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Dummy House Façades

Posted on: 28th Apr 2014

Address: 23-4 Leinster Gardens, W2 (Bayswater tube).

All is not what it appears to be in this upmarket residential street in Bayswater. Look closely and you’ll spot an architectural illusion that dates back to the 1868 opening of the section of what later became the Metropolitan Line between Paddington and Bayswater. It necessitated the demolition of two houses, 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens, which formed part of a long residential terrace.

            Rather than leave a gaping hole in the upmarket terrace, it was decided to build a 5ft thick façade to match the houses on either side – partly for aesthetic reasons and partly to ensure the structural soundness of the neighbouring properties. The 18 ‘blackened’ windows on the façade are painted on and the doors have no letter boxes, which rather gives the game away.

            The space behind the façade was originally used by trains to ‘vent off’, i.e. to...

The Texas Embassy in London

Posted on: 28th Apr 2014

Address: Pickering Place, off St James’s Street, SW1 (Green Park tube).

A plaque on narrow, wood-panelled Pickering Place in St James’s reveals a little-known historical oddity. It marks the location of the Legation (a type of embassy) of Texas, which was a separate sovereign nation from March 2nd 1836 to February 19th 1846, after gaining independence from Mexico.

The plaque is on the north side of the premises of the noted wine merchant Berry Brothers and Rudd, as the Legation was located in the same building. St James’s was a convenient location for an embassy, as ambassadors were presented to the Court of St James’s at nearby St James’s Palace.

            Following independence, the Texans were worried about interference from Mexico and in a bid to protect itself from invasion, the Texas government sought to foster international ties. It maintained a legation in London, as well as in Washington D.C. and Paris. However,...