By building large and expensive houses Blashfield had virtually excluded anyone who was not very wealthy from living there, but few of the early inhabitants were particularly distinguished. Leigh Hunt wondered 'why anybody should live there, who can afford to live in houses so large', as in his opinion none of them had 'gardens so to speak of'.
Thirteen householders were listed in the census of 1851 and of these five were merchants, two landed proprietors, two builders, one a bookseller and publisher, and one a Member of Parliament. By 1861 the three largest groups were merchants (five), fundholders (five) and landholders (four). The returns of the 1871 census continue to show the predominance of merchants and fundholders.
Prominent among the residents of the first thirty to forty years were successful industrialists and businessmen. Both Grissell, the builder, and Peto, his former partner turned railway contractor and civil engineer, lived there, and so did another civil engineer, James Meadows Rendel, the builder of docks and harbours. Rendel's house (No. 10) was subsequently occupied by Ernest Leopold Benzon, the steel manufacturer, and Peto's first house (No. 12) was bought by Alexander Collie, a cotton merchant, whose firm crashed resoundingly in 1875 with liabilities of £2,000,000. Peto's second house (No. 12A) was taken over after Peto himself had encountered financial difficulties by the builder and contractor Thomas Lucas. George Moore, the lace manufacturer, lived at No 15, and Stuart Rendel, the armaments manufacturer, at No. 16.
The census returns of 1851, 1861 and 1871 give some indication of the social composition of the households during this period. In 1851 the average size of each household (including servants) was slightly over ten persons, and the average number of servants per household, six. The largest household, consisting of sixteen persons in all, was John Leech's at No. 18, which included eight servants, and the largest number of servants in any household was nine, at Thomas Grissell's (No. 19). By 1861 the average size of household had risen to slightly over twelve, and the average number of servants to slightly over seven. In that year Sir Morton Peto's household at No. 12 was both the largest in total (twenty-eight), and contained the largest number of servants (sixteen). By 1871 the average size of household had declined to slightly over eleven, while the average number of servants remained at slightly over seven. The largest household then was Lady Harrington's at No. 13, where twenty servants were employed to look after only two people (Lady Harrington and her daughter). Three other households contained ten or more servants, Don José de Murrietta's (No. 11), Thomas Lucas's (No. 12A) and Isaac M. Marden's (No. 23).
Towards the end of the nineteenth century bankers and financiers were prominent among the residents. In November 1890 The Metropolitan commented that although the social composition of the road was less aristocratic than that of Mayfair or Belgravia, Kensington Palace Gardens was second to none in the attractiveness of its surroundings and 'hence it is facile princeps in the estimation of our merchant princes, bankers and other leaders of the world of finance'.
Partly from: 'The Crown estate in Kensington Palace Gardens: Individual buildings', Survey of London: volume 37: Northern Kensington (1973).