Old and New London: Volume 5. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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HAMPSTEAD (continued).—ROSSLYN HILL, &c.
"Hæ latebræ dulces, et jam, si credis, amœnæ."—Horace.
Sailors' Orphan Girls' School and Home—Clarkson Stanfield—The Residence of the Longmans—Vane House, now the Soldiers' Daughters' Home—Bishop Butler—The "Red Lion" Inn—The Chicken House—Queen Elizabeth's House—Carlisle House—The Presbyterian Chapel—Mr. and Mrs. Barbauld—Rosslyn House—Lord Loughborough—Belsize Lane—Downshire Hill—Hampstead Green—Sir Rowland Hill—Sir Francis Palgrave—Kenmore House and the Rev. Edward Irving—St. Stephen's Church—The "George" Inn—The Hampstead Waterworks—Pond Street—The New Spa—The Small-pox Hospital—The Hampstead Town Hall—The "Load of Hay"—Sir Richard Steele's Cottage—Nancy Dawson—Moll King's House—Tunnels made under Rosslyn and Haverstock Hills.
Retracing our steps through Church Row on our way towards Rosslyn Hill—which is a continuation of the High Street towards London—we notice on our right, at the corner of Greenhill Road and Church Lane, a large and handsome brick building, with slightly projecting wings, gables, and a cupola turret. This is the Sailors' Orphan Girls' School and Home, which was originally established in 1829, in Frognal House, on the west side of the parish church. The present building was erected in 1869, from the designs of Mr. Ellis. The objects of the institution are the "maintenance, clothing, and education of orphan daughters of sailors and marines, and the providing of a home for them after leaving, when out of situations." The number of inmates is about one hundred, and the children look healthy and cheerful. Its annual income averages about £2,000. This institution was opened by Prince Arthur, now Duke of Connaught, in whose honour the road between it and the Greenhill is named Prince Arthur's Road.
On the Greenhill, close by the Wesleyan chapel, and where Prince Arthur's Road opens into the High Street, stands a venerable house, once the home of Clarkson Stanfield, the artist, till lately used as a branch of the Consumptive Hospital. It is now a school, and named Stanfield House. A native of Sunderland, and born about the end of the last century, Clarkson Stanfield, as we have stated in a previous chapter, (fn. 1) commenced life as a sailor. He, however, soon abandoned the sea for the more congenial pursuit of a scene-painter, having accepted an engagement at an east-end theatre, whence he soon after migrated to Drury Lane. His familiarity with the mysteries of the deep enabled him to surpass most other painters of sea-pieces. Among his early works, not already mentioned by us, were his "View near Chalonssur-Saône," and "Mount St. Michael," painted for the Senior United Service Club. Among his more important later works we may mention his "Castle of Ischia," the "Day after the Wreck," "French Troops crossing the Magra," "Wind against Tide," and "The Victory towed into Gibraltar after the Battle of Trafagar." Great as was Mr. Stanfield's knowledge of the sea, he comparatively seldom painted it in a storm. Throughout his industry was almost as remarkable as his genius. As a scene-painter he had the means of doing much towards advancing the taste of the English public for landscape art. For many years he taught the public from the stage—the pit and the gallery to admire landscape art, and the boxes to become connoisseurs; and he decorated the theatre with works so beautiful, that we can but regret the frail material of which they were constructed, and the necessity for "new and gorgeous effects," and "magnificent novelties," which caused the artist's works to be carried away. It was not the public only whom Stanfield delighted, and awakened, and educated into admiration—the members of his own profession were as enthusiastic as the rest of the world in recognising and applauding his magnificent imagination and skill. Mr. J. T. Smith, in his "Book for a Rainy Day," says, "Mr. Stanfield's easel pictures adorn the cabinets of some of our first collectors, and are, like those of Callcott, Constable, Turner, Collins, and Arnold, much admired by the now numerous publishers of little works, who unquestionably produce specimens of the powers of England's engravers, which immeasurably out-distance the efforts of all other countries." Clarkson Stanfield died in 1867 at his residence in Belsize Park, a few months after removing from his longcherished home.
Another large old red-brick house, just below that formerly occupied by Clarkson Stanfield, for many years the home of the Longmans, and the place of reunion for the Moores, Scotts, Russells, and other clients and friends of that firm, has been swept away to make room for the chapel mentioned above. The cedars which stood on the lawn are still left, and so also are some of the ornamental evergreens; the rookery and grounds adjoining are appropriated to sundry new Italian villas. The rooks, who for successive generations had built their nests in these grounds for the best part of a century, frightened at the operations of the builders, flew away a few years since, and, strangely, migrated to a small grove half a mile nearer to London, at the corner of Belsize Lane.
