The Past

Once part of the ancient forest of Middlesex, now part of the City of Westminster's Portman Square conservation area, this is a storied spot with a fascinating history.

In 1532 Sir William Portman took on a lease of around 270 acres that included this area. 22 years later he and his heirs became freeholders. The grid of streets that now makes up the Portman Estate began to be laid out in 1757 when Marylebone Road was built as a faster route to the City bypassing the West End. In 1763 the peace negotiated between France and England gave London's landowners more confidence in leasing their land for development, and by 1764, work on Portman Square and its neighbouring streets had begun. By 1820, the Portman Estate was complete.

The original houses at 2, Wallenberg Place were erected speculatively by developers who leased plots from the Portman family from 1789. Each house probably had four storeys (including an attic storey) over a basement, and was three bays wide. With stabling directly behind in Quebec Mews, these were the desirable London townhouses of the day.

World War Two brought damage and disrepair to the crescent of Great Cumberland Place when a bomb landed nearby in January 1941. Number 40 was seriously damaged, but repairable. A bunker was built on the crescent. Following the war, numbers 34-40 remained as individual dwellings until sometime before 1964, when numbers 34-38 were converted into one building named East Africa House. Number 40 was still a separate house.

To 1967, and the designation of the Portman Square conservation area, later extended in 1979 and 1990. In the early 1970s Piccadilly Estate Hotels Ltd put forward a plan to build a 112 bedroom hotel on the site of 2, Wallenberg Place. Westminster Council wisely insisted that the crescent-shaped Georgian facade was retained.

And so, in 1973, The Montcalm Hotel was born, taking its name from the Marquis de Montcalm who commanded the French forces in the struggle for possession of Canada the very same year the building was built. He was, of course, defeated by the English. The Canadian connection also gave Quebec Mews its name, the original mews to the rear of the building.

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