To Gordon Toplis – The Expert on the History of the Hyde Park Estate
In November 1973, Gordon Toplis, an Architectural Historian at the Manchester School of Architecture, wrote a series of articles on the History of Tyburnia. Despite being only 9 pages in total, these humble features in Country Life Magazine remain the preeminent citation for the history of the Hyde Park Estate, as it is now known. Indeed these articles are the basis of several websites and countless heritage statements regarding the Hyde Park Estate.
Clearly unbeknownst to many of the citers, these 1973 Articles, that can be viewed at the RIBA Library, went on to form the basis of Toplis’s Doctoral Thesis (1978), that can be accessed via the British Library’s website. The collection of research prepared by the soon-to-be Dr Toplis, really was quite remarkable for the time, and without it today’s amateur historians throughout the Hyde Park Estate would have a mountain-to-climb.
With the benefit of modern resources, we might not agree with all of his conclusions (especially regarding the succession of Master Plans and who-built-what), though the broad and considered research conducted by Toplis, with the help and support of the Church Commissioners, still forms the basis of our History section on the Hyde Park Estate.
Though what of Gloucester Square (‘the Square’)?
Whilst Toplis does make fleeting reference to Gloucester Square in his work, it is clear his focus was broader, and constrained to his field of study, that-being history of speculative housing construction. It is perhaps because of this focus, that much of the 20th century history of the square is often overlooked to this day, including the decisions to knock-down all but 13 of the original townhouses, and replace them with period-defining architecture from the likes of Sir Thomas Penberthy Bennett, Edwin Maxwell Fry and Dame Jane Drew.
The purpose of this section is therefore to provide a more comprehensive history of Gloucester Square, from its origins through to the present day, whilst also sharing some tips should you wish to undertake your own research; we hope Dr Toplis would approve, and that you enjoy reading.
To Samuel Pepys Cockerell and George Gutch, the Hyde Park Estate Master Planners
As we will cover in the next section, these two men ultimately formed the plans that led to the development of Hyde Park Estate, and created the neighbourhood we continue to enjoy nearly 200 years later.