Ladbroke Gardens runs between Ladbroke Grove and Kensington Park Road. The grandiose terraces are among the tallest on the Ladbroke estate, rising to six to seven floors. Both sides back onto communal gardens. The south side (or part of it) gives onto Stanley Gardens North communal garden and the north side onto the Ladbroke-Arundel garden. The numbers run consecutively – Nos. 1-23 on the north side and Nos. 24-35 on the south side. There is no No. 32. The houses were mainly built in the 1850s and 1860s.
By the early 1850s the Ladbroke family had sold the freehold of much of the undeveloped part of their estate, including the land on which Ladbroke Gardens now stands, to various speculators. The north and south sides of what is now Ladbroke Gardens ended up in different ownership. It was a time of building boom, and in 1852 the owners of both sides began to let building leases, under which contractors undertook to erect houses in exchange for a promise that, once the houses were completed, they would be given 99-year leases, enabling them to recover their costs by subletting the new houses.
Unfortunately the building boom did not last. The excessive building had outstripped demand and it soon became clear that the developers were unable to continue financing their plans. In about 1855 building ceased almost completely on the Ladbroke estate. Ladbroke Gardens was one of the streets most affected, becoming known as “Coffin Row” because of the many half-built and crumbling carcases of houses. In 1859, The Building News described how there were eighteen first-class houses “fast hastening to decay for want of being finished” in Ladbroke Gardens. By 1860, however, “Little patches of new work” were beginning to “appear here and there amidst the desert of dilapidated structures and decaying carcases. When the whole are finished there will be some chance of an adequate return for a portion of the money invested, but till that consummation is arrived at, there are few, we imagine, who would care to dwell in that dreary desolation, with the wind howling and vagrants prowling in the speculative warnings around them.”
Even when these houses were still unfinished, there is some evidence of workmen and others involved in their construction living there, no doubt on a temporary basis, probably camping on the lower floors in pretty squalid conditions. We have been shown a birth certificate which records the birth of a daughter to David Fraser, a journeyman stonemason, at No. 14 in 1853 (possibly he was there to do the steps and paving); and the 1861 census records a “Clerk to Builder” as living in No. 13 with his wife, even though all the other houses between Nos. 5 and 29 were still unoccupied.
On the northern side, the original developer who let building leases in 1852 was Richard Roy, a solicitor who was one of the most active property developers on the Ladbroke estate. He had purchased the land from another developer, Charles Blake. It is not clear how much work was done before the crisis hit. In 1858, however, the sites or carcases of Nos. 7-23 were acquired by Ebenezer Howard, a poultry merchant of Leadenhall Market who like many London merchants seems to have had a penchant for property speculation. Under his auspices, and with a builder called William Parratt and a surveyor from Finchley called John Faulkner, construction seems to have been kick-started. An architect called Edward Habershon (active in Ladbroke Grove) seems to have become involved with the completion of Nos. 1-6, judging by an application that he made to the Metropolitan Board of Works to put bay windows into both the back and the front of No. 5 (Deed No. 2337, c.1858, in the Kensington Public Library).
By 1859, houses at the western end were being offered for rent or sale. This is a typical advertisement from The Times of 16 February 1860:
Desirable first-class MANSIONS of noble elevations, to be LET or SOLD, in Ladbroke-gardens, close to St John’s Church, commanding views of Windsor Castle, Epsom Downs, Harrow, Highgate, and surrounding country, having five large pleasure gardens in front and rear; well arranged culinary and domestic offices, dining room 21 ½ by 18 ½ , library, noble drawing rooms with three bow windows, 43 ½ by 24 ½ , 14 compartments conveniently divided between sleeping, bath, and dressing rooms. Hot water and gas to the top of the buildings which are finished most substantially and elegantly; complete with every convenience. Rent only 120 to 145 guineas.
By the time of the 1861 census, Nos. 2-5 were occupied by families. No. 1 was occupied by two sisters, both needlewomen, probably house-sitting while a tenant was sought; and a “builder’s clerk” was living in No. 13. The others were unoccupied and probably still being finished off, as the 1863 Ordnance Survey map indicates that most were still unoccupied shells. The houses were finally completed by 1866 and by the time of the 1871 census only Nos. 9, 10 and 14 were unoccupied. The others were inhabited by a good cross-section of the middle classes – those living on their own means, solicitors, engineers, India Office civil servants, merchants and businessmen (including the occupant of No. 5 who described himself as a “tanner”, but added that he employed 55 men). Typically there were between six and ten people in each house, including servants and children. No. 21 was a school for young ladies.
