floor windows and the bandcourse above today offer clues to this early date. But the rear elevation is well preserved, with several early window frames and a closet wing rising to the full height of the house. An old iron boot-scraper on the steps down into the garden may be an original feature. Also presumably of early date is the iron overthrow with a lamp-holder at the front gate. Inside, the old plan form remains, with the staircase in the conventional side position. Some panelling survives, but much appears to have been renewed. A corner fireplace in the ground-floor front room furnishes a welcome impression of informality.
By the early 1750s the house was occupied as a young ladies’ boarding-school—possibly one of the earliest to invade the square. (fn. 363)
In 1820 Charles A. Hoare of Queen Square, Bloomsbury, a landed proprietor, bought No. 30 for his own occupation. (fn. 364) Before taking up residence there in that year (fn. 18) Hoare introduced a number of alterations in which he made a parade of the family crest, a double-headed eagle. To him may be attributed the stuccoing of the ground storey, the pretty first-floor balcony, and the raising and rebuilding of the upper storeys, giving the front a superficially late-Georgian appearance. Many features within seem to belong to this period, including cornices, doorcases, the staircase balustrade and handrail and a set of neat marble fireplaces—some later inset with tiles.
Hoare occupied No. 30 until his death in 1862. (fn. 365) His stabling, replacing that originally provided in the common stable-yard at the south-east corner of the square, was in Brown's Court, on the north side of Kensington High Street next to the Royal Kent Theatre, where he also had a pheasantry. (fn. 366) At the time of his death Hoare owned freehold estates at Bray in Berkshire and property in several other counties including a windmill at Bushey in Hertfordshire. (fn. 367)
Between 1904 and 1906 the occupant was Francis Darwin, botanist son of Charles Darwin. (fn. 93)
No. 31. Erected in 1699, but partly rebuilt in the mid 1830s and extensively altered in the early 1880s, this is the earlier of the two houses built as a speculation by the lawyer Richard Milner (see page 30). It was first occupied in 1700 by the third Baron Folliott, who lived there until 1704. (fn. 368)
With a frontage of just under twenty-five feet, No. 32 is wider by some six feet than either of the two adjoining houses, and Milner insured it with the Hand-in-Hand Company for £600, a substantially higher valuation that that placed on Nos. 30 and 32, both of which were insured with the same company. (fn. 369)
In the autumn of 1830 the house was leased by the directors of the newly established Kensington Proprietary Grammar School for boys, which opened here on 24 January 1831 (see page 33). (fn. 370) After being vacated by the school in 1834, No. 31 stood empty until about 1836. (fn. 371) It was then extensively reconstructed by Isaac Thomas Couchman, a local builder, who in 1837 was granted a fifty-year lease in consideration of the money he had already spent in ‘partly rebuilding and otherwise repairing’ the house. (fn. 372)
In 1882 No. 31 was bought by Charles Darwin's son-in-law Richard Buckley Litchfield, a Senior Clerk with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He and his wife, who had previously been living in Bryanston Street, wanted to move to a larger house partly in order to make the visits of Mr. and Mrs. Darwin more comfortable. (fn. 373) But in April 1882, only a month or so after they had agreed to buy No. 31, Darwin died. They nevertheless regarded it as a ‘happy choice’. ‘There was’, wrote Mrs. Litchfield, ‘a peculiar charm in the low well-proportioned rooms which made it quite unlike a modern London house. At the back there was a picturesque bit of garden. It was the width of the house for the first part, and then, an old encroachment on the garden of our next door neighbour, enabled us to have a little square lawn, a pear tree, a mulberry and a row of limes.’ (fn. 374)
For all their satisfaction with its ‘peculiar charm’, No. 31 was considerably altered by the Litchfields, who occupied the house until R. B. Litchfield's death in 1903. Their most striking change was made at the front of the house which was given a large straight-sided gable and in its upper parts hung with reddish brown tiles. (fn. 375) This probably dates from 1882, when unspecified alterations were made here by a builder, (fn. 376) although the effect is rather of a later date by reason of its plainness (Plate 5c). The apex of the gable was originally finished with an iron sunflower-finial.
Inside, the Litchfields chose a consciously artistic style of decoration. (An admirer of Ruskin and Morris, R. B. Litchfield had for many years slept with a copy of In Memoriam under his pillow.) Mrs. Litchfield's niece, Gwen Raverat, who knew the house well, said it ‘was full of Morris wallpapers, and Morris curtains, and blue china, and peacock feathers, and Arundel prints, and all that sort of thing’. (fn. 377)
The house still retains its old plan form with a staircase to one side and a closet wing at the back, but the interior has been much altered. Surviving from the Litchfield's time are the dado and cornice in the first-floor drawing rooms and also the lower part of the staircase. The upper part of the staircase dates from the 1830s and has square balusters and a mahogany handrail. There are some eighteenth-century chimneypieces introduced by the present owner, of which the finest (in the first-floor front room) is inlaid with red and black medallions and sphinxes and festoons of green ivy leaves. Though bought locally it is thought to have come from a house in Dublin. (fn. 378)
The back garden still extends behind that of No. 32 and retains a mulberry tree.
