Old and New London: Volume 6. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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FULHAM (continued).—WALHAM GREEN AND NORTH END.
Vine Cottage—The Pryor's Bank—The "Swan" Tavern—Stourton House—Ranelagh House—Hurlingham—Broom House—Sandy End—Sandford Manor House, the Residence of Nell Gwynne, and of Joseph Addison—St. James's, Moore Park—Walham Green—St. John's Church—The Butchers' Almshouses—A Poetic Gardener—North End—Browne's House—North End Lodge—Jacob Tonson—North End Road—Beaufort House—Lillie Bridge Running-ground—The Residence of Foote, the Dramatist—The Hermitage—The Residence of Bartolozzi—Normand House—Wentworth Cottage—Fulham Fields—Walnut-tree Cottage—St. Saviour's Convalescent Hospital—The Residence of Dr. Crotch—Samuel Richardson's House—Other Noted Residents at Fulham.
Having arrived at the end of the High Street, whence, at the commencement of the preceding chapter, we started on our tour towards the church and palace, we will now pass to the south side of the church, and thence shape our course along the river-side to the eastern boundary of the parish. The first building to attract our attention is a stucco-fronted house, of Gothic design, standing between the church and the river. It occupies the site of a former house, called Vine Cottage, from a luxurious vine which covered the exterior. The humble situation of the old edifice having attracted the fancy of Mr. Walsh Porter, he purchased it, raised the building by an additional storey, and otherwise considerably altered its appearance. The entrance-hall, constructed to look like huge projecting rocks, was called the robbers' cave; one of the bed-rooms was named the lions' den; whilst the dining-room is stated to have represented, on a small scale, the ruins of Tintern Abbey. Here Mr. Porter had the honour of receiving and entertaining, on several occasions, the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV. Vine Cottage was at length disposed of by Mr. Porter, and became, in 1813, the residence of Lady Hawarden. It was subsequently occupied by Mr. William Holmes, M.P. ("Billy Holmes"), and by others. But at length the cottage was pulled down, and the house now standing was erected on its site. The new owners filled the rooms with all sorts of antiquarian objects, from an ancient gridiron to Nell Gwynne's mirror, in its curious frame of needlework; indeed, the place became like a second "Strawberry Hill." Pictures of ancient worthies, wainscoting and rich tapestries, adorned the walls; painted glass, rich in heraldic devices, filled the windows; and the new name of the "Pryor's Bank" was given to the place.
An ample account of all the treasures which the house and gardens contained, together with details of the masques and revels which took place here, are given in Mr. Croker's book from which we have already quoted, and from which we extract the following:—"Though within the walls of the Pryor's Bank, or any other human habitation, all that is rich in art may be assembled, yet, without the wish to turn these objects to a beneficial purpose, they become only a load of care; but when used to exalt and refine the national taste, they confer an immortality upon the possessor, and render him a benefactor to his species; when used, also, as accessories to the cultivation of kindly sympathies and the promotion of social enjoyment, they are objects of public utility." The revival of old English cordiality, especially at Christmas, had been always a favourite idea with the owners of the Pryor's Bank, and in 1839 they gave a grand entertainment, which included a "masque," written for the occasion, in which the principal character, "Great Frost," was enacted by Theodore Hook. The words of the piece were printed and sold in the rooms, for the benefit of the Royal Literary Fund, and resulted in the addition of £3 12s. 6d. to the coffers of that most admirable institution.
The record of this memorable evening in Theodore Hook's "Notes" has a Pepysian twang about it:—"30 December, 1839. To-day, not to town; up and to Baylis's; saw preparations. So, back; wrote a little, then to dinner, afterwards to dress; so to Pryor's Bank, there much people—Sir George and Lady Whitmore, Mrs. Stopford, Mrs. Nugent, the Bulls, and various others, to the amount of 150. I acted the 'Great Frost' with considerable effect. Jerdan, Planché, Nichols, Holmes and wife, Lane, Crofton Croker, Giffard, Barrow. The Whitmore family sang beautifully; all went off well."
The charms of the Pryor's Bank have been sung
in verse, in the "Last New Ballad on the Fulham
Regatta"—a jeu-d'esprit circulated at an entertainment given here in 1843—of which the following
lines (some of them not very excellent as rhymes)
will serve as a specimen:—
"Strawberry Hill has pass'd away,
Every house must have its day;
So in antiquarian rank
Up sprung here the Pryor's Bank,
Full of glorious tapestry,
Full as well as house can be;
And of carvings old and quaint,
Relics of some mitr'd saint,
'Tis—I hate to be perfidious—
'Tis a house most sacrilegious."
