Tag Archives: Brompton

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.


Down Brompton Lane: more houses and stories

This is another leg in our journey through Old Brompton in the first half of the 19th century when Brompton Lane (now Old Brompton Road) was a main artery linking Fulham with the Kensington Turnpike. You already know that this was a country of market gardens, nurseries, inns and and tea houses and above all isolated houses known through watercolours by Cowen and Shepherd or maps with the evocative names of their makers – Greenwood, Crutchley, Starling.

We start at a house we have seen before.

Gloucester Lodge THS15b Cpic 119

Gloucester Lodge was the short lived home of the politician George Canning, built on the site of Florida Gardens opposite the future site of Gloucester Road station. Thomas Hosmer Shepherd has captured a certain gloomy wildness in the scene. Canning was never happy there.

The most enigmatic of the artists of the old Brompton area was the artist of the Red Portfolio.

Hale House  2538

Hale House was a little way north of Brompton Lane between Gloucester Lodge and Roslin Cottage which we’ve also seen before. Greenwood’s 1820 map shows several of the houses we’ve encountered in our travels.

Greenwood 1820 - Copy

John Rocque’s 1741-45 map of Kensington shows it in a rather more isolated position and calls it Hell House which is surely an error (there were many variations in the names of places on these early maps) but it is one which would have pleased the Red Portfolio artist who loved a good story. The other story about Hale House is that it had once been occupied by Cromwell, but although the house was 16th century this is doubtful. The name stuck though and when the grounds of the house were turned into a public tea gardens in 1785 they became Cromwell Gardens. The artist notes that the owner was hedging his bets with a bust of Charles II over the door. The gardens were entered by a small bridge just visible under the arch on the right of the circular lawn. “Mr Hughes used to exhibit his feats of horsemanship in the circle around the tree.”

The house had several outbuildings as can be seen in this watercolour by William Cowen.

C8 Hale House

I’ve split the image below in half. The house had a partial moat fed by a spring. The spring also supplied water for  a bath house.

The Conduit in the grounds of Hale House 2522

Inside was a conduit used for bathing.

The Conduit in the grounds of Hale House 2522 - Copy

It doesn’t look too inviting, but opportunities for bathing were thinner on the ground then. It looks like a good place for a secret meeting or an assignation, an idea which would also have appealed to the artist.

The figure on horseback was also said to be Cromwell. Hale House was demolished in 1853.

If you had followed the narrow lane (possibly called Cromwell Row) past Roslin Cottage you would come to the alms houses buillt by William Methwold (one of the occupants of Hale House).

Old Mansion, Old Brompton Road c. 1837-40

The Alms Houses are the small buildings on the right. The large building is described by the artist as an old mansion – a later archivist has added “on Old Brompton Road”. One author thinks that the house is Brompton Hall, described in an advertisement of 1749 as “the Great White House” where there was accommodation for “persons afflicted with Nervous Disordesr”. I’m not quite sure how that squares with the position of the Alms Houses on the map above, but who knows? It isn’t the only place painted by this artist which is hard to locate now.

The lane turned south east to bring you to Brompton Lane nearly opposite the Hoop and Toy Inn.

Hoop and Toy C26

Cowen gives it his usual air of bucolic calm. Note the two figures seated at a bench and the tower of St Luke’s Church in Chelsea, only  a short distance  away.

We also have a view of the inn by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd.

Hoop and Toy Inn Thurloe Place THS26a Cpic16

Shepherd was a very much better known artist than Cowen. He painted hundreds of water colour views of London many of which were the basis for engravings which were published in books and seperately. He was a distinctly urban artist with a precise eye for architectural detail so it’s quite appropriate that he should become our main guide as we approach London.

There seems to have been a host of houses in the area with similar names including two Grove Houses, one on Kensington Gore, and the  other close to the Hoop and Toy, also known as Brompton Place and possibly also Grove Lodge. Shepherd calls this Grove House, Bronmpton.

