Left two: 60a and 62 Cadogan Square and 68 and 72 Cadogan Square by Richard Norman Shaw. Right two: Pont Street and 63-73 Cadogan Square. by J. J. Stevenson.

Pont Street Dutch

This tall gabled façade rose, totally oblivious of old and new neighbours. Cut brick, moulded brick, terracotta, all of the brightest red, surround very large mullioned windows in a composition that is gratuitously asymmetrical at the base but symmetrical in the upper storeys below the crowning gable. For fifteen years such houses proliferated in the Chelsea, Kensington, and Earls Court districts of western London. — Henry-Russell Hitchcock (p. 216)

J. J. Stevenson claimed to have invented the so-called Queen Anne style in the brick house he built for himself in 1871, and he may well have done so, but the "style," as Henry-Russell Hitchcock points out, "became [Richard Norman] Shaw's from the moment that he first turned his hand to it in 1872" (212) with New Zealand Chambers, an office building in Leadenhall Street. Shaw so dominated the field that a recent guide to London architecture claims that a building of his introduced the style known as "Pont Street Dutch," which then produced several decades of upscale nineteenth-century residential architecture that combined the red brick and windows of late seventeenth-century architecture with the rooflines of Dutch buildings. According to Hitchcock, however,

Stevenson's best and most Shavian houses in London are two that he built in 1878 in partnership with A. J. Adams in Lowther Gardens behind Lowther Lodge; however, those he built at 40-42 Pont Street have a certain interest because the mode that he exploited here is often called 'Pont Street Dutch', so ubiquitous is it in this part of Chelsea. This name also emphasizes the characteristic tendency of the late seventies and eighties towards varying the English late seventeenth-century vernacular mode by the introduction of Dutch and Flemish elements of detail, usually executed in terra cotta as George & Peto did . . . Thus, by the late seventies, the long-established London tradition of coherent terrace design came to an end. That was, on the whole, a real urbanistic misfortune, however excellent some of the best individual houses by the above-mentioned architects may be. [215]

The popularity of these often delightfully quirky picturesque brick buildings, in other words, meant the end of building areas like Bedford Square that provide one of the delights of London.

A Brief History of the Area

Pont Street in Knightsbridge, which is part of the London Borough of Chelsea, lies on the old Cadogan Estate, and includes some of the most exclusive residential areas in the whole of London. But it wasn't always like this. Hans Crescent, for example, "had by 1850 become a 'rookery'" (Weinreb and Hibbert 373), and was only saved by the growing prosperity of the corner shop — Harrod's. As the shop extended at the rear, rebuilding took place all around. Soon the whole of so-called "Hans Town" (named after Sir Hans Sloane, the Earl of Cadogan's father-in-law) was being thoroughly redeveloped. Of particular interest is the style of this redevelopment. As Patricia E. C. Croot explains,

Rebuilding in the Queen Anne style took place piecemeal over most of the Cadogan Estate after 1874, but in Hans Town the Estate engaged in wholesale rebuilding as well as developing the remaining open land, seeking a style and type of building which united the Hans Town area with the upper middle-class areas to the east, while much of the rest of Chelsea was to remain for some decades a fairly poor backwater of lower middle-class housing. The red-brick and terracotta Queen Anne was radically different from the existing stock brick and stucco in neo-classical or Italianate style that existed in Hans Town and neighbouring Belgravia. [...] Its use for individual houses had already started on Chelsea Embankment, but in Hans Town the style was used in a new form for mainly speculative building.

The Queen Anne style was popular by now, in furniture as well as housing, and it seemed to answer the need for a new kind of urban residence. What is special here is the particular type of design adopted, based on the features of seventeenth-century Flemish town houses, which are quite different from the Queen Anne style. These features, Croot continues, "emphasized the individuality of each house, stressed vertical rather than horizontal lines, and replaced "the hated sham of stucco with the honesty of brick." The houses certainly contrast sharply with early nineteenth-century urban developments like Park Villages East and West, and even with more recent ones like that aroundChalcot Square (both near Regent's Park). Croot continues,

In planning, too, the new development broke new ground: houses had deep and ingenious plans, and on the south side of Cadogan Square J.J. Stevenson adopted almost standard plans with varied frontages, a novel idea for speculative development. [...] By adopting the new style the Cadogan Estate placed itself in the forefront of advanced taste, and no London estate in the later 19th century, except possibly Grosvenor, enjoyed a more favourable treatment by the architectural press. The new development, with a garden square named after the freeholder, was laid out along the usual lines, enforcing conformity with all houses faced with red brick, mainly enlivened by moulded brick and terracotta. [...] This startlingly different style eventually eliminated the use of the once ubiquitous Italianate, and its description by Sir Osbert Lancaster as 'Pont Street Dutch' made its association with the rebuilt Cadogan Estate even stronger.

Croot also explains that Col. W. T. Makin, the chairman of the company in charge of the redevelopment, had a previous connection with one of the foremost Queen Anne revival architects, John James Stevenson, so Makin's own personal preferences would have been factors in the choice of style. Work began in Pont Street late in the 1870s, with Stevenson himself designing nos 42-58. These, with their "angular bays and balconies supported on curving consoles" (Croot), were built from 1876-8, though building along the road continued for almost another decade, and the company was wound up only in 1890. Later developments were carried out by different companies.

Questions

How do these houses compare with the houses in the other developments mentioned above?

Do you think Croot is right to see "Pont Street Dutch" as a "version" of the Queen Anne style? David N. Durant, for example, describes the architects Sir Ernest George and Harold Ainsworth Peto, who were also working in this area, as producing houses "designed with gables in the Dutch fashion" in "nothing approaching the Queen Anne style" (173).

Similarly, Norman Shaw is credited with introducing the Queen Anne style into London, yet, says Reginald Turnor, "it is not easy to think of any of his buildings to which the term applies.... Rather do we think of him as combining romance with orderliness in a neo-Flemish manner, and as the inventor, with Stevenson, of the "Cadogan" style" (101-2).

Related Material

Sources

Croot, Patricia E. C., ed. "Settlement and Building: From 1865 to 1900." A History of the County of Middlesex, Vol. 12: Chelsea (2004), pp.66-78. Viewed 12 June 2008.

Durant, David N. The Handbook of British Architectural Styles. London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1992.

Hitchcock, Henry-Russell. Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1963.

Jones, Edward, & Christopher Woodward. A Guide to the Architecture of London. 2nd ed. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1992

Turnor, Reginald. Nineteenth-Century Architecture in Britain. London: Batsford, 1950.

Weinreb, Ben and Christopher Hibbert, eds. The London Encyclopaedia. London: Macmillan, rev. ed. 1992.


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Last modified 16 June 2008