Like those of its prototype, Strawberry Hill, the contents of the Pryor's Bank have long since been dispersed under the hammer of the auctioneer. The first sale took place in 1841, and lasted six days; the remainder was sold off in 1854.
Between the Pryor's Bank and the approach to the bridge stood till 1871, when it was destroyed by fire, a picturesque old waterside tavern, the "Swan." It had a garden attached, looking on to the river. The house is supposed to have been built in the reign of William III., and it is said to have been scarcely altered in any of its features since Chatelaine published his views of "The most Agreeable Prospects near London," about 1740. In the elaborate ironwork which supported the sign was wrought the date 1698. The house, with its tea-gardens, was the favourite resort of boating people, and is made mention of in Captain Marryat's "Jacob Faithful." Amongst a few old coins, found in clearing away the ruins after the fire above mentioned, was a shilling of the time of William III., dated 1696.
Passing to the east side of Bridge Street we find several old houses, which have the appearance of having once "seen better days;" whilst of others a recollection alone remains in the names given to the locality where they once stood. Stourton House, afterwards called Fulham House, close by the foot of the bridge, is said to have been a residence of the Lords Stourton three centuries ago. Next is Ranelagh House, the grounds of which are prettily laid out, and extend from Hurlingham Lane down to the river-side. This house, in the last century, belonged to Sir Philip Stephens, one of the Lords of the Admiralty, whose only daughter was the wife of Lord Ranelagh, to whom the property was bequeathed. The next mansion eastward is Mulgrave House, formerly the seat of the Earl of Mulgrave, and afterwards of Colonel Torrens and Lord Ranelagh. The Earl of Egremont, the Countess of Lonsdale, and other distinguished persons, formerly had residences hereabouts, but these have been for the most part swept away, or converted to other uses.
Hurlingham House, the grounds of which on the south side are bounded by the river, is altogether unnoticed by Faulkner in his "History of Fulham," although Hurlingham Field is frequently mentioned in old documents; and it has been considered as most probable that the name arose from the field having been used for the ancient sport of hurling. The spot gained an unenviable notoriety at one time as the site of the pest-house and burial-pit, in the time of the Great Plague of London. The pest-house was pulled down in 1681, and the materials were sold. Hurlingham was for many years the residence of Mr. J. Horseley Palmer, Governor of the Bank of England; it is now best known by its grounds, which are much patronised by the lovers of pigeon-shooting and other aristocratic pastimes of a similar character.
Broom House was for some time the residence of Sir John Shelley, of Maresfield Park, Sussex, who died here in 1852, and afterwards of the Right Hon. L. Sulivan, the brother-in-law of Lord Palmerston. The name of the property appears to be of some antiquity. Bowack mentions, in his time, the commencement of the last century, a collection of cottages by the river-side, called Broom Houses, and says, "The name rose from the quantity of broom that used to grow there." Eastward of Broomhouse Lane, as far as Sandy End Lane, on the eastern side of the parish, the land bordering the Thames is occupied chiefly as market gardens.
At Sandy End, near a little brook which once divided Chelsea from Fulham, not far from the "World's End," (fn. 1) was Sandford Manor House, once the residence of Nell Gwynne, of which a sketch may be seen in Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall's "Pilgrimages to English Shrines." It now forms part of the buildings included in the premises of the Imperial Gas Company. Its gables have been removed, and the exterior modernised; but there still remains the old staircase, up and down which fair Mistress Nell Gwynne's feet must often have paced.
We catch another glimpse of Joseph Addison in this once remote neighbourhood. Faulkner, in his "History of Fulham," published in 1811, describes, at the eastern extremity of the parish, situated on a small creek running to, or rather up from, the Thames, a building known as Sandford Manor House, formerly of some note as having been at one time the residence of the notorious "Nell Gwynne." "The mansion," he then writes, "is of venerable appearance: immediately in front of it are four walnut-trees, affording an agreeable shade, that are said to have been planted by royal hands; the fruit of them is esteemed of a peculiarly fine quality." But this was probably a little bit of that imagination which soon turns royal "geese" into "swans."
