The Estate in the Twentieth Century


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F. H. W. Sheppard (General Editor)

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'The Estate in the Twentieth Century', Survey of London: volume 39: The Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History) (1977), pp. 67-82. URL: Date accessed: 20 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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The Estate in the Twentieth Century

The death of the first Duke of Westminster on 22 December 1899 was, in retrospect, as great a landmark in the history of the Grosvenor estate as the death of Queen Victoria thirteen months later was to be in the history of the nation. In the palmy days of the late nineteenth century dukes had still been able to do pretty much as they pleased with their own, just as Imperial Britain had with her Empire; and if ominous rumblings could sometimes be heard, little attention was as yet paid to them.

But in the early years of the twentieth century dukes and all landed aristocrats found themselves on the defensive for the first time, and after Lloyd George's budget proposals of 1909, the Parliament Act of 1911 and the war of 1914–18 they were in full retreat. As early as 1873 it had been said of the great estate owners of London that 'Their position of affluence is independent of virtue or vice, prudence or folly. They exist; that is their service. It was the sole service of most of their ancestors.' (ref. 1) Views of this kind were not widely held in the 1870's, but fifty years later they seemed almost commonplace; and after the lapse of another fifty years the mere survival of so many great urban estates, even in attenuated form, provides in itself a notable tribute to the tenacity and adaptability of their owners and managers in the conduct of the great retreat.

The reign of the second Duke of Westminster, Hugh Richard Arthur, extended from 1899 to 1953. He was the grandson of the first Duke, his father having died in 1884, and at the time of his succession he was still a minor, about to go out to the South African War, where he served until 1901. (ref. 2) In their general mode of living there could hardly be a greater contrast between the peripatetic second Duke and his staid Victorian predecessor; and since his death he has in general attracted a bad press. The Times obituaries virtually restricted themselves to praising 'his business acumen', the efficiency of the administration of the Grosvenor estates, and his breadth of vision in extending his domains to Southern Africa and British Columbia. (ref. 3) But the politician and diarist Henry Channon described him more frankly as 'magnificent, courteous, a mixture of Henry VIII and Lorenzo Il Magnifico, he lived for pleasure—and women—for 74 years. His wealth was incalculable; his charm overwhelming; but he was restless, spoilt, irritable, and rather splendid in a very English way. He was fair, handsome, lavish; yet his life was an empty failure…' (ref. 4) Other comments of this kind could be cited, and it is therefore worth noting that immediately after the Duke's death Sir Winston Churchill, who was then Prime Minister, issued a statement publicly acknowledging their long friendship. 'As a companion in danger or sport he was fearless, gay, and delightful…Although not good at explaining things or making speeches, he thought deeply on many subjects and had unusual qualities of wisdom and judgment. I always valued his opinion. His numerous friends, young and old, will mourn and miss him, and I look back affectionately and thankfully over half a century of unbroken friendship.' (ref. 5)

Soon after his return from South Africa the new Duke married for the first time, and the estates were resettled. (ref. 6) After the first Duke's death estate duty assessed at over £600,000 had become payable (more than 90 per cent of it arising from the London properties), and for the first time in the history of the estate sales were resorted to to meet taxation. In 1902 Watney's, the brewers, bought the freehold of property in Victoria Street in the vicinity of the Stag brewery. In 1906 Westminster City Council purchased land adjoining the railway near Victoria Station, and St. George's Hospital bought that part of its site at Hyde Park Corner which stood on the Grosvenor estate. The last instalment of duty on the London estates was paid in that year. (ref. 7)

Immediately after the first Duke's death all rebuilding and improvement schemes not already commenced had been stopped, 'having regard to the money required for estate duties', (ref. 8) and very little rebuilding took place until 1906. By that time property values on the estate were falling for the first time within living memory—a matter of some surprise, perhaps, for modern readers apt to associate Edwardian Mayfair with limitless opulence— and although there was a recovery in rebuilding in the years 1906–14, the volume of work in progress at any one time has never approached that of c. 1886–96.

Hitherto, values on the estate had risen steadily by about ten per cent per decade, (ref. 9) but they had begun to fall in about 1901. (ref. 10) Three years later the Estate Board admitted that the market was 'bad', (ref. 11) and in 1905 the Duke was informed that for some time past the number of applications for the renewal of leases had declined. Some houses in the hands of lessees were unoccupied, (ref. 12) and in 1906 Sir Christopher (later Lord) Furness, in tentatively applying for the renewal of No. 23 Upper Brook Street, stated that he was 'undecided as to whether to take a fresh house in some other part of London, as the neighbourhood was becoming so depressing by reason of so many notice boards and empty houses'. (ref. 13)

This depreciation lasted until at least 1909 and particularly affected the larger houses. In that year the value of houses in Grosvenor Square was said by an experienced estate agent to have fallen by 50 per cent since about 1901, and there were no less than ten houses—a fifth of the whole square—to let, 'whereas seven or eight years ago it was very difficult to purchase a house' there. (ref. 14) And for the renewal of the lease of Hampden House, Green Street, the Board was forced in negotiations with the Duke of Abercorn to reduce its terms from a rent of £1,000 and a premium of £25,000 in 1904 to a rent of £850 and a premium of £10,000 (plus works estimated at £2,400) in 1909. (ref. 15)

The fall in values certainly extended throughout the whole of the West End. (ref. 16) (fn. a) Fears aroused by Lloyd George's budget programme of 1909 also had their effect, the Duke of Abercorn's agents forecasting in that year that the depression 'seems likely to become more acute, especially in view of prospective legislation'. (ref. 17) But the Estate's own leasing policy, practised by the first Duke and at first continued by his successor, of generally renewing for very short terms, often of only ten years or even less, was also a contributory cause. Although renewals of up to sixty-three years were still occasionally granted, (ref. 18) they were now very much the exception, and by 1904 both occupants and the speculative builders who often took houses for modernisation followed by a quick sale, were all complaining of the difficulties caused by short leases. Occupants pointed out that family trust money could not be invested in short leases, that it was becoming increasingly difficult to sub-let houses for the Season, (ref. 11) and that if they only occupied their houses for six months of the year they could 'get a flat at Claridge's for £3 10s a day', which was not more than the cost of running a house. (ref. 19) Speculators, such as William and Haden Tebb, clamoured for extensions of their terms, laying all the blame for their inability to sell upon the fact that 'people will not purchase a short leasehold, no matter how attractive and up to date the house may be'. The Tebbs had bought eight houses in the best streets 'at the top of the market' in 1900–2 for a total of over £61,000, all except one of them on leases of less than ten years. By 1906 they were glad to sell one of them (No. 41 Upper Brook Street) at a loss of over £7,000, while at No. 6 Upper Grosvenor Street, on which they had spent £8,500, the caretaker reported that 'Mr. Tebb would sell for £3,000 or almost give the house away.' (ref. 20)

At first the Board had ignored such complaints, and although (as previously mentioned) it admitted in 1904 that the market was 'bad', the estate surveyor, Eustace Balfour, still thought that values would continue to rise, as hitherto, at about ten per cent per decade. (ref. 9) In the following year, however, the Board was uncertain whether values would in future rise or fall, and there were also fears that 'the attractions offered on the Portman Estate and the Portland Estate on the north side of Oxford Street may depreciate the value of houses on the Grosvenor Estate'. In the spring of 1905 the Duke was therefore advised to grant longer renewals (ref. 21) and in May he agreed. (ref. 22) Less than two years later this decision was reinforced by political forebodings occasioned, evidently, by the accession of the Liberal government, the view of G. F. Hatfield, the Duke's solicitor, in January 1907 being that 'having regard to future legislation it would be well to get houses occupied for long terms.' (ref. 23)

Renewals for sixty-three years to come were now, once more, often granted, particularly in the principal streets, and in 1910 the Board stated explicitly that 'generally, 63 years leases should be granted wherever possible as the lessee will be more likely to look after and improve the property'. (ref. 24) This reversal of policy had very important results, for some houses now listed as of historic or architectural interest might well not have survived into the era of statutory protection but for the long renewals granted after 1905. Cases in point include No. 34 Grosvenor Street (renewed in 1905), No. 59 Grosvenor Street (1910) and No. 76 Brook Street (1911).

These long renewals were granted subject, usually, to the payment of a fine or premium, and almost always subject to extensive works of modernisation. Sometimes such works were accepted in lieu of a premium (as at No. 59 Grosvenor Street, for instance), and were evidently on occasion much needed. In 1905, for instance, a prospective lessee of No. 22 Norfolk (now Dunraven) Street, stated that 'the house is uninhabitable. The drainage is rotten: there is no lavatory that could be passed [by the local authority], being in the middle of the house; there is no hot and cold water and no bathroom.' (ref. 25) And in 1910 No. 21 Grosvenor Square (built to designs by Thomas Cundy II and his son in 1855–8) was said to have 'no gas or electric light and no bathrooms…There are no W.C.'s in the house except on the back staircase, and they are small and inconvenient. There is no serving room and no lift from the kitchen.' (ref. 26)

Externally, no alterations were generally demanded, except in the case of a number of important houses, which were refronted in stone. This was first done by the builder John Garlick, who in 1901–2 took No. 18 Grosvenor Street as a speculation and included a new stone front in his improvements. (ref. 27) At almost the same time, in 1902, No. 45 Grosvenor Square was refronted in Portland stone for the tenant by Edmund Wimperis and Hubert East (Plate 44a). From 1905 the process gathered pace: Garlick, for example, in that year provided No. 47 Upper Grosvenor Street, which, again, he had taken as a speculation, with a new brick and stone front designed by R. G. Hammond. The Board thought the new elevation to be 'a great improvement', (ref. 28) and in 1906, in the course of negotiations for a long renewal of the lease of No. 75 South Audley Street, the Duke's solicitor, G. F. Hatfield, suggested that the lessee, the banker H. L. Bischoffsheim, might be required to refront in stone. Ultimately he agreed to do so, (ref. 29) and the same stipulation was subsequently made in the renewal of the leases of the adjoining Nos. 73 and 74 South Audley Street (Plate 44c). Several other houses, chiefly in Upper Grosvenor Street (Plate 44d), were similarly treated (or completely rebuilt with stone fronts) between 1905 and 1916, but after the war of 1914–18 the practice was generally discontinued, probably on grounds of excessive cost.

