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Melanie Backe-Hansen

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Victorian home in the heart of South Kensington: the history of No. 1 Cresswell Gardens


No 1 Cresswell Gardens

Cresswell Gardens was one of the last 19th century terraced streets to be built in Brompton. Constructed on the site of Cresswell Lodge, this house (No. 1) has been the home of Lady Gray and Henry Tufnell Gray-Campbell, as well as generations of independently wealthy women, including two spinster sisters from Costa Rica.

Today, this impressive late Victorian home, situated in the Boltons Conservation Area, has been renovated to a very high standard and offers the latest electronic management system, underfloor heating, and air conditioning.

The Gunter’s and Cresswell Lodge

In the 19th century, large sections of South Kensington were owned by James Gunter, most remembered for his famous Gunter’s ice cream parlour in Berkeley Square (responsible for Queen Victoria’s wedding cake). Much of the Gunter Estate continued as market gardens through to the 1850s, at which time James’s grandsons, Robert II and James II, began building development.

However, the location of today’s Cresswell Gardens remained the site of a country house: Cresswell Lodge. It was only in 1875 that Robert Gunter II agreed to the development of the site of Cresswell Lodge with prominent Kensington builder, John Spicer; who died before development could begin, so the project passed to his son, solicitor G.J. Spicer. Original plans, dated 1883, show the builders were Messrs Matthews and Rogers and it was also possibly going to be named Chilmarsh Gardens.

Early residents

The houses along the western side of Cresswell Gardens were completed in 1885 and designed by architect, Maurice Hulburt in the popular late Victorian Queen Anne Style, featuring strong red brick and terracotta.

The first resident to move into No. 1 Cresswell Gardens was a Miss Kemp-Welch, but she did not stay long, as by the early 1890s the house had become the home of Henry Tufnell Campbell, grandson of Sir Henry Bethune, first Baronet from Kilconquhar, Scotland.

Lady Gray and Henry Tufnell Gray-CampbellThe 1891 census reveals 33 year old Henry Tufnell Campbell was a stockbroker and married to 25 year old Ethel Eveleen, and the young couple were in the house with three live-in servants.

Ethel Campbell was the daughter of Lady Eveleen Smith-Gray and the sister of James Maclaren Stuart Gray, the 20th Lord Gray. Her brother passed away, in 1919, and Ethel became the 21st Lady Gray. In 1920, Ethel and Henry changed their name by royal licence to become Gray-Campbell.

Three generations of women

Henry and Ethel lived at No.1 Cresswell Gardens throughout the 1890s, but by the turn of the 20th century it had become the home of widowed Catherine Phibbs from Ireland.

The 1901 census shows Mrs Phibbs was 80 years old, of independent means, and she was in the house with her 40 year old daughter, Edith, and her 20 year old granddaughter, Theodora. The three generations of women were in the house with four live-in servants: a cook, butler, lady’s maid and house maid.

Costa Rican spinster sisters

By 1909, No.1 Cresswell Gardens had become the home of two spinster sisters from Costa Rica, Maria and Luisa Montealegre. The 1911 census shows Maria was 56 years old and Luisa was 54, they were of independent means and were in the ’13 rooms’ with three live-in servants. Maria passed away in 1913, while Luisa continued in the house, but by the outbreak of World War I she started to rent out rooms in the house.

Cresswell Court Hotel and flats

It was during the 1930s that change came to the large Victorian house, with drainage plans in 1937 revealing it became ‘Cresswell Court’ flats. During the 1940s the flats were advertised with rooms ‘beautifully furnished; sunshine garden view...priced from two guineas.’

After World War II the house was transformed again and it became the ‘Cresswell Court Hotel’. Throughout the late 20th century, visitors to the hotel ranged from high ranking military and even a professor of chemistry. In the 1970s, the house changed again and became five self-contained flats. 

The final chapter in the story of the house occurred in the early 21st century when it was transformed back into a single family home, as it had been over 100 years earlier. Today, No.1 Cresswell Gardens has been meticulously refurbished, blending historic architectural features and modern interior design.

* Farleys are currently selling No.1 Cresswell Gardens


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The name Northcote is believed to originate from politician Stafford Northcote, first Earl of Iddesleigh, who began his career as private secretary to William Gladstone, and later rose to become Chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1874.

this beautiful and historical building can be mirror of glorious history of Brompton and England.this impressive late Victorian home shows royalty of Victoria family.

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