Tag Archives: Beatrix Potter

Christmas Days: Miss Potter’s House

Beatrix Potter 1882

Today’s post arises from one picture.  We know about the fact that Beatrix Potter lived on the Old Brompton Road when she was growing up in a house in a section of the road called Bolton Gardens. And we know the site is now occupied by Bousfield School and that there is a marker on the exterior wall of the school commemorating the fact that she lived there. But I for one had never seen a picture of the house until I came across this photo in the the Selwyn Papers.

Bolton Gardens 2-7 BP's house - Copy

You can see that Mr Selwyn has marked up the photo with the house numbers. Now unfortunately for my purposes the young Miss Potter lived at number 2 which is only just visible. However, you can also see that number 2 looks like it was a mirror image of number 3 so you can probably fill in the rest from your imagination. Personally I found the picture fascinating. It’s now easy to picture the young Beatrix making her way from left to right in this picture perhaps on her way to Brompton Cemetery, where she is supposed to have noted down names from the gravestones – Jeremiah Fisher, Mr Tod, Peter Rabett (bit of a long shot that one) – for later use as character names.

Although there are many similar houses in the area there is something about the fact that this is the one, where the young Beatrix lived and kept a diary. The picture below is her, her father and brother in the Lake District.

Beatrix Potter with her father and brother 1885

She lived at 2 Bolton Gardens for more than forty years. Although she had friends in London, visited art galleries, lived a normal middle class life, you suspect her heart was in the country. She would have seen something of the old Brompton being absorbed into the city, which is probably why she spent time in the Cemetery.

Postscript

Sorry, a bit late tonight. We were watching Elementary.


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.

Postscript

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.

 


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