Chesterton began serving the needs of the London Property market since it was first established in 1805. In 2009, the company merged with Humberts, also with a long heritage stretching back to 1842 with its roots in the countryside, with expertise in all types of rural property from cottages to castles.
Chesterton is one of the oldest estate agents in the UK, established by Charles Chesterton over 200 years ago, in 1805. Since then, Chesterton has expanded across London, the UK and internationally. In 2009, Chesterton joined forces with another historic agent, Humberts, to create Chesterton Humberts, offering an unparalleled breadth and depth of knowledge in the property market.
Charles Chesterton – land agent
In the early 19th century Charles Chesterton started as a land agent for the Phillimore Estate in Kensington. Alongside his work with the Phillimore Estate, Charles was also an agent for the Phoenix Insurance company, now part of Royal & Sun Alliance, and played an active role in local community affairs. He held the position of church warden at St Mary Abbots and was also a prominent figure in the Kensington Vestry (equivalent to the local council today). However, it was his business as a land and estate agent that was his lasting legacy.
Chesterton – 1805
It is possible that Charles was in fact operating as the Phillimore agent before 1805, as it has been confirmed that he was living in Kensington as early as 1800. Early records also show the name Chesterton recorded as an estate agent in Kensington at the end of the 18th century, but the details are not clear. The first concrete evidence shows Charles collecting rents for the Phillimore Estate in 1805, so this is the accepted date of the founding of the Chesterton firm.
Arthur Chesterton and building plans
Charles’ son Arthur Chesterton joined the firm in the 1830s at which time Charles added auctioneering to the company’s services. Arthur successfully continued the family business and worked closely on the building development of the Phillimore Estate during the 1850s and 60s. In fact, it is believed that Arthur was responsible for much of the street layout of the Phillimore Estate.
Chesterton & Sons - 1876
Arthur’s sons Edward and Sidney both joined the firm during the 1860s and the firm officially changed its name to Chesterton & Sons in 1876. Both Edward and Sidney continued to contribute to the success of the firm especially during a period of great growth in the London housing market. They also had very successful families – some of whom worked for the firm, some of whom went on to be successful in other areas of British society.
G. K. Chesterton and Cecil Chesterton
Edward’s eldest son was writer and social commentator, G.K Chesterton, who, it is understood worked for the family firm for a couple of weeks before deciding that it was not for him. Gilbert’s brother, Cecil Chesterton also worked for the firm for a short time before becoming a political journalist. He also became a prominent member of the Fabian Society and the Christian Socialist movement. Cecil died of pneumonia in 1918 after being wounded three times fighting in World War I.
Frank Sydney Chesterton
Charles’s other son, Sidney Chesterton also had very successful children including Frank Sydney Chesterton, a very promising architect, whom it was said, rivalled Edwin Lutyens. Frank was responsible for the designs of a number of buildings in Kensington, including Nos. 12-54 Hornton Street in 1903 and Nos. 35-43 Holland Street. Frank Chesterton, in collaboration with J. D. Coleridge, also designed Sundial House in 1908 and Hornton Court in 1905-7, where the offices of Chesterton & Sons have been based since 1907. The Kensington branch of Chesterton Humberts is still located there today. Sadly, Frank Chesterton died fighting in the battle of the Somme in 1916 during World War I.
Sidney Chesterton - MBE
Frank’s brother, Sidney James Chesterton worked for the firm for many years and became partner in 1902. Sidney also distinguished himself in other ways, including French Amateur Golf Champion in 1907, as well as being awarded an MBE and the Chevaliership of the Order of the Crown of Italy for his services in the Motor Ambulance Convoy during World War I.
William Henry Wells
Throughout the 19th century, as the firm continued to expand, there were a number of prominent employees who held significant positions within the estate agency and surveying industry. William Henry Wells joined Chesterton & Sons in 1897 and went on to become President of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and President of the Auctioneers and Estate Agents Institute in 1917-19. He also founded the College of Estate Management in 1919 and became its first president. He was knighted in 1919 for his services as chief estate officer for the ministry of Agriculture and chief livestock commissioner for the Ministry of Food during World War I.
Henry Weston Wells
William’s son, Henry Weston Wells also joined Chesterton & Sons and had a distinguished career. He became partner in 1934 and went on to become Chief Estates Officer of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning and was one of the architects of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. He also became Chairman of the Land Commission, was President of the RICS in 1965 and was knighted in 1966.
Chesterton and industry institutions
Chesterton has not only had a long history in the real estate industry, but has also played a major role in three industry institutions; the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS); College of Estate Management and the Chartered Auctioneers & Estate Agents Institute, who merged with RICS in 1970. Chesterton has had a long involvement with RICS, with three former presidents, including the last direct member of the Chesterton family, Sir Oliver Chesterton in 1968.
Ada Chesterton – Central and Cecil Housing Trust
Other notable members of the Chesterton family have also made significant contributions in architecture and housing. Mrs Ada Chesterton, wife of Cecil Chesterton, was responsible for founding the Central and Cecil Housing Trust in 1927. Maurice Chesterton, cousin to G.K. Chesterton and brother of Frank Chesterton was also a prominent architect, part of the design team at Scott, Chesterton & Shepherd responsible for the design of the Shakespeare Royal Theatre in 1932.
Sir Oliver Chesterton
Sir Oliver Chesterton was the great great grand son of Charles Chesterton and the last direct descendent to work for the firm. Oliver was the son of architect Frank Chesterton and joined the firm at the age of 17 in 1931 and rose to become senior partner in 1945. Oliver was President of the RICS in 1968 and was knighted in 1969. He held a number of prominent positions, including Crown Estate Commissioner in 1968 and Master of the Chartered Surveyors in 1977. He retired from Chesterton in the year of the 175th anniversary, in 1980.
Property development and notable clients
Chesterton has been involved in many significant property developments, including valuations of the three famous Kensington High Street stores, Derry & Toms, Pontings and Barkers in 1929, and has had clients ranging from Robbie Williams and Sharon Osbourne to Sir John Major and Sir Stirling Moss. Chesterton has also been agents for the Phillimore Estate, the Church Commissioners and the Hyde Park Estate, and at one time managed over 735 acres in London.
High quality employees
The quality and expertise of Chesterton’s people has always been pivotal to the success of the company, including former staff members, Henry Murray Fox, Lord Mayor of London in 1974, Geoffrey Blake, who headed up a public enquiry into Stansted airport in 1965 and Henry Wells, commissioned by the Australian government to report on considerations for the building of Canberra in 1902-8.
The post-war period saw a number of changes in building, architecture and in estate agency businesses in Britain. Chesterton were able to strengthen their position as one of the most successful estate agents and from the late 1950s until the early 1990s saw a number of acquisitions that further consolidated the company’s presence across the country. The 1980s also saw increased growth in the international business with an office in New York opening in 1981 and an office in Singapore opening in 1985.