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Title: Sweet Hampstead and Its Associations

Author: Caroline A. White

Release date: January 26, 2021 [eBook #64394]

Language: English

Credits: MFR and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)




‘A village revelling in varieties.’
Leigh Hunt.




A Bit of Old Hampstead, New End.




‘When shall we see you at sweet Hampstead again?’









As illustrating the very common axiom that extremes meet, a preface at the beginning of a book is, as a matter of course, the last thing that is written. In the present instance, having stated my reasons for writing ‘Sweet Hampstead’ in the introductory chapter, a preface seems almost redundant. Moreover, I have an idea that prefaces as a rule are not popular reading, but literary custom being stronger than private opinion, I must revoke my heresy.

It is very many years since the thought of writing the story of Hampstead occurred to me. I found that previous writers had left the most important period of its local history, and the most interesting personages who had vitalized it, with little more than a passing reference; and thence it was that the desire to occupy unbroken ground took possession of me.

But the years alluded to were amongst the busiest of a busy life, when I was ‘coining my brains for drachmas,’ or their equivalent in British currency, and had no time for the dreamland of topographical speculation. The engagements, however, that hindered my design opened up many sources of material for future use; and as topography is always a literary mosaic, their diversity tended to enrichment.

Thus it came to pass that the first draft of my book was laid aside, but never forgotten, for more than thirty years, and has only recently been reverted to—a task that has been a delight, bringing back—though sometimes through a mist of tears—images of the past, with pleasant memories[x] of sunny days that, looked at from the perspective of eighty-nine years, seem brighter even than sunshine is itself.

From such a pile of years I almost lose the author’s dread of the critic. Praise or blame are to me now much the same; but, being a woman, I still prefer the praise.

I cannot close these preliminary words without expressing my obligations to Mr. P. Forbes for the eight sketches he has permitted to be copied for the beautifying of the book; to Messrs. Oetzmann for some illustrations so kindly lent; to Mr. Baines, not only for a similar favour, but for help from his valuable ‘Records of Hampstead’; and to the proprietors of the Municipal Journal for the charming picture of the viaduct.

My thanks are also due to Mrs. Rosa Perrins, to Miss Kemp, Miss Quaritch, and Mr. M. H. Wilkin, who have all kindly assisted me. I also desire to acknowledge my indebtedness to Mr. Lloyd, of Highgate, for information gathered from his clever lecture on ‘Caen Wood and its Associations.’ To the courtesy and kindness of Mr. G. W. Potter I owe much original material, and many interesting notes; and I also desire to thank Mr. C. A. Ward for the personal interest he has taken in my work, and the great help he has ungrudgingly given me in preparing and correcting it for the press. I can only add that should my book be found so readable as to convey to others some share of the pleasure I have felt in writing it, or lead in more capable hands to future research and a fuller development of a delightfully interesting topic, ‘Sweet Hampstead’ will have fulfilled its intention, and I can sing with an unknown poet of the sixteenth century:

‘Now cease, my lute: this is the laste
Labour that thou and I shall waste,
And ended is that we begun;
Now is this song both sung and past:
My lute, be still, for I am done.’






VANE HOUSE, 1800 57
FENTON HOUSE, 1780 165
FIRS 169
BELSIZE LANE, 1850 342




‘But if the busy town
Attract thee still to toil for power or gold,
Sweetly thou mayst thy vacant hours possess
In Hampstead, courted by the western wind.’
Dr. Armstrong.

To the inhabitants of London and its suburbs a history of Hampstead and the Heath may seem wholly unnecessary. What London lad who has not fished in and skated on its ponds, played truant in its subrural fields and lanes, gone bird-nesting in its woods, or spent delightful, orthodox half-holidays upon the heath?

As for the free brotherhood of the lanes and alleys before the plague of Board schools afflicted them, or the Board of Works stood sponsor for the preservation of the Heath, what hand’s breadth (of its mile-wide waste) of its hundreds of acres was there that they did not know and continue to renew acquaintance with on every recurrence of the high festivals of Easter and Whitsuntide?

But it is not of ‘’Appy ’Amstead’ that I am about to write, but of that older Hampstead the materials for the history of which lie scattered through many books not[2] often read, and in the correspondence of dead men and women.

Lysons and Park are not for general readers, and such works as William Howitt’s ‘Northern Heights’ and Baines’s ‘Records of Hampstead’ are not companionable volumes. Yet I know of no intermediate work between them and mere guide-books.

Hence it occurred to me that I might fill a vacant place in the literature of ‘Sweet Hampstead,’ and give to others, without the toil, the pleasure I have had in recalling forgotten incidents connected with it, and memories of some of the celebrated men and women who, from the days of Queen Anne till our own, have added to the intrinsic delights of the place the charm of their association with it.

When the idea of undertaking ‘this labour of love’ occurred to me, the window near which I loved to write commanded a last fragmentary view of Gospel Oak Fields, which divided Hampstead from the parish of St. Pancras. These fields were even then (early in the sixties) in the hands of speculative builders, but a few green hedges, a group of elms, a pollard oak or two—scions, perhaps, of the traditionary one that for centuries had given its name to these now obliterated prata et pasturas—remained.

Ten years previously the hollow trunk of a very aged tree (fenced round) was still standing, and was locally said to be the remains of the original Gospel Oak, one of the many so called, in various counties of England, from the use made of them by the Preaching Friars, who under their shade were wont to read and explain the Scriptures to the people. It was at that time, and for years afterwards, used as a boundary tree, when once in three years the clergyman, parochial authorities, and charity children perambulated the boundaries of the parish of St. Pancras, of which it was the terminus in this direction.

Where Fleet Road is now, the shallow remnant of the once ‘silvery Fleet,’ as Crosby calls it in his ‘Additional Notes,’ written only a very few years before the period I am[3] writing of, ‘meandered, irrigating those charming meadows which reach on either side of Kentish Town.’

South End Road, 1840.

In my time it crept, a sluggish stream, a mere ditch in dry weather, but after copious rain it rose suddenly, brimming to its margin, to disappear at the end of Angler’s Lane by a subterranean channel under part of Kentish Town, where it once more came to light as a narrow runlet in the main road that was easily stepped over. There were persons then living who remembered this portion of the river, a limpid stream flowing by the west side of Kentish Town towards King’s Cross, for it is not much more than half a century since it was arched over and built upon.

The fields through which it passed showed signs of its meanderings, and were still lovely with trees that had figured in many an artist’s sketch-book, and had thence imparted the refreshment of their pictured beauty to many a home.

The footpath through these meadows from Kentish Town followed the curve of an old rivulet scarcely dry in places,[4] the whole course of which was traceable in the wavering line of aged willows, hollow and splintered, but putting forth hoar green branches above the exhausted stream that had once fed their roots.

This was Mary Shelley’s lovely walk from Kentish Town through the fields, with their fine old elms and rivulets and alder-trees, and a view to the north of the wooded heights of Highgate. In her time Carlton Road and the region thereabouts were all meadows.

This path led over the easiest of stiles through a little lane between hedges of hawthorn and elder by an old nursery garden and cottage where strawberries and cream were to be had in the season, and a cup of tea at all times, and so to South End or such portion of it as was not already changed to railway uses. The houses here were of a humbler description than those in the Flask Walk, but there were sufficient indications in little garden-borders, in roses trained about the doors, in vines wholly untrained, running to an excess of leafiness over walls and roofs, in a group of straw bee-hives, sheltered in a corner, to show how pretty and rustic the place had once been. There was the down-trodden, worn-out Green, with its white palings and rickety turnstile, in itself a protest to the farther use of it, and lime-trees, out of all proportion to the small houses you saw between them, large-limbed and flourishing.

An ascending row of houses to the right, on what is now South Hill Park, occupied the levelled slopes the summits of which when I first knew the lovely neighbourhood afforded charming views, and not the least charming that of the eastern outskirts of Hampstead, sweeping up amidst a profusion of foliage towards the high ground about Squire’s Mount, with a foreground of water and groups of trees studding the undulating surface, the fields on the east bounded by the remarkable mound which now bears the name of Parliament Hill, but was then known by the more striking one of Traitors’ Hill.

Ainsworth has made it memorable as the scene whence[5] some of the conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot watched for the explosion of the Houses of Parliament at the hands of Guy Faux. Park, who refers to Stukeley’s ‘Itinerary’ on various occasions, takes no notice of this eminence.

Mr. Lloyd, in his published ‘Lecture on Caen Wood,’ tells us that when Mr. Bills purchased the estate of Sir James Harrington, amongst the properties belonging to it was a windmill, ‘which occupied the fine site of the summit of Parliament Hill, where the trench formed by the removal of its foundations is still to be traced. It was, doubtless, the Manor mill.’


At one time it was presumed that, like the mound in the field to the right of the path to Highgate, which Lord Mansfield caused to be enclosed and planted with Scotch firs, it was a tumulus. In support of this idea there is a[6] tradition of Saxon times still extant of this neighbourhood. Was it not about the skirts of Highgate that Alfred encamped with his troops to protect the citizens of London, whilst they gathered in the harvest from the surrounding fields, from Hastings of the Ivory Horn, who lay with his Danish army beside the Lea, ready to pillage them of their summer fruits? And might not some great battle have been fought, and have resulted in the raising of this mound? Alas for romance! When a few summers ago a child at play in its neighbourhood unearthed the hidden treasure of some threatened home, buried for safety’s sake in troublous times, or the booty of some thief, whose after-career interfered with his return for it, a search into the interior of the mound, under the direction of the County Council, dispelled the theories of the antiquaries and the dreams of romancists.[1]

But whatever its origin, the mound adds materially to the visual enjoyment of the visitor; and the sight of London from its height, especially at the early dawn of a clear summer’s day, is said to be worth a midnight pilgrimage to obtain. The air blows over its summit ‘most sweetly,’ especially in June, blending the scent of the lime blossoms from the sister villages with the aroma of the hayfields and hedgerows, where the honeysuckle and wild-rose bloom unmolested.

Facing round, we have Highgate Hill in view, with white modern houses showing here and there, and others roof-high in the foliage of surrounding trees. Of the ancient hamlet we see only a ridge of red-tiled roofs showing in the neighbourhood of the church.

To the north, where the grounds of Caen Wood come[7] sweeping down to the brimming ponds, on which the swans ‘float double, swan and shadow,’ the landscape widens into one of rare beauty. Park-like beyond the park, in its alternations of lawny slope and little dells and groups of trees, it looks like a portion of the demesne, and not the least picturesque and lovely part of it.[2]

View of Highgate and Ponds.

To the west (a proper pendant to the view of Highgate) our vision closes with the spire of St. John’s Church, and the town of Hampstead stretching down a peninsula of houses in a sea of verdure, terminating in the fast-narrowing strip of green fields between Kentish Town and the St. John’s Wood estate on this side of Hampstead Road.

I specially remember a bit of landscape in which the red viaduct[3] in Sir Maryon Wilson’s demesne shows to much advantage on the grassy foreground between the wooded[8] undulations of the park. It is still pretty, but ‘with a difference.’ Then a footway crossing the Heath led through an old gray, weather-beaten gate to a shady path, with a plantation of young trees on one side, and a hedgerow, redolent in summer of wild-rose and May, dividing it from a meadow on the other. The remains of a long-disused tile-kiln stood on the edge of the field, the red earth of which showed its fitness for such manufacture. This path led through upland fields to Highgate, and was a charming one, beloved by painter and poet. The last time I saw it the beauty was devastated, and the meadow changed into a brickfield, with a view to its conversion into a site for building on.

But I am forgetting, in my remembrances of the charming suburb, that from the earliest birth of a taste for natural beauty, Hampstead must have had a special interest for the inhabitants of London.

Beautiful as were the whole range of gently-swelling hills forming the background of the City, and long subsequent to Tudor times covered with dense woods, which encroached on the north and east even to its gates, and came down on the west as far as Tyburn, Hampstead Hill from its altitude, and the fact, as someone has written, that it ‘closed the gates of view in that direction,’ must have had an interest beyond the others.

Baines claims for Hampstead that it was a village before 1086; in other words, that the five manses, or homes of the villani and bordarii on the original clearing, which are mentioned as existing when Domesday Book was compiled, constituted a village. In 1410, at the time of the assignment of Hampstead, together with Hendon, to Henry Lord Scrope of Marsham for the maintenance of his servants and horses, he being then attending Parliament on the King’s service, it is included with Hendon, and styled a town (‘the towns of Hampstead and Hendon’).




But in the reign of Henry VIII. it is again called a village, by which designation it continued to be called even in our own times, long after it had outgrown the dimensions of one, just as a beloved child when grown up retains the pet name given to it in infancy; and truly Hampstead continues to be the best-beloved of all the City suburbs.

A stone in the north aisle of the old church, dated 1658, recorded that John Baxter, Gent., had made it incumbent on the owners of a house ‘in Hamstede Streete, where Mr. Netmaker dwelleth’ (no other street apparently existed to make a prefix necessary), to pay the sum of £3 yearly to the poor of the parish. Someone of importance, no doubt, occupied the moated mansion and demesne of Caen Wood, and there are records of other great men and rich City merchants resident in the upland hamlet. A peep at the parish register,[4] the earliest date in which is 1560, affords us a clue to the growth of the population.

Subsequent to the above date, 1580-89, the baptisms averaged 13³⁄₁₀, the burials 6⅒. At the close of 1680-89 the baptisms amounted to 33⅗, the burials to 65⁹⁄₁₀, an excess accounted for by the visitation of the Plague (1664-65).

Towards the close of the eighteenth century (1790-99) the baptisms averaged 99⅗, the burials 141⅗,[5] a slow but steady growth, marvellously increased in modern times.

After the Great Plague, change of air in the summer season became an article of faith with the inhabitants of London, and an annual sojourn of some weeks in the country or at the seaside an established custom with all who could afford it, a custom which resulted on the part of the wealthy merchants and citizens in the hire or purchase of a country retreat in one or other of the suburbs.

Hampstead, towards the end of the Commonwealth, combined the advantages of ‘Air and Hill, and Well and School,’ and these favourable circumstances, added to its easy distance from London, recommended it to the City fathers and mothers, and made it, of all the rural villages in the neighbourhood of town, the most popular.


Though its high-pitched situation precluded at that period, and for a long time after, such an increase of buildings as lower situations were afflicted with, its position, fine air, and beautiful prospects made it much sought, and in the times of the Stuarts many notable persons in connection with the Court had houses here. Sir Henry Vane built his fine mansion on what was then called Hampstead Hill, and J. Bills, Esq., son of the printer to His Majesty, resided at Caen Wood; while my Lord Wotton had his country-house at Belsize. After the Restoration we find Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Attorney-General, residing at Hampstead, where he died, May 1, 1670, and though Pepys does not mention it, Sir George Downing, Secretary to the Treasury, who so often appears in the ‘Diary,’ and whom Pepys stigmatizes as a ‘sider with all times and changes,’ resided here, and had his house broken into and robbed (1685). From the St. James’s Gazette, published by authority, I find that, amongst other articles of which the thieves deprived Sir George, were the following items: ‘A large agate about the bigness of a crown piece, with Cupid and Venus and Vulcan engraved on it. A blue sapphire seal, set in gold, enamelled, with an old man and woman’s head engraved on it. A pomander,[6] set in gold. A locket, with fourteen diamonds and a crystal in the middle, engraved with two Cupids holding a heart over a cypher.’ This catalogue appeals to the sympathies of every lover of delightful bric-à-brac, but one fears the advertisement of them failed to recover the charming items, some of which may even yet find their way to one of the table-cases in South Kensington.

Every year appears to have added to the favour of Hampstead as a summer resort, a fact that was not lost upon the inhabitants, who were not slow to realize the benefit of these annual incursions.


Copyholds were readily procurable, and Hampstead was soon dotted about in various directions with weather-boarded or brick dwellings, so that by the end of the seventeenth century twelve houses had risen upon the demesne, two upon the freeholds, and 257 upon the copyholds, besides cottages, barns, brewhouses, etc., together with a dancing-room, shops, and other tenements in connection with the Wells.[7]

In the first year of the present century we find that Hampstead possessed 691 houses, which in 1811 had increased to 842, with 5,483 inhabitants, and there were seventeen houses building, and forty-five unlet.

In 1815, when Britton revisited it, he tells us that Hampstead, from a beautiful rural village, had become a town, with hundreds of mean houses (intended for lodging-houses) disposed in narrow courts, squares, and alleys, many of them uninhabited.

Yet the rate of building mentioned was insignificant compared with its after-progress. In 1861 the inhabited houses had increased to 4,340, with 385 uninhabited dwellings, and 169 more in course of building, while the population of the whole parish amounted to a total of 32,271 persons, a very remarkable feature in the succeeding census of Hampstead, 1871, being the preponderance of female inhabitants, who exceeded by 711 the entire population of the previous census in 1861.

If anything can invest these dry details with interest, it is the contrast they present between the Hampstead of the past and present. At the census of 1891 the inhabited houses numbered 9,528, with 687 uninhabited, 461 in course of erection, whilst the population in the four wards comprised in the parish of St. John amounted to 68,425 persons. The population of Hampstead at the present time (1898) is said to be about 78,000. In thirty years houses and inhabitants had doubled their numbers. The man who published a book in 1766, called ‘London Improved,’ which proposed to make[13] the New Road, now Euston Road, the boundary of building in that direction, ‘otherwise the Hills of Hampstead and Highgate may be expected to become a considerable part of the suburbs of London,’ wrote prophetically, for London stretches out its infolding tentacles on all sides, and is only nominally divided from them. This New Road, as it continued to be quite recently called, though made under the Act of the twenty-ninth of George II. (1746) under the control of the Hampstead and Highgate trust, intersected level fields from Tottenham Court Road to Battle Bridge.

It takes us a little aside from the story of Hampstead, but is a pleasant prelude to it, and one can hardly refrain from giving a glance at the London approach to the beautiful village as it existed at the time of, and for a considerable period after the opening of the New Road.

Midway on the south side of the road stood the Bowling Green House, famous for nearly a century previously as a place of rural resort, and lower down the Brill Tavern, rather more ancient than its rival.

The Old Mother Red Cap public-house (and a nickname for a shrew of the first quality, whom a recent writer claims as a sutler and camp-follower of Marlborough’s,[8] but who appears to have kept this house as long ago as 1676, and to have been widely known by the unpleasant sobriquet of Mother Damnable, under which name some doggerel verses addressed to her are preserved in Caulfield’s Eccentric Magazine)—the Old Mother Red Cap, and old St. Pancras Church, were the only interruptions in the view of Hampstead from Bedford House, Queen Square, and the Foundling, except some groups of trees near St. Pancras, and in a lane leading from Gray’s Inn Road to the Bowling-Green House.


Gay and Pope both refer to the Tottenham Fields, and William Blake, painter and poet, sings of

‘The fields from Islington to Marybone,
To Primrose Hill and St. John’s Wood.’

Where Harrington and Ampthill Squares now stand ‘stretched fields of cows by Welling’s Farm,’[9] the reputed proprietor of 999 ‘milky mothers of the herd,’ which could never be increased to 1,000, a singular tradition common to the fields by Clerkenwell, and to the once green pastures between the Old Kent Road and Peckham. A lady well acquainted with Hampstead tells me that the same legend existed with regard to a local cow-keeper, a Mr. Rhodes,[10] in the early years of the present century.

A venerable friend of the writer’s in the fifties, an old inhabitant of the neighbourhood, remembered that where Francis Street now is there were fields called Francis’s Fields running up to the Tottenham Court Road, which few persons cared to pass through after dark. Some houses then below what is now Shoolbred’s had little gardens with green palings before them, which she specially remembered from the figures of the traditional blind beggar and his daughter, who so marvellously escaped the Great Plague of London, ornamenting one of them. Harrison Ainsworth has preserved the story in one of his graphically-written novels. A gentleman tells me that an old lady born in 1800, and only lately deceased, remembered as a child waiting in the evening at the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street till a party of six or more persons collected, when, in fear of footpads, they were convoyed across the fields to Kentish Town by a watchman.

Camden Town, which had been begun to be built in 1791, consisted for the most part of one-storied brick or weather-boarded houses, the outlines of some of which could be traced in my own time, though heightened and otherwise[15] altered. Other houses, with gardens and orchards lying wide apart, led up to the half-way house we have just mentioned—the Old Mother Red Cap—where, at the point where the roads to Hampstead and Highgate diverge, stood, as it still stands, Brown’s Dairy. A thatched cottage in those days, with deep eaves, and little leaded, diamond-paned casements sparkling under them. Over the half-hatch door of this rustic dairy-house ladies and children from the neighbourhood of the old-fashioned squares (who took their morning walk through a turnstile at the top of Judd Street, leading by hawthorn-shaded hedgerows to the open fields), were wont to refresh themselves with a cup of new milk, or equally innocent sweet curds and whey.

At the top of Tottenham Court Road, in the fields on the left-hand side, were the remains of a mansion, the removal of which my old friend Valentine Bartholomew, the artist, remembered. It gave its name to the road, and is said to have been a palace of Henry VIII.’s; it was taken down towards the end of the last century (1791).

On the same side of the way stood a well-known tavern and tea-gardens, called the Adam and Eve,[11] the bowery arbours, lawns, smooth bowling-green and garden-alleys of which have been ill-exchanged for the gin palace opposite its site.

This house is mentioned in the curious trial of Andrew Robinson Bowes, Esq., and others, in the King’s Bench, May 30, 1787, for conspiracy against his wife, Lady Strathmore—a postboy, one of the witnesses of the lady’s forcible abduction, having orders to hire a chaise with excellent horses, and wait at the Adam and Eve, described as on the road to Barnet. ‘Lady Strathmore, while shopping in Oxford Street, was made prisoner, and the peace officer who presented the warrant, a creature of her husband’s, under colour of taking her before Lord Mansfield, had her carriage driven up the Tottenham Court Road, Mr. Bowes[16] himself on the box, where, meeting the postboy, he bade him follow in the chaise.’

Twenty-seven years afterwards Leigh Hunt tells us Mr. Bowes was still in Horsemonger Lane Gaol, expiating, on the debtors’ side of the prison, his misconduct to his wife, and the non-payment of the fine to which he had been condemned.

Ponds and pools of water were in those days common in the public ways, and one in the near neighbourhood of this house became, on an afternoon of September, 1785, the scene of the following brutal outrage:

A youth was suspected of picking a gentleman’s pocket close to the Adam and Eve, whereupon some of the by-standers took him to an adjoining pond and ducked him very severely. A sailor, not satisfied with the discipline of the crowd, threw him again into the water, and kept him under till he was drowned.

A little further on to the right of the road there stood in my time a high mound, covered with grass, beneath which was a reservoir which supplied the neighbourhood with water; it was removed, if my memory is correct, about 1846-47, when its site was occupied by one of the earliest experimental baths and wash-houses, which have since given place to some sunless houses, under the shadow of the Congregational Church, in what is known as Tolmer Square.

From this mound the road to Hampstead, a comparatively short period before the above date, was fringed with pastures to the right, and with gardens, fields, hedgerows, and orchards on the left, with only two or three cottages and a roadside alehouse between the Adam and Eve and the High Street, Camden Town.

Roads, in the present meaning of the word, there had been none subsequent to Roman times, till the Hanoverian succession. Even when the use of carriages made them necessary, they resembled those deep country lanes, not yet unknown in Devonshire and Essex, where in winter the mud imbeds the wheels of carts or waggons, or were mere pack-horse paths, with a raised causeway running through[17] the midst, and a deep fosse of mud on either side. Such a road was that which, in Elizabeth’s time, ran up from Battle Bridge between the hedgerow banks of Maiden Lane to Green Street and Highgate, whence a path led by Caen Wood to what was then called Wildwood Corner, across Hampstead Heath to Pond Street, tree-shaded, with its wild banks full of primroses and violets in spring, and redolent of May a little later, but rendered all but impassable in winter from the rains and overflow of the many rivulets which drained the uplands into Pancras Vale.

