Survey of London: Volume 17, the Parish of St Pancras Part 1: the Village of Highgate. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1936.
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XIV—NOS. 1 TO 6, THE GROVE (SITE OF DORCHESTER HOUSE GARDEN)
Ground Landlords, Leaseholders, Etc.
|No. 1.||Mr. and Lady Marjorie Stirling.|
|No. 3.||Mr. J. B. Priestley.|
|No. 4.||Mrs. Webster.|
|No. 5.||Mr. Matthew Watt Drysdale.|
|No. 6.||Miss King and Miss Sells.|
General Description and Date of Structure.
In the early days of the 19th century the houses now numbered 1 to 6, The Grove, together with two adjoining ones that used to overlook the top of West Hill, must have formed an architectural group as representative as any in London of the work of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. To-day, however, so many alterations and additions have been made to the original structures that it is no longer easy to realise their original beauty, although many details of interest still remain. When Mr. C. H. James, F.R.I.B.A., was recently entrusted with the reconstruction of No. 5, a careful inspection of the house revealed the fact that so much of the early structure had been cut away or otherwise interfered with that the only course left was to replan and rebuild it altogether. Thus it comes about that No. 5, while it displays a plan that differs entirely from the other five, yet possesses an elevation dating from the 20th century which represents the house as it would have appeared before a large square bay window had been added to it in the 19th. To that extent it has been brought into closer consistency with the general character of the row.
The date when the first six houses were erected can be approximately determined from two sources: (i) the court rolls of the Manor, which are fully quoted in the historical notes that follow; (ii) the curious MS. plan (circa 1688) drawn and annotated by William Blake (Plate 39) which contains the information that he had erected the six houses on the garden of Dorchester House and that the rent obtained from them was intended to form part of the endowment of the Charity School that he had founded and opened in that house (see also p. 90). A description with a plan of Dorchester House is also given in the historical notes.
From a comparison of the above sources of information we can be fairly certain that these six houses were completed by 1688. While it is not easy to form a very definite idea of their exact external appearance no such difficulty exists in the case of their plan. They were erected as three pairs of semi-detached family residences, each pair presumably being alike. An interesting sketch elevation bearing William Blake's initials and entitled "The Ladies' School at Highgate" reproduced on Plate 51 from The Gentleman's Magazine (July, 1800) suggests that it was really a draft for the new houses in The Grove. The initials "H. C." also attached to the plan are those of Henry Cornish, a trustee of the estate. The illustration was the frontispiece to Blake's booklet Silver Drops. Blake's more ambitious scheme for his School for Ladies will be found described on p. 90.
On Plate 53 will be found complete plans and elevations of the houses as they were in 1932. Each house contained three rooms on the ground floor and a hall with a space for the staircase, which was planned against the side external wall between the hall and the smaller room on the garden front. A feature of the plan was the massive chimney-stacks, in some cases starting from the ground floor. Four angle fireplaces, two to each house, formed a diagonal block in the centre of each pair, while the north and south elevations consisted largely of a pair of great stacks with the staircase lights between them. A view of the south elevation of No. 5 taken some years ago shows how these stacks originally projected boldly from the walls, but the spaces between them and the stairs appear to have been utilised sometimes by erecting framing flush with the external face of the stacks and covered with beaded weather-boarding. A portion remains to-day only in the case of No. 4.
Each house consisted of a basement, ground and first floors with attic, and the elevations from the beginning must have shown four openings on each of the principal floors. On the ground level the second opening from the north or south was usually the front door leading into the hall. A plain brick string course marked the position of the first floor and a moulded cornice with grouped modillions extended right across the fronts of each pair of houses just above the first-floor windows, the attic above being lighted usually by four, but occasionally by two, dormer windows.
Each pair of houses had two parallel roofs running right through from north to south terminating in twin gables between each group of chimneystacks. The rooms were apparently finished internally with typical late 17th- or early 18th-century panelling (large panels above a dado) with the moulded cornices of the period. In one case (pp. 84, 85) examples of early wallpaper have been found beneath the old panels. The angle fireplaces in the principal rooms were presumably all treated on similar lines with bolection moulded surrounds and two oblong panels above and narrow ones at either side. One of these typical surrounds can be seen to-day in the back attic at the top of the staircase in No. 4. The staircases show some variation in design, but in certain cases they may represent later insertions. The architectural features as they are to-day will be referred to in the description of the individual houses that follows.
There were two other 18th-century houses immediately to the south and west of No. 1, The Grove, and overlooking the top of West Hill, which were removed without any records being obtained. They were of a little later date than those in The Grove since they occupied the site on which Dorchester House actually stood, and they differed from them in that they were detached instead of being semi-detached. Their history will be found on p. 73. With their disappearance the transformation of the scene on the summit of West Hill was complete. A view of the one known as "Grove Bank" is reproduced in Plate 50.
Nos. 1 and 2, The Grove were converted into a single residence in 1930–1 by the then owner, Sir Neville Pearson (Messrs. Paget & Seely, architects), certain Victorian features both internal and external were removed and the principal elevations regained their original appearance with some important exceptions (Plate 54). The very characteristic north elevation was condemned as unsafe and taken down together with its chimney-stacks. At the same time the entrance to No. 1 was removed and replaced by a window while the overdoor was taken from No. 2 which became the principal entrance to the house. In order further to emphasise the alteration the fine wrought-iron gate (Plate 55) which belonged to No. 1 was repaired and re-erected with its brick piers opposite the centre of the main front. The gate to No. 2, which was similar to those of Nos. 3 and 4, was removed and not replaced. The projecting building at the south end was rebuilt to form a garage and servants' hall while a loggia was added at the northern end.
The plan of No. 1 was transformed, the hall becoming a pantry and larder and the dining room a kitchen. The two rooms on the garden front were combined to form a new dining room and a door was opened in the party wall to provide access to a similar drawing room in the adjoining house.
