The History Behind London's Smallest House

M@
By M@
The History Behind London's Smallest House

Just a few bricks wider than its own front door, this tubular building near Marble Arch has long been touted as London's smallest house.

Today, it is part of Tyburn Convent — which has its own curious history — so perhaps no longer qualifies for the title. But this property at 10 Hyde Park Place pops up time and again as London's tiniest home, in old-school 'secret London' books and columns.

Pictured in the 70s, copyright unknown.

The diminutive dwelling was slotted into a passage between two mansion blocks. Legend has it that the house was built to deter grave robbers, who had previously used the passage to reach St George's graveyard to the rear. More likely, it was simply intended for servants. It was sold at least once as an adjunct to the neighbouring mansion at number 9.

The earliest mention we can find is from a newspaper item of 1904, which notes that bus drivers would point it out as London's smallest house. It was, at the time, uninhabited. Nine years later, the property was sold at auction for £9,250 — a staggering sum for something so small. We suspect that the auction price may have also included the neighbouring, much-larger property, but this was ignored or misunderstood by the writer.

The house in 1966, pictured in the Tatler. Image © Illustrated London News Group. Image created courtesy of The British Library Board.

A 1933 newspaper article notes that the property — then vacant for 15 years — is again for sale. The house contained just two rooms, 32 feet by 4 feet, connected by a ladder. The upper room has a partition, so a charitable salesperson might describe it as two-bedroom. It was dubbed the 'Dwarf's dream house' after an old legend: a dwarf with a red face and long beard supposedly 'ran out every night on the stroke of midnight and played by himself in Broad Walk'. That can't have helped sales.

Following the second world war, the house was incorporated into the neighbouring Tyburn Convent, where it remains today. It kept its original appearance until recent times, when the facade was rebuilt in red brick.

Last Updated 23 April 2018