I have before me a view of the ‘Hampstead Road, near Tomkins’ House,’ engraved by Charles White, probably a grandson of Robert White, a celebrated engraver, who died in 1704. A post-chaise, drawn by two horses, is depicted labouring up what appears to be a mere rugged track over rough heath-ground. The dome of St. Paul’s (finished in 1710) and the City spires and houses appear in the distance but the view exhibits a primitive and solitary country, only broken by clumps of trees, furze coverts, and hedgerows, and except a single cottage and the gable of a house (probably Tomkins’) no other habitation is to be seen.

As late as May, 1736, it is reported in the London Post ‘that Col. de Veil had committed one of the coachmen who was driving the Hampstead coach to Newgate, for getting out of the track he was in and assaulting the Hon. the Lady Cook Winford by driving his coach upon her, whereby he threw her and her horse into a deep ditch, and she was greatly hurt and bruised.’

The Hampstead Road was not made till 1772, when George III. was King, though the summit of the hill had been previously cut down. When Ogilby, in the time of Charles II. wrote his Guide, St. Giles’ Pound lay in the open country, and the way to Holborn, like Gray’s Inn Lane, was a pleasant rustic road. Tottenham Court Road lay between fields and market-gardens, sprinkled with houses of entertainment, some of which lingered long after the making of the present road. Gay tells us that in summer[18] ‘the Tottenham fields with roving beauty swarms,’ and thirty years later some doggerel verses in Poor Robin’s Almanack inform us under the head of the month of May:

‘The ladies now, to take the air,
To Stepney or Hyde Park repair;
While many others do resort
For cakes and ale to Tottenham Court.’

In Pennant’s time, Oxford Street, then Oxford Road, had only a few houses on the north side of it. He remembered it ‘a deep hollow road, full of sloughs, with here and there a ragged house, the lurking-place of cut-throats’—a state of things the contrast to which was set forth in some crude lines of a song that a venerable relative, who died at the age of ninety-six, has often repeated to me, but of which I only remember—

‘That was the time for games and gambols,
When Oxford Street was covered with brambles,
Ponds, and sloughs, and running water,
Where now there’s nothing but bricks and mortar.’

This semi-rural state of things appears to have lasted west of Holborn for the first quarter of the present century. When Bedford House was built (1706), the north side of Queen’s Square was purposely left open that the inhabitants might enjoy the charming prospect before it, terminating in the Hampstead and Highgate Hills.

When Portland Place was planned, more than half a century later, the then Lord Foley insisted on a clause in a lease he held of the Duke of Portland to prevent the building of any street to intercept the pure air of Hampstead and Highgate from Foley House, a fact to which the width of Portland Place is attributable.[12]

Gray, writing from Southampton Row as late as the summer of 1759, tells his friend Palgrave that ‘his new territories command Bedford Garden, and all the fields as far as Hampstead and Highgate.’[13]


In contrast with the poet’s triumph in the beauty of his views, we find Sir Samuel Romilly, many years later, complaining, in a letter to his sister written from his chambers in Gray’s Inn, ‘that, having but one row of houses between him and Hampstead, a north-west wind, sharp as the piercing bise, blows full against his windows.’[14]

Long after this date, Rosslyn House and Park could be seen from Clerkenwell Green, and later still the green heights of Caen Wood were visible from Bedford Row.

One of the advantages that Ned Ward’s public-house in Red Bull Yard possessed was ‘commodious rooms, with Hampstead air supplied’; and I think it is Lysons who quotes the advertisement of a house of entertainment near Bagnigge Wells, the proprietor of which sets forth as an inducement for the favour of the public that his windows command fine views of Hampstead and Highgate Hills.

These details help us to realize the relation of Hampstead to London when its wooded crest could be seen from such distant points, and it had come to be regarded as the air-filterer and health invigorator of the whole district. Even as late as 1820, from the west of Oxford Street to the skirts of Hampstead Heath, there were green fields and pastures all the way.



Hampstead, situated in the Hundred of Oussulston and County of Middlesex, is separated from London by St. Pancras and Marylebone, and otherwise bounded by Finchley, Hendon, Willesden, and Paddington.

In the account of the several districts into which the Registrar-General has divided London, Hampstead claims the greatest elevation, standing 400 feet above Trinity high-water mark, a circumstance that, in connection with its gravelly soil, accounts for its dry, salutary air. It contains in its parochial area 2,169 acres.[15]

The early history of Hampstead lies very far back, though for all purposes of respectable antiquity—whether persons or places are concerned—an appearance in Domesday Book is sufficient. Hamestead, in its old, pleasant Saxon name, tells of a yet higher antiquity, and long before the astute Norman (in the language of the Saxon Chronicle) ‘sent forth his men to inquire how many hundred hides of land were in each shire, so that there was not a hide of land in England of which he knew not the possessor, and how much it was worth.’

Long before the existence of this pleasant schedule enabled the Conqueror to parcel out the fairest portions of the land to his favourite retainers, the five hides of land and five[21] manses, or homes, of which this manor consisted, were said to have been given by King Ethelred, the gift being afterwards confirmed by Edward the Confessor, to the Abbey Church of St. Peter at Westminster.[16] These grants are said to be spurious—forged, in fact, by the monks, the mark of a pendent seal attached to one, and the wax adhering to the other, proving too much, such seals not being used in England till after the Conquest. But William, desirous of standing well with the Church, continued the grant of Hamsted to the Abbot of Westminster. At the making of Domesday Book, not another roof had risen on the manor. There were still five manses, the homes of villeynes and bordarii, the first small farmers having certain degrees of personal freedom, but dependent for their ground on several corporal and servile services rendered to the lord; the others, mere labourers, who paid rent in eggs, poultry, etc.

‘“The Abbot holds four hides (arable) land to three ploughs. To the demesne appertain three hides and a half, and there is one plough. The villeynes have one plough, and could employ another. There is one villeyne who has one virgate, and five bordars who have one virgate; and one bondman or slave. The woodlands afford pannage (beech-mast and acorns) for a hundred swine.

‘“The whole is valued at fifty shillings, of which Ranulph Peverel, who held one hide of the land under the Abbot, paid five shillings.”


‘There is nothing more undecided than the presumed value of the hide. Some writers say it represented as much land as employed a plough during the year. Another, that it meant as much land as would maintain a family. Spelman imagined it 100 acres. At one place in Domesday Book 20 acres are called half a hide.

‘“In Maldon in Essex there were five free men holding 10 acres of ground; of these Ranulph Peverel holds 5 acres, and Hugh de Montfort 5 acres; it was in the time of King Edward the Confessor worth tenpence, it is now [at Domesday] worth twelvepence.”’[17]

This Ranulph Peverel, a Norman high in the King’s favour, who held, as Camden tells us, estates in several counties of England, had married the discarded concubine of the Conqueror, the daughter of a Saxon noble, and one of the most lovely women of her time, and had given his own name to the King’s son by her—William Peverel,[18] subsequently Lord of Nottingham, and founder of the famous castle in the Peak—and if it had not been shown that such small portions of land were frequently held by noblemen in those times in different counties, probably as a nucleus to be added to as opportunities arose, one would have been inclined to doubt the identity of the owner of one hide of land at Hamstede with the Peverel whose descendants became so important in the history of England.


The original grant (or presumed grant) of Ethelred gives a certain spot of land, in the place called Hamstede, of five cassati—this word, we read, means hide—in perpetual inheritance, etc.

Very primitive must have been the Hamestead of those days, a group of clay-built or wattled huts, set down in a sheltered clearing, somewhere in the vicinity of the future Chapel of St. Mary, the site of the present parish church, in the district known as Frognal.

The uncleared ground above this settlement rose irregularly to the Heath, with great woods stretching dense and gloomy west, north, south, and east of it, and in places impinging on the sandy skirts of the Heath, originally the upheaved crust of an old sea-bottom, 100 feet deep, but then a waste of wild vert, on a surface of clay, sand, and gravel. These woods, or, rather, the great Forest of Middlesex, extended for centuries later on the east to Enfield Chace, and went crowding on in serried masses westward to the Chiltern Hills. All the surroundings were heavy with timbered shade, and hazardous from the wild beasts lurking there: wolves, boars, stags, and wild-bulls of the indigenous breed only just become extinct in the Craven district—a whole forest region, in fact, instinct with game.

Fitzstephen, the monk whose charming description of the country on the north-west of London reads like a prose idyll, tells us that in these woods were many yew-trees, and Camden, that the forest ‘was full of that weed of England, the oak,’ whilst the mast, or fruit of the beech, as we have seen, made part of the value of the manor in Domesday Book. Evelyn and W. J. Hooker assure us that in these woods grew the hornbeam, elm, and other indigenous sylva.

During the Saxon Heptarchy, the Roman Verulamium had become St. Albans, the shrine of the British protomartyr, and a place of great sanctity, to and from whence pilgrims were constantly moving. I know nothing of Roman roads, and am therefore quite neutral as regards opinion, but am[24] aware that modern antiquaries have wholly overturned the belief of their fathers, and, while quoting Camden as a reliable and careful authority on other matters, ignore the old antiquary’s belief in the long-descended tradition that the Wanderers’ Way, or Watling Street, which passed from Kent to Cardiganshire, cutting through the great forest of Middlesex, in a straight line from station to station, passed by Hampstead Heath. ‘Not by the present road through Highgate, which was made by license of the Bishop of London 300 years ago, but that ancient one, as we gather from the charters of Edward the Confessor, which passed near Edgware.’

John Evelyn.

Old Norden states that on the northern edge of Middlesex the Roman road, commonly called the Watling Way, enters this county, leading straight from old Verulamium to London over Hamestead Heath; from whence one has a curious prospect of a most beautiful city and most pleasant country. Camden, again, tells us that ‘at the very distance that Antoninus in his Itinerary placeth Pulloniacæ, to wit, 12 miles from London, and[25] 9 miles from Verulam, there remaineth some marks of an ancient station, and there is much rubbish digged up upon a hill which is now called Brockley Hill.’ No doubt Norden, with the fond zeal of a believing antiquary, had traced the road many a time to Edgworth (Edgware) and so on to Hendon, through an old lane called Hendon Wante.[19] So completely had this tradition entered into the faith of people generally that we find it embalmed in Drayton’s ‘Polyolbion,’ where, to paraphrase his figurative description of Highgate and Hampstead Hills, he emphatically adds of the latter:

‘Which claims the worthiest place his own,
Since that old Watling once o’er him to pass was known.’

Defoe, too, in his ‘Tour of Great Britain,’ tells us that he ‘went to Hampstead, from whence he made an excursion to Edgware, a little market-town on the way to St. Alban’s, for it is certain that this was formerly the main-road from London to St. Alban’s, being the famous highroad called Watling Streete, which reached from London to Wales.’

No traces of such a road have been found on Hampstead Heath, though Roman relics and proofs of Roman burial have been discovered there, and accepted by our oldest antiquaries as strengthening their theory of the Watling Way having skirted or crossed it. That there was a road from St. Albans to the Heath is curiously confirmed by an old French folio, published in Paris (time of Elizabeth), which explains the reasons why the Romans built a city on the site of the present London,[20] and states that ‘subsequent to the recall of the legions in consequence of its rapid growth and absorption of the population and commerce of the other great cities, it so raised the envy and indignation of their inhabitants, that the people of St. Albans[26] threatened to come and destroy the rising city of London, until the Londoners advanced as far as Hampstead Heath, where they entrenched themselves, and prepared to do battle in defence of their homes.’ A writer in the New Monthly Magazine, commenting on this extract, says that the remains of the entrenchments are still pointed out.[21]

Dr. Hughson, writing of the Reed-mote, or six-acre field, formerly to the north-west of White Conduit House, and which was supposed to have been the site of a Roman camp, observes ‘that a Roman road[22] passed this way, we have great reason to believe, for from Old Ford we pass Mere (vulgarly called Mare Street), Kingsland, Islington, Highbury, the Hollow-way, Roman Lane, over Hampstead Heath through Hendon to Verulam.’ With the vanishing of the pilgrims’ route over Hampstead Heath, we lose the reason for the name of the hamlet suggested by Lysons, who supposed the wearied pilgrims on reaching the heath to exclaim at the sight of the city at their feet, ‘Hame-sted!’ the place of their home and the end of their journey. Park believes the homely name was given to it by the Saxon churls[23] who inhabited it previous to the date of the Domesday Survey.[24]

In the time of Abbot Leofstan, when Albanus[25] had become a very popular saint, ‘especially with merchants and traders going beyond sea, who sought his protection, and made rich offerings at his shrine,’ the state of the great forest, its ways infested not only with beasts of prey, but by ‘outlaws, fugitives, and other abandoned beings,’ with the probable[27] effect of diminishing the revenues of his Church, set the Abbot seriously to the task of removing these obstructions. He had the woods in part cut down, rebuilt bridges, repaired rough places, and finally entered into a contract with a certain knight to defend the highway with two trusty followers, and be answerable to the Church for anything that might happen through his neglect.[26]

In the eighth of Henry III., the great Forest of Middlesex was ordered to be disforested, giving the citizens of London, as Stowe tells us, ‘an opportunity of buying land, and building, whereby the suburbs were greatly extended.’

But the disforesting appears to have been partial, and the building limited to the east. Hampstead retained its woods in all their savage wildness; the paths through them, to the terror of passengers, continued to be scoured by wild beasts, especially wolves, which had not all been extirpated when the ‘Boke of St. Alban’s’ was written.[27]

During Henry III.’s reign (1256) we find Richard de Crokesley, Abbot of Westminster, ‘“assigning the whole produce of Hamestede and Stoke for the celebration of his anniversary in that monastery by ringing of bells, giving doles during a whole week, to the amount of 4,000 denarii. A thousand to as many paupers on the first day, and the same dole to 500 others on the six days following. A feast with wine, a dish of meat and a double pittance to the monks in the refectory. A Mass by the Convent in copes, on the anniversary day; and four Masses daily at four different altars for the repose of his [the Abbot’s] soul for ever!” With many other daily forms and ceremonies. But the keeping of this commemoration was found to be so heavy a burden that the monks petitioned the Pope in less than ten years after the Abbot’s death to dispense with it, and he very sensibly sent his mandate to Westminster, dated 5 Kal. June, 1267, declaring that he found these things to abound more in pomp than the good of souls, and “that[28] it was evident they accorded not with religion, nor were suitable to religious persons,” and recommending the monks to limit the mode of commemoration to their ideas of the dead Abbot’s deserts, and the advantages that had accrued to the monastery by his administration. Upon which the said manors and revenues became at the free disposal of the Abbot and Convent of Westminster, towards the welfare of the abbey; an annual portion of 10 marks being assigned for making such celebration as that sum would admit of for the said Richard de Crokesley.’[28]

At the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII., by way of a sop to the Church, created a new bishopric, that of Westminster, giving it for its diocese the county of Middlesex, of which he deprived London. Great part of the revenues of the dissolved monastery were settled upon the new bishopric, the manor and advowson of Hampstead making a portion of it, but in nine years the new Bishop had alienated his lands to such an extent that there was scarcely anything left to maintain ‘the port of a Bishop.’

In this reign, while the Manor of Hampstead was in the hands of the newly-made Bishop of Westminster, we find that a considerable part of the woods still covered the ground in this neighbourhood, as well as in that of Hornsey, and that game was still plentiful in them.

Of this we have proof in the proclamation of the King for the preservation of his sport in these places:[29]

‘A Proclamacion yt noe p’son interrupt the King’s game of Partridge or phesaunt.

‘Rex majori et vice comitibus London. Vobis mandamus, etc.

‘Forasmuch as the King’s most Royall Maᵗⁱᵉ is much desirous to have the games of hare, partridge, phesaunt, and heron p’served in and about his honor at his palace of Westm’ for his owne disport and pastime; that is to saye,[29] from his said palace of Westm’ to St. Gyles in the Fields, and from thence to Islington to oʳ Lady of the Oke, to Highgate, to Hornsey Parke, to Hamsted Heath, and from thence to his said palace of Westm’ to be preserved and kept for his owne disport, pleasure, and recreacion; his highness therefore straightlie chargeth and commandeth, all and singular, his subjects, of what estate, condicion, so’er they be, that they, ne any of them, doe p’sume or attempt to hunt, or hawke, or in any means to take or kill any of the said games, within the precincts aforesaid, as they tender his favour, and will estchue the ymprisonment of their bodies and further punishment at his Ma’ts will and pleasure.

‘Et hoc sub p’iculo incumbenti nullatenus omittat.

‘Teste mæipso apud Westm’ vij. die Julij anno tricesimo Septimo Henrici Octavi. (1546.)’

This mandate was issued just six months before the King’s death, when his physical condition must have totally incapacitated him from the sport from which he interdicted others, and this in the face of repeated charters giving the citizens of London a right of free chase in the forests of Middlesex, Hertfordshire, the Chiltern country, and Kent as far as the river Cray. This proclamation helps us in imagination to a view of the then existing condition of the north-western suburbs—fields from the back of Gray’s Inn right away to Islington, a village of ‘cakes and cream’ in the midst of meadows; the uplands of Hampstead, Highgate, and Hornsey still covered with thick woods and coverts filled with game, whilst between them and the city stretched the open country, with here a wattled hut, and there a half-timbered house; the clack of mills resonant beside the willow-shaded Fleet, which had its rise at the foot of Hampstead Hill, and went running on through Gospel Oak Fields to Kentish Town and Pancras, and thence by Holborn to its outlet in the Thames at Blackfriars, where a creek rendered it navigable to Holborn Bridge.

There stood St. Pancras, or ‘Pankeridge,’ as Ben Jonson[30] calls it, the oldest church in London with the exception of old Paul’s, ‘all alone, utterly forsaken, and weather-beaten,’ while on the breezy high ground at Hampstead a windmill or two gave animation to the scene.

During the reign of Henry VIII., a predicted inundation of the city drove the inhabitants to the hills, and Hampstead Heath appeared covered with hundreds of little huts and tents in which the credulous people sheltered themselves. The prediction, of course, failed, and the prophets only escaped the indignation of their dupes on finding their fears disappointed by avowing a mistake of a hundred years in their calculations.

During the reigns of Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth, Hampstead Woods continued to flourish, coming down on the east to the village of Cantleowes, or Kentish Town, while on the west they spread by Belsize, and what is now the Adelaide Road, to St. John’s Wood, where at the Domesday the Abbess of Barking held wood and pasture of the King for fifty swine.

More recently St. John’s Wood belonged to the Knights Templars. It was in this wood the unfortunate Babington took refuge from the fury of Elizabeth till driven forth by hunger.

With this Queen’s successor, and his favourite, Buckingham, Hampstead was a frequent hunting-ground, and to this day the plateau on the west Heath, locally known as the King’s Hill, commemorates the spot from which His Majesty was wont to see the hounds throw off.

In James’s reign and that of his son, Charles I., certain ‘fair edifices’ had arisen on the Heath and its vicinity for the accommodation and convenience of the Court when hunting and hawking in the neighbourhood. Of these old houses none exist to add to the archæological interest of the neighbourhood. It is impossible to imagine a finer foreground for a hunting or hawking party than the Heath, the natural beauty of the landscape lending itself most effectively to such scenes.


Who questions the locality of the wicked bon-mot of our Merry Monarch, who could never resist the temptation of saying a smart thing? When in the midst of a group of beauties, courtiers, and Churchmen (who particularly delighted in hawking), he observed of the church of Harrow-on-the-Hill that it was ‘the only visible Church he knew of.’

Towards the closing years of Charles I.’s reign (1647), the Great Hollow Elm at Hampstead (figured by Hollar in an engraving preserved amongst the pamphlets in the King’s Library in the British Museum) became an object of attraction to visitors. Remarkable for its size and supposed age, measuring 28 feet immediately above the ground in girth, with widely-spreading branches, and of great height, a sagacious speculator about the year 1647 (as appears from some verses addressed to it by Robert Codrington, of Magdalen College, Oxford, 1653) constructed a staircase of forty-two steps within the hollow trunk, with sixteen openings lighting it, which led up to an octagon turret fixed amongst the branches of the tree 33 feet from the ground. ‘The seat above the steps six might sit upon, and round about room for fourteen more.’ At this altitude spectators enjoyed a most glorious view, or, rather, a succession of them, and found themselves above every object in Middlesex with the exception of the church spire of Harrow.

From the open tableland on which it appears in the engraving, the great tree probably stood on the summit of the Heath, where the road now runs past Jack Straw’s Castle. On the same broadside on which the engraving appears are certain descriptive verses. This broadside seems to have been given away to the visitors, and the circumstance of its having been folded for putting in the pocket, and so worn out, accounts for the few copies of it in existence.

‘The Great Hollow Elm at Hampstead’ (as the broad sheet describes it) does not appear to have long survived its singular treatment. No subsequent records that I have[32] met with mention it; but that it must have been the object of many a summer’s day pilgrimage to the Heath is evident, even in Puritan times, when Robert Codrington addressed his verses to it. In them he mentions the

‘beauteous ladies that have been
These twice three summers in its turret seen.’

In the same year (1647) a poetical stationer, commonly known as Michael Spark, but who, in moments of aspiration, fancifully called himself ‘Scintilla,’ tells us of a very curious use to which this sylvan upper chamber was put.

A foreigner, the fellow-countryman of Joannes a Commenius, as he pedantically styles John Amos Comenius, the Moravian grammarian and divine, had established a school at Hampstead for a ‘limited number of young gentlemen,’ the number being restricted to twelve, and these, Mr. Spark tells us, he spared no pains in training:

‘For he, on top of all (this tree) above the shade,
His scholars, taught; where they such verses made
As spread his honours, and do blaze the fame
Of Hampstead School—I’ll trumpet up the same!’

It is he who lets us into the seeming secret of the birth of the Wells, and sings of the

‘air, and hill, and well, and school,’

as if the reputation of each was publicly known and appreciated. Codrington indirectly tells us that the elm was attempted to be put to another use ‘by some of the new religion, that would make a preachment beneath its shade.’

In the reign of Charles II., when the Great Plague was ravaging London and the Merry Monarch and his merry Court had discreetly withdrawn from its neighbourhood, Hampstead and the Heath had other experiences, for hundreds of the wretched citizens who had fled from the city to the suburbs, driven forth from the village with scythes and pitchforks, lay down to die in the fields and woods and ditches in the vicinity. This was the occasion of[33] the obloquy levelled at the Hampstead people by Taylor, the Water-poet. And as a consequence, having almost wholly escaped the visitations of 1603, Hampstead suffered considerably in 1665, when the burials—which in the first year of the plague numbered only seven, and in the next twenty-three—rose to 214, more than seven times the ordinary averages of the period.[30]

Twelve months later, when the Great Fire swept out as with the besom of destruction the germs of the plague, many of the fugitives from London watched from the Heath the destruction of their homes and property, the smoke of the city ascending ‘like the smoke of a great furnace,’ a smoke so dense and fearful that it ‘darkened the sun at noonday, and if at any time the sun peeped through, it looked as red as blood; through the long night there was no darkness of night;’ and, to add to these horrors, on the dreadful Wednesday night ‘the people of London, now of the fields,’ heard the murmur that the French were coming, and though, in the quaint language of the writer of the ‘City Remembrancer,’ ‘the women, naked and weak, did quake and tremble, many of the citizens began to stir themselves like lions or bears bereaved of their whelps, and “Arm! arm!” resounded through the woods and suburbs.’

