Montpelier Square Area: Montpelier Square

Pages 109-116

Survey of London: Volume 45, Knightsbridge. Originally published by London County Council, London, 2000.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.


In this section

Montpelier Square

'Something about the atmosphere of the place gripped me', wrote Arthur Koestler's wife Cynthia of her first, chance, sight of Montpelier Square on a winter morning in the early 1950s. 'It struck me as the most beautiful square I had ever seen. (fn. 4)

Montpelier Square owes much of its appeal to its seclusion and smallish scale, gently sloping situation, and wellplanted garden (Plate 59a). The architecture of the houses is mixed, reflecting not only a process of development stretching over nearly three decades from 1824, but also the tastes of successive house-improvers (fig. 37). There were originally to have been three similar terraces of nine houses each, forming three sides of the square, with a longer range to the north. But construction work, begun at the peak of a development boom, came to a premature halt when the boom collapsed. The leading builder was bankrupted, and only the south side – a fully stuccoed range – was completed as originally intended. Part of the northern terrace, and the two northernmost houses on the west side, were built between the mid-1820s and the late 1830s, the plain, late-Georgian aspect of the earlier houses contrasting somewhat with the more ornamental manner of a few years later. The entire east side was built up in the early 1840s, the remainder of the west side about 1845. The north side of the square was finally completed in the early 1850s, together with Montpelier Terrace. The variations in design of these later houses are the more interesting in that most were the work of the same builder.

In 1867 the communal garden was vested by the Metropolitan Board of Works in a residents' committee, under the Gardens in Towns Protection Act of 1863. (fn. 5) The surviving paths in the half-acre plot still follow in part the original layout of curvilinear walks, and there are venerable trees – planes, chestnut and sycamore – amidst lawn and shrubbery. In the 1980s new railings replaced those razed during the Second World War.


Montpelier Square's protracted genesis led to some oddities of numbering. The present Nos 8–16 on the south side were originally numbered 10–18, in anticipation of the nine houses planned to have been built on the east side. Only seven were ultimately built there: in the meantime the present-day Nos 25 and 24 had been built on the west side and had taken the numbers 1 and 2, throwing the intended sequence into disorder. On completion the west side was renumbered 19–27 in continuation of the flawed sequence already established on the south side. The earlier houses on the north side were originally numbered separately under the name Montpelier Terrace. Although this name was soon dropped, and they were recognized as part of the square, they retained their old numbers for some years. When the north side was completed, the present Nos 26 and 27 were at first numbered 8 and 9 in the new Montpelier Terrace (to the west), and subsequently 26A and 27A Montpelier Square. Some anomalies were put right as the square developed, but for many years there were no houses numbered 8 and 9. The numbering was regularized in 1865, since when the only changes have concerned houses not strictly speaking on the square: No. 17A (formerly No. 7 Sterling Street); No. 25A (otherwise No. 7 Montpelier Terrace); and Nos 44A–B and Nos 45–7 (at the corners of Trevor Place and the north-east entry to the square).

South side: Nos 8–16

The builder most closely associated with the early development of Montpelier Square was William Darby (c. 1800–48), otherwise known as William Absolom Darby, of Darby amp; Son, carpenters and builders. Darby, with others including members of his family, seems to have been chiefly responsible for building the south side of the square, together with two houses at the back, in Sterling and Montpelier Streets. He intended to construct at least some houses on the west side of the square, using the same design as for the southern range, and there is evidence that he was planning to build on the east side too.

The firm of Darby amp; Son was based at Wilton Street, Grosvenor Place, from the 1820s to the 1830s. William Darby's father Isaac, who died in 1837, seems to have been in business there on his own from about 1833. (fn. 6) William, who undertook to build on the Bishop of London's Paddington estate at about the same time as he became involved with Montpelier Square, went bankrupt in 1828, resurfacing in the 1840s as a surveyor in Marylebone and Westbourne Park. He may have been the William Darby who in the interim ran a shop at Queen's Buildings, Brompton Road. (fn. 7) His son William Henry Darby became a builder himself in Upper George Street, Marylebone, where he employed five men in 1851 and shared premises with his brother Frederick, an estate agent and surveyor. (fn. 8) The Darbys may possibly have been related to a family of that name from Sunbury (where T. W. Marriott himself lived in retirement), and thus to the St Quintins, owners of the Notting Barns estate in North Kensington. (fn. 9) It does not appear that they were involved in building on the estate other than in this most ambitious part. The other builders were mainly from around Chelsea and Brompton.

