*George Basevi (1794-1851)

* “son of George Basevi, whose sister, Maria, had married Isaac Disraeli and was the mother of the earl of Beaconsfield.” (Jewish Encyclopaedia) “The family were of Sephardic Jewish origin, and Basevi’s father remained a member of the congregation of the Bevis Marks Synagogue until 1817.” (Wikipedia)

From ‘Twickenham: Churches’, in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington, ed. Susan Reynolds (London, 1962):

“…The Montpelier chapel did not materially relieve the pressure on the parish church, and in 1839, following the failure of plans to repew St. Mary’s, a committee was formed which opened the church (see image above) of HOLY TRINITY, Twickenham Green, in 1841…The church was designed in the Perpendicular style by G. Basevi. His low, white-brick building now forms the aisled nave to which an apsidal chancel and transepts were added in 1863.”

From the website Parks & Gardens:

“George Basevi was an architect and surveyor active in the early- to mid-19th century. He was a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society.

Basevi was born in London, England on 1 April 1794, the son of George Basevi senior, a London merchant and educated at Dr Charles Burney’s school in Greenwich and later at the Royal Academy Schools.

In December 1810 he became a pupil of John Soane. In 1815, he visited Paris with his brother and, a year later, after finishing his architectural training, began a study tour of Italy, Greece and Turkey which lasted three years.

In 1820, Basevi exhibited a drawing of the temple of Hephaestos at the Royal Academy and opened his own practice in Albany. The following year, he was appointed surveyor to the Guardian Assurance Company, and soon began designing churches, for the commissioners of the 1818 Church Building Act, as well as country houses, terraced houses in London’s squares, almshouses, clubs, university buildings, as well as several other commissions. 

Of all his works, his most well known is perhaps the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England. His designs for this were selected, in 1834, out of 36 other entries in an open competition. Begun in 1837, Basevi died before it was completed. C. R. Cockerell and then E. M. Barry were appointed as his successors on the project.


His last major work was with Sidney Smirke, on the Conservative Club, St James’s Street, London (1843–5).


Basevi died soon afterwards, tragically falling from the west tower of Ely Cathedral while inspecting repairs, on 16 October 1845. He was survived by his wife, Frances Agneta Biscoe, with whom he had 8 children. It was at the east end of Ely Cathedral that he was buried.”

‘Mr Basevi advanced towards one of the recently opened windows along a broad beam, from both sides of which the flooring had been removed.

He was cautioned as to certain nails sticking up in the beam, but scarcely had the words dropped from Mr Stewart’s lips when Mr Basevi tripped and fell through an aperture in the floor onto the vaulting over the arch under the tower distance of over 40 feet.

His hands were unfortunately in his pockets, which prevented his making any effort to recover his balance, or to catch hold of the adjoining beams. He died almost immediately.’ (Fitzwilliam Museum)


From: ‘The Smith’s Charity Estate: Bonnin, Basevi, and Pelham and Egerton Crescents’, in Survey of London: Volume 41, Brompton, ed. F H W Sheppard (London, 1983):

“…The trustees covenanted to provide a communal garden in Pelham Crescent (now London SW7) for the occupants of the houses in the crescent and Pelham Place. Basevi designed the iron railings enclosing the garden (which were removed during the war of 1939–45) and they were manufactured by May and Merritt at a cost of £333. Thomas Gibbs undertook the planting in the garden…

“Set into the railings of Pelham Crescent Gardens, Fulham Road.
“1 Thess. 1-3″ is a biblical reference, the text of which reads: “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father”. Seems people back in 1877 were expected to have so much of the Bible off by heart that one could just give a reference and passers-by would instantly call the text to mind and realise that Trotter was a faithful, hard-working bloke.
Mrs Trotter erected this as a memorial to her husband, at an expense of £70. Robert Trotter is believed to have been a magistrate born c. 1797 in London, who lived at 26 Thurloe Square, died there on 27th December 1877.
The indefatigable MDFCTA have another three Trotter fountains: in Notting Hill, Blackheath and one way out in Waltham Abbey.” (London Remembers)

The distinguished ensemble of stucco-faced houses in Pelham Crescent and Pelham Place for which Basevi and Bonnin were responsible remains amongst the most attractive in this part of London. The two continuous ranges in the crescent, consisting of thirteen houses to the east of Pelham Place and twelve to the west, have three main storeys with basements and attics. At the corners with Pelham Place and in that street itself there are no attic storeys (apart from two later additions).