A little below the Greenhill, on the same side of the High Street, is Vane House; this edifice stands a short distance back from the road, with a gravelled court in front of it. Though almost wholly rebuilt of late years, it is still called by the name of its predecessor, and it is occupied as the Soldiers' Daughters' Home. Vane House was originally a large square building, standing in its own ample grounds. In Park's time—that is, at the beginning of the present century—the house had been considerably modernised in some parts, but it still retained enough of the antique hue to make it a very interesting object. The entrance at the back, with the carved staircase, remained in their original condition. In the upper storey one very large room had been divided into a number of smaller apartments, running along the whole back front of the house. The old mansion, when inhabited by Sir Harry Vane, probably received and welcomed within its walls such men as Cromwell, Milton, Pym, Fairfax, Hampden, and Algernon Sidney; and from its doors its master was carried off by order of Charles II. to the executioner's block on Tower Hill. The house was afterwards owned and occupied by Bishop Butler, who is said to have written here some portions of his masterly work, "The Analogy between Natural and Revealed Religion." The Soldiers' Daughters' Home was instituted in 1855, in connection with the Central Association for the Relief of the Wives and Children of Soldiers on Service in the Crimea, and, as the report tells us, "for the maintenance, clothing, and education of the daughters of soldiers, whether orphans or not." This "Home" is one of the most popular among the various charitable institutions in the metropolis. The present buildings, which are spacious, substantial, and well adapted to their purpose, were erected in 1858, from the designs of Mr. Munt, and they have since been enlarged. The "Home" was inaugurated under the auspices of the late Prince Consort, and has ever since been under the patronage of royalty, including Her Majesty, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, and others. The annual fête on behalf of the institution, held in the charming grounds of the "Home," is attended by the élite of fashion, and has always been quite a gala day at Hampstead. In 1874 the committee of the institution unanimously resolved to add three girls to the number of admissions into the Home by election, to be called the "Gold Coast Scholars," one from each of the regiments serving in the African war, as a tribute to the gallantry and self-sacrifice displayed by the troops employed under Sir Garnet Wolseley during the campaign in Ashantee. A fourth scholar from the Royal Marines has since been added. The Regimental Scholarships' Fund, established in 1864, was then very liberally responded to, but the contributions have since fluctuated greatly. These contributions are all funded; and when they accumulate to a sufficient sum, according to the age of the girl, and to the scale of payment in force, enable regiments to nominate a scholar for direct admission into the Home independently of election. The average number of girls in the institution is about 150, but there is accommodation for 200 when the income is sufficient for their maintenance.
Still on our right, half way down the steep descent of Rosslyn Hill, on the site now occupied by the police-station, stood formerly the "Red Lion Inn," a wooden house of great antiquity, probably dating from the fourteenth century. The "Red Lion" is so common a sign as to need no other remark except that it probably was put up in allusion to the marriage of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, with Constance, daughter of Don Pedro, King of Leon and Castile. But this house is worthy of special note, as it was held on lease from the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, on condition of its "Boniface" supplying a truss of hay for the horse of the "mass-priest," who came up from the Abbey to celebrate divine service at Hampstead on Sundays and the greater saints' days, in the Chapel of St. Mary, on the site of which now stands the parish church. Although the inn is gone, its name remains in "Red Lion Hill," as Rosslyn Hill is usually called among the working classes.
On the opposite side of the road, but a trifle lower down the hill, may be seen what little now remains of a noted old building, called the Chicken House, which Mr. Park, in his "History of Hampstead," says that local tradition designates as "an appendage to royalty." In this work it is stated that there was nothing remarkable in the interior of the house, except some painted glass, well executed, representing Our Saviour in the arms of Simeon, and (in another window) small portraits of King James and the Duke of Buckingham, under the former of which was the following inscription: "Icy dans cette chambre coucha nostre Roy Iaques, premier le nom. Le 25 Aoust, 1619." This glass afterwards formed part of the collection of Sir Thomas Neave, at Branch Hill Lodge, which we have already mentioned. Originally it was a low brick building in the farmhouse style, and of ordinary appearance. The side which abutted upon the roadway is now hid by houses and small shops; the only view of the building, therefore, is obtained by passing up a narrow passage from the street. The old building is now cut up into small tenements, inhabited by several families.