Two letters of Joseph Addison, written from
Sandford Manor House in 1708, are interesting
memorials of the state of this neighbourhood in
the reign of Queen Anne, and also of the intense
relish for rural scenes and pleasures which marked
a man who was the author of many of the best
papers in the Spectator, and also an Under-Secretary of State. They are addressed to the young
Lord Warwick, to whom he afterwards became
stepfather. In the first he gives a particular account of a curious bird's-nest found near the
house, about which his neighbours were divided in
opinion, some taking it for a skylark's, some for
that of a canary, whilst he himself judged its inmates to be tomtits. In the second letter he
writes: "I can't forbear being troublesome to your
lordship while I am in your neighbourhood. The
business of this, to invite you to a concert of music
which I have found in a tree in a neighbouring
wood. It begins precisely at six in the evening,
and consists of a blackbird, a thrush, a robinredbreast, and a bullfinch. There is a lark that,
by way of overture, sings and mounts till she is
almost out of hearing, and afterwards falls down
leisurely and drops to the ground, as soon as she
has ended her song. The whole is concluded by
a nightingale that has a much better voice than
Mrs. Tofts, and something of Italian manners in
its diversions. If your lordship will honour me
with your company, I will promise to entertain
you with much better music and more agreeable
scenes than you ever met with at the opera, and
will conclude with a charming description of a
nightingale, out of our friend Virgil:—
"'So close in poplar shades, her children gone,
The mother nightingale laments alone,
Whose nest some prying churl had found, and thence
By stealth conveyed the unfeathered innocents;
But she supplies the night with mournful strains,
And melancholy music fills the plains.' "
This letter places before us a picture of the elegant essayist on a bright May evening, with upturned ear, beneath some lofty elm or oak, charmed with the beautiful oratorio of the birds in the woods about Fulham—an oratorio now, it is to be feared, no longer heard.
The south-eastern side of the parish, between Fulham Road and the river, including the works of the Imperial Gas Company, was formed, in 1868, into a new ecclesiastical district, called St. James's, Moore Park. The church, a large cruciform structure of Early-English architecture, was built from the designs of Mr. Darbishire.
Walham Green is—or, rather, was—a triangular plot of greensward on the north side of the Fulham Road, upon which, in former times, donkeys had been wont to graze, and the village children to play at cricket.
The derivation of the name of Walham Green is somewhat obscure and doubtful. Lysons and Faulkner say it is properly Wendon, the manor of Wendon being mentioned in a deed of conveyance, in 1449; but it is also called, in various old documents, by the name of Wandon, Wansdon, Wansdown, and Wandham. It seems to have been first called by its present name about the end of the seventeenth century. The green, as such, has long since disappeared, and some national schools now occupy its site. In 1828 St. John's Church was erected, as a chapel of ease to Fulham. The edifice covers the spot which was formerly the "village pond," but which was filled up when the spread of building in this direction rendered such a proceeding necessary. The church is a brick building, of common-place Gothic design, with a tall tower, adorned with pinnacles.
There were at one time a few noteworthy old houses at Walham Green, but of these scarcely a vestige now remains; and within the last halfcentury the place may be said to have assumed altogether a new aspect, more especially since the erection of the Butchers' Almshouses, the first stone of which was laid by Lord Ravensworth, in 1840. Since that time, as Mr. Croker informs us, "fancy fairs and bazaars, with horticultural exhibitions, have been fashionably patronised at Walham Green by omnibus companies, for the support and enlargement of this institution." The almshouses are a neat cluster of buildings, occupying three sides of a square, opening upon Farm Place, close beside St. John's Church.
In the London Magazine for June, 1749, Mr.
Bartholomew Roque thus apostrophises, in rhyme,
if not in poetry, this once rural spot:—
"Hail, happy isle! and happier Walham Green!
Where all that's fair and beautiful are seen!
Where wanton zephyrs court the ambient air,
And sweets ambrosial banish every care;
Where thought nor trouble social joy molest,
Nor vain solicitude can banish rest,
Peaceful and happy here I reign serene,
Perplexity defy, and smile at spleen.
Belles, beaux, and statesmen all around me shine
All own me their supreme, me constitute divine;
All wait my pleasure, own my awful nod,
And change the humble gard'ner to the god."
Mr. B. Roque, it need scarcely be added, was a well-known florist in his day; and the "belles, beaux, and statesmen" by whom he speaks of being surrounded were nothing more nor less than new varieties of flowers dignified by distinguished names. He was brother of Mr. Roque, the surveyor, to whose "Map of London and its Environs, in 1748," we have several times had occasion to refer in the progress of this work.
The "Swan" Brewery and Tavern at Walham Green have been established upwards of a century.
