Tag Archives: Old Brompton Road

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.

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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


The quiet life: desirable homes in old Brompton

If you were an estate agent working in the early decades of the 19th century the area around the village of Old Brompton would be a prime territory for you. It was still a nearly rural spot, of quiet roads, market gardens, nurseries, cottages and inns. There was plenty of land available for development, whether the customer wanted a family sized cottage or a suburban villa. Or even something grander. Where Brompton Lane curved south to meet Gloucester Grove there were houses to suit every kind of buyer. Cowen country as we like to call it.

 Greenwood 1820 - Copy

Looking for a place for you, your wife, your four daughters and your servant? What about Hawk Cottage?

C13 Hawk Cottage C13

This detached residence built in 1802 is located in a secluded part of the neighbourhood. There is a secure walled garden where you and your family can enjoy the pleasures of the country free from disturbance.

C12 Hawk Cottage garden

Perhaps you are looking for something a little less modest?

Brompton Villa

This exceptional three storey 1770 property is set well back from the main road. It has nine bedrooms, two dressing rooms, a drawing room, a breakfast room, a kitchen, a larder and cellars. There is a coach house with space for two coaches, an extensive kitchen garden, cow house and piggery. This would be ideal for a large family and staff, or a small religious cult looking for privacy. It was the home for a while of the celebrated poet Laetitia Elizabeth Landon.

Laetitia Elizabeth Landon

The beautiful and talented Miss Landon made an unwise marriage to a Mr McLean, the Governor of the Gold Coast. Lonely and unhappy in Africa, she died according to the coroner’s verdict “of having incautiously taken a dose of prussic acid”. There is an account of her burial  conducted by torchlight in “a pitiless torrent of rain”in the grounds of “the Castle” by a group of cloaked figures which adds a Gothic note to her mysterious death. (S C Hall – see postscript)

The estate owner has also provided some houses on the Old Brompton Road.

OS1862 X9 featuring the Rosary etc

The Rosery - Rosary Old Brompton Road cc

This 1774 house known as the Rosary is the home of Samuel Carter Hall and his wife the novelist Anna Maria Hall, author of such works as Midsummer Eve. The single storey gothic wing was added by Mr Hall as a library. This view may show the author at work.

The Rosery - Rosary Old Brompton Road Library cc

Other artistic residents of the area include the Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind.

Jenny Lind - Johanna Maria Lind Goldschmidt K61-1032

The famous singer’s longest residence was further west along the Old Brompton Road but she lived for a time in the nearby villa “Clareville”, depicted below in a sketch by Mr Thomas Hosmer Sheppard.

Clareville 1853 Hosmer Sheperd 36

If these properties are beyond your price range there are several others on our books. In leafy Cromwell Lane opposite the Stanhope Nursery you will find this pair of cottages:

C11  In Cromwell Lane

Rosalind, or Roslin Cottage is the house in the foreground. It is convenient for the White Hart Inn. In the distance is Vine Cottage, an equally substantial small family house with all modern facilities. If you continue along the lane you pass the venerable Hale House (not one of our properties I’m afraid) and turning left find the exceptional residence called Gloucester Lodge here depicted once again by the skilled hand of Mr Sheppard.

Gloucester Lodge - THS 4a

This grand house with its colonnades was the home of the respected politician Mr George Canning.

Turning southward again, and recently on the market is Mr Rigby’s Cottage.

C23  Mr Rigby's cottage

This charming rustic retreat is in need of some renovation but for the right buyer has great potential.

There is one final property to show although the current owners are not inclined to sell. We can quote from that august publication the Survey of London:

An advertisement of the house for sale in 1820 noticed its extensive aviary and conservatory, the ‘high condition’ of the plantations and the ‘particularly beautiful and diversified views’ enjoyed from the house. This shows the severest style of the Regency set off by rustic verandahing and an elaboration of sun-shades and trellis-work around the great west facing bow, evoking the fierce suns of a still crescent empire rather than umbrageous Brompton.

Cresswell Lodge by William Cowen GC2420

We would argue with the term umbrageous. The area enjoys bright weather for much of the year particularly in the salubrious grounds of Cresswell Lodge. The house is currently a school for young ladies. The head mistress Mrs Burchatt, her sisters and their five staff instruct up to 17 girls, particularly excelling in mathematics and French. We are currently negotiating with her with a view to converting the house into a small number of luxury apartments. We have established a small office for prospective clients.

The house is located off the main road behind Hawk Cottage accessed by this picturesque avenue.

C22 Avenue to Cresswell Lodge C22

If you can find your way back to 1842 our office manager Mrs Collins will be pleased to see you.

GEORGE DUNLOP LESLIE - Copy

Postscript

Indigo wash water colours by William Cowen. Pictures of the Rosary and Brompton Villa from S C Hall’s A book of memories (1877). The final picture is a detail from a painting by George Dunlop Leslie.


Return of the secret life of postcards

The unknown photographers who took this week’s pictures were working in the street like Ernest Milner who took the pictures in our Empty Street series. They were unlike Milner in two respects. They were working for themselves speculatively, taking photographs hoping to sell them later. And crucially they were working mostly during the daytime hours when the streets were no longer empty.

Notting Hill Gate PC929

This view is of Notting Hill Gate looking west. Postcard images vary enormously in quality. The best ones give you the opportunity to zoom in on the action and catch a flavour of the individual lives of the people in them.

