The History of Morshead Mansions

Consisting of 104 purpose-built flats housed in 13 blocks, Morshead Mansions was built around 1904 as part of the larger development of the Maida Vale area and was aimed at the well-heeled upper middle class of the time. As can be seen in the map below, dated 1895. Morshead Mansions was one of the last areas in Maida Vale to be developed, the site previously being used as allotment gardens.

Images from the past

The development of the area now known as Maida Vale began tentatively in the 1700’s. Over the next 200 years, a variety of landowners and builders developed different parts, starting first with Blomfield Road, north of the Regent’s Canal and the areas adjacent to Edgware Road, the north part of which was later named Maida Vale. In 1886, the area called Paddington Recreation Ground was saved for public use and the remaining surrounding land was earmarked for the development which would complete the Maida Vale ward.

In 1895, William Henry Pearce was granted permission to develop Essendine Road, followed by Morshead and Grantully Roads bordering the park. After the completion of these, Widley and Wymering Roads were built, filling in the gaps, closely followed by the remainder of Elgin Avenue and Lauderdale and Castellain Roads. Delaware, Ashworth and Biddulph Roads were eventually also developed around 1920.

Over the decades that have followed, Maida Vale has become a very desirable enclave of London, with its tree-lined avenues, red brick facades and tranquil feel. In recent decades it has developed a reputation for being home to successful artists, writers and musicians and a whole host of other notable people. These days, it’s not uncommon for people to spend many years living here once they’ve been fortunate enough to discovered its unique charm.

The first image below shows the street shortly after it was first built, with a complete lack of motor vehicles and residents in typical dress of the time.The second image shows the communal rear garden, the sheds were built for the storage of coal for the neighbouring Wymering Mansions, as unlike Morshead, this block had no storage facilities under its building.

Morshead’s noteable residents

Among the many colourful people that have called Morshead Mansions home over the years is Sheila Jean “Bambi” Caffell, who was implicated in the murder of her adoptive parents and her two children at White House Farm, in Essex, during the night of 6–7 August 1985. Sheila also died that night and the deaths were ultimately attributed to her brother, Jeremy Bamber, who although serving a life sentence for the crime has always maintained his innocence.

In 2020, ITV made a dramatisation of the events called “White House Farm’ and in 2021 Louis Theroux made a four-part documentary on the murders for Sky Crime, titled ‘The Bambers: Murder At The Farm’. Sheila lived in Flat 2, Morshead Mansions, in the early 1980’s, following her divorce from Colin Caffell, the father of her two children. The flat was bought for her by her adoptive mother.

Morshead Mansions today

Today, Morshead Mansions is home to a diverse and vibrant community. The environment is well managed and welcoming, with a long list of amenities on the doorstep. The street itself looks much the same as it did in the 1920’s, with the most notable differences being the wealth of mature trees that line both sides and the addition of the modern-day vehicles.

The communal gardens, rather than simply being used for practical purposes, are a beautiful and tranquil place for residents to enjoy, with a lawn that stretches the length, seating areas, more mature trees and an abundance of colourful flowers.

Over the last few decades, the building has been extensively renovated and modernised, restoring all of its original architectural features. The flats themselves are light and spacious, with front views over the neighbouring park and rear views over the beautiful communal gardens, which are shared with the neighbouring street. The exterior of the block has been meticulously maintained and is beautifully appointed, giving the street a distinct air of grandeur.