Ninety-nine-year leases of the five eastern houses on the south side were granted by Marriott and Betts at the end of May 1826, on the direction of William Darby, with whom building agreements had been made. Besides Darby, the lessees were Isaac Darby, described as a plumber, of York Terrace, Marylebone; Edward Darby, painter, and Marshall Hill Smith, mason, both of Belgravia; and Jonathan Turner, a Soho timber merchant. Rents were set at fourteen guineas from the third year. (fn. 10) Marriott and Betts soon disposed of the freehold of these houses and that of the unbuilt west side of the square to Alexander Anderson, a surgeon of Brompton Row. In August 1826, just before Betts withdrew from the development, the freehold of the rest of the south side was sold to William Bromley, a Gray's Inn solicitor much involved in property transactions. Bromley's purchase included the present No. 8 Sterling Street and its counterpart 'about to be built' in Montpelier Street (No. 27). Leases of Bromley's houses were granted to William Darby, and Richard Darby esquire of Pollen Street, Hanover Square, towards the end of the year. (fn. 11)

Not until 1830 were the first few houses on the south side rated, and it was only in the mid-1830s that the whole terrace was occupied. (fn. 12) The stucco-fronted buildings (fig. 37, Plate 59b) form a unified architectural composition, characteristically Regency, slightly marred by later alterations. William Darby, as a future surveyor, may himself have been the architect, but it is conceivable that the Richard Darby who leased No. 14 was the R. Darby practising as a surveyor a year or so earlier in Jermyn Street, (fn. 13) and if so that he was involved in the design. (fn. 1) The outer two houses at each end are treated as pavilions, with a slight break forwards and a giant pilaster order applied, giving a touch of grandeur to buildings of no great scale, the frontages being only about eighteen feet.

Externally, the stucco detailing is minimal, and the area railings and balconies are of standard patterns; there is some variety in the balcony-brackets used, not all of which appear to be original. Plans are of conventional sidepassage type (the corner houses have their entrances on the return walls). Particulars of No. 13 in 1889 appear typical of the houses at that time. In the basement were two kitchens and the scullery, with a wine-cellar and two coalcellars under the pavement. The large dining-room on the ground floor could be divided into two rooms by folding doors; there was no such partition in the corresponding double drawing-room upstairs (where the chimneypieces were of marble). The upper floors each comprised two bedrooms, with various cupboards; there was a w.c. on the ground floor, another on the top floor, but no bathroom. (fn. 14)

T. W. Marriott took a lease of the partly built No. 8 from Alexander Anderson in 1828. (fn. 15) This corner house, which was for some years the residence of his son T. W. M. Marriott, has been much altered at various times. By 1861 it accommodated two households and for most of the rest of the century was a lodging-house. Residents in 1891 included the author Robert S. Hichens, who became well known with his novel The Green Carnation, published in 1894. (fn. 16) Its strongest literary association, however, is with the Hungarian-born writer Arthur Koestler, who bought the house on a characteristically sudden fancy while flat-hunting in 1952; it remained his London base for work and entertaining for the rest of his life. His study, which he had lined with old pine panelling, was at the top, and the whole house – from its exterior grey wash and the blind windows of the entrance front – became known to his circle as 'Bachelor's Fortress'. Koestler was in fact married three times, but had many girlfriends (the cause of angry scenes at the house, such as when caviar was hurled through the kitchen window and a hapless guest thrown into the street). (fn. 17) In 1983, when he was terminally ill, Koestler and his third wife Cynthia committed suicide at the house. It has been remodelled internally since (Plate 63c).

