The first speculative building on the Smith’s Charity estate was carried out by Michael Novosielski in the 1780s. Novosielski built terraces of houses in new streets named (after himself) Michael’s Place and Michael’s Grove as well as in Brompton Crescent. He built himself a large house with grounds called Brompton Grange, which included land in Yeoman’s Row. He only had a relatively short lease on the land and it reverted to the Smith’s Charity trustees in 1830. They let it to John Braham, a well-known singer of the age. But he went bankrupt in 1842 and it reverted again to the trustees. In 1843 Brompton Grange was demolished.
One of Basevi’s first jobs as surveyor of the London Estate was to maximise the return from Novosielski’s original development. Most of the houses in Michael’s Place and Grove were re-let at market rents. The gardens of Michael’s Grove extended as far as Yeomans Row. So Basevi maximised the rental income by shortening the gardens and squeezing a terrace of twenty narrow houses into Yeomans Row. They were built by Edward Aldred of Kensington and Edward Burgess of Soho, who were given sixty-three-year leases starting in 1830. When the leases expired in 1893, the houses were demolished to make way for a more extensive redevelopment of the area.
But Basevi decided to demolish Brompton Grange and make the land available for the construction of a new estate of houses. James Bonnin was given the contract in 1843. The new development was to comprise Egerton Crescent and Egerton Terrace, and ten houses in Yeomans Row. James Bonnin went bankrupt without having started work on the Yeomans Row site. The leases on those sites were, in fact, granted to Benjamin Watts. It was a standard method of financing a building agreement for the successful builder to grant leases to a financier and then lease then back at a higher ground rent, and this appears to be what happened. Watts took over the building work when Bonnin went bankrupt. He entered into an additional contract direct with the Trustees in 1850 to build two more houses at the southern end of Yeomans Row. At the time, he was in his late 60s. None of these houses have survived.
In the mid 1880s the Smith’s Charity Trustees decided not to renew the leases of the houses N had built in Michael’s Place, Michael’s Grove and Brompton Crescent, but instead to demolish the houses to make way for a more modern development. Most of the land was granted to Harold Malet, a retired colonel. Malet seemed to have been involved in various development companies in Central London. He was a close friend of the architect, Mervin Macartney and together they formed a company called The Estate’s Improvement Company Ltd in 1891. Other backers were also involved. The company had control of the Egerton Gardens and Egerton Place developments, which also included land in Yeomans Row. They constructed numbers 6-10 (even) which were originally a set of stables.
But in 1896 they decided to sell the rights for the rest of the development in Yeomans Row. It was taken over by William Henry Collbran, who was not entirely an outsider, since he had taken over from Malet as secretary of the company.
Collbran put up one more stable and coach house next to the others (now numbered 12). But it was becoming clear that there was no real future demand for stabling in the area, so he got permission from the Trustees to build studios or houses on the site. The only limitation the Trustees imposed was that they could be no higher than 33 feet and that any rear windows (that is, looking out over the posh houses) must have opaque glass. The reception rooms alone were allowed to have clear glass. Obviously, the occupants of Egerton Place would not want to have to see the poorer inhabitants of these Yeomans Row properties.
The Trustees granted Collbran leases of the main group of studios numbered 14-28 (even) Yeomans Row, in 1898. He sublet Nos. 14-22 to Charles Brassington, a builder from Camberwell, who constructed the buildings. Collbran sublet the remaining premises, numbers 24, 26 and 28, to three female artists. Collbran’s final act was to have number 4 Yeomans Row built at the corner of Egerton Gardens Mews. It was built for him in 1900 by W Mitchell and Son of Dulwich and was initially used as a bicycle warehouse on the ground floor with studios above.
All these premises have subsequently been converted to normal residential use.