Gale, the antiquary, died at the Chicken House in 1754; he lies buried in the churchyard. In the Chicken House Lord Mansfield is stated to have lodged before he purchased Caen Wood. "But at that time, no doubt," says Mr. Howitt in his "Northern Heights," "the Chicken House had an ample garden, and overlooked the open country, for it is described as being at the entrance of Hampstead." In 1766, not many years after Lord Mansfield and his legal friends had ceased to resort hither for the purposes of "relaxation from the fatigues of their profession," the place seems to have sadly degenerated, for we are told that it had become a rendezvous of thieves and vagabonds.
Near to the Chicken House there used to stand another building, commonly known as "Queen Elizabeth's House;" its architecture, however, was of too late a date to warrant such a name, though the tradition was current that the "Virgin Queen" once spent a night there. It was subsequently occupied by some nuns, who changed its name to "St. Elizabeth's Home."
Close by the Chicken House stood, till 1875–6, a fine mansion in its own grounds, known as Carlisle House. It was the property of, or at all events occupied by, a gallant admiral, at the close of the last century; and it is a tradition in Hampstead that Lord Nelson, when in the zenith of his fame, was often a guest within its walls. The house has been pulled down, and the site utilised for building purposes.
Adjoining is the site of the Presbyterian chapel. This edifice was constructed as the successor of another chapel which is supposed to have been established in the reign of Charles II., by one of the ejected ministers whose lives are recorded by Dr. Calamy. The first Presbyterian minister was Mr. Thomas Woodcock, son of a learned divine of the same name, who had been ejected, and cousin to Milton's second wife. Zechariah Merrell, who was minister in the reign of Queen Anne, wrote the exposition of the First Epistle of Peter, in continuation of Matthew Henry's "Commentary." He died in 1732. The Rev. Mr. Barbauld, of whom we have spoken above, in our account of Church Row, was a minister here. On his leaving the congregation it ceased to be Presbyterian. The cause of Presbyterianism has, however, within the last twenty-five years been resuscitated at Hampstead. For about ten years, and until his failing health compelled him to desist, the Rev. James D. Burns preached at Hampstead to the congregation known as English Presbyterians. He was the author of "The Vision of Prophecy," and other poems. The original Presbyterian chapel is supposed to have been removed in 1736, and the chapel which superseded it was rebuilt in 1828. This, in turn, gave way to the present building, which was completed in 1862, and is one of the ugliest of modern ecclesiastical structures.
Mr. Barbauld officiated in the old Presbyterian chapel from 1785 till the commencement of this century, when he removed to Newington Green. He was a native of Germany, and died in the year 1808. His widow, who resided for many years in a house on the west side of Rosslyn Hill, was the celebrated Mrs. Anna Letitia Barbauld, and sister of Dr. John Aikin, the distinguished author and physician. The eldest child and only daughter of Dr. John Aikin, and of Jane, his wife, daughter of the Rev. John Jennings, she was born at the village of Kibworth Harcourt, in Leicestershire. Shortly after their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Barbauld settled at Palgrave, in Suffolk, where Mr. Barbauld was a Dissenting minister, and kept a school. At first all seemed prosperous. In addition to Lord Denman, Sir William Gell, Dr. Sayers, and William Taylor, of Norwich, were amongst the pupils of the Palgrave school. Here also Mrs. Barbauld wrote her "Early Lessons" and "Hymns in Prose." Their winter vacation was always spent in London, where they had the entrée into good society. After eleven years of teaching, Mrs. Barbauld and her husband left Palgrave, and ultimately planted themselves in Hampstead. Here Mrs. Barbauld found many excellent friends—Miss Joanna Baillie and others. One of Mrs. Barbauld's occasional guests at Hampstead was Samuel Rogers, the poet. Mr. H. Crabb Robinson's "Diary" contains several interesting entries concerning this lady. "In 1805, at Hackney," writes Crabb Robinson, "I saw repeatedly Miss Wakefield, a charming girl. And one day, at a party, when Mrs. Barbauld had been the subject of conversation, and I had spoken of her in enthusiastic terms, Miss Wakefield came to me and said, 'Would you like to know Mrs. Barbauld?' I exclaimed, 'You might as well ask me whether I should like to know the angel Gabriel!' Said she, 'Mrs. Barbauld is much more accessible. I will introduce you to her nephew.' She then called to Charles Aikin, whom she soon after married. And he said, 'I dine every Sunday with my uncle and aunt at Stoke Newington, and I am expected always to bring a friend with me. Two knives and forks are laid for me. Will you go with me next Sunday?' Gladly acceding to the proposal, I had the good fortune to make myself agreeable, and soon became intimate in the house.
"Mr. Barbauld had a slim figure, a weazen face, and a shrill voice. He talked a great deal, and was fond of dwelling on controversial points of religion. He was by no means destitute of ability, though the afflictive disease was lurking in him which in a few years broke out, and, as is well known, caused a sad termination to his life.
