Here is Lord Ranelagh’s house after his fall from grace and subsequent death. The owners of the Gardens used his name and his house as part of the entertainment. By 1805 nothing was left of house and Gardens but a few foundation stones, and a cellar or some kind of crypt.
Here is a house called Gough House a little way down the river. Mrs Rush and the time traveller can disembark here and make their way through the formal garden, even though it only existed in this form in the artist’s imagination. Mrs Rush tells the traveller to pay attention to open windows, glimpsed faces and distant statues.
Here is the interior as Mrs Rush pictured it. Her rooms were always tidy as though she was painting for an 18th century estate agent’s brochure, or imagining the afterlife. The door to the north front is open.
Here is the view from the north. The lush vegetation besieges the house. But the women inside seem unconcerned.
Here is the Duchess of Monmouth’s house where Smollett lived and wrote Humphrey Clinker. His study window is open, next to one of the bricked in windows.
But when they got inside there was no trace of Mr Smollett.
Here is Sir John Cope’s house which was later turned into a madhouse. There were several of those in Chelsea. One Turlington kept a house where a man could put away his wife or any other troublesome relative under the pretense of insanity. In 1763 a judgement at the King’s Bench went against him. One husband testified that he considered the house to be nothing more than a bridewell or house of correction. That year the Lords called for a bill to regulate such houses.
The woman on her way out of the house holds an oversize key. Mrs Rush has some questions. What happened to the tree on the left? Have the peacocks escaped? Mrs Rush and the traveller cannot stay to see what happens next.
Under the house says Mrs Rush is a subterranean passage. She is drawn to underground places.
They pass another garden with lush growth of flowers and plants.Mrs Rush regards Dr Mead as a friend to herself and her husband.
But in that house she dreamed of this room.
The plants seemed to press against the windows in a rather too insistent fashion.
In more open country the two women can stop and take refreshment at Pond House. Mrs Rush is welcome in many houses.
The Pond was subsequently filled in and built over. It is commemorated in a street name.
The tour is coming to a close. Here is the church where Mr Rush officiates at religious services. This may be where Mrs Rush met Elizabeth Gulston, the woman who kept her pictures safe for many years.
If she wishes the traveller may sit inside for a while and prepare herself.
Here is the final room from Mr Faulkner’s book where Mrs Rush introduces the traveller to her guide home. Pay no attention to the goods for sale.
The traveller and her friends are re-united back in their own clothes in their own present, remembering their adventures.
Next week we might also be back in our own reality.
The Rush pictures were acquired by Chelsea Library in 1929 having been in the Gulston family for many years. The engraving is from a special edition of Mr Faulkner’s history of Chelsea. The photograph is from a private collection.