No. 9 was occupied from about 1848 by Mary Rimbault, her wood-engraver sons Charles, Edward and John, their sister Emma, and their lodger Frederick W. Fairholt, the wood-engraver and illustrator, and the author of Costume in England. In about 1864 the household moved to No. 22, and it was there that Fairholt died. (fn. 18)

The windows at No. 14 have been enriched with Italianate stucco pediments, perhaps by the architect Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, whose father-in-law, Charles Terry, was a long-term occupant of the house (then numbered 16).

No. 15 was for many years occupied by the politician Anthony (Lord) Barber, who designed the penthouse floor, added in the 1960s.

Other former residents include: the painters Thomas Brigstocke (No. 11, in 1841), William Bromet (No. 14, in 1835–7) (fn. 19) and John Hanson Walker (No. 14, in the early 1870s); Vice-Admiral Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Personnel (No. 16, from c.1900); Dr John Muir, former Inspector-General of Hospitals (lodging at No. 16 in 1881); Sir George Augustus Stevenson, Private Secretary to the Treasury Secretary, later Commissioner of Public Works in Ireland (No. 15).

North side: Nos 26–44

The north side of the square was originally called Montpelier Terrace. Built at several dates and variously altered, the house fronts here are more of a mixture than those elsewhere in the square, the earliest, at the east end, being the plainest (fig. 37). The frontages vary from 17 to 20 feet.

A particular feature of the north side is the number of houses with shallow bay-windows inserted on the groundfloor fronts, in place of the original sashes and often in widened openings, most of which seem to have been done in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. Deeper baywindows, projecting beyond the building line, required special permission under the Building Acts, which was unlikely to be granted. (fn. 20) No. 28 received such a window in 1906–7, apparently in emulation of the house next door. (fn. 21)

The earliest houses on the north side were the King George IV public house at No. 44, and No. 37, first rated in 1827 and 1829 respectively. Nos 36 and 38, 40 and 41 were completed and occupied by c. 1830. The builder, of Nos 36–38 at least, appears to have been John Souter of Chelsea, a bricklayer who had earlier built Trevor Chapel behind Trevor Square and who was also involved in building in Montpelier Walk. (fn. 22)

For many years from 1852, No. 38 was the home of a well-known comedian, Walter Lacy (whose real name was Walter Williams) and his former-actress wife Harriette (née Taylor), 'the best Ophelia of her day'. (fn. 23) (fn. 2) Later occupants include Louis Waldstein of New York, pathologist and author of The Subconscious Self (1897).

Though a lease of the site of No. 39 was granted in 1826, the house remained unbuilt or incomplete until about 1835. (fn. 24) It forms a group with the earlier Nos 40 and 41, the three houses having channelled stucco on the ground floor, and stucco surrounds to the upper windows.

In 1851 the architect Matthew Digby Wyatt was living at No. 40, then a lodging-house and presumably a convenient base while he was involved with the Great Exhibition. (fn. 25)

The architect Horace Farquharson lived at No. 41 in the early twentieth century.

No. 44, the King George IV public house (Plate 60d), built c.1827, was leased to Marriott's brother Edward Evans Marriott (who did not run it himself). (fn. 26) It was a haunt of the novelist Henry Green, who lived in Trevor Place in the 1940s and '50s. A third storey was added in 1992, but the pub closed in 1995 and was pulled down two years later. To the east, Nos 44A and 44B, built as part of the South Lodge redevelopment and occupied for some years as the Omani embassy, were demolished at the same time as the King George IV. Four traditional-style houses were built on the site of Nos 44, 44A and 44B in 1998–9.

By 1832 the sites of Nos 42 and 43 had been leased, for a 63-year term, to one Archibald Ritchie, (fn. 27) but he had left the scene by 1838 when the plots (whether or not built up), formed part of a demise to Charles Bowler, a Fetter Lane baker. (fn. 28) Still unfinished, No. 43 was leased to a grocer in March 1839. (fn. 29) A grocer-and-cheesemonger's shop throughout the 1840s, it was taken over about 1850 by a young Scottish draper, and a draper's it remained. This shop and the pub, with the dairy and the stationer's over the road (see Nos 45–47, below) and later a general practitioner at No. 42, gave to this corner a business character of which no trace remains.

