1785 Michael Novosielski, a Polish architect born in Rome, had taken a lease of fourteen acres in the Smith’s Charity estate in Kensington to build houses. Since the estate consisted almost entirely of a collection of commercial nursery gardens at the time, this was an apparently risky enterprise. Novosielski built terraces of houses in new streets named (after himself) Michael’s Place and Michael’s Grove as well as in Brompton Crescent.
In due course, his leases ended and the properties all reverted to the Smith’s Charity trustees. Most of the Charity’s income during the middle of the 19th century came from the market rents they obtained from letting Michael Novosielski’s houses at full rent.
The house building activities on the estate throughout the middle decades of the 19th century only brought in ground rents for the Charity at the time. But in the mid-1880’s the trustees decided not to renew any leases of Novosielski’s houses and instead to demolish them and make the ground available for new modern buildings. This was an investment in the future. Although they would receive reasonable ground rents from the builders – £400 per acre – this was little compared with the market rent they had been receiving, and they would not receive a full market rent until the builders’ leases came to an end in ninety or so years’ time.
The building agreement for the redevelopment of Michael’s Grove and the surrounding land was made on 24th June 1891 with Harold Malet, a retired colonel, who lived at No. 12 Egerton Gardens. His main qualification seems to have been that he had “connections”. In February 1891 he was also one of the founder members of Kenton and Com¬pany, which was to become a famous design firm, including Mervyn Macartney, the architect, Reginald Blomfield, W. R. Lethaby, Sidney Barnsley and Ernest Gimson among its members.
In August 1891 a company with Malet as secretary, for the specific purpose of carrying out the building agreement. It was called The Estates Improvement Company Limited. The subscribers included Mervyn Macartney and William Henry Collbran, both well known architects. Collbran had designed blocks of shops and residential chambers in Earl’s Court Road, Old Brompton Road and Gloucester Road. Macartney seems to have been a guiding spirit of the new venture. The subscribers included Macartney’s father-in-law, Charles Thomson Ritchie, who later became Baron Ritchie of Dundee, and one of Macartney’s clients, Edward L. Tomlin of Angley Park, Cranbrook.
Early in 1892 Macartney made the company’s application to the London County Council for permission to lay out a new street to be called Egerton Place. John Grover and Son of Wilton Works, New North Road were the builders appointed to do the works. In May 1892 Grover gave the necessary notice to the council that building works on the first five houses were about to start.
Work proceeded in two phases. Macartney designed and Grover built the houses of Nos. 1-7 (consec.) Egerton Place. It seems that for some reason Malet, Macartney and their group decided not to proceed further with the development. In November 1894 Malet obtained the trustees’ permission for William Willett of Sloane Gardens, Chelsea, to take over the rest of the development. Willett’s was an established building firm with its own architect, Amos Faulkner. By the end of 1894 Willett’s began the construction of Nos. 8-13 (consec.) Egerton Place to Faulkner’s designs. The houses were completed by 1897.