Survey of London: Volume 42, Kensington Square To Earl's Court. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1986.
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'Kensington High Street, south side: Wright's Lane to Earl's Court Road', in Survey of London: Volume 42, Kensington Square To Earl's Court, (London, 1986) pp. 99-116. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol42/pp99-116 [accessed 29 February 2024]
CHAPTER V - Kensington High Street, South Side: Wright's Lane to Earl's Court Road
The subject of this chapter is the development of Kensington High Street (here formerly Kensington Road) westwards from Wright's Lane as far as Earl's Court Road, together with the streets and buildings to the south as far as the ancient boundary with Wattsfield, Wright's Lane, Scarsdale Place, Cheniston Gardens, Iverna Gardens, Adam and Eve Mews, the northern portions of Allen Street and Abingdon Road, Pater Street, the north side of Cope Place and the east side of Earl's Court Road north of Cope Place all come within its scope. The southern ends of Allen Street and Abington Road are discussed in Chapter XV. For reasons of clarity, the early history of the land lying immediately east of Wright's Lane, including Scarsdale House and the site of High Street Kensington Station, is also given in this chapter; but the later buildings here are analysed in Chapter IV.
Francis Barry's Estate
Apart from Kensington Square, the most interesting area of land south of Kensington High Street from the point of view of its early development was and estate of fifteen acres known anciently as Browman's Field. In modern terms, this is now roughly represented along the frontage by the stretch between High Street Kensington Station and Adam and Eve Mews. In depth the estate varied, but both sides of Wright's Lane, Cheniston Gardens, Iverna Gardens and Court, and Scarsdale Place, with the Kensington Close and Tara Hotels and much of the station and railway land to its south, occupy portions of the property (figs. 33, 34). Today, nothing on these sites of antiquarian charm is likely to detain the passer-by. But until the 1890s Scarsdale House and The Terrace stood here as venerable reminders of Kensington's short span of prestige in the reign of William and Mary.
Ownership of this freehold can be traced back to 1650, when the fifteen acres here were among lands in Kensington settled upon William Muschamp the younger at the time of his marriage. They were spoken of as being behind a house once in Edward Ilford's occupation. (fn. 1) In 1682 the land was bought by Francis Barry, citizen and mercer of London. (fn. 2) With the rise of Kensington to prominence in the later 1680s, Barry began raising money and dividing up the property with a view to developing the frontage next to the high road. A small portion adjacent to Kensington square was sold to John Hall and two larger parcels, equivalent roughly to the sites of the railway station and of Cheniston Gardens, were let on long term to gardeners. (fn. 3) Along the frontage, Barry undertook high-quality development in the years 1690–5. East of Wright's Lane, then no more than a footpath leading to Earl's Court, he built what was later known as Scarsdale House, seemingly intended for his own occupation. West of the lane the ground was divided up into narrower but uneven lots; here were built the original five houses of The Terrace. Both of these developments are discussed in greater detail below.
Francis Barry failed to control all these properties for long. Having borrowed heavily on mortgage, he owed over £8,000 and in about 1697 had to quit Scarsdale House in favour of a small dwelling, seemingly the predecessor of the later Woolsthorpe House at the south end of Wright's Lane. Here he remained until about 1704–5. Meanwhile he surrendered all his Kensington freeholds to trustees acting for his many creditors. The trustees sold most of the land (excepting Scarsdale House) for £2,400 to John Brand, another mercer. (fn. 4)
In 1720 Brand's son and heir Timothy Brand split the freeholds further. The five houses of The Terrace and the station site passed to Dr. Samuel Clarke, the Arian divine and ‘bosom friend’ of Sir Isaac Newton. (fn. 5) Newton himself, then aged seventy-eight, was the other purchaser. He paid £1,712 for the three acres now covered by Cheniston Gardens, and the remaining four acres with Barry's smaller house upon it at the south end of Wright's Lane (the site of the Tara Hotel, Kensington Close Hotel, and flats on the east side of Marloes Road). (fn. 6) These transactions were investments probably inspired by John Conduitt and his wife Catherine, Newton's niece and heir, the two closest companions of his declining years. The Conduitts had lived at Scarsdale House briefly in 1719, (fn. 7) and Newton plainly bought the properties here on their behalf. They were transferred to John Conduitt's possession very shortly before Newton's death in 1727 at Orbell's Buildings just north of Kensington High Street, whither the great scientist had moved (at the Conduitts' suggestion) for his last two years of life. (fn. 8) In 1740 these lands formed part of the marriage settlement between the Conduitts' daughter Catherine and Viscount Lymington. The Lymingtons fell deeply into debt, and after many complexities their Kensington properties were sold for £1,453 in 1753 to Gregory Wright of Fleet Street, stablekeeper and coachmaster. (fn. 9)
Wright's Lane takes its name from Gregory Wright. Up to then it had been just a ‘footway’ with a ditch on one side, occasionally known as Barrow's (perhaps originally Barry's) Walk. Probably in the 1770s, Wright broadened it and defined its present course more exactly. This allowed him to create a few ‘villas’ with generous gardens around the southern end of the lane. (fn. 10) These apparently included the future Abingdon House on the site of Cheniston Gardens, and, on the four acres further south, the group later known as Scarsdale Place, consisting of Carmarthen or Woolsthorpe House, Scarsdale Lodge and Cedar Villa, Such history as is known of these houses is given on pages 105, 107–8.
Gregory Wright died in 1787, leaving his property in trust for his grandchildren, but Chancery proceedings delayed the administration of his estates. In due course the freeholds here passed to Ann Alexander and her son David Henry Alexander. (fn. 11)
Meanwhile the land bought by Samuel Clarke in 1720 remained in his family for some years after his death. After a brief partition, it was reunited in 1786 and 1789 in the ownership of William Mair, then resident at No. 6 The Terrace. (fn. 12) Mair, a Scottish merchant with a country estate at Glasses, Kincardineshire, was later a Deputy Lieutenant and freeholder of Colby House nearby. (fn. 13) At the time of his purchases here, his wife Elizabeth also owned nearly two acres of copyhold land immediately west of the main freehold section of The Terrace; this she had inherited from her father, John Poole. At her death in 1792, the freehold and copy hold portions of The Terrace became effectively united in ownership, though the tenures remained distinct for years to come. (fn. 14) In 1808 Mair sold the three and a half acres east of Scarsdale House to James Gunter. (fn. 15) This property subsequently had and independent history, first as a nursery run by William Cobbett (page 82), later as the recreation ground of the Kensington Grammar School (page 33), and then as the site of the southern portion of High Street Kensington Station (page 85).
The Terrace estate (as it came to be called) itself remained in the hands of Mair's descendants after his death in 1823. It passed first to his daughter Christiana and her husband Benjamin Lutyens and then to his grand-daughters Frederica Lutyens and Mary Ann Henrietta Mansfield. The copy hold portion of the estate having been enfranchised in 1872, it was under arrangements with Frederica Lutyens and the heirs of Mary Ann Mansfield that The Terrace was sold to Jubal Webb and redeveloped in the 1890s (page 103). (fn. 16)
Where Nos. 129–161 (odd) Kensington High Street now stand there was formerly and irregular range of houses, at first five in number, then later increased by addition and subdivision to nine. The original five houses dated from the 1690s and were as commondious and respectable as any of their contemporaries in Kensington Square. The engaging and antique appearance of The Terrace, as this row was called from at least the 1750s, is manifest in photographs taken shortly before its demolition in 1893 (Plate 40).
The freehold land which Francis Barry bought here in 1682 extended some 225 feet west of the footpath later known as Wright's Lane (fig. 33). When Barry divided up his land here in about 1690, he reserved this frontage for immediate development and parcelled it into generous strips of up to 170 feet in depth, to be let on building leases which would expire in the 1770s. The corner site (No. 1) was leased in 1690 to John Saunders of St. James's, Westminster, salesman, who also in 1693 took a double site (Nos. 2 and 3) next to it. (fn. 17) These three houses must always have abutted. The fourth plot (No. 4), more generous in width, was probably never leased by Barry, but was built upon and occupied by Nathaniel Lloyd, esquire, no later than February 1695. (fn. 18) West of this a fifth site (No. 5) was leased in 1693 to Richard Beckington of Kensington, carpenter and joiner. (fn. 19) The fronts of Nos. 4 and 5 were less regular than Nos. 1–3 and almost certainly did not originally abut, but in the course of additions over the years all the houses here came to be linked.
Beckington was the craftsman chiefly responsible for Nos. 1, 2 and 3 as well as No.5, he may therefore well have built the original No.4, and possibly also Scarsdale House. A Chancery dispute reveals that in about July 1693 Saunders had agreed that Beckington should build his three houses. Beckington charged for a portion of one house at £12 per square, but Saunders refused to pay him his full bill, alleging that he had ‘sett him downe Greater Prizess or Rates by the square then was Agreed on Between them’ and had mis-measured the building. Saunders' ‘friend’ Thomas Rathbone, a London surveyor, was appointed arbitrator, but his findings favoured Beckington. (fn. 20) Beckington of course must also have built No.5, the lease of which he owned at the time of his death in 1702.
Of the appearance of the original houses, almost the sole record are the photographs taken in 1893 (Plate 40). Despite some major changes the group remained visibly a row of fashionable suburban houses. Nos. 1–3 had three full storeys, perhaps only two of which were original; some of the windows still displayed the tall sashes, minimally recessed frames and rubbed brick surrounds of the reign of William and Mary. No.5 was a lower and broader house with two main storeys and dormers and set in a framed roof. Of No.4 nothing is certainly known, but it was generally rated in value as high as Nos. 3 and 5, and it enjoyed the widest front of all.
Early residents of these houses were typical of those drawn to Kensington by the periodic presence of the Court. A list of occupants is provided at the end of this section.
In about 1718 a sixth and very handsome house was added at the west end of The Terrace, abutting directly on to No. 5 but set back somewhat from the frontage. This was built on a strip of copyhold ground between Barry's land and the Adam and Eve inn, which came at about this time into the ownership of Matthew Bateman, ‘of Kensington, gentleman’. (fn. 21) Bateman or his agents built here an all-brick house of great dignity and regularity, with three full storeys and five windows' width (Plate 40c). Brick pilaster strips flanked the main portion of the house but excluded the easternmost bay abutting against No. 5; here there seems to have been a covered passage (later filled in) under the first floor. The proximity of the new house to No. 5 seems to have caused a dispute about light. In 1733, at any rate, Bateman made an agreement with the Reverend William Cox of No. 5, whereby Bateman would take down a blind he had set up in the front yard, and Cox would double-glaze the sash windows in his school-room (presumably on the side of the house overlooking Bateman's yard) ‘with crincked glass’. (fn. 22) In front of No. 6 was a pretty iron gateway. The house had probably been finished by January 1721, when it was mortgaged to John Martin of the City of London, possibly the banker of that name. Another deed of 1722 refers to an adjoining cottage on the site of the future No. 7. (fn. 23) Later in the century, perhaps in the 1770s, further modest houses (ultimately Nos. 8 and 9) were built well back from the frontage on this copyhold land.
