The opening of Vauxhall Bridge in 1816 led to the development of 'Holland Town' by the host and politician 3rd Lord Holland, who hoped to revive his shaky fortunes.  This charming semi-detached house was built c.1823 by a horse dealer, turned developer.  At first the neighbours were typically wealthy professional people and a dairyman ran his business from the property next door, keeping cows in the mews behind.  The district suffered a gradual decline in prosperity, mainly owing to the arrival of the railways in the mid-19th century.  By the 1970s the prevailing delapidation in large parts of the road had become chronic and the house became increasingly derelict and vandalised.  

Read more ...

The development of the triangle between Edgware Road and Bayswater Road into a fashionable district known as Tyburnia began in the early 19th century.  This house built in the late 1820s had some very interesting residents.  One of the first was Richard Belgrave Hoppner, the son of John Hoppner RA, and likewise a painter.  He was also a poet, translator and diplomat, and was appointed English Consul-General at Venice 1814-25.  Hoppner was a close friend of Lord Byron, and he and his wife looked after Byron's illegitimate daughter Allegra for a time.  Byron took little paternal interest in Allegra and the child died aged five of typhus in a convent in Italy.

Read more ...

West Kensington house history

This house was built in 1883.  The road and surrounding streets are on the site of former brickfields, an area known as the 'Dismal Swamp', owing to its marshes and lying water caused by digging for brick clay.  It was described in 1859 as an 'utter abomination', with refuse from the extensive laundry and bleaching factory as well as sewage from Shepherd's Bush draining into it.  The coming of the railways transformed this district and easy transportation into London, by railway or horse drawn tram, encouraged urban development.

Read more ...

West Kensington house history

A house built c1882 and part of the Gunter Estate.  The Gunter fortune originated in an 18th century confectionery shop in Berkeley Square, which sold ice-cream with surprisingly 'modern' flavours, such as parmesan, brown bread or pistachio.  One of the residents in this house became Attorney-General in Singapore in 1936 and was interned in a Japanese war camp in Taiwan when Singapore fell in 1942 - he died shortly afterwards of dysentery.  In the general confusion of the war, his family were not told of his death for several months. 

Read more ...

Pimlico house history

Pimlico's social aspirations disappeared overnight after the opening of Victoria Station in 1860 and parts of the immediate area became quite seedy.  This house built c1856 was in a street identified by the social researcher Henry Mayhew in 1852 as where an affluent man might seek a discreet introduction to the sort of 'quiet lady whose secrecy he can rely upon'.  He noted that everyone knew that the street was inhabited by 'beauty that ridicules decorum'.  The house was used for immoral purposes for about twenty years during this period.  In this and nearby streets, one house in three was said to be a brothel.  Two rather unusual brothers lived up the road who claimed to be the grandsons of Bonnie Prince Charlie, styling themselves Prince Sobieski and Count d'Albanie.

Read more ...

Belgravia house history

Lady Conyngham used this as her London house for a short period from 1859.  She was George IV's last mistress from about 1820 until his death ten years later.  In her youth she had been a great beauty, but by the time she was the King's mistress she was 51 and rather fat.  Caricaturists and wits found the idea of the fat ageing King and his large ageing mistress hilarious and the King's behaviour in public fed their humour.  He became besotted with her and even during his coronation he was seen 'nodding and winking at her'.  Society believed that after his death she went to Paris with 'wagonloads of plunder' but although the King had bequeathed her all his plate and jewels, she refused the entire legacy.  By the time she lived at this house in Belgravia she was ninety.  She died aged ninety-two, having outlived her husband by thirty years and all but one of her children.  

Read more ...

Kensington house history

This mid-Victorian terrace was built on the old glebe lands owned by the vicars of St. Mary Abbots since 1260.  A resident of the house was a survivor of the Titanic.  On that fateful night in 1912  her daughter took charge of the tiller in one of the lifeboats, steering it through the sea strewn with icebergs and debris, and did a great deal of the rowing.  The street has been the home of many artists and writers, including Percy Wyndham Lewis and Max Beerbohm, and the 20th century sculptor Georg Ehrlich lived in the house.  Physicist James Clerk Maxwell conducted his experiments in a garret a few doors down in the 1860s, to the great curiosity of passers-by.

Read more ...

Fulham house history

Two flats built 1862-3 as part of three back-to-back blocks, which are now London's oldest remaining mansion flats.  It was social anathema to early and middle Victorians to share facilities such as front doors, hallways and staircases and it took another twenty years for this continental and Scottish idea to become fashionable.  The flats attracted MPs, actors, doctors, lawyers, army and naval officers, with a strong ex-colonial tendency.  From the 1930s the area has been very strongly associated with secret intelligence agencies, with many of the people working there living nearby, certainly the case with one of the flats.

Read more ...

Holland Park house history

The street was developed in the 1850s along part of the steeplechase track of the Hippodrome Racecourse.  At the time there was a stark contrast between the wealth of Notting Hill on one side, and Notting Dale with its piggeries and potteries on the other.  By the end of the 19th century Notting Dale became one of London's worst slums.

Read more ...

Islington house history

An early 19th century house built before the development of Barnsbury by the side of a footpath winding through open fields with grazing cows.  In the 1850s Johnston Forbes-Robertson, who later became the best Hamlet of his day, spent part of his childhood here. 

Read more ...