23-24 Leinster Gardens, London’s Fake Houses
In the streets close to Bayswater tube station you can admire row upon row of Victorian, stucco terraces. But 23 & 24 Leinster Gardens hold a sneaky surprise. They are London’s fake houses!
History of Leinster Gardens
Leinster Gardens was laid out around 1855 and the whole terrace from no.s 19-48 (including the fake houses!) are Grade II listed.
As we can see from the 1828 C and J Greenwood map below, the whole area was fairly rural before housing started popping up.
However, no sooner had this delightful white terrace appeared, there was a problem.
In 1868 the steam-operated Metropolitan Railway was busy working on a western extension. Ploughing through Bayswater, Notting Hill and Kensington.
Five years earlier, in 1863 the Metropolitan Line between Paddington and Farringdon had become the world’s first urban underground railway.
Forget the underground tunnel boring machines of modern infrastructure, the Victorian method was “cut and cover”. This involved excavated huge trenches (13m deep) through the land, laying tracks and then building brick walls and arches over the top.
You can get an idea of the devastation from this print held in the London Transport Museum Collection. It shows construction work on the Metropolitan Line close to Kings Cross.
You can get an idea of the issues facing the Metropolitan Line by looking at this OS map from the 1890s. I’ve outlined the railways tracks in orange so you can appreciate just how doggedly they plough through the area. I’ve circled the location of no.s 23 and 24 in yellow.
As you can imagine, huge compensation payments were issued for the destruction of properties. However, on Leinster Gardens (as well as a payout) and ingenious solution was found for the disruptive railway.
Not wanting to interrupt the clean lines of the terrace, the Metropolitan Railway simply constructed fake houses.
Facing the street is a thin (only 1.5m thick!) facade that’s hiding in plain sight.
It’s easy to miss the fake houses from Leinster Gardens (the only clue something is awry being the blocked out windows and no letter boxes!)
But if you head around the back to Porchester Terrace, it’s rather more obvious.
Peer over the brick wall and you can appreciate the thin facade, propped up by metal supports.
You can find these gaps periodically popping up along inner London railway lines, allowing ventilation for the steam-powered engines.
Today trains still run along the tracks, now part of the Circle and District lines.
London’s fake houses can be found at 23-24 Leinster Gardens and the gap can be admired at along Porchester Terrace.
A great bit of Victorian problem-solving I say! (But I would also love to know how much was paid for the demolition!)
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