The Camberwell Society

Society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell

Investigating the origin of the Grosvenor Estate


Chris McGachy is finding out who built and who lived where he does

It started when I came across an old image of a neighbouring house. The entrance was set off with a huge porch, with substantial pillars and rounded arch windows to the side. I have lived in Grosvenor Terrace for 20 years. I knew the building had been cannibalised into two flats in the 1990s. But it must have been grand once.

That was the spark. After I retired, I began to investigate in earnest. I knew that the Grosvenor Estate, situated across the road from Burgess Park, was developed in the decade following the opening of the Grand Surrey Canal in 1811. There is only one other building like the one whose photograph I had come across. I live in it. Both buildings are on the same side of the street. On the other side – the north side – is the terrace. It backs on to John Ruskin Street.

I believe these two buildings were built in the mid to late 1800s. Earlier work by a local taxi driver, Stan Miller (now deceased), suggests that the original estate included the grand four-storey town houses on Camberwell Road that face Burgess Park.

There were some oddities that intrigued me. Urlwin Street, the next street to the south of Grosvenor Terrace, has a building with a stone plaque on which is inscribed Grosvenor Street. The house numbers run consecutively, not odd on one side and even on the other. A Victorian Ordinance Survey map shows Grosvenor Terrace was originally called Brunswick Terrace.

With the help of Southwark archivists at John Harvard library, I got down to studying more than a century of rate books, from 1790 to 1910. I think Philip Urlwin is the key to the story. He was buried in St Giles’ in 1856. His will shows that he owned the land now occupied by the Grosvenor Estate.

I’m interested to find out more about him and ownership of this land in the early 1800s. Philip Urwin was in partnership with George Arams. They bought land from Thomas Cope and William Emmett. Maps of the area between 1800 and 1850 would be useful.

This area has never been properly documented, perhaps because it borders both Walworth and Camberwell. It is now in SE5, but the streets were part of St Mary Newington Parish, which was traditionally Walworth and is now designated SE17. It ran south as far as Bethwin Road, which was originally called Avenue Road.

By studying the rate books and cross referencing with census records, I have been able to date and match the original numbering for most of the houses. The present numbering dates from 1891. Residents of streets of the Grosvenor Estate included sculptors, church-organ makers, attorneys, and music hall comedians.

With a bit of help from local experts, I believe I can put together a comprehensive history of the Grosvenor Estate. Anyone interested can contact me at

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The Camberwell Society was formed in 1970 and is the recognised amenity society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell.

The Society’s objectives, as defined by our constitution, are: to stimulate public interest in Camberwell, to promote high standards of planning and architecture in Camberwell, and to secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest in Camberwell.

We are a charity and raise money for local charities. In the past we have raised money for Southside Rehabilitation Association, St Giles Trust, Cambridge House, the CamberwellCommunity Choir, the HollingtonYouth Centre and the Camberwell Arts Festival