"Mrs. Barbauld bore the remains of great personal beauty. She had a brilliant complexion, light hair, blue eyes, a small elegant figure, and her manners were very agreeable, with something of the generation then departing. Mrs. Barbauld is so well known by her prose writings, that it is needless for me to attempt to characterise her here. Her excellence lay in the soundness and acuteness of her understanding, and in the perfection of her taste. In the estimation of Wordsworth she was the first of our literary women, and he was not bribed to this judgment by any especial congeniality of feeling, or by concurrence in speculative opinions."
Wordsworth, like Rogers, greatly admired Mrs.
Barbauld's "Address to Life," written in extreme
old age. "Repeat me that stanza by Mrs.
Barbauld," he said to Robinson, one day at
Rydal; the latter did so, and Wordsworth made
him repeat it again. "And," as Robinson tells
us, "so he learned it by heart. He was at the
time walking in his sitting-room, with his hands
behind him; and I heard him mutter to himself,
'I am not in the habit of grudging people their
good things, but I wish I had written those lines:—
'Life! we've been long together,
Through pleasant and through cloudy weather:
'Tis hard to part when friends are dear,
Perhaps 'twill cost a sigh, a tear:
Then steal away, give little warning;
Choose thine own time;
Say not good night, but in some brighter clime
Bid me good morning.'"
Mrs. Barbauld incurred great reproach by writing a poem entitled "1811." It is in heroic rhyme, and prophesies that on some future day a traveller from the antipodes will, from a broken arch of Blackfriars Bridge, contemplate the ruins of St. Paul's ! "This," remarks Mr. Robinson, "was written more in sorrow than in anger; but there was a disheartening and even gloomy tone, which even I, with all my love for her, could not quite excuse. It provoked a very coarse review in the Quarterly, which many years afterwards Murray told me he was more ashamed of than any other article that had appeared in the Review." Mrs. Barbauld spent the last few years of her life at Stoke Newington, where we shall again have occasion to speak of her.
A little lower down the hill, and on the same side of the way, stands Rosslyn House, formerly the property of Alexander Wedderburn, first Earl of Rosslyn, better known, perhaps, by his former title of Lord Loughborough, which he took on being appointed Lord Chancellor in the year 1795. Before purchasing this mansion, Lord Loughborough, as we have stated in a previous chapter, resided at Branch Hill Lodge, higher up in the town, on the verge of the Heath. Rosslyn House—or as it was originally called, Shelford Lodge—at that time, and long after, stood alone amidst the green fields, commanding an extensive view over the distant country. It was surrounded by its gardens, groves, and fields, with no house nearer to it than the village of Hampstead above and Belsize House below.
Lysons states that the mansion was for many years "in the occupation of the Cary family," and that it was held under the Church of Westminster. It has been supposed that it was built by a family of the name of Shelford, who, being Catholics, planted the great avenue leading to it in the form of a cross, the head being towards the east, and leading direct to the high road. "But," says Mr. Howitt, "this is very doubtful. The celebrated Lord Chesterfield," he adds, "is said to have lived here some years, when he held the lease of the manor of Belsize, of which it was a part; and more probably his ancestors gave it the name from Shelford Manor, their seat in Nottinghamshire;" for the Earls of Chesterfield held the estate of Belsize from 1683 down to early in the present century, when the land was cut up in lots, and sold for building purposes. Mr. Howitt tells us that "when Lord Rosslyn purchased the place, he added a large oval room, thirty-four feet long, on the west side, with a spacious room over it. These rooms, of a form then much in vogue, whilst they contributed greatly to the pleasantness of the house, disguised the original design of it, which was on the plan of what the French call a maison or chûteau à quatre tourelles, four-square, with a high mansard roof in the centre, and a square turret at each corner, with pyramidal roof. Notwithstanding various other alterations by Lord Rosslyn and his successors, part of this original structure is still visible, including two at least of the turrets."
Here Lord Loughborough used to entertain the Prince of Wales and the leaders of the Whig party, including Fox, Sheridan, and Burke, with other distinguished personages of opposite politics, such as Pitt, Windham, and the Duke of Portland. "Junius" was not among his friends, as may be guessed from the fact of his describing him as "Wedderburn the wary, who has something about him which even treachery cannot trust."
Whilst holding a subordinate legal office, he fomented the war against America by furiously attacking the colonists to such an extent that Benjamin Franklin swore that he would never forgive the insults that he heaped upon his countrymen. Lord Loughborough was much disliked, and, to speak the honest truth, despised also, by Lord Thurlow. The fact is that he was rather a turncoat, and played fast and loose with both parties.
