Architecture & Development

In the late Eighteenth Century, Charles Fitzroy commissioned Robert Adam, one of Britain's leading Georgian architects, to design the fronts of the houses in a new London square, which was to be the centrepiece of a grand development of large imposing terrace houses. The result, Fitzroy Square, derives its name from the family of Charles II's natural son Henry Fitzroy, first Duke of Grafton. His great grandson, Charles Fitzroy, was made Lord Southampton in 1780 and married Sir Peter Warren's heiress - hence some of Fitzrovia's street names.

Fitzroy Square is the only London square by Adam. It seems probable that the round garden in the centre of the Square may also have been part of his design. What Adam chiefly admired in classical buildings was movement of shadow on the façade, an effect created on the south and east sides of Fitzroy Square by the bold massing of the central block and end pavilions. Adam's surviving drawings for the façades of the east side of the square can be seen at Sir John Soane's Museum in Holborn (0207 440 4245).

The leases for the first houses were granted by Lord Southampton to the Adam Brothers in 1792 and building began in 1794. Robert Adam himself died in 1792 and the buildings on the south and east sides were completed by his brothers James and William. They are fronted in Portland stone brought by sea from Dorset. The original "Liardet" stucco ornaments in the frieze have either vanished or been replaced in stone; much of the damage occurred during the Second World War, when five of the houses were gutted.

The Napoleonic War and a slump in the London property market stopped further building after the south and east sides had been completed. To quote from contemporary minutes of the Squares Frontagers' Committee, the original residents in 1815 looked out on 'vacant ground, the resort of the idle and profligate'. The north and west sides of the Square were not built up until the 1820's and 1830's respectively. They are stucco-fronted, like the terraces of the nearby Regent's Park. At the present time the designer of these buildings is not known.