In No. 2 the original arrangement was more nearly retained but the partition between the hall and the staircase has been removed and a new handrail, balusters and strings have been designed to match the old work. The twisted balusters, which are of substantial design, stand upon a continuous string both in the case of this staircase and of that in No. 1. The room on the ground floor adjoining the entrance hall contains a late 18th-century fireplace of Coade stone. On the first floor the planning is repeated, the two rooms on the garden front being again thrown into one. All the rooms are panelled but the original panelling was only found in the smaller room on the ground floor and the larger room on the first floor, where it had been covered with canvas and paper. This panelling appeared at first to consist of plain squares but when the canvas was removed it was discovered that the panels had originally been bolection moulded but the mouldings had been carefully removed and re-nailed on to the back of the panels to keep them in position. On the half landing of the staircase in No. 2 an original window remains, constructed of oak with early stout glazing bars. The attic floors have been entirely remodelled.
The original plan of No. 3 may still be traced through the alterations and additions which have been made in it from time to time. The wing to the south seen on Plate 53 was originally built in the latter part of the 19th century during the ownership of the late Mr. Charles Church, who may also have added the second floor to the main structure, but the cornice which now crowns this portion has only recently been placed there and the wing rebuilt by the present owner, Mr. J. B. Priestley. A room is preserved at the back on the second floor, which was occupied by the poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who died here in 1834, during the tenancy or ownership of the Gillmans.
Mr. Charles Church had already extended the original staircase from the half landing between the ground and first floors into his new wing and this portion was again entirely reconstructed and given new balusters to match the old by Messrs. Paget & Seely for Mr. Priestley. They also made the original entrance hall into a room and converted the old dining room adjoining it into the hall by moving the front entrance doorway. Other alterations included the moving of the panelling forward in the principal rooms and on the ground and first floors in order to make cupboard space, while the double room on the ground floor garden front was lined with entirely new panelling generally in keeping with the old. In making these changes some old fireplaces which had been blocked up at various times were revealed. The smaller front bedroom on the first floor was a particularly fine example of a panelled room of the period.
No. 4, The Grove, has been selected for complete illustration in this volume (Plates 57, 58, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61) because, of the houses as they are at present, it is the one that is the fairest guide to the appearance of the row in its earlier state. It must be remembered, however, that changes may have taken place from time to time in the arrangement of doors, windows, panelling and fittings, of which no record has come down to us. On the ground floor (except that the partition between the two rooms on the garden front has been in part removed) the original plan remains intact.
The house is entered by a doorway in the second opening from the north into a hall surrounded to-day with plain, square deal painted panelling (three panels high without any dado mouldings), and separated from the staircase by a solid partition. The principal feature is the opening to the staircase hall which is set slightly forward from the rest of the partition. The opening is semicircular-headed with a long narrow key block round which break the lower members of a wooden cornice of early 18th-century character which traverses the opening, but of which the upper member only is carried round the rest of the hall. On the left of the front entrance is a six-panelled door with beaded panels slightly raised in the centre. The window opening is not fitted with a window seat but the original shutters and casings in two heights remain. The fireplace has a marble surround of 18th-century character. Between the chimney back and the staircase partition is a recess or cupboard corresponding with a similar one on the floor above, while beneath the stairs is another cupboard to which access is now gained from the hall, but which was formerly only accessible through a hinged panel on the basement flight.
The room on the left of the hall is lined with late 17th- or early 18th-century beaded and painted deal panelling with moulded dado rail. There is a characteristic moulded cornice similar to the fragment in the hall. The fireplace is modernised, but the original arrangement of the panelling around and above it remains—two oblong panels over the opening flanked by two long narrow ones. The door leading into the room facing the garden is of the same type as the one from the hall and so are the doors on the first floor. The two rooms facing the garden are combined and panelled throughout with plain square deal painted panels, with slightly more elaborate architraves to the doors. The usual cornice has been removed in the larger room, but the original arrangement of panels remains over the fireplace.
The staircase is of the early type; solid newels, plain and square, with the moulded handrail breaking round but no base mould. The strings are continuous and the balusters spiral of substantial design, eight to each flight, with a short one where the handrail is mitred back on to the main carriage or string. Two of these newel posts have their original circular moulded pendants. On the ground floor opposite the basement flight (which is enclosed in a solid partition) is a door leading into the larger room on the garden front which obviates the necessity of its becoming a passage room. This door seems to be of early design. Only this portion of the walls of the staircase well is panelled to its full height. Up the flights the dado alone remains. On the half landing the original sash window with its heavy glazing bars has been removed and an opening cut through to one side to some steps down to a modern wing. Beside these some old panels have been re-used.
All the first-floor rooms except the smaller one facing the garden, which is covered with canvas above the dado, have panelling similar to that on the ground floor, sometimes beaded but more generally plain. The doors also are precisely similar in style. The north front room has been divided into two and in the larger room facing the garden the long narrow panel to the left of the fireplace bears the marks of a hinge.
On the attic floor two of the doors on the outside appear to be plain square four-panelled but on the inside they are six-panelled bolection moulded. In the smaller room overlooking the garden there is a fine heavy bolection moulding around the fireplace opening of the type one might reasonably have expected to find in some of the principal living rooms.
The basement contains some features of interest; the back door is boarded, ledged on one side, and studded with nails. The other internal doors consist of three broad planks with long strap hinges with ornamental points, ledged on one side and with two narrow panels on the other. The kitchen is fitted on two sides with a dresser apparently contemporary with the date of the house; the lower shelf is supported on seven turned baluster legs, each with a delicate moulded cap. The upper shelves are stout, moulded on the edges and stopped against elaborately shaped ends. There is a small cupboard of contemporary date at the ceiling level. In the cellars are the original partitions, with their upper portions constructed in lattice work for light and ventilation. No upper storey having been added, the main front towards the Grove retains its eaves, cornice, and general early character and original grouping of the openings. The front door is of unusual height. The entrance gates are formed with square wooden posts with moulded caps supporting curved iron brackets carrying the lamp fitting.