Other occupants include: Lady Beeston, probably the widow of Sir William Beeston, Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica, 1704-c. 1707; Lady St. John, 1719–24; Lady Temple, c. 1724–5; Lady Clifton, c. 1736–7; Sir Archer Croft, 3rd bart., from before 1760 to 1765; Rose Du Plesis, who in her will described herself as ‘in the eye of the law spinster, but declared by the late Right Honourable Henry, the Lord Coleraine, in his Lordship's will, to have been before God and in his own conscience his only true and virtuous wife’, 1765–90; (fn. 379) Emma Albani, soprano, 1877–9.
No. 32. Like the earlier No. 31, this house was erected for the property-speculating lawyer, Richard Milner of Bloomsbury Square (see page 30). In his will, drawn up in 1711, Milner calls it a ‘new built house’; (fn. 380) but it was then already at least three years old having been insured for £400 with the Hand-in-Hand Company in the spring of 1708. (fn. 381) It was occupied for the first time in 1709 by a Mr. James Dobson who lived there until 1718. (fn. 18)
Between 1820 and 1827, No. 32 was the home of the lawyer and political economist William Nassau Senior. He purchased the freehold in 1821 and on leaving the square sold the house for £840. (fn. 382) A later owner-occupier, Alexander Nelson Radcliffe, who bought No. 32 in 1884 and lived there to 1895, employed John Dixon Butler to design alterations, but it is not known what these were. (fn. 383)
The front of No. 32 (Plate 5c) remains in essence that of a house of c. 1708, having plentiful orange brick dressings to relieve the basic brown brickwork, and window frames almost flush with the building line. However, many alterations have been made over the years. The ground floor has been stuccoed and given a new front door while the first-floor windows have been lengthened in the customary way to give access to a balcony with iron railings of about 1830. To judge from the brickwork, it is probable that the house had originally only three main storeys above ground, and that the top portion of the elevation represents a careful heightening in the original style, made about two hundred years after the time of first building. The present roof line and dormer windows are of relatively recent date.
Inside, No. 32 retains the core of its old plan and a gooddeal of panelling and box-cornice work, but betrays many signs of rearrangement. The house may have been lengthened at the back to the same depth as the original closet wing, which seems to have been behind the staircase. The stair itself possesses barley-sugar twist balusters and newels which are more likely to belong to the twentieth than the eighteenth century. Plane, fig and mulberry trees contribute to a leafy garden.
No. 33 was erected in the early 1730s for the musicpublisher and instrument-maker John Walsh the elder, who bought the freehold of this and the adjoining sites to the north in 1728 (fn. 384) (see page 30). It was the first new house to be built on the west side of the square since No. 32 over twenty years before. The cost of building was probably defrayed by Walsh himself, unlike the two houses to the north built a few years later, which were erected under long leases granted by Walsh's son. No. 33 was uninhabited when Walsh insured the house for £300 in July 1732, but by 1736 it was occupied by Robert Austin, a mercer or grocer. (fn. 385) In the absence of the ratebooks it is not possible to say if Austin was the first occupant or how long he stayed.
After Walsh's death No. 33 descended with the rest of his estate in Kensington Square to his son, John Walsh the younger, and afterwards to another son, Samuel, whose executors sold the house in 1779 to Daniel Hancock of Kensington, gentleman. (fn. 386) Neither Hancock, a former baker in Mayfair, nor his grandson, who inherited the property under his grandfather's will, ever lived there, and the house was let to tenants. (fn. 387)
Two notable later occupants of No. 33 are the naval surgeon Dr. James Veitch, who lived there from 1841 to 1848, and the actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell. Mrs. Campbell's residence, from 1898 until 1918, is commemorated by a privately erected plaque. (fn. 388)
No. 33 now belongs to the National Trust which acquired it as a gift in 1952 from the financier and philanthropist Angus W. Acworth, (fn. 389) who had lived there from 1927 to 1951. Honorary secretary of the Georgian Group from 1944 to 1958, Acworth played a prominent part in the campaign to preserve Kensington Square from commercial development.
