Survey of London: Volume 6, Hammersmith. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1915.
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XII.—KENT HOUSE, No. 10 LOWER MALL
Ground landlord, leaseholders, etc.
General description and date of structure.
Kent House (fn. 1) is a very fine example of the architectural treatment of a house in the latter part of the 18th century. The earliest reference in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Fulham that can be connected at all certainly with the house itself occurs in 1762, and it is probable that this coincides approximately with the date of its erection. Its brickwork is comparatively light in colour, but architects had already for some years been experimenting with bricks that would match stonework better than the warm-coloured brick that was in general use. (fn. 2) The main features of the south front are the two great bay-windows with canted sides, which in reality form important projecting wings flanking the central portion. They are carried up the same height as the remainder of the house, the whole being finished with a brick parapet over a bold cornice with plain modillions. The building is of two storeys, and the windows of the bays are plain squareheaded sashes, having, however, a small reeded architrave on the exterior, and at the angles a square block with pateræ. This method of treating the architrave suggests a later date, but it is probably an instance of the anticipation of a detail in a subsequent style. The door and window above, in the centre of the front, both with small side lights to the middle opening and spanned by a segmental arch, are well designed. The tympanum of the latter is filled with fan ornament, while the former is glazed. A narrow window is set in the wall on each side of the above, the upper ones being circular-headed. These windows have oval medallions over them on the ground floor, and panels with carved swags above the first floor, beneath the cornice. The doorway is reached by a flight of steps, and the forecourt is enclosed by a gateway and railings of wrought iron. The arrangement of the side panels to the gate is a little curious, but the detail of the scrollwork in the overthrow and in the spearheads to the railings is of a very high order, and suggests an even earlier date than that of the house. The whole grouping, however, of gate, railings and doorway appears to be a single conception, and is wonderfully successful.
The interior contains several fine rooms, full of interesting detail, and the main staircase, which is curved in plan, is a striking example of its period. On the ground floor are a large dining-room and drawing-room occupying the wings, and the whole space between is taken up by the staircase hall, the walls of which are treated with pilasters, arcading, and panels either tinted or marbled. The drawing-room has a good plaster ceiling and panelled walls; the chimney-piece is richly carved, with caryatid supporters and a surround of Siena marble; the steel grate is of good design.
The first floor seems to have been rearranged, and some of the larger rooms have been probably subdivided. The middle bedroom has a good moulded mantelpiece and interior with reeded hobs. Several of the rooms have elaborate cornices, that to the circular bedroom having modillions and enriched mouldings, and a frieze of alternate flutes and pateræ. The scheme of decoration appears to be largely original, the mouldings and panels being treated with varying harmonious colours and occasionally but sparingly gilt.
Condition of repair.
Historical and biographical notes.
The earliest reference in the Fulham Court Rolls to Kent House appears to be in the year 1762, when Charles Wingfield surrenders "The Mansion House with the piece of ground set out in breadth ½ a perch on the north side of the brick wall which was formerly a ditch and bank for a fence together with 8 perch of land lying in the ditch behind the said wall containing an acre more or less abutting South on the Thames and land formerly of Anthony Collins west and land heretofore of John Wedgeboro' and the road from Pinsor Gate North and land heretofore of Thomas Trout East." There is, however, no reference to the date of Charles Wingfield's admission.
The description of the house is still the same in the surrender of William Manning to William Cox on 19th December, 1788, and in this year we find Kent House and Nos. 11 and 12 Upper Mall referred to in the same surrender.
William Cox on 26th September, 1792, surrenders both the properties to Abraham Kirkman, and at this date the description of Kent House is altered to "The messuage or Mansion House near the waterside with Coach house, stables and garden thereto fronting South on the River Thames now in possession of Abraham Kirkman."
Abraham Kirkman surrenders both properties to Charlotte Kirkman in 1795, while in 1799 (presumably on the death of Charlotte Kirkman) the properties are left to his nine children, seven of whom in the course of this and the following year surrender their shares to Joseph Kirkman, who on 3rd December, 1800, surrenders his eight shares to Francis Matthews and Abraham Kirkman. The final admission, before the enfranchisement in 1865, was that of the Reverend J. P. King-Salter, when the house is described as "All those nine undivided shares of that Mansion House near the Waterside with the coach house, etc. belonging fronting S. on the Thames for some time past in the occupation of Thomas Hunt and then of Maria Hunt now known as Kent House and in the occupation of Thomas Durran." The surrender is by the last-named.
In the Council's ms. collection are:
(fn. 5) Plans of the ground floor (measured drawings).
(fn. 5) South elevation (measured drawing).
(fn. 5) Wrought-iron gateway (measured drawing).
(fn. 5) View of entrance doorway (photograph).