No. 5, The Grove, had until recently an early Georgian appearance owing to the addition of a second storey, and a narrow projecting wing on its south side (Plate 62). The windows on the first floor had been altered, and, with the new verge above, had arched brick heads. A brick band marked the top of the first and also of the second floor, and a plain brick parapet hid the roof. The wing had a projecting cornice at second-floor level. The back of the house had also been completely altered, but it presented a most picturesque appearance (Plate 63).
The whole structure has now been rebuilt by Mr. C. H. James, F.R.I.B.A., the general appearance of the front to the Grove alone being retained, although the spacing of the windows is slightly different and the details of the Regency porch have been varied. The old plan, before the rebuilding, is shown on Plate 53, and the various changes, additions and modifications which had occurred can be seen therein. The principal staircase was of fine design and dated from the early 18th century (Plates 64, 65). It led from the ground to the first floor only and had a cut string with carved brackets, three spiral balusters to each step and beautiful fluted columns for newels. The balustrading has been preserved and is adapted to the new house. When this staircase was inserted the original stair on both floors was removed, and a second stair to serve the top floor was designed in the 18th-century south wing. The panelled walls of the principal stair can be seen in the photograph (Plate 65). Beyond this a few pieces of door furniture and a couple of later fireplaces were all that remained of interest.
The most important fact, however, concerning this house was the discovery on the removal of some of the painted deal panelling of four beautiful examples of early 18th-century wall-papers beneath it. It would seem, therefore, that the panelling was of a later date. We are indebted to Francis W. Reader for the following notes on the papers and to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where they are now preserved, for the photographs which are reproduced on Plates 66, 67, 68, 69
These papers were all found in rooms on the upper floor, and behind 18th-century panelling, but the activities of the house-breaker were well advanced before they came to the notice of the architect, Mr. C. H. James, F.R.I.B.A., who fortunately appreciated their importance, and sent portions to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Unfortunately the panelling which covered them was of such simple construction that it had no characteristics that would enable it to be closely dated. The house was built about 1685, and in one instance only were two of the papers superimposed. It may be fairly assumed, therefore, that the walls were panelled early in the 18th century, and that the papers were of the last years of the 17th or the first years of the 18th century.
Other features which confirm this period are, the small size of the sheets of paper, and the absence of excise stamps. This latter would indicate that the papers must have been made before 1712, when the first tax was imposed.
The exact size of the sheets was not ascertained, but it was noticed that they were small square pieces and not continuous rolls. The patterns, also, were engraved on square wood blocks, and not on cylinders.
Example A has a geometrical pattern of interlacing quatre-foils and ovals containing conventional flowers and foliage, the design having been cut out on a wood block leaving the background as the printing surface, the printing being simply black on a white paper. Patterns printed in black ink on white paper have been found as early as the 16th century, and this method was continued throughout the 17th century and gradually came into more general use. In the early 18th century, black and white papers became obsolete owing to the advent of coloured inks and tinted papers.
Example B is much more advanced both in its design and its engraving. It is a rich brocade pattern of bold flowers and foliage, which flow in beautiful curves, and is in the style of the Italian textiles of the 15th and 16th centuries. The engraving is a reverse process of that of example A, as in this it is the background which is cut away, leaving the pattern as the printing surface, except only for the details of the flowers and leaves, the pattern generally is printed on the white background of the paper. In its present state it appears as if printed in a mottled grey, or poor, attenuated black ink. In the reproduction the contrast has been somewhat forced, and is stronger than in the original. It is difficult to imagine that this condition represents the finished article. It seems probable that it was originally a flock paper from which the flock has been washed off, leaving the impression of the adhesive medium, some kind of varnish in which was sufficient pigment to enable the printer to judge the accuracy of his work.
Overlying this paper was example C, of which only a small fragment was preserved, but this is of great interest. Originally it was a printed paper, most of the pattern of which had been cleaned off, which in many of the early stainings would not have been a matter of great difficulty. In places traces of the printing remain and can be seen in the reproduction, the pattern having apparently been produced from an engraved copper plate. Finally it was stencilled with a simple "all-over" brush-work pattern in brown.
The treatment of wall-paper in this way affords striking evidence that in the early days of the industry, wall-papers must have been expensive, and that handwork with the stencil could compete successfully with the printed article. A few years ago an instance occurred at Aylesbury of a decoration stencilled directly on the plaster, which had been prepared only with a buff-colour limewash as a background, and on which an effective pattern was stencilled in black, white and brown. The period was probably late 18th century. (fn. n1)
Example D differs from the others in being a coloured paper of three printings, black, red and blue. The position of this paper was not noted, but it is known to have been the only paper on the wall it occupied, and was, like the others, behind 18th-century panelling. It may be thought that a paper of this sort must be later in date than those previously described, as the colours are in good distemper inks. Little is known as to how early colour printing was practised. Coloured papers appear to have been produced in the 17th century, but usually a printed black basis was hand-painted or stencilled. At the close of the 17th and early in the 18th century, the demand for coloured papers was greatly stimulated by Chinese hangings, which then became fashionable, and were extensively imitated by English producers.
It is not generally considered that colour-printed papers had got beyond the experimental stage, until about the middle of the 18th century. It would not be safe, perhaps, to claim the same antiquity for this example as for the others, as we do not know how long the wall on which it was found may have been left uncovered. On the other hand, it bore no excise stamp, so far as could be seen, but the portion of this paper submitted to the Museum was not large enough to make this point certain. The printing, however, was from flat wood blocks, the border lines of which can be seen on two sides of the red block. That the method of printing was primitive, is shown by the imperfect register, to which not a little of the charm of this paper is due. The grey tone which has come by age over the white background helps to soften what in its original condition may have been a somewhat crude decoration. The design, which is of a Chinese character, consists of a series of sprays of flowers, so arranged as to have the effect of an all-over pattern. The sprays all start from curious and varied forms which are probably conventional representations of the ground from which the flowers grow.
