At The Milestone, we are not unaccustomed to compliments on the beauty of our building and the intricacy of its architectural design. Accompanying this praise is often a curiosity as to when our beautiful residences were built, by whom, and for what purpose. To satisfy this interest, we endeavour to tell the tale of our five-star hotel and the history of numbers one to three Kensington Court.

Entrance and frontage of The Milestone

Kensington Court is the product of multiple landowners, architects, and builders, each of whom have left their mark upon the properties. The 25 addresses were erected from 1883 and showcase unique design features that offer a call both to the Victorian period in which they were built and its contemporary foreign influences. Alongside this, there also appear details reminiscent of Tudor architecture. By occupying numbers one to three Kensington Court, we have the privilege of straddling a number of these intricate features.

No. 1 Kensington Court

Number One Kensington Court was built across the years of 1883 and 1884 by Holland and Hannen from the instruction of Mrs. Anne Marie Lucena of Stanhope Gardens. Ahead of Anne Marie’s purchase of the land just one year prior, the plot was intended to house two properties that would overlook Kensington Road; Anne Marie’s purchase of both thus gives way to the grandeur of the property that resultantly boasts a front of over 50 feet.

The architect of the build was J. J. Stevenson who also designed numbers three to twenty-five. Differing from its neighbouring properties however, the design of number one is said to be inspired by the late-seventeenth-century houses of central Europe. This manifests in the more ornate details of the property – stylistic qualities that set it apart from Stevenson’s other London street properties. Such details include its pink brick, buff terracotta, and its attractively decorated hoods and gables. In addition to its unique detailing, the square-headed rusticated porch sets it apart from both its surrounding townhouses and contemporary architecture as a whole.

Exterior of The Milestone with Union Jack

No. 2 Kensington Court

Number 2 has been described as ‘the most striking house to be built at Kensington Court’ (Survey of London, volume XLII) and when uncovering its architectural history, it is no surprise as to why. The property was designed by T. G. Jackson and built in sequence with number one: from 1883 – 1884. That this property was not only Jackson’s only design on the Court, but his only London townhouse makes it quite the legacy, particularly considering the favourable status it garnered among contemporary architectural circles.

The property’s owner was 25-year-old bachelor, John Athelstan Laurie Riley, a barrister’s son and the grandson of the founder of Union Bank. It is believed that Riley purchased the land for around £7,800, the equivalent of over £1 million today. But where did the inspiration for the property’s remarkable design originate?

In the Survey of London, located in The Tudor Suite for guests to explore, it is stated that ‘in exterior style the house is among the first in Kensington to manifest the enthusiasm of artistic architects in the 1880s for Flemish buildings of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries’. Whilst this offers some explanation, it also notes that ‘Jackson, an architect not commonly susceptible to foreign influence, may have been thinking equally of early Tudor houses like Sutton Place and Layer Marney Towers as the source for a brick-and-terracotta building of this sort.’ Whilst the inspiration remains moot, the remarkable nature of its build is unquestionable.

Survey of London, volume XLII: South Kensington (p. 72)

Of the architectural details that continue to spark intrigue, the delicate engravings of intertwined sea monsters poised above the ground floor bay window (shown above) and inspired by the spire of the Exchange at Copenhagen continue to garner attention. These details, among others, are believed to be additions made circa 1890, three years after Athelstan Riley’s marriage to Andalusia, daughter of Viscount Molesworth. Other notable intricacies are the ornamental stringcourses located on the building’s exterior that boast Riley’s initials and mimic other buff terracotta details from Jackson’s portfolio of designs. The building was also unique in that it housed its own chapel, commissioned whilst Riley was visiting Mount Athos during the year of its build. Whilst the chapel no longer remains in its original nature at The Milestone, guests visiting from Suffolk can bear witness to its sculptured reredos in St Mary’s Church, Cavendish.

Gargoyles at The Milestone

No. 3 Kensington Court

Aligning with number one, numbers three to twenty-five Kensington Court were again designed by J. J. Stevenson. Whilst Anne Marie’s purchase of two plots for Number Two was significant, three to twenty-five were all built for the renowned Henry Lovatt of Wolverhampton – architect and prominent figure in the Victorian building industry. Their build was staggered however, and number three (up to fifteen) began to ascend in July 1883. In design it remained much more straightforward than the intricacies of numbers one and two, but no less notable. It follows the traditional character of a Queen Anne red brick terrace, complete with buff terracotta dressings.

Survey of London

Whilst each unique in their design, the architecture of our residences - spanning across number one to three of Kensington Court - each display details resonant of Victorian English architecture. The traditional red brick and ornate neo-gothic details make it a property to behold, and we hope that you enjoy immersing yourself in this time capsule of traditional British design during your next stay with us at The Milestone Hotel & Residences.