The appearance of No. 33 (Plate 6b) is that of an orthodox small town house of its date, with three full storeys above ground and an elevation of plain brickwork enlivened by red-brick dressings. The first-floor balcony, stuccoed ground storey and fanlight over the door are characteristic alterations of the early nineteenth century. Inside, the usual side corridor and dog-leg staircase serve two rooms per floor, with a small closet wing behind. Though some panelling on the main floors may be original, the house appears to have enjoyed a good deal of sentimental ‘enhancement’ of its Georgian character, before as well as during A. W. Acworth's residence. In a photograph of the ground floor taken in Mrs. Patrick Campbell's time (Plate 15b) the wall-treatment of the dining-room is recognizably the same as today; here the ample chimneypiece, with its infill of coloured marble and bluetiled hearth-cheeks, remains in place. But Mrs. Campbell's homely ‘Morris’ furnishings have naturally gone, the archway between front and back rooms (not itself an original feature) has been filled in, the woodwork stripped and a spick-and-span kitchen made in the rear room, which retains its corner chimney flue. Further comfortably tiled fireplaces are a feature of the first floor, and here a similar archway remains, allowing an L-shaped drawing-room (Plate 15a).
Nos. 34 and 35. The building of these two houses in 1736–7 filled the last remaining site in the square whose development had begun over half a century before. Both houses were erected under building leases granted in 1737 by John Walsh the younger, the music-publisher and instrument-maker, to John Skynner of Kensington, ‘citizen and merchant taylor’, but a bricklayer and brickmaker by trade. (fn. 390) The disparity in scale between the two houses both in width and storey heights is evidently original(Plate 6b). It is not known when or by whom they were first inhabited.
No. 34, the wider and taller of the two, has been plainly refronted, probably in 1820. (fn. 18) It is now four storeys high over a basement, but the top floor may originally have been a garret storey. The house is conventionally planned with a side entrance hall and staircase compartment at the rear. Inside, most of the rooms on the ground, first and second floors have simple wooden panelling, and in the hallway and ground-floor back room the box cornice survives. The staircase, of 1737, has nicely turned wooden balusters, two to a tread, and carved tread-ends. Apart from some renewed handrail it is original to the top of the house, but the upper parts are plainer. The back rooms and closets have corner chimney flues, now mostly blocked.
A large single-storey extension at the back, variously referred to as a garden-room, morning-room or studio, appears to have been added in the 1860s, when No. 34 was in the occupation of the architect C. J. Richardson, and may therefore have been his workroom or drawing office. (fn. 391)
The garden has been severely curtailed. Formerly it was L-shaped and extended northwards behind No. 35 and the houses on the west side of King (now Derry) Street. But in 1872 the freehold of No. 34 was purchased by a local builder, Thomas Hussey, who annexed most of the northern part of the garden for a builder's yard where he erected workshops and storerooms. (fn. 392) The site of Hussey's yard is now mostly occupied by the Derry and Toms building.
In 1935 No. 34 was bought by John Barker and Company and was subsequently occupied by their staff architect, Bernard George, who also had his office here. (fn. 393)
Occupants of No. 34 include: Anthony Stokes, sometime Chief Justice of Georgia, 1790–9 (previously at No. 26); Francis Douce, antiquary and keeper of manuscripts at the British Museum, 1821–5; Charles James Richardson, architect, 1855–68; Harry Plunket Greene, singer, 1900–3; James Bell, chemist, 1903–6.
No. 35, which in June 1737 was described as ‘lately erected and built or now erecting and building’, (fn. 394) is three storeys high over a basement with a well-preserved brick front. The windows have gauged flat arches and moulded flush frames containing sashes with slender glazing bars. The bracketed doorcase (fig. 11) and area ironwork are probably original but the iron balconettes to the first-floor windows must date from the second half of the nineteenth century or even later. In plan the house is like No. 34, with a side entrance hall leading to a staircase at the rear, two rooms on each floor, one at the front and one behind, and a closet wing at the back.
The interior (Plate 17) is well preserved, although on the ground and first floors the divisions between the front and back rooms have been removed. Throughout the house (except for the basement) the walls are simply panelled in wood, and in the hallway and on the first floor there is a box cornice (that on the ground floor is modern). The wooden dog-leg staircase has unmoulded closed strings and simply turned balusters (Plate 17a). In the back rooms and closets there are corner chimney flues which on the ground floor and in the basement still retain their original stone chimneypieces (Plate 17c). The front rooms have plain but original marble chimneypieces. In the front basement is a fitted wooden dresser on Tuscan legs which if not original is certainly an early feature.
There is a small back garden, at the bottom of which is a large single-storey brick studio built in 1888 for the landscape painter Edgar Giberne, who lived at No. 35 between 1885 and 1890. (fn. 395) The next occupant, from 1890 until 1896, was also an artist, Alfred Hitchens. (fn. 93)
At the time of writing (1985) the freehold of No. 35 is owned by the Crown, which purchased the property in 1926. (fn. 396)
Other occupants of No. 35 include: Edward Hilton Young (1st Baron Kennet), politician and writer, 1910–16; Aretas Akers-Douglas (2nd Viscount Chilston), diplomat, 1918–24.