The name of The Terrace is first recorded for this development as early as 1759, when such a term was by no means customary for a row of connected houses. Gregory Wright, already the freeholder of property to the south, then acquired a renewed lease of Nos. 1–3, described as ‘upon or near the Terras’, (fn. 9) perhaps because of a slight plateau above the main road upon which the houses were built for drainage purposes. From 1768 the appellation of ‘The Terrass’ occurs also in the rate books, and as such (or occasionally as Kensington Terrace) they were known until their demolition. (fn. n1)
After the 1770s the houses seem mainly to have been let on short term. They were still tenanted by residents of some standing. One was described in 1772 as a ‘large well-known lodging house late in occupation of the Countress Findlater’. This house had six ‘very good be chambers’ and a large walled garden ‘well planted with choicest fruit trees and shrubs’. (fn. 24) The gardens were generally lengthy, covering the whole present site of Iverna Court and Gardens. At the time of their destruction in 1893, the press lamented the beautiful mulberries and other trees to be found here. (fn. 25) There were sundry coach houses and outbuildings at the back, particularly along Wright's Lane.
In the nineteenth century came inevitable alterations. Nos.1–3 were at least partly refaced and raised and No. 3 acquired a projection at its west end. Perhaps in 1812, (fn. 26) during the tenancy of John Butts, No. 4 seems to have been wholly rebuilt and made into a broad but plain brick house of three storeys and five bays (plate 40a). The gap between this house and No. 3 was apparently filled with the thin, stucco-fronted No.4A in about 1848. (fn. 27) No. 5, as has been said, was stuccoed; No. 6 escaped serious alteration; but No. 7 was rebuilt in 1843–4 and promptly named Shaftesbury House. (fn. 28) As at No. 4, this was done in a conservative vein respectful of its neighbours, with a fine plain brick front, three main storeys, and only a stuccoed porch and rows of iron window guards to mark its date (Plate 40a). In this state the houses of The Terrace remained until their demolition in 1893.
Occupants of houses in The Terrace include: No. 1. Mr. Justice Overton, 1698–1700. Rev. George Davys, Dean of Chester and Tutor to Princess Victoria, 1829–39. Henry Cole, later Director of the South Kensington Museum, 1849–52. No. 2. Serjeant Hardiman, 1699–1708. Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Hough, Rector of Newington and St. George's, Southwark, 1714–32. Jubal Webb, cheesemonger and capitalist, 1886–92. No.3. Sir Henry Ashhurst, 1701–7. Rev. Dr. George Smith, Chaplain General to the Army and Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, 1718–25. No. 4. Edward Lloyd, Commissioner of Stamps, 1697–1704. Lady Christiana Gayer (widow of Sir Robert Gayer, merchant), 1712–13. Sir Gustavus Hume, third Baronet, Groom of the Bed-chamber, 1721–4. William Banting, upholsterer and writer on corpulence, 1842–78. Sir Graham Berry, ex-Prime Minister of Victoria and Agent General of the Colony to London, 1890–1. No. 5. Rev. Henry Cox and his sons Rev. William Cox and Rev. James Cox, 1693–1759. James Cressett, Comptroller of Army Accounts, 1760–3. Alexander Baxter, Russia merchant, 1763–82. Lieut.-General Sir John Fraser, 1830–1. No. 6. Edward Haistwell, F.S.A., 1781–3. William Mair, merchant and landowner, 1785–1809. John Alexander, solicitor and Kensington land-owner, 1810–36. John Leech, comic artist, 1862–4. No. 7. David Wilkie, artist, 1824–5 and 1828–36. Kenelm Henry Digby, miscellaneous writer and Catholic apologist, 1857–80. No. 9. Johann Baptist Cramer, pianist and composer, 1853–8.
Scarsdale House and Scarsdale Terrace
The best and biggest of the houses built on Francis Barry's property in the early 1690s was Scarsdale House. This sizeable and handsome detached mansion lay in a walled garden set back from the east corner of Kensington High Street and Wright's Lane, on the future Pontings site (Plate 41a, b, fig.33). It enjoyed four acres of gardens stretching southwards to a fishpond and a ‘canal’, and was entered from a gateway near the top of Wright's Lane. Probably it was built mainly by Richard Beckington, the joiner responsible for other houses hereabouts, and was meant for Barry's own occupation. A house here was rated to Barry from 1691 onwards until about 1697, when financial problems caused him to move to a smaller dwelling, seemingly at the bottom of Wright's Lane; where the two are distinguished in the ratebooks, Scarsdale House is called ‘Mr Barrey's great house’. (fn. 26) As built, it was a neat, symmetrical, four-square, sash-windowed house, of two main storeys in brick with a modillion cornice and dormers set into a hipped roof. Both the southern and western fronts were of five window's width had a central doorway; the southern doorcase (and probably the western one also) originally boasted a broken and scrolled pediment. There were coach-houses, stables and offices to the north of the main house next to the High Street. For the interior, we have photographs of a single room and some muddy sketches in W. J. Loftie's book on Kensington, which speaks also of a ‘noble oak staircase panelled throughout’. (fn. 29)
As befitted its size, the house in its early days enjoyed residents of high standing. The Duchess of Monmouth, widow of the hapless rebel of 1685, may have lived here briefly in 1699, but the haphazard order of the ratebooks makes this uncertain. Between about 1702 and 1705 it was the home of Sir Humphrey Edwin, rich Welsh wool merchant, Lord Mayor of London in 1697, dissenter and a prominent City supporter of William and Mary. Edwin was followed by Edward Lloyd, a Commissioner of Stamps (1705–12), Christopher, Lord Barnard (1714–17), Countess Torrington (1718), John Conduitt, later M.P. and Master of the Mint (1719), and Sir Charles Wager, the admiral and victor of Cartagena (c. 1719–20). (fn. 30)
In 1720 Barnard, who had bought the freehold, sold it to William Curzon, a wealthy lawyer, in whose family the title remained for nearly two centuries. (fn. 31) Curzon, later an M.P. and described in his old age by Horace Walpole as ‘a nasty wretch, and very covetous’, lived here for some time, perhaps until his death in 1749. (fn. 32) By then Kensington was in social decline, and Scarsdale House declined with it. Its freehold passed down through the main line of the Curzon family, and in due course the house acquired the name by which it is known from the peerage allotted in 1761 to Sir Nathaniel Curzon, William Curzon's nephew and eventual heir. But there is no evidence that any further Curzons lived here at this period. By 1755 at the latest the house itself had been let on short term as a school, and as such it continued until the 1840s under various regimes, latterly at least for the benefit of young ladies. Commonly known as the Scarsdale House Boarding School, it was characterized in 1807 as ‘of the first respectability’. Its grounds were restricted to the northern half of the original long garden, the southern half being let separately. (fn. 33)
In 1783 John Robinson, a lawyer, acquired a long lease of the whole property. In due course he arranged with Michael Dowse, carpenter, to build a group of three houses next to the High Street, on the site of the stables to the north of the main house; these were all leased and tenanated in 1789–91. They eventually became Nos. 123–127 (odd) Kensington High Street and were to be the original nucleus of Pontings. (fn. 34)
The Curzon family bought back Robinson's leasehold interest in the whole estate at auction in 1807. The auctioneer did not hesitate at once to describe the gardens as ‘usefully and ornamentally laid out, the Walls fully cloathed with the choicest Fruit Trees’ and to suggest their use as building land. (fn. 35)
In the event this fate overtook the southern half of the old garden in 1823–5, when a development fronting the eastern side of Wright's Lane and known as Scarsdale Terrace was undertaken here by two Kensington tradesmen. Francis Tucker, tallow chandler, and Thomas Moss, tailor, under agreement with Nathaniel Curzon, later third Lord Scarsdale. Various building craftsmen were involved but none was apparently dominant. (fn. 36) (fn. n2) Scarsdale Terrace was a row of eighteen conventional houses with stuccoed ground storeys and brick facings above (Plate 42b). It survived the coming of the railway, was purchased by the Midland Railway Company in 1893 with a view to extending their goods yard which lay to the south, but in the event was not demolished until 1934–6. (fn. 37) Its site is now occupied by College House (originally the Pontings loading dock).
Scarsdale House was rescued from relative oblivion in 1846, when Edward Cecil Curzon (1812–85), a barrister, registrar of patents, cousin of the third Lord Scarsdale and grandson of the twelfth Lord Zouche, bought it for his family's occupancy. At this time, if not earlier, the roof of the house was savaged to enlarge the attics and the cornice disappeared. A large single-storeyed room with a bay, used as a dining-room, also appeared at the east end of the garden front. Curzon, who had antiquarian tastes, imported into the house from Loseley House, Surrey (partly demolished in 1826) portions of two grand Tudor alabaster chimneypieces in the grotesque style, with allegories depicting peace and war. Duly made up, with mottoes of the Curzon and Zouche families inserted, the fireplaces were fixed in the long and handsomely panelled drawing-room (Plate 41c, d). (fn. 38) Later, after the South Kensington Museum refused to pay the price demanded, they were sold to John Cory and installed by him in Dyffryn House near Cardiff, where they still remain. (fn. 39)
The arrival of the railway close by in the 1860s spelt Scarsdale House's eventual doom. Cecil Curzon was obliged to forfeit a sliver of land on the east side of the property towards its construction, and in 1876–7 he was contemplating giving up all or part of his garden for the layout of a new street out of Wright's Lane. (fn. 40) This did not materialize, and in the event Curzon kept the house until his death there in 1885. An auction of the estate by his son in 1886 proved abortive, but in 1893 the process of dissolution began. The Midland Railway bought Scarsdale Terrace and some of the remaining garden, while Pontings, already in possession of the houses to the north in Kensington High Street, took over Scarsdale House itself and virtually dismantled the interior. (fn. 41) The shell of the building still existed in 1899, when readers of The Warehouseman and Draper were assured that it was ‘built in the reign of James I as a hunting box, for his Majesty’, and contained ‘a haunted room associated with a legendary murder which is to be pulled down to make way for an up-to-date tea and retiring room for customers.’ (fn. 42) Thus battered by the invincible forces of modern retailing, the remnants of Scarsdale House and its garden soon disappeared beneath successive extensions to Pontings (page 92).
