An Estate Which Overreached Itself
St Peter's Park was developed by Edward Vigers. He had begun as a timber merchant and speculative builder in Paddington in the 1850s. During the 1860s he was active in Notting Hill. Then in 1865, Vigers tendered to develop 160 acres of St Peter's Park, owned by Joseph Neeld and the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. Neeld had held the land originally on 3 lives, which meant that after the purchaser and two successive heirs had died, the property reverted to the landlord. This type of tenancy was highly unpopular because a run of deaths could bring disaster to a family. Instead, Neeld bought the freehold for £6,000.
Vigers, who sub-let some of the area from Neeld, decided to build large houses, including some still to be seen in Marylands Road, because he hoped that the area would become an extension of Bayswater. The houses were in the Loudon style - spacious houses for solicitors and other professional men. The site was not an easy option as it had no railway running nearby. Victorian builders always tended to build near the railway lines, so that transport was within easy walking distance, but this area was rather isolated. Secondly, the land was not drained.
Eventually he leased 74 acres in 4 agreements and agreed to lay out six roads, a considerable drainage expense. Neeld's solicitors, Keary, Stokes and Goldney (who gave his name to one of the streets) helped to finance Vigers with short term loans,1 for Vigers himself had very little money. His method of working was to prepare a building plot and then sub-lease pieces to as many as eight small builders. His only hope of survival was for them to build a few houses quickly, sell them, the builders to pay Vigers and then move on to the next batch. Many things could go wrong in a process as complicated as this.
At the time the estate was too far out of town for customers and the houses did not sell. Vigers found himself in the same position as his fellow builder George Pocock had been forty years earlier. Pocock had built a similar class of house on the other side of Edgware Road years earlier, but they too did not sell and he went bankrupt (See page 59).
Vigers too went bankrupt, his troubles made worse by the fact that he, like Pocock, was also a merchant, supplying bricks, timber, and other materials to his sub-builders, for which he would never be paid. By 1867 the housing market had become saturated. From there it fell off sharply, so that in 1870 Vigers had to turn to Neeld's solicitors for a further loan. By 1871 he was finding it impossible to carry on and in the following year applied for bankruptcy.'