"Lord Loughborough," says Mr. Howitt in his "Northern Heights of London," "was one of that group of great lawyers who, about the same time, planted themselves on the heights of Hampstead, but with very different characters and aims—Mansfield, Loughborough, and Erskine. Lord Loughborough was, in simple fact, a legal adventurer of consummate powers, which he unscrupulously and unblushingly employed for the purposes of his own soaring and successful ambition." From the time of his promotion to the Lord Chancellorship—the grand aim of his ambition—he seems to have given way fully to his unbounded love of making a great figure on the public stage. "His style of living," says Lord Campbell, "was most splendid. Ever indifferent about money, instead of showing mean contrivances to save a shilling, he spent the whole of his official income in official splendour. Though himself very temperate, his banquets were princely; he maintained an immense retinue of servants, and, not dreaming that his successor would walk through the mud to Westminster, sending the Great Seal thither in a hackney coach, he never stirred about without his two splendid carriages, exactly alike, drawn by the most beautiful horses, one for himself, and another for his attendants. Though of low stature and slender frame, his features were well chiselled, his countenance was marked by strong lines of intelligence, his eye was piercing, his appearance was dignified, and his manners were noble."
In 1801-the Great Seal passed from his hands to those of Lord Eldon. "After this," writes Mr. Howitt, "his influence wholly declined. He seemed to retain only the ambition of being about the person of the king, and he hired a villa at Baylis, near Slough, to be near the Court; yet so little confidence had he inspired in George III., with all his assiduous attentions, that when the news of his death was brought to the monarch, who had seen him the day before—for he went off in a fit of gout in the stomach—the king cautiously asked if the news were really true; and being answered that it was, said, as if with a sense of relief, 'Then he has not left a greater knave behind him in my dominions!'"
Lord Brougham, in his "Historical Sketches," gives his own estimate of Lord Rosslyn's character, which is equally severe. He describes him as a "man of shining but superficial talents, supported by no fixed principles, embellished by no feat of patriotism, nor made memorable by any monuments of national utility; whose life being at length closed in the disappointment of mean and unworthy desires, and amidst universal neglect, left behind it no claim to the respect or gratitude of mankind, though it may have excited the admiration or envy of the contemporary vulgar."
After Lord Rosslyn's death the house passed through several hands. It was first of all inhabited by Mr. Robert Milligan, the projector of the West India Docks, and afterwards successively by Sir Francis Freeling, secretary of the General Post Office, by Admiral Sir Moore Disney, and by the Earl of Galloway. The place subsequently fell into the hands of a speculative builder, who, happily, failed before the old mansion was destroyed or all the old trees were cut down, though it was shorn of much of its beauty. The house still stands, though much altered externally and internally, and deprived of most of its grounds. The estate was cut up for building purposes about 1860–5, and is intersected by roads named after Lords Thurlow, Mansfield, Lyndhurst, Eldon, and other great legal luminaries. For some four years before the above-mentioned period the house had been used as a cradle for the Soldiers' Daughters' Home. In 1860 Prince Albert led the children up the hill to their new home, which, as we have already stated, occupies the site of old Vane House. In 1861 the mansion was purchased by Mr. Charles H. L. Woodd, a descendant of John Evelyn, and of Dr. Basil Woodd, Chancellor of Rochester, who fought under Charles I at the battle of Edge Hill. In the course of alterations and repairs, which this gentleman has had effected, several coins of Elizabeth, Charles II., and William III. were found under the flooring. "Upon the old panellings, when the canvas covering was removed," Mr. Howitt tells us, "were seen the words written, 'To-morrow last day of Holidays!!! 1769.' At first it was supposed that Lord Chesterfield's son, to whom the 'Letters' were addressed, might have inscribed this pathetic sentence; but the date shuts out the possibility. Lord Chesterfield died in 1773, and this his only son five years before him."
The main body of the avenue still exists, and amongst its trees are some very fine Spanish chestnuts; they are supposed to have been planted about the close of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
On the south side of Rosslyn House there is a narrow thoroughfare called Belsize Lane, which, down to about the year 1860, had a truly rural appearance, its sides being in part bordered by hedge-rows, and overhung by tall and flourishing trees. Part of these trees and hedgerows still remain. In it, too, was a turnpike gate, which stood close to the farm-house which still stands about the centre. The Queen was driving up this lane on one occasion to look at Rosslyn House, with the idea of taking it as a nursery for the royal children. A little girl, left in charge of the gate, refused to allow Her Majesty to pass. The Queen turned back, according to one account; according to another, she was much amused, and one of her equerries advanced the money necessary to satisfy the toll; but however that may have been, Her Majesty did not become the owner or the tenant of Rosslyn House.
