|Craven Hill Gardens: Hempel Garden Square||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 northern enclosure is now Hempel Garden Square, the private garden of The Hempel hotel, landscaped as a Japanese-style Zen garden.
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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, a rectangular garden enclosure of 1/4 acre was described as 'attractively laid out' in 1928, at which time it was 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. South of Craven Hill a similarly sized 'almost square' garden was owned by Trustees of the Craven Settled Estates and described in 1928 as 'an attractive garden with well-kept lawns, flower beds and trees'. This garden is now the communal garden for Corringham (q.v.), a modernist block built in 1962-4.
The northern garden enclosure was re-landscaped when Nos. 31-35 Craven Hill Gardens were converted into The Hempel, a 5-star hotel that opened in 1996, created by designer Anouska Hempel. The garden has been laid out as a peaceful Japanese-style Zen garden, with lawns, sculptural and water features, borders and trees, which include yews.
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.