A few steps away from Marble Arch lies a well-kept secret, London’s smallest house. Located at number 10 Hyde Park Place, the tiny house is just a few bricks wider than its own front door.
The diminutive tube-like dwelling dates from 1805 and is nestled between two mansion blocks. Historically it’s thought the house was built to deter grave robbers who had used the passage as a thoroughfare to reach nearby St George’s Graveyard. A more plausible explanation was that it was used as a small annexe for servants quarters as part of a neighbouring mansion. It was sold at least once as an adjunct to the neighbouring mansion at number 9.
Urban legend also suggests it may have been a watchman’s house, while another myth is that a dwarf used to live there – it was even dubbed the ‘Dwarf’s dream house’ after an old legend: a dwarf with a red face and long beard supposedly ‘ran out every night on the stroke of midnight and played by himself in Broad Walk’.
The property, which measures around three foot (95cm) across and is smaller than most custom built wardrobes, is said to contain just two rooms, 32 feet by 4 feet, connected by a ladder, with a partition separating the upper room. Many theories abound about the former residents of this mysterious property. A man named Lewis Grant Wallace was reportedly its first and only tenant.
The earliest mention of the tiny house is from a newspaper item of 1904, which notes that bus drivers would point it out as London’s smallest house. It was, at the time, uninhabited.
In 1913 the property was sold at auction for £9,250 – a huge amount of money for the time, especially for something so small. The auction price may have also included the neighbouring, much-larger property. A 1933 newspaper article notes that the property, then vacant for 15 years, is again for sale.
In 1941 the building was damaged by bombing during the Blitz, and after the second world war the house was incorporated into the neighbouring Tyburn Convent, part of which it remains today. It kept its original appearance until recently when the façade received a modern red brick makeover.
The current residents are Benedictine nuns who never step outside the walls of the convent. The house is thought to be part of three linked buildings belonging to the cloistered community, which include a chapel, the nuns’ cells, a library, kitchen and refectory, all surrounded by a high-walled garden.