These scenes, of which Hampstead Heath has been the centre, have long since faded out of the traditions of its inhabitants, like those of that still older night in 1588, when the cresset upon Beacon Hill blazed the approach of the Armada to its fellow on Hadley Church tower, and thence from cresset to cresset to the farthest North—scenes full of the tragic passions of human perplexity and terror.

The General Elections for Middlesex appear to have always taken place on Hampstead Heath. I read that at one of these meetings of the Middlesex freemen on the top of Hampstead Hill,[31] 1695, Admiral Lord Edward Russell[34] made his appearance before the assembled voters, and was returned without opposition.

These meetings occasioned the assembling of great mobs of rough persons and much lawlessness, which greatly facilitated the business of cut-purses and footpads who habitually haunted the Heath. But at the commencement of 1700, after much trouble on the part of the influential inhabitants, this nuisance was done away with, only, as it would appear, to make space for another—for some time previous to 1732 horse-races took place upon the upper Heath, and were largely attended.[32]

The race-course appears to have been at the back of Jack Straw’s Castle, where the surface of the Heath, so delved and broken up and caverned by the sand and gravel diggers in modern times, was then, it is said, level with North End Hill.

In July, 1736, a paragraph in the Grub Street Journal states that while the horses were being run on the Hampstead course, a gentleman, about sixty years of age, was observed hanging almost double over a gate, his head nearly touching the ground. His horse was grazing near him, and there had been no foul play; his watch and money were upon him. The dead man was a Mr. Hill, a teller in the Excise Office.

What an occasion would this incident have afforded for the fiery declamation and denunciation of the great Nonconformist preacher, George Whitfield, who three years afterwards writes in his Diary that he took his station under a tree near the horse-course at Hampstead! He was preaching there by invitation, and his audience, he tells us, were ‘some of the politer sort,’ which gave him occasion to speak to their souls of our spiritual race, and he adds, ‘most were attentive, but others mocked.’

Johnson somewhat cynically said of him that ‘he had known Whitfield at college before he became better than other people’; but he also said that ‘he believed he sincerely[35] meant well, but had a mixture of politics and ostentation, while Wesley thought only of religion.’

The races had grown to be so great a nuisance, from the crowds they drew together and the mischief that ensued, that some time subsequent to 1748 they were put down by the Court of Magistrates.[33]

Except at election times, there had never been such throngs of people or disorder on the Heath. The effect of the races had been to drive away the more refined portion of visitors to Hampstead, just at a time of year when the season was at its high-tide, and the Heath and woods and walks in their perfection.

In the spring of 1750 the people of Hampstead witnessed another instance of the spontaneity of panic-fear, which sent numbers of people to the Heath and the high grounds of the other northern suburbs to escape suffering the fate of the Metropolis, which a mad trooper (‘next to the Bishop of London’[34]) had predicted should be swallowed up by an earthquake in the April of this year. The shock of one had been felt on February 8, and again on March 8, and the proverbial fatality of the third time led to the belief that a final one would take place on April 8. When the three months were nearly accomplished, at the end of which the prophetic trooper had announced the destruction of London, this ‘frantic terror,’ writes Horace Walpole, on April 2, ‘prevails so much that within these three days seven hundred and thirty coaches have been counted passing Hyde Park Corner.’ Several women, he adds, ‘made themselves earthquake gowns to sit out of doors all night.’ The day passed, however,[36] without disturbance, and, except that the unfortunate seer was sent to Bedlam, nothing came of the prediction.

That must have been a grand day on the Heath, mid-winter as it was, when, roused by Bonaparte’s threatened invasion of England (1803-4), the Hampstead Association—disbanded about a year before—joined themselves into a volunteer force, 700 strong, with the public-spirited ex-Lord Mayor of London, Josiah Boydell, as their Colonel Commandant, and Charles Holford, Esq., for their Major, and took the oath of allegiance in the face of heaven and their friends and neighbours on their own beloved Heath. They then marched to the parish church of St. John’s, where Lady Alvanley presented them with their colours.

When peace was proclaimed, these were deposited in the church, where they remained, a trophy of the patriotic spirit that had animated the men of Hampstead. In later times, when the wisdom of being always prepared for such defence made itself felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, the Episcopal Chapel in Well Walk was converted into a drill-room for the volunteers who fell into rank in the place of their forefathers. The old colours were now borne from the church, and escorted with full military honours to the drill-room,[35] where they remained till the building was taken down, when with similar ceremony they were deposited in the new drill-hall, Heath Street.

One of the most pathetic incidents in connection with Hampstead Heath is the remembrance of Charles Lamb and his sister which Talfourd has left us, ‘mournfully crossing it hand-in-hand, and going on sadly through the quiet fields to the retreat at Finchley, where the poor sufferer sought shelter from herself ... whence, after a time, she would return in her right mind ... a gentle, amiable woman, beloved by all[37] who knew her,’ but most of all by her brother, whose young manhood was in a measure blighted by the tragedy of which she who enacted it was wholly unconscious. He might be said to have devoted himself to her, and in life they were never parted.

Few even of their contemporaries knew the particulars of that household tragedy; the reporters of the inquest, with a respectful pity rare in their craft, withheld the names; and compassion was universally felt for the naturally inoffensive and all-unconscious perpetrator of it, and for him, the dutiful son and loving brother, whose affectionate and sensitive nature suffered in silence the double horror and the double grief. This is how the ‘Annual Register’ tells the melancholy tale (September 23, 1796):

‘On the afternoon of this day a coroner’s jury sat on the body of a lady in the neighbourhood of Holborn, who died in consequence of a wound from her daughter the preceding day.... While they were preparing for dinner, the young lady, in a fit of insanity, seized a case-knife from the table, and in a menacing way pursued a little girl round the room. On the eager cry of her infirm mother to forbear, she renounced her object, and turned with loud shrieks upon her parent. The little girl by her cries brought up the landlady, but too late—the mother was lifeless in her chair, stabbed to the heart, her daughter still wildly standing over her with the knife, and the venerable old man, her father, weeping by her side, himself bleeding from a blow on the forehead from one of the forks she was throwing distractedly about.’

A few days previously she had exhibited signs of lunacy, from which she had previously suffered, and her brother—in this lay the self-wounding sting for such a nature as Elia’s—had endeavoured on the morning of the occurrence to see Dr. Pitcairn, and had failed. ‘Had that gentleman,’ it is suggested, ‘seen her, the catastrophe might have been averted.’

What a scene for the young clerk at the India House! He was then only twenty-one, and, like his unhappy sister,[38] working against the tide to help the straitened means of their parents. It was elicited at the inquest that no one could be more affectionate to both father and mother than the unconscious matricide, and that to the increased attentiveness which the growing infirmities of the latter required, added to the pressure of business, was to be ascribed the loss of the daughter’s reason.

Poor Lamb had himself once suffered from the same sad malady. He has been censured for sometimes yielding to drinking habits, but the memory of that one day in his life—the very threshold, rather, as it may be called—might well plead in merciful extenuation.

At times throughout her life Mary Lamb was subject to fits of mental aberration, the approach of which she was conscious of, and on these occasions would request to be taken to the abode at Finchley, where she found safety and remedial treatment.

One other event in modern times has caused widespread and painful commotion in association with Hampstead Heath, the suicide of John Sadleir, Esq., M.P. for Tipperary. I well remember the excitement on the occasion, and the rapidity with which the story was bruited about. Early in the morning of Sunday, February 17, 1856, a man was looking for a strayed donkey amongst the furze-bushes on the south side of the old watercourse (now obliterated), when he came upon the dead body of a well-dressed man. A silver cream-ewer and a small bottle lay beside him, his head resting near an old furze-clump, and his feet almost touching the water. His hat had fallen off, and his lips gave out the scent of prussic acid.

There was one extraordinary fact in connection with the case: the soles of the dress-boots on the feet of the corpse were unsoiled, though the night had been stormy and the neighbourhood of the watercourse damp at all times of the year. It was evident he must have alighted from a vehicle very near the spot, which was some distance down the bank, at the back of Jack Straw’s Castle. I have not the report of[39] the inquest to refer to, but the details of the event made a deep impression on me, and the more so for the mystery surrounding it. I think no cabman came forward or could be found to give an account of a midnight fare to Hampstead Heath, and it was midnight or after when his butler heard him leave the house. The dress and general appearance were identical with those of Mr. Sadleir, director of the Tipperary Bank (which he had founded) and chairman of several railways and banking and mining companies; and if any doubt had existed, there was found on the corpse a slip of paper, on which, in a hand as bold as his proceedings had been, and infinitely clearer, was written, ‘John Sadleir, Gloucester Square, Hyde Park.’ Many knew the handwriting, and though some of the witnesses observed the great alteration death had made in the countenance, Mr. Wakeley, the coroner, lifted the eyelids of the dead man, and, having known him personally, pronounced them the eyes of John Sadleir. At first it was surmised that insanity from a brain overworked had led to the fatal act, but it soon became apparent that, to avoid the public scandal and degradation consequent on his own bad acts, he had voluntarily rushed out of life.

‘By his scheming and forgeries, the issue of false balance-sheets, the overissue of railway shares, the pledging of false securities and obligations, he had deprived widows, single women, army and navy officers on half-pay, and others equally helpless and unwary, of all they possessed. The victims of his iniquitous and gigantic frauds were to be counted by thousands, from shareholders to the poorest depositors, till at last, hemmed round by an inextricable network of multitudinous crime, and seeing no means of escape from the near crisis of discovery, he had stolen by a perilous short-cut out of sight and hearing of the cries and curses of those who had trusted him, to find oblivion in a suicide’s grave.’[36]

There were many who firmly believed his apparent death[40] a forgery also, and long afterwards reports were current that he had been met with in America, whither his brother, the manager of the Tipperary Bank, had absconded. It is certain that a large sum of money which John Sadleir had received only on the day previous to the discovery of the dead body on Hampstead Heath was not forthcoming, nor was its disappearance in any way accounted for.

It appears singular why, having possessed himself of the poison, and knowing its almost instantaneous effect, he should have left his home, and gone out into the wild, dark night and distant solitude of Hampstead Heath, to perpetrate the despairing sin of self-murder. Perhaps the wretched man was goaded by the scorpion-stings of conscience to affinities closer to the condition of his mind than the conventional and ill-gotten luxuries around him. The cold damp earth, the sharp furze spines, the buffeting winds, the all-aloneness—save for the ghosts of lost opportunities, of great talents turned to infernal uses, of high respect and honours thrown away—seemed more in sympathy with the fierce frenzy, the unutterable horror, of his unmasked soul. Assuredly, no more terrible proof could be required that ‘sooner or later sin is its own avenger,’ than the suicide of John Sadleir.



The oldest maps of London extant show two roads to Hampstead; Aggas’s (time of Elizabeth) has four. The most easterly of these roads ran out by Gray’s Inn Lane, past old St. Pancras and Battle Bridge, through Kentish Town and part of Holloway to Highgate, touching Caen Wood, and so by Bishop’s Wood and Wild Wood Corner to Hampstead. Later on a branch of this same Gray’s Inn or Battle Bridge Road ran off by St. Pancras a little to the west, into a country lane running up from Tottenham Court Road, into what is now the Hampstead Road, and so to Hampstead.[37]

Another road ran out by Tyburn, crossing the road to Reading—the present Edgware Road—and going on by Lisson Grove to Kilburn Abbey, passing West End and Sutcup Hill, Hampstead, and thence on to Edgworth. But the most interesting of these roads, and which is distinctly traced in Aggas’s map, ran up from Charing Cross, through St. Martin’s Lane to Broad St. Giles’s, crossing the ‘Waye to Uxbridge’ (Oxford Street), and thence up Tottenham Court Road, which shows how nearly the modern highway follows the lines of the ancient one. It looks very like the present road to Hampstead, except that it appears to stop short at the top of Tottenham Court Road. The[42] difference is in the road itself and its surroundings—running as it did over a track, which, once made, was left to take care of itself; dangerous with heaps of refuse and hollow places that in winter were full of water, and at other times absolute sloughs. Even in Charles II.’s time, when turnpike roads were made by Act of Parliament, the travelling by coach or waggon does not appear to have been much improved. The highways were in places so narrow that a lady traveller in 1764 tells us that, meeting another coach, her conveyance was brought to a standstill till the road was made sufficiently wide at that particular part to allow of the carriages passing each other. In winter and in rainy seasons, owing to the want of a proper knowledge of draining, it was not an unknown grievance for the waters in low-lying places to inundate the carriages; while at the close of such periods travellers frequently found their wheels so deeply embedded in the mud left in these hollows that they had to remain there till additional horses could be had from the nearest farmhouse or village to drag their vehicle out. The private letters, diaries, and memoirs of those bygone years are full of such adventures.

It was not, indeed, till after the first decade of George III.’s time that this state of things began to be seriously remedied, and roads, in our present meaning of the term, laid through the length and breadth of the land. Pretty deep in the present century, except for a few cottages in the fields, there were no habitations between the George Inn, Hampstead Road, and the Load of Hay, on Haverstock Hill. In other ways, the road continued to be pretty much the same as in Colonel Esmond’s time, ‘hedgerows and fields and gardens’ all the way up to Hampstead. About the time of the building of Camden Town, people who loved pure country air began to move further out, and toy villas and rustic residences dotted the Hampstead Road, some of them remaining there with their paled-in gardens and trellised porches and verandas, oddly wedged in between builders’ yards and other commercial premises, till long after I knew the neighbourhood.


As recently as 1859 the road to Hampstead was a charming one, especially if one drove there; for then you had the advantage of seeing beyond and above the pedestrian. No sooner did you cross the Canal Bridge than your pleasure in the prospects began. Leaving Chalk Farm on the left, where in some one or other of the effaced fields Tom Moore and Jeffrey (afterwards Lord Jeffrey) met to fight their intercepted duel, and Primrose or Barrow Hill, in a ditch on the south side of which (1678) the body of the murdered Sir Edmondbury Godfrey was found, ‘his sword thrust through him, but no blood upon his clothes or about him, his shoes clean, his money in his pocket, his rings upon his fingers, but with his breast all bruises, and his neck broken’;[38] and upon the summit of which, with sublimated vision, William Blake, pictor ignotus, saw the spiritual sun, ‘not like a golden disc the size of a guinea, but like an innumerable company of the heavenly host, crying “Holy, holy, holy!”’

Then Haverstock Hill, with the Load of Hay tavern, looking in 1845 as rustic and simple as its name. It had been famous for its tea-gardens, and an ancient footpath from the Lower Heath, Hampstead, formerly crossed the fields from Pond Street, and came out beside it on the main road. Above the bank, rising from the highway on the left, stood the cottage, ‘famous,’ as Carey in his ‘Book of the Roads’ (1812) called it, as the residence of Sir Richard Steele, the ‘solitude’ that for so many years reminded readers of the literary Captain’s delightful essays, and recalled in his company all the wits of Queen Anne’s time, who, on their way to the summer meetings of the Kit-Cat Club at the Upper Flask, Hampstead, were wont to beguile him from unfinished copy, an easy task, since the gay instincts of the man on these occasions would generally override the severity of the philosopher, and prevent the personal application of the moralities he so charmingly discoursed about.


Hampstead from Primrose Hill.


‘I am in a solitude,’ he wrote to Pope, June 1, 1712, ‘an house between Hampstead and London, in which Sir Charles Sedley died, breathing his last,’ he adds, ‘in this very room,’ a circumstance that, in connection with his enforced rusticity, and the circumstances that induced it, combined to waken serious reflections; and writing on this occasion, as Pope himself was said to write, ‘with his reputation in his hand,’ Sir Richard somewhat ungenerously, when we consider the close kinship of many of Sedley’s inclinations with his own, improved the occasion at the dead man’s expense, wholly ignoring the assurance of gossiping Anthony à Wood that poor Sedley, after suffering much for his offences, took up and grew serious, and subsequently became a leading man in the House of Commons. If this be true, it says a good deal for the recuperative moral force concentrated in Sir Charles’s nature. Steele’s cottage stood so nearly opposite to the little hostel, the Load of Hay, that its inhabitants, if so minded, could have almost distinguished the features of the gentlemen of the road who, towards sunset, occasionally drew bridle beside the horse-block in front of the well-worn steps leading into it, to refresh themselves with a tankard of ripe ale, or some more potent stirrup-cup, before starting across country to Brown’s Well, or Finchley Common, places which continued till quite modern times to be words of fear in the vocabulary of travellers.

Pope’s contributions to the Spectator led in 1712 to Steele’s making his acquaintance, which was followed by his introducing the young poet to his courtly friend Addison. One can fancy the fine presence and handsome countenance of the distinguished essayist, his Sir Charles Grandison air, and the stately suavity of his bow, which brings the side-locks of his voluminous wig an arm’s length beyond the shapely hand laid impressively on the breast of his deep-flapped waistcoat, and the ill-dressed, crooked figure and sallow face of the youthful poet. But remembering that Pope at seventeen years of age had been admitted to the company of the wits at Wills’s, it is probable that the stately compliments of the great moralist, whose mission it was to[46] help reform the morals and manners of the day, did not so much affect him as they might have done an older man less conscious of his acknowledged power; and the nervous flushing of the sallow cheek, the brightening of the large dark eyes, and the slight quiver of the sensitive muscles of the melancholy mouth, may be as much the result of infelt pride as of modesty.

Sir Richard Steele.

It was Addison who, on reading the first two cantos of the ‘Rape of the Lock,’ pronounced it ‘a delicious little thing’; ‘it was merum sal,’ he said, but when Pope resolved to recast the whole poem, and asked Addison’s advice, and the latter entreated him not to run the risk of spoiling it, in doing so he affronted the morbidly jaundiced mind of the poet, who, on the altered poem proving a success, called Addison’s counsel insidious, and accused the amiable giver of it of baseness.[39]


It is a pleasant recollection not only to have seen Steele’s cottage, but to have stood with my friend, Eliza Meteyard, in the room to the right where some of those witty, playful, clever papers were composed, in which the follies and vices of the times are mirrored with graphic power in the pages of the now too rarely read Spectator and Guardian.

My Lov’d Tutour Dʳ. Ellis

With Secret impulse thus do Streams return
To that Capacious Ocean whence they’re born:
Oh Would but Fortune come wᵗʰ. bounty fraught
Proportion’d to yᵉ mind wᶜʰ. thou hast taught!.
Till then let these unpolish’d leaves impart
The Humble Offering of a Gratefull Heart.

Richᵈ: Steele

There might have been an ampler number of them, perhaps, but for the proximity of the Upper Flask and Bull and Bush taverns, and the near neighbourhood of the Wells. But it is still pleasant to fancy the lifting of the gate-latch, and to[48] see in imagination going up the garden-path, or issuing from it, with Steele in the midst of them, Arbuthnot and Gay and Pope, and it may be Swift, famous associates and friends, whose almost centuries-old footsteps—for those who care to look beneath the surface of the present—underlie the dust upon the hillside, and give the road a charm beyond its own.

Their pungent repartees, their brilliant fancies and clever witticisms, those mental coruscations of the moment, may yet be floating airily in space, but the more solid portions of their intellectual riches have become national endowments, and their harvest result is with us yet.

The commonplace row of mean shops called Steele’s Terrace marks the place where Steele’s double-fronted cottage stood, elevated some 15 feet above the roadway, with a large strip of garden ground before it, but solitary even when I was accustomed to see it, no other house being close to it.

Nichols, quoted by Park, alluding to Steele’s disappearance from town to this ‘solitude’ at Hampstead, writes, ‘It is to be feared that there were too many pecuniary reasons for this temporary retirement,’ a supposition generally adopted by Sir Richard’s biographers. I venture to think that another cause existed more pressing than the importunities of creditors or the exigencies of straitened means. Exactly one month after Steele’s letter to Pope, describing his whereabouts, Swift, writing to Mrs. Dingley from the old Court suburb, under the date of July 1, 1712, tells her ‘Steele was arrested the other day for making a lottery directly against an Act of Parliament; he is now under prosecution, but they think it will be dropped out of pity. I believe he will very soon lose his employment, for he has been mighty impertinent of late in his Spectators, and I will never offer a word on his behalf.’[40]

Feeling himself disgraced, and desirous of keeping out of[49] the way of his town acquaintances, seems a more cogent reason for his seclusion than the fear of his creditors, especially when we learn that the Spectator, instead of falling off in popularity, was selling better than ever and at double its original price; and that at the close of this summer he had taken a house for his wife in Bloomsbury Square, which does not look as if he was in want of funds.

As for the irritable Dean, who had threatened to do nothing for him, a little further on in his ‘Correspondence’ he is telling the same lady of all he had done for the Whigs, and adds that he had ‘kept Steele in his place.’[41]

Leaving Steele’s cottage, we pass England’s Lane on the left—a lane famous for its blackberry hedges and the pleasant fields in the neighbourhood of the late Mr. Bell the publisher’s house; but all has changed, and the once rural lane is now a path between brick walls and garden fences. Farther on is Park Road, leading to the newly-made Fleet Road and Gospel Oak Station; and on the other side of the way, a little further on, Upper Park Road, with fragrant nursery-grounds spreading over the same distance on the right, reminiscent of the times when it was all ‘flowers and gardens’ on that side of the way to Hampstead. The road is still attractive with its handsome houses, standing behind well-grown trees in well-kept gardens; but formerly, on the ascent of Haverstock Hill, the outside passenger by the old stage-coach on looking back found himself repaid on a clear day by a brief prospect of the great city, with ‘the dome of St. Paul’s in the air,’ and all[50] the surrounding spires, towers, and cupolas that ascend above the city roofs.

We leave Haverstock Terrace (now Belsize Grove), leading to Belsize Gardens, on the left, and a little above it, to the right, the sloping grass-fields—as yet unbuilt on, but marked for speculation—and a pleasant view, between the poplars shading the top of Haverstock Hill, of green Highgate, and the smooth mound of Traitors’ Hill west, with Camden Town crowding up to the new Cattle Market, and tiers of houses covering what were once Copenhagen Fields, an engraving of which, dated 1782, lies before me, and shows these fields with only one habitation in them, Copenhagen House, a tea-drinking place, the popularity of which extended for a considerable time into the present century.

The entrance to the garden is through the ribs of a whale set up archwise, with an inscription across the top. Two individuals are playing at bowls, whilst two others look on. In the foreground are three gentlemen in cocked hats, long-skirted coats, and their hair en queue, one of whom placidly smokes a churchwarden; while at a little distance, watching them, are two sinister-looking men, with thick bludgeons in their hands, and the ugly head of a horse-pistol ominously protruding from the pocket of one of them, suggestive of a state of society to which again I shall presently refer.

Meanwhile, Belsize Avenue dips down on the left, and a little further on the opposite side of the road Rosslyn House, once the home of the clever but unscrupulous Lord Loughborough, Earl of Rosslyn, who began life as ‘plain Mr. Wedderburne, a Scotch lawyer,’ and lived to be Lord Chancellor of England.

But the Wedderburnes, though poor, were well descended, and it is said that backstairs influence was not spared to second his own unblushing efforts for position. Lord Campbell tells us he was the first to deny the right of the poor, ‘which old usage and the piety of our forefathers had given them, to glean in the cornfields after the harvest.’ He gave judgment also that the law of burning women alive for the[51] crime of coining should not be mitigated to hanging, and on the occasion of the Gordon Riots showed himself merciless as another Jeffreys in taking life, condemning the rioters to be hanged by scores without reference to age or degree of culpability.[42]

Rosslyn House.