1863 Ordnance Survey map showing the outline of the houses built by then, but indicating that only a few had their gardens laid out and were occupied.
On the southern side, the original developer of the land east of Stanley Crescent was Charles Blake, a Calcutta merchant who had returned to Britain with money to spend on property development. Again some building began before the crisis. But it then stopped leaving a row of “stumps”. In 1858 Blake leased the sites of Nos. 24-31 to Ebenezer Howard, who then purchased the freeholds two years later. Howard removed the partly built houses, which were in a very poor state (The Building News in 1861 referred to “The naked carcases, crumbling decorations, fractured walls, and slimy cement-work, upon which the summer’s heat and winter’s rain have left their damaging mark, may still be seen on the estate. Courageous builders have occasionally touched them and lost heart and money by the venture”). But Howard then sold the land on and various problems delayed construction yet again – one of the problems being the narrowness of the site, leading one developer to propose building a row of model workmen’s lodging houses there. But finally gentlemen’s house were erected. Deeds for No. 26 in the Local Studies Centre of the Kensington Public Library indicate that the first leases of Nos. 25-27 were not granted until 1873, the lessor being the builder John Walker, who had presumably acquired the freehold, and the lessee being the builder Thomas Smith, who had no doubt been responsible for erecting these three houses. The owner of No. 24 is shown as Thomas Pocock, another lawyer-turned property developer active on the Ladbroke estate, and Nos. 28-31 belonged to a Mr Reading. By the 1871 census, all these houses except No. 30 had occupants.
The site of the present Nos. 33-35 was still vacant in 1861, as is shown by a plan submitted by an architect called Searle that year to the Metropolitan Board of Works for the erection of a chapel (deed No. 2368 in the Kensington Public Library). For whatever reason, nothing came of this, as by the time of the 1863 Ordnance Survey map the present Nos. 34 and 35 had been built. They were erected at the same time as Nos. 66 and 68 Ladbroke Grove, in relation to which they form a typical round-the-corner end-of terrace. According to the Survey of London, the builder of all four houses was John Wicking Philips of Paddington.
Abortive 1861 plan for a chapel in Ladbroke Gardens
With the gradual decay of the area during the 20th century, the large family houses in Ladbroke Gardens began to be divided up into flats and boarding houses as the middle classes moved out into smaller, easier to manage houses. Nos. 28 and 29, for instance, became a boarding house or “private hotel” during the First World War. The hotel was subsequently expanded to take in Nos. 30 and 31 and became the “Ladbroke Gardens Hotel”. In the 1980s, the hotel was closed and, after an abortive attempt to turn them into a hostel for the homeless, the four buildings were converted to flats, some extending laterally across more than one of the four houses. Other houses on the street were taken over between the Wars by the Women’s Pioneer Housing trust.
The street survived the Second World War intact, with only just one incendiary bomb falling in the communal garden somewhere behind Nos. 2-4. After the War, No. 1 became a centre for the exiled Lithuanian community, yearning for independence from the Soviet Union; and No. 3 became the home of the Yugoslav club.
There is more on the history of Ladbroke Gardens and the Ladbroke-Arundel communal garden at http://www.arundelladbrokegardens.co.uk.
Houses and architecture
The northern side of Ladbroke Gardens seen from Ladbroke Grove. ©Thomas Erskine 2006
The north side is a magnificent if somewhat florid stucco terrace of matching six-storey houses with different orders of decoration on each floor, all in the classical idiom. The original developers had employed the gifted architect Thomas Allom (1804-1872) to design a terrace for them. Allom was also responsible for much of Stanley Crescent, Stanley Gardens and Kensington Park Gardens. Despite all the vicissitudes and delays in the construction, the houses that were finally built were closely based on Allom’s design. The Survey of London comments that:
Allom’s early reputation was made as a landscape painter and his compositions appear to have been designed with scenic effect uppermost in his mind. The design of houses, streets, gardens and tree-planting is seen with a painter’s eye, so that each turn and every vista is composed in a picturesque manner… the stucco façades … are designed in a freely treated Italianate manner with occasional introductions from Empire and other sources. … Where the late Georgian buildings had been characterized by restraint, elegance and structural economy, Allom’s houses typify the new ideals of grandeur and display. The detail becomes less refined although it is disposed with professional assurance to gain the maximum effect.
