The Estate

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John Lyon lived in Preston in Harrow in the sixteenth century. He owned extensive lands around Harrow including farms in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex.

In order to maintain two roads between London and Harrow (the Edgware and Harrow Roads), John Lyon bought lands from William and Gilbert Gerrard in 1579 for £340; then again from William Sheringham in 1582 for £321.10s. This 50 acres of land, in an area which is now Maida Vale, produced rents of no more than £50 a year and was used entirely for agricultural purposes. For some 200 years after John Lyon’s death in 1592, these lands continued to be used for agriculture. Gravel was extracted from the land and laid on the Edgware Road over this period.

By the end of the 18th century it was clear that far more rent could be obtained from building leases than by letting out fields for farming. During the first 20 years of the 19th century, Acts of Parliament allowed building to start on the John Lyon Estate and the first building was completed in 1819. Leases were granted during the 1820s as the roads around the wide avenue of Hamilton Terrace were established. Many of these leases came up for renewal in the 1920s when further 99 or 75 year terms were granted.

In the late 1940s an estate inspection recorded the condition of the properties, many houses having been damaged or destroyed during the Second World War. In some cases, lessees had acquired the right to surrender their leases to the Governors as a result of buildings being beyond repair. New leases were then offered at nominal ground rents without a premium, but with an obligation to rebuild. There was little demand for large houses at the time which meant that many were converted into flats. Twenty years later, in the 1960s, economic circumstances and market forces were improving and properties began to convert back to houses. The income of the Charity, therefore, rose little through the 150 years after the initial development of the estate, but after 1980 it grew steadily.

The estate remained intact until the 1980s and very few freeholds had been sold. It had been the Governor’s policy to retain this integrity of freehold tenure, alongside a refusal to accept a premium for the grant of a lease. This changed in the mid-1980s when it was established that the Governors were entitled to accept a premium on the granting of building leases under the Settled Land Act 1925.

The London property market boomed in the 1980s and the spacious tree-lined streets of St John’s Wood and Maida Vale were among the most desirable residential areas in the capital. It was the Charity’s good fortune that the farmlands purchased by John Lyon should be situated in such a prosperous area. The Charity’s income was growing as a result of increased income from the estate; investments were diversifying into commercial properties as well as granting leases on the estate at current market rents when property became vacant. Income from dividends and interest on the portfolio of stocks and shares also grew quickly. This helped the Charity’s income to diversify.
Today, the management of the Charity’s estate is led by Knight Frank. All matters relating to property on the estate should be referred to our Managing Agents, Ben Massey and Peter Devere-Catt. They can be contacted by email on and

For more information on the Charity’s guidelines on Subterranean Development on the Estate, please click here.