23-24 Leinster Gardens, London's Fake Houses | Look Up London

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!

23-24 Leinster Gardens, London's Fake Houses | Look Up London

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.

Pre-Metropolitan Railway Development, Bayswater | Look Up London
Image from layersoflondon.org (red circle indicates rough location of 23-24 Leinster Gardens)

However, no sooner had this delightful white terrace appeared, there was a problem.

23-24 Leinster Gardens, London's Fake Houses | Look Up London
19-23 Leinster Gardens

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.

© TFL
© TFL

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.

Railway Lines through Leinster Gardens | Look Up London
Railway Lines through Leinster Gardens | Look Up London

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.

23-24 Leinster Gardens, London's Fake Houses | Look Up London

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.

Fake London Houses on Porchester Terrace | Look Up London

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.

Fake London Houses on Porchester Terrace | Look Up London

Today trains still run along the tracks, now part of the Circle and District lines.

Tube Lines through Leinster Gardens | Look Up London
Image from Google Maps, red circle indicates rough location of 23-24 Leinster Gardens

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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3 Comments

  • Heather Sutton

    Reply

    Kate what a wonderful history of the fake houses at Porchester Terrace and the Circle/Metropolitan Line. Will view these facades with a different look now..
    Heather Sutton.

    April 5, 2023 at 2:30 pm
  • Jane Burnett

    Reply

    Demolition costs, restructuring costs, definitely
    an interesting question. Compensation to the neighbours either side? I wonder. Also wondering how the current residents feel as the trains rumble past.

    Once again, you have provided a wonderfully interesting story to read!😊

    April 6, 2023 at 1:01 am
  • You’ve gone into much greater detail than I’ve ever seen in one place about these false fronts; brilliant.
    They get a mention in Ben Aaronovitch’s book Whispers Underground; “everybody knows about…” probably inspiring another, fictitious set feature in the novel, somewhere “off the Moscow Road”.
    That makes them on the same line but on the other side of the Bayswater Station.

    June 26, 2023 at 11:08 am

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