After the draper's closed, No. 43 was considerably altered c.1927, when the old-fashioned double shop-front was replaced by a fanlighted doorway and a garage entrance (where the gates call to mind modern faux-Georgian 'fanlight' doors). The alterations, for Major Sir John Prestige, were designed by the architect Walter Godfrey (one of the editors of the Survey of London). (fn. 30)

No. 42 was completed by late 1840, when it was let to Sarah Rosetta Lane, widow. (fn. 31) It was altered and enlarged c.1891 by the architects Habershon amp; Fawckner for Robert de Burgh d'Arcy, the London County Council (LCC) allowing a front bay to be built. (fn. 32)

No. 35 was built about 1849 by W. J. Adams of Montpelier Street for James William Wimsett, also of Montpelier Street, who bought the site freehold in 1848 (and a strip to widen it the following year). (fn. 33)

Figure 37:

Montpelier Square, elevations as in 1996–7

Nos 27–34 were all started in 1851 by the builder John Gooch the younger. (fn. 34) (Gooch and his father, also a builder, were formerly near neighbours of T. W. Marriott's in High Row, Marriott at No. 15, the Gooches at No. 16 High Row West, later Albert Terrace.) Leases of these houses, none of them yet finished and one or two hardly begun, were granted by May 1851 and all were occupied by 1853. (fn. 35) Their construction was evidently taken over from Gooch (who died in 1851) by Henry William Atkinson of Cheyne Walk, who took the leases of Nos 30–33. (fn. 3) The other lessees were Edwyn Allum (Nos 27, 28, 34), a local shopkeeper with leasehold interests in houses on the west side of the square, and the Misses Savill, of Michael's Place, Brompton (No. 29). (fn. 36)

The Gooch-Atkinson houses follow the general pattern of the houses which Gooch had already built on the east side of the square, but are more ornamental with balustraded parapets. The frontages, however, are less generous. Nos 27–34, and No. 35, all carry on the established cornice line, dentilated at Nos 28 and 35 where the houses break forward very slightly and have the additional emphasis of rusticated quoins, window pediments, and round-arched doorways with fanlights. Also continued is the balcony line, where the ironwork is similar to that on the east side of the square.

Figure 38:

No. 24 Montpelier Square, c. 1835, plans

No. 28 underwent one of the first thorough modernizations in the row. This was done in 1906–7 for Sir Henry Chartres Biron, a well-known magistrate, by the decorative specialists George Jackson amp; Sons of Rathbone Place. Among the improvements, which included the fitting of new chimney pieces and mahogany doors, were two fairly standard modifications to houses of traditional sidepassage plan: the turning round of the foot of the stairs to face the partly opened-up back room, and the building of a top-lit ground-floor extension for dining and entertaining. This room was finished in Parian cement, with an ornamental 'waggon' ceiling. (fn. 37)

No. 34 has a minimal iron-columned portico of 1861. (fn. 38)

No. 35 owes much of its imposing appearance to relatively recent features – such as the big first-floor window dating from a 1935 remodelling for General BlackettSwiny (Plate 60c). It had already been extended. In 1914 the accommodation included a smoking-room and a sitting-room on the ground floor, with a dining-room built over the garden and served by a lift from the basement; on the first floor, the drawing-room ran the full depth of the main house to a small conservatory. A bathroom – the first in the house – was built out at the back on the second floor in 1931; a second, for an intended 'large indoor staff', was refused by the LCC in 1935. (fn. 39)

No. 26 was built in 1851-2, together with Montpelier Terrace, by Joseph Liddiatt. (fn. 40) It was altered and much enlarged some time before the First World War. Tall, with its own cornice-line, No. 26 has five full storeys, the top two floors being expressed as a double attie. In 1913 a portico similar to that at No. 34 was added. (fn. 41) T.W.M. Marriott was the first occupant of the house, from 1852 – when it was numbered 8 Montpelier Terrace – until about 1880. It was next occupied by the philosophical and scientific writer Edmund Gurney, a founder of the Society for Psychical Research. Gurney was the principal author of the pioneering work on hallucination and experimental telepathy, Phantasms of the Living (1886); visiting him, Sir Oliver Lodge found the sitting-room 'completely covered with little piles of printed slips' containing the case-histories used in its compilation. (fn. 42) After Gurney's mysterious death in Brighton, his widow continued to live at the house for some time with her second husband, Thomas N.A. Grove, the founder and editor of New Review. (fn. 43)