Nos. 129–161 (odd) Kensington High Street, Iverna Gardens and Iverna Court
The august houses of The Terrace with their long gardens behind (page 100) continued undisturbed until the forces of commerce proved irresistible. Renewals of leases were gradually co-ordinated to expire in 1893, in which year the heirs of William Mair sold the freehold of the whole for a reputed £170,000 to Jubal Webb, who since 1886 had been in residence at No. 2 The Terrace. (fn. 43)
Jubal Webb was a prosperous High Street cheesemonger and provision merchant with a flair for publicity (his telegraphic address was ‘Gorgonzola, London’, and in 1893 he exhibited the largest known cheese at the Chicago World's Fair). (fn. 44) Webb also had a far from disinterested experience of local politics. A long-standing vestryman, he briefly sat on the Metropolitan Board of Works; he might have been elected also to its successor, the London County Council, had not his opponents dugup an incident of 1880 when Webb, then High Constable, appeared before the magistrates for attempting to extort fees from applicants for licences and escaped only through the skills of the celebrated Serjeant Ballantine. (fn. 45) According to Arthur Cates, the surveyor to the Office of Woods and Forests, Webb ‘by his local influence’ was able to redevelop the Terrace estate and carry out street improvements ‘which others on behalf of the Estate had failed to accomplish’. (fn. 46)
Webb began by dividing the estate in two. He elected first to develop the frontage towards the High Street where The Terrace itself stood, and then to deal with the gardens behind. For the frontage, he arranged a long building lease of the whole with Edward Jarvis Cave, a builder of Old Broad Street. Here Cave promptly in 1893–4 erected Nos. 129–161 (odd) Kensington High Street to the designs of Boehmer and Gibbs, the architects acting for Webb. (fn. 47) Known at first as The Promenade, it is an orthodox, restless, ornamental range of shops and flats in the late Queen Anne style, built of red brick with copious stone dressings. There is a quasi-detached arch at the side facing Wright's Lane, shielding the tradesmen's passage behind the shops (Plate 44b). Webb sold the freehold of this block with the ground rents to the Crown in 1894 for £93,581. (fn. 48)
Behind, the gardens of the old houses constituted an L-shaped block hemmed in by Cheniston Gardens. One of the gardens stretched almost to Abingdon Villas, where Nos. 9 and 11 on the north side formed part of Webb's purchase in 1893, having presumably been bought by the previous owners with a view to future development. Their demolition allowed an exit road to be built through the estate to the south along the backs of the houses in Cheniston Gardens.
A preliminary layout of June 1894 showed an arrangement with a square at the centre, like that eventually built. However this first idea, devised by the architects Boehmer and Gibbs, indicated broad-fronted houses round the square, further houses along the west side of the road leading out to the south (then to be called Terrace Gardens) and shops along the west side of Wright's Lane. The layout (fig. 34) was soon afterwards revised by Boehmer and Gibbs, and the name Iverna Gardens adopted from a list ‘given in your office amongst others to select from’, as the architects told the London County Council. Flats were now considered along with houses, in line with the exigencies of development hereabouts at this period. The layout was agreed with the L.C.C. and the Kensington Vestry, who compensated Webb to the tune of no less than £5,693 for a strip allowing them to widen Wright's Lane. (fn. 49)
Before the end of 1894, probably in an attempt to evade the more stringent building regulations due to come into effect in the new year, work briefly began on the two southernmost blocks of flats in Iverna Gardens (Nos. 1–20) and was announced for other sites as well. But all activity soon came to a halt, perhaps because of a glut of high-class flats on the market. (fn. 50) In November 1894 there was talk of letting some of the estate for an exhibition with ‘galleries of pictures and statuary and working examples of a few manufactures and in the first instance … an Austrian Exhibition with a model of Old Vienna on the tongue of land extending to Abingdon Villas. There would be a courtyard opposite a central entrance to be formed in Wright's Lane with a Concert Hall backing upon the Stables adjoining the “Adam and Eve” public house.’ (fn. 46)
Sobriety reasserted itself, and the flats on the west side of Iverna Gardens were recommenced in September 1895 by a new builder, Richmond Nurse, to designs by Boehmer and Gibbs acting in conjunction with the speculating architect C. J. C. Pawley. They aroused the displeasure of several householders in Cheniston Gardens, who feared the height of the new buildings and were annoyed by a high screen which Webb had erected against their back walls. The original two blocks (Nos. 1–20) were completed and leased in 1896–7 to Thomas Hinckley Pankhurst, contractor, and were followed by three identical successors (Nos. 21–50), built by Nurse and other builders and leased in 1898 to Pawley. (fn. 51) Early prospectuses refer to these flats as ‘replete with every modern convenience, including Telephones, messenger boxes, passenger and tradesmen's lifts’, as well as ‘electric light, liveried attendants’. Rents were from between £125 to £150 per annum. (fn. 52)
Meanwhile in October 1895 Webb tried to sell off in lots the freehold not yet bespoken. The elaborate auction catalogue showed suggested elevations by Boehmer and Gibbs and C. J. C. Pawley for the Wright's Lane frontage, where shops were still intended. But the sale was a flop; none of the plots reached its reserve. (fn. 53)
No further activity occurred here until 1898, when Henry Metcalf and Thomas Greig, two architect-surveyors who specialized in flat-building through their Mansions Estate Company, agreed to take on the rest of the land and build high flats all round the ‘square’. As and when each block was completed, Webb seems to have agreed to sell the freehold. Pleading for exemption from some clauses of the building acts, Metcalf and Greig assured the L.C.C. that the flats would be occupied ‘at good fair rentals none less than £180 per annum by people in excellent positions … no expense will be spared in making Iverna Gardens an ideal healthy and sanitary place of residence’. Later, they again emphasized, ‘there is not the slightest vestige of possibility of their ever becoming tenanted by Artisans or the Working Classes’. The square was to present ‘an artistic and uniform appearance’, with a fountain, rockery and shrubbery in the centre. (fn. 54) The flats so built were at first to be called Iverna Mansions but soon acquired their present name, Iverna Court. Metcalf and Greig started with Block 1 at the south corner of the approach road from Wright's Lane. This was in progress under R. Hockley and Son, builders, in 1898, but as it has the date 1901 over the door it presumably took three years to finish. In 1899–1900 the architects were preparing to build blocks to the south of this one in Wright's Lane (the site of the Christian Science Church) and on the south of the square (the site of St. Sarkis's Church and Vicarage), but these did not proceed. Instead, they finished their contribution with the five blocks Nos. 2–6 on the north and west sides of the square, started in 1900 and completed probably in 1903, at least in part by Thomas Boyce, builder. (fn. 55)
Architecturally, the flats numbered in Iverna Gardens are pleasanter and more disciplined than those of Iverna Court. They have only four main storeys above ground, and their amalgam of Queen Anne gables, bays, windows with white sash-bars, leaded lights and portentous Baroque porches is deft and ingenuous enough to pass muster. In contrast, the precipitous facades and bludgeoning details of Iverna Court give to this corner of Kensington a moody quality reminiscent of certain backwaters of Manhattan. All these flats have six full storeys, with gables and other features (mostly now mutilated) thrusting high above the cornice line. Metcalf and Greig's first block, No. 1, is conspicuously more ornamental than its successors, which are grimmer and plainer except for some decorative glass in the ground-floor windows (Plates 44c, 45a). The only real variation is at Block 5 in the north-west corner, which has Tudor-Gothic features elongated upwards in the most approved American manner.
The central area in the ‘square’ in front of Iverna Court was inevitably in the end left plain and gravelled, with a few trees but no garden. Later a circular flower bed and grass plot were inserted. The present arrangement dates from 1971, when local residents banded together to devise a pleasant layout of flowers, shrubs and seats. (fn. 56)
On the south side of the square and the west side of Wright's Lane, the sites not taken up by Metcalf and Greig were still empty at the time of Jubal Webb's death in December 1901. In 1904 his son and heir Dudley Unite Webb was dabbling with a proposal for a theatre for the Wright's Lane site, which would ‘of course be in the very best Theatrical artitectural [sic] style and in keeping with the traditions of Kensington as the Royal Suburb’. (fn. 57) No more came of this than of the exhibition promoted ten years before. These sites both eventually came after the First World War into ecclesiastical use; their later histories are to be found on pages 389–91 and 394.
Abingdon House and the Catholic University College
To the west of Wright's Lane at its south end lies Cheniston Gardens, a dour little development promoted between 1879 and 1885 by the Kensington building partnership of Taylor and Cumming. The site had previously been occupied by Abingdon House, one of the several Georgian ‘villas’ with ‘grounds’ to be found hereabouts before the coming of the railway. In a brief but eventful episode of the 1870s, Abingdon House became the Catholic University College, until that institution collapsed ignominiously and its site was redeveloped.
This site was one of the two properties in Browman's Field which were acquired in 1720 by Sir Isaac Newton and passed in 1753 to Gregory Wright (page 100). A lease of the land, then being used as ‘garden ground’ but with a small house in the south-west corner, expired in 1766. (fn. 58) At an unknown date the house was much enlarged or rebuilt; Starling's map of 1822 shows it then to have been a good-sized house close to the west corner of the east-west section of Wright's Lane, roughly on the site of the present Nos. 40–46 (even) Cheniston Gardens; to its north and east lay some two acres of walled garden (Plate 2a, fig. 33).
By 1841 Abingdon House had acquired its name (in reference to Abingdon Abbey, the ancestral owner of Kensington parish church). It was in the freehold ownership of the Alexander family as ultimate heirs of Gregory Wright, and was let on short term. (fn. 59) At least two tenants of some standing lived here (the fourteenth Lord Teynham, c. 1838, and Marmaduke Wyvill, M.P., 1861–2), but in the 1840s it was briefly a ‘ladies’ school’. (fn. 60) At one stage, perhaps after Wyvill, the house ‘was occupied by the widow of a ci-devant Indian potentate of high rank, with her Hindoo servants and retainers. A local rumour … says that during the residence of the Ranee at Abingdon House it was the scene of Hindoo religious ceremonies, and even of sacrifices, that were practised by the inmates.’ (fn. 61)
In 1869 Herbert George Goldingham, a solicitor of Worcester, took a long lease of the house and garden from David Henry Alexander. Goldingham's firm had been involved with William Nokes (a tenant of Abingdon House during the 1850s) in developing parts of the land to the south and west (page 225). No doubt influenced by the advent of the railway, he had plans prepared by J. M. McCulloch (a surveyor-architect involved on this neighbouring property) to form a street here to be called Ravenhill Gardens, on similar lines to the eventual Cheniston Gardens. (fn. 62) But this plan did not proceed, and Abingdon House declined into ‘a neglected and ivycovered ruin’. From this fate it was rescued, if only fleetingly, by Monsignor Capel's project for a Catholic University College.
