Survey of London: Volume 2, Chelsea, Pt I. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1909.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
IX., X., XI.—Nos. 2, 3 AND 4 SWAN WALK.
Ground landlord, etc.
Nos. 2 and 3 are the property of W. Brindley, Esq., and are tenanted respectively by William Miller, Esq., and Nigel Playfair, Esq. No. 4 belongs to Walter Robertson, Esq., and is occupied by Mrs. Bertie Roberts.
The general appearance of these three houses, linking them definitely with old Chelsea, has been responsible for their inclusion in our Survey, although they cannot lay claim to the possession of any features of particular beauty or value. This portion of Swan Walk, with its old-fashioned houses in their ample gardens on one side and the ancient wall of the Physic Garden on the other, is sufficiently unchanged to be esteemed a precious relic of the neighbourhood of Paradise Row. The name of this little street is derived from the Old Swan Inn which stood at its south end on the river side, and which was converted into a brewery in the 18th century. The inn is mentioned by Pepys (1666), and became famous as the goal of the annual watermen's boat race (instituted by Thomas Doggett in 1715), the scene of one of Rowlandson's sketches, now in the British Museum. It was converted into a brewery later on, and another inn was started, bearing the name "The Old Swan," on a site on the water side, west of the Physic Garden.
Nos. 2 and 3 Swan Walk are plain unpretentious houses, apparently of the middle Georgian period. The latter has been remodelled, but the former preserves its square brick front and cornice, although it has been entirely altered inside. No. 4 is more interesting. The house is set back some distance from the road and has a wide porch with Doric columns. The interior is evidently panelled throughout, but canvas has been stretched over the panelling to allow of wallpapers. There are some fairly early fireplaces with bold architraves, bolection-moulded. The main stair is of late design, but there are some early balusters alternately twisted and plain-turned in another part. There is a pretty fanlight over the back door. The house gives one the impression of having been much altered; the original building may have dated from the reign of Queen Anne. It would be interesting to know the character of the wainscot, which is at present hidden beneath the wallpaper.
From a very careful examination of the rate-lists we think we are justified in assigning the following names to these houses, although the evidence of the lists is not quite conclusive:—
No. 2.–1711–1712, Thomas March; 1714–1718, Sarah Taxsara; 1719–1735, Joseph Windham; 1736–1749, William Whitfield; 1750, Mrs. Whitfield; 1751–1758, Mary Viscountess Fane; 1760–1770, Christopher Kempster, senior; 1771, Mrs. Kempster; 1773–1774, Rev. Richard Woodis; 1775–1782, Mr. Lowe; 1791–1792, Mary Pinfold; 1793, Thomas Mitchell; 1794–1800, John Mitchell.
No. 3 (built 1776).—1777–1794, Edward Read.
No. 4.—1711–1718, John Bickerstaffe; 1720–1721, Mr. Hamilton; 1722–1723, Rachel Hamilton; 1724–1725, Sir Thomas and Lady Lolley; 1726–1733, Charles Waller; 1734–1735, Mr. Rogers; 1736–1739, Alexander Blackwell; 1741–1751, Thomas Abbott; 1755–1770, John Randall; 1771–1800, Elizabeth Randall.