Mr. C. O. Masters, judging from the photograph, suggests that the black only was printed and that the two colours were added by means of the stencil. Should this be the correct explanation, any difficulty as to the date would be removed and this paper brought within the same period as the others.
No. 6, The Grove, would at first sight appear to have undergone considerable modifications internally, but there are several points of interest that have some bearing on the story of this group of houses. It is evident that this was the last of the six erected by William Blake and it may have been occupied by the widow of Judge Pemberton, who owned the estate after Blake. Its northern garden wall is that which terminated the two enclosed gardens of Dorchester House (see Plate 39), and the great circular bastion at the north-west corner of the terrace garden to-day must be one of those referred to in several conveyances entered in the court rolls of the Manor of Cantlowes, while the ornamental niches in the same wall near to its junction with the Grove may also belong to the Dorchester House period. The bastion is of considerable size and is planned in three curves, a semicircle flanked by two quarter-circles. The garden of No. 7 is also made-up ground, but the terrace wall continues westwards at right angles to the base line of the bastion.
The difference in level between the Grove roadway and the gardens in the rear is most marked and is no doubt the result of the levelling of the Dorchester House gardens, which apparently left an elevated terrace along their east side, which may to-day be represented by the forecourts of Nos. 1–6, The Grove. The date of this groundwork is probably about 1600. William Blake's plan is the only record of the layout of the gardens which formed these two enclosures. Some scheme may have preceded these, since it is known that a considerable length of waste along the east side of this garden was enclosed by Sir Robert Payne, a predecessor of the Marquis of Dorchester. The west boundary wall of the Grove gardens is of considerable antiquity with four centred arches and recesses, one with a rough pediment above it, and there is a drop of about 10 feet between the upper and lower gardens behind the Grove houses. This terrace work is continued both to the north and the west to include the whole of the garden of No. 7, The Grove, which is called "The Great Garden" on the map of 1804 reproduced on Plate 1.
The plan of No. 6 is similar to that of the rest except for the later insertion of a chimney built into the partition between the two rooms on the garden front. As in the other houses the basement forms the ground storey on the garden side, due to the change in level referred to above. New kitchen offices have been added on the north, and the lower ground floor is disused. The partition between the hall and staircase on the ground floor was replaced by an open screen arcade in recent times.
In the decorations of the house it is noticeable that no 18th-century panelling appears to remain and possibly it never was panelled at all. William Blake may even have been unable to complete the building since we know he was in financial difficulties. The doors on the first floor have curved heads which suggest completion by another hand. The staircase, too, is of later date (early 18th century) and is similar to that inserted in No. 5, but in this case it serves all floors (see measured drawing on Plate 70). The elevation to the Grove retains its roof and main cornice and the attic is lighted by two dormers with semicircular heads which share the character of the features already noticed.
Condition of Repair.
The houses now numbered 1 to 12, The Grove, occupy the frontage of an estate that belonged, at the beginning of the 17th century, to the eminent family of Warner, several members of which held prominent positions in the City during a century and a half. The mansion house belonging to John Warner was called the Blewhouse, and had previously been occupied by Sir Edward Cleeve and afterwards by John Panton, esquire. The land appears to have measured some 38 acres, extending on the west to an ancient farm called "Sherricks," which stood in a triangular space south of Hampstead Lane between Ken Wood and Warner's land. In 1610 John Warner leased to Richard Lyllie of Kentish Town, bricklayer (builder), two acres on the north of his house (part of a five-acre field called Broomfield), on which Lyllie immediately built a house. See below, Nos. 7–12, The Grove.
John Warner was the son of John Warner, eldest son of Mark Warner, by his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Philip Meredith of London, gentleman, and great-grandson of Robert Warner of Stroud Green, citizen and draper of London, second son of Alderman John Warner, grocer (d. 1511). (fn. 102) On the death of John Warner in 1619, his son, John Warner, esquire, succeeded, the widow, Avys Warner, being admitted to her third for dower. They conveyed the estate in the following year to Robert Payne, son of William Payne of Barton Stacey, Hants. (see Section VIII, p. 50). It was then described as a messuage called the Blewhouse with one acre of land attached, five acres of land formerly a field called Broomfield, now divided into several parts, and a messuage on part of Broomfield lately built by Richard Lyllie, a cottage occupied by Anne Daie, widow, and 32 acres held by Robert Sprignell. (fn. n2)
The site of the Blewhouse can be identified with that of Dorchester House, standing on the triangle of ground between No. 1, The Grove, and the house of Sir Arthur Crosfield called "Witanhurst," now No. 41, West Hill. Its exact position is described in Section XIII, p. 73. Its site is now occupied by a tennis court. The garden extended from the north front of Dorchester House and occupied the area on which Nos. 1 to 6 were afterwards erected. Henry Pierrepont, first Marquess of Dorchester, is mentioned as early as the year 1650 in a lease from Payne to Thomas Collett, which refers to the "ways hitherto used in or through Broomfield or Gravel Field now let by Sir Robert Payne to Henry, Marquess of Dorchester," and it was probably about that time that he came to Highgate, succeeding Henry Savage, esquire, as tenant of the Blewhouse, while Thomas Collett, by the lease referred to, came into possession of the house built by Richard Lyllie, etc., to the north (see p. 92).