West side: Nos 17–25

By June 1826 William Darby had taken out an agreement with T.W. Marriott and John Betts to build three houses at the south end of the west side of Montpelier Square. These and the other six plots were intended to be built up to the same elevational design as the houses on the south side, but nothing came of these initial plans, doubtless because of Darby's bankruptey. (fn. 44)

When building did begin, some years later, it was to a plainer pattern, though in size and plan the new houses were similar to those on the south side (figs 37–8). The first houses, Nos 24 and 25, were first rated in 1835. No. 25 was from 1848 the home of Dr John Morison, the founderminister of Trevor Chapel and long-serving editor of the Evangelical Magazine. From the late 1890s until c.1914 it was occupied by Leopold Maxse, owner-editor of the imperialist National Review. The house was much altered in 1914 when it was extended and 'incorporated' with No. 1 Montpelier Row. (fn. 45)

Occupants of No. 24 have included the Rev. Edward Charles Mackenzie Walcott, writer on ecclesiological, antiquarian and topographical subjects, who had lodgings there about 1857, and the artist Charles William Campbell, c. 1884. (fn. 46)

Nothing was done with the ground south of No. 24 until 1845, when Nos 17–23 were built there by John Gooch the younger. (fn. 47) The ground-floor fronts have round-arched openings and recessed doorways, several with ornamental fanlights.

No. 23 was modernized in 1991–2 (by Christian Stocker Associates, architects), when a galleried steel-and-timber conservatory was added (Plate 63b).

Nos 19 and 20 were used together for most of the later nineteenth century as a boarding-house, to which No. 21 had been annexed by 1891; the establishment then comprised the landlord's family, about twenty guests and a staff of seven. (fn. 48)

William Morris's Oxford and Cambridge Magazine was edited at No.18 (then a lodging-house and numbered 20) in 1856. The editors, William Fulford and Wilfred Heeley, moved to the house and for a while it became a meetingplace for the contributors. Losses and Morris's growing preoccupation with painting led to the magazine's early closure. (fn. 49)

East side: Nos 1–7

Little is known of William Darby's intentions for the east side. He cut a drain there, presumably as a preliminary to building, but without having first received official permission, and in March 1827 the Sewer Commissioners ordered the drain to be destroyed and fined him £18. (fn. 50) Darby was no longer involved when in 1838 the vacant ground was demised by T. W. Marriott to Charles Bowler, baker, of Fetter Lane. (fn. 51) A building agreement for the construction of Nos 3–7 was made in April 1841 between Marriott and John Gooch the younger, but more than a year later the houses had not been built. By that time Nos 1 and 2, probably built at Marriott's expense, were standing but unfinished. Leases of Nos 3–7 were granted to Gooch in February 1843, and tenants began moving in during that year; Nos 1 and 2 stayed empty for several years. (fn. 52)

There was no attempt to make the east side of the square conformable to the southern range. Seven houses, not the originally intended nine, were built, giving frontages of about 20 feet, and the resulting houses (fig. 37) are that much grander than those on the south side. A mixture of stucco and yellowish brick was used instead of full stucco, the doorcases are larger and more ornate, and ironwork of a more elaborate pattern, with a bellied profile, was used for the balconies. The end pair, Nos 1 and 2, have particular prominence, not only from their slight break forwards and their full fourth floor, but from their position at the upper end of the sloping site. As on the southern range, the entrance to the corner house, No. 1, is on the return front. The original porch at No. 1 was extended in 1904, and it has been ornamented by a stone eagle since the early 1970s. (fn. 53) Nos 3–7 follow the end houses in their general proportions, the chief modification in design being the different treatment of the ground-floor windows (flat-arched as opposed to round-headed) and the lack of an attic floor. The greater width allows the windows to be paired, thus giving more individual identity to the houses; a slight emphasis is given to the middle house by means of segmental arches over the first-floor windows.