Nos. 1-14 form a symmetrical book-ended terrace, with Nos. 1-2 and 13-14 marking their bookend position by their three-storey bow windows, in typical Allom fashion. This range was given a Grade II listing in 1984; the English Heritage description is:
Terrace of houses. 1852-57. T Allom. Stuccoed. Florid classical style. Three windows each; 4 storey plus basement and an attic in roof. Pairs of houses at each end have bow windows up to first floor level. Nos 1 to 11 simple entrances. Nos 12 to 14 Doric porches. First floor continuous iron balcony, windows framed by pilasters and entablature. Second storey windows round-arched with shell tympanim. Bracketted cornice beneath third storey. Balustrade to roof. Good area railings.
The symmetry is interrupted as the street then continues with a further range of houses (Nos. 15-21), virtually identical in pattern but reduced in height by squeezing the height of the floors. One can only speculate as to why theses houses are different; very possibly shortage of funding dictated that they should be smaller.
Nos. 15,16 and 17, considerably lower than No. 14 on the far left. Photo 2008
As so often on the Ladbroke estate, the ends of terrace have houses that front onto the streets at either end. No. 1 faces Ladbroke Grove and, seen from the front, looks like a large and extremely grand detached house with its double pillared porch and its two bay windows up to first floor level. It has matching bay windows on its side elevations in Ladbroke Gardens. The two-story bow extension at the rear of No. 1 is however a modern addition. Nos. 22-23 at the other end face onto Kensington Park Road, form a less satisfactory end-of-terrace. Instead of the handsome bow windows with the front door between on No. 1, they were designed to be a flat-fronted double house with entrances to either side and bow windows only on their side elevations. The original entrance to No. 23 remains, but that on No. 22 has been removed, and it seems likely that other alterations have also been made to the façade, which is now a bit of a mess.
The magnificent façade of No. 1 at the western end of the terrace, and a side view of the less successful eastern end.
Originally, all the houses on this side would have had bottle balustrades along their roof parapets, partly hiding the attic or dormer windows. Sadly, many of these balustrades have now been lost. It seems probable that there were originally also bottle balustrades along the roof parapets on the garden side, but these have all disappeared with the exception of those on Nos. 22-23.
Nos. 2-11 have plain entrances with no porches; Nos. 12-21 have protruding Doric-pillared porches with triglyph decoration on their architraves and bottle balustrades above (replaced by solid walls in Nos. 15-18 and 20-21) The terrace has a continuous wrought-iron balcony at first floor level along its entire length, interrupted only by the bottle balustrades above the porches; and pierced stucco balconies at second floor level, both extremely well preserved. Inside the houses, in those cases where the original iron banisters have survived, they replicate the pattern of the balcony railings. There are also fine matching cast iron railings by the steps to the front doors and on the street boundary. Lightwells with steps down give illumination to the lower ground floor (there are no front gardens). Nos. 4 and 11 have their original railing and York stone steps down to its basement area. The top step on No. 5 has the cover of its old coal hole, something which probably all these houses had at the top of their steps, as there are no coal covers on the pavement.
These houses have deep basements (some probably originally no more than cellars) under their lower ground floors, thus giving these houses seven floors. Nos. 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 13 and 14 have lightwells in their front areas to give light to these, the last three probably excavated at a later date. The railings around the lightwells on Nos. 2 and 5 may be original.
The bottom two floors of No. 7 were the home of the artist Josephine Simmonds (1940-2019) until her death. She was a noted British multidisciplinary artist and art teacher who produced paintings, prints and etchings. There are examples of her work in the V&A, the UCL Art Museum and the Government Art Collection.
Rear elevations northern side
The rears of the houses give onto the Arundel-Ladbroke Garden. Unlike Allom’s highly decorated rear elevations in Stanley Gardens, they are in relatively plain stucco, but with some interesting fenestration, including round-headed windows with coloured glass. Nos. 2-14 have their original high half-octagonal dormer windows, very visible from the garden. Each house has a small private rear garden, separated from the communal garden by railings. They have balconies at ground floor level, most with their original ironwork.
