The Portman Estate

To the west of Marylebone High Street, are the 110 acres of London land owned by the Portman Estate. With a history dating back to the 16th century, the Estate covers Oxford Street from Marble Arch to Orchard Street, from the Edgeware Road in the west to Baker Street in the east and north almost to Crawford Street. It includes Portman Square, Manchester Square and the residential properties located in Bryanston and Montagu Square.

The Portman Estate dates back to the sixteenth century but wasn’t extensively developed until the eighteenth century. Henry William Portman followed by his son Edward Berkeley Portman built first Portman Square in 1764 and then Manchester Square in 1770, followed around 1810 by Bryanston and Montagu Squares. Building work wasn’t carried out by the Estate.

Instead, design was commissioned for the streets and the land then leased to private developers and builders, much in the same way that major regeneration projects are achieved today. Financial pressures during the last century have changed the nature of the Estate, with what had been mainly residential property converted to hotels and commercial premises.

A key feature has been the redevelopment of many of the original grand Georgian houses as mansion blocks which were let on long leases. These blocks of flats and hotels are mainly located behind the Oxford Street/Edgware Roadboundary of the Estate between Berkeley Street, Portman Square, Bryanston Streetand Square and Blandford Street. Today the area remains one of the most vibrant in London, a cosmopolitan, multicultural mix of tourism, retail, commercial and residential property.The evolving role of the Estate Each of these great London estates has survived for more than 200 years despite dramatic changes in
society, the swings to right and left of government policy, two world wars and financial booms and busts as well as changes to the tax regime, landlord and tenant legislation and successive town and country planning acts. This is a testament to the business dexterity of the families that own these estates and their ability to change with the times, as well as their undoubted desire to ‘keep it in the family’ and provide for future generations. In a future article Flat Living will look at the way in which theLondon estates are dealing with issues such as leasehold enfranchisement and the changing rights and obligations of residential leaseholders and their landlords.