11 Powis Square

With 24 houses divided into over 100 units, the chances of finding a complete house in Powis Square seem slim. Seven actually remain whole and I was lucky enough to be shown around one of them, No. 11, the home of my friend Ann Smith and her husband, Tony Bailey.

Powis Square isn’t that square really; it’s more of an open-topped crescent. The early Victorian development was built away from the sea and is right at the heart of the Montpelier & Clifton Hill Conservation Area. The houses have both either four or five storeys as some have rooms within a mansard roof; seemingly an original feature as confirmed by the chimneys – the number of pots matches the number of floors in each case.

Powis Square got its name from its developer, John Yearlsey, who hailed from Welshpool in Powys, Wales. All of the houses are Grade II Listed and most have bow fronts in a similar style to those at the top of Brunswick Square. Nos. 12 and 13 don’t have bow fronts and aren’t so deep but are double-fronted.

No. 11 is particularly quirky due to its position on a sweeping external corner. It is made up of a rectangular section containing the principal rooms and a triangular section with the landings and winding staircase. On the ground floor, a folding early 20th century coromandel screen from Shanghai slides and folds as a partition between the dining room and kitchen. Above, the drawing room’s tall windows open straight out onto what must be an immensely heavy stone balcony with stunning views across the little green and its pair of proper red telephone boxes.

Whoever divided up the land for gardens was particularly generous to the owners of No. 11. The large plot has been put to great use too and reminded me about how much more I should know about plants. The building’s bungaroosh rear wall is mostly exposed and it’s clear that a (quite essential) toilet block spanning the floors was added as an afterthought.

Ann probably thinks I’m mad but the most interesting feature for me is at the top. The front of the house has its own pitched roof as does the rear; like a camel’s back. Water is then directed from the middle of the house to the back along a lead-lined gulley – which runs uncovered right through the centre of the loft floor.