Thomas Hosmer Shepherd doesn’t get a whole entry to himself in the Dictionary of National Biography. The details of his life are tagged on to the entry about his more eminent older brother George Sidney Shepherd who was also a painter of watercolours and a draughtsman. The difference in status between the two seems less significant now that some time has passed since they both died in the 1860s.
It’s Thomas we’re dealing with here though .His fame is based on the large number of watercolour paintings of London many of which were turned into into engravings for use in books about London.
You won’t find any of today’s images in any of the editions of Shepherd’s London because of course strictly speaking we’re not in London. Kensington was a suburb, near to the City of Westminster but not quite in it.
Last week we finished with a view in Brompton, of Holy Trinity Church which is on the road to another vaguely defined area, Knightsbridge. This is another ecclesiastical picture of the Brompton Oratory Buildings, hence the black robed figures in the foreground.
Below is a more secular view, of Brompton Road, a terrace of its fashionable new houses, complete with the dashing horseman, some admiring ladies and the obligatory feature of Shepherd pictures, the little running dog.
If we move north we come to the main road west from the same area, the road formerly known as the Kensington Turnpike.
The large buidling is the Kensington Cavalry Barracks next to the Kensington Toll Gate on what is now Kensington Road. Here it is on Crutchley’s map 0f 1827 (click on the image for a larger view):
East of the barracks the building below stood on the site of the current Albert Hall Mansions.
Gore House was the home of William Wiberforce and the society beauty and author Marguerite, Countess of Blessington. She lived in lavish style there until the money ran out. Later the French chef Alexis Soyer of the Reform Club lived there and had a Gastronomic Symposium of All Nations in the grounds. Soyer ran soup kitchens in Dublin during the Irish potato famine and organised hospital kitchens during the Crimean War. He was the last occupant of Gore House. Soon after his death it was demolished, in 1858.
Far from modest itself was Kensington House.
This was not the magnificent and short lived Kensington House built by the financial speculator Baron Albert Grant in the 1870s (In some ways the Forgotten Building par excellence. But I only have a couple of pictures of it.). This Kensington House was bought and demolished by Grant. But in its time it had been the home of the Russian Ambassador (the first one to live in Kensington but not the last), a boy’s school and a scandalous lunatic asylum.
Now we take a detour up Kensington Church Street.
This is Maitland House, from inside the grounds where an elegant couple are walking that same dog. There is no mystery in Shepherd’s architectural views which are sometimes a little fussy. They resemble something an estate agent of the day might have used to promote sales. They make up for the lack of atmosphere with accuracy and a certain charm. Maitland House was the home of the Scottish painter Sir David Wilkie and the philosopher John Stuart Mill.
A street view of another house in Kensington Church Street, Newton House. A street vendor with his daughter, perhaps, and a boy with his dog. Newton House was named after Sir Isaac Newton who had lived in one ot the houses owned by Stephen Pitt in the area but it’s unlikely it was this one.
The building below, in Marloes Road on the south side of Kensington High Strret looks pleasant in Shepherd’s picture. But you wouldn’t want to have ended up living there.
This is the Stone Hall section of Kensington Workhouse,built in 1846. Like its cousin in the Fulham Road it was built for a neighbouring parish in Westminster and eventually became a hospital, St Mary Abbotts. As these places went it wasn’t one of the worst, but still. When it closed as part of the reconstruction which created the new Chelsea Westminster Hospital the buildings became part of a housing complex.
Further down the High Street on the way to Hammersmith is an inn on the western edge of Holland Park.
This view of the White Horse (not the two dogs) must have been a historical view. Shepherd also painted the building which replaced it on the site, another inn.
This inn was called the Holland Arms. although the scene is rather less rural than the previous one and the inn has lost its garden, the place still looks relaxed. The people stand as though having their photographs taken. The horse stands as though its rider is about to dismount. Even the dog is now still. I think the woman on the left looks a little more modern in her dress but I suppose you shouldn’t read too much into Shepherd’s figures. They’re a little like the stock people who inhabit architectural drawings. I’m programmed to wonder about them despite that.
Both Shepherd and his brother had precarious artistic careers and died in reduced circumstances within a couple of years of each other, well before photography took over as the principal method of recording the appearance of places.
Thomas Hosmer Shepherd also left us some interesting views of Chelsea which we’ll look at another day.
The rather annoying message “The property of the Kensington Public Libraries” must have been stamped rather barbarously on the front (what was wrong with the back?) of these pictures by some pre-1965 employee of the Council. You don’t come across that very often, I’m glad to say.
I’ve been taking a break from work and I’ve been working on three posts at once. The other two still need a little more research so who knows what’s coming next week.
Continuing the practice of acknowledging sources, I leaned heavily on Kensington Past this week, a book by the late Barbara Denny and Carolyn Starren, now unfortunately out of print.