At the foot of Rosslyn Hill, on the left, next to Pilgrim's Lane, is Downshire Hill, so called after one of the ministers in Lord North's cabinet, Lord Hillsborough, afterwards first Marquis of Downshire. At the foot of Downshire Hill, where John Street branches off, stands a plain heavy structure, which has long served as a chapel of ease to Hampstead, and known as St. John's Chapel.
Hampstead Green, as the triangular spot at the junction of Belsize Lane and Haverstock Hill was called till it was appropriated as the site for St. Stephen's new church, has many literary associations. In one of the largest houses at the southern end, now called Bartram's, Sir Rowland Hill, the philanthropic deviser of our penny post system, spent the declining years of his useful and valuable life. Born of yeoman parents, at Kidderminster, in December, 1796, in early life he became a schoolmaster, and, together with his brothers, he established the large private school which for more than half a century has flourished at Bruce Castle, Tottenham. It was he who showed forcibly the abuses and wastefulness of the old system of highpriced postage, and it is to him that the middle classes of this country mainly owe the introduction of the penny post, which superseded that system in 1840, as well as the improvements of the MoneyOrder Office, and the use of postage-stamps. His next public benefit was the establishment of cheap excursion trains on our railways on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, an experiment first made when Sir Rowland Hill was chairman of the Brighton Railway Company. In 1854 he was recalled to assist in the Control of the General Post Office, first as Assistant Joint-Secretary, and afterwards as Chief Secretary. He was rewarded for his great public services by a knighthood, with the Order of the Bath, Civil Division, coupled with a pension on his retirement. But the reward which he valued the most was the sum of £13,000 which was presented to him, and which was largely contributed from the pence of the poor. In 1876, when he was upwards of eighty, it was resolved to erect in his honour a public statue at Kidderminster, where he was born. The veteran philanthropist is a man who has never spared himself from hard work, and as a schoolmaster, as a postal reformer, as an officer of "my Lords of the Treasury," as a railway reformer, and as a social reformer, he has done enough work to have slain even a strong man.
Next door to Sir Rowland Hill lived Sir Francis Palgrave, the historian of the Norman Conquest, &c. He was of Jewish extraction, and at an early age became connected with the Office of Public Records, of which he became the Deputy Keeper in 1838. His name is well known as the author of the "History of the Norman Conquest," "Calendars of the Treasury of the Exchequer," and of many antiquarian essays, and also of a work of a lighter character, the "Merchant and the Friar." Two of his sons, who spent their childhood here, have since attained to eminence—Mr. Francis T. Palgrave, of the Privy Council Educational Department, as a poet and art-critic; and Mr. William Gifford Palgrave, as an Eastern traveller, and the author of the best work that has been published of late years on Arabia.
Kenmore House, a little lower down, has attached to it a large room originally built for the Rev. Edward Irving, who would here occasionally manifest to his followers the proofs of his power of speaking in the "unknown tongues."
St. Stephen's Church, mentioned above, was built in 1870, from the designs of Mr. S. S. Teulon. It is of the early semi-French style of architecture, of very irregular outline, and unusually rich in external ornament. Altogether, the church has a very handsome and picturesque appearance. In the lofty campanile tower there is a beautiful peal of bells and a magnificent carillon, the gift of an inhabitant of the place.
The "George" Inn, on Hampstead Green, once a quaint old roadside public-house, is now resplendent with gas-lamps, and all the other accessories of a modern hotel. Close by this hotel is the church belonging to the religious community known as the Sisters of Providence; their house, formerly Bartram's Park, was the residence of Lord S. G. Osborne.
Hampstead Green, at the lower or eastern end, gradually dies away, and is lost in Pond Street, which leads to the bottom of the five or six ponds on the Lower Heath. Pond Street has been, at various times, the temporary home and haunt of many a painter and poet. Leigh Hunt at one time lived in lodgings here; John Keats occupied, at the same date, a house near the bottom of John Street, immediately in the rear, almost facing the ponds. Among the more recent residents of Pond Street may be enumerated Mr. George Clarkson Stanfield, who inherits much of his father's talent, and Mr. Charles E. Mudie, the founder of the great lending library in New Oxford Street.
Near one of the lower ponds on the East Heath, nearly opposite the bottom of Downshire Hill and John Street, is a singular octagonal dome-crowned building, built about the reign of Queen Anne; it is connected with the Hampstead Water-works, and forms a picturesque object to the stranger as he approaches Hampstead from Fleet Road and Gospel Oak.