The change of leasing policy made in 1905 to renewals for long terms had important repercussions on rebuilding policy, which were carefully considered by the Board. In the words of the Duke's solicitor, the estate at that time had been for some decades 'divided into blocks, and it is the custom to renew the leases of all the premises in the various blocks for periods which make them coterminous, so that the whole of any particular block may be pulled down and rebuilt at the same time'. (fn. b) This procedure was not in practice followed as effectively as this statement suggests, but in so far as it was pursued, it provided a number of advantages. These were that large sites 'for public and other purposes' could be provided, inconvenient boundaries could be rectified and rights of light and air settled, streets could be widened and new thoroughfares formed, and blocks could 'be treated architecturally as a whole, thus giving scope for a more effective design'. But there were also disadvantages. Sometimes there was 'a good house in a block which does not require rebuilding, and its removal with the block is a loss to the estate', leasing problems often arose, and 'Many people do not care to live in a house forming part of a block of houses all built on the same plan, but would prefer a house built to suit their own requirements, and according to their own design.' Ultimately it was therefore decided that 'no hard and fast rules applicable to the whole [estate] can be carried out with advantage'. Many 'houses might be rebuilt separately without detriment…', and 'each district and each house or existing separate leasehold in each district should be considered and dealt with individually. In this way, it is believed that the estate can be further developed, the present rentals maintained, and the general welfare of the estate improved.' (ref. 12)

Thus when rebuilding recommenced in 1906 a more pragmatic approach than hitherto was adopted. On the one hand, there were to be no more great schemes such as those executed by the first Duke in Mount Street, Carlos Place, Balfour Place and Mews, or in the 'artisan quarter' to the north of Grosvenor Square; and on the other hand, individual rebuildings were not to be encouraged, at any rate if the estate surveyor, Eustace Balfour, had his way, 'The experience that we have had as to individual rebuilding' being, so he informed the Board in 1907, 'so disastrous from the point of view of general improvement that it is only in cases of special necessity that I now advocate it.' (ref. 31) Instead, Edmund Wimperis (who after Balfour's retirement due to ill health in 1910 held the post of estate surveyor until his resignation in 1928) prepared in 1911 a ten-year rebuilding programme. This marked out fifteen blocks, or more accurately groups of generally up to about a dozen adjacent properties due for successive redevelopment year by year. (ref. 32)

Under these new dispositions a substantial amount of rebuilding took place between 1906 and 1914, and, after the interruption caused by the war of 1914–18, more of Wimperis's programme was completed in the 1920's. Commercial buildings were almost always built in ranges, and generally consisted of shops with flats or offices above, H. T. Boodle having noted as long ago as 1880 that 'flats should be encouraged for the upper classes as well as the working classes as they are found of great use'. (ref. 33) Examples of this type of development include Nos. 375–381 (demolished) and 439–441 (odd) Oxford Street (both 1906–8), Nos. 16–20 (consec.) North Audley Street (1908–9, originally shops with a hotel above), Nos. 39–42 (consec.) North Audley Street (1908–9), and Nos. 4–26 (even) Davies Street and 55–57 (consec.) Grosvenor Street (1910–12, Plate 47a). Houses were sometimes built in ranges, sometimes in pairs, and sometimes individually. Ranges include Nos. 37–43 (odd) Park Street (1908–10, Plate 46b), Nos. 80–84 (even) Brook Street and 22–26 (consec.) Gilbert Street (1910–13, Plate 45d), and Nos. 44–50 (even) Park Street and 37–38 Upper Grosvenor Street (1911–12, Plate 46a). Pairs were built at Nos. 2 and 3 Norfolk (now Dunraven) Street and Nos. 49 and 50 Upper Brook Street (both in 1907–8) and there were also about twenty-five individual rebuildings in Grosvenor Square and the principal residential streets. All the ranges, for both commercial and residential use, were undertaken as speculations by reliable builders such as Higgs and Hill, Matthews, Rogers and Company, or William Willett, but whereas individual houses had hitherto been usually rebuilt by an intending resident for his own occupation, many of them were now taken by builders as speculations, there being, evidently, fewer private gentlemen willing to build for themselves. Nos. 19 Upper Grosvenor Street (1909–10) and 75 Grosvenor Street (1912–14), for instance, were rebuilt as speculations, and so too were all four of the houses in Grosvenor Square rebuilt between 1906 and 1914.

In two different places on the estate advantage was taken of the upheavals caused by rebuilding to form a private communal garden in the centre of a block. In 1910, in one of his last reports to the Board, Balfour had advocated the gradual rebuilding of the rectangle bounded by Green Street, Park Street, Wood's Mews and Norfolk (now Dunraven) Street, the clearance of the stables and garages in the centre and the formation of 'a large common garden'. (ref. 34) This idea was subsequently executed by Edmund Wimperis, and although rebuilding in the block was not completed until c. 1924, it was sufficiently far advanced by 1914 for the garden for the use of all the residents to be laid out to Wimperis's designs (Plate 47b). The cost was paid by the trustees of the estate, the garden being viewed as an improvement, and its upkeep was provided for from a small private rate levied on the residents. The proposal to form this garden 'resulted in largely increased ground rents being obtained' for the houses shortly to be built around it, (ref. 35) and Wimperis therefore had no difficulty in persuading the Board to approve the formation of a similar, though smaller, garden in the centre of the block bounded by South Street, Waverton Street, Hill Street and South Audley Street. The almost complete rebuilding of three sides of this block was about to begin in 1914, and a garden, again designed by Wimperis, was formed here in 1915–16. (ref. 36)

During the years 1906 to 1914 the choice of architects for new buildings was nearly always tacitly surrendered by the Duke and the Board to the lessees. Plenty of work nevertheless still came to the estate surveyor. The silversmith John Wells, for instance, probably chose Balfour and Turner for the rebuilding of Nos. 439 and 441 Oxford Street (1906–8) in order to minimise the possibility of disagreements with the Board during his absence in New York, where he had other business interests. (ref. 37) Wimperis and/or his partners in private practice designed many of the new houses around the Green Street and South Street gardens, the large range comprising Nos. 4–26 (even) Davies Street, 55–57 (consec.) Grosvenor Street and the adjoining flats between Davies Street and Grosvenor Hill known as The Manor (1910–12), and he also had a number of other important commissions. On one occasion—at the prominent corner site of Park Lane and Oxford Street—the Board clearly favoured an architect of whom it approved (Frank Verity) and when in 1907 Higgs and Hill presented unacceptable plans for Nos. 37–43 (odd) Park Street the Board asserted that it 'should have been consulted first before an architect was employed'. Higgs and Hill were told that 'it is customary to submit to the Board a few names of architects for approval', (ref. 38) but some years previously they had had much trouble at Nos. 2–12 (even) Park Street with an architect— A. H. Kersey—nominated by the first Duke, (ref. 39) and this time they were determined that the architect should not 'be their master'. Mr. Higgs therefore produced a list of ten architects acceptable to him, from which the Board struck out five names, and Higgs and Hill then chose one of the survivors- W. D. Caröe. (ref. 38) This was a sensible compromise, but the case of Ralph Knott—the architect chosen by the lessee for the refronting of No. 21 Upper Grosvenor Street—whose designs were ultimately accepted by the Board despite strong dislike of them, (ref. 40) shows that there was now marked reluctance to use the Estate's authority in the choice of architects. In 1909 the Board informed an inquirer that 'more liberty is now given to the lessees to select their own architects', (ref. 41) and the sole occasion where the old authority was unequivocally asserted was in the building of the present Nos. 44–50 (even) Park Street and 37–38 Upper Grosvenor Street (Plate 46a). This site overlooked the garden of Grosvenor House, and the Duke required the lessee, the builder Willett, to employ Detmar Blow as architect. (ref. 42)

In general, however, the second Duke was not so assiduous in attention to the management of his estate as his grandfather had been. His restless mode of living and his dislike of London (ref. 43) precluded his regular involvement in administrative matters, and he appears to have only seldom attended the meetings of the Board. He seems to have accepted Hatfield's statement, made in 1905, that 'legislation is constantly curtailing the rights of the landowner and extending the power of the Public Authorities over all new buildings, thus reducing the necessity for street widening and such like improvement at private expense'; (ref. 44) and even when the chance of making such an improvement did arise, as in the redevelopment of the block bounded by Green Street, Park Street, Wood's Mews and Norfolk (now Dunraven) Street, he 'left the question of dealing with this block to the Board'. (ref. 45) He did, however, make statements of broad intent from time to time, as, for instance, in 1907, when he 'in a general way expressed a wish for the erection of small houses on his estate'; (ref. 46) and he was frequently consulted on matters which concerned himself, on controversial matters of taste, and on matters of policy.

In the building of Nos. 44–50 (even) Park Street and 37–38 Upper Grosvenor Street, mentioned above, the Duke was consulted in the choice of architect because of the proximity of the site to the garden of Grosvenor House. His appointment of Detmar Blow may perhaps have been due to his liking for the pleasing appearance of Blow's earlier No. 28 South Street (Plate 45a), (ref. 47) and it was possibly this liking which had led in turn to the Duke's commissioning Blow in about 1911 to design a hunting lodge for him at Mimizan in the Landes country between Bordeaux and Bayonne. (ref. 48) The Duke's own architectural tastes always, indeed, inclined towards 'the traditional', and in her Memoirs, Loelia, Duchess of Westminster, stated that he was 'most decidedly…a lover of old buildings'. (ref. 49) As we shall see later, these deeply rooted preferences led him to preserve several fine houses on the estate, but it is nevertheless doubtful whether he was as actively interested in current architectural matters as his grandfather had been. He did not, for instance, distinguish between the character of Blow's work and that of C. S. Peach, architect –with much assistance from Eustace Balfour—of the Duke Street Electricity Sub-station, whom he also explicitly desired to be given work on the estate, but whom Balfour considered to have 'no artistic perceptions'. (ref. 47) And it was perhaps from this lack of knowledge that sprang the Duke's modest reluctance to impose his own tastes on others.

This reluctance sometimes led to difficulties with the members of his own Board, particularly in such matters as the rival merits of large or small window panes. Balfour's view was that it was 'impossible to get good architecture with large panes', (ref. 50) but small panes were unpopular with many lessees, and when Knott's client at No. 21 Upper Grosvenor Street threatened to abandon her contract 'if the small panes are insisted upon' the matter was referred to the Duke, who 'saw no objection' to large panes. (ref. 51) Similarly at No. 20 Upper Grosvenor Street the Countess of Wilton (who was said by her builder, G. H. Trollope, to be 'very difficult') 'talked about throwing up the terms if she could not have large panes', and appealed from the Board to the Duke, who decided that 'a subdivision of the panes is not to be insisted upon'. Balfour could only lament that 'if permission is given there is no knowing where such windows will stop', (ref. 52) and thereafter all serious attempt to impose small panes on reluctant lessees seems to have been abandoned. (ref. 53) In the renovation and enlargement of Bourdon House, Davies Street, where he was himself in 1910 the architect for the Duke, he was, however, very careful to provide panes of the correct 'period' size. (ref. 54)

At No. 6 Upper Brook Street the uncertainty and unreliability of the Duke's decisions in architectural matters had a very unfortunate outcome. In the latter part of the eighteenth century this house had been virtually rebuilt, with extensive interior embellishments, to designs evidently by Samuel Wyatt (fig. 8a on page 121). Balfour thought it 'interesting architecturally, being probably an "Adams house" (ref. 55) and in 1912 Wimperis said that it had 'the most distinctive front of any in the neighbourhood, and that it certainly ought to be preserved'. (ref. 56) In that year Lord Elphinstone was granted a sixty-three-year lease and was about to start renovating when he discovered that the stone front was structurally unsound and must be rebuilt. (ref. 57) The Board then required him to rebuild the front in Portland stone 'to the same design as at present', and in consideration of his extra cost agreed to grant him a ninety-year lease. (ref. 56) But the members of the Board refused to allow him to erect a projecting porch, it being their unanimous opinion that the character of the front would be destroyed by such an addition. Lord Elphinstone then wrote personally to the Duke, who informed the Board that Elphinstone 'would not have the porch'. (ref. 58) Four months later, however, the Duke happened to meet Lord Elphinstone in Paris, 'which reminded him of the porch. His Grace was rather inclined to let him have it, but did not wish to go against the opinion of the Board.' (ref. 59) At about the same time Wimperis noticed that the new front was not being rusticated in accordance with the previously existing work, and as this was 'an essential characteristic of the design…its repetition should be insisted upon', at an extra cost of only about £25. But Lord Elphinstone regarded rustication as 'a continual eyesore' and asked that the whole matter should be placed before the Duke once more. (ref. 60) When this was done the Duke decided that the rustication should not be insisted upon, and in the light of this the Board resolved that it was not worth while to attempt to prevent the erection of a porch, the justly exasperated Wimperis considering 'that as the previous design is not to be followed, the addition of a porch is not important'. (ref. 61) Thus the original far-sighted intention to reproduce Wyatt's design was largely frustrated : and in 1936 the Duke seems to have raised no objection to the total demolition of the house by a speculator.

