A Brief History: Hans Town and Henry Holland’s Handiwork
You know you’ve made it when you have a sought-after piece of London named after you. That can easily be said of Sir Hans Sloane, a physician and benefactor, who has multiple streets, gardens and squares named after him. Sloane was a prominent collector and on his death in 1753 (at the grand age of 92), his vast scientific and literary collection became the foundation of the British Museum.
But back to his namesake… It all started in the 1770s thanks to architect Henry Holland, after he acquired the land through his marriage to one of Sloane’s daughters and started to develop over 90 acres of Chelsea. He created a street plan, which included a series of three storey terraces built along Sloane Street, Hans Place, Sloane Square and Cadogan Place. Alongside this, Holland also built himself a mansion named Sloane Place with grounds landscaped by Capability Brown (who Holland was in fact father-in-law to). The area for these new developments became known as Hans Town.
Slowly, elements of his grand plan were changed over the years. For example, Cadogan Square replaced Sloane Place when architects were commissioned to reinvigorate Hans Town just a century later. And during World War II much of it, as per the rest of London, came under enemy fire. However, the striking style of some of the houses, with the familiar red brick and white balconettes, are still standing today, most of which are Grade II listed for protection.
Other new and alternative buildings popped up too. The Christian Scientists built a church on Sloane Terrace in the early 20th century, which had a distinctive Byzantine influence. When the church closed, it was reopened in 2004 as Cadogan Hall, which still stages music events and conferences. Both the Cadogan Hotel and The Royal Court opened in the 19th century, bringing the rich and famous from miles around.
Austen wrote Sense & Sensibility here in Hans Town. Oscar Wilde was arrested here. And even Prince Charles attended school here when he was a young boy.
Today, the intrigue, stunning architecture and beautiful roads still attract people in their hordes, and if you’re able to get your hands on one of those period properties you can count yourself lucky. Least of all because everything is in walking distance to the best luxury shops in London – hello Harrods and Sloane Street.
Sir Hans Sloane can be happy that his legacy leaves on.