Stanley Gardens was built in the 1850s.
Stanley Gardens was probably named after the noted politician Edward Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, who became Prime Minister in 1852. There used also to be a Stanley Gardens Mews
, which ran down the north side of St Peter’s church.
Stanley Gardens is perhaps the prime example of the Ladbroke Estate planners’ love affair with vistas. This short street looks west towards the two magnificent central houses in Stanley Crescent
and to the east there is an equally magnificent view of St Peter’s church. As so often on the Ladbroke estate, the end-of-terrace houses on both sides are round the corner in Stanley Crescent
and Kensington Park Road
The original design for the Ladbroke estate, based on concentric circles, was made in the 1820s by Thomas Allason, the architect-surveyor employed by James Weller Ladbroke when he inherited the estate and decided to develop it. Allason’s design did not survive in its original form, but the layout of Stanley Gardens, Stanley Crescent
and the three communal gardens behind them represents an adaptation of part of it by Thomas Allom, a landscape artist turn architect who came on the scene in the 1840s, when he was employed by James Weller Ladbroke to make designs for the continued development of the estate. He was responsible not only for the layout of this part of the Ladbroke estate, but also for the design of all the houses in Stanley Gardens and the best of those in Stanley Crescent
The development of Stanley Gardens and Stanley Crescent
was not without its difficulties. The land on which they now stand was considered prime development territory, being high up and above the smogs of London. James Weller Ladbroke first signed a contract with the developer Jacob Connop in 1840 to build a specified number of houses. But Connop went bankrupt shortly afterwards. Ladbroke then let nine acres of the best land to William Sloane (a gentleman who had made a fortune as an indigo planter in Bengal) at £30 an acre, again with an agreement on what houses should be built. But Sloane failed to fulfil the terms of the agreement; and then he died. In 1847, James Weller Ladbroke also died and the estate was inherited by a cousin, Felix Ladbroke, who took back the land on which Stanley Gardens and Crescent now lie. A new developer had by this time arrived on the scene in the person of the merchant-turned-speculator, Charles Blake, and Felix Ladbroke sold the freehold of the land to him. The Survey of London comments that, at £450 an acre, the price paid by Blake was low, perhaps because Ladbroke wished to ensure the development of this site was in accordance with the plans prepared by Allom.
Blake contracted with a builder, David Allan Ramsay, in 1853 to build 40 houses (1-29 Stanley Gardens and 1-13 Stanley Crescent
) for a total of £68,000. Thomas Allom produced “surveys, valuations, plans, elevations, sections, specifications” for the houses. Ramsay quickly began running into financial difficulties, however, and left the houses unfinsished. After putting out the work to tender, Blake employed Mssrs. Locke and Nesham to complete Nos. 1-11 Stanley Gardens (the north side) and employed his own Clerk of Works, Philip Rainey, to complete those on the other side. Work was finally finished in 1858, at a cost £11,000 higher than that originally agreed with Ramsay.
Along with the houses in Kensington Park Gardens
that Allom also designed, Stanley Gardens and Stanley Crescent
represent his masterwork, in terms both of layout (with their cleverly designed communal gardens) and of architecture. Gone completely is the simplicity of the Georgian era still visible in earler houses on the estate. They represent the full-on confident splendour of the Victorian age, or as the Survey of London puts it, “grand display in the latest taste”. The Survey of London comments that “His skill was to make use of the terrace ends, the junctions and the curves in the streets, to introduce special emphasis with great bowed projections, turrets, columnar screens and houses of curious plan forms” – the latter very obvious in the end of terrace houses in Stanley Gardens.
The houses in Stanley Gardens are much higher than earlier houses on the estate (basement, four main floors and a dormer floor added later on the north side); full stucco with lavish external decoration, including balconies, string courses and ironwork; and often equally lavish interior decoration, with stone used in halls and stairways and intricate plasterwork in the rooms. Their rear elevations are also full stucco and equally well-decorated – indeed, in the case of those on the southern side the backs are if anything more ornate than the fronts.
The 1861 census shows the early occupants to have been the usual mix of professionals (several solicitors); merchants or traders; and widows living on their own means. But Nos. 9-10 were occupied by a school for young ladies, as were Nos. 16 and 27; and the street continued to be popular for schools throughout the 19th century. So it seems that it was always easy to find families to take on these very large houses, even in those times of big Victorian families.