The Course of Development
The translation of Barlow's plan into the realities of
bricks and mortar took over half a century to complete.
The last leases, for sites in the north-west corner of the
estate, were not granted until 1777, (ref. 107) by which time it
was necessary to consider renewals of the earliest leases.
The progression of the development was generally, and
logically, from east to west, but the pace was by no means
even. On the rudimentary evidence of the dating of estate
leases (some leases being of large plots which were sub-let
in smaller sites) there was considerable building activity
throughout the 1720's, with 1725 and 1728 as the peak
years, a slow-down from 1733 to 1735, a new surge to
another peak in 1740, a considerable decline throughout
the 1740's and early 1750's (only six leases were granted
between 1741 and 1755), and a gradual development of
the remaining unbuilt land over the next twenty or so
years. The marked reluctance of builders to take sites
near the north end of Park Lane and the western end of
Oxford Street was probably due to the proximity of
Tyburn gallows, situated at the present junction of Edgware Road and Bayswater Road, where public executions
attended by vast and tumultuous crowds continued until
In general the frontages to Oxford Street and Park
Lane were not regarded with any favour by either the
officers of the estate or by builders. The whole development was at first noticeably turned inwards towards
Grosvenor Square and away from the extremities of the
estate, with the exception of the eastern boundary where
it was clearly desirable to link up with existing streets.
Although areas on the north side of Brook Street and
Grosvenor Square extending as far as Oxford Street were
taken under building agreements as early as 1723 5, the
completion of buildings along the frontage to Oxford
Street was in some cases delayed for over thirty years. (ref. 108)
In 1766 John Gwynn remarked disparagingly on 'that
heap of buildings lately erected from Oxford-Road to
Hyde Park Corner, whose back-fronts are seen from the
Park'. (ref. 109) The wording of early building agreements for
ground at the western edge of the estate suggests that this
orientation was a matter of deliberate policy (although
the layout shown on Mackay's map envisages buildings
along the Park Lane frontage). Under these agreements
ground rents were to be calculated by the extent of
frontage along Park Street, and while it was usual to
include provisions against the siting of coach-houses and
stables along that street or in any of the main east-west
streets, no such restriction applied to Park Lane. (ref. 110) In
fact stabling was built there on a site now occupied by
part of Grosvenor House. (ref. 111) One short terrace of houses
facing the park called King's Row was built in the 1730's
(on the site of the present Nos. 93–99) (ref. 112) but it was set
back from Park Lane and quickly shielded from the road
by a screen of trees (Plate 13a, 13b). Even in the 1750's when
Norfolk (now Dunraven) Street was laid out the houses
were built with their back elevations overlooking the park
and their garden walls forming the Park Lane frontage
(Plate 19b, 19c). In 1791 William Porden, the estate surveyor, remarked on the opportunity lost 'in originally
laying out the ground of making a handsome front towards
Hyde Park', (ref. 113) and it is not clear why Park Lane was so
ostracized. Certainly in the nineteenth century it was a
very busy road and was originally quite narrow: some
stretches were widened in the course of building on
adjacent land. (ref. 114) The park was concealed by a brick wall
which was not entirely replaced by iron railings until
1828, (ref. 115) and, although a gate was provided at the cost of
Sir Richard Grosvenor for the benefit of his tenants
(Grosvenor Gate), (ref. 116) the prospect from ground level at
least could not have been very attractive.
||GLB XVII/450–3, XVIII/454–60.
||GBA 36: M.L.R. 1755/3/503; 1757/1/362.
||John Gwynn, London and Westminster Improved, 1766,
p. x, note.
||GBA 26, 27, 37.
||R. Horwood, Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster
..., 1792–9: G.O., estate surveyor's plans, vol. I, p. 79.
||M.L.R. 1726/2/407; 1727/5/394; 1730/4/340; 1732/3/
||E.H.P., item 1193, lease and plan book, p. 20.
||Jacob Larwood, The Story of the London Parks, 1881 ed.,
||G.O., misc. box 6, papers relating to Grosvenor Gate,