The Decline of Lisson Grove

The stucco houses of Lisson Grove had been built at the end of the 18th Century. Cosway Street and Church Street were in London stock bricks, severe but perfectly sound town houses of the 4th.  rate. Lisson Grove was then a suburb on the edge of town but linked to it.

By 1850 the 'temporary cottages' shown on the 1827 map had been built over and there were more houses in semi-detached St. John's Wood. Bland ford Square had been built over the earlier Botanical Gardens, so that the houses up to Lisson Grove were terraced extensions of Regent's Park.

Shops on Church Street, with living quarters above, which can still be seen.

By the 1880s the picture was very different. Lisson Grove, which had once been known as 'Nytingale Lane', had changed dramatically. At the start of the century, building had attracted workers into the area. The story of the Kilroy Family shows that this movement had started earlier, but by the 1840s there had been a much larger increase of population in the district.

Lord Bullock, the historian, speaking at a North Westminster Community School Awards Evening, said,

"The area, with building the canals, railways and new squares of houses, was like the Wild West, in a state of perpetual uproar."

George Sala, writing in the 1860s about his memories of Lisson Grove thirty years before, said:

'My early ideas of Lisson Grove are of the kind alluded to by Mr Stephen Blackpool, in `Hard Times' as `allus a muddle'. I think I lived in Paddington very many years ago and my grandmother kept a school there, but my early recollections are woefully indistinct. There was no genteel Bayswater, no aristocratic Tyburnia in those days; the Marble Arch at Hyde Park Corner had not yet been moved from Buckingham Palace: Euston and Marylebone Roads bore one and all, the general appellation `New'. Kilburn and Cricklewood were still sequestered hamlets, and the Edgware Road was simply a road that led to Edgware, instead of a busy thoroughfare conducting to fresh regions of squares, terraces and crescents.

`I admit that the recollections I preserved of Lisson Grove were not only very indefinite but very unfavourable. When I tried to disentangle my recollections of the suburb 1 had known some thirty years since --- I found that Lisson Grove and its vicinity were assuming the shape of a very unlovely place, decidedly dirty, painfully poverty-stricken, more than slightly criminal. Although situated. in one of the most beautiful outskirts of London and environed by districts of well built houses inhabited by the most respectable middle class families, the Grove itself bore a most unenviable reputation. --- thirty years ago it was one of the chosen resorts of the `dangerous classes'. They affected the `Grove' as a west-end habitat, even as they patronised Whitechapel and Spitalfields in the east.'

Lisson Grove, by George Augustus Sala, 1848


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