Egerton Terrace History

In 1785 Morgan Rice and the Reverend Joseph Griffith, who were Smith’s Charity’s immediate lessees of land east of Brompton Road, granted an underlease of it to Michael Novosielski. The underlease was for 45 years, the time remaining on their own lease. There was a property boom and people were looking west to the open land of Kensington for possible housing land. Novosielski built several terraces of housing on new streets which he called Michael’s Grove, Michael’s Place and Brompton Crescent.

All these properties reverted to the Smith’s Charity in 1830 when the leases came to an end. The demand fell off during the decades of the Napoleonic wars, but in 1843 there was once again a demand for houses in Kensington and the development in the Pelham Crescent area had been successful, so the trustees decided to continue Novosielski’s development of the Brompton Road area.

In view of his successful construction of Pelham Crescent and Pelham Place, the trustees awarded the contract to James Bonnin. The agreement was signed on 25 July 1843. The trustees were to grant Bonnin or his nominees leases for eighty-four years calculated from mid-summer’s day 1843. The ground rent was to be £250 a year but it would only rise to that after five years, to allow Bonnin time to construct and let the houses.

Part of the overall contract was the construction of eighteen houses in Michael’s Grove (which Novosielski had named after himself). Novosielski’s own houses, which were out of fashion, were demolished. Bonnin built ten houses on the east side of Michael’s Grove. In 1850 another builder called Benjamin Watts was allowed to build two more houses at the south end (39 and 41 Egerton Terrace). On the west side Bonnin built nine houses as a terrace, plus one detached house to its north, called Michael’s Grove Lodge, or Grange Lodge or the Lodge.

Basevi may have been involved in the design of the terrace on the eastern side, but there is no clear evidence of his involvement.

The ten houses on the east side of Michael’s Grove were initially numbered Nos. 1-10 (consec.) Grange Villas or The Grange, but in 1877 they became 23-41 (odd) Michael’s Grove. The nine houses (apart from Michael’s Grove Lodge) on the west side were originally numbered Nos. 1-9 (consec.) Grange Terrace, but in 1877 they became 6-24 (even) Michael’s Grove. The whole street was renamed Egerton Terrace in 1896 after the Honourable Francis Egerton, one of the Smith’s Charity trustees, but the individual houses kept their numbers.

Benjamin Watts, who built Nos. 39 and 41 Egerton Terrace, was apparently a prominent builder. He also took the leases of three other houses in Egerton Terrace direct from the Smith’s Charity’s trustees, as well as houses in Yeoman’s Row and Crescent Place. This indicates that he probably provided building finance. The financier would take the head lease and sub-let the house to a builder at an improved ground rents. He may have entered into such an arrangement with Bonnin.

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