Forgotten buildings: Coleherne Court and Hereford House

Coleherne Court? Not a forgotten building at all, surely? It’s there today, a fine example of an early twentieth century apartment block. Famous as the London home of Princess Diana when she worked at that nursery and had that photo taken. (Not to mention that she joined the local library just across the road.)

Coleherne Court agents brochure 1906 K66-132

No, not that Coleherne Court. But just a few short years before this advert of 1900 there were two houses on the site, one of which was the original Coleherne Court. The “grounds in the rear” were even more extensive. This OS map of 1894 shows how the houses and gardens were now surrounded by urban development.

OS map 1894 section of X8 featuring Hereford House

The old Coleherne Court had been around when Brompton Lane, later the Old Brompton Road curved through fields, nurseries and market gardens punctuated by cottages and large houses all the way to Brompton Road.

Cruchley 1827 Earls Court-Brompton-Little Chelsea

Crutchley’s map of 1827 shows Coleherne House as it had been known originally at the intersection with the main north-south axis of Earls Court Lane and Walnut Tree Lane (now Redcliffe Gardens). You can even see the large fishpond in the grounds behind it. Starling’s parish map of 1822 shows even more detail.

Kensington Parish map 1822 detail

There seems to have been a house on the spot  as far back as the 1600s. Ownership seems to have changed frequently. Among many others the much derided poet and eminent doctor Sir Richard Blackmore lived there in the early 1700s. (Dr Johnson says of Blackmore that  his “lot has been to be much oftener mentioned by enemies rather than friends”)

As far as I am aware no image of the house from its early days exists. The artist of the Red Portfolio painted this watercolour:

Cold Barn House RF2535

The notes on the back of the picture indicate that “Cold Barn House” was now called Colherne. The writing is hard to decipher but the artist refers to the ownership of “Mr Boulton (who) built the large house”.

It was William Boulton who sold the house to a Philip Gilbert. He in turn built a second house in the grounds in 1815 and moved into it. This was Hereford House, a villa with some extensive conservatories on one side.   After 1838 when Gilbert left the house it was occupied by a number of colourful tenants including Dion Boucicault, the actor/playwright and theatrical manager who also held the lease of Coleherne Court. Boucicault bought Hereford House in 1861, and Coleherne Court in 1862. He spent £2,300 furnishing the latter but following his bankruptcy in 1863 was obliged to sell both houses.

Beatrix Potter who lived nearby in Bolton Gardens refers to Hereford House in her journal for 1883: “Papa bought a horse less than a fortnight since for £150…it has gone lame yesterday..only consolation Reynolds could offer is that Seligmann who lives in the red house at the end of the street bought one for £200 which died in two days and the man he bought it from would not even see the gentleman”   (Leopold Seligmann lived at Hereford House from 1872 until later  in the 1880s)

In 1896 it was turned into a ladies cycling club.

Wheel Club clubhouse from lawn

Cycling was one of those  new pastimes in which respectable ladies could now indulge. (Catherine House, which we explored a few weeks ago was also a short-lived cycling club) The Wheel Club seems to have been a pretty high class establishment.

Hereford House - Wheel Club 1896

You can see the ramp which Cycling World describes as  “a miniature Olympian, composed of wood with trellis-work sides.It forms a circle round the grounds, running over two artistic bridges..” On the day of the first cycle races June 13th  “Miss G Fielding easily outpaced her rivals and took three first prizes..due to her admirable pluck, and the business-like manner in which she tackled her opponents at the corners was far superior to anything yet seen at amateur races.”

Another section of the ramp of it is visible in this picture:

Wheel Club Hereford House rearview

The Wheel Club boasted many facilities for members:

1896 Wheel Club entrance hall

The entrance hall, leading to a terrace “overhung with evergreen and complete with electric fairy lights”.

1896 Wheel Club dining hall

The dining room, a reading room, a writing room, a library (all separate?), a smoking room and up a private staircase “one of the best billiard rooms in London”.

Below, the  ladies boudoir “where ladies maids are constantly in attendance”. There were many more facilities.

1896 Wheel Club ladies boudoir

But the most fun was to be had had in the grounds “where members can be instructed in the useful art of wheeling.” And the club band played every afternoon.

Wheel Club

On June 13th there was a competition for decorated bicycles. Below is Lady Emily Cherry’s winning entry with her daughter Gladys.

1896 decorated bicycle

Eugenie G Hawthorne who wrote the article for Cycling World predicted that the Wheel Club would be one of the most popular clubs of the day. Whether or not this proved to be the case the venue was short-lived. Hereford House was demolished less than four years later along with its near neighbour.

Coleherne Court had been in residential occupation for most  of the life of Hereford House, only empty for a couple of years. The landowner James Gunter bought both in 1864. He leased Coleherne Court to Edmund Tattersall  from 1865. Mr Tattersall was then the head of Tattersall’s the bloodstock and horse auctioneers who had a famous auction yard and offices in Knightsbridge. He died in 1898 after falling ill at a Newmarket race meeting.  It is not recorded whether the noisy neighbours were  a problem for him and his family but if you look back to the 1894 map you can see there was some distance between the two properties even if the boundary between them was not clear.

According to  the Survey of London “the only certain view of Coleherne House is a 19th century photograph of the hall”.

I can offer you slightly more than that.

001 Rear exterior

This picture of the rear is from an album of photographs of the interior and gardens recently donated to the Local Studies collection. More of these pictures will be featured next week.

Both Coleherne Court and Hereford House were demolished not long after Tattersall’s death. The new Coleherne Court still had a substantial garden, but the two old houses had been one of the last remnants of that older Brompton.