An early resident was R. Kirkman Lane, an attorney, at No. 1 (perhaps related to Mrs Lane at No. 42 opposite), and there were at least three early households with East Indies connections. No. 7 was the last home of T. W. M. Marriott; he died there in 1889. Nos 1 and 2 had both become lodging-houses by the 1870s, and they were later run as a single establishment. (fn. 54)

At No. 3, a dining-room at the rear was added in 1931 for the new owner, Major Philip Le Grand Gribble. Designed by Douglas Wells, architect, and built by Maurice H. Turner Ltd of Beauchamp Place, it was painted by 'an unknown Italian artist' with trompe-l'oeil landscapes, sky and trellised vines. (fn. 55) (fn. c1)

Nos 45–47

No. 45 Montpelier Square (Plate 56c), formerly No. 36 Hill Street, is part of the Trevor estate development (see page 102). The single-bay addition to the side, formerly No. 46 but now incorporated with it, was built in 1858 as a house and shop, despite objections from T. W. M. Marriott and others that it would restrict air to the neighbouring houses. (fn. 56) The shop was for many years a stationer's and newsagent's. Next door the 'Princes Gate Dairy', which opened about 1850, was converted from or replaced a stable originally belonging to No. 1 Montpelier Square. (fn. 57) At first known as No. IA Montpelier Square (or No. 2 Montpelier Terrace), it became No. 45 in 1865 and No. 47 in 1891. The present No. 47, replacing the recently closed dairy, was designed and built in 1938 by T. M. England & Company Ltd of Kinnerton Street. (fn. 58) Among its occupiers have been the Dowager Viscountess Craigavon, widow of the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

Social character

Censuses and directories suggest that the Victorian square was predominantly middle-class, while far from solidly well-to-do. Residents appear often to have taken in one or more paying guests, and there were several lodging – or boarding-houses (a few comprising two or even three neighbouring properties). Many households had a cook and a maid, sometimes a nursemaid as well; a few managed larger staffs with perhaps a butler and coachman. Mrs Smith, for instance, an Irish actress, employed a lady's maid, cook, housemaid and groom at No. 32 in 1871; a few doors away, the Reverend Whichcote and his wife also had four servants.

Many of the inhabitants up to the mid-century claimed private means: others included barristers, army officers, doctors and a dentist, wine merchants, a brewer's agent, an upholsterer, teachers, artists, an architect, a clerk of works, and a distinguished Nonconformist minister, Dr Morison. (fn. 59) No. 6, a school run by the young Misses Ramsay, one of whom had been born in Calcutta, accommodated more than a dozen girls mostly born in India. (fn. 60) By 1861 the obviously commercial householders included a blind-maker (employer of sixteen men and boys), a coal agent, a confectioner and a decorator. Later a funeral furnisher, a Jewish commercial traveller and a musician in the Life Guards took houses there.

If the inhabitants were mixed, there was also continuity. Some early and later residents stayed for decades. T. W. M. Marriott, a non-practising barrister (whose local interests included membership of Westminster District Board of Works), lived successively at three houses in the square until his death.

Yet Montpelier Square acquired an enduring bad reputation. It was this that prompted T. W. M. Marriott's application, rejected by the Metropolitan Board of Works early in 1863, to have the square and Montpelier Street renamed. In 1867 it was said that both Montpelier and Trevor Squares 'if they are still dull and shabby, have lost the ill-name that generally attached to them'. (fn. 61) Nevertheless more than eight years later residents petitioned for the square to be renamed Beaufort Square, on the grounds that although it was now occupied by 'a different class of persons' its old reputation still depressed property values. (fn. 62) The matter was raised more determinedly in the late 1880s and early '90s by residents claiming that houses were difficult to let and had depreciated. A Mrs Silvertop, newly arrived at No. 30, suggested the names Princes, Rutland Gate, Ennismore, Knightsbridge or Beaufort Gardens Square. (fn. 63) But by that time perhaps the aim was really to acquire a name with instant cachet.