Grove House Brompton THS28a

This Grove House would have been close to the current site of South Kensington Station. At the time of the painting it still enjoys the rural isolation of old Brompton. It had been the home in the 18th century of the magistrate Sir John Fielding the blind half-brother of the novelist Henry Fielding and founder of the Bow Street Runners. The “Blind Beak” had also lived in Chelsea but he died at Grove House in 1780. Sometime later the literary journalist William Jerdan lived there. Jerdan was also a founder – of the Literary Gazette in which he published the first poems of his friend and neighbour Letitia Elizabeth Landon. We came across her, and her tragic history in a previous post.

Shepherd likes the scampering dog and  the birds in the sky (also favourites of the Chelsea artist W W Burgess).

Further east down the road was another large house, Brompton Park House.It went from a single home to one of the inevitable girl’s boarding schools in the 18th century. It had then been split into a terrace of three houses, as it seems to be here, visible on the right, across the street from another inn, the Bell and Horns.

We’ve finally arrived at Brompton Road, the former Kensington Turnpike from Hyde Park Corner to Hammersmith.

Bell and Horn by TH Shepherd THS17

The Bell and Horns looks like a welcome spot to stop on a lonely journey, but imagine Brompton Oratory on the right and buildings right up to a rebuilt three storey verson of  the inn from the left.

But let’s not end the journey at an inn. Not far away in the late 1820s Holy Trinity Church had been built at the lonely end of the road.

Holy Trinity Church Brompton THS20a

An avenue of trees leading down to to the church. The little dog again, and a couple of women in the modest fashions of the 1840s.It could be the setting for an M R James story. Shepherd, like the other artists has his own world of subdued middle class life. This is the direction life was taking in the old district of Brompton.

Postscript

I suppose this is the last of my ventures into old Brompton (although you never know….). We’ll certainly be looking at Thomas Hosmer Shepherd again soon.

Thanks to Isabel for last week’s post. And thanks also to Kim for some last minute scanning earier today.


Bladen Lodge and Bousfield School: 20th century Brompton

When I was writing some of the recent posts about the Old Brompton area I made a list of the named individual houses along and near  the Old Brompton Road to help me.  The fascination of that area for me is that almost all of it was completely redeveloped in the second half of the 19th century and in the whole of the 20th, so that the quiet semi-rural road with seperate houses, inns and market gardens is now gone and was hardly touched by the age of photography. It now has to be known using maps and water colour paintings. Both can be tools of the imagination as much as records of how things looked. So Old Brompton is partly a fantasy world, partly a place reconstructed from books and plans.

However some of those houses were photographed. This week’s post is about one of those and the remarkable building that replaced it.

If you go eastwards from the modern Coleherne Court you pass a stretch of road which was called Bolton Gardens. In one of the group of eight houses there was the house where Beatrix Potter lived as a child. Behind it was South Bolton Gardens where there were three large houses: Rathmore Lodge, Osborn House and Bladen (or Bladon) Lodge. The modern version of this street is a cul-de-sac leading to Bousfield School which was built in 1954-56. . This is a view of the south front of Bladen Lodge.

Bladen Lodge Country Life March 17 1964 p287 south front - Copy

The original Bladen Lodge was built in 1836, an unremarkable house with a substantial garden (though much smaller than that of  Hereford House / Coleherne Court). In 1927  a Mr C L Dalziell acquired it and in 1928 had two wings added to the east and the west. The architect  was Clough Williams-Ellis. His name will be familiar to fans of the 60s TV series the Prisoner as the creator of the location of the series, the exotic Italianate village of Portmerion in Wales.

Bladen Lodge Country Life March 17 1964 p287  forecourt 1 - Copy

This shows the Mediterranean paved garden on the north side of the house with its enigmatic pond. It’s quite different from the nearby houses but oddly recaptures the seclusion of the walled gardens of older and more modest houses like the long gone Hawk Cottage.

C12 Hawk Cottage garden

William Cowen might have been impressed by William-Ellis’s improvements which almost doubled the size of Bladen Lodge.

Bladen Lodge Country Life March 17 1964 p287 forecourt 2 - Copy

I could easily imagine this view as part of the Village. It has the same other-wordly quality as Portmerion, particularly when I recall my first pre-video viewings of the Prisoner in cool black and white. Here is a view of part of Portmerion:

P1010461

Inside Bladen Lodge was really  another English country house.

