1 Chelsea Embankment (Shelley House) with associated railings


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
1 Chelsea Embankment, London, SW3 4LG


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Statutory Address:
1 Chelsea Embankment, London, SW3 4LG

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Kensington and Chelsea (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 18/12/2020

Town house. Built in 1912 to designs by Edward Prioleau Warren for Charles St John Hornby on the site of an earlier house of 1878 by Joseph Peacock .

Reasons for Designation

Number 1 (Shelley House) Chelsea Embankment, a town house of 1912 designed by Edward Prioleau Warren for Charles St John Hornby, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a particularly fine example of a high-status Edwardian metropolitan townhouse with high quality detailing and materials designed by a prominent Arts and Crafts architect; * for its good surviving interior with high quality detailing.

Historic interest:

* as an example of a late-Arts and Crafts influenced interior designed for a wealthy client; * for its association with Charles St John Hornby, a leading light in the Arts and Crafts influenced Private Press movement, who produced his Ashendene Press books here.

Group value:

* with the other listed town houses along the Chelsea Embankment.


A house on the site of 1 Chelsea Embankment was originally built in 1878 for Sir Percy Florence Shelley, Third Baronet of Castle Goring (1819-1889), only surviving son of the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and writer Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (nee Godwin). It was known as Shelley House and designed by the architect, Joseph Peacock (1821-1893), as a large detached house, unique amongst the new terraced houses being built along this stretch of the Embankment (created between 1871 and 1874) from 1876. In 1884 the Shelleys moved out and originally leased the property. However, at the end of 1898, the house was purchased by Charles St John Hornby and his wife, Cicely Barclay, of the banking family. Charles St John Hornby (1867-1946) was a businessman and private printer. He was a partner in WH Smith and Son and ran his own private printing press, Ashendene Press, which produced hand-printed limited editions, from the stable block at Shelley House.

In 1912, St John Hornby commissioned the architect, Edward Warren, well-known in intellectual circles as a long-standing member of the Art Workers’ Guild, to draw up plans for the rebuilding of Shelley House. The plans involved the complete demolition of Shelley House and creation of an end of terrace house (adjoining number 2 which had been built between 1881 and 1885) with a seven bay frontage onto the river projecting beyond the frontage of number 2. This proposal was rejected by Chelsea Borough Council after a number of objections from influential neighbours, but a revised plan with a reduced five bay river frontage set back to the line of the existing buildings was passed in June 1912, by which time most of the original Shelley House had been demolished. The only major change to the interior was the move of the principal drawing room from the ground to first floor with the resultant change of the Logia to the garden now also being on the first floor.

In 1939 Shelley House was requisitioned by the Admiralty as WRNS quarters which lasted until 1953 when the house reverted to the ownership of WH Smiths who formally leased the building in 1955 as a staff training facility. By the mid-1970s, however, the building was being occupied by squatters. The ownership was purchased in 1976 by the Netherhall Educational Association, who transferred the title to the Dawliffe Hall Educational Foundation (DHEF) in 1979. The building has been in part educational and part women’s residence, under the spiritual care of the Catholic organisation Opus Dei, since 1978. Consequently two oratories for Catholic worship were introduced to the interior. In 2002 the original graded Westmorland green slate roof covering was replaced with Welsh slate.

The architect, Edward Prioleau Warren (1856-1937) was educated at Clifton College, Bristol and articled to GF Bodley whose biography he later wrote. He qualified as an architect in 1882 and set up his own practice in London in 1884. In the early part of his career he specialised in church building and restoration. His designs include the Grade II Church of St Mary in Bishopstoke, Hampshire (1889) and the Grade II* Church of St Clement, Bradford, Yorkshire (1892-1894). He was closely linked to the Arts and Crafts Movement joining the Art Workers’ Guild in 1892 and becoming its Master in 1913.

During the First World War Warren was seconded to the Serbian Army as a military architect, gaining considerable experience of hospital construction. At the end of hostilities he was appointed Principal Architect for Mesopotamia in October 1919. He designed a number of war cemeteries including the Memorial to the Missing at Basra and Tomb of General Maude in Baghdad. In 1925 he returned to civilian practice.

Warren was a prolific architect who was particularly associated with the Oxford colleges. Amongst other buildings, he designed the north block of the North Quadrangle of St John’s College (1899-1900, Grade II) and two ranges in the Garden Quadrangle of Balliol College (1906 and 1912-1915, both Grade II).


Town house. Built in 1912 to designs by Edward Prioleau Warren for Charles St John Hornby on the site of an earlier house of 1878 by Joseph Peacock .

MATERIALS: red brick laid in Flemish bond with Portland stone dressings. Welsh slate covered roofs replacing the original Westmoreland slate. Concrete floors.

PLAN: square in plan, of four storeys plus basement and attic. The entrance is on to Embankment Gardens and it adjoins number 2 to the west. Internally the principal rooms are arranged around a stairwell on the north side of the building.