He hanged mere children, for some of these unfortunates were not more than fourteen years of age, of whom Selwyn, who never missed an execution or a death at which he could be present, noted in his ‘Diary’ that he ‘never saw boys cry so much in his life.’


But to return to Rosslyn House and Lord Loughborough, we read that in politics he was without honour, siding with either party that happened to be in power, and whether Whig or Tory it mattered not—his lordship was always on the winning side. ‘None are all evil,’ but ‘neither wit, nor talent, nor a splendid hospitality’ can redeem the meaner and darker traits of Lord Loughborough’s character.[43]

Rosslyn House, formerly known as Shelford Lodge, had anciently belonged to the Careys, who held it of the Church of Westminster. It is stated in the ‘Northern Heights of London’ that the celebrated Lord Chesterfield lived here for some years, while he held the Manor of Belsize, of which it is a part, and this author suggests that his ancestors might have called the house after their estate, Shelford Manor, in Nottinghamshire.[44]

In 1812 Rosslyn House was occupied by Mrs. Milligan, widow of the projector of the West India Docks. It has since been the residence of Admiral Disney, the Earl of Galloway, Sir Francis Freeling (Secretary of the General Post Office), and others, till it fell into the hands of a speculative builder, who happened to fail before all the fine timber was felled and the house wholly destroyed. The grand avenue of chestnut-trees, which is said to be as old as Elizabeth’s time, remained almost entire[45] (1855-56), and some well-timbered fields appeared in the vicinity of the mansion. But the park itself has been cut up into portions, each of which belongs to a separate proprietor, and as many houses are scattered over it.

For four years, while the fine old house, the historical[53] home of the unfortunate Sir Harry Vane, was being prepared for them, Rosslyn House was used as the Home for Soldiers’ Daughters.

A little farther on a bit of sward crops out, reminiscent of Hampstead Green, where Collins the painter once lived, and on one side of which still stands the house formerly occupied by Sir Rowland Hill,[46] the inaugurator of cheap postage, and that of Sir Francis Palgrave, a well-known writer and Deputy-Keeper of the Public Records, 1838.

The central space is now occupied by St. Stephen’s Church, a structure nominally built by public subscription, but which, I have been told, owed its completion to the munificence of one family, old inhabitants of Hampstead, that of Prance. They gave the clock, and subsequently the carillon.

Some ancient elm-trees of magnificent size are left standing near the church. At the east end of the building two paths branch out of the main road, one leading to Pond Street and South End Green, the other to the Home of the Sisters of Providence and the congeries of sheds which, used as a small-pox hospital, desecrated this charming neighbourhood in 1870-72, and in 1886 were converted into a temporary asylum for idiots. The ground they occupy appears to be devoted to unseemly uses, a proposition having subsequently been made to convert it to the purpose of a cemetery, and this with the knowledge of the deteriorated value of property in the locality, which the closing of the small-pox hospital had not then readjusted.[47]

On the left lies Belsize Lane, and immediately past the church to the right the road leading to Pond Street, with Belsize Grove and Lyndhurst Road opposite.

Amongst the many notable men associated with Hampstead, Sir Stevenson Arthur Blackwood, K.C.B., must not be overlooked. ‘My earliest recollections,’ he writes, ‘are[54] of Rosslyn Lodge, an old-fashioned two-storied house, in the then quiet and charming suburban village of Hampstead.’ Rosslyn Lodge stood in the grove opposite Pond Street, facing some shady fields which led on towards the town, about a quarter of a mile distant.

At the top of the grove, which consisted of fine old Spanish chestnut-trees, stood the residence of Lord Galloway (Rosslyn House), and a path led up to the Conduit Fields. These extracts from his ‘Life’ decide the whereabouts of Sir Arthur’s boyhood’s home, which one writer, at least, has placed at Frognal.

Fields near Pond Street, 1840.

At this point Rosslyn Street opens straight ahead, dominated by the ugly tower of Trinity Presbyterian Church, and a little beyond Pond Street, on the same side of the way, a new bit of road marked ‘Hampstead Gardens’ affords another charming view of Highgate. To the right Downshire Hill leads to the lower Heath and North London railway-station, with Thurlow Road to the left, and a little further on the same side of the way the lane leading[55] to the Conduit Fields and Shepherd’s Well, which till quite modern times supplied Hampstead with water, employing a body of local water-carriers, who made a living by vending tall pails full to the householders at a penny a pail. The last of these old water-carriers died an inmate of the workhouse at New End about 1868.

Shepherd’s Well.

The road becomes steeper at the entrance of Rosslyn Street, where one looks in vain for the old ‘Chicken House,’ which Brewer describes ‘near the entrance of the village, an ancient domestic dwelling of low proportions built of brick,’ in all probability the home of the wood-reeve or keeper, and not, as local tradition persisted in believing it, a royal hunting-lodge.[48]

In 1815 it was in a state of dilapidation, the front disfigured by the presence of some miserable tenements, and in 1866 was so built in, blocked up, and divided, that, with the exception of the wide oaken staircase projecting into a[56] yard at the end of the narrow alley—about the sixth house to the right in Rosslyn Street—no part of the original structure remained. Up these stairs on the night of August 25, 1619, passed James I. and his favourite, the Duke of Buckingham, an event commemorated by two small portraits of the monarch and his Master of the Hounds, preserved till late in the eighteenth century in the window of an upper room in the Chicken House, with another painting of the infant Christ in the arms of Simeon. Under the former was inscribed: ‘Icy dans cette chambre couche nostre Roy Jacques premier de nom, le 25th Aoust 1619’—a legend sufficient in itself to show that the incident was an unusual one.

Here Mr. Murray, afterwards Lord Mansfield, whose attachment to Hampstead is said to have ‘amounted to a passion,’ was in the habit of taking up his summer quarters. Towards the latter years of the eighteenth century it was a favourite lodging-house for young gentlemen from the Inns of Law, the Toupees, and other sprightly youths of fashion, who affected Hampstead for the facilities the horse-course afforded of exhibiting their talents as curricle and hackney-coach drivers.

Gale, the antiquary, also lodged here, and on one occasion commissioned Signore Grisoni to make a drawing of the picturesque old church, an entry of which is preserved in the Trust Book.[49]

In 1754 Gale returned to the Chicken House, where he died. He was buried in the old churchyard. To the left of Rosslyn Hill, a little removed from the road, at the commencement of the bank, which shows the depth to which the hill has been cut down, stands the large red-brick mansion, occupying the site, and in part formed of, Vane House, a staircase of which is preserved.[50] It is now the Home for Soldiers’ Daughters, which was formally opened for their habitation by the Royal Consort, Prince Albert, on[57] a summer’s day of 1860. A little beyond, on the same side of the way, is Green Hill, where, on the site of the late eminent publisher’s house (William Longman, Esq.[51]), stands the new Wesleyan Chapel, and, divided from it by Prince Arthur’s Road, Stanfield House, which preserves in its name that of the well-known marine painter, Clarkson Stanfield, who for some years resided here, never tired of tending his pretty garden, which has almost entirely disappeared. It is now the Institute and Public Library.

Vane House, 1800.

On the right are Rosslyn Hill Schools and Trinity[58] Presbyterian Church.[52] It was formerly called Red Lion Hill. The original site of the small secluded chapel, in which Rochemont Barbauld officiated from 1785 to 1799, now underlies in part the present Unitarian Chapel schoolroom.

On this side of the way, immediately facing Green Hill, stood Elizabeth House, an old mansion, so called, it is said, from the legend of her princely Majesty on some occasion or other having slept here. For a considerable part of the present century it was occupied as a first-class ladies’ school. Serjeant Ballantine’s sister and Constable’s daughters were pupils. It is still standing, but in disguise, having been converted into shops.

On the same side of the way is Gayton Road, a new thoroughfare, unfinished when I left the neighbourhood (1864-65). It covers the greater part of the space formerly occupied by the playground, gardens, and orchards of a once celebrated school (the house—Norway House—still stands) in the now narrow cul de sac called Burford Lane, after the name of the present proprietor, an old-fashioned, many-windowed, two-storied dwelling.

Burford Lane is close to the town entrance to the Lower Flask Walk, on the right-hand side of the High Street, and close by the Bird in Hand, the coach-office where the modern omnibus deposits its passengers, as the old stage-coach did in the days of Richardson’s Clarissa.

High Street and Heath Street are the great arteries of Hampstead, out of which issue the crowded, confused ramifications which make the study of its groves, mounts, squares, streets, terraces, lanes, and courts a topographical puzzle to the uninitiated.

The ways leading to these intricacies all start from the two principal streets, so that a stranger beginning at the[59] beginning soon learns to unravel the difficulties of the locality for all purposes of business or pleasure. How this complicated irregularity of position and outline came about, which makes the old town unlike any other, and how, from a hill village of five wattled huts, shut in by the great Forest of Middlesex, it grew to be a place of fashionable resort, and gradually enlarged to its present extent and settled respectability, with its tens of thousands of inhabitants, claiming municipal rights, will be set forth in the following chapters.



From the earliest times until after the Reformation we find Hampstead an appanage of the Church. At the dissolution of the Abbey and Convent of Westminster, Henry VIII. granted the Manor of Hampstead, combined with those of North Hall and Down Barnes, in part support to the newly-made bishopric of Westminster. In 1551, two years before the death of Edward VI., they were surrendered to the Crown, and in the same year granted to Sir Thomas Wroth as a mark of the young King’s favour. This gentleman, who, ‘amongst the divers sober and learned men of the King’s privy chamber, by whose wise and learned discourse he was much profitted,’ stood highest in his estimation, and in proof of it, with boyish generosity, we find the King, who had knighted him, making him rich presents from the royal wardrobe, and bestowing on him, not only the Manor of Hampstead and the others above-mentioned, but a plurality of manors in several counties.

On the death of Edward, and accession of Mary, Sir Thomas fled to Strasburg, where he remained till the succession of Elizabeth, when he returned to England, where he was ‘received into the Queen’s favour, and employed by her in the concerns of State.’

In Hakluyt’s ‘Voyages,’ Park tells us, ‘there is an account of a merchandising voyage to Barbary in the year 1552, set forth by Sir Thomas Wroth and others.’


His name appears in the catalogue of Middlesex gentry,[53] and ‘it is observable,’ says Fuller, ‘that of all in this catalogue, he who went away for his conscience hath alone his name remaining in the County.’ He retained a high reputation to the last, and died at his Manor of Durants, in Enfield, co. Middlesex, October 9, 1573.

The Manor of Hampstead remained in this family till sold by one John Wroth to Sir Baptist Hicks in 1620. This Sir Baptist Hicks was a wealthy silk mercer of Cheapside. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Richard May, of London, who outlived her husband, and at her death left £200 for the purchase of land, the produce of which was to be appropriated to apprenticing children and assisting the poor of Hampstead.

Sir Baptist Hicks was the son of Michael Hicks, silk mercer in Cheapside, and the younger brother of Sir Michael Hicks, secretary to Lord Treasurer Burleigh. He was brought up to his father’s business, and had ‘great dealings with the Court for his rich silks and commodities from Italy and other foreign parts, by which he made a great estate. Upon the coming in of King James he was sworn one of his servants (anno 1603), and soon knighted.’[54] He is remarkable for having been the first citizen who kept shop after receiving knighthood, and for having built at his own expense, in the midst of the street called St. John Street, Clerkenwell, a building of brick and stone for the convenience of the meetings of the justices of the county of Middlesex, of whom he was one,[55] which had hitherto been held ‘at a common inn called the Castle in St. John’s Street, the resort of carriers and many other sorts of people.’[56]


‘On Wednesday, the 17th of Jany., 1612, the “Session House” being then nearly finished, there assembled twenty-six justices of the said county, being the first day of their meeting there, where the founder feasted them all; and then, after they had considered what name this structure should bear, they all with one consent gave it the name of Hicks’s Hall, in grateful memory of the builder, and he freely gave the House to them and their successors for ever.’[57]

But previous to this his wealth, the King’s favour, and the honour bestowed upon him, and, above all, the contempt he had shown for civic dignities—having paid the fine of £500 to be discharged from the office of Alderman for Bread Street Ward, which was permitted at the King’s express desire—appears to have brought on him the ill-will of the Court of Aldermen, who disputed his right to continue in business after knighthood; and subsequently by standing on his knighthood for precedency, a right which a fellow-citizen, one Herrick, and his wife disputed, he involved himself in another contest with them. It proved a tedious, troublesome, and chargeable one, owing to the haughty deportment of both Hicks and Herrick and of their imperious wives, ‘who, at their own expense, maintained the suit against the Court of Aldermen.’

It was after these proceedings—perhaps as a sort of peace-offering—that Hicks’s Hall was built. Sir Baptist Hicks was one of the Commissioners appointed by the King (anno 1620) to inquire into the decay of St. Paul’s. He was eventually created Lord Hicks and Viscount Campden, with remainder, in default of male issue, to his son-in-law, Sir Edward Noel, who had married the eldest of his two daughters, Juliana, by whose descendant Baptist, third Earl of Gainsborough, son of Sir Edward Noel (son-in-law and successor to Lord Hicks, Viscount Campden), the Manor of Hampstead was sold to Sir William Langhorne, Bart., 1707; and from this time, says Park, the Manor of Hampstead[63] became closely connected in proprietorship with that of Charlton, in Kent, which Sir William had likewise purchased, and where he resided in the fine mansion built by Sir Adam Newton, tutor to Henry, Prince of Wales.

Park calls this gentleman an East India merchant, but I find that a Sir William Langhorne, thirty-five years previous to the purchase of Hampstead Manor, was Governor of Madras.[58] Sir William had for his first wife a daughter of the Earl of Rutland, who died in 1700, and at nearly fourscore married a second time ‘the daughter-in-law of his friend, Dr. Warren, to whom he gave the Rectory of Charlton, and who appears to have resided like a private chaplain in his house. Seven years afterwards, at his death (aged eighty-six years), he left Dr. Warren his sole executor, guardian, and tutor to his nephew and residuary legatee, William Langhorne Games, Esq., and trustee of the Manor of Charlton. From this gentleman the estate passed to Mrs. Margaret Maryon, widow, a distant relative of Sir William (a fourteenth tenant in tail), from whom it descended to her son, the Rev. John Maryon, with whom the testamentary limitations ended. A new entail was created, from which the present proprietor derives his title, as those who succeed him are likely to do for many years.’[59]

By the will of the Rev. John Maryon, the Manors of Hampstead and Charlton were limited to the testator’s niece, sole executrix and residuary legatee, Margaret Marie Weller, widow (1760), for life; with remainder to her only child, Jane Weller, for life; with remainder to the heirs of the said Jane Weller, who married General Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson, Bart., who in his wife’s right became possessed of the manor in or about 1780. Sir Thomas died in 1798, and his wife, Dame Jane Wilson, was Lady of the Manor until 1816, when her son, Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson, Bart., under his father’s will became tenant for life of the manor, with the advowson, and divers freehold messuages, lands, and hereditaments at Hampstead.


On his death he was succeeded by his brother, Sir John Maryon Wilson, and he by his son, Sir Spencer Maryon Wilson.

Sir Spencer Pocklington Maryon Wilson is the present Lord of the Manor (1898).[60]



The High Street, Hampstead, is a continuation of Rosslyn Street, as Rosslyn Street is of the Hampstead Road. In my earliest days the way to Church Row and the church—which, being the oldest part of the town, deserves the earliest notice—was through some narrow passages to the left of High Street, called Church Lane and Perrin’s Court, disagreeable purlieus now happily altered.

Church Row was then the private and superior part of the old town of Hampstead, which, lying under the shadow of the church, still preserves an air of old-fashioned gentility and retirement.

The houses of red brick, with a string-course of the same material along their fronts, with narrow windows, dormers in the roofs, and fan-lighted hall doors, exhibit a style of domestic architecture common from James II.’s time to that of the Georges.

They remind one of the houses in Bush Lane, City, rebuilt after the Great Fire. We gather the meaning of the word ‘row’ from the fact that the houses on the north side of the way are much older than those on the left; these date no further back than the rebuilding of the church in 1745.

The door and gateway of No. 8, on the right, are clearly of an early date, as is also the weather-boarded, bow-fronted house on the same side of the way, and the double-gabled house nearest the church.


Several of these houses had originally very fine gardens, with stables and coach-house in the rear, and were occupied by rich City men, Riga, Turkey, and Spanish merchants, some of whose names may still be found under the moss of the churchyard stones and in the obituary columns of the magazines of the day. Others of these houses were of less pretension, as we find from Mr. Abraham’s ‘Book of Assessments,’ some being rated at £50 and £60 per annum, and others at £14, £15, and even less.

Church Row, Hampstead.

But Church Row has had residents memorable for attributes more enduring and higher than riches, and for their sakes as long as Hampstead exists, and living minds delight in recalling the scenes and associations connected with men and women of genius, the place hallowed as the sometime[67] home of Mrs. Barbauld and her niece, Lucy Aikin, will always be for English-speaking people endowed with a personal interest.

From 1785 to 1802, Mrs. Barbauld, whose writings achieved a wide and distinguished popularity in the literature of the last century, resided here in the house (in my time No. 8) on the right-hand side of the way going from the town towards the church, noticeable for a large wrought-iron gate.

Her husband, Rochmount Barbauld, a native of Germany, was the pastor of a small congregation of Dissenters, whose place of meeting for worship was the Presbyterian chapel on Red Lion Hill, now Rosslyn Hill.

They were not rich, and from the time of their marriage, in 1774, had assisted their income by receiving a few pupils, a course they continued on coming to Hampstead, Mrs. Barbauld herself receiving a class of little boys. It appears to have been quite an aristocratic school, and the education and training of the children a labour of love to both the pastor and his wife.

She, in her early home, had enjoyed those advantages that have so often helped to strengthen and enlarge learned and literary tastes in women, an almost masculine education, and the society of highly-cultured and liberal-minded men. She was the only daughter of Dr. Aikin, who himself, we are told, was a man of sound scholarship, and the friend of Drs. Priestley, Enfield, and Doddridge, the latter of whom for some time resided in the family.[61]


Back View of Houses, Church Row.


Her first poems were published the year before her marriage, and were followed by her ‘Hymns in Prose,’ for children, hymns that were themselves full of poetry—at least, to the perception of one child’s heart—and were accepted by hundreds of parents with gratitude and admiration. Other works followed, and she assisted her brother, Dr. John Aikin, in the delightful series of stories entitled ‘Evenings at Home.’ But the fruits of her training and associations are best seen in her critical and graver writings, which display ‘a strong, logical, and correctly-thinking mind’[62]—nay, in some of them a breadth and liberality of thought quite beyond the times in which she lived; and it required in that day some courage to publish them. Take, for instance, her ‘Observations on the Devotional Taste,’ on ‘Sects and Establishments,’ a page of which I append.[63]

At the present day some of her suggestions have become opinions, and are openly preached; but her anticipatory expression of them reads rather like inspiration than the simple sequence of logical reasoning. Moreover, she was living in times when for women to have opinions at all—or at least to print them—was regarded as unfeminine, and looked upon with disfavour. Mrs. Barbauld herself, in her ‘Life of Richardson,’ tells us how the accomplished and clever Mrs. Delany found fault with a conversation in ‘Sir[70] Charles Grandison,’ in which the words ‘intellect’ and ‘ethics’ occur, as being too scholastic to be spoken by a woman; and Dr. Johnson ‘did not greatly approve of literature as a career for women,’ though he condoned it in the case of little Fanny Burney and Miss Mulso, afterwards well known as Mrs. Chapone, or, as she used to be styled in my young days, Madame Chapone, without a course of whose letters no young lady was supposed to have finished her education. But Johnson affected, in Mrs. Barbauld’s case, to underrate her talents. When, however, at the very height of her literary reputation, he heard of her devoting herself to the culture of the young minds entrusted to her own and her husband’s care, she had, we are told, ‘his highest praise.’ No one, according to Mrs. Piozzi, ‘was more struck with this voluntary descent from possible splendour to painful duty than the Doctor.’ But why ‘painful duty’? I imagine that to Mrs. Barbauld the divine gift of teaching, as she, and Pestalozzi, and Dr. Arnold, and a few others, have taught, was as spontaneous and irrepressible as her writing poetry. The first-fruits of her genius had been for children. The publication of her ‘Early Lessons’ was an era in their first steps to knowledge, and her contemporaries declared it unrivalled amongst books for children. She had taught when quite a girl in her father’s school, for the simple love of teaching, and thus I do not believe that the step she took was one regarded by her as a descent. She had made a name that was destined to live, and the estimation in which her writings were held lost nothing by her ceasing to write, though the reputation of them enhanced that of the Hampstead School. No doubt she regarded her acceptance of the position from quite another point of view than did the learned Doctor, who had essayed school-keeping as a means to an end, and failed, while the lady entered upon it con amore, and her method was altogether different from the scholastic system then in vogue. She was the friend, companion, and confidant of her pupils; she sympathized with all their small troubles, shared their joys, and catered for their amusement.[71] Howitt, in his ‘Northern Heights of London,’ tells how a lady calling on her found Mrs. Barbauld in the midst of making paper plumes, ruffs, and collars, for the boys who were about to play in private theatricals.

No; I feel sure there was no feeling of descent in her change of occupation, no sense of ‘painful duty’ in the teaching that helped to mould the minds of boys like Thomas Denman, afterwards Lord Denman, Lord Chief Justice of England, and of William Gell, subsequently Sir William Gell, the antiquary and topographer of Greece and Pompeii, neither of whom in after-life forgot their indebtedness to her. She had, as a writer, known the triumph of success. Her poems, published in 1778, had passed through four editions in the year. She had won the praise of Charles James Fox, who particularly admired her songs; had been eulogized by Garrick as ‘She who sang the sweetest lay’; and was regarded by Wordsworth as the ‘first of literary women’; while Crabb Robinson, who did not see her till she had reached old age, was enthusiastic in his admiration of her intellect, and charmed with her appearance even then.

It is amusing, from a woman’s standpoint, to mark the generous praise and admiration of these men, and compare it with the stinted commendation and personality of the ‘sweet Queen’s’ ex-reader, and of Mrs. Chapone. Some time after Miss Burney’s return to her father’s house, Mr. and Mrs. Barbauld called upon her, whereupon she writes in her journal that the latter is altered at this period, ‘but not for the worse to me, since the first flight of her youth has taken with it a great portion of an almost set smile, which had an air of determined complacency and prepared acquiescence that seemed to result from a sweetness that never risked being off guard. I remember,’ she runs on, ‘Mrs. Chapone saying to me, “She is a very good young woman, as well as replete with talent, but why must one always smile so? It makes my jaws ache to look at her;”’ and then Miss Burney sums up her literary merit as ‘the authoress of the most useful works, next to Mrs. Trimmer,[72] that have been written for children, though this with the world is probably her very secondary merit. Her many pretty poems, and particularly songs, being generally esteemed. But many more have written these as well. For children’s books she began the new walk, which has since been so well cultivated, to the great information as well as the utility of parents.’

She tells us that Mrs. Barbauld’s brother, Mr. Aikin, had a very fine countenance, and describes Mr. Barbauld as ‘a very characteristic figure, but well bred and sensible.’ Crabb Robinson is more clear in his delineation of him, and says he had ‘a slim figure, a weazen face, and a shrill voice. He talked a good deal, and was fond of dwelling on controversial points of religion. He was by no means destitute of ability.’ Amongst Mrs. Barbauld’s guests at Church Row in 1798 was Miss Mary Galton, afterwards Mrs. Schemelpennick, one of the shining lights in that brilliant company that met in Mrs. Montague’s drawing-rooms on the occasions of her literary assemblies, which brought together all the wit and talent of the town.