Bladen Lodge Country Life March 17 1964 p288 drawing room - Copy

The interior is less packed with decoration than the old Coleherne Court and there were a few modernist touches here and there but the old pattern of drawing room, dining room:

Bladen Lodge Country Life March 17 1964 p288 dining room - Copy

And above all the library was retained:

Bladen Lodge Country Life March 17 1964 p288 library - Copy

Bladen Lodge was bombed during the war and the site largely cleared. There were proposals for a block of flats but the London County Council already had an eye on the site for a new school. They acquired several houses in Bolton Gardens to expand the site and built Bousfield School in 1954-56.

Bousfield School west front 1956 K61-536

Here I declare an interest. Bousfield School is a striking building and I’ve been aware of it since I first worked in the area. But my son (now the transport consultant to the blog, as well as a technical advisor on IT matters) went to the school in the 90s so I’ve been in and out of the buliding many times and have grown very fond of it.

The post-war schools building programme was a decisive break with the old county schools of London. It owes more to Le Corbusier than the tall sometimes gloomy Edwardian schools that still survive in many parts of London.

A “villa in a park” was what the architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon were aiming for, and that is pretty much what they got.

Bousfield School west front 1956 K61-535

At the rear is that curious sphere on a pole, a water tower, which still causes passers-by to do a double take. It also just struck me that it bears a certain resemblance to Rover the strange bubble device which pursued Number 6 and the others in the Prisoner. That woman on the right looks perturbed about something.

Bousfield School east front 1965 K65-120

The entrance has an ornamental pond, still frequented by water fowl despite its small size.

Bousfield School assembly hall K60-320

The interior is light, airy and full of space, even when dozens of children are moving around it at a rapid pace.

Bousfield School stairsl K60-320

This staircase reminds me of the interior of the Mendelsohn house in Old Church Street.

So although it’s a shame that Williams-Ellis’s 20th century reworking of a Georgian house no longer exists, Bousfield School adds some post war distinction to predominantly 19th century stretch of road.

I’m adding a couple of bonus pictures to complete this look at the junction of Old Brompton Road and the Boltons. On the east side of the Boltons another house was built two years after Bladen Lodge.

Sidmouth Lodge The Boltons  Copy

This was Sidmouth Lodge. The Survey of London with its usual eye for the telling detail describes the facade as “neo-Greek…with a grave and narrow entrance between Ionic columns”. Once this is pointed out the slightly faded photograph does catch a slightly mortuary look to the entrance. Behind this view was a house built in 1842 by Robert Gunter as a cottage for yearly letting which was given the intriguing name of Moreton Tower. I haven’t been able to find a picture of that unfortunately.

Sidmouth House was demolished in 1939. A telephone exchange was built on the site. That building still exists sitting incongruously on the edge of the oval of large villas which forms the Boltons. More of them another  time perhaps.

Finally, go back to that list of Bladen Lodge’s neighbours. One of those houses, Osborn House built in 1805 is still with us, possibly the last survivor of Old Brompton now nestled right against the grounds of Bousfield School.

DSC_4337

I took this photograph a few weeks ago while I was doing some field work for another quirky building tale of old Brompton which I may yet lay before you.

Postscript

As you may have guessed I was a little pushed this week. Not only was I off work for a few crucial days but my computer at home, a long serving Dell Studio died tragically preventing me working on this post there. But I was very taken with the pictures of Bladen Lodge which come from Country Life of March 1934 and wanted to use them even if there weren’t quite enough. I’m working on yet another old Brompton post but I won’t do that for a little while, to give you a bit of a rest.

The image of Portmerion is from this excellent site devoted to black and white photography:

http://lookingattheworldinblackandwhite.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/portmeirion.html

Incidentally, my son like many others of his generation finds my devotion to the Prisoner inexplicable. He’d rather watch Hong Kong buses and Russian car crashes.

Postscript to the postscript

I don’t normally come back to posts to add stuff but I thought this detail from the 1862 OS map might help a bit.

1862 OS Map X9 showing Bladon Lodge


Inside Coleherne Court: 1876

Welcome back to Coleherne Court. Come inside. The unknown lady and her dog will be pleased to let you look around.