I could thank them almost any week but this seems a good time to mention the writers of the Kensington volumes of the Survey of London. Their invaluable research makes my work, both blogging and answering enquiries very much easier.


14 responses to “Forgotten buildings: Coleherne Court and Hereford House

  • actonbooks

    Fascinating, Who knew? Especially as back in the mid seventies I used to live in Redcliffe Square. Our nextdoor neighbour was Brian Ferry.
    It would be an interseting exercise to try to find the oldest extant building on Brompton Road

    • Dave Walker

      Almost all the houses I’ve mentioned in my various posts about the Old Brompton Road area are gone now. The street was extensively developed in the second half of the 19th century and in the 20th century. The one house from the early 19th century which has survived was called Osborn House and was built in 1809. This was located in South Bolton Gardens behind the row of houses where Beatrix Potter lived. South Bolton Gardens used to go all the way to what is now called Boltons Place but became a cul-de-sec after Bousfield School was built.So strictly speaking Osborn House wasn’t on Old Brompton Road but it is as far as I can tell the last of the houses from that period in the history of the Brompton/Old Brompton area.
      Also 141-143 Old Brompton Road date from 1845-6.

      • actonbooks

        Thanks for that. Are you interested, by the way, in another magnificent lost building in the Royal Borough, which I researched extensively for a biography? I did a whole chapter on this guy’s house interior and exterior, including a tour of the grounds, what preceded it and subsequently replaced it. You may want to take it up or run with what I wrote…
        If so pm me on




    Hi Dave Another excellent, well-researched post – keep ’em coming! Geoff 


  • sarah harley

    Geoff, fascinating as usual. passed your post on to an old friend who had spent an idyllic childhood feeling free to wander in the gardens around Colherne Court in the 50s

  • NJGH

    Fascinating. I live on Harcourt Terrace and love trying to imagine what it must have looked like round here back in the days of Walnut Tree Lane!

  • Marie Mulvey-Roberts

    I was fascinated to see the photos of Hereford House. I am interested in Lady Jane Seymour Hotham who lived and entertained there Rosina Bulwer Lytton, the wife of novelist and politician Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton. I am writing her biography. Has anyone any information about the house or Lady Hotham and her circle at that time around 1853? Lady Hotham was famous for her brilliant garden parties and cooking. Help will be gratefully received and acknowledged.

  • Mark Seligman

    Dear Dave,

    I was very interested to see your pictures of Hereford House.

    My great grandfather Leopold Seligman, as your article says, lived there in the 1870s and 1880s. A banker, he came to London from the United States in 1868 and took the lease of Hereford House from Sir Adam Spielman. My grandfather Walter Seligman was born there in 1873.

    My father, Spencer Seligman said that the garden was 7 acres. At that time, my father said there was also a 45 acre home farm on the West side of Walnut Tree Lane. The old Coleherne Court was described as a small villa (perhaps wrongly, looking at your photograph) in the corner of the Brompton Road / Walnut Tree Lane site. It would appear the gardens were split in favour of Hereford House then.

    Leopold Seligman moved around 1890 to 179 Queen’s Gate, a new house which had been recently built. My father recalls that house with a minstrels gallery in the drawing room. Leopold Seligman died in 1911.

    My grandfather Walter Seligman moved in 1914 to 33 Prince’s Gate, where my father Spencer Seligman was born in 1915. They left when the lease fell in in 1939, and the house was subsequently destroyed in the Blitz.

    My grandmother moved in 1939 to 62 Sheffield Terrace, where she took a lease. She was on her own by then, as my grandfather Walter Seligman had died in 1935. During the Blitz, 62 Sheffield Terrace was badly damaged when a landmine demolished the house opposite it. My grandmother turned in the lease and moved after Dunkirk to Surrey.

    I was born in 1956 and in 1957 my father bought 64 Bedford Gardens, where I was brought up. My late mother sold that in 2004, but she had drummed into me the value of a freehold. I myself bought 55 Victoria Road in 1994, and brought up my children there. My wife and I are still here, stamp duty and possible Mansion tax notwithstanding. Now Hereford House really was a Mansion, but as a leasehold it was possibly not that valuable.

    So we haven’t moved far in 150 years, but have lived in 6 Kensington houses over 5 generations! Not to mention my daughter who now lives in a flat in 79 Cornwall Gardens…..

    Mark Seligman.

  • Sheldon

    I have a photograph belonging to my late uncle, There are three people sitting on a couch. Not sure if they are friends or relatives of my late uncle.
    On the back is written
    Coleherne Court
    December 16th 1969

  • Robert Gray

    Regarding Coleherne Court, Earl’s Court, Kensington. Charles Thomas Newcombe, the photographer is referenced as constructing a photographic studio in 1864. This was a purpose built studio and according to The Times newspaper, a large glasshouse was erected at Coleherne Court to create a light-filled studio for portraiture. As was customary for the time, a portion of the studio was furnished with drapes, tables and chairs to resemble a drawing room. I think it only lasted about a year and ceased in 1865. Is anything known about him at Coleherne Court?

  • Jenna Foster

    just researching my family history and on the census for 1911 i believe my great great grandfather was living and working (separately from his wife and children’s home address) here at coleherne court, i believe he was the head porter in charge during this period so must have been residing in “halls” here.

    Would absolutely love to hear any stories or see any pictures anyone may have from this time!

    • Brian Triptree

      Jenna – as it’s now been more than 3 years since you posted your comment, I’m not sure if you will pick this up or not. Coincidentally I am doing some family history research and I think it’s possible you may be referring to my Great Grandfather James Triptree? He was also shown as living at Colherne Court in the 1911 Census as as being Hall Porter in Chief.

      If this is who you were referring to and if you have been able to find out any more about his time at Coleherne Court I would love to hear from you.

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