North End, a hamlet of Fulham, lying between Walham Green and Hammersmith Road, is described in the "Ambulator" (1774) as "a pleasant village near Hammersmith, where are the handsome house and finely-disposed gardens lately possessed by the Earl of Tilney, and of the late Sir John Stanley." Mrs. Delaney, in one of her letters to Dr. Swift, in 1736, writes: "My employment this summer has been making a grotto at North End for my grandfather, Sir John Stanley." The mansion, called Browne's House, was at the commencement of the last century the seat of Lord Griffin, but in 1718 became the property of Sir J. Stanley. It was afterwards owned by Francis Earl Brooke, who sold it to the Duke of Devonshire, by whom it was sold, in 1761, to Sir Gilbert Heathcote. It was pulled down about the year 1800, and its site turned into a brickfield.
At North End Lodge, close by Walham Green, lived for some time Mr. Albert Smith, the popular lecturer and writer, and here he died, in 1860.
Jacob Tonson, the celebrated bookseller, of whom we have already spoken in our account of the Strand, (fn. 2) had a house at North End for many years, before removing to Barn Elms, just above Putney; and Mrs. Nisbet (afterwards Lady Boothby) was likewise at one time a resident here.
North End Road, by which we now proceed on our way to Hammersmith, is almost one continuous line of ordinary cottages and middle-class shops, which are rapidly extending on the left-hand side over Fulham Fields. In Faulkner's time, at the commencement of this century, it was a country road, winding between market gardens, but contained a few good houses, which had been "successively occupied by several eminent and remarkable characters." These, however, have now for the most part disappeared.
On the east side of the road, at a short distance from Walham Green, stands Beaufort House, now used as the head-quarters of the South Middlesex Volunteer Corps, and the meeting-place for the sports and races of the London Athletic Club; and between this and West London and Westminster Cemetery, from which it is separated by the West London Junction Railway, is Lillie Bridge Runningground, a place familiar to the lovers of cricket, pedestrian matches, bicycle races, &c.
Foote, the dramatist and comedian, resided for many years at North End, where he had a favourite villa. The place when he took it was advertised to be completely furnished, but he had not been there long before the cook complained that there was not a rolling-pin. "No!" said he; "then bring me a saw, I will soon make one;" which he accordingly did, of one of the mahogany bed-posts. The next day it was discovered that a coal-scuttle was wanted, when he supplied this deficiency with a drawer from a curious japan chest. A carpet being wanted in the parlour, he ordered a new white cotton counterpane to be laid, to save the boards. His landlord paying him a visit, to inquire how he liked his new residence, was greatly astonished to find such disorder, as he considered it. He remonstrated with Foote, and complained of the injury his furniture had sustained; but Foote insisted upon it all the complaint was on his side, considering the trouble he had been at to supply these necessaries, notwithstanding he had advertised his house completely furnished. The landlord now threatened the law, upon which Foote threatened to take him off, saying an auctioneer was a fruitful character. This last consideration weighed with the landlord, and he quietly put up with his loss. The house, upon the improvement of which Foote spent large sums of money, was for many years called The Hermitage, and is now known as Mount Carmel Retreat. It stands in North End Road, at the corner of Lillie Road, and is surrounded by a large garden enclosed by high walls.
Exactly opposite to this house, at the angle of the road, stood till recently an old dwelling-house called Cambridge Lodge, which was once the abode of Francesco Bartolozzi, the celebrated Florentine artist, who arrived in England in 1764, and came to reside here in 1777. He was the father of Madame Vestris, the well-known comedian, singer, and theatrical manageress.
A little to the west of North End Road, almost surrounded by market gardens, stands Normand House, a large, rambling, old-fashioned brick building, profusely overgrown with ivy. Over the principal gateway is the date, 1664, and the building is said to have been used as an hospital during the Great Plague in the following year. In 1813, according to Faulkner, the local historian, "it was appropriated for the reception of insane ladies." Mr. Croker, in his "Walk from London to Fulham," says that Sir E. Lytton Bulwer at one time resided here. The house is now once more used as a lunatic asylum for ladies.
Close by is a small house called Wentworth Cottage, once occupied by Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall. In the garden in front of the house grows a willow planted by them from a slip of that which overshadowed the grave of Napoleon at St. Helena.
The open ground hereabouts, known as Fulham Fields, but which is being rapidly encroached upon by the hands of the builder, was formerly called "No Man's Land." Faulkner says that it contained in his time (1813) "about six houses." One of these was "an ancient house, once the residence of the family of Plumbe," the site of which is now covered by a cluster of dwellings which were erected for the labourers in the surrounding market gardens, that reach from Walham Green nearly to the Thames, the North End Road forming the eastern boundary of Fulham Fields.