001 Rear exterior detail

As mentioned last week Coleherne Court (aka Coleherne House) was occupied from 1865 to 1898 by Edmund Tattersall and his family.

002 hall

These pictures date from 1876 just after the end of what is sometimes called the High Victorian period in architecture and design. This was a time of highly decorative interiors, patterned wallpaper, oriental rugs and heavy polished wooden furniture. Also in this case some kind of animal skin hanging from the staircase.

003 drawing room b

In my captions for the images I’ve called this a drawing room. I don’t know how accurate that term is but the impression I get of the room is opulence and excess. Patterned walls, patterned floor, patterned upholstery. A large number of cushions and pictures, and what looks like a beaded curtain.

003 drawing room a

On the other side of the curtain is another room filled with objects and pictures.

Copy of Edmund Tattersall p204

Edmund Tattersall  had become a partner in the family firm of bloodstock auctioneers in 1851 and subsequently head of the business. He married Elizabeth Byers in 1862. They moved into Coleherne Court in 1865 when Edmund was aged 49.  He brought with him a collection of trophies and paintings, particularly of horses and races. You can see some of both in this picture of a dining room:

004 dining room a

I think this is the the room visible beyond:

006 sitting room a

A stag at bay (one of several apparently in Mr Tattersall’s collection) and a portrait of a lady. A writing desk is in the foreground with a flimsy looking chair.

This view is the same room from the opposite direction:

007 sitting room b

More wildlife is on display in the pictures. The light streaming in from the window is a little too much for the camera but gives the impression of summer weather outside.

Is that a violin case perched on the chair? This was a musical household. Mrs Tattersall was well known for hosting musical performances in the house. She played the piano, her daughter Ethel played the violin and her other daughter Violet sang. The two Miss Tattersalls also acted in plays put on at the house “Miss Tattersall’s Lady Stutfield was no less impressive as Miss Tancred’s Lady Windermere…..(she) was at once gay, coy and demure.” as one critic said.

Upstairs, a bedroom with a single bed:

009 bedroom a

It boasts a daybed and its own collection of pictures, portraits mostly.

Once again we have a view of the same room from the opposite direction.

010 bedroom b

You can see that this is still a well-appointed room in which the occupant could while away many hours.

012 another sitting room

This looks like another sitting room, or a small study, again packed with pictures and books.

I’ve assumed the room below is some kind of servant’s room, but I’m open to suggestions. It looks quite comfortable so perhaps it could be a butler or housekeeper’s room.

013 servants room

Now we can go outside again. This OS map of 1865 shows the grounds at the time when Tattersall moved in. You can see that his house and Hereford House look like they are a fair distance from each other.

Copy of Coleherne and Hereford 1865

You can also make out the location of the former fishpond which you could see on one of the maps shown last week. The map also shows the covered walkway into the house from the street and the tennis courts.

The property was described  in Vincent Orchard’s book about Tattersalls as “well-wooded” with “a thick belt of  oaks, elms, acacias and planes” sheltering it from the “obtrusive ugliness of Redcliffe Square”, which is quite a harsh judgement on Redcliffe Square, whose inhabitants at the time would have considered it a perfectly acceptable street in which to live.

Nevertheless inside the walls of the property was a perfect example of a Victorian secret garden.

015 garden

A perfect lawn, secluded places to sit and feel yourself well protected from the growing city outside the walled garden.

016 garden path

There were many paths to meander down on quiet afternoons and lose yourself in thought. Or, like the lady in this final picture relax as best you could in the fashions of the high Victorian era, and imagine yourself in the country setting  of Old Brompton just a few decades before. Forget about the summer in the city.

014 garden - lady in hammock

Just drift away…..

Postscript

Sorry, I started quoting song titles at the end there. That last picture is an amazing find in itself.

I am enormously grateful to Miss Yvonne Wyatt who donated the album of photographs and some related papers to the Local Studies collection. Also to her late brother Mr Tompkin who lived in the later Coleherne Court. No Local Studies collection can do without the generous donations of people like them.


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.