The loss, largely unrecorded, of this fine house was far from being the only such case on the estate during the second Duke's long reign, the similar fate of Grosvenor House and a number of the mansions in Grosvenor Square providing other obvious examples. It must be said, however, that during the early decades of the twentieth century there is little evidence to suggest that the surviving Georgian buildings or their often fine interior embellishments were greatly admired by the Grosvenor Estate's lessees or tenants. It was not until 1944 that public opinion on this subject was sufficiently strong for buildings of architectural or historic interest to be listed to ensure their statutory protection under the Town and Country Planning Act of that year. The losses of such buildings on the Grosvenor estate were matched all over London and throughout the country and should therefore be considered in the context of the times.

The Duke himself was, indeed, personally responsible for the preservation of several of the finest houses on his estate, despite the loss of income which sometimes resulted therefrom. In 1907 he finally refused (after first consenting) to allow the rebuilding of Nos. 9–16 (consec.) South Audley Street, contrary to Balfour's advice that this range should be demolished, and that the Duke would 'get a larger income if the premises are pulled down'. (ref. 62) In 1908 he refused—again ignoring Balfour's recommendation—to allow the demolition of No. 44 Grosvenor Square because of its historical associations, this being the house to which the news of the Battle of Waterloo was brought to the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, on 21 June 1815, and where in 1820 members of the Cabinet were to have been assassinated at dinner by the Cato Street Conspirators; (ref. 63) and when, a few months later, a large Georgian mural painting was discovered, concealed behind canvas, on a former staircase wall in the same house, he granted the lessee a remission of rent in consideration of the expense and inconvenience of preserving it. (ref. 64)

After the Duke's death No. 44 Grosvenor Square was demolished in 1968, the mural being, however, removed to the Victoria and Albert Museum. (ref. 65)

At Camelford House, which with Somerset House and other adjoining property formed part of a large and very valuable site at the corner of Park Lane and Oxford Street, the Duke's attempt to preserve was similarly frustrated, though much more quickly. Here the Duke had in November 1909 approved negotiations with J. Lyons and Company for the demolition and rebuilding of both Camelford House and Somerset House, but immediately afterwards he revoked this decision and authorised an offer of terms for Camelford House to Mrs. Beatty, wife of Captain (later Admiral of the Fleet, Earl) Beatty. When his solicitor, G. F. Hatfield, went to see the Duke 'his Grace stated that it would be a pity to pull the house down, particularly having regard to No. 40 [Somerset House] having historical associations. (fn. c) His Grace was told that … if the rebuilding did not take place, there would be a loss of about £6000 a year. His Grace stated that on a big estate like the Grosvenor something had to be sacrificed for sentiment and association …' (ref. 67) Unfortunately, however, Mrs. Beatty declined the terms, and as no other prospective occupant appeared, Camelford House was demolished in 1912.

At No. 11 North Audley Street the Duke's intention to preserve has, however, been maintained to the present time. The house itself is not of outstanding quality but the adjoining No. 12 is one of the very finest examples of Georgian domestic architecture on the whole estate, and the two houses share a unified façade and have from time to time been occupied as one. In 1883 the first Duke had decided to renew the leases of both Nos. 11 and 12, despite his intention to rebuild most of the rest of North Audley Street, the Duke's view, in the case of No. 12, being that 'it will be a pity to pull down the house owing to the beautiful room etc.'. (ref. 68) In 1913, however, the Board thought that an adjoining site in Balderton Street would be greatly improved if that of No. 11 were added to it, and with the second Duke's approval the lease of the house was therefore purchased by the Estate for this purpose. This had no sooner been done than the Duke began to have doubts about allowing its demolition. 'He was told that the object of purchasing the lease was that the house might be pulled down', but he nevertheless insisted that 'this ought not to be done and gave instructions accordingly'. Six months later the Board, still anxious about the site in Balderton Street, decided that 'the Duke be asked again about this house', but in the ensuing interview with Hatfield he reiterated that 'the house should be neither let or pulled down', and in 1914 he brusquely dismissed a suggestion for a skating rink here. (ref. 69) After standing empty for some years No. 11 was subsequently occupied by the Duke's daughter, Lady Ursula Filmer-Sankey, (ref. 70) before being reunited with No. 12 in 1948–9.

Thus Nos. 9–16 (consec.) South Audley Street and No. 11 North Audley Street all owe their survival directly to the second Duke, and it was through no lack of effort on his part that No. 44 Grosvenor Square and Camelford House have been demolished. Other decisions of his also show his concern for old buildings. During the pre-war years he affixed plaques on a number of houses commemorating the former residence of such distinguished occupants as Warren Hastings and Benjamin Disraeli, (ref. 71) and at the latter's house, No. 93 Park Lane, permission was refused for the addition of a bow window on the Park front, the house being regarded as 'somewhat historical'. (ref. 72) When asked for his views on the matter in 1912, he refused to countenance a proposal to demolish the church of St. George's, Hanover Square, and to build a new parish church on the site of the Grosvenor Chapel in South Audley Street. (ref. 73) And for various different purposes he was also responsible for the thorough renovation, at the Estate's own expense, of several important houses— Bourdon House, Davies Street (1909–11), Nos. 53 Davies Street (1922) and 66 Brook Street (1925–6), and No. 9 South Audley Street (1930–2).

Immediately after the outbreak of the war of 1914–18 the Duke joined the armed forces, serving at first as a temporary Commander, R.N.V.R., with armoured cars in France, and subsequently in North Africa, where he was awarded the D.S.O. in 1916. In the following year he was appointed personal assistant to the Controller, Mechanical Warfare Department, at the Ministry of Munitions. (ref. 2) At about this time Grosvenor House was taken over by the Government at the Duke's invitation, and after the return of peace he made his London home at Bourdon House, Davies Street.

Until the war the Grosvenor estates had survived largely intact. Small pieces of the Belgravia and Pimlico properties had been sold to pay estate duty after the first Duke's death; but after 1906 hardly any more land had been sold for some years, the Thames Bank Distillery site (1909) and several small pieces required by the London County Council, all in Pimlico, being relatively minor exceptions. (ref. 7) The second Duke had, however, bought a large estate in Rhodesia, (ref. 74) and very large mortgages and family charges dating from the first Duke's time were still outstanding. (ref. 75) It was probably in order to meet some of these liabilities that the second Duke had sold one of his outlying properties, Halkyn Castle, Flintshire, and the surrounding estate, in 1911–12. (ref. 76) But he had steadfastly refused to sell his London properties, despite half a dozen offers made for them in 1914 (ref. 77) and despite the example of the Duke of Bedford's sale of his Covent Garden estate in that year.

Between 1917 and 1923, however, the Duke made massive sales, and for the first time these included substantial portions of the London properties. During this period many other landed proprietors were also selling their estates, and of the years 1918–21 it has been said that 'Such an enormous and rapid transfer of land had not been seen since the confiscations and sequestrations of the Civil War, such a permanent transfer not since the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century'. (ref. 78) The Duke of Westminster's contribution to this process was, firstly, the sale of the western portion of the Eaton estate in Cheshire for some £330,000 between 1917 and 1920, followed, between 1920 and 1923, by portions of the Pimlico properties, mainly in the vicinity of Victoria, which raised some £1,100,000. (ref. 79) In 1921 two of the most famous pictures in the Grosvenor collection (Gainsborough's Blue Boy and Reynolds's Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse) were also sold for £200,000. (ref. 80) By that year mortgages and family charges of over £900,000 had been paid, and the remaining encumbrances amounted to some £400,000. (ref. 81) After 1923 no more sales were made for several years, the only notable exception being that of No. 75 South Audley Street in 1925, on very favourable terms for the Duke, to the Egyptian Government for its London Legation (now Embassy). (ref. 82)

Throughout the whole of the war the routine management of the estate had been largely left in the hands of the Board, but in addition to his decision to sell part of the Eaton lands the Duke had made one other disposition of far-reaching importance. This was the appointment of the architect Detmar Blow to his personal staff in 1916.

Blow was then aged about forty-nine, and prior to the outbreak of war in 1914 he and his partner, Fernand Billerey, had had a flourishing private practice. As a young man and a very accomplished draughtsman, Blow, while drawing the church in Abbeville, had been befriended by the aged Ruskin, who had taken him on a tour of France and Italy and subsequently introduced him to Morris and Burne-Jones. In England he had learnt the technique of building at first hand by apprenticing himself to a working mason, and in 1892 he had won the R.I.B.A. Pugin Studentship. (ref. 83) Later in the 1890's he had been associated with Philip Webb in several commissions, (ref. 84) and he was a close friend of Lutyens, (ref. 85) who was two years his junior. Much, indeed, of Blow's work at this time had close affinities with that of Lutyens, particularly in his use of local materials, his gift for graceful scholarly design in the 'traditional' manner, and his insistence on the highest standards of building craftsmanship—all to be seen in his country house work, on which his early fame chiefly rested.