This establishment emanated from a decision ratified by the English Catholic hierarchy in August 1874 to provide ‘a College for more advanced studies for the higher classes of the laity’. (fn. 63) Cardinal Manning having in 1868 moved his archiepiscopal seat from Moorfields to the ProCathedral of Our Lady of Victories nearby, a site in the vicinity was deemed desirable for this ambitious project. The prime mover was Thomas John Capel (1836–1911), a fashionable Catholic prelate. Capel enjoyed the approbation of his co-religionists and the enmity of their opponents for his cleverness in converting high-ranking Protestants. His most famous triumph was the ‘perversion’ of the third Marquess of Bute, which earned him a preferment from Pope Pius IX and a niche in English literature as the casuistical Monsignor Catesby in Disraeli's Lothair. He was prominent in London society, ‘loved good food, good wine and every kind of little luxury’. (fn. 64)
From about 1869–70 Capel was attached to the Pro-Cathedral and living at Cedar Villa, at the bottom of Wright's Lane opposite Abingdon House. In November 1872 he was reported as having bought Abingdon House for use as a Catholic day-school. This seems to have been the start of the school which he set up more formally at Earl's Court in 1873 (page 331) and which he saw as a ‘feeder’ for the more ambitious Catholic University College. (fn. 65)
With energy and zeal, Capel brought the new college into being early in 1874, when an ‘iron building’ was erected in the grounds of Abingdon House. (fn. 66) An embryonic senate was formed, including the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Denbigh, Lord Petre, and Sir Robert Gerard; funds were acquired, eminent Catholics (including the classicist F. A. Paley) were drafted in to serve the cause, and in October the college was quietly opened by Manning with a complement of seventeen students. A formal inauguration took place in April 1875, by which time the local Catholic architect George Goldie had fully converted the house to include an ‘academical theatre’, lecture rooms, library and museum of specimens (science interpreted according to Catholic doctrine by Professor St. George Jackson Mivart was specially emphasized in the curriculum). Just west of the house was a ‘temporary but handsome' chapel of corrugated iron and wood. In the same month, D. H. Alexander sold the freehold to the Duke of Norfolk, Lord Petre and Manning as trustees for the college. (fn. 67)
The college prospered for about four years. In 1876 numbers were up to thirty-six, the library and collection were advancing and the nucleus of a proper university seemed to have been established. (fn. 68) Then in June 1878 came disaster; Capel resigned and the establishment speedily collapsed. The official reason was debt. Certainly Capel had become deeply involved in the college's finances and owed money personally for the site and buildings of the school at Earl's Court. (fn. 69) Behind this, however, according to a later source, lay a scandal in which Capel's name was mentioned concerning ‘a homosexual clique in London’. (fn. 70) Allegedly the Vatican took a lenient view but Manning was not so indulgent, and Capel resigned. He appealed for help to the Duke of Norfolk, complaining bitterly of his treatment by ‘the Bishops’. ‘They leave on me the entire burden of finding the support of the College and the Students’, he wrote. ‘This I do by begging about thirteen thousand pounds, spending all I have had on earth about six thousand, as well as the paying of the necessary expenses incurred in giving hospitality … I have sacrificed family, social relations, sleep, and even the work of conversion … ’ Capel strenuously denied the charges against him as ‘calumnies’ which ‘have their origin in the spite and ill-will of a little clique.’ (fn. 71) He received some money from the Duke and others, but this could not prevent his bankruptcy in 1880 and the sale of his effects at Cedar Villa including pictures, a reliquary, fittings and candlesticks from his private chapel, and thirty dozen of wine. (fn. 72) The Catholic University College survived in name for a few years and then disappeared, along with the school at Earl's Court. Capel himself eventually left England and went first to Florence and then California, where he died. (fn. 73)
With the demise of the college, Abingdon House and its site became riper than ever for development. Already in 1878 Arthur Furneaux Taylor and Stephen Abbott Cumming, builders, were proposing a street here to be called Kilmorie Gardens, and in June 1879 Norfolk, Petre and Manning as owners entered into a formal agreement with this partnership. (fn. 74)
Taylor and Cumming were already established speculative builders in Kensington in a small way. They had started in about 1873 in the Oxford Gardens and Lancaster Road district of North Kensington. From here they graduated to Nevern Place, Earl's Court, and thence to De Vere Gardens. There they worked in co-operation with another local building firm, C. A. Daw and Son, and at Cheniston Gardens (as the Abingdon House development became known) their principal backer was Samuel John Daw, a solicitor-cousin of the builder Daws who himself lived in Oxford Gardens. The Daws themselves were Devon-born, as was Arthur Taylor, so the links between the firms were plainly close. After Cheniston Gardens, Taylor and Cumming undertook only one other Kensington development, in Wetherby Place, before ending their partnership in 1888. Cumming did some building thereafter, for instance in Bramham Gardens and Warwick Road, but Taylor was less active. Probably the partners did well, for in later life Taylor was prominent in nonconformist society in Ealing and Hanwell, where he lived on until his death aged seventy-nine in 1926. (fn. 75)
In 1880 new arrangements were made about the ownership of the property, which was heavily mortgaged. The freehold passed to five investing spinsters named Colvile, for whom S. J. Daw acted as trustee. Taylor and Cumming received long leases of some houses from Daw, while the freeholds of others were sold outright to prospective residents and others. The leases of only twelve of the houses remained with the builders when they dissolved their partnership in 1888. Money for the development was in part supplied by the Alliance Economic Investment Company, a concern with offices at Daw's business address. (fn. 76)
Taylor and Cumming began building in the autumn of 1879 on the east-west stretch of the new L-shaped roadway (fig. 34). Work proceeded smoothly until the end of 1882, when Cheniston Gardens was practically complete apart from Nos. 44 and 46 at the south end of the west side, which were added in 1885. (fn. 77) The houses so built were of very dry appearance (Plate 45c). All but No. 46 still adhered obstinately to the stock-brick Italianate mode so long prevalent in Kensington, with cheese-paring cementdressed porticoes and tight double-storeyed bay windows. But above the first floor the designer (conceivably Charles M. Hudson, a twenty-six-year-old architect visiting Taylor at No. 13 at the time of the 1881 census (fn. 78) ) appears to have had a change of heart, aligning his windows without reference to the storeys below and admitting rubbed and cut brick dressings and even some ornamental arcading at the top, as if in grudging tribute to the Queen Anne movement. The ironwork too is cryptically ‘Queen Anne’ in character. Nevertheless the costume of these squeezed-up, gardenless houses is bleak enough, in particular in the rectangular central block.
In the awkward angle at the north-west corner of the site, the remote touch of aestheticism becomes palpable. Here Taylor and Cumming in 1882 built the hidden-away Nos. 1–3 Cheniston Gardens Studios, a pleasant group in red brickwork with round-arched porches (Plate 45b). In No. 46, Cheniston Lodge, an afterthought of 1885, Queen Anne of a rigid kind comes fully into its own, with a shaped gable, stereotyped panels of aesthetic decoration and patterns in the glazing bars. Surprisingly in view of its special appearance, this house seems to have been speculatively built.
The houses of Cheniston Gardens filled up quickly enough. Six were in occupation early in 1881, with Sydney Ponting close to his shop at No. 1 and A. R. Pennefather, the future Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, at No. 7. Taylor had an address at No. 13 from 1881 to 1883 and Cumming at No. 2 in 1882. Thereafter the partners had a joint office first at No. 35 and then at No. 27, which continued to be used by Taylor as an address for many years. (fn. 27)
Wright's Lane, Scarsdale Place and Marloes Road flats
South of the east-west section of Cheniston Gardens and its eastward continuation as Scarsdale Place stand three big sets of buildings which occupy the southernmost four acres of the land bought by Francis Barry in 1682 (page 99). They are, from west to east: five blocks of flats entered from Marloes Road, dating from 1899 to 1904; the Kensington Close Hotel (1937–9); and the tall London Tara Hotel (1971–3).
Most of this land was under cultivation until about 1770. Kensington Close Hotel, however, probably covers the site of ‘Mr Barry's little house’ to which he appears to have moved from Scarsdale House when his finances began to deteriorate from 1697. In that year there were two small ‘tenements’ here. (fn. 79) In 1705 a creditor and fellow mercer of Barry's, George Hawes, previously resident in Kensington Square, took a fifty-year lease of the property, and from this time deeds mention only a single brick house. After Hawes' death, the remainder of his lease was sold in 1744 to Dr. Peter Shaw, a physician of repute and an author on medical and chemical subjects, who no doubt lived here for a time. (fn. 80)
Meanwhile in 1720 Sir Isaac Newton had bought the freehold of this land along with the site of Cheniston Gardens (page 100), but there is every reason to believe that he had no personal connection with the house or property. Indeed no major changes seem to have occurred here until the time of Gregory Wright, who became the freeholder in 1753. Under Wright the lane leading to Earl's Court was regularized and gained its present name (page 100). He also, according to Faulkner, ‘built the houses at the south end, about the year 1774’. (fn. 81) The house previously occupied by Hawes and Shaw appears to have been much or entirely rebuilt. By 1820 it had acquired two prominent brick bays, a pedimented doorcase and the name of Carmarthen House, all of which embellishments may go back to the 1770s. It had also become a boarding school for young ladies, like Scarsdale House nearby. Attached to the west stood two further houses on the south side of the east-west stretch of roadway. Next to Carmarthen House was a small house with a narrow garden, and west of this a larger one with its own stabling and long garden extending southwards, flanked on the west by what is now the top end of Marloes Road (fig. 33).
