The Portman Estate dates back to 1553 when the then Lord Chief Justice, Sir William Portman, bought the ancient manor of Lileston. Today, its 110 acres include Oxford Street from Marble Arch to Orchard Street and extends from Edgware Road to beyond Baker Street. To the north it stretches almost as far as Crawford Street. The estate still supports the Portman family headed by Viscount Portman.
Henry Portman began to lay out the estate in the 18th century with magnificent wide roads and elegant squares that were then leased to developers who built the actual houses. The most magnificent of the original houses to survive is Home House in Portman Square, now a club. Another highlight is the Wallace Collection, housed in what was originally the Duke of Manchester's town house in Manchester Square. But the best idea of what the estate looked like when it was built can be obtained in Bryanston and Montagu Squares, laid out in the 1820s.
For many years the Portman Estate left the management of the area largely to tenants, but today it is adopting a much more active role. The precious Georgian buildings have been refurbished and, where necessary, upgraded and converted into modern apartments, offices and retail units. Many streets have been completely relandscaped and some pedestrianised.
The outstanding achievement has been the development of Portman Village, just north of Marble Arch. The Georgian streetscape is being restored and made more pedestrian-friendly, and lined with 'proper shops', specialist food, fashion and other outlets not the standard High Street chains. Though the Portman is not against the big retailers – the best Marks and Spencer in the world is in Oxford Street close by, on Portman land.