The houses had not been completed at the time of the 1863 Ordnance Survey map, but it seems likely that the rear elevations were originally flat (apart probably from small outside privies), and their gardens were presumably reached via a door from the lower ground floor – although the 1863 map does show curved stairs into the private gardens of Nos. 2 and 3. By the time of the 1893 Ordnance Survey map, however, quite a few of the houses appear to have acquired stairs from the ground floor (and possibly in some cases the first floor) down to the garden. Most of the existing stairs, however, appear to have been installed a lot more recently.
Unusually, rather than the lower ground floor being level with the garden at the back, most houses have a basement floor below that is invisible from the front but – except at the far ends – has doors and windows that are mostly half-sunk below garden level and separated from the private garden by a narrow lightwell. These lowest floors have been variously called basements, sub-basements (with the lower ground floor being called the basement), or cellars. In this article we have adopted the nomenclature of “basement” for the lowest floor half or wholly below garden level; “lower ground floor” for the floor above; and “ground floor” for the floor above that (the level of the front door).
With the exceptions of Nos. 1-4 and the “bookending” house at No. 23, the rear elevations were originally flat (apart probably from small outside privies), but many have since acquired extensions of various sorts at basement and lower ground floor level. Their means of access to the communal garden have also changed over the years with a variety of steps and stairs from different floors.
Nos. 2, 3 and 4, are unlike the rest of the terrace, seem to have been built with full-width extensions at basement level, the roofs of the extensions being used as terraces at lower ground floor level. The 1863 Ordnance Survey map shows curved stairs into the gardens of Nos. 3 and 4, probably from these terraces. No. 2 also now has steps down from its lower ground floor level terrace, plus a spiral staircase down to the garden from ground floor level. The gardens of Nos. 2, 3 and 4 are separated by raised party walls with decorative curved profiles, unfortunately only partly surviving on No. 4.
According to a 1987 planning application (TP/87/2576), No. 4 had already by that time acquired a “most unfortunate” extension covering half its terrace. Permission was granted in 1988 for this to be replaced by the current conservatory, despite some doubts on behalf pf the planners, who noted that it would be the first full-width extension at this level on this group of houses.
No. 5 Ladbroke Gardens, completed slightly later, follows the same pattern of fenestration on its upper levels as Nos. 2-4, with the main windows at first floor level being separated by a mullion – whereas on the rest of the terrace the first floor has a single main window with three lights. But at its lower levels it was more like No. 6-9, flat-fronted down to basement level, with its basements looking out onto a lightwell and partly below garden level (No. 5 acquired an extension at basement level in about 2005, but it is the only one). The early maps are confusing, but it looks as though the inhabitants originally accessed the communal garden by stairs up from the basement level. The rear elevation of No. 7, for instance, which appears to be the most untouched by later alterations (apart from the replacement of its original balcony at ground floor level by an inappropriate semi-circular one), shows no signs of any door at lower ground floor level. At various times, however, Nos. 5 and 6 acquired steps down to the garden from lower ground floor level, which was obviously more convenient – although the servants no doubt still had to enter the garden from the basement level. Nos 8 and 9 have steps down to their gardens from the balconies at ground floor level, again probably added later.
A variety of other access arrangements can be found on other houses, including an incongruous spiral staircase on No. 18. At the western end of the terrace (Nos. 17, 19 and 21), access to the garden is via stone steps from elaborate doorways at a mezzanine level between lower ground and ground floor.
It seems that the basements became increasingly more cramped towards the eastern end of the terrace, becoming cellars rather than inhabitable floors, although some were subsequently transformed into living accommodation. Early 1990s planning applications for No. 14, for instance, seeks consent for transforming “cellarage” with apparently no outlet at the rear into a floor with access to the garden to accommodate a doctor’s surgery.
No. 16 has a modest conservatory-type extension at lower ground floor level and there are also shallow extensions on Nos. 20 and 21, and suspended conservatories at Nos. 19 and 21, probably at least a hundred years old.
