Our History

The Grosvenor Plymouth

Our History

Behind every front door there is a story of lives long-forgotten, of secrets never told. Unlocking those stories enables us to to open a window on the past and to build a fascinating picture of the people who lived and worked behind those doors.

The three grand houses which make up The Grosvenor Plymouth are no exception. Within these walls we discover Baronets and Majors, Jewellers and Coin Makers, Bankers and Politicians, not to mention the large number of servants, whose remit was to cater to their wealthy employers’ every need.

So, please explore our site and discover the stories and histories of the amazing families and individuals who lived in No’s. 7, 9 and 11 Elliot Street in days gone by.

History of Elliot Street

At the beginning of the nineteenth century there was very little development of the Hoe. The area in which Elliot Street stands today was still covered in fields, known as West Hoe Fields, an area of grazing for cows and sheep and populated by a small number of families living in cottages. Further across, towards Millbay, there was a fair bit of quarrying and there was some industrial activity on the shores of Millbay itself. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the celebrated railway engineer, was partly responsible for the development of Millbay Docks in the mid-late 1840s and the first great terrace of houses – Grand Parade – was built at West Hoe just a few years later.

This was followed by a thirty year period of private development beginning around the 1870’s, which included the construction of the Esplanade, Elliot Terrace, the Grand Hotel and all the housing behind them.

The original plans for the houses in Elliot Street were submitted and approved towards the end of 1879. The street was to form part of the Hoe Fields Estate, and was named after the owner of the land, Colonel John Elliot, Lieutenant Colonel of the East India Company. Amazingly, the area survived the enemy bombing of WWII and suffered very little material damage. Among the occupants of neighbouring Elliot Terrace at the time were the wartime Lord Mayor of the City, Waldorf Astor and his wife Nancy, who lived at No. 3 Elliot Terrace.

Who lived here?

When first built, the houses were numbered 2, 3 and 4 Hoe Villas. By 1901, the addresses had become 7, 9 and 11 Elliot Street. According to early plans of the street, Lot 10 – on the opposite site of the road to The Grosvenor and the first property after The Grand Hotel – was owned by Mr May. Next door was Liffitons House (marked as ‘existing’) and next to this was Lot 9, belonging to Mr. H. Rogers.

Life Below Stairs

As may be seen in the census records, during the early days of No’s 7, 9 and 11 Elliot Street, a number of servants were employed in the houses to carry out the day-to-day tasks such as cooking, cleaning, washing and lighting fires.

The invention of a bell system to provide contact 'between stairs' had been invented in the mid-1700s, thus enabling servants to carry out their chores below stairs and still be available should they be summoned by their 'owners' or by visitors ringing the front door bell.

The system worked with copper wires and pulleys. A brass handle was mounted on the wall (often next to the fireplace) which, when pulled, would operate a sprung bell outside the room. There would usually be a bell for each room in the house as well as for the front door, so a panel would be mounted, often in the servants’ quarters, with all of the bells fixed to it. Each bell would have a label under it to indicate which room required the servants’ attention.

By Victorian times, the system had been further developed, with the wires running in copper pipes, concealed behind plasterwork or under floorboards, and using sprung pulleys so that the wires could turn corners, thus allowing the bells to be situated further away from the main rooms of the house.

Imagine our excitement, therefore, when recent refurbishment of one of our rooms revealed the original workings of such a system, hidden away behind a modern bath panel! The feature has been left in situ, preserved for future generations, but in the photograph to the right, you can see our amazing discovery!

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