Notting Hill Gate PC929 zoom 02

On the northern side of the street a man uses a hooked pole to pull out a shop awning. He keeps an eye on the approaching woman who won’t thank him if any water drips on her from the canvas. There are horse drawn carriages and in the distance a motor bus.

On the southern side of the street:

Notting Hill Gate PC929 zoom 01

Henry Hobson Finch’s Hoop Tavern, William J Tame, fruiterer – his staff are loading a delivery wagon- and Matthew Pittman, stationer. This is the corner of Silver Street (then the name for the northern section of Kensington Church Street) about 1904. There’s a rather dejected looking girl standing next to the delivery wagon and in the foreground a woman with a pram.

Notting Hill Gate PC929 zoom 03

She’s looking at the display to her right; her arms are straight, pushing the front wheels of the pram off the ground possibly getting ready for moving it off the pavement. The sleeves of her dress are tight to the elbows and then much bigger – the so-called “leg of mutton” look, reaching its apogee in the early 1900s. We can almost see what will happen next as her routine day continues.

The postcard is a picture of the street as a whole. Perhaps we were never intended to look this close. But as I’m sure you know by now I can never resist the details which are often found at the edge of the picture. That’s where the secret lives are found.

Still in Notting Hill, just a little further west:

Notting Hill Gate station PC 367

This picture shows the Central Line station which was on the other side of the road from the Metropolitan Line. The street on the right is Pembridge Gardens. On the left you can see the buildings on the west side of Pembridge Road – the angle is deceptive and made me puzzle over the maps for a while. Let’s go back to the first postcard.

Notting Hill Gate PC929 zoom 2a - Copy

There you can see the station, the same buildings on Pembridge Road, and the motor bus. My transport correspondent tells me that the starter arm is visible underneath the radiator and that the engine block is quite low slung which indicates that this is an early model – later models were higher off the ground to protect the undercarriage and give the driver a better view. Horlicks Malted Milk was not imported into the UK until 1890. Horse-drawn and motor buses co-existed for some years before the horse drawn versions were superseded in the early 1900s.

Look at the horse bus again:

Notting Hill Gate station PC 367 zoom 01

There are people waiting but the bus looks pretty full. That woman striding away from it has the air of a passenger who has just alighted and wants to get moving under her own steam again.

In contrast to the busy high street along the road in Holland Park Avenue things were quieter.

Holland Park Avenue PC883

During the day the quieter residential areas would be mostly given over to women and children with a few street workers and delivery boys.

Holland Park Avenue PC883 details

At the portmanteau and umbrella warehouse some window shopping is going on. This picture is not as sharp as some so it’s difficult to be sure if the two women standing together are wearing some kind of uniform.

Holland Park Avenue PC883 details 2

Something about the hats, I think with a piece of material draped down on one side.

Here’s another quiet street a little further south:

Onslow Gardens PC519

Nothing much is happening but some of the locals are paying attention.

Onslow Gardens PC519 zoom

The two women ignore the photographer and go on their way but the children and the man on the delivery tricycle are taking a keen interest.

A little further west the stillness is almost palpable in this view of Gilston Road.

Gilston Road PC1481

The church in the background is St Mary the Boltons. Instead of terraces of houses there are what one architectural guide has called “crude Italianate villas”. A little sharp if you ask me. I would call them grand suburban villas and the two women who have paused for the photographers are respectable middle class ladies

Gilston Road PC1481a

It’s a quiet dusty summer’s day in the new suburbs.

But it wasn’t all quiet at this end of the old Borough (or Vestry, depending on the date ) of Kensington.

Old Brompton Road PC816

I’ve always found this particular picture of the Old Brompton Road looking towards South Kensington Station quite intriguing, mostly because of what’s happening on the right of the picture.

Old Brompton Road PC816 detail

What does the expression on that boy’s face mean? Or is he just dazzled by the flash? Or is it just one of those odd in between two states expressions which the camera sometimes captures? Something about the body language of the girl tells me that she’s playing some part in this. Has she just said something sharp to the boy? Are they related? Or is she just posing for the camera? There’s just not enough information here. I can’t help thinking that if we just knew a little more there would be a story.

Below Fulham Road, at the junction with Drayton Gardens. Fifty years or so before this scene would be fields, market gardens and cottages in the hinterland between Kensington and Chelsea.

Fulham Road PC815

But now this is another busy street.

Fulham Road PC815 detail (2)

A belligerent looking shopkeeper, three men just hanging around on a street corner, and that man in the centre, looking to see what’s coming before stepping off the pavement. He looks like a man with places to go and people to see, not a man you want to trifle with. And of course unlike the women in these images if he was to stride out of the picture onto today’s Fulham Road we might not give him a second glance.

We’ve moved quite a short distance from one part of Kensington to the edge. Let’s go back for one more picture. This is a slightly unpromising view of Pembridge Gardens, a little discoloured with age and not particularly sharp.

Pembridge Gardens PC 335

But on the left you can see a woman and her maid.

Pembridge Gardens PC 335 zoom

It’s unusual to see a household servant on the street. Perhaps the delivery man has something which the lady didn’t want to carry in herself. Make your own story out of this one. Sometimes the past is just too out of focus for us to tell exactly what is happening.


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