In 1905 Blow entered into partnership with the French architect Fernand Billerey (1878–1951). Billerey was the son of the official architect of the Department of Eure in Normandy, through whose life-long friendship with an English industrialist he had obtained a fluent command of English. He had studied in Paris, immersing himself in the Beaux-Arts tradition and learning drawing from Rodin before winning a scholarship for travel in Italy and Greece. According to family tradition, he worked at some point as an assistant at the Church of the Sacré Coeur in Paris, and had first met Detmar Blow in Italy. (ref. 86) But by September 1902 Billerey was in London in Blow's office, where he was evidently working for him as an assistant. (ref. 87) At that time Blow had chambers at No. 9 King's Bench Walk, and it was from this address that the partnership of Blow and Billerey began to function from 1905. (ref. 88) (fn. d)

Hitherto Blow's practice had been almost exclusively in the country, No. 28 South Street, on the Grosvenor estate, 1902–3, being the only notable exception. Between 1906 and 1914, however, most of the partnership's chief commissions were in the West End of London, either for the design of large new houses such as No. 9 Halkin Street or No. 10 Smith Square, or for extensive interior embellishments, as at No. 10 Carlton House Terrace or the Playhouse, Northumberland Avenue. The style of some of this work was markedly different from Blow's earlier 'English Renaissance' manner, and years later the comment was made that 'his more formal style may be said to have dated from the association' with Billerey. (ref. 89) Just as Lutyens and so many contemporaries were becoming increasingly enthusiastic about the English classical tradition, so the new partnership of Blow and Billerey turned for inspiration, at any rate in London, to the corresponding French tradition, which was also enjoying growing popularity. This is particularly apparent in two commissions executed on the Grosvenor estate, Nos. 44–50 (even) Park Street and 37–38 Upper Grosvenor Street of 1911–12 (Plate 46a), and the façade of No. 46 Grosvenor Street of 1910–11 (fig. 25 on page 156), both very different in manner from Blow's earlier No. 28 South Street (Plate 45a), and in both of which Billerey's hand is unmistakably evident. Billerey was, in fact, 'a very, very good architect' in the opinion of such a discriminating critic as Professor Goodhart-Rendel, (ref. 90) who described the work of the partnership in these years as 'French architecture in London, architecture of the highest order, and of the kind which leads an Englishman to despair. It must take not a lifetime, but generations of inherited experience to produce the easy certainty with which Mr. Billerey has grouped the houses in Park Street, has modelled the galleries in "The Playhouse", has turned the vault over the staircase of No. 10 Carlton House Terrace.' (ref. 91)

Between 1905 and 1914 the partnership of Blow and Billerey was one of the most distinguished architectural practices in London. In 1914 it was, at all events, prosperous enough for Blow to buy a farm near Painswick in Gloucestershire, where he designed and built himself a very beautiful house (never fully completed) in the traditional 'Cotswold' manner, and into which he moved in January 1917. In the ensuing years he acquired by successive purchases an estate of over a thousand acres there. (ref. 92)

After the outbreak of war, however, the practice diminished greatly. Billerey went off at once to become an officer in the French army, in which he served as an interpreter for the duration, (ref. 86) and one of the few remaining commissions left for Blow was the restoration and embellishment of Broome Park, near Canterbury, for Earl Kitchener, who spent many 'happy hours' there 'with his architect and friend, Mr. Blow ….' (ref. 93) In June 1916, however, Kitchener was drowned when H.M.S. Hampshire disappeared while en route for Russia, and it was at this unpropitious moment in his fortunes that, a few months later, Blow was invited by the Duke of Westminster to become, in effect, his private secretary.

At that time the Duke had known Blow for some years. His liking for Blow's No. 28 South Street (1902–3) had evidently led, as we have already seen, to his commissioning Blow to design and build the lovely single-storey hunting lodge at Mimizan. In 1908 he had appointed Blow as architect for Nos. 44–50 (even) Park Street and 37–38 Upper Grosvenor Street, which over-looked the garden of Grosvenor House; and in 1911 Blow and Billerey had worked for the Duke in the layout of formal gardens at Eaton Hall. (ref. 94) Thus at the time of this strange appointment—the immediate occasion for which was the departure to the war of the Duke's previous private secretary, Colonel Wilford Lloyd—Blow and the Duke were already well known to each other, and their sixteen years of close association now about to begin, was evidently tinged with an element of personal friendship which was often acknowledged by the Duke with great generosity. But for Blow his employment with the Duke nevertheless meant, virtually, the end of his career as a creative artist whilst still at the height of his powers.

At the time of Detmar Blow's appointment in 1916 Edmund Wimperis had been the estate surveyor for six years. This was still a part-time appointment, and in association with a succession of partners he also conducted a flourishing private practice, the offices of which were conveniently situated in South Molton Street, some two minutes' walk from the Grosvenor Office in Davies Street. By 1916 his ten-year rebuilding programme of 1911 was already in process of execution, and his provision of private communal gardens for some of the residents of new houses in Green Street and South Street had proved very successful.

When war broke out in August 1914 another stage in Wimperis's rebuilding programme was about to be implemented, Matthews, Rogers and Company having contracted to rebuild almost the whole of the block surrounded by Upper Brook Street, Blackburne's Mews, Culross Street and Park Street. In October 1914, however, the contract had been placed in abeyance for the duration. (ref. 95) Wimperis had been quick to realise that, as the Board admitted, 'the conditions which the War had imposed had revolutionised the circumstances dealing with property …', (ref. 96) and in 1915 he drew the attention of the Board to the success of a tenant who had 'converted stabling in Aldford Street into a little house making it the best bijou house in London'. Wimperis was 'convinced that was the type of thing for which there was a great demand', (ref. 97) and in the 1920's he was able to prove his conviction in Culross Street, where several decrepit small houses and stables were rebuilt or refurbished (Plate 50a, 50b) and provided with a small communal garden on the lines of those in Green Street and South Street. The age of the mews house in a fashionable district had arrived.

It was also Wimperis who persuaded the Board itself to undertake, on occasion, the cost and risk of refurbishing obsolescent houses after their leases had expired. Hitherto this work had always been left to building speculators, who had taken a short lease, made improvements and relied on a quick sale for their profit. In 1918 the Board discussed 'the advisability of spending money on houses to be let as a general policy', and Wimperis urged, in relation to No. 10 Upper Grosvenor Street, that 'he would prefer that the Duke should spend money and take the risk of finding another tenant rather than a speculator should make a profit'. (ref. 98) This particular case does not seem to have been successful, but at No. 58 Park Street in 1919 the Estate, at Wimperis's instigation, spent some £570 on improvements, chiefly to the basement, and at once found a tenant willing to accept terms based on an annual value enhanced by £100. Subsequently Wimperis commented that 'I have in the past so often advocated a policy by the Grosvenor Estate of spending sums of money on improving premises that are in hand in order that His Grace the Duke of Westminster may himself reap the benefit of the improvement, that I wish to draw attention to the success of this policy in the case of No. 58 Park Street.' (ref. 99) In the 1920's this practice was adopted on numerous occasions elsewhere on the estate.

Thus when Detmar Blow entered the Duke's service Wimperis had already proved, and was to continue to prove, his worth as the estate surveyor. But with the benefit of hindsight it is easy to see that the involvement of two successful architects, both in their prime, in the management of the estate might lead to trouble, and this was not long in coming. Some mutual dislike perhaps already existed, for at No. 46 Grosvenor Street in 1910 Blow, having obtained the Board's approval for the proposed new façade there, had built it to a different design, and Wimperis, as estate surveyor, had stopped the work for a while until matters could be sorted out; similarly at Nos. 44–50 (even) Park Street and 37–38 Upper Grosvenor Street friction had arisen in 1910–12 through Blow's changes of intention. In 1920, however, Wimperis was protesting at Blow's frequent interferences and 'personal assumption of my responsibilities', and eventually he offered his resignation. (ref. 100)

By this time it was Blow who had the Duke's confidence, and although Wimperis's resignation was not accepted, he was clearly the loser in this trial of strength. He remained as estate surveyor for some years, and although his duties were not re-defined (as Blow had in the spring of 1920 promised that they should be) they seem in fact to have been largely restricted to routine matters such as dilapidation claims, the drawing of lease plans and the approval of plans of works to be done by lessees. (ref. 101) He was not, for instance, consulted when the future development of Park Lane was under discussion. (ref. 102) Some architectural work for the Estate still came his way, however, for instance in Culross Street, the renovation of the Grosvenor Office at No. 53 Davies Street and of Nos. 55 and 57 (1922), and of the adjacent No. 66 Brook Street (1925–6), to which his own office as estate surveyor was then removed. But a growing proportion of his time was spent (in partnership with W. B. Simpson, and later also L. Rome Guthrie) on his own private practice. During these years this included several important new buildings on the estate—e.g. No. 38 South Street (1919–21, Plate 45c), Mayfair House in Carlos Place (c. 1920–2), the flats in Park Street known as Upper Feilde at No. 71 and Upper Brook Feilde at No. 47 (1922–4 and 1926–7, Plate 49a, 49b), Nos. 49–50 Grosvenor Square (1925–7) and No. 64 Park Street (1926–7). He resigned as estate surveyor in 1928, (ref. 103) but still practised privately in the 1930's. He died in 1946. (ref. 104)

After his victory over Wimperis, Blow was left in a position comparable with that of trusted minister in the court of an autocratic, pleasure-loving monarch: a not too fanciful analogy with Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII has, indeed, been suggested. It was Blow's wish 'to try and interest the Duke of Westminster in his Estate', (ref. 100) but the 1920's were the days when the Duke had two large yachts (the Flying Cloud and the steam yacht Cutty Sark) and a second hunting lodge in France (at St. Saens in Normandy) and his restlessness was such that during the whole course of his married life with his third wife he only once spent three consecutive weeks in the same place. Thus, while he 'enjoyed dictating the grand strategy and taking tremendous decisions' about his estates, regular personal involvement in their management was impossible; (ref. 105) and as, shortly before Wimperis's subjection, the Duke had decided that Boodle Hatfield's duties should be confined to purely legal matters, (ref. 106) Blow was left pretty much the master of all he surveyed.

He lived on the estate—at first at No. 31 and then at No. 9 Upper Grosvenor Street, and latterly at No. 3 Carlos Place. He was named as an executor of the Duke's will. He was one of the witnesses at the Duke's third marriage in 1930. When the Duke was in London he had frequent access to him; when the Duke was abroad he sometimes had power of attorney to act for him in certain matters, and when one of the Duke's trustees was out of the country he was granted similar power. He introduced his own personal methods of business procedure, entries in the series of Board Minutes, commenced in 1789, being, for instance, virtually discontinued. He advised the Duke in financial matters as well as in architectural matters, and after Wimperis's resignation he also acted as estate surveyor. (ref. 107) So it was not without reason that a builder anxiously trying to get a document signed by the Duke (who was then 'travelling about') informed the London County Council, 'I have sent the paper on to Mr. Blow, who acts for the Duke in all matters.' (ref. 108)

The period of Detmar Blow's ascendancy lasted from about 1920 until 1933. By chance, these were the final years in which great urban landlords could still treat their estates much as their forebears who had laid them out had been accustomed to do, as their own private property, broadly subject only to the landlord's covenants contained in their own leases, to the limitations of their own family settlements and to the statutory building regulations administered by the local authority and the district surveyors. Public overlordship by planning had barely started—town planning control in this part of London did not begin until 27 May 1935. (ref. 109) The zoning of land use, the redevelopment of outworn buildings, the style and aesthetics of architectural design, and the preservation or destruction of the historic fabric—all these were still, as they had always hitherto been private matters for decision by the ground landlord and/or his advisers. On the Grosvenor estate Detmar Blow's years of eminence provided, both in their achievements and in their limitations, a fitting swansong for these traditional modes of private administration by which the estate had been hitherto managed.

