Kensington Living

Edwardes Estate

In 1599 Sir Walter Cope, an influential courtier, bought Abbots Kensington manor from Queen Elizabeth I. He was collecting North Kensington manors. In 1591 he had bought West Town and in 1599 he also bought Notting Barnes, which later became Notting Hill. Cope’s daughter, Isabel, married Sir Henry Rich, the First Earl of Holland. The estate passed into the Rich family.

When Edward Henry Rich, the Fourth Earl of Holland died in 1721, his aunt Elizabeth Edwardes (née Rich) inherited the estate. She had married Francis Edwardes from Pembrokeshire. From her it passed to their eldest son Edward Edwardes. Edward died and left it to his brother William in entail. (this meant that the future succession of the estate through several generations was prescribed in Edward's will and William did not own it outright).

William Edwardes’ estate included about 250 acres of land in Kensington. In fact, he owned nearly everything west of Earls Court Lane between Kensington High Street and Old Brompton Road as far west as Warwick Road. In addition he owned land stretching east to where the West London Air Terminal now stands. Over 190 acres of this estate was occupied by Earls Court Farm, let to the Hutchins family. Just about the only house in the whole area was the farmhouse on the site of today’s Earls Court Station. The rest of Kensington was ploughed for crops.

William Edwardes was a member of Parliament for over 50 years. In 1776 he was created a Baron , but as an Irish peer. In view of his property holdings in the area, he took the title 'Baron Kensington'. He died in 1801 and his son, also William, inherited the Kensington land and became the second Baron Kensington.

The second Baron Kensington spent money like water all his life. Almost immediately after succeeding his father in 1801 he had to mortgage the land in Kensington for substantial debts. He then started letting out parts of the estate for speculative building. At that point, Kensington was just about as far as people were prepared to live out of London. Since he always spent to the hilt, he was always thrown into chaos when the property market slumped. That happened in the early 1820s and again in the 1830s and the early 1840s.

Fortunately for his successors, the estate had been placed in a settlement when Edwardes had inherited, so he couldn’t actually touch the capital. He died in 1852 owing £270,000.

The Estate was inherited by the third Baron Kensington, who himself died in 1872. The Estate passed to his elder son, William who was a member of Parliament. In 1886 he was created Baron of Kensington in the peerage of the United Kingdom. He was responsible for most of the housing development on the Estate.

He died in 1896 and his son, also William, became the fifth Baron Kensington (or second Baron of the United Kingdom version). He fought in the Boer War in South Africa and died from wounds in battle in 1900. His brother inherited the title. He was to enjoy the estate for life and it was then to go to his male heirs. In 1902 the sixth Lord Kensington sold a lump of the estate, south of Pembroke Road including the area east of Earls Court Road. It was auctioned and bought in one lot by Edward Guinness, Baron Iveagh.

In 1903 the rest of the land was sold in smaller blocks and the Edwardes Estate, as an estate, disappeared.

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