Survey of London: Volume 2, Chelsea, Pt I. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1909.
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XXV.—No. 4 CHEYNE WALK.
Ground landlord, leaseholder, etc.
Ground landlord, Earl Cadogan. Leaseholder, Ernest Louis Meinertzhagen, Esq., J.P.
General description and date of structure.
No. 4 seems to have been built with more care and expense than Nos. 1 to 3, and was in all likelihood specially designed for its first owner (William Morrison). The date 1718 upon the lead head to the rainwater pipe (which is now in the front of the house, but was formerly at the back) points to its erection at the same time as its neighbours in the walk. The charming redbrick front has been almost untouched save where a third storey was added, and the modern "battlements" were placed upon the parapet, but the house has had certain modifications within. The present owner has, however, preserved all the early work, and has removed one or two modern features such as the small projecting windows shown on Plate 28, which were out of harmony with the original design. The accompanying plans show as nearly as possible the old arrangement of the rooms. The drawing-room on the first floor was divided at one time by a partition, but this has been removed, and it is doubtful whether the room was ever meant to be other than one apartment.
No. 4 possesses the most beautiful of all the doorways in Cheyne Walk. It consists of an elaborate hood with carved brackets which overshadow two fine Corinthian pilasters with boldly traced foliage. The wrought-iron gate, too, though not without its rivals in the Walk in the matter of size and importance, is quite unequalled for charm and delicacy of design and workmanship, and the stone path from gate to doorway binds the whole into a wonderfully attractive picture.
The hall shown in Miss Newcombe's drawing (Plate 38) preserves its original stair, around which the walls are completely covered with paintings in oil, of very pleasant quality. On the ceiling of the first floor landing the place of the cornice is taken by a curved angle on which the artist has painted a cornice. The ceiling has mythological figures, among which Juno with a peacock by her side is prominent. The walls have two classical landscapes in excellent condition. The name of the artist is not known, but the work is traditionally attributed to Sir James Thornhill, and is in his style, though probably by some less known man. The paintings are, to all appearances, of the same date as the house, but it has been thought that they were touched up by Maclise during his occupancy. The stair itself is cleverly disposed in its position, and has three twisted balusters to each tread, over a shaped bracket. The old stone and marble paving remains.
Passing between two fluted Corinthian pilasters one reaches a fine room nearly 30 feet long, which is used as a dining-room. Here one is struck at once by two peculiarities in the plan: first the massive brickwork around the fireplaces, which project into the room at both ends and are built diagonally across the angles; and, second, the fact that there are two of the miniature rooms, before described as "powder" rooms, which form two wings to the house on the garden side. The reasons for these variations from a normal plan of the period are far from being clear. The fireplace on the east wall has a charming design, in the outline of its marble surround, which we do not remember to have seen elsewhere. Mr. Meinertzhagen has had it duplicated for the opposite fireplace, which had plain marble slips, and has moved these latter to the east fireplace in the drawing-room above. The wall north of the dining-room has been moved out two feet towards the garden and a very slightly curved window has been inserted. Otherwise the beautiful panelling, cornice, &c. remain as they always were.
The front room on the ground floor retains its panelling. It has also an angle fireplace but with a modern chimney-piece. There is a curious arched recess on the east wall flanked by two very small cupboards.
On the first floor the front room is complete with its fine moulded panelling and carved chimney-piece. The drawing-room is also in perfect keeping with the rest, for although it has lost its original mantels others have been cleverly substituted, made up from portions of old enriched mouldings; and the door leading into one of the "powder" rooms has been removed, thus making it into a quaint recess from the larger room and showing its old panelling to greater advantage.
Of the other rooms in the house, the most interesting is the large Lshaped bedroom overlooking the river on the second floor. Its old panelling is intact, and its four beautiful windows and good chimney-piece of moulded marble help to make it most attractive.
The main well-staircase stops at the first floor, the other storeys being reached by the secondary staircase, which terminates above in a curious wooden column. At the back of this staircase, between it and the west wall, there was formerly a space some two or three feet deep, which formed a well from the top to the bottom of the house. The fact has been noticed by such writers as L'Estrange and Besant, and some speculation indulged in as to its purpose. It is quite possible, however, that it was merely a space for a lift, since pulley lifts are not unknown as early as the 18th and even 17th centuries.