All the houses seem originally to have had private gardens following an interesting pattern not seen elsewhere on the estate, sloping upwards from the communal garden and with curved rustic York stone stairways leading up to lightwells serving the basement. Sadly, several of these gardens have been flattened out, but quite a few retain their original form.
Listings, designations etc.
Nos. 1-14 are listed Grade II.
Nos. 15-23 are subject to an Article 4 Direction removing permitted development rights in respect of alterations of front windows or doors (made 1996 – No. 68).
Nos. 22 and 23 are subject to an Article 4 Direction removing permitted development rights in respect of the provision or extension of hard standing in front (made 1996 – No. 68).
Nos. 15-21 are subject to an Article 4 Direction removing permitted development rights in respect of alterations to the rear of the house (made 1998 – No. 41)
Nos. 15-21 and 23 are subject to an Article 4 Direction removing permitted development rights in respect of demolition or alterations to walls, gates and fences facing the communal gardens (made 1998 – No. 41).
Recommendations to planners and householders
This is the sort of terrace that would be greatly enhanced by all the houses being paintedthe same colour, whether it be white or off-white or cream. It would be a great boon if the occupants could agree on a colour. If this is not possible, then we strongly advise that only white or pale pastel shades are used, with detailing picked out in white.
We recommend that all ironwork, back and front, is painted black, which provides both elegance and a unifying effect.
We hope that all the missing bottle balustrades on the roof parapets of Nos. 1-4; 13-14; and 20-22 will one day be reinstated to bring even greater harmony to this magnificent terrace.
Bottle balustrading is also missing from the porches of Nos. 15-18 and 20-21 and this also will we hope one day be reinstated.
The buttresses below the string course at the bottom of the roof parapets have been lost on some of the houses, as have the keystones on the windows immediately underneath (Nos. 3, 4, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19 and 21). Some decorative buttresses are also missing above the first floor windows or below the balconies (Nos. 4, 6, 17 and 19). We hope that one day owners will restore these architectural details.
The original single dormer windows on the front elevations of Nos. 1-14 have survived largely intact, with only Nos. 9 and 14 having enlarged theirs, spoiling the symmetry. We strongly recommend that any further enlargement of the dormers on this range should be resisted.
It is not entirely clear what the original pattern of the dormers was on the front of Nos. 15-23, if indeed they had any. But it seems possible that the angular dormer at No.19 may be original. Now most have three discreet dormers. But distressingly protuberant ones have been allowed on Nos. 16, 18 and 20. We hope that further protuberant ones will be resisted.
This side has fine cast iron railings, all matching except in front of Nos. 21-22. We hope that one day matching railings could be installed there too.
Although the rears are not among the most elegant on the estate, they have their historic interest and particular fenestration, and we recommend that this is not interfered with.
Fortunately such rear extensions as have been built are discreet, restricted in size and generally traditional in style, so the backs have kept their character. We strongly recommend against allowing further extensions, as the cumulative effect would soon start harming the look of the terrace from the communal garden.
The dormer windows on the rears match those on the front and need to be preserved for the backs to retain their elegance. Unfortunately, over-large dormers have been added on Nos. 9 and 16.
The rear gardens on the listed buildings that have retained their curved rustic stairways should not be allowed to change them and we would strongly recommend that on the other gardens too the original steps should be retained. They are part of the character of the terrace.
Some houses have replaced the iron railings and gates in their rear gardens by solid brick walls or wooden fences and gates. This spoils the open and airy effect intended by the creators of these gardens, with private and communal gardens appearing to merge into each other and occupants having the benefit of a view over the communal garden from their private garden. We strongly recommend that no further such solid barriers should be allowed; and we hope that where they have been built they will one day be replaced by traditional railings and openwork wrought iron gates. If privacy is desired, it can be achieved by planting. Brick pillars should also be avoided.
Southern side (Nos. 24-35 consecutive)
Nos. 24-31 Ladbroke Gardens. ©Thomas Erskine 2006
The numbers on the south side go from east to west.
No. 24, the corner house, is a one-off stucco double-fronted building, stuck rather awkwardly onto the end of the terrace. Its front door is on Ladbroke Gardens, but its side elevation on Kensington Park Road is also elaborately decorated with string courses and blind windows. Both elevations have elaborate swags of fruit on the corbels below the roof parapets, an unusual feature for the area. The dormer floor is a later addition.