Amongst these celebrities Mrs. Barbauld was a welcome guest, and many of these gifted men and women visited her in Church Row.

She appears to have been as charming in person as she was rich in intellect. A small portrait of her in the European Magazine of March, 1786, suggests, from the sweetness of expression and refinement of the features, the composed beauty of countenance which Crabb Robinson describes her as possessing at sixty-two years of age.

In 1802 the Barbaulds removed from Hampstead. Through the kindness of a friend, I have before me the copy of a letter from Rochmount Barbauld to the celebrated Dr. Parr, dated March 29, 1802, in which he says: ‘We are on the point of leaving this charming spot, in order to remove to Stoke Newington, thus exchanging the beauties of nature for the pleasures of the heart and mind—for the advantage, I mean, of living close to Dr. Aikin.’ This closes all questions[73] as to the time when the Barbaulds removed from Hampstead, which one writer has asserted to have been in 1799. It was at Stoke Newington that Crabb Robinson paid his first visit to them in 1805-6. We have seen his personal description of Mr. Barbauld, but he added to it the suggestive expression that at that time the afflictive disease was lurking in him which in a few years broke out, and, as is well known, caused a sad termination to his life. This was the circumstance that made their removal to Stoke Newington a necessity, in order that Mrs. Barbauld should be near her brother for advice, assistance, and protection. No wonder Mrs. Le Breton, in her recollections of her, calls her life a brave and beautiful one. Of Mrs. Barbauld, Crabb Robinson says: ‘She bore the remains of great[74] personal beauty; she had a brilliant complexion, light hair, blue eyes, a small elegant figure, and her manners were agreeable, with something of the generation departed.’

Mrs. Barbauld.

When he next saw her she was quite aged, and her husband had been dead many years; but she still kept the calm sweetness of countenance that had charmed him on the occasion of his first visit. One of her poems, written in her declining days, is so characteristic of her quiet faith and the serenity of her mind that we cannot forbear quoting it:

‘Life, we’ve been long together,
Through pleasant and through cloudy weather;
’Tis hard to part when friends are dear,
Perhaps ’twill cause a sigh, a tear;
Then steal away, give little warning,
Choose thine own time;
Say not “Good-night!” but in some brighter clime
Bid me “Good-morning!”’

And it was in some such mood that death found her in the eighty-second year of her age.

On leaving Church Row, the school—probably on account of her husband’s malady—being given up, Mrs. Barbauld immediately recommenced her literary labours, and compiled a selection of essays from the Spectator, Tatler, and Guardian, with an introductory one of her own. This work appeared the year after her removal from Church Row, and was followed by her ‘Life of Richardson,’ whose correspondence she had edited. Her husband died in 1808, and the ‘widow recorded her feelings in a poetical dirge to his memory,’ a form of diverting feelings with which I have no sympathy, especially as the ebullition appears to have been published! I better understand her seeking relief in other literary occupation. She wrote a poem in 1811 in which she more naturally refers to her husband. She had also edited a collection of the British novelists, published in 1810, with an introductory essay of her own, and biographical and critical notices.

Placidity and cheerfulness continued with her to the last.[75] She died of gradual decay on March 9, 1825. Meanwhile she had had the pleasure of witnessing the literary success of her brother’s daughter, Miss Lucy Aikin,[64] who had written various historical memoirs and a ‘Life of Joseph Addison,’ which Macaulay criticised, and who, because ‘Miss Lucy Aikin’s reputation—which she has so justly earned—stands so high,’ thinks it right to remind her of her lapses, and of ‘the necessity in a future edition for every fact and date, about which there can be the smallest doubt, to be verified.’ Valuable and wise advice, the rigour of which he softened by adding that ‘the immunities of sex were not the only immunities Miss Aikin might rightfully plead ... several of her works, and especially the very pleasing memoirs of the reign of James I., having fully entitled her to the privileges enjoyed by good writers.’ In June, 1822, this lady and her mother took the house in Church Row which the Barbaulds had occupied, and continued to reside there till 1830, when Mrs. Aikin died. Upon the loss of her mother, Miss Aikin removed to No. 18, on the opposite side of the way, where she remained till 1844, when she came to London.

Nearly twenty years later, when verging towards the end of her life, she returned to Hampstead, and died at the house of her relative by marriage, P. H. Le Breton, Esq., John Street, January 24, 1864, while these notes of Hampstead and its neighbourhood were being collected.

At No. 25, not far from the house Miss Aikin had last occupied in Church Row, and which did in my recollection—perhaps does so still—possess a lovely view from the back-windows, was the residence of two well-descended ladies, the Misses Gillies; the one almost as well known as a writer of charming stories for young people as her sister, Miss Margaret Gillies, was as an artist. Her pictures were in the fifties, and long after, familiar to the frequenters of the summer and winter exhibitions of the Old Society of Painters in Water-Colours, of which she had long been a member. In this house I am reminded that the last twenty-eight years of her[76] long life had been passed. I remember her being there in 1859-60, and she may have lived there even at an earlier date. She died July 20, 1887, verging on eighty-four years of age. Previous to her tenancy Miss Meteyard had lived in this house on her first going to Hampstead. It was then a sort of private boarding-house especially affected by literary people, and indirectly brought her acquainted with two or three lady writers of a past period, of whose style, personal and literary, she had some very amusing recollections.

Subsequent to Miss Gillies’ death, I learn from Baines’ ‘Records of Hampstead’ that this house was tenanted for some time by the novelist, Wilkie Collins, son of the painter. The late well-known Mr. Ballantyne, the magistrate, also resided in Church Row; and for a considerable period it was the place of residence of Dr. Garth Wilkinson[65] and his wife. He was the author of a curious and eloquently-written book, which attracted some attention at the time of its appearance. Here also, at a far-off period, and only as a lodger, I believe, Park, the historian of Hampstead, is said to have lived.

In quite recent times Mr. Le Breton, who had married a grand-niece of Mrs. Barbauld’s, and to whom the inhabitants of Hampstead are indebted for the preservation of the Judges’ Walk, tenanted a house in Church Row, where he died.

In 1895 Miss Harraden, the writer of that well-read story, ‘Ships that Pass in the Night,’ had her summer residence in Church Row.

It will be pleasant for future chronologists of Hampstead to know that, amongst the many men of genius who have made it their home, Mr. Austin Dobson, best known by his charming Vers de Société, resided here. Beyond occasional verse, he is too little heard of. It is to be regretted, for his lyrics contain some real poetical gems.

In my time this central, yet retired, part of Hampstead, which is close to the busiest streets, and yet entirely secluded from them, continued to be a favourite locality with artists and other professional men. There were symptoms of social[77] decadence towards the end of the fifties in a ‘Home for Servants,’ to which No. 28 was then converted; while two or three other public institutions thrust themselves noticeably forward, ‘as ’tis their nature to.’ Its old traditions of privacy and dignified quiet—there was no public traffic through Church Row; Miss Sullivan’s toll-gate stopped the way—was to be sacrificed, and the character it had maintained for so many years for staid gentility and retirement swept away.

Austin Dobson.

No. 9, next door to Mrs. Barbauld’s old home, had become, before I left the neighbourhood, a Reformatory School for Girls, established in 1861 by Miss Christian Nicoll, under whose admirable superintendence it has done, and is doing, good and useful work. The school is the only Government one of the kind in Middlesex. The young inmates have all been convicted of crime, and are undergoing various terms of detention; but advantage is taken of this period to bring them under the influence of religious teaching free from sectarianism, to instruct them in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and to train them for domestic service. Account has[78] to be rendered to the Home Secretary of the conduct and progress of the girls for four years after they leave, and the result is that from 70 to 80 per cent. are found to do well.

From Church Row you walk straight into the gateway of the prettily-situated parish church of St. John, and in those times the well-kept graveyard.

Until 1745 the ancient chapel, originally dedicated to the Virgin, and appropriated in 1461[66] to the Abbot and Convent of Westminster, continued to be the only church at Hampstead. It had been patched up and added to and rendered picturesque by reason of age, irregularity of outline, and ruin, and was in so dangerous a condition, to quote the preamble of the petition to rebuild and enlarge, ‘that the inhabitants could not attend Divine worship without apparent hazard to their lives.’ Moreover, it is further stated ‘that Hampstead being a place of great resort, especially in summer-time, the said church, were it in a repairable condition, would not be sufficient to accommodate one-half of the parishioners and others who are desirous of coming to Divine service there.’

The old church was taken down in the spring of 1745, and the present structure consecrated by Dr. Gilbert, Bishop of Llandaff, October, 1747.[67]

During the two years it took in building, the Episcopal Chapel in Well Walk was rented at £50 per annum (which benefited the Wells Charity to that amount), and it was used as the parish church, although it had not been consecrated.

Meanwhile the monuments and mural tablets within the[79] demolished Chapel of St. Mary were necessarily displaced, and have not, Mr. Howitt tells us, ‘found their way back to the depositors they marked, and the memory of which they were intended to perpetuate.’

The design of the church was furnished by a resident architect, Mr. Flitcroft,[68] ‘Burlington Harry,’ as he was familiarly called from circumstances elsewhere referred to; and the building entrusted to a resident builder, Mr. Saunderson, who was not, it appears, able to follow the original design of the church (the spire of which was very handsome) for want of funds. A note in the trust book, 1744, relating to the building of the church, throws a strong light on Mr. Saunderson’s dilemma, and the small importance of architectural beauty, or even propriety, in the minds of the trustees of that period.

‘The tower, being placed at the eastern end of the church, would be a considerable saving of expense.’ As a result of this saving, the church appears the wrong side before, with the tower and belfry at the east end, and the chancel at the west. You pass the altar on entering, and the font is at the further end. There is an altar-piece, but no east window, and the whole is further darkened by galleries north and south. Park says it is a neat but ill-designed church, and we can only repeat what Park says.

An engraving of the old church (said to be from an oil painting by Grisoni) in Park’s ‘History of Hampstead’ represents a picturesquely irregular rustic building, with low walls, rather high-pitched roofs, sharply-pointed gables, and a small open timber bell-tower. It has dormers in the roof, a square mullioned window in one gable, a different sized one in another, and other lights thrown in anywhere. A transverse addition forms the whole into an irregular cruciform structure.

Trees crowd around it at the west end, as they do at the present day, and in the graveyard are several recognisable monuments, notably that above the burial-place of the[80] Delamere family; of Daniel Bedingfield, Clerk of the Parliament, 1637; of —— Popple, Esq., Secretary of the Board of Trade, 1722. A flat stone (recut since its discovery), beside the second pathway to the left on entering, bears the date of the Great Fire, 1666. There is also that of John Harrison, the inventor of the chronometer, who died March 24, 1776, after sixty years’ application to the improvement of watches and clocks, and of whom Mrs. Montague, writing to her brother, Mr. Robinson, from London, May 28, 1762, observes: ‘Mr. Harrison’s watch’ (the fourth, Dr. Doran says), ‘and most perfect timekeeper for ascertaining the longitude at sea’ (and for which he ultimately received £2,400), ‘has succeeded beyond expectation. Navigation will be improved by it, which all who have the spirit of travelling shall rejoice at.’[69]

The clean-swept paths, the flowery garden-graves, the close-mown turf, the shrubs and bowering trees, and the varied, often elegant tombs amongst them, give Hampstead churchyard an air of beautiful repose and quiet.[70] Two magnificent yew-trees with straight, tall, channelled trunks, centuries old, spread their wide horizontal branches over spaces ‘sacred to many sorrows.’ Beneath the first of them, to the east, is the grave of Sir James Macintosh, ‘a man,’ says Mr. Howitt, ‘of grave, practical, useful, and moderately reforming character and talents, rather than of that broad and original stamp which marks the foremost leaders of mankind.’

If we take the first path to the left hand on entering the graveyard, we pass on the side nearest the wall the tombstone of Henry Cort, ironmaster, who greatly improved the manufacture of British iron, and according to Mr. William[81] Fairbairn, in his ‘History of Iron and its Manufacture,’ conferred on his country during the last three or four generations equivalent to six hundred millions sterling, and has given employment to six hundred thousand of the working population, but who himself was suffered to die of disappointment and broken fortune in the sixtieth year of his age. Passing on to the second cross on the right of this path, we find the headstone which marks the simple grave of Lucy Aikin, who lies at the feet of her friend and neighbour, Joanna Baillie, whose railed-in altar-tomb has still a little footpath worn by pilgrims’ feet on the grass beside it.

‘Oh, who shall lightly say that fame
Is nothing but an empty name?
When but for those, our gifted dead,
All ages past a blank would be,
Sunk in oblivion’s murky bed.’

It is only fitting that she, who sang thus in her ‘Metrical Legends of Exalted Character,’ should in her village grave illustrate the sentiment of these lines.

If we follow the east path to the end, and keep in the one under the south-east wall, the second tomb is that of John Constable, R.A. He rests beside his beloved partner, Maria Elizabeth Bicknell, and one or more of their children. He died in London, March 31, 1837.

A little further on, under the same sheltering wall, lies a flat stone inscribed, ‘Sacred to the Memory of Maria Honey, whose mortal remains repose in the vault beneath. She died in the year of our Lord 1843, in the 27th year of her age.’

Some of our readers remember the brilliant, graceful actress, and thus can feel the pathetic force of the brief lines inscribed beneath:

‘Shall I remain forgotten in the dust,
When Fate, relenting, lets the flowers revive?’[71]


Parish Church, Hampstead.

Within the church lies Incledon, the exquisite sweetness of whose voice, and wonderful power of expression, drew from the stately Sarah Siddons the graceful compliment that in singing two lines he could produce as much emotion as she could by the elaborate representation of[83] the highest passion. (This delighted him and did not hurt herself.)

A white marble tablet at the west end of the church marks the resting-place of Dr. Askew, and at the east end of the south gallery we find the handsome mural monument to the memory of Lady Erskine, whose burial-place is in a vault at the west end of the church. Other memorials of persons of ‘mark and likelihood’ appear in the church and churchyard, but we have only pointed the way to a few of them.

Since the foregoing pages were written, a very interesting addition, which we owe to America, has been made to the local memorials in St. John’s Church, in the delicately sculptured but idealized bust of Keats, which we almost touch on entering. It presents itself in profile, bracketed in the vicinity of the Communion-table—a graceful offering to the genius of the poet, and recognition of the undying charm of his poetry, which is as deeply felt in the land of Longfellow as at home. We are certainly not an enthusiastic people, and seldom memorize our literary men or women—never in any public way till a century or so of years have given proof of the abidingness of their deserts. The time has therefore not yet arrived for a public acknowledgment of our national appreciation of the writer of ‘Endymion’ and ‘Hyperion’; but it will come, and I should not wonder if this charming reminder on the part of our Transatlantic kinsfolk should lead the sooner to the honour of a niche for him in Poets’ Corner.

In wandering through this, the only graveyard in Hampstead, one notices the absence of those doggerel lines and absurd inscriptions once so frequently seen in country churchyards, and which were wont to introduce a sense of the ridiculous into these solemn places. There is still remaining an inscription on a tombstone in the churchyard that for complacent egotism is ludicrously noticeable:


Here lie the Ashes of


Of Stanhope Street, Mayfair, London;
Originally of King Street, Liverpool; who, under peculiar disadvantages,
Which to common minds would have been
A bar to any exertion,
Raised himself from all obscured situations
Of Birth and Fortune by his own Industry and frugality
To the enjoyment of a moderate competency.
He attained a peculiar excellence in penmanship and drawing
Without the Instruction of a Master,
And to eminence in Arithmetic, the useful and higher
Branches of the Mathematics,
By going to School only a year and eight months.
He died a Bachelor
On the 24th day of October, 1807,
In the 55th year of his age,
And without forgetting Relations, Friends, or acquaintances,
He bequeathed one-fifth of his Property
To Public Charities.

Reader, the world is open to thee.
Go thou and do likewise![72]

The author of ‘A Walking Tour in Normandy’ states that in the church of Avranches there is a marble slab erected by the Marquis de Belbœuf in 1844 to the memory of his predecessor of that name, the late Bishop of Avranches, who, it is stated, died, and was buried at Hampstead, in England. Is anything known of the Bishop or his grave?

On March 30, 1797, the remains of Lord Southampton were conveyed in great funeral pomp from his late residence in Stanhope Street for interment in the family vault at Hampstead.



Frognal claims to be considered the very heart of Hampstead, the site of its first settlement, the spot on which the ancient manor-house and the humble little chapel to St. Mary primitively arose, and around which gathered by degrees the wattle and dab cottages that succeeded the ruder huts of the villani and bordarii of the Conqueror’s time. The path through the churchyard leads straight to the entrance of a narrow lane, guarded in my time by a small toll-house and gate. This lane is partly made by the wall enclosing the Mansion, an old-fashioned, grave-looking, two-storied house, standing in its own grounds, in which grew some remarkably fine yew-trees; and between these grounds and the end of the new burial-ground on the eastern side of St. John’s stands a small Roman Catholic chapel, dedicated to St. Mary, erected by a French émigré—l’Abbé Morel—early in the present century.

The family living at the Mansion between forty and fifty years ago were of Irish extraction, and of the creed of their country, circumstances that in those days (especially in small places) subjected the persons so conditioned to a measure of suspicion and unreasoning antagonism scarcely to be comprehended in these more liberal times.

Whether this was or was not the case with the Sullivan family, I cannot say. Their society was not generally courted, and outside their own special circle they made few friends. They lived a quiet, retired life, and after her father’s[86] death Miss Sullivan was most frequently heard of in connection with the toll-gate, which appertained to her residence.

I am informed that a toll of one penny for each cart or carriage was exacted for the use of the gate and lane, but no one had the privilege of driving through it without permission of the lady of the Mansion; and as it was the straight and short way to any part of Frognal, it became a constant source of friction between the public and the owner. There was something very arbitrary and vexatious in the way Miss Sullivan resisted all requests and representations on the part of her neighbours and the inhabitants generally.

It was her right, and she resolved not to abate an iota of her power; so the struggle became continuous till quite recent times, when the parochial authorities resolved on doing away with the gate, offering the owner a fair pecuniary equivalent for the ground belonging to her; but whether she came to terms I do not know. Her death probably facilitated the matter, and when I last visited Hampstead (1895-96) I found the little toll-house standing, but the gate that for so many years had pertinaciously obstructed the thoroughfare lay wide open, while an appearance of unresisted desolation and neglect enshrouded the house and grounds, which I heard were to be sold.[73] Since then many houses have been built upon the grounds of the old Mansion.

Frognal gives its name to several good houses in the vicinity, as Frognal Hall, Frognal Lodge, Frognal House, Frognal Grove, etc., and preserves (Park suggests) in its own the diminutive of the title of the ancient manor-house, the appellation of Hall being very early given to the mansion of a manorial district. He imagines that Frognal may probably come from Frogen Hall. How the hall originally came by this designation, if it ever had it, he does not tell us. By some it has been deemed merely a name of derision—Froggenhal or Frogs’ Hall.


Mr. Walter Rye, the well-known Norfolk antiquary, and present proprietor of Frognal House, strongly supports Park’s view of the origin of the name, of which there are many examples in various parts of the country.

Frognal is situated on the demesne land, which formerly extended from Child’s Hill, north, to Belsize, south, the site of the old church, or, rather, chapel, of St. Mary,[74] and that of the ancient manor-house, clearly indicating the portion of the manor first peopled.[75]

At Frognal Rise the ground is level with Mount Vernon, but it gradually descends, till at the ruined house (no longer standing) known in my time as Frognal Priory it is nearly flat. Like every other part of Hampstead, Frognal has its reminiscences. At the beginning of this century there was still standing on the rise of the hill, where a high wall (said to have been part of it) skirted a narrow lane leading up to Mount Vernon, a remarkable old brick mansion, of the origin or owners of which neither Lysons nor Park gives any account. It is picturesque, with two high pointed gables, mullioned windows, connected by a balustraded gallery, deep bays and dormers on the roof. Park, in his ‘History of Hampstead,’ gives an engraving of it, taken in 1814, from a picture by William Alexander, painted in 1801. For some cause or other, the fine old fabric had suffered neglect, and some time prior to 1725 was let in apartments. It occupied a beautiful situation, and here, amongst other lodgers, Colley Cibber and his theatrical friends, Booth and Wilks, were frequent visitors in summer.

Subsequently the lease was purchased by the parochial authorities of Hampstead, and the fine old house was converted to the uses of the village poor-house. It seems to have served this purpose till 1800, when it had become so decayed and ruinous, and so prejudicial to the health and comfort of the inmates, that the minister[76] and parishioners,[88] with Josiah Boydell at their head,[77] petitioned Parliament for leave to bring in a Bill to build, or provide, a new workhouse. The Bill was granted the following May, and the mansion belonging to Mrs. Leggett at New End being to be sold, it was purchased, and there is lying before me the printed specification of the alterations required to fit it for its present occupation.

From this period the old house at Frognal fell into desuetude and decay—an interesting object to the antiquary and the delight of artists, but daily becoming more dangerous to the public, on which account it was taken down a few years before Park published the first edition of his history (1813). White, of Fleet Street, published an engraving of it in 1814.

The first house on the west side of the churchyard is Frognal Hall, formerly in the occupation of a very remarkable man, Mr. Isaac Ware, who, by his genius and self-education, aided by Lord Burlington, raised himself from the humble position of chimney-sweep to that of an eminent architect. He was the author, Park tells us, of a correct and valuable edition of Palladio’s ‘Architecture,’ which, self-taught, he had translated from the Italian, and had also engraved the plates after tracings taken from the original work. He afterwards translated Lorenzo Sarigatti’s ‘Perspective,’ and brought out an accurate edition of Palladio’s first five books on the Five Orders, which was then considered the standard of the English School, and was himself the author of a ‘Complete Body of Architecture.’ He was of His Majesty’s Board of Works. Truly a remarkable[89] man;[78] but there was a flaw somewhere, for, with all his talent and success in his career, he died in distressed circumstances at his house in Kensington Gravel Pits.

Frognal Hall subsequently became the residence of the Guyons, a French family of eminent merchants. ‘Stephen Guyon, Esq.,’ so says the slab in the churchyard, ‘ob. Dec. 5th, 1779, æt. 73; and Henry Guyon, Esq., ob. May 15th, 1790.’ The house was sold on the death of Stephen Guyon. Another member of the family continued to reside at Hampstead till his death (May, 1806).[79]

After having had one or two other tenants, it was occupied by Lord Alvanley, ‘Richard Pepper Ardennes, Esq., a descendant of the ancient family of the Ardennes of Cheshire, who successively held the high offices of Solicitor and Attorney General, Chief Justice of Chester, Master of the Rolls, and Lord Chief Justice of Common Pleas, and was finally raised to the peerage by the title of Lord Alvanley.’ He died at Hampstead, March 19, 1804,[80] and was buried in the Rolls Chapel,[81] now ruthlessly destroyed.

Lady Alvanley continued to reside at Frognal Hall for some years subsequently.

Lord Alvanley was as remarkable for the smallness of his stature as for the importance of the offices he had arrived at. As a gentleman of the long robe, he made a frequent subject for the caricaturists and the paragraph-writers of the day. He appears to have been a kind man as well as a clever lawyer, with a sense of humour that did not take offence at being the cause of it in others.

In 1813 Thomas Wilson, Esq., resided at Frognal Hall. It was afterwards tenanted by a Mr. Cole, and subsequently by Julius Talbot Airey, Esq. At present it is occupied as a Roman Catholic boarding-school.