These were years of much uncertainty for great urban landlords, who peered anxiously into the future to foresee what it might hold for them in the new social situation brought about by the war. On the Grosvenor estate it had not been clear, even before the war, whether the maintenance of an aristocratic residential enclave in Mayfair was still feasible, and in trying to move with the times the Board had sometimes been opposed by the tenants. In 1914, for instance, numerous objections from adjoining residents had compelled the Board to refuse to allow W. E. Hill and Son, the violin makers, to lease No. 75 Grosvenor Street (at the less fashionable east end of the street) and a private resident was not found for the house until 1917; (ref. 110) and even in socially less exclusive Park Street in 1912 the Board, after receiving similar protests, had to break its promise to allow a house agent at No. 88, one of the chief objectors being a dentist at No. 82, who stated that his patients 'would feel that he was losing caste if he had a business next door to him and they would drop off'. (ref. 111)

The Duke's own intentions were, moreover, still often unpredictable. We have already seen that he had attempted, at considerable financial sacrifice for himself, to keep Camelford House near the corner of Park Lane and Oxford Street, but that after Mrs. Beatty had declined his terms, the house had been demolished. A public outcry ensued when it became known that the new building was intended to have shops on the Park Lane frontage, but the Duke's reaction was that he did 'not see why from any sentimental feeling or moral obligation he should be prevented from carrying through a scheme which he believes would be of advantage to the estate'. (ref. 112) Nor did 'his inability to adapt himself to any change whatever', to which Loclia, Duchess of Westminster, refers, (ref. 113) prevent his abandoning Grosvenor House itself to the demolition contractors shortly after the war. Indeed, whatever may be thought of Grosvenor Estate policy towards the buildings on the Mayfair estate in the years between the wars, bedrock conservatism or absolute resistance to change had little part in it. And in matters of social policy the Duke was similarly pragmatic, as in 1917, when he overruled his Board's advice and gave permission for negotiations for the establishment of offices for the Japanese embassy in Upper Grosvenor Street, hitherto an exclusively residential preserve. (ref. 114) (fn. e)

After the war of 1914–18 both the social and architectural problems confronting the Grosvenor Estate were, indeed, more perplexing than at any previous time, for the imponderable questions of the social future were matched by equally baffling questions about the future of 'modern architecture'. Writing in 1931 Sir Edwin Lutyens pointed out that 'Forty years ago steel construction was in its infancy. Reinforced concrete was untried. Motor cars, aeroplanes, and most of the mechanical contrivances that play so large a part in life to-day were unheard of.' 'It is inevitable and right', he continued, 'that these things should influence architecture, the machines no less than the materials', (ref. 116) but the practical question for the administrator of a great urban estate was the form which this influence should take. This was particularly difficult in the case of the Grosvenor estate, for, to quote Mr. Christopher Hussey writing in 1928, 'No residential area of the West End has preserved so nearly or so long its original character' as it had; and he, at all events, had no doubt that the success of the Estate in meeting this challenge was largely attributable to the influence of Detmar Blow. (ref. 117)

After the war only two large new private houses for single-family occupation were built—No. 38 South Street and No. 15 Aldford Street, both in 1919–21; but the impending demise of the great town mansions was not as clearly apparent then as it is now, for even as late as 1936 an extra storey containing servants' bedrooms was built at No. 25 Grosvenor Square, which was to be occupied 'as a single family dwelling house'. (ref. 118) Despite the obscurity of the future, flats (and the conversion of large houses into flats) became the main residential building form of the 1920's, the design of the new blocks—notably those by Wimperis and/or his partners in Park Street, and at the south-east corner of Grosvenor Square and in Carlos Place—generally comparing favourably with that of others being erected elsewhere in London. But relatively small new private houses were also provided, obsolescent stables and coach-houses in, for instance, Mount Row, Shepherd's Place, Lees Place, Blackburne's Mews and Culross Street, being replaced by modest dwellings, each intended for single-family occupation (Plate 50c, 50d)—a policy which often involved for the Duke the sacrifice, in the general interest of the estate, of the highest price obtainable for a particular site. (ref. 119)

Unlike the reign of the first Duke, that of the second was not marked by the provision of artisans' dwellings on the Mayfair estate. This did not, however, betoken any lessened awareness of the problem of working-class housing, for which the Duke made very generous provision elsewhere, evidently in part at the instigation of Detmar Blow. (ref. 120) In Pimlico he leased land at a peppercorn rent to the Westminster City Council—indeed he offered more land than the Council required; (ref. 121) and on his Millbank estate in 1928 he not only granted a similar lease to the Council of land worth £200,000, but through his trustees he also provided over £113,000 towards the cost of the flats to be built on the site. (ref. 122) (fn. g)

Such changes as did take place in Mayfair reflected the Estate advisers' slow and careful reactions to social forces emanating from outside the estate's own boundaries. One of these advisers, writing in 1934 in defence of their recent policies, pointed out that 'Trade and business has, for many years, tended to move westwards'. With the advent of motor traffic, streets such as Grosvenor Street and Brook Street had become 'noisy and somewhat congested, and it was found that the houses nearest to Bond Street gradually became unsuitable for private occupation. When the advisers to the Estate had quite satisfied themselves that this change was in no way temporary but permanent, and that houses ceased to be occupied by private families, and that it was more than unlikely that they would be so occupied again, then they had to consider what should be allowed to be done with such premises, at the same time bearing in mind that some of the houses would in all likelihood remain in private occupation for a considerable time. Great care was, therefore, taken as to these changes of user. The first changes would be from purely private to professional occupation. That is, a house might be used by a doctor or a surgeon or a dental surgeon, but not by a veterinary surgeon. As time went on it was found advisable to allow quiet businesses such as dressmaker or milliner, and after a further lapse of time and experience, shop fronts were permitted in certain cases…The point is that the inevitable changes of user were throughout most carefully watched and controlled by the Estate's advisers in the interests of the Estate's tenants and the public generally.' (ref. 124)

The success of flexible attitudes of this kind in achieving a smooth transition into the hurly-burly of the 1920's and 30's was matched by corresponding flexibility in leasing policy, a notable innovation here being the Estate's willingness to buy out existing leases in order to expedite rebuilding or other change. In Detmar Blow's time some £361,000 was spent on the purchase of over fifty buildings, the money being provided by the Estate trustees out of capital. (ref. 125) That the management of the estate during these years was a success is attested by the facts that, in the mid 1920's, only half of one per cent of the buildings on it were unoccupied, and that the income from it was rising. (ref. 126)

But Blow's principal and most lasting impact on the estate was, of course, in the field of architecture. Here two of the most distinguished architects of the day—Lutyens and Billerey—were commissioned to act as consultants. It was altogether characteristic of the traditionally personal methods of estate management of which the second Duke and Blow were among the final exponents that these two artists should, evidently, have owed their employment to their personal connexions with Blow— long-standing friendship in the case of Lutyens, professional partnership in the case of Billerey; and the results of their work still adorn the estate, although that of Billerey was very substantially modified in the course of building.

After Edmund Wimperis's status as estate surveyor had been greatly diminished in 1920, the valuations and routine reports were often done by specially commissioned independent firms of surveyors such as Hillier, Parker, May and Rowden. (ref. 127) Relatively little rebuilding took place for some years after the war, however, and so it was not until 1923, when the Duke finally decided to permit the redevelopment of the Grosvenor House site, that any important problem of architectural design arose. After a number of false starts the redevelopment of the site was taken over by an experienced speculator, and the Estate called in Lutyens to act with Blow in looking after the Duke's interests.

Although Lutyens's functions were supposed to be restricted to considering and ultimately approving the design to be submitted to him by the lessee, he did nevertheless, in close conjunction with Blow, prepare revised elevations of his own, no doubt to the annoyance of the lessee's architects, the ubiquitous Messrs. Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie, who provided the plans and structural workings. What were in appearance virtually Lutyens's designs for the new Grosvenor House were duly executed in 1926–30 (Plate 48c).

Although doubtless inevitable, such great changes as this in the face of London aroused protest and dismay. But the Duke, at all events, was satisfied with the new Grosvenor House, and it was doubtless due to his and/or Blow's influence that Lutyens was commissioned by Westminster City Council in 1928 to act as architect for the very large housing scheme (previously referred to) then impending on the Duke's Millbank estate. On the Belgravia properties Lutyens was responsible for the elevations of Terminal House, Grosvenor Gardens (1927). (ref. 128) In Mayfair he was again employed in 1928 by the Estate for a site almost as important as Grosvenor House, that of the proposed new Hereford House, a massive building in Oxford Street to contain a department store and flats above. Here the lessees, Gamages (West End) Limited, had their own architects, C. S. and E. M. Joseph, but the building had to be erected 'to the satisfaction of Sir Edwin Lutyens and Mr. Blow as… Estate Architects' and, rather as at Grosvenor House, this resulted in Lutyens being in effect the author of the executed elevations. (ref. 129) At about the same time he acted in a similar capacity for shops and flats at Nos. 8 10 (consec.) North Audley Street, where the elevation is substantially his. (ref. 130) At the Estate's expense he also improved elevations for No. 8 Upper Grosvenor Street and provided a shop front at No. 138 Park Lane. (ref. 131) He was consulted over Aldford House (1930–2, architects G. Val Myer and F. J. Watson-Hart) and Brook House (1933–5, architects Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie), and may have contributed to the elevations of the former (Plate 49d). (ref. 132) For all his work on the Mayfair portion of the estate executed between 1926 and 1933 his fees, paid by the Duke's trustees, amounted to over £12,000, some three-quarters of which were in respect of Grosvenor House. (ref. 133)

In view of the success of his work for the Duke it is perhaps surprising that it was not Lutyens, but Billerey, who was awarded what must have seemed at the time to be the greatest prize of all—the preparation of elevational designs for the coherent rebuilding of Grosvenor Square. The first conception of this bold idea almost certainly originated with Detmar Blow, as did the appointment of Billerey as architect; and it was through no fault of either of them that the scheme ultimately miscarried.

At the end of the war Billerey had returned to London to resume private practice, until about 1924 nominally at least still in partnership with Blow, and thereafter independently. In 1923 he had been employed by the Estate for preliminary work at Grosvenor House, and subsequently he had received several other very small routine commissions. In these post-war years Grosvenor Square presented perhaps the most intractable of all the problems confronting the Estate. The market for the rebuilding of its enormous houses had gone for ever, and those on the four corners suffered increasingly from the noise of motor traffic. When rebuilding was resumed, therefore, the first blocks of flats in the square were erected in the mid 1920's at the south-east corner, at Nos. 48 and 49–50 on either side of Carlos Place, to designs by, respectively, Wills and Kaula, and Edmund Wimperis and Simpson.

There was evidently some vague intention in the Duke's mind that the style of these two blocks should be repeated elsewhere in the square as opportunity arose, (ref. 134) but Wimperis resigned as estate surveyor in 1928, being succeeded by Blow, and in May 1929 Billerey was already concerning himself with the future of the square. (ref. 135) By this time the question of the general elevational design was becoming pressing, for the leases of Nos. 19, 20 and 21 at the western end of the north range were due to expire shortly. During the ensuing years Billerey produced a succession of elevational designs for the rebuilding of the north and south sides of the square, (ref. 136) and by September 1932 Blow had (in addition to overcoming numerous other difficulties) evidently persuaded the Duke to accept Billerey's proposals for the north range. (ref. 137) In January 1933 he finally approved on the Duke's behalf the now urgently needed elevations for Nos. 19–21. (ref. 138) But two months later he relinquished all his duties with the Grosvenor Estate.