 


The village of the dead: wandering in Brompton Cemetery

This week’s post features more photographs by Bernard Selwyn. One of his major obsessions was Brompton Cemetery and he took literally hundreds of photos of it particularly in the early 1990s.  By then the cemetery was part working cemetery, part ancient monument and part wildlife reserve. He (and I) enjoyed the overcrowded and overgrown look of an old cemetery. it’s another form of  the beauty of decay. But instead of the industrial decay that we saw in Lots Road, this is a studied form of neglect. The managed growth of vegetation gives the cemetery an air of calm, like an oasis of countryside in the city.

16 dec 1990 5

A slightly misty December morning.

And a sunny afternoon in August:

26 aug 1990 B12

We have grown into an appreciation of the Victorian celebration of death, the elaborate mourning rituals and even more elaborate monuments. But it’s one of those areas where the past really is another country. The Victorians were closer to death than we are. They died more easily and more frequently. They died at home. They lost children. And when their loved ones were gone they wanted to visit them in a place where they could grieve. The public cemetery movement in the first half of the 19th century was partly a response to public health considerations, as the church yards and burial grounds filled up, but it also filled the cultural needs of a population that was becoming more urbanised.

So as the cities filled up, the dead moved out to the country. This design by Benjamin Baud shows the West London and Westminster Cemetery as a walled garden in the open country.

Brompton Cemetery designby Baud

The great tree-lined central avenue leads down to an circular colonnade beyond which is the Anglican chapel. In the design there were two side chapels for Roman Catholics and Dissenters. These were never executed due to considerations of cost.

Brompton Cemetry & Kensington Canal by Cowen

There were also plans for a water gate on the Kensington Canal for barge-born coffins.

Victorian London was ringed by a series of these cemeteries: Kensal Green, Highgate, Abney Park, Nunhead, and others. The great cemetery in Glasgow is called the Necropolis – a city of the dead. At 39 acres, Brompton is quite compact (the sprawling Kensal Green is 56 acres) – a village of the dead, and as London grew around it it was squeezed by major roads to the north, south and east, with a railway on the east in the filled-in canal.

17 aug 1990 D4

Looking north west across the central circle, with the Earls Court Exhibition Centre and the Empress State Building on the horizon.

12 Jan 1991 23

Looking south at the eastern entrance to the colonnades. The Belvedere Tower at Chelsea Harbour and one chimney of Lots Road power station on either side of the domed chapel and the bell tower.

There are monumental tombs with familiar features:

17 aug 1990 D26

The funeral urn covered in drapery.

17 aug 1990 D33

An angel, with two crosses.

17 aug 1990 D32

A woman in classical dress with a cross carved to look like wood.

There are also some unusual monuments such as this:

06 aug 1990 A24

A sad and weathered lion marks the grave of Gentleman John Jackson,  a boxer. Many famous names are buried in Brompton – Emeline Pankhurst, John Snow, Henry Cole, Fanny Brawne, Marchesa Luisa Casati, to pick a few from the list.

Here for example, in the centre of the picture, is the monument to the musician Richard Tauber:

23 aug 1990 C25

On the right edge though, partially obscured by the undergrowth, is a monument  to someone who isn’t interred at Brompton.

23 aug 1990 C34

When I first explored Brompton in the 1980s I would sometimes sit where that man is sitting. It’s a pleasant spot for eating sandwiches and reading ( I recall reading a lot of Gollancz thrillers) . Wondering who was inside this Egyptian style mausoleum I consulted the Survey of London and discovered that it was built for Francis Jack Needham, 2nd Earl of Kilmorey. (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=50028

From other sources I learned that the Earl was apparently dissatisfied with this potential resting place and had another Egyptian mausoleum built for him near his house in Twickenham  Which is interesting enough but you can also discover through the medium of the internet that this mausoleum is the tomb of two spinster sisters (unnamed on the sites I looked at) and is also either a time machine or one of several time portals planted across London for the convenience of temporal travellers. As the custodian of a purely metaphorical time machine I was naturally amazed to hear this.

Also amazing is the fact stated in at least two usually reliable sources: that Kilmorey initially erected the tomb at Brompton and later transplanted it to Twickenham. All  I can say is that I have seen this mausoleum at Brompton over a number of years and that I’m pretty sure it’s still there now.