Sir Robert Payne mortgaged the estate to Robert Holt, citizen of London, on 8th February, 1653–4, and the mortgage was never redeemed. Sarah, the only child of Robert Holt, succeeded him in 1657 and she married, on 7th April, 1658, at Hackney, William Roberts of Willesden, esquire, son of Sir William Roberts by Eleanor his wife, daughter of Robert Aty of Kilburn Priory. (fn. 108) Sarah Roberts and her husband became mortgagees in possession in 1657; in 1660 they held "a messuage called the Blewhouse late in the occupation of Henry Savage, gentleman," which in May, 1661, was included in the property mortgaged by them to Richard Gower, citizen and grocer of London, described as "a messuage in the occupation of the assigns of Henry Savage, gentleman, deceased." The last named is mentioned in 1656 as occupying the house, and at the time of his death, in 1662, he appears to have owned the property. His son, Paul Savage, goldsmith, with his wife, Mary, and his mother, Katherine, then conveyed it to the Marquess. It may be assumed that there was a conveyance from Roberts to Savage, which has not been found.
A coroner's inquest was held on 13th January, 1659–60, concerning the death of William Barnes in Dorchester House, when it was found that he, with Thomas Collins, "being in a certain hall in the house of Henry, Earle of Kingston situate at Highgate. . . . Thomas Collins having a fowling piece under his right arm, charged with small shot and gunpowder, took the same into his hand with the intention of laying it up under the mantle tree of the hall and, pulling the muzzle forwards in laying it up, it went off and wounded William Barnes in the left side, whereof he died instantly." (fn. 104) The Marquess of Dorchester had received his title from King Charles I on 25th March, 1645–6, for his services against the Cromwellians in the Civil War. It will be noticed that in the coroner's inquest of 1660 he is referred to by his hereditary title of Earl of Kingston. He had made his peace with the Commonwealth Government and possibly found it advisable not to assume the higher title. He was the eldest son of Robert Pierrepont, first Earl of Kingston, and was born in 1606. On 11th January, 1641–2, he was created Baron Pierrepont. He was a learned man and, according to Walpole, studied ten or twelve hours a day for many years. He had a considerable knowledge of both law and medicine, and he was admitted a Bencher of Gray's Inn and a member of the College of Physicians. He was a little man with a very violent temper. His activities as an amateur doctor excited the ridicule of his opponents. His daughter, Ann, married at Highgate on 15th July, 1658, John, Lord Roos, who was afterwards first Duke of Rutland. This marriage was dissolved by Act of Parliament in 1666 and her issue bastardised. Lord Dorchester was admitted a member of the Royal Society on 20th May, 1663. His second wife, whom he married in September, 1652, was Katherine, third daughter of James Stanley, seventh Earl of Derby. Dorchester died at his house in Charterhouse Yard, London, on 8th December, 1680, leaving by his first wife, Cecilia, daughter of Paul, Viscount Bayning (d. 18th September, 1639), a daughter, Grace, who was four years old when her mother died, and who died unmarried in the parish of St. Anne's, Soho, on 25th March, 1703. The divorcée, Anne, died before her father. (fn. 55)
In a list of tenants recorded on the court rolls in 1664, the Marquess of Dorchester appears as tenant of a messuage and 5 acres 3 roods 11 perches of land. The actual site of the house has long been in doubt, several writers thinking that it faced the roadway now called The Grove, occupying approximately the combined sites of Nos. 3 and 4. Actually, the house, which was long and narrow, stood at right angles to the direction of the modern Grove to which the long walled garden was consequently parallel. Further information about the mansion came to light with the identification of the plan (Plate 51b) of a house at "Higate" in the Thorpe collection in the Soane Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields. A comparison with existing views established the fact that it was undoubtedly The Blew House or Dorchester House, to use the name by which it is more generally known. Some account of the Thorpes (there were two, father and son) is given by Mr. Arthur T. Bolton in a paper read before the Architectural Association on 27th November, 1911, since reprinted by the author. In this paper Mr. Bolton quotes the only printed reference to these two architects, made by Peacham in the Gentleman's Exercise, first edition, 1612. (fn. n3)
We cannot tell whether the Highgate plan is by the elder or the younger Thorpe, but it is certainly of the highest interest on account of its unusual character. Its normal features are the central passage with its screen after the medieval manner, between it and the hall, communicating with a porch at either end and with the kitchen and offices to the left. The latter section includes a large parlour and other lodgings of unusual size. The striking feature of the residential part is a parlour beyond the hall, which it exceeds very much in size. This parlour is furnished with two bay windows—one, a large circular bay in the end wall—and two small retiring rooms. An elaborate double staircase is placed between the outer wall and the hall chimney, and appears to lead, both from the screens passage and the great parlour.
That this plan represents the house pretty faithfully is borne out by the remarkable sketch of the exterior in William Blake's "Delineation of the Ladyes Hospitall at High-gate" (Plate 39). There the bay window and porches are shown and the angle-pilasters or buttresses are seen rising the full three storeys. There is no scale on Thorpe's plan, but Blake tells us that in his proposed reconstruction for the accommodation of "Mayden" children, he could obtain a hall 130 feet long, which is probably the internal length of the house.
It stood at the very summit of "West Hill" facing nearly south and looking right over London. The long garden coincided exactly with the upper gardens of the six Grove houses. Some niches still remain in the garden wall of No. 6, where can also be seen a "round" similar to that referred to in the entry in the court roll for 1st May, 1656, when it was found that "the wall on the east side of the messuage (described previously as in the occupation of Henry, Marquess of Dorchester) from four feet beyond the garden gate northward to the Round upon the south corner, containing six poles in length, and the said round and the wall from the said Round westward containing 11 poles 1 foot in length and all the elm trees within the two courts (except the great elm wherein is the dog's kennel) stands upon the waste and within the said wall from four feet beyond the garden gate aforesaid to the round in the south corner aforesaid is enclosed in breadth one foot, the said wall and enclosure being done by Sir Robert Paine, knight." The remarkable terrace supported by a massive retaining wall forming the gardens of the houses in the Grove is referred to on p. 86. Doorways in this wall lead into brick-vaulted cellars designed as four centred arches of distinctly Tudor character and therefore likely to have been in existence when Thorpe built or altered the Great House.