The facades are treated with the kind of austere Graeco-Roman detailing which Basevi handled so well, those in the crescent being slightly more embellished. There the enclosed porches framed by pilasters with highly individual palm-leaf capitals, the horizontal channelling of the stucco on the ground storey, the stringcourse at second-floor sill level and the crowning balustrade were all faithfully executed from Basevi’s drawings, as was the unusual provision of casement windows with balconies on both the ground and first floors. The ironwork of the balconies is, however, more ornate and less in keeping than the simple geometrical pattern of interlacing lozenges prescribed by Basevi, but the area railings, with the ‘spear’ heads matching the palm leafs of the capitals, are as he intended. The six-panelled doors shown in the drawings were replaced by equally elegant four-panelled ones, some with narrow bands held in place by studs…The fanlights were also varied in execution…

Those at the corner with Pelham Crescent, which are numbered 14 and 15 in the crescent,

have porches and ironwork in common with the remainder of the crescent on their south fronts, with the bizarre effect that the balcony ironwork on the principal façade of each house differs from that on the return front. This was not anticipated by Basevi, whose drawings show the same ironwork used in both streets. No. 15 Pelham Place, the centre house on the long west side, is singled out for a different treatment and has a blocked parapet instead of a balustrade, wide architraves to the windows and a continuous balcony at first-floor level with railings which may be of a later date.

Nos. 16 and 18 Pelham Place are exceptions to the general pattern and consist of an attractive pair of two-storeyed stuccoed houses with wide Doric porticoes (which were added in 1872), overhanging eaves and outside shutters to the windows.

‘a great portal finished by an open lantern of the outline of an Imperial crown to mark the character of this great national building’. (From a 1909 guide to the V&A, seen in distance, by its architect Aston Webb.)

Pelham Street, too, was to be set aside for semidetached pairs of ‘cottages’, and Basevi’s responsibility for the houses in this street probably extended only to approving the elevations and materials Partly no doubt because Bonnin let some of the ground to Jolley, who ran into difficulties, a very heterogeneous collection of houses was in fact erected along its length, most of which has been demolished. The two main groups to survive, Nos. 20–24 (even) and 51–61 (odd), are pleasant small two-storeyed stuccoed houses with basements. Nos 6–10 (even) were built under the agreement with James Bonnin junior in 1843 and are similar houses, but have been more altered.

In Pelham Crescent a barely perceptible splay to the houses compensates for the curve of the crescent. Here the end houses of each segment have extensions at the side containing the entrances, which were originally single-storeyed but which have now been heightened in two instances, and Nos. 14 and 15, at the corners with Pelham Place, have central entrances.

Shallow cornices and simple chimney-pieces provided the main decorative features before the embellishments made by later owners. (Sir) Nigel Playfair, the actor-manager, whose residence at No. 26 Pelham Crescent from about 1910 to 1922 is commemorated by a Blue Plaque, surprised his visitors by his taste in interior decoration which included a dark, bold wallpaper of peacocks, the use of black in the colour scheme of the house, and a yellow ceiling and walls to the dining-room.

“Sir Nigel Ross Playfair (1 July 1874 – 19 August 1934) was an English actor and director, known particularly as actor-manager of the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, in the 1920s.
After acting as an amateur while practising as a lawyer, he turned professional in 1902 when he was 28. After a time in F. R. Benson’s company he made steady professional progress as an actor, but the major change in his career came in 1918, when he became managing director of the Lyric, a run-down theatre on the fringe of central London. He transformed the theatre’s fortunes, with a mix of popular musical shows and classic comedies, some in radically innovative productions, which divided opinion at the time but which have subsequently been seen as introducing a modern style of staging.” (Wikipedia)

The architect Philip Tilden decorated No. 3 Pelham Crescent with an elaborate trompe I’oeil scheme in the early 1920’s when he took up residence there (remarking, ‘How very pleasant it is to live in a crescent’).


In May 1844 the trustees signed a building agreement with the governors of the Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest who soon afterwards built a new hospital on about three acres of the charity’s lands. The site was eventually sold to the governors in 1868 and the history of Brompton Hospital (as it became known) is described in Chapter VII.

Besides the houses already referred to, Basevi’s work on the Smith’s Charity estate also included St. Saviour’s Church


and Walton Place, both in Chelsea, as well as Sydney Place and perhaps part of Onslow Square in the area to the west of Pelham Crescent…”

On the same date, 25 July 1843, that James Bonnin junior had entered into his agreement to complete the building to Pelham Street, James Bonnin senior contracted to undertake a much more substantial development on the site of Brompton Grange. This was made possible by the financial difficulties of the singer John Braham which forced him to give up the mansion and its extensive grounds…

Like Pelham Crescent and its adjoining streets, the development appears to have proceeded rapidly and, judging from the rate of occupancy, successfully. Twelve houses in Egerton Crescent were in occupation by 1845…

Unlike Pelham Crescent, no drawings survive for Egerton Crescent, but there is no reason to doubt Basevi’s responsibility for the design. An obituary which appeared in The Builder shortly after his death and which was probably written by the journal’s editor, George Godwin the younger, a resident in nearby Alexander Square, stated that ‘the new part of Brompton Crescent’ was designed by Basevi, and in 1847 the trustees reimbursed Bonnin £22 which ‘he had paid Mr. Basevi for drawings’, perhaps for Egerton Crescent…”

RBKC: Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

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