On the opposite side of the lane is Frognal Lodge, the[90] probable site of Alderman Boydell’s house, who some years before his death had moved from North End to Frognal, and is said to have been the near neighbour and friend of Lord Alvanley, whom he outlived a few months. Abrahams tells us that the house, gardens, grounds, lands, coach-house, and stables belonging to this ‘grand encourager of art,’ as he truly calls him, and which had lately been sold for £3,400, had been rated at £70 per annum, but should have been rated at £150. The discovery came too late to be rectified.

The art-loving Alderman and famous print-seller, whose house had supplied, not only the chief cities of Europe, but those of the whole civilized world, with the highest productions of the painter’s and engraver’s art, found himself ruined by the long-continued war, which effectually closed commercial intercourse with foreign countries, and caused him such serious losses that he was compelled to petition Parliament to be allowed to dispose of the large stock of pictures and engravings on hand by lottery,[82] which took place after his death (1804-5).

For years he had cherished the idea of forming a gallery of paintings of Shakespearian characters and scenes, that should be at once an offering to the genius of his immortal countryman and the crown of his own efforts to exculpate art in England from the subordinate status it held in comparison with that of other nations. To this end he had engaged the most famous artists of his day—Sir Joshua Reynolds, Romney, Fuseli, Northcote, Blake, and many others (amongst them he himself was numbered)—and had built a handsome gallery (afterwards the British Institution) in Pall Mall for the reception and exhibition of their works and the engravings taken from them.

There is something very pathetic in the old man’s letter, which his friend and fellow-Alderman, Sir J. William Andrews, read in the House of Commons, pleading, after a life and fortune expended in perfecting and accumulating these treasures of art, to be allowed to dispose of them by lottery,[91] in order that at the close of a long and honourable life—he was eighty-five years of age—he might be enabled to pay his just debts.

He ‘knows no other way by which it can be effected but by a lottery, and if the Legislature will have the goodness to grant a permission for that purpose, they will, at least, have the assurance of the even tenor of a long life that it will be fairly and honourably conducted.’

The objects were his pictures, galleries, drawings, etc., which, unconnected with the copper-plates and trade, ‘are much more than sufficient, if properly disposed of, to pay all he owes in the world.’ He hopes that every honest man at any age will feel for his anxiety to discharge his debts, ‘but at his advanced age it becomes doubly desirable.’

As a citizen of London Joshua Boydell had received the highest honours, having filled the office of High Sheriff, and subsequently that of Lord Mayor. While resident at Hampstead he had taken a leading part in all that concerned the well-being of the inhabitants, and had given the prestige of his name and the encouragement of his comradeship when eighty-four years of age to the Hampstead Volunteers, of which corps he was Colonel Commandant. He died on November 12, 1804.[83]

At the date of Abrahams’ pamphlet (1811) there were seventy-two houses within the boundaries of Frognal, a hamlet of handsome residences, surrounded by wooded groves and beautiful gardens of an extent begrudged by builders in these modern days.

One of these, remarkable for its quaint comeliness, is Fenton House (early Georgian), situated at the very top of the grove, an old red-brick mansion, with a high-pitched, red-tiled roof, and key-patterned timber cornice, painted white, running round it. The front, which recedes a little in the centre, is ornamented with a pediment of the same pattern, and the projecting ends have balustrades simulating galleries upon them. A remarkable house, though, according to modern notions, an inconvenient one.


Fenton House.


In or about 1793 Fenton House was the residence of Philip Robertson Fenton, Esq., formerly an eminent Riga merchant, the son of Thomas Fenton and Elizabeth his wife, of Hunslet, near Leeds. She was the daughter of Sir Charles Hogton, of Hogton Tower, in Lancashire, where the slab above his grave tells us her son ‘was born on the night of the 19th of November, 1731, O.S.,’ she being on a visit to her brother. Mr. Philip Fenton resided at Hampstead for fifteen years, and died there in the seventy-second year of his age. Park, though a contemporary during the latter years of his life, gives us no personal particulars of this gentleman, but we find in the list of subscribers to the ‘History of Hampstead’ the name of C. R. Fenton, Esq., of the India House; and in 1829, at a meeting of copyholders held at the Holly Bush in the July of that year, to take measures to preserve the Heath from further encroachments, a Mr. Fenton presided.

It is therefore probable that some of the family continued to reside at Hampstead.

No doubt Fenton House[84] had had some other name previous to the retired Riga merchant’s occupation of it. Some time in the summer of 1746 Johnson (he was not yet Doctor) had lodgings in Frognal. Park,[85] and subsequently Brewer, who copied him, assure us that the house ‘so dignified’ was the last in Frognal southward—then, in 1813-15, in the occupancy of Benjᵉ Charles Stephenson, Esq., F.S.A., ‘where the greater part, if not the whole, of the “Vanity of Human Wishes,” in imitation of the tenth satire of Juvenal, was written.’[86]


I cannot help thinking that the Doctor’s literary reputation, rather than a review of his pecuniary circumstances at this time, led to this assumption, and believe that a much humbler dwelling sufficed for Mrs. Johnson’s summer lodging than that which the well-known and well-to-do architect would choose for his suburban residence; and I ground my belief on the statement of Dr. Johnson himself, who says: ‘I wrote the first seventy lines in the “Vanity of Human Wishes” in that small house beyond the church, Hampstead; the whole number were composed before I threw a single couplet upon paper’—under pressure, probably, of fair, frivolous, pretty Mrs. Johnson’s requirements, real or imaginary, who, with her perpetual ailments and perpetual opium, was always craving for country air—a craving sometimes gratified at great inconvenience to her husband. At the period in question he was so poor that, in order to afford his wife a change of air, he was obliged to dispense with a town lodging for himself; and for want of means to pay the coach fare to Hampstead, the roads to which were dangerous after dark, had nothing left to him but to walk about till daylight, or, as in the old times with Savage, to sleep on a bulk. Under the circumstances, we have to judge whether the expression ‘that small house beyond the church’ could apply to the ‘last house in Frognal southward.’

This reference to the Doctor is as eloquent as a volume in exemplifying the exigeant selfishness of his wife’s character, and the self-sacrificing kindness of his own, for with all his roughness and ‘bear-like growl,’ as Northcote calls it, there was a fine strain of compassionate tenderness in his nature. I am afraid he found material for the ‘Vanity of Human Wishes’ not far from home, for notwithstanding his generous indulgence of his wife’s love of Hampstead air, ‘nice living and unsuitable expense,’ Mrs. Desmoulins[87] tells us that she did not ‘always treat him with becoming complacency.’


It was very vexatious, with her fastidious love of cleanliness, which her husband has borne witness to, to see him walking about in linen the complexion of which Sir John Hawkins said shamed her, and it was not less vexatious, perhaps, to have her personal wishes frustrated; for, having hair as blond as a babe’s, we are told that she was always endeavouring to dye it black, much to the great Khan of Literature’s dissatisfaction. But with all her pitiful little failings, when death had dulled the fair hair and stilled the querulous lips for ever, her husband, we are told, sincerely mourned her loss.[88]

It is said that at one time Dr. Akenside lived in Frognal, but the place of his abode is not known. Apropos of this unfortunate poet, a curious story is told in connection with him, very disgraceful to the perpetrator of the fraud. A literary man, known to Frederick, Prince of Wales, as a poet and writer of varieties, when Dr. Akenside published his ‘Pleasures of Imagination’ without his name, tacitly concurred in the supposition that he was the writer of the poem, and absolutely maintained himself, or was maintained, in Dublin for some years on the reputation it gained him.[89]


Priory Lodge.


I find the family of the Bocketts, who were living in this neighbourhood in 1722, resided at Frognal in 1811. They were connected with the famous Lord Erskine; the late Mrs. Bockett, who died at Hampstead some twenty-five years ago, was his niece.

Turning to the right past the toll-gate, the road runs between high walls, fringed with ivy, pendent grasses, and long trails of purple toad-flax overtopped by trees to Frognal Rise; past Frognal House,[90] now the home of Mr. Walter Rye, and other modern mansions in handsome grounds, whence the main road follows its course to Branch Hill, and is continued to the West Heath Road. Branch Hill is the site of Branch Hill Lodge, standing in ample grounds upon an elevation that commands extensive and beautiful views. Brewer describes it as a well-proportioned family residence, though not of capacious dimensions. It has, however, undergone many additions and alterations since Brewer’s time.

Branch Hill Lodge was partly built by Sir Thomas Clarke, Master of the Rolls, on the site of an older mansion, parts of which it included, but it had been so altered and enlarged that only a very small portion of it remained in the house which was standing when Lysons wrote. Sir Thomas bequeathed it to his patron, the notorious Thomas Parker (Lord Chancellor Macclesfield), ‘who was obliged to purchase the copyhold part of the premises from the heirs of Sir Thomas Clarke, in consequence of his having failed to surrender it to the uses of his will.’ It was after Lord Macclesfield’s enforced retirement from office that he came to reside here. Twenty-five years previously he had been impeached by the House of Commons for fraudulent practices, for which he was condemned to pay a fine of £30,000, with imprisonment till it was paid. The standard of morality was not very high at this period, and though some person[98] amongst the crowd who had followed him on his way to the Tower cried out that Staffordshire had produced three of the greatest rascals in England—Jack Sheppard, Jonathan Wild, and Tom Parker—the cry had ceased long before the six weeks of his imprisonment ended; and time and more recent rascality somewhat shaded his lordship’s association in this triumvirate before he took up his abode at Branch Hill Lodge, where he lived for several years.

The house appears to have been particularly affected by members of the law. It was tenanted by Mr. Thomas Walker, Master in Chancery, and subsequently by Lord Loughborough (afterwards Lord Rosslyn). In 1799 it was purchased by Colonel Parker, a younger son of Lord Macclesfield; and later on it became the residence of Mr. Thomas Neave (eldest son of Sir Richard Neave, Bart.), who was living here when Park wrote his history. This gentleman amused himself by altering, adding to, and greatly improving the house and grounds. He was fond of collecting painted glass, and, besides some very fine Continental specimens, obtained much of that which Bishop Butler possessed; and the pieces from the old Chicken House were said to have found a sanctuary at Branch Hill Lodge.[91] The house has had other tenants since then, and whether the painted glass has been removed or still adorns the mansion, I know not.

Considerably raised above the road, to the left, upon a sort of wedge-shaped promontory of land pushing out into the highway, between Branch Hill and Frognal House, one is attracted by an ancient grove of lime-trees, at the end of which is Montagu House, so called in honour of Mr. Montagu, whose memory the people of Hampstead with great reason revere.

The house was formerly the home of Mr. Flitcroft, the architect, who, finding the then beautiful avenue ready grown, built a villa at the end of it. He died in 1769. His[99] fortune was due to what proved to be a happy accident. A man of great natural talent, but employed at Burlington House as a journeyman carpenter, a fall from a scaffold and a broken leg brought him to the notice of Lord Burlington,[92] a born builder himself, a patron of art, and evidently also a man of much humanity and warmth of heart. In some drawings with which Flitcroft amused himself during his recovery, his lordship discovered great cleverness, and interesting himself in his advancement, got him placed on the Board of Works, of which he eventually became Comptroller. He was the architect of St. Giles’s Church, London, and unfortunately for his fame, as we have elsewhere said, of St. John’s Church, Hampstead. His St. Olave’s, Tooley Street, is his most original work; St. Giles’s is but an inferior copy of Wren.

During his residence Montagu House had been known as Frognal Grove, a name it retained during the residence of Edward Montagu, Esq., Master in Chancery, who, some time subsequent to 1769, tenanted it.[93] A man of sense and refined feeling, a philanthropist and practical benefactor to Hampstead, he was one of the leaders of a band of gentlemen who had wakened up from the general apathy as to the moral, social, and religious wants of their poorer neighbours, and who (to quote Park), ‘setting their faces against the drinking habits prevalent in mixed society, pledged themselves to keep within the bounds of temperance, and to introduce subjects, or topics of conversation, that should tend to improve the understanding and the mind. Under the ill-chosen name of Philo-investiges, the members of the society held their meetings at the Flask Tavern, and from[100] the quarterly subscriptions, fines, etc., established a fund for charitable purposes.’[94]

In 1787 the members, with Mr. Montagu at their head, founded the Hampstead Sunday-School, a proof that the intention of the society had been adhered to, and had borne fruit after its kind, for in those days, when neither national[95] nor other schools existed in villages for the children of the poor, the value of Sunday-schools could scarcely be overrated. Mr. Perceval also patronized this school. It is only just to say that the absolute founder of the Sunday-school was Mr. Thomas Mitchell, who kept a school at Hampstead for twenty-two years on week-days, and was so real a philanthropist that he continued the vocation on Sundays for the benefit of poor children.

To return to Mr. Montagu. This gentleman was the trusted friend of Lord Mansfield, who placed in his hands his resignation of the Lord Chief Justiceship. After Mr. Montagu’s death, and in honour of him, Frognal Grove was called Montagu House, a name it still retains.

Stevens, the Shakespearian annotator, had a house in Frognal before he purchased the premises of the Upper Flask, which is now known as Upper Heath.

Previous to 1811 Lord Walpole had a residence at Frognal, which Mr. Thomas Kestevan afterwards bought for £400, the price of a very humble abode in the present day. At this time two of the four joint purchasers of the Belsize estate, German Lavie and James Abel, Esqs., were living in Frognal. Thomas Carr, Esq., had a residence here early in the present century, where Crabb Robinson was a frequent visitor. His house appears to have been the literary centre of this part of Hampstead, and the pleasant diarist tells us of meeting there on one occasion Sir Humphry Davy and his bride (Mrs. Apreece), the poet Wordsworth, and Joanna Baillie,[101] adding that ‘Sir Humphry and Lady D—— seem hardly to have finished their honeymoon.’

Frognal in the present day is by no means devoid of literary associations. In the cosy home known as Frognal End resides the well-known and well-regarded Sir Walter Besant, whose unstained pen, powerful as the lamp of Aladdin, has helped to raise a Palace of Delight in the dreary heart of East London, and where the thick ‘darkness of ignorance’ prevailed has let in light and hope, and the love of healthful and intelligent pleasures.

When Baines was writing his ‘Records of Hampstead,’ the late well-known artist and novelist, George du Maurier, was living in New Grove House. He had been resident at Hampstead for many years, and, like others of his brotherhood, appears to have found the neighbourhood helpful to his art. A well-known writer[96] tells us ‘that the Hampstead scenery made in Punch his mountains and valleys, his backgrounds and foregrounds ... the group of Scotch firs suggested a deer forest ... and the distant dome of St. Paul’s an always interesting perspective point.’[97]

For some time Sir Gilbert Scott, the architect, resided in an adjacent house, afterwards occupied by Mr. Henry Sharpe, after whose name Baines has added the suffix, ‘a good man.’

When I last visited Hampstead, the talented authoress of the ever-popular ‘Schomberg-Cotta Family’ was living in her pleasant home, Combe Edge, Branch Hill, where, in a grove of evergreens, I listened to a blackbird whistling on the third day of the New Year, 1896. Early in this year the kind heart, the active brain, and busy hands of this wholesome writer and benevolent woman ceased their work, to the deep regret of many friends and the great loss of the patients of the North London Hospital for Consumption, to whom she had been a constant visitor and sympathetic friend.

Her friends honoured her memory by endowing an additional[102] bed in the hospital. A tablet, upon which is inscribed, ‘The Elizabeth Rundle Charles Memorial bed,’ was unveiled by the Princess Christian (whose sympathy with all charitable work is well known) on December 18, 1896.

The Frognal of to-day, though a charming neighbourhood, with its air of affluence, ease, and ordered neatness, has lost the more natural charms of fifty years ago. The old mystery of high walls is still with us, but the free wildness of grassy slopes and shady trees, with little neighbourly short-cuts crossing one another, or unpremeditated footpaths meandering about in aimless fashion, though to good purpose, are there no longer. I like not the wide road bisecting it, nor the lofty, many-windowed, scarlet-faced mansions overlooking it. For me they have destroyed too much of the tree-grouped greensward of my early days, and park-like look of the old Frognal precinct, and the pretty, tree-shaded, devious ways that led to unexpected places. I remember wandering by one of these narrow footways with a few trees hanging over one side of it, when suddenly I found myself in front of a dilapidated lodge and other offices appertaining to the sham Tudor mansion known as Frognal Priory.[98] At that time—1869—it was a tottering ruin, supported by beams of timber on one side to make it tenantable; and, as I soon found, giving off, through neglected drainage, mal odours enough to defy all but the curiosity of a press interviewer, or of the London Sunday visitors, whose purses helped to support the ancient, self-constituted custodian.

Half a century earlier this house, with its simulated Elizabethan appearance, must have been a really pictorial object. The irregularly gabled front of ruddy bricks, its oriel and mullioned windows, carved window-frames, quaint waterspouts, and twisted chimneys, even in this stage of ruin and combined with squalor, was eminently picturesque, and, from an artist’s point of view, really effective. On this[103] account, and for the sake of some lovely views to be seen from the upper windows at the back, a few youthful enthusiasts of the profession, devoted to form and colour, would lodge here for days together, despite the unsafe walls, morbific air, and fearful effluvia from the ground-floor premises.

The history of this modern antique house—the building of which many people living at Hampstead in the fifties could remember—is too curious to be left out of our account of Frognal. It was built by one Thompson,[99] better known to his friends as ‘Memory Corner Thompson.’

Originally a public-house broker and salesman, he is said to have gained this distinctive appellation from a marvellous feat of memory—nothing less than stating for a bet the name and occupation of everyone who kept a corner shop in the city of London. But as pawnbrokers, chemists, and publicans generally monopolize these usually Janus-faced houses, the difficulty may have been more apparent than real to one whose business with the latter made him naturally notice the shops emphasized by exemption from his professional occupation. At any rate, he won the bet, and became known by this prefix ever after.

In the course of his business career as auctioneer and broker, he had had many opportunities of collecting ancient furniture and other antiquities, for which he appears to have had a natural taste, and he resolved to build a characteristic mansion to lodge them in. He obtained a lease of twenty years, subject to a fine to the Lord of the Manor, and built this house on the traditionary site of the ancient priory, where Cardinal Wolsey is said to have occasionally lived.

Exceedingly rich and ostentatious, Mr. Thompson took pleasure in turning his house into an exhibition, without the rules and order observed in public ones. Visitors were admitted at all times, and a lady who was in the habit of calling on his wife informed Miss Meteyard that no meal was sacred from intrusion, nor were the feminine members of the[104] family secure even when engaged with their toilets, but were frequently obliged to rush out of the way while a company of strangers inspected their bedrooms.

The hall and largest room in the house were devoted to the exhibition of medieval furniture, real or spurious. The library, a charming little room, looked into the garden and out away over what were then the Finchley meadows; the light from the square mullioned window was softened with painted glass; the shutters and doorways were to appearance carved, and the panelled ceiling handsomely emblazoned with coats-of-arms; the walls were surrounded with antique book-presses, glazed and guarded with brass nettings, and filled with rare and costly volumes beautifully bound. The whole of this display was a deception. Mr. Memory Corner Thompson had no personal interest in the coats-of-arms; the carving was stucco; the volumes, the titles of which must have awakened sharp longings in the breasts of scholarly visitors—if any such did visit the Priory—were mere shades of books, pasteboard integuments of them with nothing real about them but the titles. The building itself was of the same make-believe character both as to material and workmanship. Plaster-of-Paris mouldings had been made to do duty for carved stone wherever this was characteristically required. The divisional walls were of simple lath and plaster, and the exterior ones not much more solid. They lasted, however, the proprietor’s time, who, having no children living, left it, with part of his large fortune, to his niece, who had married the notorious Gregory, the proprietor of that disgraceful publication called the Satirist, and who, it was known, made money by threatening persons of ‘mark and likelihood’ with scandalous libels, unless they would pay smartly to have them suppressed. On one occasion, instead of finding a victim, the miscreant ‘caught a Tartar,’ who prosecuted him, and Gregory was properly sentenced to some months’ imprisonment for his attempted extortion. At this juncture Mr. Thompson died, and on Gregory’s coming out of prison[105] he found himself, through his wife’s fortune, a rich man, and set up a new rôle amongst the many he had attempted, that of gentleman; but as his conception of the part induced much extravagance and dissipation, it was very soon played out, and ended in the loss of all his possessions.[100]

After his wife’s death, having neglected to pay the fine to the Lord of the Manor, the latter recovered possession by injunction. The antique furniture and articles of vertu, pictures, etc., collected by Thompson, which he had not disposed of, or that were not sold at his death, disappeared during Gregory’s occupation. The very fixtures vanished, chimney-mantels and fire-grates were removed, so that with the exception of a few pieces of painted glass in the guest-chamber over the library, and a few mouldering bits of real carved oak in window fittings, or cornices, nothing remained in proof of the antique taste of the original proprietor of Frognal Priory.

A gate, under the trees on the left as one approached the very handsome porch, the only real thing about the building,[101] led to a pleasant slope once gay with garden-beds and flowering shrubs, where a fountain then choked up had once played, and by which a weeping ash still lingered. The greensward, rough and matted, was dotted about with groups of trees, and there remained in part the raised terrace that had divided this part of the grounds from the kitchen-garden, into which a flight of steps led. Here the ruinous condition of the house was more apparent than within it. Still a niched saint looked calmly down from beneath the cross-surmounted gable of a pseudo-chapel, while the ruined parapet, fissured and broken, threatened soon to bury its share of the sham edifice in a heap of dust.

The late Sir Thomas Wilson desired to utilize the house as an office, but for this purpose it required reparation, and[106] the fear of an heir to Thompson starting up prevented his bestowing any outlay on it till it became too late. Some time after Gregory’s exit Sir Thomas Wilson’s bailiff, to prevent the house and its materials being carried away piecemeal, installed a labourer and his wife as caretakers, who remained in it over twenty years. The man died, leaving certain instructions to the woman, who, old and houseless but for its shelter, standing upon her supposed right after twenty years’ possession, absolutely refused to quit, and set at defiance all peaceable efforts to remove her; and though the lessee of the ground (then being broken up for brickfields) had managed to induct a tenant of his own, the oldest inhabitant was resolute in remaining; the result was intermural war. The old woman, remembering her husband’s injunction, fully believed that the Priory had lapsed to her in right of her twenty years’ free tenancy, and she doubted the power of the Lord of the Manor to remove her. It was not till some time after I had left the neighbourhood, and only by taking legal proceedings, that this too-tenacious inhabitant was expelled.

In these bygone years, on leaving Frognal Priory, if you took the first turning to the right, you found yourself at the entrance to West End Lane, then a really rustic lane, with high hedgerows and sheltering trees.[102]



Although lying wide of Hampstead proper, West End is an integral part of the parish of St. John, and the western boundary of the original demesne lands of the manor. It is accessible from the Heath by two or three charming field-paths, and when in the neighbourhood of Frognal Priory, at the period these lines were written, the first turning to the left led straight to it. In those days not even the blank walls and close-clipped garden hedges at the entrance could deprive West End Lane of the character of rusticity.

The ground along which it undulated, the fine old trees that overhung it in places, and the grassy slopes to the left, with their old-fashioned hedgerows broken by elm and oak trees, and brightened in spring and summer with whitethorn and elder bloom, left us a glimpse, as it were, of the lovely aspect of the fields, once stretching away to what were then Kilburn meadows, but which now underlie a town.