By 1841 Carmarthen House had become Woolsthorpe House (in homage to Newton, who was born at Wools-thorpe, Lincolnshire). The other two houses came to be known respectively as Scarsdale Lodge and The Cedars or Cedar Villa, and the whole group was referred to as Scarsdale Place. (fn. 27) In the 1840s Woolsthorpe House and Scarsdale Lodge were still in the freehold of Gregory Wright's eventual heir, David Henry Alexander, but Cedar Villa was independently owned. (fn. 82) Little is known of the history or appearance of Scarsdale Lodge or Cedar Villa. The latter was between 1865 and 1871 the home of Edward Askew Sothern, the actor. He was succeeded by Monsignor T. J. Capel, who lived here and used the house as a school in association with his Catholic University College at Abingdon House opposite, until the demise of that institution and his own bankruptcy in 1880 (page 105). At Scarsdale Lodge resided the portraitist Edward Hughes (1857–68) and the engineer and amateur architect Henry Conybeare (1870–3). Capel was living here in 1881 and kept this address until 1887, but was abroad for much of this period. (fn. 27)
Most of the remaining unbuilt ground east of Wools-thorpe House had to be sacrificed to the railway in 1865. Not long after this, in 1869, Woolsthorpe House itself was taken over by the National Industrial Home for Crippled Boys. Founded shortly before in Young Street, the home aimed to board, clothe and educate for future employment ‘destitute, neglected, or ill-used crippled boys’ between the ages of twelve and eighteen. It was fashionably supported by respectable trustees, and boasted the Earl of Shaftesbury as its president. (fn. 83)
With E. C. Robins as its architect, the Crippled Boys' Home quickly expanded between 1871 and 1882 in a decent, workaday, sanitary Queen Anne style. An infirmary (1871) and workshops (1874–5) were built in the garden, a big block of schoolrooms and dormitories arose to the east of the old house (1877–8), Woolsthorpe House itself (Plate 42a) was raised and refronted (1879), and a dining hall was erected behind the house (1881–2, foundation stone laid by Princess Louise in 1877). The cost of these works was computed at about £17,000 in 1882. There were then some sixty inmates engaged in stationery-stamping, copper-plate and lithographic printing, tailoring and carpentry, and a saddlery was shortly to be introduced. (fn. 84) After the First World War the home's austere discipline was out of date, and it fell into decline. A proposal to merge with the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital was rejected in 1923, but negotiations were resumed in 1935. The site was sold for £37,500 and the proceeds put towards building the Cripples' Training College at the hospital's suburban branch at Stanmore. (fn. 85)
From 1878 the Crippled Boys' Home was inconvenienced by a large coal depot constructed on surplus railway land to its east by the Midland Railway Company. This site (where the London Tara Hotel stands) seems to have been destined for a residential street to be named Vermont Gardens, and preparations were under way for building here in 1875. Behind Scarsdale Terrace also there were plans in 1876–7 for new streets. (fn. 86) But the Midland Railway stepped in and despite local opposition laid out a depot at a cost of some £55,000 under the engineering superintendence of R. M. Ordish. It was opened in March 1878. (fn. 87) Coal trucks were brought in from the south on a new line of tracks west of the main railway; they were taken up into sidings behind Scarsdale Terrace and shunted back into the depot itself, east of the boys' home. The roadway now known as Scarsdale Place was first laid out to afford access to the Midland Coal Yard from Wright's Lane, while another exit was arranged to Kelso Place on the east. The company later made efforts to enlarge the yard and bought Scarsdale Terrace for this purpose in 1893, but their plans were never carried out. (fn. 88)
Of present buildings on these sites, the oldest are the flats on the east side of Marloes Road called Cedar House, Zetland House, Rutland House, Falkland House and Sutherland House. They occupy the Cedar Villa site, which was sold for £25,000 in 1891 to Thomas Hussey, the local builder. (fn. 89) Hussey sold his interest without developing the property. A first attempt to build on the site in 1892–3, probably with flats (F. T. Pilkington, architect) did not materialize. Subsequently another local builder, C. F. Kearley, bought the site and W. A. Rolfe produced designs for flats in 1896. Again there was a delay, but eventually Kearley built his five blocks in stages between 1899 and 1904, starting with Cedar House at the north end and finishing with Sutherland House at the south end. (fn. 90) They are a repository of hackneyed architectural features from the turn of the century, with angled and bowed bays, bulging balconies and inconsistent porches. Cedar House has dressings of terracotta but the later flats are finished off with stonework. At Rutland House in the middle, there is a half-hearted attempt at a centrepiece.
The Kensington Close Hotel was built in 1937–9 as plain Kensington Close, a ‘residential club’ with restaurant, recreation rooms, garages and a large number of flats arranged in a high series of blocks marching south-wards. It was the third project of this nature submitted for the eligible Woolsthorpe House site in the 1930s. Schemes by the Modern Movement architect D. Pleydell Bouverie (1935) and C. Howard Crane, the American designer of the Earl's Court Exhibition (1936), had foundered when Charles E. Peczenik, the successful West End property developer and engineer, submitted his in 1937. It was seemingly designed, in the driest possible prewar apartment-house manner, by Peczenik with help from his chief architectural assistant, R. W. Barton. The building was initially owned and managed by Home Flats Limited, but became a hotel in name as well as in fact in about 1960. (fn. 91)
The high-rise London Tara Hotel replaced the old coal yard in 1971–3. When this land first became available from British Transport Holdings in 1962–3, the London County Council briefly contemplated high-rise public housing here and prepared sketches for a twenty-six-storey block with the then-fashionable ‘scissors plan’, but could not acquire the site. Next, Taylor Woodrow Industrial Estates went even further in 1963–5 by proposing three tower blocks to the design of J. Douglass Mathews, two of twenty-three storeys and one of seventeen storeys. Public outcry put a stop to this scheme. (fn. 92) After some years' delay, the present hotel was promoted by Aer Lingus Irish Airlines and financed with the help of subsidies offered by the British Government's ‘Hotel Developments Incentive Scheme’ of this period. ‘It is the intention to service the business market throughout the year especially that emanating from Ireland’, explained an official in 1971: ‘during the summer months it is expected that the total balance of 90 per cent will be derived from tours.’ The architects were Building Design Associates with Cassidy Farrington and Dennys (later Farrington Dennys Fisher) and the contractors were Sir Robert McAlpine and Sons. The hotel contains 850 bedrooms and cost £4.3 million of which £1,000 per bedroom was funded by the Government. It consists of a thin tall block parallel in axis to the railway and faced in buff Stourbridge brick (Plate 44a). Irish fabrics and other works of art were commissioned for the brick-faced lobby and other parts of the interior. At the time of its completion, the Architects' Journal commended the simplicity and good taste of this building in comparison to other hotels then being built in London. (fn. 93)
Nos. 163–171 (odd) Kensington High Street and Adam and Eve Mews
The name of Adam and Eve Mews perpetuates the memory of one of Kensington's most ancient inns, which faced the main road here from at least the seventeenth century until 1972, when its licence was given up.
The site of the Adam and Eve and its garden amounted to nearly two acres of copyhold land. The earliest known details go back to the 1760s when the hospitably named John Bacchus of Tufton Street, carpenter, owned the land. (fn. 94) There was an auction of the lease held from Bacchus in 1765, following the bankruptcy of a publican. ‘The Front commands a delightful View towards Holland House, the Back Front a Prospect to Surry’, claimed the auction notice. (fn. 95) The inn itself had three pronounced bay windows on the front and may well have been an irregular, traditional timber building.
With the development of the district west of the Adam and Eve after 1818 came inevitable improvements. In 1822–3 William Twining, victualler, with Henry and William Judson, ironmongers, built a house east of the inn and a row of cottages behind in the upper part of the garden. The inn itself was altered and possibly entirely rebuilt at this time. (fn. 96) By the later 1840s the buildings along the frontage here were all in use as shops and had been numbered as 10–13 in The Terrace in extension of The Terrace proper to its east, the inn being No. 11. Besides Adam and Eve Cottages, there were livery stables in a yard behind. (fn. 27)
In June 1875 the copyhold of these premises was enfranchised. (fn. 97) The several copyhold tenants therefore became freeholders, and they prepared to sell the land for development. This they did in March 1876 for £23,500 to William Willett, builder, who borrowed £24,000 on the security of the property to meet his costs, and another £6,000 two years later. (fn. 98) At this time Willett had yet to earn his reputation as one of the foremost of London's speculative builders. His previous commitments had been confined to Hampstead, but he was about to start operations at Cornwall Gardens not far away.
Willett thought at first in terms of a narrow street with double-fronted houses, but the space proved too restricted. Therefore the plan submitted to the Kensington Vestry by Edward Monson, the surveyor acting for Willett, in 1880 (the year in which existing tenancies of the site expired) showed a mews much like that laid out (fig. 35), entered both from the High Street and from a previously existing passage north of the Kensington Chapel in Allen Street. It was at first to be called Palace Stables, but this soon changed to Adam and Eve Stables or Yard and finally to Adam and Eve Mews. The main blocks of two-storey stabling east and west of the roadway were built by Willett in 1880–1. (fn. 99) The short range behind the Kensington Chapel was added by Willett in 1884 to the designs of Harry B. Measures; these buildings seem to have been used as police stabling. (fn. 100) This left just two vacant plots at the north end of the eastern range, where in 1898 Willett's firm tucked in some ‘dining rooms’ for J. A. Philippe to designs by Amos Faulkner. (fn. 101) Many of these simple and pleasant brick buildings have now been painted and otherwise converted into eligible mews cottages.