At the commencement of the present century another mineral spring was discovered on the clay soil, between the bottom of Pond Street and the lower end of the Heath. It was called the "New Spa," and is so marked on a map which appears in a small work published in 1804 by a local practitioner, Thomas Goodwin, M.D., and a Fellow of the College of Surgeons, under the title of "An Account of the Neutral Saline Waters lately discovered at Hampstead." The work includes an essay on the importance of bathing in general, and an analysis of the newly-found waters; but the New Spa never displaced or superseded the older "Wells" near Flask Walk; and its memory and all traces of its site have perished, though, no doubt, its existence caused the erection of so many modern houses at the foot of the slope of Pond Street.
Close to Hampstead Green, on the eastern slope looking down upon Fleet Road and Gospel Oak, is an irregular structure, which at the first view resembles barracks hastily thrown up, or a camp of wooden huts. This structure was first raised under the authority of the Metropolitan Asylums Board, as a temporary Fever Hospital, about the year 1867; it has since been used for the accommodation of pauper lunatics; and in 1876–7 it was appropriated to patients suffering from an outbreak of small-pox, very much to the discomfort and annoyance of the residents of Hampstead, who petitioned Parliament for its removal, but in vain. Its location here, in the midst of a population like that of Hampstead, and close to two thoroughfares which during the summer are crowded by pleasure-seekers, cannot be too strongly censured, as tending sadly to depreciate the value of property around the entire neighbourhood.
On the right of Haverstock Hill the visitor can scarcely fail to remark a fine old avenue of elms, which, as we shall see presently, once formed the approach to Belsize House. At the corner of this avenue is a drinking-fountain, most conveniently placed for the weary foot-passenger as he ascends the hill; and close by it stands a handsome Town Hall, in red brick and stone, in the Italian style, erected by the inhabitants of Hampstead in 1876–77, at the cost of £10,000.
Lower down the road, on the opposite side of the way, and just by the top of the somewhat sharp descent of Haverstock Hill, is the well-known tavern bearing the sign of the "Load of Hay," which occupies the place of a much older inn, bearing witness to the once rural character of the place. Its tea-garden used to be a favourite resort of visitors on their way to Hampstead Heath, who wished to break the long and tedious walk. The entrance to the gardens was guarded by two painted grenadiers—flat boards cut into shape and painted—the customary custodians of the suburban tea-gardens of former times. The house itself was a picturesque wooden structure until about the year 1870, when, shorn of most of its garden, and built closely round with villas, it degenerated into a mere suburban gin-palace.
On the opposite side of the road were the poplars that stood before the gate of Sir Richard Steele's cottage, over the site of which Londoners now drive in cabs and carriages along Steele's Road. A view of Sir Richard Steele's cottage on Haverstock Hill, standing in the midst of green fields, and apparently without even a road in front of it, from a drawing taken in 1809, is to be found in Smith's "Historical and Literary Curiosities," and it is also shown in our illustration above, on p. 295. It may be interesting to know that it was much the same in outward appearance until its demolition, about the year 1869, though close in front of it ran the road to Hampstead, from which it was sheltered by the row of tall poplars alluded to above.
Sir Richard Steele was living on Haverstock
Hill in June, 1712, as shown by the date of a letter
republished in fac-simile in Smith's "Historical and
Literary Curiosities." "I am at a solitude," he
writes, "an house between Hampstead and London, where Sir Charles Sedley died. This circumstance set me thinking and ruminating upon the
employment in which men of wit exercise themselves. It was said of Sir Charles, who breathed
his last in a room in this house—
'Sedley had that prevailing, gentle art
Which can with a resistless charm impart
The loosest wishes to the chastest heart:
Raise such a conflict, kindle such a fire,
Between declining virtue and desire,
Till the poor vanquished maid dissolves away
In dreams all night, in sighs and tears all day.'
This was a happy talent to a man of the town, but I dare say, without presuming to make uncharitable conjectures on the author's present condition, he would rather have had it said of him that he prayed—
'O thou my voice inspire
Who touched Isaiah's hallowed lips with fire.'"
Nichols somewhat unkindly suggests that there "were too many pecuniary reasons for the temporary solitude" in which Steele resided here.