On the death of the Marquess of Dorchester, his daughter, Grace, conveyed the estate to Hugh Willoughby of Barton Stacey, esquire (doubtless a trustee), who surrendered it in 1682 to Edward Hildeyard of the Inner Temple, esquire, and Henry Burman, citizen and salter of London. From the prints issued by William Blake (Plates 39, 40) we learn that he owned Dorchester House, as well as two other houses in South Grove. Dorchester House is so called by him and no difficulty arises in its identification, although his name does not occur in the court rolls in any conveyance of the house. Simultaneously with the conveyance to Hildeyard and Burman, William Blake was admitted to a parcel of the waste by the wall of his capital messuage late in the tenure of Henry, Marquess of Dorchester, 17½ poles by 2 poles at the south end and another parcel of waste 46 poles by 1½ poles to be used as a common walk and not enclosed. When Francis Pemberton was admitted to this waste in 1691 the piece 17½ poles by 2 poles was described as lying before the wall of divers messuages lately built there, where heretofore stood the capital messuage of the Marquess of Dorchester. We may therefore conclude that the conveyance from Hugh Willoughby to Edward Hildeyard and Henry Burman in 1682 was really a conveyance to William Blake. He intended to use Dorchester House as a Charity School for girls, and the building appears to have been actually occupied in this fashion. The notes appended by Blake to his bird's-eye view state that the grounds (10 acres), might be cut up into plots for the erection of houses where wealthy citizens of London might lodge in the summer. He says there were "six tenements now built" (the present Nos. 1–6, The Grove), and room for 10 or 12 more with gardens. Having mortgaged his property, alienated his family, and been locked up in the Fleet for two years for debt, he appealed to six London parishes to send children there to board and to buy or build houses on the estate, apparently to provide a revenue for the support of the School. "If Sir Francis Pemberton, Francis Blake, my brother, and Mr. William Ashurst, draper, who are the mortgagees would yet comply all might go immediately forward, with some £100 annual advantage to the Town of Highgate." In January, 1683, we find the Vestry of St. Clement's Danes promising to send to the Hospital 20 parish children when it should be ready, and to pay £6 yearly per head for their board, lodging and education, both in sickness and in health. At the same time the Vestry of St. Giles-in-the-Fields appointed a committee to report on Blake's proposals, and if they found them satisfactory, to agree to place 20 parish children there at £6 p.a. each. (fn. 105) It is not impossible that his difficulty in maintaining a revenue large enough to support his Hospital arose from dwindling support from the wealthy ladies on whom he evidently depended. Blake's six houses were built between the years 1682 and 1685. The Vestry Books of St. Giles for 1687 contain a record that £10 was granted towards the release of William Blake, a prisoner in the Fleet, in recognition of his having at some time provided several suits of clothes for poor children in that parish. Thereafter he disappears from the records and we cannot say when or where he died. There is insufficient material to pronounce a judgment regarding his financial abilities, but his own writings afford ample evidence that he struggled nobly to befriend the poor children of London, at that time one of the most pitiably oppressed and neglected classes of the community. In a list of the "worthies" of Highgate he would stand second to none.
In 1683 Hildeyard and Burman surrendered the property to Charles Bishop and Oliver Smith, trustees for Sir Francis Pemberton. These bare facts obviously fail to tell the complete story but, since William Blake commented bitterly on the conduct of his mortgagees, amongst whom he included Pemberton, we can pretty well guess that underlying these records is the fact that the unfortunate philanthropist, unable to repay the mortgages, was obliged to let Dorchester House go to Sir Francis Pemberton.
1714–28. John Schoppens (from Lady Ann Pemberton and her sons). He was elected a Governor of the Grammar School on 1st August, 1726. There is an entry in the Register of Highgate Chapel, under date 4th August, 1701, of the baptism of Hannah, daughter of Mr. John and Mrs. Mary "Scopins" of St. Pancras, merchant. He died on 1st July, 1728, aged 40, and was buried at Highgate. He left £150 to the Governors of the School to keep his tomb in repair, and when not wanted for that purpose to be disposed of at their discretion. This £150 was given to his brother-in-law, John Edwards, upon trust to buy land at Highgate and to apply the rent in repairing his monument and the wall adjoining, the surplus rent to belong to the said John Edwards and his sister, and after the death of the survivor of them, the same was given to the Governors. The inscription on his monument now in the tower of St. Michael's Church is given on p. 58.
1769–82. Mary Edwards, spinster, daughter of John Edwards by his second wife, Ann Manship. This John Edwards was the son of the John Edwards mentioned above, and predeceased his father. Under the provisions of an Act of Parliament for confirming a partition between John Edwards, esquire, and others of several estates devised by the will of John Schoppens, Mary Edwards became entitled as from 24th June, 1769, to "dwelling houses fronting the Grove of the east aspect in Highgate, called Pemberton Row." (fn. n4) These houses are described as in the tenurse of:
|George Johnson||at £42 per annum|
|Samuel Tatton||at £40 "|
|Thomas Palmer||at £ 40 "|
|Edward Yardley||at £ 20 "|
|Mark Smithson||at £ 40 "|
|Walter Gibbons||at £ 43 "|
|Alexander Hunter||at £ 10 "|
|John Wakelin||at £ 6 "|
No. 1. Walter Gibbons, 1769; William Blamire, 1775; Edward Wallbank; — Martin; Henrietta Gibbon, 1792; Thomas Rae Swain of Newgate Street, wine merchant, 1793; Anne Swaine, 1812; William Taylor Abud, of Clerkenwell, refiner, 1817; Henry Diggery Warter, 1847; Henry Lake, who was elected a governor of the Grammar School on 9th February, 1859, and died 3rd April, 1863; Mary Lake, who died 28th January, 1870, and was followed by her son, Benjamin Greene Lake, solicitor, of No.10, New Square, Lincoln's Inn; Miss Rebecca Lacey, Sir Neville Pearson, Mr. and Lady Marjorie Stirling.