Retracing our steps to North End Road, we will resume our walk northwards. Immediately beyond Bartolozzi's house, enclosed by an old wall supposed to date from the time of Charles II., stood a tall house, once the residence of Cheeseman, the engraver, a pupil of Bartolozzi. Farther on, on the opposite side of the way, also stood till 1846, when it was pulled down, Walnut-tree Cottage, which was at one time the residence of Edmund Kean, the actor, and also of Copley, the artist, the father of Lord Lyndhurst. Cipriani, the painter, once had a house close by this spot, but it has long since shared the fate of its more aristocratic neighbours, and been removed, to give place to modern bricks and mortar.
A large stucco-fronted house on the right, close by the railway station, was built many years ago by Mr. Slater, as a family residence, but has since been converted to other purposes. About the year 1875 the mansion was taken by the benevolent Society of St. John of Jerusalem, by whom it was fitted up, with the intention of using it as a convalescent hospital; but circumstances arose which caused the idea to be abandoned. The house was, however, subsequently secured by a religious sisterhood, by whom it has been used for the above-mentioned purpose, and known as St. Saviour's Convalescent Hospital.
The house once inhabited by Dr. Crotch, the distinguished musician, which was situated a short distance farther up the road, has been levelled with the ground, and a row of humble dwellings, called Grove Cottages, erected in its place. Dr. Crotch's house is said to have been previously the residence of Ryland, the engraver, who was executed for forgery in 1783.
Nearly opposite Grove Cottages is a large house—now cut up into two, one being stucco-fronted, and ornamented with a veranda, and the other faced with red brick—which was for many years the residence of Samuel Richardson, the author of "Clarissa Harlowe," "Sir Charles Grandison," &c. Here he entertained large literary parties, including such men as Johnson, Boswell, &c. In the gardens attached to the house are some fine cedars. Most of Richardson's works were written whilst he was living here. Mrs. Barbauld, in her "Life" of the novelist, prefixed to his "Correspondence," tells us how that he "used to write in a little summer-house or grotto, within his garden, at North End, before the family were up, and when they met at breakfast he communicated the progress of his story."
Richardson's villa, of which a view is given in his "Correspondence," is described by Faulkner as being situated near the Hammersmith turnpike. The precise locality of the house, however, seems to have been unknown to some at least of the inhabitants at the commencement of this century, for Sir Richard Phillips used to relate with glee the following anecdote respecting his inquiries in the neighbourhood:—"A widow kept a public-house near the corner of North End Lane, about two miles from Hyde Park Corner, where she had lived about fifty years; and I wanted to determine the house in which Samuel Richardson, the novelist, had resided in North End Lane. She remembered his person, and described him as 'a round, short gentleman, who most days passed her door,' and she said she used to serve his family with beer. 'He used to live and carry on his business,' said I, 'in Salisbury Square.' 'As to that,' said she, 'I know nothing, for I never was in London.' 'Never in London!' said I, 'and in health, with the free use of your limbs!' 'No,' replied the woman; 'I had no business there, and had enough to do at home.' 'Well, then,' I observed, 'you know your own neighbourhood the better—which was the house of Mr. Richardson, in the next lane?' 'I don't know,' she replied; 'I am, as I told you, no traveller. I never was up the lane—I only know that he did live somewhere up the lane.' 'Well,' said I, 'but living in Fulham, you go to church?' 'No,' said she, 'I never have time; on a Sunday our house is always full—I never was at Fulham but once, and that was when I was married, and many people say that was once too often, though my husband was as good a man as ever broke bread—God rest his soul!'" Sic transit gloria.
Among the "notabilities" either resident in or connected with Fulham, of whom we have not already spoken, may be mentioned Burbage, the actor, who at one time had a house at North End; Norden, the topographer, who dated the preface of his projected "Speculum Britanniæ" from his "poore house neere Fulham;" John Florio, a scholar of the sixteenth century, and tutor to Prince Henry, son of James I.; and George Cartwright, the author of a long-forgotten play called "Heroic Love, or the Infanta of Spain: a Tragedy, 1661."
Another resident was John Dunning, Lord Ashburton, who having struggled in early life against a narrow income, left behind him a fortune of £150,000, though he died at fifty-two. Here, on reaching affluence, he gave a magnificent dinner in honour of his mother, who was not only astonished, but shocked, at the delicacies under which the table groaned, and went off home next morning, because she would not witness such scandalous prodigality. "I tell you," said the good woman, "such goings-on can come to no good, and you will see the end of it before long. However, it shall not be said that your mother encouraged you in such waste, for I mean to set off to Devonshire in the coach to-morrow morning;" and despite her son's entreaties, she kept her word.