Hans Town

Hans Town, Kensington & Chelsea

A grand 18th-century suburb centred on Sloane Street, rebuilt from the 1880s onwards

Hans Town bollard and 9 Wilbraham Place

Sir Hans Sloane was per­haps Chelsea’s great­est bene­fac­tor before Roman Abramovich. A pres­i­dent of the Roy­al Soci­ety, Sloane moved to Chelsea in 1742 and sub­se­quent­ly endowed the Physic Gar­den down by the Thames. His vast sci­en­tif­ic and lit­er­ary col­lec­tion became the nucle­us of the British Muse­um after his death in 1753.

Dur­ing the 1770s the out­ward spread of Lon­don led Ful­ham archi­tect Hen­ry Hol­land to spot an oppor­tu­ni­ty south of Knights­bridge. He acquired build­ing rights from the Earl of Cado­gan, who had come into pos­ses­sion of the land via his mar­riage to one of Hans Sloane’s daugh­ters. Spa­cious three-storey ter­races were erect­ed along the west side of Sloane Street and in Hans Place, then around Sloane Square, and final­ly in Cado­gan Place in 1790.

Hol­land built him­self a man­sion called Sloane Place (or the Pavil­ion) in the south-west­ern part of his ‘town’ with grounds land­scaped by Capa­bil­i­ty Brown.

Hans Town bol­lard

Cado­gan Square replaced Sloane Place when R Nor­man Shaw and oth­er archi­tects were com­mis­sioned to rein­vig­o­rate Hans Town just a cen­tu­ry lat­er, after crit­i­cism of the district’s anony­mous archi­tec­tur­al stan­dards. Each new house was giv­en its own dis­tinc­tive detail­ing, fur­ther enhanc­ing the pres­tige of the local­i­ty. The Cado­gan hotel opened at 75 Sloane Street in 1887.

Pevs­ner’s Lon­don North-West devotes sev­er­al pages to the archi­tec­ture of the rebuilt Hans Town, point­ing out that: “In few oth­er places in Lon­don can the pros­per­ous 1880s be stud­ied more prof­itably.”

Sloane Square was also pro­gres­sive­ly renewed, and the Roy­al Court The­atre opened on its east side in 1888. It lat­er became Eng­land’s fore­most home for new play­wrights.

Sev­er­al high-class man­sion blocks fol­lowed – often in Hans Town’s new­ly pre­vail­ing Queen Anne style – such as 9 Wilbra­ham Place, which was built c.1896 and is vis­i­ble in the pho­to­graph at the top of the page.

Cado­gan Hall, Wilbra­ham Place frontage

Where parts of Hans Town were rebuilt in the 20th cen­tu­ry the results were gen­er­al­ly less strik­ing, with the hon­ourable excep­tions of the very Scan­di­na­vian-look­ing Dan­ish embassy at 55 Sloane Street and Peter Jones on Sloane Square.

The Chris­t­ian Sci­en­tists built a capa­cious and lav­ish­ly fur­nished church on Sloane Ter­race in 1905–7. The build­ing’s archi­tect was Robert Chisholm, whose very orig­i­nal style drew on Byzan­tine, Romanesque, Indi­an and Islam­ic influ­ences. The church closed in 1996. It was sub­se­quent­ly acquired by the Cado­gan estate and reopened in 2004 as Cado­gan Hall, which stages clas­si­cal, jazz, folk and world music events, hosts debates and con­fer­ences, and serves as the Lon­don home of the Roy­al Phil­har­mon­ic Orches­tra.

Jane Austen stayed with her brother in Hans Place during 1814–15.
Arnold Bennett lived in Cadogan Square from 1921 to 1930.

Postal district: SW1
Population: 8,792 (2011 census, Hans Town ward, which has since been merged with Brompton)