EXTERIOR: designed in a late-C17 domestic style the two principal elevations face onto Chelsea Embankment (south) and Embankment Gardens (east). The north elevation opens onto the garden at the rear. Above a prominent modillion eaves cornice, the hipped roof has alternating segmental and triangular pedimented dormer windows to the south elevation and flat-roofed ones to the north and east elevations. There are rusticated stone quoins to the angles and a stone band below the third floor. The largely regular fenestration is of multi-paned timber sash windows in segmental arched openings with rubbed brick voussoirs and raised keystones. Cast-iron rainwater goods have initialled decorative hoppers also bearing the date ‘1913’.

The south elevation is of five bays and has a canted, stone-faced, oriel window on the first floor of the central bay, supported on a pair of carved console brackets. Above the oriel is a flat-roofed open loggia with Ionic columns and engaged columns. Its parapet bears a cartouche with carved foliage and decorative reliefs.

The east (entrance) elevation is of five principal bays but with two additional bays stepped back at the north end of the elevation. The second bay contains a two-storey canted, stone-clad, oriel window to the first and second floors supported on carved console brackets. Beneath this is a rubbed brick, round-arched niche with pilasters and an oversize keystone. The main entrance is located in the fourth bay and has a square-plan stone porch with a pair of columns with Scamozzi Ionic capitals, segmental pediment and a balustrade with vase shaped balusters on the north and east sides. The stone door surround is flanked by Ionic pilasters and the original double-leaf hardwood door retains some original ironmongery, including a bronze door knocker and letter flap. Above the door is an elaborate fan-light with a radial glazing bar pattern. Over the porch is a window with an elaborate shouldered stone surround rising to the third floor. This has a carved head to the centre of the lintel and a triangular pediment.

The north (garden) elevation is of eight bays (including the two recessed bays at the east end of the elevation). The slightly projecting central three bays have a stone Venetian window on the first floor with the central arch having a large stepped keystone rising to a narrow cornice. On the ground floor is a tripartite window set in stone panels with square headed outer windows and a segmental central arch, all with raised keystones. On the second floor the regular fenestration is broken by a central arched brickwork panel. On the first floor of the western three bays is a loggia with a tripartite opening with Scamozzi Ionic columns and engaged columns, entablature and a balustrade with vase shaped balusters. The window openings within the loggia adopt the same narrow-wide-narrow configuration as the window bays above and below the loggia. A datestone to the lower quoin of the north-east angle records ‘THIS STONE WAS LAID/ ON SEPTEMBER 25TH 1912/ BY MICHAEL & DIANA HORNBY./ EDWARD WARREN ARCHT. HOLLOWAY BROS. BUILDERS.’

INTERIOR: the interior was undergoing conversion into a school at the time of the site visit (July 2019) this involving some additional partitioning and redecoration. The ground floor is entered through an elongated vestibule with a barrel vaulted ceiling. To the west, the vestibule gives onto the stair hall (through an arch which has been partially infilled) via a passage with an arcade on the north side with a pair of Scamozzi Ionic columns. The passage has a moulded plaster cornice with modillions and a moulded panel to the ceiling with stylised foliage to the border. The main part of the stair hall has a large fireplace to the west wall with a moulded surround of grey-veined white marble. It has a plaster cornice to the top forming the mantel piece, tiled hearth and marble apron. The varnished hardwood (probably oak), closed-string, open-well staircase has vase-shaped balusters, moulded handrail and square-section panelled newel posts with ball finials. The principle room on the ground-floor was originally a library but was converted in the late-1970s to an Oratory. This involved the insertion of a lower coffered ceiling, square panelling and an altar with an imported C18 Spanish painted wooden reredos with barley-twist columns and carved statues. The former schoolroom has an original timber chimneypiece with a cast iron hearth and hand-painted tile border. The panelled over-mantel has integrated shelving in an Arts and Crafts style.

On the first-floor the landing is treated in a similar way to the stair hall and has a plaster ceiling with deep coffering. The principal room is the former drawing room which occupies the whole width of the building, split into two sections by a partial screen with engaged scagliola Scamozzi Ionic columns. Ceilings have good quality plasterwork including roundels with borders of amassed fruits. Each section has a fireplace with grey-veined pink marble bolection surrounds, marble aprons and decorative coloured hearth tiles (those in the northern section are partially damaged). At the north end, the room opens onto the loggia via the central section of a glazed tripartite opening. The loggia has an in-laid stone floor and the return walls have stucco bolection moulded panelling with a bullseye window in the east return.

The second and third-floors have less ornate decorative features but still retain (despite a degree of later partitioning) significant survival of panelling, fireplaces (although some have been removed) and decorative plasterwork including cornices and doorcase/arches. On the second-floor a bedroom and sitting room were converted into another oratory in the late-1970s with a moulded plaster ceiling which is possibly modern. The attic and basement have no original features of note other than the original parquet floor in the basement servants' hall.

Panelling and original timber flooring survives in large measure throughout the building.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the basement light well (with white glazed tiling on the north side) is enclosed by iron railings with spear head finials separated by square-section brick piers with moulded stone caps and elaborate decorative finials.


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, Cherry, B, The Buildings of England: London 3 North West, (1991), 574
Weinreb, B, Hibbert, C, Keay, J, Keay, J, The London Encyclopaedia - Third Edition, (2008), 156
CgMs Heritage - Statement of Significance for Nos. 1 & 2 Chelsea Embankment, London (April 2019)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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