No. 3. Edward Yardley, 1769; Richard Banks, 1776; William Johnson, 1794; Mrs. Ann Divett, 1795; H. Dew, 1801; Thomas Dew, 1804; Edward Dew, 1812; Nathaniel Harden, 1817; Dr. James Gillman, 1824. In 1816, when the poet Coleridge came to live with him, he was at No. 14, South Grove (see p. 45). Coleridge died in 1834, and Dr. Gillman in 1839. Peter Brendon, 1847; Dr. Charles Blatherwick; Henry Goodenough Smith, 1863; Charles Church; J. B. Priestley.
No. 5. Samuel Tatton, 1769; John Sherer, 1775; — Mason; Mrs. Phillips, 1794; Sarah Phillips, spinster, 1806; Miss Summersum, 1817; George Kinderley, 1820; Henry Nisbet; James Beaumont of No. 19, Lincoln's Inn Fields; Arthur Ranken Ford, who died on 22nd January, 1933, at Guildford, in his 85th year, retired from Highgate in 1920. He was born at No. 5 in 1848, the son of William Ford, who afterwards moved to Brookfield, Millfield Lane; Roger Gaskell, M. W. Drysdale.
No. 6. George Johnson, 1769; Thomas Chetham; Rhoda and Sara Armstrong, 1795; Mrs. Armstrong, 1797; empty, 1806; Thomas Jones, 1807; Louisa Jones, widow; Francis Smith, 1847, "a great lover of trees—all the younger trees in the Grove and its approaches he stated were planted by him personally," (fn. 56) he died 7th February, 1880; Edward Fry, barrister, 1863, (fn. 106) afterwards the right hon. Sir Edward Fry, Lord Justice of Appeal. A. Pye Smith; J. J. Joass, Miss King and Miss Sells.
Nos. 7 to 12, The Grove (Site of Grove House).
The land mentioned on p. 87 as having been leased by John Warner to Richard Lyllie in 1610, and conveyed with Dorchester House by his son in 1620 to Robert Payne, was leased by Sir Robert Payne to Thomas Collett of the Middle Temple on 14th January, 1650–1, as "a messuage heretofore in the possession of Robert Gore and late in the tenure of Richard Pierceson and now in the possession of Sir Robert Payne, near the Green in Highgate, and a close of one acre behind the said messuage and another messuage adjoining the aforesaid messuage now in the possession of Richard Ashman, bricklayer, and another close adjoining the west end of the above-mentioned close and adjoining to ground called Sherricks now in the tenure of Nathaniel Seddings, being one acre (except such ways heretofore used to or from the same premises in or through Broomefeild or Gravel Feild now let by Sir Robert Payne to Henry, Lord Marquess of Dorchester."
The first-mentioned messuage was, no doubt, the "messuage upon Broomfeild" mentioned in 1619 as "lately built by Richard Lyllie," while Ashman's house was a cottage. When Mr. Collett took this lease he also had from Sir Robert a licence to build and make walks, orchards and gardens, and to take away the room or shed adjoining the first-mentioned messuage heretofore in the tenure of Robert Gore and to take down the tenement in the occupation of Richard Ashman, and to cut down trees. He also brought forward his fence two feet before the east side of these two messuages, towards the Green, for a distance of 7½ poles, an encroachment which was "presented" at the manor court held on 1st May, 1656.
At the Heralds' Visitation in 1664 Thomas Collett signed his pedigree, showing that he was the son of John Collett of London, merchant, by Susan, daughter of Nicholas Farrar of London, merchant, and that his wife was Martha, daughter of James Sherington of London, merchant. He had four brothers and seven sisters. In the record of his admission (fn. 107) to the Middle Temple on 4th June, 1619, he was described as the son of John Collett of Bourne, Cambridgeshire, and he took the place of a Mr. Farrer in the chamber of Mr. Charles Cockes, a "master of the Utter Bar," in Essex Court. Many years afterwards Mr. John Cocks, a barrister, was expelled (29th November, 1652) from the Inn for opprobrious language and laying of violent hands upon Thomas Collett, esquire, a Master of the Bench. In the following June Mr. Collett offered to surrender his part of the chamber to Mr. Cocks for a reasonable consideration, and the offending barrister was restored "upon his humble submission to Mr. Collett and his respectful behaviour towards the other Masters of the Bench. John Collett, his son and heir, was admitted to the Inn on 12th January, 1651–2. The Marquis of Dorchester was for many years lord of the Manor of Cantlowes and employed Thomas Collett as his steward. Collett presided regularly at the manor courts. He held his last court on 10th November, 1674, shortly before his death, which took place in the beginning of the following year. He presided at the court when his own encroachment on the waste was presented in 1656. He was elected a Governor of the Grammar School on 24th February, 1658–9.
In 1662 Thomas Collett was granted licence to make, at his own cost, a causey from the Chapel of Highgate on part of the waste before the dwelling-house which he occupied on the east, containing from east to west, viz., from the king's highway to a quickset hedge before the courtyard of the house 16½ poles, and from north to south one pole, and to plant 24 trees in and on both sides of the said causey, "which premises are not only an ornament to the Village of Highgate but a convenience to the Lord's tenants and people going to the Chapel." This was the old chapel belonging to the Grammar School opposite the Gatehouse, habitually used by the inhabitants of Highgate as a Chapel of Ease until the judgment of Lord Eldon put a stop to the practice in 1826. Although Mr. Collett's interest in the amenities of the village may have been genuine enough he did not go unrewarded, since he and his son were allowed at the same time to enclose a considerable portion of the common between his house and the causey, apparently the land now occupied by the Metropolitan Water Board's reservoir.