The first house to the right at the beginning of the lane was the Ferns, noticeable as having been the residence of the late Henry Bradshaw Fearon, a wealthy wine-merchant of London, a man of ‘large mind, and liberal principles, and a leader of them in others.’ ‘In common with, if not in so prominent a degree as, Lord Brougham, Thomas Campbell, and other men of high standing and influence, he took an active part in the originating and founding of the[108] London University, and, if only on this account, deserves the gratitude of his fellow-citizens.’[103]

Next to the Ferns was the so-called Manor House, the residence for some years of the head of the well-known publishing firm of Longman and Co.[104] A few yards further, the road dipped down into a green hollow, with meeting elm-boughs overhead, and there was a seat pleasantly placed for the comfort and rest of wayfarers. Beside it a gate and footpath led aslant over two grass fields hemmed round by hedgerows and trees, the second of them having two very aged oak-trees in it; one of them, hollow and gnarled, but still sprouting forth a green head, stood one half within and one half without the gate, which separated the fields directly in the middle of the pathway which led round it. Of these fields we find a pleasant memory in a letter of Miss Meteyard’s, published by Mr. Stephens in his ‘Life of Sir Edwin Landseer,’ whose father, in 1849-50, resided (as his family have since continued to do) at St. John’s Wood. At this period the Howitts were living in the avenue close by, and being well acquainted, William Howitt and the elder Landseer often met in their walks, or would go or return together.

‘One evening in passing along the Finchley Road towards Child’s Hill, Mr. Landseer stayed at a gate of ancient look, and said to his friend, “These two fields were Edwin’s first studios. Many a time have I lifted him over this very stile. I then lived in Foley Street, and nearly all the way between Marylebone and Hampstead was open fields. It was a favourite walk with my boys, and one day when I had accompanied them, Edwin stopped by this stile to admire some sheep and cows which were quietly grazing. At his request I lifted him over, and finding a scrap of paper and a pencil in my pocket, I made him sketch a cow. He was[109] very young indeed then, not more than six or seven years old. After this we came on several occasions, and as he grew older, this was one of his favourite spots for sketching. He would start off alone, or with John or Charles, and remain till I fetched him in the afternoon.... Sometimes he would sketch in one field, sometimes in the other ... but generally in the one beyond the old oak we see there, as it was more pleasant and sunny.”’[105] This was the upper field, nearest West End Lane, which some of my readers will remember. Nor will it lessen their interest in this once pleasant locality, that it was while walking in these fields that William Howitt, whose name is a household word in English family literature, told the story to Miss Meteyard, who was never wearied of expatiating on the woodland beauty of this neighbourhood.

Within her own recollection it was famous for the number and beauty of its oak-trees—‘a region of them,’ she called it—and West End Lane was then a deep-hedged, tree-shaded alley all the way to Fortune Green.

In the May of 1815 (it should be 1816) we find Haydon, the disappointed, sad-lived artist, ‘sauntering,’ as he tells us, ‘to West End Lane, and so to Hampstead, with great delight.’ And no wonder, for besides the spring-dressed beauty of Nature around him, he had for his companion that lover and evangelist of it, Wordsworth, and they were bound for the Vale of Health, and Leigh Hunt’s cottage, where Cumberland joined them, and afterwards walked with Haydon on the Heath. This excerpt from the artist’s diary closes the mouths of the sceptics who doubt that Wordsworth visited the ‘pink of Poets,’ as his critics sarcastically called the author of ‘Rimini,’ in his humble retreat at Hampstead.

Park, to whom I am so much indebted, tells us that the demesne land, occupying from four to five hundred acres of the richest land in the parish, lay scattered along the western[110] side of the hill from Child’s Hill, north, to Belsize, south, and that the name of manor was in his time appropriated to that portion of them situated south of West End Lane. He also says that the old manor-house, which some of the then living inhabitants of Hampstead remembered, was a low, ordinary building in the farmhouse style, but with a very capacious hall.

Vale of Health, Lower Heath, 1840.

The old manor-house had stood on the north side of the lane, in Park’s time the site of a modern house, on what was called the Manor Farm, occupied by General Sir Samuel Bentham, who, ‘tired of war’s alarms,’ had settled down to a peaceful life in a lovely neighbourhood, and took pleasure in pointing out to his visitors an old pollard oak in his grounds, which he believed was the identical oak which had given its name to the manor-farm—Hall Oak Farm. This name, Park tells us, was cut upon a stone built in as the keystone of the arched doorway of a large old barn.[111] ‘The late lessee of the manor-farm (Mr. Thomas Pool) made great alterations in the disposition of the homestall. He pulled down the old house, and built a substantial residence upon the spot. At this house the manor courts were held till Pool removed to a smaller house on the other side of the road, and the courts were removed with him.’

But the house built on the site of the old manor-house, known in Park’s time as Hall Oak Farm, has now—1899—the name of Manor Lodge. ‘The title of Manor House was in 1813 appropriated to the adjoining house, then the residence of Thomas Norton Longman, Esq.,[106] which was without doubt a part of the original homestead, and in which the manor courts have occasionally been kept.’[107]

But in spite of the respectability of its antiquity and inhabitants, West End was not without its drawbacks. The Cock and Hoop upon the edge of the green (it is there still, 1896) was by no means an overnice hostel in the matter of customers. It lay on the road to Finchley Common, and ‘first come, first served,’ liberally read, seems to have been the motto of successive landlords. It had the reputation of being a rendezvous of highwaymen and robbers. An annual fair, which had grown up no one knew how, having no legal sanction by charter or otherwise, must also have been, from the number of tramps and roughs, and other disreputable and dangerous characters it brought together, a real grievance to the respectable inhabitants. Ostensibly it was an innocent fair enough, dealing chiefly in toys and gingerbread, with the usual accompaniment of travelling shows and theatres, attractions which brought together a concourse of people, and as naturally a number of thieves and pickpockets. Yet, being regarded as a pleasure fair, and taking place in mid-summer, it appears to have been frequented during daylight[112] by respectable persons, and when evening came by decent tradespeople, and others of a class who have made great progress in social refinement since then. A newspaper cutting subsequent to July 28, 1819, informs us, under the head of Bow Street, that in consequence of the outrageous and daring scenes of disorder, robberies, wounding and ill-treating of a number of persons at the West End Fair near Hampstead on Monday evening, and during the night, an additional number of constables from this office, as well as officers from Hatton Garden, and a number of the inhabitants of Hampstead as special constables, attended the fair on Tuesday, to detect and apprehend the various gangs who attacked defenceless individuals, if possible more brutally than on Monday night. They pushed the people down, and not only robbed them of their watches and money, but actually tore off and possessed themselves of their clothes. One woman had her earrings torn from her ears. A number of desperate characters were taken up on this occasion, several of whom were committed, and others summarily dealt with as rogues and vagabonds. Long years after this date (for West End Fair was not suppressed), attendance at it appears to have been ‘a desperate pleasure.’ Apart from the perils of the fair itself, as soon as night fell the lanes and footpaths about Hampstead—the Kilburn meadows, the hedgerows in Pancras Vale, even the highways themselves—were infested with footpads and robbers, so that in the memory of an eye-witness living in 1849 it was customary for the decent part of the company to wait till the drummer went round the fair to recall the soldiers present to their quarters, and then to fall in with them for safety’s sake, and thus escorted march back to town.

Now if silence and dulness be signs of propriety, few places can be better behaved than West End Green, or what is left of it; even the cheerful clangour of the blacksmith’s forge, which used to stand at the further end of it, where many a traveller’s tire has been mended, and many a loose shoe replaced for gentlemen of the road in their[113] wake, has passed away, and though the Cock and Hoop stands where it did, that, too, is changed, and has taken to new ways, and ‘lives cleanly.’[108] Only the conservative old houses still set their faces against class confusion, and aim at retirement behind tall walls and taller trees. But rank upon rank of modern minor houses is rapidly approaching from the south, while New West End, on the other side of the highway, threatens to absorb the fields still stretching between the Finchley Road and Kidderpoor Hall—a mansion which is said to occupy one of the healthiest situations in Middlesex, and was at one time recommended for a royal nursery.[109] A short distance along the main-road brings us to Platt’s Lane, leading to Child’s Hill. Almost opposite to this a path takes from the Finchley Road by Fortune Green Lane back to West End.

Another and shorter way to Child’s Hill is by the footpath at New West End, which, crossing diagonally a hillside field, takes through two others, in the last of which in line, but at a distance from each other, are three trees—an elm, lime, and horse-chestnut—remarkable in summer time for their richness of foliage and fine shape. At the end of this field (to the left of which is a pretty house of modest dimensions, and on the right in a hollow a barn) there is an opening into Platt’s Lane, which takes its name from a former owner of Child’s Hill House, Thomas Platt, Esq., which house subsequent to 1811, when he resided at Upper Terrace, he altered and enlarged. Brewer gives an engraving of it in his ‘Beauties of England and Wales,’ 1813, and describes it as an unostentatious brick building, with a cottage roof, and though it has been raised a story by its recent proprietor, Joseph Hoare, Esq.,[110] it is perfectly recognisable in the engraving. The ground to the east of Platt’s Lane preserves the pastoral character it must have had two centuries ago, and which induced the trustees of the Campden Charity to invest their trust in the purchase of ‘fourteen acres of meadow land at Child’s Hill for the benefit of the poor at Hampstead.’


Leg of Mutton Pond.


At the top of Platt’s Lane, where the road is crossed by Child’s Hill Lane, is a bit of waste, an unclaimed angle, where the turf grows green or sunburnt with the seasons, and which in bygone years was seldom without the ‘burnt spot’ which marks the camping-place of gipsies. Now the trees are scant about it, and the gipsies rarely seen, though till 1825-30 Hampstead Heath was seldom without some stragglers of the tawny tribe. Walking on, we pass the back of the premises of Child’s Hill House,[111] which, standing some 300 feet above the level of the Thames, commands charming and extensive views, and is surrounded by several acres of pleasure-ground and gardens. A short distance further on we enter the West Heath Road, and can either follow it to its junction with the Broad Walk, or cross the sandy margin of the Heath in any direction we please. There is a way by the bottom of Leg of Mutton Pond, or, if we prefer it, we can strike into a path higher up than the boggy ground which occupies a wide space on either side of the watercourse running into it. From the higher ground the views are delightful, and there are seats scattered here and there in the most eligible places for enjoying them. Upon the brow of the Heath, North End Hill as it is called, some of the houses in the North End Road are seen now to be facing us. There lies Cedar Lawn and the wooded grounds of Hill House, fraternally looking towards Child’s Hill; in 1856 the residence of another member of the Hoare family; and pushing out a recently-erected wall many feet beyond its original enclosure is Heath Lodge, of which there is a story to tell.

This house was built by a Mrs. Lessingham, an actress of no very good repute, on a piece of gorse-covered waste[116] about 1775. Having wit as well as beauty, she appears to have done pretty much as she liked, for having a mind to a villa at Hampstead, no obstacle appears to have been thrown in the way of a grant of land to build on, either by the Lord of the Manor or his agent, although she was not a copyholder of the manor, upon which the copyholders, headed by one Master Folkard, asserted their common rights, and destroyed the building as fast as it was raised. In order to obviate the illegality of the transaction, Mrs. Lessingham[112] purchased an insignificant cottage, and so became a copyholder; and being supported by Mr. Justice Addington, she braved the lawsuit (by means of which the Hampstead people hoped to exorcise the witch) and won it. The accounts of the riots at Hampstead between the builder’s men and the copyholders, or the mob who represented them, afforded the newspapers a subject for some time, and engaged the satirical pen of George Steevens, who sided with the Helen of the local war. She, clever as impudent, turned her opponents and their efforts into ridicule, and published an account (metrical) of the transaction and of the actors in it, which is not to be bought at the present day. She was sufficiently popular as an actress to figure on articles of pottery of the period, and I have met with her effigy at Messrs. Sotheby and Wilkinsons’ rooms, in the character of Ophelia, on one of Sadler of Liverpool’s printed tiles. Mrs. Lessingham appears to have held quiet possession of her Hampstead villa for the brief remainder of her life, dying there in 1783; she was interred in the village churchyard, where her son subsequently erected an altar-tomb to her memory.[113]

At present Heath Lodge is the residence of D. Powell, Esq.,[114] since whose occupation a pretty bosky bit of waste between[117] his premises and those of Hill House has been enclosed, and a meagre footpath substituted.

In 1750 the hamlet of West End contained about forty houses. Abrahams, in his ‘Book of Assessments’ (1811), has unfortunately included it with Frognal, and by thus confusing the localities has deprived us of the exact information his pamphlet would otherwise have supplied.

West End House.

West End Lane is now absorbed into West Hampstead. There were several good houses on both sides of the way; they were mostly hidden within high walls, and set in park-like grounds that gave them a wealthy and exclusive air like those in Frognal. At one time (1799) Josiah Boydell had a house here, from which he subsequently removed to Frognal. New West End House, the residence of Mr. John Miles, of Stationers’ Hall Court, from 1813 to December, 1856, had at the first date no house nearer than Old West End House (the Beckfords) between it and the Edgware Road. It is said that the rumbling of the cannon on the field of Waterloo was heard in Mr. Miles’s garden. Mr. Miles died in 1856, and for seventy-six years afterwards his widow continued to reside at West End House, where she[118] died on April 18, 1889, in her ninety-ninth year.[115] The house and 13 acres of land were purchased by Colonel Frazer for £32,500. His death occurred a very short time afterwards, and in 1895 it was suggested to purchase the estate for a public park and recreation-ground for West Hampstead.

Old West End House must have been a place of considerable importance. In 1811 it was to be sold; it was then Miss Beckford’s, the after Duchess of Hamilton. The house, with gardens, pleasure-grounds, and offices, occupied an area of 21 acres.

From 1796 to 1802 this house was in the occupation of Mrs. Walpole, widow of the Hon. Richard Walpole. It was subsequently tenanted by various families.



Heath Street[116] is long and straggling, with nothing remarkable in it but the florid-looking new fire-brigade office at its entrance on the left, in a line with what is called the Mount,[117] one of the several little hills on which Hampstead is built, and which has been cut through to form the roadway and street beneath it. Some good private houses and gardens crest the Mount, and some fine old elm-trees, for the growth of which Hampstead has always been remarkable, remain on the same side of the way. A little distance along Heath Street on the left is Grove Passage, and nearly opposite a lane leading to the rather depressed neighbourhood of New End, in which the workhouse is situated. Just beyond Grove Passage lie Silver Street and Golden Square, with nothing in their present appearance, except irony, to suggest the etymology of the names. Further on to the right is Elm Row, leading past Christ Church to Cannon Road and Squire’s Mount.

Continuing its uphill way a little farther, Heath Street terminates upon the edge of the Heath. The high wall extending some distance along the east side of the street incloses the garden and pleasure-grounds of what was once[120] the Upper Flask Tavern, but is now a private residence so grave and respectable in appearance that no one would suspect the rather rackety reputation of its youth. A line of fine old elm-trees with bulged and warted trunks, interspersed with younger trees, stands in formal row at the side of the house looking to the Heath.

In the first period of Hampstead’s popularity as a spa, the Upper Flask was famous for its fine gardens—‘a sort of petit Vauxhall’—on gala nights, for the noble views from its upper windows, its good ales, fine wines, and cosy suppers, a little less severely simple than Sir Roger de Coverley’s. Especially was it famous as the summer meeting-place of the celebrated Kit-Cat Club,[118] a fact eloquent as to the excellence of its cellar and the skill of its chef. The club was first held at the Trumpet, at the west side of Shire Lane, St. Clement Danes, and subsequently at the Tavern in King Street, Westminster, near to which lived Christopher Kat, cook and confectioner, who supplied the members with pastry so excellent that, according to Bowyer, they complimented him by giving his name to the club. A wit has preserved in one of the many epigrams it gave rise to another origin for the name, and tells us it arose from the liberal yet somewhat selfish chivalry of the members, who, to add to the number of their toasts, were wont to include all the beauties, and were not fastidious as to the matter of age:

‘Whence deathless Kit-Cat took its name
Few critics can unriddle;
Some say from pastrycook it came,
And some from Cat-and-Fiddle.
‘From no trim beau its name it boasts,
Gray statesman, or green wits,
But from its pell-mell pack of toasts,
Of old Cats and young Kits!’

We know that the club was Whig in politics, and had for its object ‘the Protestant succession of the House of[121] Hanover.’ It was also eminently literary, counting amongst the thirty-nine noblemen and gentlemen of whom it consisted some of the finest scholars, wits, and poets of the day, so that from its commencement in 1700[119] (some writers say 1688) to its close in 1720 it was a power politically and intellectually in the land. Its secretary, Jacob Tonson—‘genial Jacob,’ Pope calls him[120]—one of a family of remarkable printers and publishers, survived the dissolution of the club sixteen years, dying March 24, 1736, at Ledbury in Herefordshire. Kneller painted the portraits of the members, which at the breaking up of the club were given to the secretary, who left them to his great-nephew.


In 1833 they were in the possession of William Baker, Esq., of Crayfordbury.[121]

Amongst the company to the Upper Flask came Dr. Garth,[122] Addison, Swift, Steele, Parnell, Sir Richard Blackmore,[122] Sir Godfrey Kneller, Dr. Arbuthnot, and others whose names are not connected with my subject.

But the friendship of the associates did not end with good-fellowship. Few things redound more to the credit of this famous club than the firmness of its members’ regard for one another, which often showed itself very practically, as in Addison’s frequent assistance of Steele, till wearied by his recklessness and folly, and in Swift’s help to him at a critical moment, which we have already glanced at.

For the sake of these celebrities the Upper Flask had been famous long before Richardson made the persecuted Clarissa alight there from the Hampstead coach. The mulberry-tree, now held together by iron bands,[123] in what was once the garden of the tavern, may have shaded in those far-off summers the brows of Isaac Bickerstaffe, Obadiah Greenhat, and others of the witty confederates banded against the vices and frivolities of the times. Their charming essays remain with us in the too-little-looked-at pages of the Spectator, Guardian, and Tatler. A few years later we should have found Colley Cibber, playwright and actor, seated beneath it, discussing stage business with his theatrical allies, Wilkes and Booth, over tankards of brown ale or a bowl of punch; or it may be the great Dr. Johnson himself, in his ‘bushy, grayish wig, brown clothes, black worsted stockings, and plain shirt’ (a solecism in the days of lace ruffles and embroidery). Goldsmith, too, may have sat there, having strolled through the pleasant fields from his cottage lodging ‘near a place called Kilburn Priory,’ with the MS. of his ‘Animated Nature.’ And Richardson must have been familiar with the place of his heroine’s attempted seclusion.

Samuel Stanton, vintner, was the proprietor of the Upper Flask, or Upper Bowling-green House, as it was called in 1707. He left it to his nephew and namesake, a man of considerable wealth and standing, it would appear, whose sister was married to the Earl of Warwick, and who bequeathed[123] this house in 1750 to his niece, Lady Charlotte Rich, their daughter. In all probability it continued to be let as an inn for a considerable time after this date. A writer in the Universal Museum, 1764, says that, going to Hampstead to observe an eclipse of the sun, he noticed near the Upper Flask a stone fixed, stating that this spot was as high as the cupola of St. Paul’s. The stone has long since disappeared, but this note proves the existence of the tavern till within five years of the date when it came to be the property of George Steevens, the indefatigable annotator of Shakespeare, twenty of whose plays he published from the original text, and with the aid of Johnson brought out a complete edition of them in 1773. The fourth edition of his plays of Shakespeare, with notes, was undertaken and finished wholly by himself in the short space of eighteen months. To facilitate the printing of it, and prevent any delay for want of copy, proofs, etc., he was in the habit of starting with the patrol from Hampstead every morning between four and five o’clock, without reference to season or weather, taking with him the copy written overnight.[124]

‘Him still from Hampstead journeying with his book
Aurora oft for Cephalus mistook,
What time he brushed the dew with hasty pace,
To meet the printer’s dev’let face to face.’[125]

In his time the house was simply paled in, and had a fair lawn before it, surrounded by picturesque trees and shrubs. A man of fine taste, but of a violent and uncertain disposition, George Steevens lived in retirement at Hampstead for nearly thirty years (twenty-one of them in this house), ‘excluding all local acquaintance.’ He is said to have expended £2,000 in improving and beautifying the house and grounds. He died here in 1800, aged sixty-two, and was buried in the chapel at Poplar, in which parish he was born, being the son of a sea-captain in the service of the East India Company, subsequently a director. A monument[124] by Flaxman and an epitaph by Hayley distinguish his tomb.[126]

In 1812, when John Carey published the fifth edition of his ‘New Itinerary, or Book of the Roads,’ this house was in the possession of Thomas Sheppard, Esq., M.P. for Frome,[127] who retained it till 1845, when it passed into other hands. At this present writing it is the property of Mrs. Lister. Immediately opposite is the green mound and ornamental shrubbery of the New Reservoir, and at the end of the wall, continued from the house, and enclosing the once busy stable-yard and offices of the Upper Flask, a path runs into the Holford Road, by Heathfield House, and so to the East Heath.

On the opposite side of the road is the Whitestone Pond, and here the visitor finds himself

‘High on bleak Hampstead’s swarthy moor,’

as Macaulay has it, a line all very well for poetical purposes, but by no means characteristic of Hampstead Heath, with its pure, etherized air, full of brightness on the least pretence of sunshine, and though bleak enough at this eminence with the wind at N.N.E., even balmy then in some one or other of its many walks and sheltered valleys. It is true that Gilchrist in his ‘Life of Blake’ speaks of the depth and monotony of the tints prevailing in the woods and fields about Hampstead. But Collins and Constable, Linnell, Leslie, and Landseer, and a host of later artists, have not found them so. To them the Heath, with its broken ground, varied herbage, and picturesque trees or groups of them, its splendid cloudscapes, its changeful lights and shadows, has proved an art school full of infinite variety and inexhaustible beauty. Here Collins came for his old trees, his undulating banks, ‘full of flowering grasses, and dark dock[125] leaves,’ and the light and shade and reflections that delight us in his pictures. Here, too, he met his ‘Harvest Showers’ and ‘Blackberry-Gatherers,’ and just across the Heath, where we are going, is the scene of his ‘Taking out a Thorn’ (this picture is in the possession of Her Majesty). And Constable, he who never saw an ugly thing in his life, ‘for light and shade and perspective will make it beautiful,’[128] he, too, found by every hedge and in every lane treasures of form and tint, which Nature scatters broadcast, and therefore, to use his own words, ‘nobody thinks it worth while to pick them up’—we suppose because the miracle is too common to be generally noticed. Here he also studied the skies, and effects of light, shade and colour, the dews, the breeze, the storm, and made many a pictorial transcript from the vantage-ground of the Heath, now bright with sunshine, but more often under the aspect of drifting showers, for he seems to have loved the rain-laden, cloudy skies, and to have revelled in depicting them. Fuseli, when going to call on the artist, would cry out, ‘Give me an umbrella; I am going to see Constable’s pictures!’[129]

It was delightful to Constable, as it was to Collins, to point out the beauty of the scene (than which there are few more lovely spots in England), and to do, as it were, the honours of the Heath to friends and visitors less intimate with it than himself—to surprise them with new effects, and hear the praise of his ‘sweet Hampstead,’ repeated at every fresh point of view. Such sympathetic appreciation doubled his own pleasure in the prospects. We can imagine him and the brothers Chalon, who in the delicious weather of the summer of 1834-35 spent six weeks at Hampstead, standing here,[130] near the Flagstaff, from whence on a clear[126] day one may see the towers of Windsor, on the one hand, and across the Thames to Shooter’s Hill and Hanging Woods on the other; while to the south-west rises the spire-crowned hill of Harrow, with all the broad lands lying between. Blake, too, though he could not relish the brisk air of the Upper Heath, must in his visits to Linnell’s have met with visions on its summit. It may have been here that he saw

‘The moon like a flower
In heaven’s high bower
With silent delight
Sit and smile on the night.’