The Adam and Eve itself and its neighbours along the frontage were not reconstructed by Willett himself. Here Nos. 163–171 (odd) Kensington High Street were built in 1882 in an old-fashioned but ornamental Franco-Italian style. The Adam and Eve itself, erected by Alfred Baker of Hammersmith, builder, was moved to the east side of the opening into the mews and became No. 163, while the accompanying Nos. 165–171, incorporating shops and built by G. H. and A. Bywater, were to the west of the entrance. Behind this latter group was a block of stabling built for a jobmaster, George Long, perhaps to the design of Lewis Solomon. (fn. 102) This has long been destroyed and, after many years of use as a car park, town-houses and maisonettes were in the process of construction on the site at the time of writing (1985). At the Adam and Eve itself there were alterations in 1921 and again after 1972, when the licence was surrendered. (fn. 103)
Nos. 173–253 (odd) Kensington High Street and Hinterland
Until 1801, the frontage along the high road westwards from the present Adam and Eve Mews as far as Earl's Court Road belonged to one sizeable freehold parcel of ten and a half acres whose southern boundary was slightly north of the line of Abingdon Villas (fig. 36). During the eighteenth century, the ‘town’ stopped abruptly at the Adam and Eve; beyond it, fields and gardens stretched westwards to Hammersmith. The only building of size here was the Star and Garter, a tavern with a good garden well sited at the east corner where the highway met the lane leading to Earl's Court. Its existence dated back at least to 1732, and it continued in various guises until 1910. (fn. 104)
Any impetus to develop this land before 1801 would have been frustrated by complications over title. In 1675, James and Ambrose Muschamp had leased this and other ground in Kensington to Philip Colby junior. Later, his son Sir Thomas Colby bought the freehold of a ‘moiety’ of this land—always a recipe for future muddle. (fn. 105) Throughout the eighteenth century, therefore, the ownership was in two geographically undivided parts. The ‘moiety’ which had remained with the Muschamps, along with property around Kensington House further east (see page 56), came into the ownership of Lord Berkeley of Stratton, by whom it was sold in 1731 to Mary Edwards of Welham, Leicestershire. From her it passed to Gerard Anne Edwards, her natural son by the bizarrely named Lord Anne Hamilton. He married Lady Jane Noel, daughter of the fourth Earl of Gainsborough, and died intestate in 1773. The moiety then became the property of his son Gerard Noel Edwards (1759–1838), who after succeeding to the Gainsborough estates in 1798 became known as Gerard Noel Noel. (fn. 106)
Meanwhile the other moiety had fallen into the net of litigation which entangled all Sir Thomas Colby's properties after his death (see page 56). In the final settlement this asset, along with Colby House, was allotted to Admiral Sir George Saunders and his heirs. Eventually it passed to Saunders's grand-daughter Henrietta Egerton, who in 1765 sold it to John Machin, a successful Soho timber merchant. (fn. 107) When Machin died in 1787, he left his share in the land on trust for his three surviving daughters and sixteen grandchildren, of whom eight were named Vaughan and eight Phillimore (his second daughter Mary having married the Reverend Joseph Phillimore, proprietor of the Racks estate at Notting Hill and brother to the owner of the Phillimore estate on the north side of Kensington High Street). (fn. 108)
By 1790 therefore, the land was split between twenty different claimants, and a Chancery case became necessary to distribute it for beneficial use. A decree of July 1801 allotted the western five acres to Gerard Noel Noel and the eastern five to Machin's trustees (fig. 36). Because some of Machin's heirs were still legally infants, it took several more years to parcel out the eastern acreage between them. (fn. 109)
Early Development east of Earl's Court Road
Noel, on the other hand, was now free to do as he wished. In due course he put up his five acres for auction in lots, in 1809. The Star and Garter and two adjacent lots to its east were duly sold and the latter were built upon, but in a bitty and unsatisfactory way, perhaps because of bad timing. (fn. 110) Immediately east and south of the Star and Garter, George Brown of Southampton Place, St. Pancras, builder, entered into an agreement to build houses to the value of £3,000 ‘in a substantial and workmanlike manner and with good sound and proper materials of all kinds suitable to their stile and rate of Building and upon a uniform plan’; but in the building depression of 1812 Brown foundered into bankruptcy without having done much more than begin a row of tiny houses known as Kensington Buildings or Place, leading eastwards out of Earl's Court Lane (fig. 36). (fn. 111) (fn. n3) A local builder who was later to prosper on Lord Kensington's estate, William Collins, took over Brown's articles in 1818. By 1823–4 Collins had finished three houses with shops facing the High Street known as Newland Place, and added to Kensington Buildings. (fn. 112)
East of this lot, on the site of the present church of Our Lady of Victories, a City builder named George Pritchard was erecting a good detached house set back from the main road for Elizabeth Capper in 1811. Between 1819 and 1833 this was the home of Harrison Gordon Codd, Kensington magistrate and equerry to the Duke of Sussex. The property was afterwards subdivided, shops numbered in Newland Terrace appeared along the frontage, and a small school known as Capper House School eked out an existence in the main house. (fn. 113)
In Earl's Court Road south of Kensington Buildings, a parcel of land now represented by the western end of Pater Street's north side was sold by Noel in 1812 to Robert Farthing of Pall Mall, who had agreed to lease it to Louis Changeur, the originator of the scheme for Edwardes Square on Lord Kensington's estate to the west. Changeur used the ground for brick-making, and then began to build some small, south-facing houses here, but his credit collapsed in November 1812 and the houses were left unfinished. Farthing then sold the land to Daniel Sutton, the chief promoter of Edwardes Square after Changeur's downfall. (fn. 114) The houses here were probably the ‘ten Carcases, with Gardens etc. situate in SuttonStreet, Earl's-court-lane’ referred to in an auction notice of 1816. (fn. 115) Eventually Sutton seems to have completed the row in close conjunction with Thomas Allen, who developed the land to the east, including the rest of the north side of this street (page 113). The houses here were never of much account; seventeen laundresses lived in the eleven houses at Sutton's end in 1851. (fn. 116) The Princess Victoria, built c. 1830 and now No. 25 Earl's Court Road, is the only survivor from early development here (Plate 43b). (fn. 117) The sites remained the freehold of the Sutton family for many years, and their later history is given on page 116.
It seems likely that Changeur had had wider ambitions east of Earl's Court Road. The largest lot in Noel's auction of 1809 was an L-shaped piece of some three acres, with a frontage of about two hundred feet to Kensington High Street and a hundred feet to Earl's Court Road. These sites are now covered by both sides of Abingdon Road at the north end, the north side of Cope Place and most of Pater Street. Nothing is heard of this land until 1817 when, as mentioned below, it was bought by Thomas Allen. But at this date it was in the hands of Thomas Oak Smith, one of Changeur's assignees in bankruptcy. (fn. 118) This may suggest that Changeur had hoped to get possession of this land but was thwarted by insolvency.
Thomas Allen and the Allen-Stevens Estate
In 1816 the eastern five acres of the ancient freehold partitioned in 1801 were finally apportioned among John Machin's heirs. A more vigorous, coherent and entrepreneurial mood now began to be felt at both ends of the property.
A new developer came forward in 1817 to promote building on a broader scale, so ensuring that the area between Earl's Court Road and the Adam and Eve regained some semblance of unity. This was Thomas Allen, from whom Allen Street takes its name. Allen had been a tailor and breeches-maker of Old Bond Street in the early years of the century. Tradition has it that his wealth derived from supplying military uniforms on a vast scale during the Napoleonic Wars. At any rate, by 1809 Thomas Allen had become rich enough to leave his tailoring business in the hands of a partner, John Wilson, and buy Newland Park, a country seat at Chalfont St. Giles in Buckinghamshire. Later, Allen acquired the adjacent and larger estate of The Vache. (fn. 119) When he died in 1829 he also owned, besides his Kensington properties, land at Hendon, Hadley Wood, Teddington and Hampton, the lucrative bridges over the Thames at Hampton Court and at Walton, and the lease of the Blenheim Hotel in Bond Street. (fn. 120) Allen was also rated successively for three houses on his Kensington estate during the period of development, in Newland Street (1818–19), in Allen Terrace (1822–3), and in Bath Place (1823–5), but whether these were personal addresses it is now not possible to say. His widow Sarah had a house in Allen Terrace in 1833. (fn. 26)
A sidelight upon Thomas Allen is cast by the activities of his brother John Allen, a sometime pawnbroker, developer and prominent radical of Bath. The Allens may both have come from that city, since among Thomas's buildings in Kensington were rows named Bath Place and Somerset Terrace. In 1806–8 they were jointly responsible for two high-class speculations in Bath, one of eight houses designed by William Wilkins on land belonging to Earl Manvers and Lord Newark, the other of seven houses designed by Thomas Baldwin on land ‘at the Bear Yard and Parsonage Lane’. Thomas Allen advanced half of the necessary £10,000 for these schemes. (fn. 121) In 1812 John Allen was to the fore in the agitations for the reform of the Bath Corporation, and later he was entrusted to take Bath's petition for universal suffrage to the great Spa Fields meeting of January 1817 in London. By 1821 he was in the Marshalsea Prison for debt and owed his brother £2,000. But he recovered sufficiently to think of standing for Bath in the election of 1832, and eventually became an alderman of the city's reformed corporation. (fn. 122)
Thomas Allen's earliest transactions in Kensington were purchases in February 1816 from Daniel Sutton of a house in Leonard Place and a stable behind Edwardes Square (page 257). (fn. 123) He seems not to have been related to William Elderton Allen, the lawyer involved in the early promotion of Lord Kensington's estate, but he was clearly in close touch with Sutton. His own lawyer during this period, William a Beckett, was one of the early trustees of Edwardes Square and Allen's immediate neighbour in Leonard Place (c. 1815–22), while his architect, Annesley Voysey, appears to have lived in about 1816–19 at Allen's own house there. (fn. 26) This may seem to strengthen the connection between developments east and west of Earl's Court Road. On the other hand Sutton, a Beckett and Voysey, already on the spot and alive to a good investment for a wealthy client, may simply have directed Allen's attention to the opportunity made available further east by Changeur's bankruptcy.