The six-storey houses at Nos. 25-31, built in the late 1860s or early 1870s, are quite different and form a most unusual terrace in terms of the Ladbroke estate, although many of the individual elements are similar. Superficially they are all similar, with channelled stucco at ground floor level; windows with pedimented decoration and, instead of front gardens or areas with steps to the front door, front doors opening onto the street. This is probably because of the shallowness of the site which did not allow for front gardens.
The houses form two distinct groups, however, developed by different people and probably erected by different builders. Nos. 25-27 are built of typical London stock-brick, and have elaborate patterns in the arches above their first floor windows. Nos. 28-31 are red-brick with round headed windows. The whole nevertheless forms a symmetrical terrace with the elevations of the two end houses are set sharply forward in a bookending effect, and projecting wings on the central houses, so both builders were no doubt following a master plan. Nos. 25 and 30 retain their original railing and York Stone steps down to their basement areas. Abutting onto the side of No. 31 are Nos. 24 and 25 Stanley Crescent
This side of Ladbroke gardens is bisected by Stanley Crescent. Abutting onto the side of No. 31 are Nos. 24 and 25 Stanley Crescent. On the other side of Stanley Crescent, the pair of villas at Nos. 34 and 35 Ladbroke Gardens revert to pattern and are classic early 1860s full stucco mansions with bow windows to first floor level. The side elevation of No. 35 on Ladbroke Grove also has a bow window extension and adjoins similar villas in Ladbroke Grove. A nondescript small modern house was built in the mid-1960s at No. 33 in what was the garden of No. 34. It is extraordinary that this ever received planning permission, as it hides a bow extension on the elegant side of No. 34, as well as reducing an important gap.
Nos. 33, 34 and 35 Ladbroke Gardens. ©Thomas Erskine 2006
The backs of Nos. 24-31 are as elegant as the fronts. No. 24 is full stucco behind and has a good-looking full width covered balcony at first floor level. Nos. 25-31 replicate the half stucco pattern of the front elevations of these houses. They have small private areas behind, separated from the communal garden (with one exception) by wrought iron railings and gates.
Backs of Nos. 25-31
There is a pretty complete set of deeds for No. 26 in the Local Studies Centre of the Kensington Public Library (Deeds Nos. 21858-71). They include an 1882 lease that gives a detailed and fascinating description of all the fittings and fixtures in the house, room by room (deed 21863). The original lease has requirements on painting, including a requirement that the tenant “shall in every third year color in imitation of Bath stone the stucco work”.
Listings and other designations
None of the houses on this side is listed.
Nos. 24-31 are subject to an Article 4 Direction removing planning permission in respect of alterations to front windows or doors (made 1996 – No. 68).
Nos. 25-31 are subject to an Article 4 Direction removing planning permission in respect of alterations to the rear of the house (made 1998 – No. 41)
No. 33 is subject to an Article 4 Direction removing planning permission in respect of alterations to the side of the house (made 1998 – No. 41)
No. 35 is subject to an Article 4 Direction removing planning permission in respect of the provision or extension of hard standing in front (made 1996 – No. 68)..
Nos. 33-35 are subject to an Article 4 Direction removing planning permission in respect of the alteration or demolition of gates, fences and walls facing the highway (made 1998 – No. 41).
Recommendations for new Article 4 Directions
We recommend Article 4 directions in respect of:
Recommendations to planners and householders
The houses on this side are in generally good condition without inappropriate alterations. It would however be good to see some tidying up of the untidy side elevation of No. 24. Nos. 34-35 are lacking some of their minor architectural detail – part of the frieze above the second floor windows and some of the the corbels below the cornice – and we hope these will one day be replaced.
Any protrusions visible from the street or communal garden on the largely unspoilt rooflines should be resisted.
The backs are well preserved with no unsightly extensions. We hope any such extensions will continue to be resisted and that the openwork wrought iron fences and gates between private and communal gardens will be preserved.
As there are so many external stairs dating back to the 19th century, we see no reason in principle to object provided that the stairs are of ironwork and follow a suitably traditional design.
Alterations to the fenestration should be kept to a minimum and should not be made above ground floor level.
Last updated 10.8.2023.