Rebuilding and Renovating the Bayswater Estate

The period between the First and Second World Wars saw a deterioration in the Bayswater Estate. Multiple occupancy and sub-leases made it impossible for the Church Commissioners to enforce repairs. Stucco, always expensive to maintain, can be kept in order only if all the tenants and sub-tenants in a house, and better still in a complete terrace, agree to repaint at the same time. This was almost impossible to arrange. As a result, maintenance of this once attractive estate was, at the best, sketchy.


The houses of Mayfair had fared much better. Leases had been drawn more tightly, repair was in the hands of the landlords and the houses were in brick, which does not deteriorate like plaster. Also, the houses stood shoulder to shoulder, using every inch of the land, which meant that indiscriminate infilling had not been possible.

On the other hand the Bishop of London's Bayswater Estate had been laid out generously, with coach houses and room at the sides and rear of the houses. Coach houses had become tenements. Stucco was peeling, roofs leaked, but it was the space that attracted the developers. Soon small blocks of flats appeared in the gardens, or were fitted into coach house spaces and mews. Individual houses were demolished and blocks covering the complete sites were built. Some mature trees disappeared. The estate became a patchwork.

The Second World War hastened the decay of the fabric. The once handsome painted terraces were blotched with area of black as the acid in the rain exploded the lime-stucco into scabs. Where the stucco had fallen off, the exposed brickwork was attacked. Rooms became damp and tenants miserable.


From the 1930s the Church Commissioners began to consider the future of the Estate. By the 1950s they were caught up in the hectic rebuilding, demolition, horse trading frenzy of the post-war property boom. The story is complicated and difficult to summarize, but today, half a dozen property bankruptcies and bonanza fortunes later, the area has been is transformed. Much has been completely rebuilt and more has been renovated. Properties have been improved out of recognition and rents lifted sky high, so that today some parts are filled with wall to wall millionaires.

The Water Garden flats, designed by Anthony Minoprio, are outstanding. Other new buildings are much less distinguished. Many of the stucco terraces, so expensive to maintain, have been cleared and replaced in brick.

Even where the outside facades are protected by listing, as at Connaught Place, some of the insides have been completely altered. Often the buildings are now hermit crabs :modern buildings in old shells.1


The blocks concentrate on security, with porters on duty twenty-four hours a day in many cases, grilles to the windows, key operated lifts and secure car parking. Not far away are hotels full of homeless people crowded into bed and breakfast accommodation. Whole families have to live in one room, vainly waiting for something better. In 1989 the contrast of Wealth and Poverty in this particular area was probably much sharper even than it was in 1889, although the absolute levels of both may have been different. The story or renovation on this estate may be contrasted with the story of the Walterton and Elgin one, only a mile or so away.2


  1. Pages 132-3
  2. Pages 202-215



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Updated October 25, 2011