If Billerey's designs for the north range, and his less fully developed proposals for the south side, had been executed unaltered, the new Grosvenor Square would have provided a fine example of the Beaux-Arts manner adapted to twentieth-century requirements. But this was not to be. The lease of No. 38 on the south side had already been renewed for a long term in 1928, thereby effectively precluding the complete rebuilding of this range within the foreseeable future. Immediately after Blow's sudden departure the Estate destroyed the simple elegance of Billerey's proposed treatment of the roof of the north range by permitting the insertion of a second range of attic windows at Nos. 19–21, (ref. 139) and this (plus a further increase in the height of the roof and other modifications) was continued in the subsequent rebuilding of the rest of this range, finally completed in 1964 (Plate 54b). On the south side the Estate authorities in 1934 failed to impose Billerey's designs in the rebuilding of Nos. 35– 37; and although Billerey, acting for other clients at Nos. 45–47, was still attempting in 1938–9 to provide a coherent design, (ref. 140) his chances of success were much reduced by Blow's departure from the Estate Office. On the east side complete rebuilding had been blocked by the renewal of the lease of No. 4 in 1931 for a long term, and Billerey is not known to have produced any designs for this or the western range. The rebuilding of neither the south nor the east side has ever been completed, the nineteenth-century fronts still surviving at Nos. 38 and 4 respectively. Those portions which have been rebuilt, in imitation of Billerey's elevations for the north range, merely exemplify by comparison the rare quality and accomplishment of his work. Blow's original conception, and Billerey's designs for its realisation, have both been forgotten, and amongst the architectural critics the new Grosvenor Square has become the object of such epithets as 'grandiose', 'uninspiring' and 'unimaginative'.

Detmar Blow left the Duke's service in March 1933. He died at his home in Gloucestershire in 1939, aged seventy-one. (ref. 89) His departure was a considerable loss for good architecture on the estate, for thereafter neither Lutyens nor Billerey received any commission of any importance from the Grosvenor Office. Blow's successor as estate surveyor was George Codd, hitherto an assistant surveyor in the office, who held the post until shortly after the war of 1939–45.

Frederick Etchells was one of the few architects still consulted from time to time by the Estate after Blow's resignation. As early as 1923 he had been employed to prepare models for the Grosvenor House schemes; (ref. 141) at the Estate's expense he directed extensive alterations at No. 14 Culross Street in 1927 (Plate 50b), and in 1933 he prepared plans for the rebuilding of No. 4 Mount Row (now demolished). (ref. 142) The Estate authorities continued to consult him on a number of small matters until 1935, but his fees for any one item seldom exceeded ten guineas. After Blow's resignation he did his best, though unsuccessfully, to prevent Codd from making further alterations in 1936 to Billerey's design for the centre portion of the north range of Grosvenor Square. (ref. 143)

By 1930 the Duke was over fifty years of age, and had no son of his own. Very large liabilities for estate duty were certain to occur after the Duke's death, and these, it was then thought, could only be met by sales of land. But if such sales were to be made quickly and on a large scale after the Duke's death, the market would inevitably be depreciated. The need to mitigate such an unfavourable situation and also to mitigate the impact of any future tax on ground rents provided some of the reasons why at about this time the Duke's advisers began to recommend the gradual sale of a few particularly valuable sites, the proceeds being of course available for investment. (ref. 144)

The implementation of this policy began in 1929 with the sale of part of the Millbank estate, (ref. 145) but the Duke was extremely reluctant to sell any part of Mayfair or Belgravia, (ref. 146) and it was not until 1930 that he agreed to do so. In 1930–2 the freeholds of the Connaught Hotel, Mayfair House (both in Carlos Place), Claridge's (Brook Street), Fountain House (Park Lane), Nos. 139–140 Park Lane, No. 32 Green Street and Nos. 415, 417 and 419 Oxford Street were all sold. There were also other sales in Pimlico (notably of the Victoria Coach Station site) and in Millbank.

There was, however, a new alternative to outright sales. Under the Settled Land Act of 1925 life tenants of settled land (such as the Duke) had been empowered to grant 999-year leases. (ref. 147) From the Grosvenor Estate's point of view, it was felt that this procedure would be advantageous because it would continue the mutually beneficial relationship between lessor and lessee, while by means of the covenants to be inserted in the leases, the maintenance and use of buildings on the estate could still be controlled. (ref. 148) Accordingly it had for the first time been employed in 1928 on the site of the present Fountain House, Park Lane, mentioned above. Here the lessees, the Gas Light and Coke Company (who ultimately bought the freehold outright), agreed, in exchange for a 999-year lease, to pay a large capital sum and a substantial rent, and to rebuild to designs to be approved by the Duke's architect. (ref. 149)

A number of similar leases were subsequently granted elsewhere on the estate.

During the war of 1939–45 the estate suffered severe damage by enemy action, and after the return of peace the problems with which it was faced were more difficult than ever before. A number of buildings had been totally destroyed, very many others severely injured, and even those which had survived with little or no damage were in urgent need of maintenance, which had perforce been largely suspended during the war. For several years after 1945 building licences had to be obtained before any substantial work could be started, and it was not until 1955, for instance, that the partially completed rebuilding of Grosvenor Square could be recommenced. In order to encourage the costly processes of restoration and/or improvement, the Estate's policy was to grant long leases, subject to the requirement that repairs, improvements, conversions or reconstructions should be carried out to the satisfaction of the Duke's staff. The expiry dates of these leases were arranged by blocks, to fit in with a comprehensive plan for the whole of both the Mayfair and Belgravia properties. (ref. 150)

Just when the estate was beginning to recover from the effects of the war the incidence of massive estate-duty payments, consequent on the death of the second Duke in 1953, postponed all plans for the future. During the latter part of his long reign he had instructed his chief agent, Mr. George Ridley, to 'go out into the world and seek investments in the Empire', and by a series of purchases he had extended the Grosvenor estates as far afield as Southern Africa and Australia. Shortly before his death he had bought Annacis Island in British Columbia, where he planned a great industrial estate, while at home he had initiated large schemes of afforestation in Cheshire, the Lake District, County Durham and in Scotland. On his estates in Scotland, too, the very substantial improvements which he had made there, and his support for the west coast fishing industry, had provided much local employment in the inter-war years. In a leading article The Times said of him that for more than half a century he had been 'the biggest private landlord in this country and probably in the world', and that 'It was in the management of his vast estates that his life found its best expression and achievement.' (ref. 151)

After his death it was reported in The Times that for years the Treasury had been taking ninety-five per cent or so of his income in taxes. Immediately after his death his estates in Britain were nominally valued at over £10 million, but the final figure upon which estate duty was assessed was very much larger, (ref. 152) and in 1971 The Daily Telegraph reported that some £17 million had been paid. (ref. 153)

Because he left no son, the resettlement made by the Duke in 1901 came to an end on his death in 1953, and subject to various family charges which he had created, he had been free to bequeath the settled estates as he wished. In order, if possible, to obviate for his descendants the recurrence of the enormous duty to which the estate would be liable on his own death, the Duke by his will divided the benefit of the bulk of the income from the Grosvenor properties among several members of the family. The heir to the title as third Duke was an elderly reclusive bachelor invalid, for whom financial provision had already been made. The income was therefore divided, in different proportions, between, firstly, the third Duke's heir-presumptive, his cousin, Colonel Gerald Hugh Grosvenor, who succeeded as the fourth Duke in 1963; secondly, the latter's brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert George Grosvenor, who became the fifth and present Duke in 1967, the fourth Duke having had no son; and thirdly, their respective eldest sons, if any. Each of these beneficiaries was to receive part of his share of the income absolutely, but whilst the benefit of the income was thus divided, the bulk of the estates was to be held 'in fee simple' by trustees. The days when the reigning Duke, as tenant for life, was pretty much the director of the whole of the family fortunes, were, in fact, ended, and in order to preserve the totality of the estate, which had always been one of its strengths, the management of the whole vast concern was now handed over to very able professional trustees acting for all the beneficiaries. (ref. 154)

The sales made to pay the duties arising from the second Duke's death included a number of estates in the provinces and some of the family pictures. (ref. 155) In London the whole of the Pimlico properties to the south of Buckingham Palace Road were also sold<Plimlico was sold before the 2nd Duke's death>, but in Mayfair virtually no more sales have been made since as long ago as 1933, apart from that of the new Grosvenor House, which was sold in 1935 under an option to purchase granted to the building lessee in 1925. In 1934 the second Duke had, indeed, categorically refused to sell the freehold of Aldford House, Park Lane, (ref. 156) and he would no doubt have been pleased by the successful resistance made after his death by his trustees to extreme pressure to sell the freehold of the site of the proposed new United States Embassy on the west side of Grosvenor Square. Here they finally agreed to give the site subject to one proviso—the return of 'the Grosvenor Family's 12,000 acres in East Florida confiscated by the American nation at the time of the War of Independence', a property which probably included Cape Canaveral (sometime Cape Kennedy). The American Embassy in London therefore remained, it is said, the only one in the world of which the United States Government did not own the freehold. (ref. 157) The Duke's desire to preserve the Mayfair estate intact was, indeed, evidently so strong that it had even extended to the repurchase of four sites previously sold or donated— those of the Vestry Hall in Mount Street, sold to the St. George's Vestry in 1883–5 and repurchased in 1930; of St. Anselm's Church, Davies Street, given by the first Duke to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1893 and repurchased in 1939 after the demolition of the church; of the Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, sold in 1930, and of No. 32 Green Street, sold in 1931, both repurchased after the war of 1939–45.

After the vast estate duties arising from the second Duke's death had been paid off, the trustees initiated a great expansion of the Grosvenor estates, which by 1967 had achieved a 'remarkable growth of assets'. (ref. 158) No duties were payable in 1963 on the death of the third Duke, who had no interest in the estate, and after the death of the fourth Duke in 1967 the senior trustee was still able to say that 'The management of the estates will go on as before and nothing is likely to cause any disintegration or fragmentation of the estates.' (ref. 155)

The new system of management inaugurated after the second Duke's death represented a fundamental departure from the previous administrative arrangements, which for more than two centuries had hitherto been, in the last resort, directed by the successive heads of the Grosvenor family. But the post-war years have, of course, also witnessed another equally fundamental innovation in the history of the estate — the assumption by the local authorities and the state, under successive Town and Country Planning Acts, of many of the functions hitherto discharged by the ground landlord. Town planning control, as we have already seen, had begun in Mayfair and in much of the rest of London in 1935, but its full impact did not make itself felt until after the war. For the Grosvenor authorities, with their long tradition of successful private management, this was a very difficult transition to make, and in 1934 the second Duke's advisers had even attempted, unsuccessfully, to have the estate excluded from planning control on the ground that the Estate Office already provided adequate supervisory machinery. (ref. 159) Accustomed as they were to making their own decisions in the best interests of the estate, the new planning legislation and its implementation by the local planning authority in the early post-war years often seemed, indeed, when viewed from the Grosvenor Office, to generate more heat (in the form of frustration and delay) than light.

