Hans Crescent forms part of an area informally called Hans Town which dates back to the 18th century.
The area later occupied by Hans Crescent was originally covered by a large field called Long Field (or Long Close) and, while until 1842 a larger area including Long Close was copyhold land of the manor of Earl’s Court, in the early seventeenth century Long Close had been part of the very extensive local landholdings of Sir William Blake. Blake died in 1630 and most of the land descended eventually to Harris Thurloe Brace. That estate became called the Alexander or Thurloe estate.
Long Close though was inherited instead by William Browne. It was under Browne’s auspices that development of this area began - the buildings from the corner of Sloane Street
and into Brompton Road
up to Brompton Place
, were first developed between about 1764 and 1793.
Henry Holland, a celebrated architect, was at work in the 1780s and built a street called Exeter Street. He constructed a street not previously planned to join his Exeter Street on Lord Cadogan’s land. New Street was laid out down to connect with Exeter Street (and both together now form Hans Crescent). The west side of New Street was let out to tradesmen in small plots, but two small courts (Richmond Buildings and New Court) were also formed here.
Horwood’s map of 1794 shows building well advanced along both sides of Basil Street
, while not long afterwards houses sprang up along Exeter Street and New Street.
In 1799 William Browne settled the whole of Long Close upon his only child, Elizabeth Browne. After her death in 1822 the estate passed to her three sons, and in 1842 they, as the copyhold tenants, sold it for £26,000 to the second Lord Kensington, who was the lord of the manor of Earl’s Court and therefore, in ‘feudal’ terms, their overlord. The copyhold tenure was thereby extinguished, and the property became freehold.
From 1842 until 1888 the Brompton estate, as Long Close was now always called, formed part of the second Lord Kensington’s estate.
The reconstruction of the Brompton estate was contemplated immediately after William Watkins and John Goddard acquired the freehold in 1888. Nearly all the buildings along the frontage to Brompton Road
had been converted to retailing, while many of the properties in the side streets and back courts were virtually slums. Brompton Road
itself, thanks chiefly to the presence of the expanding Harrods
, was beginning to prove a magnet for fashionable shopping, so that handsome ground rents could be expected.
Reconstruction of the whole estate proceeded in stages between about 1892 and 1908, according to the expiry of outstanding leases. New Street (from 1904 part of Hans Crescent) took its character chiefly from Harrods
The Hans Crescent Hotel was built in 1896 and for decades was one of the most exclusive hotels in London. During the second world war the hotel was acquired by the Ministry of Works, and after the war was accommodation for colonial students. In the early 1970s, the building became the Knightsbridge
Crown Court. In 1996, the building was bought by Harrods
Estates - extensive renovations included a 25 metre deep basement and a tunnel was constructed linking it to the Harrods
store in Knightsbridge
. There are now 31 luxury apartments in the building.