A history of London’s iconic mansions blocks from Davis Brown Estate Agents in W1

Period mansions blocks in central London define period block living at its best and in honour of these stunning apartment blocks, Davis Brown Estate Agents in W1 look at some of these beautiful mansion blocks and their rather intriguing histories.

The majority of mansions blocks were built during the Victorian era to service the high demand of the rich wanting to live in London. They were practical and compact, whilst providing luxury and grandeur in the city centre. As all estate agents should know, these blocks were traditionally red brick Victorian or neo-Georgian in style, these mansions blocks brought a new breed of housing to areas such as Marylebone and Fitzrovia. The industrial revolution, urbanisation and a dramatic increase in the population meant that town houses were harder to come by. Therefore apartments that were typically associated with the poor were built to target the middle and upper classes and provide a solution to the housing shortage. The need for efficient space meant that architects, developers and chartered surveyors in W1 were forced to think about building property in a new way. Logistical issues such as water supply, drainage and housing of servants were new problems, previously not associated with the accommodation of the wealthy. However, generous funding and investments solved many of the problems and the first mansion block, Albert Hall Mansions, was built in 1876 to the design of Norman Shaw. The red brick, detailed stone frontage and iron railed balconies became the template for mansion blocks in London all the way through until the First World War when building was halted.

Chenies Street Chambers was built in 1889, and its sister building, York Street Chambers in 1891.  Revolutionary for their time, Agnes Garrett and her sister Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson were directors of the Ladies Dwellings Company which aimed at accommodating professional women at an affordable price.  The building comprised flats of two to four rooms, designed to be self-contained, however there were communal areas for cooking, cleaning and washing.  This was the first time that accommodation had been created for the sole purpose of housing educated, working women and marked a turn in the feminist movement.  Previous famous residents include Ethel and Bessie Charles, the first female members of the Royal Institute of British Architects who actually ran their business from York Street Chambers.  The success of the Ladies Dwellings Company inspired campaigns such as the Married Woman’s Property Act which pushed to secure property rights for middle class women.  Who knew that Chenies Street and York Street Chambers were so steeped in feminist history?!


Bickenhall Mansions was built in 1869 by W.H.Scrymgeour and is characterised by its red brick exterior and tall gables. As estate agents in W1, we have a wealth of experience in both selling and renting within Bickenhall Mansions. The beautiful property was once the home of the British Special Operations Executive, an arm of the intelligence services during World War II. Originally based in Baker Street, the Special Operations Executive grew to such an extent, that Winston Churchill took over Bickenhall Mansions, along with many other mansion blocks to provide space for the ever growing intelligence team.

So what is available to modern day buyers or renters? We are currently marketing a stunning three bedroom apartment in Bickenhall Mansions.  Its double reception room is designed for entertaining…a substantial difference to its use in World War II!  For more details on the property, click here.

At Davis Brown, we have also had many flats in period mansion buildings in Marylebone, W1 and Fitzrovia.  We recently let a stunning apartment in Melcombe Regis Court, just off Marylebone High Street which was full of character and period features. To get in touch about renting a property in a period mansion block, speak to either Emma or Sarah-Jane in the Residential team.

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