Survey of London: Volume 6, Hammersmith. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1915.
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XXVI.—THE SEASONS, No. 17 UPPER MALL
XXVII.—THE DOVES INN, No. 19 UPPER MALL
Ground landlord, leaseholders, etc.
General description and date of structure.
The northern block, comprising portions of both buildings, was perhaps originally one house, or two adjacent cottages under the same roof (see Additional note, infra). At an early period, however, the eastern room was apparently divided off from the Doves Inn, and both parts were extended towards the south. The character of the architecture, which dates from the middle or early portion of the 18th century, is quiet and unassuming, the northern part facing the footpath being of two storeys, with cemented walls and tiled roof. The entrance door to No. 17 has a wrought-iron grille, of very charming detail, which fills the upper panel. The river front and garden of the Doves Inn have not changed much since 1867, when J. T. Wilson made his water-colour drawing (Plate 56). The lead figure of a pigeon or dove used to be seen attached to the building as a sign.
Condition of Repair.
Historical and biographical notes.
The local tradition that James Thomson—whose work marks so memorable a stage in the history of English poetry—frequented the Doves, (fn. 1) and even wrote part of his poem "Winter" here, is commemorated by the name of "The Seasons" bestowed on No. 17. It is quite probable that the tradition is well founded, and it is in any case established that he owed his death to taking boat at Hammersmith Mall, after having walked rapidly thither from London, catching a fatal chill on the river journey thence to Kew (1748). It has been suggested that the room occasionally occupied by Thomson may have been the upper room of No. 17 before it was divided from the inn.
As regards No. 17 (The Seasons), this is supposed to have been prepared as a "smoking box" for Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773–1843), whose visits to Hammersmith are perhaps commemorated in the name of Sussex House opposite. The whole question is obscure in the absence of any trustworthy evidence, but Faulkner, writing in 1839, says: (fn. 2) "In the summer season the back of this cottage is pleasantly shaded by fresh luxuriant foliage, and here His Royal Highness retires to smoke the social tube, and to enjoy the prospect of the winding stream."
The only references to the property which have been discovered in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Fulham appear in the limited period between 1790 and 1796. On 17th Novembe-, 1790, Julian Bere, spinster, died seised of the Doves Coffee House, then in the occupation of James Cade, and of a messuage adjoining occupied by one Hanson. At Julian Bere's death Hannah Payne is admitted, but the property seems to have soon reverted to the Beer family, for in 1792 Montagu Beer is admitted to "a house, court, and two gardens formerly in the possession of Anson, and a Coffee House called the Dove, near Chiswick," described as occupied by James Thompson or his undertenant. The last entry (3rd November, 1796) records the surrender by Montagu Beer of "the Dove Coffee House by the Creek" to the use of John Thompson of Chiswick.
Is it possible that in the ownership of the Doves Inn by a family named Thompson may be found, if not the origin, yet the strength of the tradition concerning the poet? May not an occasional visit of James Thomson have been thus magnified into a residence long enough to enable him to write some part of his poem here?
It should be mentioned that we have no definite information regarding the date at which the Upper Mall was connected by the passage north of the Doves with the Highbridge. We have already noticed that the original path westwards from the Creek passed further north, beginning with Bridge Street (see p. 55). We shall see later that the Upper Mall was probably formed in the middle of the 17th century (see Rivercourt House, p. 76), but from the description of the southern boundary of Sussex House in 1726 it would appear that it was not as yet continued to the Highbridge. The property west of Sussex House immediately north of Nos. 17 and 19 is described in this year as "land formerly of John George," and it seems likely that it extended formerly to the waterside. The Court Rolls contain several references to "2 cottages and a grass orchard by the waterside" to which John George was admitted in 1678 and which pass to John Medley in 1700 and Jonas Durand in 1718. It is by no means unlikely that these two cottages represent the original buildings of The Seasons and the Doves.
Old prints, drawings, etc.
(fn. 3) Water-colour drawing of the Doves Inn, by J. T. Wilson (July 1876), in the Coates Collection.
(fn. 3) Drawing of Doves Place, by A. O. Collard (1910).
In the Council's ms. collection are:
(fn. 3) South view of No. 17 (photograph).
(fn. 3) View of door and wrought-iron grille, No 17 (photograph).