|Craven Hill Gardens: Corringham Garden||Westminster|
Bayswater was a rural area until the mid C19th when it was developed for housing. Part of the land here was owned by the Craven Pest House Charity and Craven Settled Estates, after the 3rd Earl of Craven purchased 3 acres of land and built pesthouses here in the 1730s to serve the local parishes. Terraced housing of Craven Hill Gardens was built on the site of the pesthouses and two gardens were provided for the leaseholders, north and south of Craven Hill, which remained in the ownership of the Craven Pest House Charity and the Craven Settled Estates respectively. The southern enclosure is now communal gardens of Corringham, a modernist block of flats built in 1962-4.
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Bayswater was still a small hamlet in 1807 and the hitherto rural area was developed in the C19th by a number of different speculators, although some of the earlier field boundaries, footpaths and tracks from the previous land use can still be traced. A roughly triangular area between Bayswater Road with Cleveland Gardens (q.v.) at the apex was developed by Henry de Bruno Austin, bounded by Leinster Gardens to the west. North and south of Craven Hill was an area of land owned by the Craven Pest House Charity/Craven Settled Estates.
The name Craven Hill dates from around 1742, so-named when the 3rd Earl of Craven (1700-1739), who had built pesthouses in the 1730s. Sir William Craven (1585-1618), father of the first Earl of Craven, was a silk merchant who had come to London from Coventry and became Lord Mayor of London in 1600. His son, also William (1608-c.1697) was a soldier and commander of the Foreign Service. A supporter of both Charles I and II, he was made 1st Earl of Craven and 1st Baron Craven in c.1650. Following the Great Plague of 1665, he was a member of the commission appointed to consider the best means of preventing the spread of the epidemic and recommended the wider use of pesthouses and plague pits, and in 1671 he acquired land in Soho in order to set up a pesthouse and burial ground, which became Pest House Field or Close. In 1687 Lord Craven conveyed Pesthouse Close to Sir William Craven and his heirs, upon trust to maintain the buildings for 'the Reliefe Support Comfort Use and Conveniencie of such of the Poore inhabitants of the Parishes of St. Clements Danes, St. Martins in the Fields, St. James's Westminster and St. Pauls Covent Garden as shall hereafter at any time happen to be visited with the Plague, as a Pest-House or Place sett apart for their Reliefe and for severing from the well . . . And for a Burying Place for the Dead'. As fears of the reappearance of the disease subsided, the 3rd Lord Craven succeeded in getting a Bill through Parliament that enabled him to sell the Soho property, by which time the area was no longer isolated as it became more populated.
In 1733 Lord Craven bought rural land that was part of Upton Farm in Paddington, and built new pesthouses there to serve the four parishes. He also built a large house on the site of the farm with pleasure grounds, ponds and a number of buildings, which are shown on John Rocque's map of 1741-5, occupying the site of the present Craven Hill and Craven Hill Gardens. This was permitted through an Act of Parliament of 1734 provided that the buildings would be converted into a hospital should another plague arise. The Craven Estate remained in the family until the death of William, 7th Baron Craven in 1825. The land was then divided among his heirs and let on building leases, which included a clause stating that lessees would lose the land if it were required in case of a plague. Terraced houses were constructed along both sides of Craven Hill from then although the land remained in the ownership of the Craven family until the late 1930s. In 1864, surplus income from the ground-rents was assigned to King's College and Charing Cross Hospitals to support the poor of the City of Westminster.
North of Craven Hill, there was a rectangular garden enclosure of 1/4 acre, which was described in 1928 as 'attractively laid out' and owned by Trustees of the Craven Pest House Charity. It was surrounded on 3 sides by roads and by one side by the rear of Nos. 30-42 Craven Hill Gardens. The lessees of the houses, all tenants of the Charity, were permitted to use the garden and also had responsibility for its maintenance. This northern enclosure is now the garden of The Hempel (q.v.), a five-star hotel that opened in 1996.
South of Craven Hill a similarly sized 'almost square' garden was laid out in c.1850 when building plots were let on 90 year leases and the terraced housing of Craven Hill Gardens was built. The freehold of the land remained in the ownership of the Trustees of the Craven Settled Estates until 1939. Described in 1928 as 'an attractive garden with well-kept lawns, flower beds and trees', the garden was provided for the lessees of the adjoining houses, although by then the freehold of some of the houses had been sold and the right to use the garden was expressly excepted. The garden was maintained by a Committee of residents, and a number of the original trees still survive, including notable lime and plane trees. In 1920 planning permission was granted for Nos. 14-16 Craven Hill Gardens to be converted as the Uffington Hotel, which opened with the garden provided for hotel guests, No. 13 remaining as a private residence. In 1933 Caryl Walter Craven, a descendent of the 3rd Baron Craven, signed an agreement that the garden would be preserved under the 1931 London Squares Preservation Act. When the leases ran out in 1939 the Craven family sold the freehold of Nos.13-16 including the garden to a Ms Wimbush, who initially let the Uffington Hotel to the London Hostel Association for use as a hostel. By 1952/3 No. 13 was also used as part of the hostel.
In 1960 Ms Wimbush decided to demolish the Uffington Hotel and to replace it with '48 high class residential maisonettes'. She employed property developer Hector Properties Investments and architects Douglas Stephen & Partners, with Kenneth Frampton as the job architect. The block was built in 1962-4 providing 30 two-bedroom and 18 one-bedroom flats. Initially called Hector House, it has been described as 'one of the most elaborately planned private blocks of its day'. The flats were arranged over 4 levels interconnected in such a way as to allow all to have west-facing living rooms, and bedrooms overlooking the communal gardens. In 1971 the freehold of Hector House and its communal garden was purchased by Malman Securities Ltd and it was renamed Corringham. In 1974 the freehold was purchased by Central & Metropolitan Estates. Until the late 1990s the garden was simply laid out as a lawn bordered by a conifer hedge, with 4 mature plane trees and 3 mature lime trees. Through the efforts of residents Tony and Lyla Harling, the garden has been refurbished and is now planted with shrubs and roses, the hedges trimmed, the lawn mown in stripes, and flower pots added.
Alan Baxter & Associates, Conservation Area Audit No 6, Bayswater, adopted by WCC as SPG 13 July 2000; 'Marshall Street Area', Survey of London: volumes 31 and 32: St James Westminster, Part 2 (1963), pp. 196-208; history on Corringham website