This year marks the 150th anniversary that the Church Commissioners have owned the Hyde Park Estate, a peaceful and charming corner of London’s West End, located within a stone’s throw of the glorious tranquillity of Hyde Park.
The Hyde Park Estate, is bounded by Sussex Gardens in the south-west, Edgware Road to the east and Bayswater Road to the south, sitting between Lancaster Gate and Marble Arch. The triangular area has a rich and varied architectural heritage. The Estate includes historical, religious, retail and meaningful properties, such as Connaught Square and Connaught Village, Water Gardens, Norfolk Crescent and the church of St John’s, Hyde Park.
Developed in the 19th century, the Hyde Park Estate originally belonged to Bishop of London. The first homes on the Estate were erected in 1807 and completed during the 1850s, showcasing a Georgian model grid pattern. In 1868, The Estate was transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the predecessor to the Church Commissioners. The Church Commissioners were formed in 1948 from the merger of Queen Anne’s Bounty (which was formed in 1704) and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (1836).
The Second World War devastated the entire nation, including the Hyde Park Estate. During and following the war, it was said that ‘a blight is cast over the estate’. The once manicured homes and gardens had been left disclaimed or had lapsed leases, causing Paddington Borough Council to repossess the properties and consequently refurbish them to a poor standard. However, by 1955 the Church Commissioners transformed and redeveloped the area to reclaim its former glory with substantial works which resulted in numerous architecturally significant buildings, such as 25 Porchester Place, The Water Gardens and The Quadrangle. Today, these buildings epitomise developments of the time period.
To preserve these important buildings and maintain the original Georgian architecture, the Church Commissioners created a conservation strategy in the 1970s that has evolved and is still prevalent. Today, the Hyde Park Estate is a hidden gem of London with flourishing independent brands and vibrant restaurants along Connaught Village, a treasure trove of blue and green plaque houses with past residents including Lady Violet Bonham-Carter, William Makepeace Thackeray and Lord Randolph Churchill, and whimsical gardens and events for all to enjoy.
The Church Commissioners reflected on the Estate of modern day stating, “The Church Commissioners are committed to the enhancement of the quality and value of their assets. This can be seen in the recent high-end development of small to medium sized residential units and the emergence of high-end commercial units in Connaught Village. The result is an affluent and unique village atmosphere in the centre of London.”