The censuses suggest very few possibly dubious houses. Lodging-houses may have attracted some undesirables, but only proliferated in later years and may have been as much the product as the cause of the bad reputation. Of five houses uninhabited in 1871, four were later used as lodging-houses. In 1861 the lodging-houses (excluding addresses with only one or two lodgers) appear to have been at Nos 22–24, run by the same man; but by the 1870s and '80s Nos 1–2 and 36, and many of the houses on the south and west sides could be so described. (fn. 64) Moreover, with residents such as the Reverend Walcott, the ecclesiologist, M. D. Wyatt, the architect, and members of William Morris's circle (all these in the 1850s), the lodging-houses were doubtless largely respectable.

John Galsworthy's choice of a house in the square ('No. 62') as the fictional address of Soames Forsyte in 1886 was no doubt an informed one, and it is interesting that he makes something of the square's appeal to the Forsytes for investment, as well as having a 'capital position' for their own residential purposes. Soames's father James had been after another house in the square for the past two years, but baulked at the price – James's brother Jolyon (with an eye also on Soho) has just bought this house himself when the family saga opens. (fn. 65)

As a solicitor, Soames would not have been out of place at that time. In the 1880s and '90s householders on the north side included at least one solicitor, a civil engineer, a Parliamentary agent, a retired major-general, and several men and women of independent means. (fn. 66)

By the 1890s the residents of the square were confident of its rising status, and in petitioning against the opening of a skating-rink in the old floorcloth factory on the west side of Trevor Place dissociated their own 'very much improved' neighbourhood from Trevor Square and Trevor Street. (fn. 67) The architect Henry Currey, reporting on properties there in 1896, emphasized the 'rather special' character of the houses, small but desirable because so near the parks (precisely the Forsyte assessment). (fn. 68)

In the 1920s the novelist Sir Philip Gibbs chose the square as the home of an unconventional ménage (socially of much higher antecedents than the Forsytes), headed by a professional gambler turned Bond Street milliner. The house, paid for by her soldier husband (deserted by her long ago but now under a cloud himself following a massacre in the Punjab), is seen as a 'find' for people who before the First World War would have aspired to something grander; as with 'No. 62' in The Man of Property, its smallness and cosy charm are stressed. (fn. 69)

In the mid-1930s Montpelier Square could be described as 'the best residential square in the district', (fn. 70) though it still contained boarding-houses and continued to do so until after the Second World War. By the 1960s the square was firmly established as a fashionable address. No. 31, the home of the actress and hostess Leslie Caron, was mentioned in the Time article which made famous the phrase 'Swinging London': it was the only private house shown on an accompanying map of the London 'scene'. (fn. 71)


