Built in 1825 by Scottish-born landscape gardener John Claudius Loudon, the house is a model of domestic architectural deception. It is in fact two houses, conjoined at the middle to give the illusion of a single, grand residence. Described by Loudon, in the oxymoronic language of the day, as a “double-detached house”, the idea was “to build two small houses which should appear as one, and have some pretensions to architectural design”. Through cunning techniques of architectural trickery, the design would “give dignity and consequence to each dwelling by making it appear to have the magnitude of two houses”.
This germ of an idea he unleashed in Bayswater would go on to become the UK’s most popular housing type of the 20th century. The semi is a peculiarly British compromise, symbolising a break away from the humble terrace and the first step up on the aspirational ladder towards a fully detached house. Almost 200 years later it still embodies the dream of suburban security: according to the most recent census, almost a third of the houses in England and Wales are semi-detached, and the three-bedroom semi remains the most sought-after home in the country.