Phillimore Place was part of the old Phillimore Estate and, at first, named Durham Villas.
In 1779, William Phillimore inherited the Phillimore Estate and was responsible for the first wave of its Kensington development.
One of the ancient roads out of London ran along the southern boundary of the estate. This road was later to be called Kensington High Street
. A terrace of houses was built along this frontage and called Upper Phillimore Place. Apparently George III hated Upper Phillimore Place so much that he had the blinds pulled down on his carriage windows if he had to pass it; and he referred to it as “Dishcloth Row” because of the mouldings in the shape of drapery which decorated the houses facades.
A similar terrace was built further to the east and called Lower Phillimore Place. These houses were all later replaced in the 20th century by three huge mansion blocks called Phillimore Court, Stafford Court and Troy Court. The land itself was later sold off to pay estate duties, so the Kensington High Street
frontage no longer forms part of the Phillimore Estate.
In 1804, William Phillimore authorised more development in the area of today’s Hornton Street
. The houses are long since gone. In 1946 Kensington Borough Council bought the Hornton Street
site for the council’s offices.
William Phillimore died in 1818 and the Phillimore estate passed to his son, William Robert Phillimore.
William Robert Phillimore in turn died in 1829. He put the Kensington Estate was in a trust for the benefit of his younger son, Charles, but subject to an obligation to fund a payment of £5,000 to each of Charles’s two sisters.
Under Charles’s control, nothing much changed on the estate for the next twenty five years. But during that time a great deal of the surrounding countryside had been transformed into the Kensington we see today. He decided to jump on the bandwagon in about 1855 and the result was the building of the Phillimore Estate as it is today.
Joseph Gordon Davis, a builder involved in construction in Pimlico, took most of the undeveloped land south of Duchess of Bedford’s Walk, down to Upper and Lower Phillimore Place. On it were constructed Phillimore Gardens
, Upper Phillimore Gardens
, Phillimore Place, Essex Villas
, Stafford Terrace
, Phillimore Walk
, Argyll Road
and Campden Hill
The agreement allowed Davis to put up 375 houses. Phillimore agreed to grant leases for ninety nine years from 1855. The ground rent would be £1,400 a year for the whole site, but it would only rise to that after the first five years, to give Davis time to make some profit from letting or selling completed properties. A time limit of twelve years was imposed for completing the development.
It became clear over time that the density of housing which had been agreed was too great. In 1856, the permitted number of houses was reduced to 315 and it was agreed that none would be built along Duchess of Bedford’s Walk (presumably due to opposition from the rich owners of the detached houses on the other side).
In 1861 the total number was reduced again to a maximum of 225 and a minimum of 205. It seems that the terms Davis had originally negotiated contained enough profit to allow him to absorb these reductions. In the end, 214 houses were built. This was not necessarily loss to Davis. He was allowed to construct valuable detached and semi-detached villas, in place of the purely terraced houses originally stipulated.
The deal with Davis ultimately became the subject of a private Act of Parliament. William Robert Phillimore’s Will had stated that building leases could only be granted at the best rents and there was some argument that Charles had granted leases at less than full market rent to encourage construction. So an Act was needed to confirm the terms of the leases and to authorise further leases at rents low enough to encourage builders to undertake construction contracts.
The original building agreements with Davis had contained specific elevations and plans he had to adhere to. By the time of the 1861 Agreement, the obligation was diluted to simply requiring Charles Phillimore’s approval of particulars plans. It is not known who designed the general layout, or actually prepared or approved plans. Phillimore’s surveyor was Arthur Chesterton, and he probably did the approval work.
Davis did not plan to carry out all the work himself. As was customary at the time, he assigned parts of the project to other builders. One builder was James Jordan of Paddington, who built eleven houses on the west side of Campden Hill
Road, went bankrupt, returned to build houses in Argyll Road
, and went bust again in 1859. Another builder was Charles Frederick Phelps. Davis himself built most of the larger houses in Phillimore Gardens
and Upper Phillimore Gardens
Charles Phillimore died in 1863.