This estate was included in the mortgage of 8th February, 1653–4, by Sir Robert Payne to Robert Holt, and therefore, like Dorchester House, came into the hands of the latter's daughter, Sarah, the wife of Sir William Roberts. In December, 1662, Sir William and his wife executed a release to John Collett of the Middle Temple, esquire, son of Thomas Collett, of the premises, which were described as two messuages, etc., and two closes of two acres, one converted to an orchard and garden in the occupation of Thomas Collett. John Collett mortgaged it in 1667 to John Mapletoft of London, gentleman, when his father is mentioned as the late occupier. Martha, the wife of Thomas Collett, was buried at Highgate on 5th September, 1667. In 1678 John Mapletoft of London, M.D. (who had been admitted on the forfeited conditional surrender in 1675), conveyed the estate to Samuel Blackwell of Watford, esquire, whose daughter had married Sir Robert Payne's only son (see p. 52). Dr. Mapletoft (1631–1721) physician and divine, M.D., 1667, practised medicine in London with Thomas Sydenham and became intimate with John Locke; he was Professor of Physic at Gresham College 1675–9, and Vicar of St. Laurence, Jewry, 1686 to 1721, when he died, aged 84. (fn. 108)
In 1678 Samuel Blackwell conveyed these two houses to Francis Pemberton, one of the most celebrated of the inhabitants of Highgate. His father was Ralph Pemberton, twice mayor of St. Albans, where Francis was born in July, 1624. He was 54 years of age when he acquired his Highgate property. He was called to the Bar in 1654 and married, in 1667, Anne, daughter of Sir Jeremy Whichcote of Hendon Hall. He received the honour of knighthood on 6th October, 1675, was appointed a Justice in the Court of King's Bench on 3rd April, 1679, and Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in 1682, when he was also made a Privy Councillor. His daughter, Jane, married Edward Gould in 1701, thereby becoming the mistress of Bisham House in the High Street. Sir Francis is said to have been a profound lawyer, much versed in records, yet of indifferent mind and, for his age, indifferent honest. Sir Francis Pemberton pulled down the two houses and built himself a "capital messuage" on the site, converting the land to a garden and orchard. The house is clearly marked on the St. Pancras map of 1804 (Plate 1), and on Rocque's survey of ten miles round London of 1741–5. On the plan of 1804 will be seen a large garden adjoining No. 6, The Grove, and extending about as far as the modern private roadway, Fitzroy Park. The map also suggests an avenue of trees leading up to an important house, and the "great garden" is so named. Rocque's survey of 1746 indicates a similar arrangement and there is little doubt that the mansion houses shown in 1746 and in 1804 indicate the residence of Sir Francis Pemberton, which was later called Grove House. The house is also shown on the plan of Highgate given in Prickett's History. Although not a very reliable author for ancient history Frederick Prickett was a capable surveyor, a native of the village, and practised his profession there. Sir Francis Pemberton was buried at Highgate Chapel on 15th June, 1699.
In 1706 the trustees of Dame Ann Pemberton sold the house to Thomas Nicoll, citizen and merchant of London, and Catherine his wife. (fn. 109) She was the daughter of John Niccoll, Alderman of the Ward of Farringdon Within, 1670, Master of the Leathersellers' Company, 1670–1, Treasurer of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, 1681–1703, who died in May, 1703. John Niccoll of Colney Hatch was his brother-in-law. Catherine, only child of Thomas Niccoll and Catherine his wife, married William Congreve, esquire, who lived on the site of Witanhurst. Thomas Niccoll died in the November following his purchase, and his widow, Catherine (who was buried 9th August, 1734), conveyed the property to Jacob Mendez Da Costa of London, merchant, in 1733. On his death, his son, Isaac Mendez Da Costa, sold it, in 1757, to John Edwards, esquire.
John Edwards (see p. 61) on 6th January, 1768, was granted licence to lease Gravel Field, Broomfield and Home Steer, and the ground called Highgate Green in the possession of Benjamin Colborn and quarter-acre, part of a field late in the tenure of Elizabeth Mendes and a capital messuage, all in the occupation of Charles Yorke. The Right Hon. Charles Yorke, second son of Philip, Earl of Hardwick, was born on 30th December, 1722, and married as his second wife, Agnetta, daughter of Henry Johnson, esquire, of Berkhamsted, on 30th December, 1762. (fn. 55) As he was elected a Governor of the Grammar School on 14th January of that year he must have been a resident at Highgate before his second marriage. In this year he also became Attorney-General. John H. Lloyd in his History of Highgate remarks that "it is a matter of regret that this house has not so far been traced." With our identification of Grove House Mr. Lloyd's problem has been solved. Mr. Yorke's last days were tragic. On 17th January, 1770, King George III held a levée at St. James's at which Mr. Yorke was present, and he was persuaded by the king to accept the office of Lord Chancellor. On 20th January, four days later, he died of fever caused by the extreme nervous tension and mental suffering he had undergone. It appears that his acceptance of office in the Grafton administration was directly contrary to the pledge which he had given to his party, and Lord Campbell writes of him that "he was overpowered by the royal blandishments and a momentary mistake as to the duty of a good subject; but he was struck with deep remorse, and his love for honest fame was demonstrated by his being unable to survive the loss of it."
On the death of John Edwards in 1769 this house went to his granddaughter Mary Edwards, by whose trustee it was conveyed in 1782 to Lieut.-General Charles Fitzroy, 1st Lord Southampton (1764–97). It was then described as a messuage heretofore in the occupation of Catherine Niccoll, afterwards of the Hon. Charles Yorke and "now of Stephen Buckingham." In the Act for Watching and Lighting the Hamlet of Highgate (1775) is mentioned "the house in the Grove occupied by Stephen Beckingham, esquire, and the houses in the lane leading by the side of the Grove towards the door of the stable yard of the said Stephen Beckingham, esquire."In 1808 the property is described as the "site of Grove House long since pulled down and other improvements made on the site, 8 acres of meadow annexed to Fitzroy Farm and three lower gardens behind or westward of the houses in Pemberton Row, two of which gardens are occupied with two of such houses and the other garden is annexed to the grounds of Fitzroy Farm."