  • 1. Another possibility is that the designer was Marriott's brother Edward Evans Marriott, the lessee of several houses on the estate, who was variously described as a surveyor or brickmaker. Ernest Oswald Coe, an architect who witnessed a number of deeds relating to property on the estate, appears merely to have been a relation of one of T. W. Marriott's many mortgagees and of a solicitor who probably arranged the loans.
  • 2. Many of the north-side houses have had connections with the performing arts world. Apart from actors and others who took lodgings there in Victorian times, No. 28 was once the home of the composer Lionel Monckton and his mother, the actress Lady Monckton; No. 29 was the birthplace of Joyce Grenfell; Madame Belle Cole, an American-born singer, formerly of No. 24 Montpelier Square, lived at No. 36 in the 1890s; and Leslie Caron and her theatre-director husband (Sir) Peter Hall lived at No. 31 in the 1960s.
  • 3. Atkinson and Gooch had both been prominent, though not in partnership, in the development of the Thurloe Square area in the 1840s (see Survey of London, volume NLI).
  • 4. Arthur and Cynthia Koestler, Stranger on the Square, ed. Harold Harris, 1984, p.151.
  • 5. MBW Mins, 28 June 1867, p.822.
  • 6. POD.
  • 7. Ibid: MDR 1828/7/84.
  • 8. POD: Census (1851).
  • 9. See Survey of London, vol. XXXVII, 1973, Chapter XII.
  • 10. MDR 1826/8/587–90; 1832/4/790.
  • 11. MDR 1826/10/514–15; 1827/1/4–5; 1827/2/417.
  • 12. RB.
  • 13. Kent's London Directory, 1825.
  • 14. Sale particulars in WCA, Acc.964.
  • 15. MDR 1828/10/995.
  • 16. Census (1891).
  • 17. Koestler and Koestler, op.cit., pp.151–2, 184, 206.
  • 18. RB: POD: Censuses (1851–61): DNB.
  • 19. Paul Mellon Foundation for British Art, List of A & B artists who resided in Westminster (in WCA).
  • 20. e.g. MBW Mins, 8 March 1878, p.401: LCC Mins, 27 Sept 1892, p.795.
  • 21. CERC, Church Commissioners' file 1619.
  • 22. MDR 1827/5/54: RB.
  • 23. Frederic Boase, Modern English Biography, 1965 edn, vol.11, p.274.
  • 24. RB.
  • 25. Census (1851).
  • 26. RB: MDR 1828/5/143.
  • 27. MDR 1832/4/257.
  • 28. MDR 1838/7/313.
  • 29. MDR 1838/7/314.
  • 30. WCA, WDP2/570.
  • 31. MDR 1840/8/727.
  • 32. LCC Mins, 24 Feb 1891, p.223.
  • 33. RB: DSR: MDR 1848/4/840; 1849/2/722.
  • 34. DSR.
  • 35. RB.
  • 36. CERC, Ground Rents Purchases 26, abstracts of deeds: MDR 1846/11/109; 1846/10/358.
  • 37. CERC, Ground Rents Sales 1619.
  • 38. MBW Mins, 17 May 1861, p.364.
  • 39. WCA, WDP2/570: LMA, GLC/AR/BR/17/068566: PRO, IR58/91036/947.
  • 40. DSR: RB.
  • 41. LCC Mins, 3 June 1913, p.1251.
  • 42. Alan Gauld, The Founders of Psychical Research, 1968, p. 162.
  • 43. POD: Census (1891).
  • 44. MDR 1826/10/603–4.
  • 45. PRO, IR58/91036/937: DSR: CERC, Ground Rents Sales 223.
  • 46. POD: Chancellor, p.88.
  • 47. MDR 1845/8/11; 1845/9/510–16: RB: DSR.
  • 48. Census (1891).
  • 49. Philip Henderson, William Morris: his life, work and friends, 1986 edn, pp.32–8.
  • 50. LMA, WCS/69, 16 March 1827, p.446.
  • 51. MDR 1838/7/313–14.
  • 52. MDR 1842/7/405; 1843/2/188–92: RB.
  • 53. LCC Mins, 3 May 1904, p.719: information provided by Mrs J. Virgin.
  • 54. Censuses (1851–91): POD.
  • 55. WCA, WDP2/569: 'At Home with the Pringles', in Harper's Bazaar, April 1968.
  • 56. MBW Mins, 7 May 1858, p.324; 28 May 1858, pp.373–4; 4 June 1858, pp. 385–6.
  • 57. Census (1851): RB: DSR.
  • 58. WCA, WDP2/570.
  • 59. Censuses (1841, 1851): POD: RB.
  • 60. Census (1851).
  • 61. Daily Telegraph, 24 May 1867, p.4.
  • 62. MBW Mins, 10 Dec 1875, p.664: LMA, MBW 776, report by the Superintending Architect, 5 Feb 1876.
  • 63. LMA, LCC/MIN/1563, case no. 168.
  • 64. RB: Censuses (1861–81).
  • 65. John Galsworthy, The Man of Property, 1906.
  • 66. Censuses (1881, 1891).
  • 67. LMA, LCC/MIN/10879.
  • 68. CERC, Ground Rents Purchases 26.
  • 69. (Sir) Philip Gibbs, The Reckless Lady, 1924.
  • 70. LMA, GLC/AR/BR/17/068566.
  • 71. Time, 15 April 1966, p.32: map reproduced in Robert Hewison, Too Much: Art and Society in the Sixties, 1986.
  • c1. The wall paintings were still there in 2003.