William a Beckett, reputedly the original for Dickens's Ralph Nickleby, was a solicitor of fierce temper and (like John Allen) a strenuous supporter of municipal reform; his son Gilbert Abbott a Beckett was the editor of Figaro in London and a contributor to Punch. His grandson recalled him merely as a ‘very dignified old man’ who had quarrelled with all his sons except Gilbert. (fn. 124) Of Annesley Voysey little is known except that he designed what was reputedly London's first purpose-built office building, and was grandfather to a more remarkable architect, C. F. A. Voysey. (fn. 125) He is known to have been Allen's architect only from an application to lay sewers on the property in 1821. (fn. 126) But the consistent and individual character of all the houses built under Allen, with their completely stuccoed, single-windowed fronts, suggests the hand of an architect, presumably Voysey, throughout (Plate 43a). These houses were not to the liking of Kensington's historian, Thomas Faulkner, who described them in 1820 as ‘in the modern style, covered with plaister to resemble stone. This tasteless innovation in the art of building, will entirely supersede the ancient brickwork, which we so much admire, in our more ancient domestic structures.’ (fn. 127)
Most of Thomas Allen's developments seem to belong to the years 1817–25, though building trickled on thereafter. In 1826 the annual rental of the houses then completed on the Kensington estate, which were mainly let on short term, amounted to some £2,450. (fn. 121) At the time of Allen's death in 1829 his only son and heir, Thomas Newland Allen (1811–99), was still a minor. He inherited all his father's Kensington properties and kept most of them for his lifetime, which he spent as an established country gentleman; his estate was proved at £237,001 in 1900. The Kensington properties then passed to his daughter Florence Ada Stevens, who sold the Buckinghamshire estates and moved to Kingston Lisle, Berkshire. Much of the Kensington property was also sold in this century, but a small core of the Allen-Stevens estate, as it came to be called, remains in the Stevens family's ownership. (fn. 128)
Ever since Thomas Allen's death, the Allen-Stevens properties here have been continuously managed from Uxbridge. Partners in Woodbridge and Son, an oldestablished firm of Uxbridge solicitors, were involved in the trusts and settlement of Allen's will, and continued to run all Thomas Newland Allen's estates thereafter. Additionally, from the 1870s another Uxbridge man, George Eves, acted as surveyor to the Kensington property, to be succeeded by his son William Lionel Eves, who designed buildings in Kensington High Street and Abingdon Road when reconstruction took place after 1880. (fn. 129) Charles Frederick Kearley, who established himself as a builder on the estate in Bath Place in about 1880 and enjoyed much local success, also hailed from Uxbridge. Under his son, Charles Kearley, the firm expanded and built some interesting architecture, including the flats designed by Maxwell Fry at No. 65 Ladbroke Grove, Kensington. (fn. 130)
Developments by Thomas Allen
Thomas Allen's involvement with the land east of Earl's Court Road began formally in July 1817, when he bought most of the undeveloped portion of Gerard Noel Noel's freehold from Thomas Oak Smith, one of Changeur's assignees in bankruptcy. This, as explained above, amounted to some three acres fronting on to both Earl's Court Road and Kensington High Street. The transaction was funded at least in part by mortgaging Allen's Newland Park estate for £8,000 to Sir William Wake. (fn. 131)
A new street was quickly laid out running southwards, with terraces on either side and eight larger houses facing the main road. This street, now the north end of Abingdon Road, was at first called Newland Street; its western terrace was known as Lower Newland Terrace, the eastern terrace (set well back from the street line) as Allen's Place, and the eight houses along the frontage as Upper Newland or plain Newland Terrace—a name soon extended to the miscellany of buildings further west. These houses seem mainly to have been built between about 1817 and 1820; some of those facing the main road had probably been started well before the formal conveyance of July 1817, for several were in occupation within the calendar year. (fn. 26) Smith, the vendor of the land, retained a few plots, mainly on the east side of Newland Street. Allen sold a few freeholds but let the majority of his houses on short term. (fn. 132) Several of them remain in Abingdon Road. On the west side the simple, single-windowed and stuccoed houses Nos. 2–14 (even) belong to this period of building. So too do the similar Nos. 11–25 (odd) on the east side (Plate 43c), but these have been obscured by shops built on the front gardens in 1881; (fn. 133) the only house here to have missed this fate is the brick-faced No. 9.
Towards Earl's Court Road lay the ground with the hundred-foot frontage also sold by Smith to Allen in 1817. It is now represented by the block between Pater Street and Cope Place. The ratebooks marked an ‘Allen Street’ or ‘Allen's Rents’ here from 1817 (fn. 26) —a reference to what came to be called Warwick Street, now the north side of Pater Street. Here Allen gradually extended Daniel Sulton's short terrace (then known as Sutton Street) eastwards. (fn. 134) More significant development was delayed until 1823–4, when Thomas Josiah Park, a builder and brickmaker of Westbourne Place, Sloane Square, took some land from Allen on the promise of long leases. Concurrently, Park and others seem to have finished off or continued Daniel Sutton's terrace along the north side of Sutton (now Pater) Street. (fn. 135) Instead of building a southern terrace to face this, Park planned a row of houses overlooking the undeveloped land to the south and fronting a footpath later to become Cope Place. This was to be flanked east and west by short rows of cottages, which were built first. The four cottages facing west towards Earl's Court Road (on the site of the present garage) were known as A Beckett Place (soon shortened to Beckett Place) after Allen's solicitor. (fn. 136) At the east end, Park started two further rows, one of four cottages and the other of five, facing each other across the bottom of Newland Street and known as Park Place. These survive as Nos. 32–38 (even) Abingdon Road and Nos. 43–51 (odd) Abingdon Road. (fn. 137) They are plain two-storeyed houses, stuccoed and channelled up to the first floor. Once they were probably similar, but the continuous cornice and parapet now give Nos. 32–38 a harder appearance (fig. 37), whereas at Nos. 43–51, although the entrances have been banished to the basement and the ground storeys display tasteful bow windows, most of the old high brick parapets and minimal copings remain (Plate 43d, e). Next to this latter group, Park also in 1824 built the original Kensington Arms public house; this was reconstructed c. 1890. (fn. 138)
Before Nos. 43–51 had been completed Park declined into bankruptcy in 1825 and the houses had to be taken on by others, principally John Chaffer, carpenter. They took some years to finish. The site of Park's intended south-facing row, Park Terrace (now represented by the north side of Cope Place) was leased by Allen in 1826 but probably not built on until the early 1830s. (fn. 139)
On the eastern or ‘Phillimore’ section of the land, Allen proceeded in the same way, but his developments were generally less cramped and the houses bigger. They have all now been destroyed with two exceptions, Nos. 197 and 199 Kensington High Street, formerly part of Allen Terrace (Plate 43a).
Not long after the division of the property among Machin's heirs in 1816, Allen made an arrangement to form a street leading out of the main road of similar width and character to Newland Street. This was the future Allen Street. Here however, the terraces facing the High Street, named Bath Place to the east and Allen Terrace to the west of Allen Street, were larger, longer, set further back from the frontage and endowed with good gardens behind. The exception was Somerset Terrace, a small row of four houses at the east end of Allen's take next to the Adam and Eve, with a large stable yard behind. Allen Terrace was on land which he acquired freehold, but for Somerset Terrace and Bath Place he enjoyed leasehold rights only. These developments, in course of construction from 1818, were finished by about 1823. (fn. 140) Allen Terrace in particular (Plate 43a) was at first quite fashionably inhabited, with residents including the future tutor of Princess Victoria, the Rev. George Davys (1821–8) and Sir Hector Maclean, seventh Baronet (1825–7). (fn. 26) Later the status of these houses sank and many were multi-occupied. Claude Monet the painter boarded modestly at No. 1 Bath Place during his English sojourn of 1870; he had gone by the time of the census of 1871 but his wife and young son were still there, safe from the anguish of the Paris Commune. (fn. 141)
In Allen Street itself, Allen did not build. On the west side, he was able to buy from Machin's heirs some small sites south of the gardens of Allen Terrace, (fn. 142) but these for many years remained as garden ground before being developed as Wynnstay Gardens in 1883–5. With the Britannia Brewery site to the south of this, and with the land on the east side where Phillimore Terrace and the Kensington Chapel now stand, he had no involvement.
Allen Street (north end), Phillimore Terrace, Wynnstay Gardens and Nos. 173–195 (odd) Kensington High Street
Until building started on the estate to the south, Allen Street remained a relatively quiet cul-de-sac. Only two developments of importance occurred here between the partitioning of the freehold among John Machin's heirs in 1816 and the southward extension of the street from 1852: the Britannia Brewery, now demolished, and the surviving Phillimore Terrace.
The Britannia Brewery occupied the site of the present Allen Mansions; a small relic of it survives in the Britannia public house to its north. This independent brewery was built about the year 1834 by the partners Edward Herington and William Wells of Newland Street, on freehold land bought by them from two of Machin's heirs (these were the two southernmost lots on the west side of the street as divided in the settlement of 1816). Herington had had a small brewery in Newland Street since 1830, and the new building, a sizeable industrial brick edifice surmounted (at least in later years) by a figure of Britannia looking up Allen Street (Plate 42d), no doubt represented a considerable expansion. (fn. 143) But it never flourished conspicuously. In 1873–4, when both partners were still living, new financial arrangements were made and in due course the firm became known as William Wells and Company. Thus it continued until the bankruptcy of the younger William Wells in 1902, at which time its only tied houses were the ‘Britannia Tap’ next to the brewery and the even smaller Britannia Brewery Stores or Tap at No. 150 Warwick Road. The firm was set on its feet as a limited company but again collapsed in 1924, when Young and Company of Wandsworth stepped in, sold the brewery but retained and reformed the two small pubs. (fn. 144)
The Britannia is still in carcase a building of 1834, though much altered and with a new front. Next to it now is Allen Mansions, a prosaic red-brick block of neoGeorgian flats and garages which replaced the brewery building in 1928–9. The original architect for the flats was H. Theodore Fenn, but he was replaced before building began by Hillier, Parker, May and Rowden. Country Life illustrated a flat in the block (‘occupied by two busy people’) in 1929 and praised its convenience. (fn. 145)
The twelve houses of Phillimore Terrace were built on land which almost entirely fell to the Phillimore family as a result of the partition of 1816. It was developed by a local builder, Isaac Thomas Couchman, described as of Kensington High Street and Croxley Green, Hertfordshire. Couchman received a ninety-nine-year lease of the whole from Joseph Phillimore and his sister Anna in July 1841. He was a small operator, soon got into difficulties, and went bankrupt in 1843. (fn. 146) Nevertheless his houses, simple and provincial in aspect with their wide eaves, broad sashes, all-over stucco and sparing application of ornament, seem always to have been successful and popular (Plate 42c). They were occupied in stages between 1844 and 1847. (fn. 26) Their most distinguished inhabitant has been Leigh Hunt, who was resident at No. 2 in 1851–2 but moved away to Hammersmith after the death here of his favourite son Vincent. (fn. 147) A proposal of 1939 to replace Phillimore Terrace with a block of flats designed by Oliver Chesterton came to nothing, no doubt because of the war. Most of the houses here have been little altered externally, but No. 1 was raised and vulgarly modified by Joseph Gordon Davis, a Kensington developer and builder, in about 1880. (fn. 148)
To the south of Phillimore Terrace, the site of the Kensington Chapel was part of the land leased by Couchman for his developments, but remained unbuilt on as a result of his failure. It was sold by Joseph Phillimore to the trustees of the chapel in 1854. (fn. 149) The building of the chapel and its adjacent schools is discussed on page 391. The site of the school is now occupied by ‘Ilchester’, an unpretentious block of flats for the elderly, designed by Kensington and Chelsea's Borough Architect's Department in 1971 and built soon afterwards. (fn. 150)
Wynnstay Gardens, built in 1883–5, is perhaps the earliest example of high-class flats in this part of Kensington. Its site then belonged to Thomas Newland Allen and had been previously divided between the back gardens of houses in Allen Terrace in the High Street to the north, and vacant ground on the west side of Allen Street (fig. 36). In 1876–7 Allen's surveyor, George Eves, made a plan for developing the land with a street to be called Lara Street, but this did not go ahead. (fn. 151) A revised scheme was submitted in 1881 by another architect, Henry S. Copland, on behalf of James Wright Kynaston, an upholsterer and estate agent briefly established nearby in Allen Terrace. This time the street was to be called Newland Gardens, but it quickly became Wynnstay Gardens, apparently after Kynaston's birthplace in Denbighshire. (fn. 152)
However Kynaston, who perhaps had intended houses, soon disappeared from the scene in favour of William Cooke, an efficient speculative builder already active in and around Airlie Gardens, Campden Hill. Cooke plumped firmly for flats in seven blocks, three facing Allen Street and four entered from the west side of the U-shaped private roadway behind (fig. 35). The blocks were cautiously limited to four storeys above ground in height and given the semblance of terrace housing. Their flaccid Queen Anne detailing has not been enhanced by the universal lopping-off of gables and finials above the main parapets. Cooke commenced operations in the spring of 1883 and received the last of his seven long leases from T. N. Allen in October 1885. Finally, the little caretaker's lodge was built at the north end. (fn. 153)
The flats of Wynnstay Gardens were apparently successful from the first. Hamo Thornycroft the sculptor had a flat here in 1884–91. They were among the earlier parts of the freehold Allen-Stevens estate to be sold. (fn. 154) The roadway remains private and gated at both ends.