In the basement little is left beyond an interesting old dresser, and a pump with leaden pump-head over the well in the scullery.
Condition of repair.
The house is in excellent repair.
The date on the rainwater head is 1718, but the first resident whose name we find in the rate-books is William Morrison for the years 1722 to 1729. The following names then appear:—
Since Sir Richard Gough of Gough House (see No. III) died in 1728, it seems certain that the Lady Gough who took the house in 1730 was his widow. Her name appears in the rate-books for 1729 in conjunction with that of her son at Gough House. According to Faulkner, she was the daughter of Nicholas Crispe, of London. From a note in the diary of Narcissus Luttrell, who lived at Little Chelsea, we learn that her daughter married a Mr. Bouchier. It would seem, therefore, that the Mrs. Ann "Bushier" of the rate-books, who succeeded her in residence, was none other than this daughter, who in 1737, the year that she left Cheyne Walk, seems to have taken No. 7 Paradise Row (see p. 27). The Rev. Weedon Butler who, Faulkner tells us, kept his school in Chelsea for forty years, appears to have resided at No. 4 until he moved to No. 6, with which his name is generally associated and where we shall find him in 1790. He seems to have already begun his wellknown school here, and to have found that he needed larger accommodation.
Mr. Wm. Ascroft has pointed out that Faulkner gives this erroneously as the house of the Neilds. We think the fault is more probably that of the printer than of Faulkner himself, who could scarcely have been in error since John Camden Neild was a subscriber to his book. Mr. Ascroft further states that a Miss Wisby kept a ladies' school here at one time.
William Dyce, R.A., lived here in 1846–1847 while executing his frescoes in the House of Lords, Westminster. About the year 1861 Daniel Maclise, R. A., took the house. Mr. Beaver, in his Memorials of Old Chelsea, quotes from a letter of his to The Times entitled: "A Voice from Cheyne Walk." He lived here till the year of his death, 1870.
Wm. Sandys Wright Vaux (1818–1885), President of the Society of Antiquaries, Keeper of Coins and Medals, British Museum, Secretary to the Royal Asiatic Society, President of the Numismatic Society, lived here for a short time. He left in 1880, and on December 3rd the house was taken by the famous novelist, Mrs. Cross, better known as George Eliot, whose residence, short as it was, has given it its chief interest. She came here with high hopes of better health than had latterly been her lot and of gaining pleasure from the beautiful riverside; but it was only for a few days. She caught a chill at a concert in St. James's Hall, and died on the night of December 22nd.
Thomas Faulkner, Chelsea and its Environs (2nd edition, 1829).
Rev. A. G. L'Estrange, The Village of Palaces (1880).
Alfred Beaver, Memorials of Old Chelsea (1892).
Reginald Blunt, Handbook to Chelsea.
Dictionary of National Biography (Dyce, Maclise, Vaux, George Eliot).
W. Justin O'Driscoll, Memoir of Daniel Maclise.
In the committee's ms. collection are—
|3182.||General view (photograph).|
|3183.||(fn. 1) Entrance gate (photograph).|
|3184.||Entrance gate (photograph).|
|3185.||Entrance gate, side view (photograph).|
|3186.||Entrance gate, view from garden (photograph).|
|3187.||(fn. 1) Entrance gate (measured drawing, tinted).|
|3188.||Front doorway (photograph).|
|3189.||(fn. 1) Front doorway another view (photograph).|
|3190.||(fn. 1) Front doorway (measured drawing, line).|
|3191.||(fn. 1) Hall and stair (wash drawing).|
|3192.||Staircase, detail (photograph).|
|3193.||Fireplace, dining-room (photograph).|
|3194.||(fn. 1) Fireplace, dining-room, another view (photograph).|
|3195.||Fireplace, drawing-room (photograph).|
|3196.||(fn. 1) Fireplace, front room, first floor (photograph).|
|3197.||(fn. 1) Fireplace, front bedroom, second floor (photograph).|
|3198.||(fn. 1) Plans of ground, first, and second floors.|