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The (Brief) History of London Mansion Flats

Were the history of London to be represented in a weighty tome whose pages start turning before Roman times, the history of flats in London, and in particular Mansion Flats, represent only a slim chapter in this volume, starting at the end of the 19th century.

At the end of the 19th century London was transformed from a typical trading port into the capital of a huge empire as increased commerce, brought about by the Industrial Revolution, accelerated the growth of the empire. By the end of the century London’s population had grown from over a million in 1800 to six million. This spurred much speculative housing development generally and on the great Estates, including Belgravia and Bloomsbury.  Greater London was now the largest city ever known. In 1900 London was firmly established as the capital of the world’s largest empire.

During the 1880’s the concept of flats for the middle classes began to catch on. Flats were designed to attract upper-class families who lived in the country but spent a few months in England each spring, coming for what was called the season. The season was a period of intense socialising when the aristocracy traditionally gathered to secure marriages that help to cement fortunes.

Flats were ideal for families who only spent a portion of the year in London. Mansion flats offered the chance of living in a self-contained property close to the centre of London and provided all the comfort their owners needed and were accustomed to – bedroom, bed dressing room, boudoir and drawing room.

One of the biggest selling points of a flat was the smaller number of servants required to maintain a flat. Having all the rooms on one floor immediately cut the number of servants required.

Following WWI and by 1918 the British Empire was in decline and, along with many other things, this bought an end to the building of Mansion Flats. By the 1920s the brief era of Mansion flats had passed in and building activity concentrated on the continued Suburban expansion. In England and Wales four million new homes were built in two decades many of these were for the returning ‘homes for heroes’ in the form of semi-detached and single family dwellings.