The 'village' that once housed the capital's gallows is now home to grandees and DJs

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Once, it was part of Tyburnia, the area named after the site of the gallows on the edge of London where the city hanged its criminals. Now estate agents call it "Connaught Village" and it's where artistic types, celebrities and Tony Blair and his family have chosen to live.

An estate agent's dream, Connaught Square, where the Blairs are buying number 29, is within easy access of the rest of central London, with Oxford Street and Mayfair a short walk to the east, Hyde Park just to the south, and seedy Paddington and fashionable Notting Hill to the west.

James Oliver, of Chesterton estate agents, who has worked in the area for many years, said: "Connaught Square is full of substantial Georgian period houses, typical of the era. It's extremely central, very well located and maintained and yet still largely occupied by families with children.''

The surrounding roads north of the Bayswater Road are now collectively known as the Hyde Park estate. Until around 1800, London's western edge was the Edgware road and on the other side was Tyburnia, farmland owned by the Bishop of London.

In the early part of the 19th century, despite being on the wrong side of Hyde Park, a decision was taken to develop Tyburnia to compete with fashionable Belgravia and Bloomsbury. A grand, formal design was drawn up by the architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell, a descendent of the nephew of the diarist, who was also responsible for some of the Bloomsbury squares.

Connaught Square, where the houses have been described as "substantial but unpretentious'' was among the first parts to be developed between 1825 and 1830. Of the 46 houses in the square, only about six have been converted into flats, a much lower proportion than among the grand houses built in successive waves of development on the rest of the estate. Much of the area is still owned by the Church Commissioners, but managed by local estate agents; the freehold of the house bought by the Blairs was sold to its occupants several years ago.

Locals and estate agents said the Blairs appeared to have chosen a close-knit square, with family-friendly communal gardens, whose architecture is a grander version of their former home in Islington. In contrast, much of the surrounding estate is more anonymous, with a large Arab population along the Edgware Road and a shifting mix of diplomats and international businessmen occupying the larger houses.

Mr Blair's house was formerly owned by an art historian and current neighbours include Paul Oakenfold, the DJ and composer of the Big Brother theme, who sub-lets his home, and William Orbit, Madonna's producer. Its most infamous resident was the disgraced former Tory minister Jonathan Aitken.

Local legend has it the cobbles in the basement of the house next to the Blairs were once part of a pub where the Tyburn hangman drank before an execution.

Connaught Village is the name given to the area of the square, Connaught Street and nearby roads, to capitalise on its mix of trendy shops and eateries. It is already familiar to Cherie Blair who visits the area regularly for fittings at the clothes designer Eric Way in Porchester Place.

Comments