A little bit of faded grandeur – country life in Kensington

Inevitably, I came across the photograph below while looking for something else. If you had no idea where or when it was, what would you have guessed?

Campden Hill lookingsouth west from roof of Cam House 1951  K60-41

Trees, a lawn, part of a building, a cloudy sky and the hint of hills on the horizon. The year is 1951.

Campden Hill looking north west from roof of Cam House 1951  K60-43

A house and an overgrown garden surrounded by trees. The location was no more than 15 minutes from where I was looking at the pictures. It’s Campden Hill which rises from Kensington High Street comes to a peak and slopes down to Notting Hill Gate.

Campden Hill looking north east from roof of Cam House 1951  K60-42

Here you can see more detail including the famous water tower at the top of the hill. The house is Cam House, also called Bedford Lodge, one of seven large houses built in the area by John Tasker in the early years of the 19th century. In other posts I’ve written about the rural hinterland of old Brompton, between Kensington and Chelsea where there were market gardens, inns and cottages. Kensington once had its own semi-rural enclave of grand houses with extensive ornamental gardens.

Cam House-Bedford Lodge garden K66-622

In 1951 Cam House was only four years away from demolition. Formerly the home of the Duke of Bedford, the Duke of Argyll ( renamed Argyll House for nearly 50 years) and Sir William Phillimore, it was requisitioned during WW2 after which it seems to have fallen into decline.

Cam House-Bedford Lodge 1951 K60-44

Once these buildings had ceased to be family homes they had very little chance of going back, especially in the post war climate of development.

The lawn leading up to the row of columns looks wild. The pictures give the impression of a crumbling house gradually being overwhelmed by undergrowth. Although below you can see a lone gardener fighting a rear guard action against the vegetaion.

Cam House-Bedford Lodge 1951 K60-46

It had once been a highly desirable property, as demonstrated in the agent’s particulars of 1930.

Cam House - particulars 1930

Those were the days of course when £8,000 was a lot of money. Where’s that time machine when you need it?

Bedford Lodge / Cam House, Bute / Blundell House, Thornwood Lodge, Holly / Airlie Lodge, , Elm Lodge,  and Thorpe Lodge, with their grounds were almost in a row leading to the grounds of the big house of the area -Holland House. Moray Lodge was the seventh, slightly to the north.

Moray Lodge prospectus 1893

Tasker himself may have lived in Moray Lodge but only for a short while. He died the same year he became the leaseholder, 1817. The longest period of occupation was by Arthur Lewis, a silk mercer, who used it to host artistic and social events..

Moray Lodge - Copy

Music and oysters, in 1865.

By the time of the sale particulars, 1893, it had been extensively remodelled.

Moray Lodge avenue 1893

It had this avenue, best described in the brochure as one of “two pretty avenue carriage drives… passing between borders thickly planted with old-established shrubs and overhung by well-grown trees forming a complete canopy.”

The “imposing mansion” had a large vestibule, a decorated entrance hall, a “spacious inner or corridor wall” with a “handsome stained glass window two staircases….. a pleasant library…..a cosy morning room…. a fine dining saloon…..and two charming drawing rooms.”

Not to mention the conservatory, “supplied with water, heated by hot water and lighted by gas.”

Moray Lodge conservatory 1893

The full -size replica of “The Grapplers” (original in Stockholm) came from the 1862 Great Exhibition. To be sold separately, if you were interested.

The adjoining billiard room could double as a ball room (Just think about that for a moment.)

There was a lift (“operated by hydraulic power”) and a lot of other rooms, with “ample domestic offices” in the extensive basement. “Speaking tubes are fitted in many convenient parts” and sanitary arrangements are by Messrs. Dent and Helyer (who were no slouches at that sort of thing.)

If you couldn’t find enough to occupy you indoors there was a “pretty Italian garden with fountain… a fully stocked rosery.. and a broad rhododendron walk” outside. The “repleteness and seclusion” was “of a wondrous nature.”

If  if you tired of the ornamental gardens and the many outbuildings, there was always the “capital grass paddock.”

Moray Lodge cow paddock 1893

Complete with working cow. Poultry also available.

Now you should probably lie down in the boudoir.

Moray Lodge interior-boudoir  1937

This advert from the Field shows that 38 years later Moray lodge still looked good.

Moray Lodge particulars 1937The house was also commandeered by the military during the war and never became a private residence again.

By 1951 it was a Civil Service rest home.

Moray Lodge garden Civil Service rest home1951 K60-50

The lawn still looks smooth and well kept. You just need a couple of ladies from 1893 with tennis rackets strolling back to the house after a strenuous match and the previous fifty years might never have happened.

Moray Lodge garden 1954 K60-51

A tranquil garden, mature trees and barely a hint of the city around it.

Moray Lodge from garden 1951 K60-49

A quiet country residence in fact. Take a seat on that bench while your man of business rings the bank to see if you can afford it. Actually, you’d better not.

Moray Lodge and Bedford Lodge were both demolished in 1955. Another famous feature of Kensington, Holland Park School was built on the site. Of the rest of Tasker’s houses only Thorpe Lodge survives. The quiet life is still possible on Campden Hill. But I suspect the sense of seclusion has gone.

Postscript

Back in modern times it’s the second week of another successful  London History Festival here at the library. Just Dan Jones on the Wars of the Roses still to go. Tickets still left.

On the blog, I’m working on a Christmas surprise and my colleague Isabel is writing another post. Plus, our annual visit to the costume ball, and we might go back to Irving and Caldecott.


8 responses to “A little bit of faded grandeur – country life in Kensington

  • Claudia Randolph

    So many of the wealthy  English lost their estates following WW II.    Many of the grand homes in America were lost as well.  I guess everything must come to an end.  Makes me VERY Sad.

  • teresastokes

    Wonderful to find all this about Moray Lodge here. It was for many years the home of my great grandfather, Sir Leicester Harmsworth. Here is where my grandfather proposed to Leicester’s daugther, my grandmother, and their wedding reception was held here in March 1921. The Field magazine was owned by his son Sir Harold Harmsworth, who would have put that advertisement in when it went up for sale after the death of Sir Leicester.

  • teresastokes

    “grilles” i mean.

  • Isabelle Vince

    My grandmother, Emily Shirley Tennant, often spoke of Moray Lodge, where her father, John Tennant, was coachman. His employer was Arthur Lewis. I believe the Tennant family lived in the coach house there.

    Emily told my father that Arthur Lewis was very kind and sometimes on Sundays, if he didn’t need the coach, he’d go down to the coach house and say, “John, I don’t need the coach today, would you like to take the children out for a ride?” And John would take my grandmother, Emily, and the family out around town in the coach, which was a very special and exciting outing for the children. My grandmother must have been very young on these occasions as she was born around 1885 and Arthur Lewis died in 1901.

  • Dawn Thomson

    I’ve just won a fan with a card with lady philimores name on it and ” given by Hon Mrs Vaughan Williams, upper philimore gardens W8″
    Any idea where this comes from? Could it have been auctioned in 1922 at her “at home” in aid of Dr Barnados?

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