Survey of London Monograph 8, Sandford Manor, Fulham. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1907.
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It is a pleasure to record, in this, the eighth publication of the London Survey, so interesting a place as Sandford Manor, on the borders of Fulham and Chelsea, and thus appropriately to revive the Committee's work, dormant now for three years owing to the long illness and subsequent death of its secretary, Mr. Ernest Godman.
In Sandford Manor House we have, still spared to us, a quiet and well–proportioned building of the 17th century, which, both from its architectural merit, and the picturesque mingling of history and tradition connected with it, is well worthy of a monograph. With regard to it Mr. Webb has, we feel sure, examined all available sources of information. We can hardly say that he has been able to find new evidence relating to the supposed association of the house with two noteworthy personages otherwise as far as the poles asunder, namely, Nell Gwyn and Joseph Addison. On the other hand he has not disproved the statements connecting them with it that have passed almost unchallenged for several generations. In the neighbourhood of what was once the "village of palaces," which is so steeped in memories of the past, there is perhaps more justification than elsewhere for giving ear to the statements that have been locally handed down by oral tradition. Those of us who dwell in Chelsea or Fulham are strongly affected by tradition. Our regard for the Spectator and our affection for "pretty witty Nelly," tell as weightily on us as similar feelings told on our predecessors. In short, we will not give her up if we can possibly help it, and we insist on the fact that the poet and essayist, if never actually domiciled in the dwelling to which this paper is devoted, at least dwelt hard by and knew it intimately.
There is some satisfaction in being able to tell our readers that Sandford Manor House is apparently in no immediate danger of demolition, but we fear that it is only respited, and the rapid changes that are transforming all the district in which it stands, bring home to us the sad necessity of such a work as ours.
The last remains of Paradise Row, with its charming associations, have been destroyed during the present year, and in the quite recent past we have had to lament the transformation of Beaufort Street, the sites of its quiet houses and gardens covered now by rows of jerry-built structures. Box Farm is gone, the Vale (last relic of Chelsea Park) is now threatened. The Duke of York's School will shortly be removed. There is even a disquieting rumour about Chelsea Hospital, though we cannot but think that the public would vehemently resist an attack on this unique foundation. A few short years ago we saw haymaking in progress at the back of Peterborough House, Parson's Green, which had acres of rural ground attached to it, and is now totally obliterated. The buildings of minor im portance but none the less charming which have been "improved" away during the last decade are too many to enumerate.
If for every old landmark destroyed, and every open space built over, we could give in exchange something of architectural merit we should not feel, as we do now, that those who come after us are being robbed of their just inheritance. But alas! as the drawings and photographs of destroyed houses, by our Survey Committee, too plainly show, the modern closely–packed flats and other cheap buildings, with their poor design, poor colour and machine-like construction, will not for a moment compare with what they have replaced, which bore the marks of a more sincere and a simpler age.
The London Survey is to be congratulated on having secured the services of its new secretary. If sufficient financial aid be forthcoming there is every prospect of a series of records being issued which will supply much interesting and original information on various districts included in the area of greater London.