After the war the Estate had wished the Mayfair portion of its properties to be used primarily for business purposes, while the Belgravia portion should be preserved as a primarily residential counterpart. This concept for the future character of Mayfair gave rise to considerable disagreement with the London County Council as the planning authority. After the devastation of the City of London by bombing, many of the large houses in Mayfair, hitherto in single residential occupation but at that time vacant, had been subdivided and converted wholly or partly to office uses, and numerous temporary planning consents of widely varying duration were granted for this purpose. In the altered social conditions of the post-war period the large tall ground- and first-floor rooms of many Mayfair houses were, in the Grosvenor authorities' view, no longer well suited for domestic occupation, but could readily find a new use as 'prestige offices'. By 1960 offices and private residential property each occupied about one third of the total floor space in the area, but the County of London Development Plan of 1951 had intended that ultimately most of Mayfair should be restored to residential use. This policy evoked a protest from the Grosvenor Office, which regarded the discouragement of offices as 'contrary to good estate management', (ref. 160) but it was nevertheless upheld and even strengthened by the Minister. When the Development Plan was reviewed in 1960 'it was decided that some houses should have their temporary office consents extended to December 31, 1990, others should be extended for shorter periods, and the remainder should have their temporary office consents extended until December 31, 1973, in order to give Westminster City Council time to formulate a policy for their future use.' (ref. 161)

Soon after the accession of the fifth and present Duke in 1967 the Grosvenor trustees (of whom the Duke himself was one) commissioned their own study of the future of their London estates, which was prepared by Chapman Taylor Partners and their fellow consultants and published in 1971 under the title The Grosvenor Estate Strategy for Mayfair and Belgravia. In his foreword to this work the chairman of the trustees acknowledged that during the previous twenty-five years or so 'The responsibility and the initiative for urban planning has shifted from the owner of a house or a street or an estate to the community—to its elected representatives and to their officers.'

In deciding to commission this study the trustees had felt that the post-war rebuilding phase being over, future developments or redevelopments should only be made in the context of a comprehensive planning framework. They were also much concerned at the deterioration of the environment, primarily caused by the intrusion of an ever-growing volume of motor traffic. The moment of publication of the Strategy proved extremely timely, for the shift of responsibility for urban planning from private to public hands, which had hitherto seemed (in the words of the chairman of the Estate trustees) 'both absolute and permanent', was then being modified by more conciliatory attitudes on the part of the public authorities. 'More recently a better balance has emerged: although the power of ultimate decision rests, as it should, with the community, the process by which that decision is reached welcomes the participation of everyone who is affected by it. This new attitude towards planning revives the estate owner's responsibility to look beyond the problems of the moment to the medium and longer term influences on his property—to the shape of the square, the pattern of the streets, the scale of the buildings.' (ref. 162)

The Strategy was also timely in that its preparation coincided with the designation in 1969 of most of the Grosvenor estate in Mayfair as a Conservation Area. This new planning concept had been created by the Civic Amenities Act of 1967, the object of designation being 'to preserve the character or appearance of areas of special architectural or historic interest, as distinct from individual buildings, to control development in such areas and to stimulate and encourage measures to improve the environment'. (ref. 163) In an area such as Mayfair (or Belgravia) conservation was clearly to have an important bearing upon future planning policies, and the Strategy took full account of it.

The planning objectives of the Strategy were 'to preserve what is of architectural value, to enhance the inherent character of the Estate, to relate street formation to environmental qualities and to establish a balanced mix of uses, including a full range of residential accommodation, confining redevelopment of high intensity to appropriate districts close to public transport facilities'. (ref. 164) The basic idea for the realisation of these aims was that 'A structure of high intensity development on the peripheries' should shield 'the conserved inner areas or hinterland' of the estates in both Mayfair and Belgravia. (ref. 165) Numerous detailed proposals for this purpose were put forward, the most important for Mayfair being the comprehensive redevelopment of the whole of the Oxford Street frontage from Davies Street to Marble Arch, and 'an active improvement policy' for most of the rest of the estate. (ref. 166) Through traffic was to be diverted from the internal roads on to the boundary roads of Oxford Street and Park Lane, the eight-lane carriageway of the latter, it was hoped, being eventually sunk below ground level; and the number of vehicular entry and exit points to and from the estate was to be reduced. (ref. 167) As the amount of redevelopment envisaged was 'likely to be relatively small' (except in the vicinity of Oxford Street), considerable emphasis was placed upon the maintenance and improvement of 'the existing character and the ambience of the environment'. (ref. 168) The mixture of office and residential uses, often uneasily combined within a single building, was to be sorted out, increased residential use in the mews or in Aldford Street being counterbalanced by more offices in streets bearing a greater volume of traffic, such as Park Street or Davies Street. (ref. 169) The first Duke's chef d' æuvre, late Victorian Mount Street, was to be 'preserved and maintained as long as economically possible', and the range of erstwhile stables and coachhouses on the south side of Bourdon Street was to be converted into a shopping arcade. (ref. 170) The conservation policy was, in general, to be 'largely one of infill in scale and in character with existing buildings'; and whenever redevelopment did become necessary, the Strategy's authors 'strongly advise against imitations of former styles whether Georgian or Victorian'. (fn. g) (ref. 171)

The Grosvenor Estate Strategy of 1971 is one of the most important privately commissioned planning studies yet to appear, and its reception in the press was generally favourable. The Guardian, for instance, commented that 'what shines through the Strategy is its real concern for the environment and an understanding of it'; and The Observer thought that 'almost everything that is said seems to be more or less right and aimed at making a happier, better place to live and work in. Above all, perhaps, the conclusions appeared to have been generated primarily by human considerations rather than financial ones.' (ref. 172)

An opposite view was, however, taken in Official Architecture and Planning, where it was stated that 'It is depressing, but probably inevitable, that the primary objective of the effort should be the realisation of the full development potential of some of the most distinctive parts of central London'. (ref. 173) This verdict must have been discouraging for the authors of the Strategy, who had intended it to provide 'a link of unity' between the public authorities and the Estate. (ref. 174) A link it is nevertheless proving to be, despite the strains to which all links are sometimes subject. Since its publication in 1971 detailed discussions have taken place between Westminster City Council, the Greater London Council and the Estate, and in 1973 the City Council decided that, subject to certain modifications, the Strategy 'would be one of the material considerations to which the Council will have regard in determining planning applications for the Mayfair and Belgravia areas…' (ref. 175)

These modifications, which were also sought by the Greater London Council, have been agreed to by the Estate, and include a smaller increase of offices and a greater increase of residential accommodation than had been envisaged in 1971; and the resolution of the vexed question of the 'temporary office permits' problem, it being agreed that some premises would revert to residential use and others would continue as offices during the life of each particular building. The Estate also undertook to increase its stock of low-income housing and for this purpose leased an important site in Pimlico to the Peabody Trust. (ref. 176) Recently the size of the hinterland of the Oxford Street area proposed in 1971 for comprehensive redevelopment has been greatly reduced by the exclusion of Green Street, Binney Street, Gilbert Street and the east side of Duke Street (parts of which had at first been intended for redevelopment) and the blocks of 'artisans' dwellings' built in this neighbourhood in 1886–92. These blocks are now to be retained, some of them are to be modernised, and the loss of residential accommodation caused by the conversion of some of the lower floors into shops will be balanced by new residential accommodation to be provided in Weighhouse Street. Nearby, the reconstruction of Bond Street Tube Station to serve both the existing Central Line and the new Fleet Line is already in progress. Here the London Transport Executive, the Grosvenor Estate and the developers, Metropolitan Estate and Property Corporation Limited, are co-operating in the building of a larger and more efficient station than that originally envisaged. Above the station there will be several shopping levels and floors of offices, and the completion of the scheme in about 1980 will mark the achievement of the first phase of the comprehensive redevelopment of the south side of Oxford Street which the Estate had first proposed in 1971. (ref. 177)

During the preparation of the Strategy (which was started in 1968) and during the ensuing years of prolonged discussions with the public authorities about the acceptance and/or modification of its proposals, the Estate had submitted itself to a 'self-imposed stand-still on major commercial and residential redevelopment in the interest of strategic planning', its view being that 'individual schemes cannot be properly assessed in isolation and must relate to an overall strategy to ensure that the correct overall land use balance is achieved'. (ref. 178) Adaptation to the exacting demands of post-war planning was not, however, the only new problem confronting the Estate in these years, for under the Leasehold Reform Act of 1967 some tenants acquired the right in certain circumstances to buy the freehold of their houses. The exercise of this right would have frustrated many of the policies pursued by the Grosvenor Estate over very many years, but for the Estate's success in obtaining the insertion of a safeguarding clause in the Act. This provided that when the Minister of Housing was satisfied that 'in order to maintain adequate standards of appearance and amenity and regulate redevelopment' in any area owned by a single landlord, it was 'likely to be in the general interest that the landlord should retain powers of management', he was to grant a certificate to that effect. This certificate had to be approved by the High Court, (ref. 179) and in 1973 the Grosvenor Estate became the only landlord with a significant holding in central London to obtain final approval for such a management scheme. The approved scheme related only to Belgravia, (ref. 180) but application has recently been made for another for Mayfair. The whole episode provides striking public recognition of the 'general benefit' (ref. 179) which, even in the age of public planning, can still arise from the Grosvenor Estate's administration of its London property.


a See, for instance, Survey of London, vol. XXIX, 1960, page 13n. for difficulty in disposing of private houses in Cleveland Row, St. James's, in 1905.
b It may be noted that a similar policy had been followed on the Crown Estate with similar results. (ref. 30)
c Warren Hastings had lived there from 1789 to 1797. (ref. 66)
d But according to the obituary notice of Blow published in The Times in 1939 'It was the late Mr. John Tweed, the sculptor, who introduced Blow to Mr. Billerey when he was looking for a partner.' (ref. 89)
e The negotiations ultimately proved abortive and the house, No. 10, was never in fact taken by the embassy. (ref. 115)
f Between 1929 and 1934 he sold the rest of the Millbank estate to a property company for over £900,000. (ref. 123)
g It may here be noted that the architectural assessments contained in the Strategy should be treated with caution. The classification on page 22 of buildings 'by four historical periods and three grades of architectural quality' (a classification in no way connected with that in the Secretary of State for the Environment's list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest) contains a number of errors, of which the identification of Nos. 91–103A (odd) Park Street, by Wimperis and Simpson 1913–c. 1922, as '1700–1800 Georgian' provides one example. Nor will the authors' sweepingly unfavourable judgments upon most of the twentieth-century buildings on the estate be universally accepted.