I like a fanciful tale as much as the next man (more, probably) but the romance and wonder of Brompton Cemetery lies in the solemnity of the memorials and the calm country atmosphere rather than steampunk stories.

26 aug 1990 B18

The sometimes forlorn graves and monuments.

17 aug 1990 A30A

The feeling that you might be in a country lane (so long as you don’t look up and see a tower block.)

You could walk down a dark set of steps into the catacombs. I once went on a short tour of the then partially open circle. It’s very quiet down there.

17 aug 1990 D35

In the colonnades you catch a glimpse of another time when people walked this path to visit a loved one.

17 aug 1990 D15

Brompton Cemetery, which was once a walled garden in the midst of semi rural Old Brompton is now the last reminder of that forgotten part of London’s past.

Brompton Cemetery

Postscript

I wouldn’t want to be drawn into any arguments so I won’t cite any sources for the strange tales about the Kilmorey mausoleum or its possible movements. As I’ve said I like a fanciful story, and I like to tell stories myself. So no offense intended to anyone. Brompton Cemetery is a place which captures the imagination.

Incidentally the Earl’s daughter-in-law Ellen Constance Needham features in one of the costume ball posts and has her own interesting story.

The indigo wash view of the canal and cemetery is by William Cowen. I’ve used it before but it is appropriate here.

If all goes to plan we’ll only be moving a few hundred yards to the subject of next week’s post, another tale of old Brompton.


The Red Portfolio: more tales of old Brompton

It’s an archivist’s joke. The watercolour paintings by an unknown artist which were formerly kept in a red portfolio are now stored in a green archive box labelled…the Red Portfolio. The pictures, probably loose sheets by the time they fell into the archivist’s hands were carefully removed from the portfolio and mounted or (later) put into acetate sleeves. On the reverse of the sheets the artist wrote notes, some of them copious. These were later transcribed, not always precisely, as the archivist was sometimes better informed than the artist on certain historical points.

Old Brompton 2530

The village of Old Brompton in the late 1820s (“opposite Brompton Heath and Selwood Lane”). A rural spot with a motley collection of houses looking a little like they might be about to collapse. In the house on the left the hindquarters of a horse are visible, and a woman in the window remonstrating with someone. Actually I think it was Sallad Lane, as shown on this map of 1829 by Crutchley.

Crutchley 1829 Brompton - Copy

The map locates Old Brompton fairly precisely. Since then the name has been used to describe a much vaguer area. Nearby was another quiet thoroughfare.

Old houses Thistle Grove 2525

Thistle Grove (now Drayton Gardens, not the modern Thistle Grove). On the right the Jolly Paviours Inn (Paviours were artisans who laid paving stones – though not in this neighbourhood by the looks of it), a favourite of the artist George Morland. He was said to be responsible for painting the inn sign, and for paying his bar bill with a painting for the parlour. They always say that about feckless artists though, don’t they? (Although Morland was more feckless than most.)

I like the house on the left with the stairs leading up to the front door, conveniently situated above the muddy road. Quite a nice house for an artist or a place for a visitor to stay.

We learn a few facts about the painter of these pictures along the way but we never find out a name or a gender. The artist was familiar with the history of the area through local tradition and thorough knowledge of the work of Thomas Faulkner, one of the pioneers of local history in west London to whom he or she sometimes refers in his penciled notes. (The slight evidence of poor handwriting and time spent in taverns made me lean towards a male artist, but the same handwriting and a certain delicacy of touch made my colleague M argue the case that she was a woman. There is no overwhelming proof either way.)

We have to move off the map section above way past the western limit of the territory we can call Brompton to a cluster of buildings near Putney Bridge called Fulham. In the High Street was a tavern called the Golden Lion Inn.

Golden Lion front 2520

A Golden Lion still exists today, a little altered probably.  Down the same street closer to Putney Bridge stands a building which is now a pub called the Temperance, an ironic name for a former temperance hall. I remember it in the 1970s when it was a snooker / billiards hall. When I first went there my friends announced that we were going to a place called “Lards”. It had that name because those were the only remaining letters in the illuminated sign.

Forgive my digression. I brought you down here for a glimpse inside.