We have already spoken at some length of Sir Richard Steele in our account of Bury Street, St. James's, (fn. 2) but still something remains to be told about him. "The life of Steele," writes his biographer, "was not that of a retired scholar; hence his moral character becomes all the more instructive. He was one of those whose hearts are the dupes of their imaginations, and who are hurried through life by the most despotic volition. He always preferred his caprices to his interests; or, according to his own notion, very ingenious, but not a little absurd, 'he was always of the humour of preferring the state of his mind to that of his fortune.' The result of this principle of moral conduct was, that a man of the most admirable qualities was perpetually acting like a fool, and, with a warm attachment to virtue, was the frailest of human beings." The editor of the "Biographia Dramatica" says: "Sir Richard retired to a small house on Haverstock Hill, on the road to Hampstead. … Here Mr. Pope, and other members of the Kit-Cat Club, which during the summer was held at the 'Upper Flask,' on Hampstead Heath, used to call on him, and take him in their carriages to the place of rendezvous." Dr. Garth, too, was a frequent visitor here. He was a member of the Kit-Cat Club, and notorious for his indolence. One night, when sitting at the "Upper Flask," he accidentally betrayed the fact that he had half-a-dozen patients waiting to see him, and Steele, who sat next him, asked him, in a tone of banter, why he did not get up at once and visit them. "Oh, it's no great matter," replied Garth; "for one-half of them have got such bad constitutions that all the doctors in the world can't save them, and the others such good ones that all the doctors could not possibly kill them."
Here Steele spent the summer days of 1712, in the company of many of his "Spectators," returning generally to town at night, and to the society of his wife, who, as we have stated, at that time had lodgings in Bury Street. Fortune seems to have smiled on Steele for a time, and we next hear of him as having taken a house in Bloomsbury Square, where Lady Steele set up that coach which landed its master in so many difficulties. No mention, apparently, is to be found of Steele's residence at Haverstock Hill in Mr. Montgomery's work on "Sir Richard Steele and his Contemporaries." In the Monthly Magazine, Sir Richard Phillips tells us that in his time Steele's house had been "converted into two small ornamental cottages for citizens' sleeping boxes. . . Opposite to it," he adds, "the famous 'Mother' or 'Moll' King built three substantial houses; and in a small villa behind them resided her favourite pupil, Nancy Dawson. An apartment in the cottage was called the Philosopher's Room, probably the same in which Steele used to write. In Hogarth's 'March to Finchley' this cottage and Mother King's house are seen in the distance … Coeval with the Spectator and Tatler, this cottage must have been a delightful retreat, as at that time there were not a score of buildings between it and Oxford Street and Montagu and Bloomsbury Houses. Now continuous rows of streets extend from London to this spot."
Steele's cottage was a low plain building, and the only ornament was a scroll over the central window. It was pulled down in 1867. The site of the house and its garden is marked by a row of houses, called Steele's Terrace, and the "Sir Richard Steele" tavern. A house, very near to Steele's, was tenanted by an author and a wit of not dissimilar character. When Gay, who had lost his entire fortune in the South Sea Bubble, showed symptoms of insanity, he was placed by his friends in retirement here. The kindly attentions of sundry physicians, who visited him without fee or reward, sufficed to restore his mental equilibrium even without the aid of the famous Hampstead waters.
Nancy Dawson died at her residence here in May, 1767. Of this memorable character Mr. John Timbs writes thus in his "Romance of London:"—"Nancy Dawson, the famous hornpipe dancer of Covent Garden Theatre, in the last century, when a girl, set up the skittles at a tavern in High Street, Marylebone. She next, according to Sir William Musgrove's 'Adversaria,' in the British Museum, became the wife of a publican near Kelso, on the borders of Scotland. She became so popular a dancer that every verse of a song in praise of her declared the poet to be dying in love for Nancy Dawson, and its tune is as lively as that of 'Sir Roger de Coverley.' In 1760 she transferred her services from Covent Garden Theatre to the other house. On the 23rd of September, in that year, the Beggar's Opera was performed at Drury Lane, when the playbill thus announced her: 'In Act 3, a hornpipe by Miss Dawson, her first appearance here.' It seems that she was engaged to oppose Mrs. Vernon in the same exhibition at the rival house; and there is a full-length print of her in that character. There is also a portrait of her in the Garrick Club collection." She lies buried behind the Foundling Hospital, in the ground belonging to St. George the Martyr, where there is a tombstone to her memory, simply stating, "Here lies Nancy Dawson."
Both Rosslyn and Haverstock Hills, it may here be stated, have had tunnels carried through them at a very heavy cost, owing to the fact that the soil hereabouts is a stiff and wet clay. The northernmost tunnel connects the Hampstead Heath station with the Finchley Road station on the branch of the North London Railway which leads to Kew and Richmond. The other tunnel, which is one mile long, with four lines of rails, passes nearly under the Fever Hospital, and was made by the Midland Railway in 1862–3.