1. John Macdonnell, The Land Question, 1873, p. 84.
2. G.E.C.
3. The Times, 21 July 1953, pp. 7, 8.
4. Chips. The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon, ed. Robert Rhodes James, 1967, p. 477.
5. The Times, 22 July 1953, p. 8.
6. G.O., misc. box 21, resettlement of 15 Feb. 1901.
7. Ibid., Trustees' accounts, 1901–21.
8. GBM 28/33; 29/537.
9. Ibid., 32/237–40.
10. Ibid., 29/216.
11. Ibid., 31/374.
12. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1905–8, pp. 7 12.
13. GBM 34/333.
14. Ibid., 34/384; 35/130, 139.
15. Ibid., 31/398; 35/471.
16. Ibid., 35/495; 36/355–6.
17. Ibid., 35/470.
18. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1900–4, p. 25.
19. GBM 33/345–6.
20. Ibid., 32/172, 310; 34/345.
21. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1905 8, pp. 7–12, 19.
22. GBM 32/161, 241.
23. Ibid., 33/414.
24. Ibid., 38/219.
25. Ibid., 32/356.
26. Ibid., 38/391.
27. Ibid., 29/225–6.
28. Ibid., 32/162.
29. Ibid., 33/217–18.
31. GBM 34/125, 264, 342.
32. Ibid., 38/517.
33. Ibid., 20/380.
34. Ibid., 38/239–40.
35. Ibid., 41/119–23, 223–4, 247–8.
36. Ibid., 42/302–9.
37. Ibid., 31/269–70.
38. Ibid., 34/122, 124.
39. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1900 4, p. 17.
40. GBM 35 418–19.
41. Ibid., 35 227–8.
42. Ibid., 35/429.
43. Loelia, Duchess of Westminster, Grace and Favour, 1961, p. 183.
44. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1905–8, pp. 7–12.
45. GBM 38/240.
46. Ibid., 34/124.
47. Ibid., 35/429.
48. 'The Work of Mr. Detmar Blow and Mr. Fernand Billerey', in Architectural Supplement to Country Life, 26 Oct. 1912, pp. V–IX.
49. Loelia, Duchess of Westminster, op. cit., p. 186.
50. GBM 31/411.
51. Ibid., 35/419.
52. Ibid., 36/193–5.
53. Ibid., 35/539.
54. Ibid., 37/221–2.
55. Ibid., 31/264.
56. Ibid., 39/344.
57. Ibid., 37/536; 39/342–4.
58. Ibid., 39/389–90.
59. Ibid., 39/414.
60. Ibid., 39 421–2.
61. Ibid., 39/429.
62. Ibid., 34/125, 263–4: G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1905 8, pp. 114–15, 133.
63. Reginald Colby, '44 Grosvenor Square, The Residence of Lady Illingworth', in Country Life, 27 July 1961, pp. 193–4.
64. GBM 35/152; 36/335–40, 372, 382, 384, 393.
65. Desmond Fitz-Gerald, 'The Mural from 44 Grosvenor Square', in Victoria and Albert Museum Yearbook, no. 1, 1969, p. 145.
67. GBM 37/411–14.
68. Ibid., 19/440.
69. Ibid., 39/286, 328, 370: G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1912–14, p. 189.
70. GBM 42/209; 44/413.
71. G.O., Duke's instruction books, 1900–4, p. 146; 1905–8, p. 6; 1909–11, pp. 14–15; 1912–14, p. 85.
72. GBM 31/175.
73. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1912 14, pp. 23–4.
74. The Times, 26 Jan. 1911, p. 6.
75. G.O., misc. box 21, printed abstract of title, 1918.
76. The Times, 24 Jan. 1911, p. 15; 15 Dec. 1911, p. 10; 20 June 1912, p. 20.
77. GBM 39/304–9; 42/218.
78. F. M. L. Thompson, English Landed Society in the Nineteenth Century, 1963, p. 332.
79. G.O., Trustees' accounts, 1901–21, 1921–7.
80. Loelia, Duchess of Westminster, op. cit., p. 86.
81. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1919 22, pp. 94–6, 142–4.
82. Ibid., Duke's instruction book, 1923–5, p. 218.
83. Christopher Hussey, The Life of Sir Edwin Lutyens, 1950, p. 14: Country Life, 23 Sept. 1911, pp. 7*–10*: R.I.B.A. Journal, 3rd ser., vol. XLVI, 1939, p. 571.
84. The Architectural Review, vol. V, 1898–9, p. 173.
85. Hussey, op. et loc. cit.
86. Information kindly supplied by Madame V. H. Billerey and Mr. L. V. A. Billerey.
87. R.I.B.A. Drawings Collection, Blow drawings, No. 28 South St., sheet signed by Billerey Sept. 1902.
88. London County Council Minutes, 18 July 1905, p. 520: P.O.D.
89. The Times, 8 Feb. 1939, p. 16.
90. The Architectural Review, vol. 138, 1965, p. 263.
91. Ibid., vol. LIII, 1923, p. 31.
92. Information kindly supplied by Mr Jonathan Blow: Company House, file 249, 996.
93. Sir George Arthur, Life of Lord Kitchener, 1920, vol. I, p. 11.
94. 'The Work of Mr. Detmar Blow and Mr. Fernand Billerey', in Architectural Supplement to Country Life, 26 Oct. 1912, pp. xx–xxvii.
95. GBM 40/375 6, 381–4.
96. Ibid., 43/213.
97. Ibid., 42/225.
98. Ibid., 44/496.
99. Ibid., 45/483–4.
100. G.O., Wimperis correspondence, Jan. 1920.
101. Ibid., Duke's instruction books, 1923–5, pp. 180–6; 1926–8, part II, pp. 563–5.
102. Ibid., Duke's instruction book, 1926–8, part I, pp. 156–8.
103. Ibid., Duke's instruction book, 1926–8, part II, pp. 419, 563–5.
104. P.P.R., index to wills, 1946.
105. Loelia, Duchess of Westminster, op. cit., pp. 160, 163, 183, 198.
106. G.O., Blow letterbooks, 1918–19, Nov. 1919.
107. Ibid., Duke's instruction books, 1923–5 to 1931–2, passim.
108. B.A. 41564.
109. London County Council Minutes, 4 June 1935, pp. 795–6.
110. GBM 39/23, 550: P.O.D.
111. Ibid., 39/170, 455–7.
112. Ibid., 40/165–6.
113. Loelia, Duchess of Westminster, op. cit., p. 187.
114. GBM 44/406, 460, 463.
116. Sir Edwin Lutyens, 'What I think of Modern Architecture', in Country Life, 20 June 1931, p. 775.
117. Christopher Hussey, 'The Great Estates of London and their Development: The Grosvenor Estate', in Country Life, 21 April 1928, pp. 558–65.
118. B.A. 80871, in G.L.R.O.(L).
119. G.O., typescript of evidence given by A. C. H. Borrer to a public inquiry conducted for the Minister of Health, c. 1934, pp. 32–4.
120. GBM 45/67: The Times, 31 March 1926, p. 16.
121. The Times, 20 May 1924, p. 11; 31 March 1926, p. 16; 16 Feb. 1927, p. 7; 24 July 1929, p. 12.
122. Ibid., 20 March 1928, p. 18; 31 Jan. 1929, p. 9.
124. Ibid., drafts of evidence given by A. C. H. Borrer to a public inquiry conducted for the Minister of Health, c. 1934, pp. 2–3, 29.
125. Ibid., Trustees' accounts, 1922–33.
126. Ibid., Duke's instruction books, 1923–5, pp. 108–9; 1926–8, part 1, pp. 96–7.
127. Ibid., Trustees' accounts, 1921–7.
128. Christopher Hussey, The Life of Sir Edwin Lutyens, 1950, p. 482.
129. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1926–8, part II, p. 527.
130. Ibid., Duke's instruction book, 1929–30, p. 184: B.A. 55136.
131. G.O., Trustees' accounts, 1928–33; Duke's instruction book, 1929–30, p. 409.
132. Ibid., Estate Surveyor's unnumbered letterbooks, 21 July 1933: Hussey, op. cit., 1950, p. 482.
133. G.O., Trustees' accounts, 1927–36.
134. Ibid., solicitor's fee books, G37/455.
135. Ibid., misc. letterbook, Codd to Billerey, 29 May 1929.
136. Ibid., Estate Surveyor's letterbooks, 20/109, 143.
137. Ibid., solicitor's fee books, G39/470.
138. Ibid., solicitor's fee books, G41/433.
139. Ibid., solicitor's fee books, G41/231, 277; Estate Surveyor's unnumbered letterbooks, 25 March 1936, p. 211.
140. Greater London Council, Building Regulation case 109691.
141. G.O., improvement accounts, Sept. 1923.
142. Ibid., Duke's instruction book, 1933–4, p. 197.
143. Ibid., Estate Surveyor's unnumbered letterbooks, Codd to Etchells, 25 March 1936.
144. Ibid., Duke's instruction books, 1931–2, pp. 462–4; 1933 4, p. 358.
145. Ibid., Trustees' accounts, Jan. 1929.
146. Ibid., Duke's instruction book, 1926–8, part II, p. 373.
147. The Times, 26 Oct. 1932, p. 4.
148. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1931–2, pp. 392–7.
149. Ibid., Duke's instruction books, 1926–8, part II, pp. 506–7; 1931–2, p. 128.
150. Information kindly supplied by Mr. Geoffrey Singer.
151. Ex. inf. Mr. Singer: The Times, 21 July 1953, pp. 7, 8.
152. The Times, 21 July 1953, p. 7; 23 Oct. 1953, p. 5: P.P.R., will of Duke of Westminster, 1953.
153. The Daily Telegraph, 4 Nov. 1971.
154. P.P.R., will of Duke of Westminster, 1953: The Times, 23 Oct. 1953, p. 5.
155. The Times, 27 Feb. 1967, p. 3.
156. G.O., Duke's instruction book, 1933–4, p. 358.
157. The Times, 9 June 1966, p. 15: The Director, Aug. 1974.
158. The Daily Telegraph, 19 June 1967.
159. G.L.R.O.(L), L.C.C. file AR/TP/2/48.
160. The Times, 6 Oct. 1960, p. 9.
161. Michael Hanson, 'Private Houses Return to Mayfair', in Country Life, 15 Nov. 1973, p. 1601.
162. The Grosvenor Estate Strategy for Mayfair and Belgravia, 1971, Foreword.
163. The London Gazette, 8 May 1969, p. 4863.
164. The Grosvenor Estate Strategy for Mayfair and Belgravia. Second Revision, 1974, para. 4.
165. Strategy, 1971, p. 76.
166. Ibid., pp. 88, 96.
167. Ibid., pp. 148, 161.
168. Ibid., pp. 78, 162.
169. Ibid., pp. 99, 100, 103.
170. Ibid., pp. 106, 108.
171. Ibid., p. 78.
172. The Guardian, 4 Nov. 1971: The Observer, 31 Oct. 1971.
173. Official Architecture and Planning, Dec. 1971.
174. Strategy, 1971, p. 174.
175. Westminster City Council Minutes, 30 April 1973, adopting T.P. Committee Report of 15 March 1973: Strategy … Second Revision, 1974, para. 1.
176. Strategy … Second Revision, 1974, para. 12.
177. The Grosvenor Estate Strategy Progress Oxford Street West One, 1976.
178. Strategy … Second Revision, 1974, para. 11.
179. Leasehold Reform Act, 1967, c. 88, see. 19.
180. Strategy … Second Revision, 1974, letter of 6 Sept. 1974.
30. Survey of London, vol. XXIX, 1960, pp. 12–13, 13n.
66. R.B.
115. Ibid., 44/463.
123. G.O., Trustees' accounts, passim.