Golden Lion Inn High Street Fulham interior of the hall 1837-40 2518

The artist gives the measurements of the empty room and reports that it was the residence of Bishop Benson.

Golden Lion Inn High Street Fulham interior servants room 2521

This equally vacant space was the servant’s hall.

This is what I wanted to show you. Perhaps it was a habit of painters at this time but this interest in empty rooms is also a feature of the work of that other enigmatic local watercolourist Marianne Rush. (Try the link) There are other shared characteristics.

Florida Gardens 2529

The extravagant and slightly inaccurate foliage is a Rush trope. So is the over-sized writing on the sign and the figures which don’t quite seem to belong. Florida Gardens, Hogmore Lane  was a house which had been converted into a public tea garden by Mr Hyam,”a German gardener“. It was located on the east side of what is now Gloucester Road, opposite the tube station. There are now many establishments on this spot where you can buy burgers or coffee, or change some currency. No gardens to sit in though.

Residence of M la Touche Little Chelsea 2526a

The residence of Monsieur la Touche in Little Chelsea has the same exotic vegetation with some  particularly wild trees. I have been unable to find any details about the resident himself. Is that door open? Is there a smudge-like figure standing at it? Mrs Rush used to like details like that.

I’m not suggesting the artist actually is Mrs Rush. There are plenty of differences. To be unkind for a moment it may be that they share a lack of some artistic skills with regard to depicting objects and places but I could also say they share a kind of weird vision which overcomes any objection to technique.

Billings Well 2533

Here is Billing’s Well, in the northernmost of a set of fields called the Three Billings. The artist gives an autobiographical snippet: “I use to go for the purpose of gathering water cresses,  being large and good”.

“In 1781 the  waters spread from this well over a large piece of ground….the well is resorted to and frequented by visitors..the water said to be good for sore eyes and legs (its qualitys not known by me)”

The avenue of trees on the right conceals a path which would have taken a walker to Holland House.The field is now part of Brompton Cemetery.

Even though we know her name, the unknown artist is perhaps less of a mystery than Mrs Rush. She or he had a liking for pieces of local history and tradition.

Old House which stood nearly adjoining the Swan Inn 2527

This house  was “nearly adjoining the Swan Inn” (look back at the map), and had been a pest house (a place where victims of infectious diseases were kept, sometimes forcibly). In the early 1700s it was full of Scottish lodgers so was called the Scotts Barracks or slightly libellously the Beggars Rest. The figure of a one legged man is included to illustrate this.

Ship Inn 2523

The Ship Inn (later the Swan) stood, according to the archivist in Swan Lane (later Selwood Terrace) where Queen’s Gate intersects with Old Brompton Road. You can see from the map that this is not quite right as Selwood Terrace (where Dickens stayed briefly before his marriage) was nearer to Fulham Road.

I’m only showing you eleven pictures this week. I’m holding back a few of the Red Portfolio pictures for another day. But the last one is an intriguing one I think.

Red Lion Tea Gardens Brompton 1782 2537

The Red Lion Tea Gardens, “stood on the high Brompton Road to Earl’s Court“, an unfortunately imprecise description. (There was a tea garden behind the Swan). The sign, surrounded by a ring of ropes, depicts a somewhat eccentric red lion with a word which looks like “snips“. Beneath it hangs an embroidered smock and a bonnet. The artist suggests that these are a prize for the winner of a game played in the grounds. I on the other hand am tempted to imagine some esoteric or ceremonial rural activity involving an effigy and a person. But more than a century of supernatural stories lie between me and the artist so I won’t let my imagination run away with me. I’ll leave it to you to wonder who was going to wear those garments and why. Perhaps if you had been walking by that day you might have shuddered and waked on instead of entering.

We’ll do that ourselves and as the sun goes down we’ll stroll back through the fields and paths back to those upper rooms in Thistle Grove. We could cross the road to the tavern later and look at Morland’s picture. And listen, like the unknown artist, to some of our fellow patrons’ stories of old Brompton.

Postscript

The unknown artist shares his or her area of interest with our old friend the  artist William Cowen who was a rather more skilled painter. But I’m glad to add her or him to the list of artists who have chronicled that rural hinterland between Kensington and Chelsea. I’m sure we’ll be back there again.


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