It’s all in the Family – Thomas Cubitt and his Brothers

Statue of Thomas Cubitt Pimlico – photo by Barbara Wright

Thomas Cubitt (1788- 1855), had two brothers who followed him into construction, engineering and architecture: William born 1791; and Lewis in 1799. Lewis and William were also very talented and successful, though in the end it is Thomas whose star shone brightest.

The family were very poor. Their father was descended from yeoman farmers, and was a carpenter who had moved to London with his wife before Lewis was born, presumably to improve to work prospects, but he died in poverty. Thomas and William both went to sea to escape destitution.

Booth Poverty Map of Cubitt Town (South), 1889, Public Domain Mark 1.0

Thomas returned to London at the age of 21, setting himself up as a master carpenter in Holborn, and eventually he went into some speculative development.

The three brothers worked together on a site in the Gray’s Inn Road in 1816. By 1824 they were in formal partnership as Messrs T, W and L Cubitt. The more cautious William was worried about Thomas’s speculation and in 1827 he broke away. Lewis and Thomas continued with speculative development on the Grosvenor estate and elsewhere. William carried on working on the old premises, focusing on the civil engineering.

After several years with Thomas, his last Belgravia designs being part of Eaton Square, in 1831 Lewis joined William again, and between them they constructed much of the southern sections of the London and Birmingham railway and many other important buildings including Covent Garden and the new Fishmongers’ Hall.

Covent Garden Market Building – photo by Barbara Wright

William also built Cubitt Town on the Isle of Dogs in the 1840s and ’50s to house many of the workers in the adjacent shipyards, docks and factories and when into politics becoming, among other things, Lord Mayor of London1860-61.

Lewis being the youngest of the brothers had been apprenticed to Thomas in 1815. He later formed his own architectural practice at 77 Great Russell Street. He designed the Blackfriars Road Bridge, but is perhaps most famous for Kings Cross station and the Great Northern Hotel next door.

South facade of King’s Cross Station in London by Bert Seghers under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain.

Thomas developed vast tracts of west London with the Grovesnor family in Mayfair, Belgravia and Pimlico. One thousand men were employed on the Belgravia project alone. In Pimlico he constructed an 11 acre site, for his workshops down by the Thames on the site of what is now the Dolphin Square residential development. He was prepared to take calculated risks and was talented at putting land and financial deals together whilst maintaining high standards in his developments and in looking after his workforce. It is Thomas who left the greatest legacy.

Dolphin Square – site of Thomas Cubitt’s original 11 acre workshops site – photo by Barbara Wright
Dolphin Square – site of Thomas Cubitt’s original 11 acre workshops site – photo by Barbara Wright

Think of Robert Adams and his father William and brother James, and Wates and Costains the builders. Thomas Cubitt and his brothers were another example of a family working in architectural design and construction. Find out more about the star of the family Thomas Cubitt in The Garden Village of Pimlico Walk.




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