Bath Place and Somerset Terrace were redeveloped on behalf of the Phillimore family as freeholders in 1908–9. The present Nos. 173–195 (odd) Kensington High Street replaced the terraces along the frontage, while a block of flats, Allen House, was built on the east side of Allen Street behind. Both ventures rise above the average quality of architecture hereabouts.
The shops and flats along Kensington High Street were designed by Frank S. Chesterton, better known for his Hornton Court on the north side of the High Street, also built on Phillimore property (the Chesterton family having long represented the Phillimores as estate agents, architects and surveyors). Frank Chesterton designed a symmetrical elevation of some baroque spirit which was imposed on the several tradesmen and three builders (C. F. Kearley, Higgs and Hill, and Ash by Brothers) involved (fig. 38). (fn. 155) The facings are of the fashionable narrow bricks and the dressings of cement, ‘a very Georgian material’, opined The Builder. The magazine was unhappy about Chesterton's high Hawksmoorian attic in the centre, and ended its comments thus: ‘with the first floor, through no fault of the architect, the XVIIIth century, abruptly stops, and gives place to the XXth’. (fn. 156) Initially Kearley's portions of the development proved hard to fill successfully and were let at a rack rent, so that the builder used to grumble that tenants ‘were in and out like “dogs in a fair”’. (fn. 157)
Behind, in Allen Street, Allen House occupies the site of gardens behind Bath Place. It is the boldest of the local blocks of early flats, with a swaggering, asymmetrical elevation crowned by a big gable and bountifully enriched with stone dressings. Its architect was Paul Hoffmann, here seen at his best; the developer and builder was Frank L. Linzell. There were originally four spacious flats on each floor, but rearrangement in 1979–81 has much increased their number. Allen House is now one of several blocks in Kensington let and managed ‘on a timeshare basis’. ‘There will be a constant turnover of “flat owners”’, commented a Kensington planning officer in 1982, ‘and the system operated … provides for exchange between this country and others. It is therefore quite likely that many occupiers will stay at Allen House once only, virtually a hotel situation.’. (fn. 158)
Nos. 197–253 (odd) Kensington High Street, Nos. 1–23 (odd) Earl's Court Road, Abingdon Road (north end), Pater Street and Cope Place (north side)
The modern history of this corner of Kensington is not inspiring. Cope Place and the north end of Abingdon Road are pleasant enough, but at the time of writing the two frontages to the main roads herebouts are bedraggled. Redevelopments have not, on the whole, reached a high standard.
The first important rebuildings here took place on the motley freeholds west of the Allen-Stevens properties. In 1860 the Star and Garter pub at the corner of Kensington High Street and Earl's Court Road (or Earl Street, as this portion was called between about 1840 and 1870) was reconstructed in standard stock brick and Italianate trimmings to designs by a small-time surveyor-architect, W. H. Heath (builder, T. Harvey of Hammersmith). It ceased to be a pub in 1910 and became a Lyons Corner House. (fn. 159) It was accompanied by a row of shops on the old garden to the south, formerly Corston Terrace, Nos. 1–7 (odd) Earl's Court Road. The row seems to have been extended on the neighbouring freehold southwards in the later 1860s to make seven shops in all. (fn. 160) Further south, the builder Thomas Hussey in 1869–70 erected two further plain shop buildings (Nos. 21 and 23 Earl's Court Road) next to the Princess Victoria on ground belonging to the Sutton family. (fn. 161) Meanwhile in 1867–9 the Catholic church of Our Lady of Victories, discussed on pages 387–9 was squeezed on to the narrow freehold previously occupied by the Capper House School, behind the present Nos. 233–237 (odd) Kensington High Street.
All these buildings suffered gravely from bombing in the war of 1939–45. Our Lady of Victories was destroyed in 1940 and the sites nearer Earl's Court Road were devastated by a flying bomb which fell at lunch-time on 28 July 1944; estimates for those killed in this incident vary between twenty-two and forty-five. (fn. 162) At present (1985) Nos. 239–253 (odd) Kensington High Street and Nos. 1–9 Earl's Court Road are in the process of longplanned redevelopment, neither the shops and flats scheduled for the site (1969) nor a succeeding scheme for a twenty-two-storey hotel (Sidney Kaye, Firmin and Partners, architects, 1970) having been built. (fn. 163) The scheme now under construction is for a supermarket surmounted by offices towards Kensington High Street with residential accommodation behind and facing Earl's Court Road. The architects are Joseph and Partners, acting for Landseer Property Corporation. Their scheme of 1982–3 included a neo-Victorian arcade of iron and glass within the development, but on revision this was changed to a simpler, courtyard scheme. (fn. 164)
On the Allen family's land, Thomas Newland Allen's estate surveyor George Eves decided in the 1870s to take advantage of the High Street's rise to retailing prosperity by adding single-storey shops on the front gardens of the houses built in 1817–25, where space permitted. This was the more easily achieved because the houses were on short lease. It occurred along Kensington High Street at Bath Place (1876–7) and Allen Terrace (1877), and then also at Nos. 11–25 (odd) Abingdon Road (1881), where the arrangement survives (Plate 43a, c). (fn. 165)
Next, Eves oversaw the redevelopment of some of the humbler portions of the estate. The process began on the north side of Pater Street, or Warwick Street as it was called until 1905. Here, as has been described above, the Allen property adjoined the small freehold bought by Daniel Sutton in 1813, and a continuous, rather lowly terrace had been built east of the Princess Victoria on the two separate holdings. After Daniel Sutton junior's death in 1871, his property here passed to his daughter Emily Valpy. By an agreement between the neighbouring landlords, Thomas Hussey rebuilt the whole north side of Warwick Street with flats in 1887–90. (fn. 166) The flats on the Valpy land, Warwick Chambers, look austere and ‘philanthropic’, while those belonging to T. N. Allen, Abingdon Mansions, are less mean in detail and planned for a middle-class tenantry, as the title ‘mansions’ in lieu of ‘chambers’ betrays. William Lionel Eves was probably associated with his father George Eves in designing Abingdon Mansions. In 1892 he succeeded the latter as the Allen-Stevens estate's surveyor and went on to design the two blocks of Ilchester Mansions in Abingdon Road, next to Abingdon Mansions; these were built by James Turner and Charles Withers of Stratford Road in 1892–3. (fn. 167)
In 1894 the old terraces between Wright's Lane and Earl's Court Road were renumbered as part of Kensington High Street and lost their official names. From this time W. L. Eves strove to rebuild the Allen-Stevens frontage here with some semblance of unity, as properties became available. Unhappily the task proved too complicated, and the banality of Eves' architecture, coupled with changes and mutilations, has left a haphazard street composition. Eves himself contributed Nos. 217–219 (1894), 221–223 (1899–1900), 225–227 (1899) and probably also Nos. 209–215 (1913–14), which mark a feeble conversion from Queen Anne to neo-Georgian. (fn. 168) After 1918, attempts to unify the frontage broke down. A faience-faced Woolworths appeared at Nos. 201–207 (1924) and a coarse commercial building at Nos. 229–231 (1935), (fn. 169) leaving Nos. 197 and 199 as the High Street's sole reminders of Thomas Allen's stucco developments of 1817–25.
In Abingdon Road there have been some quiet rebuildings starting with the Kensington Arms at No. 41, rebuilt in cheerful Queen Anne style c. 1890. On the same east side, the old Nos. 31–35 (odd) were rebuilt in 1959–60 in a neat neo-Georgian tradition by Henry Darsa, architect, a new No. 33 being planned in the yard behind two shallow houses (Nos. 31 and 35) facing the street. (fn. 170) The neighbouring Nos. 37 and 39 were recast and united with a new ground storey in 1970. Here again a house was inserted behind, the new No. 37A, designed by Lawrence, Barrett, Lloyd-Davis. As built in 1974, this house had a façade with exposed structural work in COR-10 steel, one of the earliest uses of this material in Britain; modifications to it have since been made. (fn. 171) Opposite, No. 16 Abingdon Road, the presbytery for Our Lady of Victories, was built in a capable neo-Georgian idiom to designs by Joseph Goldie in 1933. (fn. 172)
It remains to mention the north side of Cope Place. The houses of Park Terrace built here by Thomas Park and his successors had been very modest ones. When the land to the south here was developed from 1851, further houses were built facing them and the street became known as Emma Place (page 229). It was renamed as Cope Place in 1911. Several schemes to redevelop the north side had foundered before the Second World War, in the course of which four of its houses were destroyed and others badly damaged. In 1948 Henry Darsa, architect, put forward a plan to rebuild the street on existing sites and to the same height as before. This scheme did not go forward, but a similar one, designed by R. Harold Brine acting for Benjamin Hammond, did so in 1951. The result was the austere, unpretentious run of brick town-houses at Nos. 1–23 (odd) Cope Place (Plate 45d). (fn. 173)
At the west end of Cope Place were Nos. 27–33 (odd) Earl's Court Road, as T. J. Park's Beckett Place of 1823–4 had latterly become. These houses had been in use since 1895 as a furniture store. A plan of 1950 to replace them with a residential hotel came to nothing. Instead, the site was in due course cleared and used for a filling station. (fn. 174)