Who knows? And Varley, with his portfolio of mingled horoscopes and drawings, must have added many a rapid sketch to these latter from this fair neighbourhood.[131]

Jack Straw’s Castle.


At this point the well-known tavern, Jack Straw’s Castle, claims the distinction of occupying the highest of the London levels, standing, as I have elsewhere said, 400 feet (local historians say 443 feet) above the level of the Thames. The tavern, according to a fast-fading tradition, has its name from a robber who assumed it, and who lived on this[127] spot, where, of course, he commanded a good look-out on all footpaths leading to or crossing the Heath. A cave on the premises is said to have been the depository of his spoils. In all probability it had been the site of a rude fort or mound, thrown up as a defence either against or by Jack Straw’s and Wat Tyler’s rebel army.[132] At present Jack Straw’s Castle is best known as a pleasant resort of summer visitors to the Heath, and of late years as the scene of the Christmas Court Leets, one of the rare occasions when the red-crossed flag of St. George, the Lord of the Manor’s flag, waves from the adjacent flagstaff. From this spot two roads fork off, that to the left leading to North End, the other to the Spaniards, an inn standing at the entrance of the Heath on the road to Highgate, on the site of an ancient toll-gate which formerly divided the Bishop of London’s park from[128] Hampstead Heath. It was primitively known as the Gate-house or Park Gate-house, and has its present name from its first landlord, a Spaniard, who converted the lodge into a house of entertainment. So the story runs, but how it grew to a plural is not explained. It is quite outside the precincts of Hampstead, being really in Finchley parish, but is too closely connected with the Heath to be left out in a description of it.

The Spaniards’ Garden.

(From a print by Chastelaine.)

The Spaniards was, perhaps is still, famous for its curiously laid-out garden, in which designs in coloured pebbles appear to have anticipated floral tapestry beds; and also for the fine views from the mound in it, from which the most salient objects in six counties could be seen. It was to the Spaniards, if I remember aright, that Oliver Goldsmith was wont to take his ‘Jolly Pigeon friends’ for what he called ‘a shoemaker’s holiday’ on the Heath; and it was to the Spaniards Tea-gardens that Mrs. Bardell and her friends betook themselves on that eventful summer afternoon when Dodson and Fogg took the widow in execution ‘on cognovit[129] and costs.’[133] The memory of Charles Dickens, like that of the author of the ‘Vicar of Wakefield,’ is thus indelibly associated with the Spaniards.[134]

A visit to this tavern was not always so unadventurous a proceeding as at present, for a notice in the Grub Street Journal of October, 1736, informs us that on the previous Sunday evening, between seven and eight, when Mr. Thomas Lane, a farrier of Hampstead, was coming home from the Spaniards, upon the Heath, near the house called Mother Huffs[135] three men in mean apparel jumped out of the bushes, and laying hold of him, robbed him of forty-five shillings. They afterwards stripped him, tied him neck and heels, and made him fast to a tree, in which condition he lay more than an hour, till a woman coming by, he cried out, and she released him. A warning to farriers and others to avoid tippling at the Spaniards till eight o’clock on Sunday evenings.

It was to the astuteness of the landlord of the Spaniards that Lord Mansfield owed the saving of his house at Caen Wood from the fury of the mob in the Gordon Riots, who, after sacking and setting fire to the Earl’s town-house in Bloomsbury Square, started for Caen Wood with the intention of destroying that also. The course of the rioters lay through Gray’s Inn Lane to Hampstead. The afternoon was exceedingly sultry, and the men and boys composing the mob, heated and weary from their previous exertions and the march out, rejoiced at the sight of the well-known inn, and longed for its foaming tankards of ripe ale. The[130] landlord, who knew of their intentions, affected rabble sympathies, and encouraged them to refresh themselves. While they did so, he secretly gave information to Lord Mansfield’s steward, who supplied additional barrels of ale from the Caen Wood cellars, and in the meantime sent off a messenger for the military. They fortunately were already on their way out, and quickly surrounded the house, made the ringleaders prisoners, and as many of their wretched followers as they could well secure.

Erskine House.

It is said Lord Mansfield never forgot his indebtedness to his publican neighbour. And now—for this talk of the inn has lured us straight to it—we must turn back if we mean to keep within the precincts of Hampstead. The house—the end one of three at the east corner of the Heath as we enter it from the Spaniards—with a deep portico projecting to the road, was once the residence of the famous Lord Erskine, ‘an inconsiderable-looking home for the great Lord Chancellor, but in which, with his domestic tastes and love[131] of Nature, he probably spent some of the happiest years of his life.’ Originally neither house nor garden appears to have been of much importance, but both were capable of improvement, and Lord Erskine delighted in improving them. The ground comprised several acres lying in natural undulations, and lent itself to ornamental planting; while the eye was not confined to the enclosure, but ‘ranged over views diversified and beautiful.’ The garden in his day, be it remembered, lay on the opposite side of the road, and was connected with the house by a subway, but this has long since been taken by Lord Mansfield. Erskine himself is said to have planted the famous holly-hedge. Here, with his old gardener, his lordship worked by way of refreshment after his professional toils, and at last the place became noted for the number and beauty of the trees and shrubs about it, and took the name of the Evergreens, or Evergreen Hill, which it retained till his lordship’s death, since when it is properly distinguished as Erskine House.

For the story of Lord Erskine’s life—a grand one, though with the last pages of it a little blurred—I must refer my readers to Campbell’s ‘Lives of the Lord Chancellors.’ It is not often that the army proves the vestibule to the Bar, but the training was of use there, and we read that the effect of his eloquence was not a little heightened by the dignity of his fine person and stately bearing. Crabb Robinson tells us he could never forget the figure and voice of Erskine. There was a charm in his voice, he says, ‘a fascination in his eye.’ His eloquence was at once powerful and persuasive. We only remember it was used on the side of truth and right. He was best known in connection with Hampstead as a humane and amiable man, with a great love of gardening and flowers.

Apropos of this, there is a story told of an anxious client calling on him in Serjeants’ Inn, and finding the table of his consulting-room occupied by thirty or forty small vials, in each of which was a slip of geranium, and when the great man came in, instead of talking of the case, he began to tell[132] him of the many kinds of geraniums there were.[136] He made no secret that he attached little or no importance to consultations, but chose rather to rely upon himself.

There is an anecdote told of him which, though it appeared in all the magazines of the period subsequent to his death, and is repeated in Howitt’s ‘Northern Heights,’ as it relates to the Heath, may very well appear here. That good angel to animal existence, the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, had not yet appeared, nor was there a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, though to Lord Erskine belongs the honour of having first proposed the measure in Parliament which Martin of Galway succeeded in carrying,[137] and which resulted in the founding of the society. Crossing the Heath, he saw one of the donkey-drivers beating a poor brute with more than ordinary cruelty, and hurried up to expostulate with the man, who rudely answered him ‘that he had a right to do what he liked with his own.’ ‘Very well,’ said Erskine, ‘so have I. This stick is my own;’ and he lost no time in practically illustrating the force of the unfortunate argument by giving the fellow a sound thrashing.

When Hardy, Horne Tooke, and others, were, through his manly pleading, acquitted of high treason, his name became a household word in England. Tokens, two of which are before me, were struck commemorative of the event, with the portraits and names of the accused gentlemen on the obverse, and the words ‘Tried for high treason, 1794’; and on the reverse, ‘Acquitted by his jury and counsels, Hon. Thos. Erskine and W. Gibbs, Esq.’

The words ‘Trial by Jury’ were painted by way of motto on one of the windows of Erskine House.

It is well known that differences in their political feelings and opinions had alienated him from Burke, whom he much admired; but it is pleasant to learn that before the death of the latter their differences were adjusted, and Burke visited him at Hampstead. ‘He came to see me,’ says Lord[133] Erskine, ‘before he died. I then lived at Hampstead Hill. “Come, Erskine,” said he, holding out his hand, “let us forget all. I shall soon quit this stage, and wish to die in peace with everybody, especially you.” I reciprocated the sentiment, and we took a turn round the grounds. Suddenly he stopped; an extensive prospect broke upon him.... He stood wrapped in thought, gazing on the sky as the sun was setting. “Ah, Erskine,” he said, pointing towards it, “you cannot spoil that, because you cannot reach it. It would otherwise go. Yes; the firmament itself you and your reformers would tear down.”’

Lord Erskine.

This is Mr. Rush’s account, but the Right Hon. T. Erskine says: ‘Mr. Rush has quite spoiled Mr. Burke’s sarcasm upon being conducted by my father to his garden through a tunnel under the road that divided the house from the shrubbery. All the beauty of Ken Wood, Lord Mansfield’s, and the distant prospect burst upon him. “Oh,” said Burke, “this is just the place for a reformer. All the[134] beauties are beyond your reach; you cannot destroy them.”’

Miss Seward was much struck with Erskine’s fine face and elegant figure, his bonhomie and exuberant fun; but his egotism was wearisome, and, unfortunately, it grew upon him with years. Fanny Burney’s account of him runs pretty much on the same lines, but he was not, when she met him, so brilliant in conversation as he had been.

In 1805 he had lost his wife, to whom he was tenderly attached, and who had literally shared with him the ‘burden and heat of the day,’ as true and loving in comparative poverty as in affluence. She died in London, but is buried in Hampstead Church, where a fine monument by the younger Bacon, of which Park gives an engraving, perpetuates her memory as the ‘most faithful and affectionate of women.’

About 1821-23 Lord Erskine removed from his house at Hampstead, where he had resided from 1788, and on doing so transferred the copyhold to Lord Mansfield.

He subsequently resided in Arabella Row, Pimlico, and tarnished, it is said, the lustre of his declining years by a second marriage. ‘When, how, or with whom,’ Lord Campbell had not heard upon authority. It is also said that his bright spirits deserted him, and that, like S. T. Coleridge, he had recourse to opium. Sheridan charitably suggested

‘When men like Erskine go astray,
Their stars are more in fault than they.’

The house next the Evergreens, Heath End House, was in 1811 in the possession of Edward Coxe, Esq., the author of various poems, many of them referring to the Heath;[138] and the large square one opposite the beautiful grove of pine-trees (which Constable painted, and which were raised from seeds of the stone-pine brought from Ravenna,[139] and planted by that ancient[135] Sylvanus of the Heath, Mr. Turner, a retired tobacconist of Thames Street) originally belonged to him, but at the date above mentioned was the residence of Charles Bosanquet, Esq. It stands on an eminence, and is said to command beautiful and extensive views. These houses have had various tenants since then, but not one who has conferred such lasting benefits on the Heath as Mr. Turner, who appears to have devoted his retired leisure to beautifying it. The groups of ash and elm and horse-chestnut trees, now railed in (thanks to the Board of Works) for their better preservation, are of his planting. He also made the road, the Sandy Road, as it is called, from this point to North End. Hereabouts is the scene of that charming bit of nature, to which we have already referred, ‘Taking out a Thorn,’ which had for its point of view, the late Mr. Charles Collins tells us, the clump of fir-trees near the Spaniards, looking towards North End. ‘There, upon the bank, sits the old furze-cutter,[136] extracting a thorn from the finger of a chubby urchin, who rubs his eye dolefully during the operation with the corner of his pin-before.’

North Heath.

If, following the tree-shaded winding way, we make a little détour to the right, we shall see, lying in the bottom, half in shade, by reason of new sheds and a great square, vane-crested barn (the natural outcome of thrifty labour, and better times for farmers than of late), the little Morland-like farmhouse to which they belong. When the trees about it are in leaf, its high-pitched, red-tiled roof, white weather-boarded front, and small windows, set in a garden in which rue and southernwood still flourish, the whole inclosed with palings and defended by a gate on the latch, makes a pretty picture. A few ash-trees, the remains of a grove of them, fringe the path to it past the new barn, and the view in front is closed by a little gravelly hill, on the summit of which seats are placed, and charming views are to be had for the climbing. This is Collins’ Farm, now called Tooly’s Farm, a dwelling that, for all its seeming humility, has been the temporary abode of many men of genius.[140]

This was for successive summers the ‘sunshine holiday’ home of the elder Linnell and his family, who perhaps never worked harder himself than when here, and who, being here, drew around him a little company of his brother artists and men of letters—amongst them Blake, Varley, Flaxman, and Morland.

Nearer to our own times Dickens had lodgings here, and wrote, it is said, several chapters of ‘Bleak House’ in this retirement. Lover is also said to have made it his summer quarters on one occasion. Other artists than the elder Linnell have found its simple comfort and quiet, in addition to its close proximity to the lovely Heath and its surroundings, excellent reasons for preferring Collins’ Farm to more[137] pretentious lodgings in the neighbourhood. It is easy to return from this point to the broad holly hedge opposite Lord Erskine’s house. At the end of it is the site (until quite recently) of the most interesting relic that Hampstead retained of what may be called its classic days—the Nine Elms, whose boughs had shaded the favourite resting-place of Pope and Murray (the after owner of Ken Wood, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield). Poetically they were dedicated to the Muses,

‘Who chose them for their favourite shrine:
The trees were elms, their number nine.’

So sang Edward Coxe, the poet of the Heath, and friend and neighbour of Erskine, who, because they impeded his view, had had a mind to have them cut down, but spared them for the sake of their associations. ‘So late as the spring of 1872 these trees were standing. In April or May of that year the writer of a letter to the Board of Works, which appeared in the Hampstead Express, called their attention to a bit of unappropriated land near the Nine Elms on the Spaniards Road, and suggested that, as the Board had got possession of Judges’ Walk, the Wildwood Avenue, the triangular piece of ground at the end of Holford Road, and the piece of ground where the band used to play, the Vestry should endeavour to get hold of this also.’ But soon after it was stated that the ground had been granted to Lord Mansfield, and the first thing that had been done was to cut down these trees, with which the name of his famous kinsman had been so charmingly connected.

In my time the elms guarded the old seat, scarred with forgotten names and the initials of the unknown, around which they stood, ‘green sentinels,’ whispering in every breeze to those who knew the story of their youth gentle reminiscences of the men for whose sake the inhabitants of Hampstead and the conservators of the Heath would have given, we believe, ten times their value as timber to have had them retained.[141]


The small bit of land on which they grew having been granted to Lord Mansfield, it is natural to suppose that, for the sake of their associations, he would have spared the trees had he known how sacred they were in the literary annals of Hampstead.

Fanny Burney.

Whereabouts, I wonder, was that villa situated on Hampstead Hill (Lord Erskine used to speak of his home as being on Hampstead Hill) where in June, 1792, Fanny Burney and her father paid a three days’ visit to the beautiful Mrs. Crewe?—a villa, ‘small, but commodious,’ with a garden, and so near the Heath that the company strolled out upon it for a walk after dinner? No one can answer our question, and Miss Burney has left us no clue. Mrs. Crewe, to whose name the word ‘beautiful’ appears to have been an ordinary prefix, was one of the great leaders of society in the latter part of the eighteenth century. She was the daughter of Mr. Fulke Greville, Ambassador from the Court of Britain to that of Bavaria. She married in[139] 1774-75[142] John Crewe, Esq., of Crewe Hall, Leicestershire, and accepted her husband’s politics, those of the Whigs. As clever as she was lovely, her salons were sought by men of all parties, and she numbered Burke and Fox among her stanchest friends. Especially was she the idol of her husband’s club, Brooks’s,[143] whose favourite toast was ‘Buff and Blue, and Mrs. Crewe!’ The colours alluded to were those of the club, whose uniform, audaciously borrowed from that worn by the American rebels who fought in Washington’s army, consisted of a blue coat and buff waistcoat. The personal feeling which permeated politics in those days appears to have been felt as passionately by the women as the men, and ladies, Whig and Tory, not only wore their patches on opposite sides of their faces, but adopted the colours of their party in their dress. I have before me an odd volume of the Lady’s Magazine, where, under the head of ‘Fashion,’ I find it stated that ‘Ladies attached to Mr. Fox’s party are distinguished by a uniform of blue and straw colour: the gown blue, the petticoat straw colour; the hats blue, lined with straw colour, and trimmed with a fox’s brush, feathers, or wreaths of laurel, having the leaves inscribed in gold letters, “Fox, Liberty, Freedom and Constitution!” with coloured silk shoes to match the dress, with white heels.’ Imagine driving down the Regent Street of to-day in a hat thus decorated!

In the March of 1775 Mrs. Crewe gave an elegant masquerade, remarkable for the first appearance of plumes in the hair and head-dresses of the ladies, a French fashion[140] newly come up, and which, judging from the number of quizzical verses it gave rise to in the pages of the Universal and other magazines of the day, was not at first more popular with the gentlemen than with the mob.[144] One writer suggested that the ladies had made a party to rob the museum,

‘And to feather their nests well, and make their heads clever,
Had crossed Leicester Square, and plundered poor Lever.’[145]

Upon the same page is a song called ‘The Feathers,’ also referring to Mrs. Crewe’s masquerade, while a third writer sings:

‘Here beauty displays her high plumes to our view,
Here all her bright feathers are shown;
Though none of them wave on the tresses of Crewe,
She yet to each heart gives the ton.’

The personal beauty, wit and cleverness of this accomplished woman appear to have distinguished her to the end. Sixteen years had passed between this event and Miss Burney’s visit to her at Hampstead, and this is how the author of ‘Evelina’ describes her: ‘We were received by Mrs. Crewe with much kindness. The room was rather dark, and she had a veil to her bonnet half down, and with this aid she looked still in a full blaze of beauty. She is certainly in my eye the most complete beauty of any woman I ever saw.’ Later on she had better opportunities of noticing her fair hostess, and her verdict is still, ‘I know not even now any female’ (horrid word!) ‘in her first youth who could bear the comparison. Her bloom perfectly natural, and the form of her face so exquisitely perfect’ that the eyes of the observant Fanny never met it without fresh admiration.[141] ‘She is certainly in my eyes,’ she repeats, ‘the most perfect beauty of a woman I ever saw: she uglifies everything near her.’ No wonder we find the gallants of the day, amongst others Fox, writing adulatory verses to her. This unity of opinion as to the many graces of this lovely woman suggests a character as perfect as her face, and we do not wonder that men of such a diversity of personal qualities and political opinions should be attracted by her as Burke and his brother, who were dining with her on the occasion referred to, and Lords Loughborough and Erskine, who joined them in their walk afterwards. Fox’s poem is too long to quote, but the first verse will show the spirit of it:

‘Where the loveliest expression to features is joined,
By Nature’s most delicate pencil designed;
Where blushes unbidden, and smiles without art,
Speak the softness and feeling that dwell in the heart;
Where in manner enchanting no blemish we trace,
But the soul keeps the promise we had from the face!’[146]

And this reminds me of the complex character of the soft-hearted but rugged-looking writer of them, the great Whig Minister, whom the Opposition party represented as a desperate and dangerous demagogue, and compared to another Cromwell. Yet Burke, his great opponent and adversary, spoke of him as ‘a man made to be loved,’ the ‘most brilliant and accomplished of debaters the world ever saw.’ And Gibbon declared that no human being was more free from any taint of malignity, vanity, or falsehood. It is no wonder that women were enthusiastic in their admiration of him, and though one clever Frenchwoman designated him a ‘fagot des épines,’ Madame Récamier, paraphrasing Shakespeare, wrote of him that he had ‘a tear for pity, and a hand open as day for melting charity.’ ‘What a man is Fox!’ exclaimed Horace Walpole. ‘After his exhausting speech on Hastings’ trial, he was seen handing ladies into[142] their coaches with all the gaiety and prattle of an idle gallant.’

He felt strongly on the subject of the slave trade, and opposed it,[147] as well as the war with America. His good nature and affability made him very popular. I should not wonder, if gout permitted it, to learn that he made one of the visitors to Hampstead during Mrs. Crewe’s residence there. What a charming figure, by the way, must this lady have made in the walks, where we should have met the Hon. Miss Murrays (when not in attendance on their venerable uncle, Lord Mansfield) and Mrs. Montague, the recognised leader of literary society, and clever little Fanny Burney herself!



Leaving Heath Street upon the right (at the end of High Street), and Mount Vernon on the left, the ascent of Holly-bush Hill, in the years I am writing of, led through into an open space with a bit of the waste running in upon it, with three tree-sheltered and old-fashioned red-brick houses on the very brow of Windmill Hill. One of these, the centre one of the three—Bolton House—was for many years the home of Joanna Baillie and her sister Agnes, where Lady Davy often visited them to the very last.

Windmill Hill and Holly-bush Hill are in such close proximity that the names become almost convertible, and were not unfrequently used one for the other. Thus, the author of the ‘Northern Heights of London’ placed the home of Romney the painter on Windmill Hill, and suggested that it was the house standing in a garden at the back of Bolton House. But Park, who was resident at Hampstead, and published the first edition of his history in 1813, only eleven years after the death of Romney, distinctly states that ‘the present very elegant Assembly Room’ at the Holly-bush Tavern, with card and supper rooms adjoining, are ‘partly formed out of the house built by Romney the painter.’


Bolton House.


Other writers describe the Assembly Room as having made part of the artist’s gallery. When, for the purpose of this chapter, I personally visited the place to make inquiries on the spot, I was informed that, until recently, the Assembly Room and other public rooms adjoining it had been totally separate from the Holly-bush Tavern, making in point of fact part of another house, with which, except by going through the kitchen and garden of the inn, there was no communication. But all this had been altered, to the great convenience of persons attending the balls, concerts, lectures, etc.; and the lofty spacious rooms, further enlarged and decorated, were by these changes attached to, and entered from, the tavern.

More than forty years have passed since the above paragraphs were written, and all the functions, which then made the Holly-bush and the old Assembly Room of importance, are now removed to the Conservatoire, Haverstock Hill. I learn from Baines’ ‘Records of Hampstead,’ the Assembly Room, etc., is to this day held on a totally different agreement from the inn.

The life of Romney, as told by his biographers, is a melancholy one. In order to devote himself wholly to art and the acquisition of fame and fortune, he had sacrificed all domestic happiness, and condemned a young and loving wife to years of wasting and protracted solitude. When at last weary of the town and society, or, as his biographer puts it, ‘filled with that desire of the unsatisfied soul for a peace that the world cannot give,’ he had abandoned, after twenty years’ residence, his fine house in Cavendish Square, and had thrown away more than £2,000 on the building of a coveted retirement at Hampstead, a structure in which ‘the painting-room and gallery had been nobly planned, but all domestic conveniences overlooked.’ Here, with his friend and panegyrist, the poet Hayley—who, by the way, writes of his abode as his ‘singular house at Hampstead’—we find him projecting new subjects for his easel, and reproducing in characters as varied as her fortune the fascinating Lady Hamilton. Now she appears as Nature,[148] as the[146] enchantress Circe, as a Magdalen with tear-stained eyes, a wood-nymph, the musically-inspired virgin St. Cecilia, or a vine-crowned Bacchante, as she smiles on us from the walls of the National Gallery.[149]

It was during Romney’s residence at Hampstead that Boydell resolved on publishing his ‘Shakespeare Gallery,’ and enlisted, among other artists, Romney’s talent for his enterprise.

‘Before you paint Shakespeare,’ observed Lord Thurlow, to whom the painter mentioned his commission, ‘I advise you to read him.’ A very pertinent suggestion, even if a little obvious.

In his fine painting-room during its first novelty Romney continued to receive visitors of high rank, and amongst other lovely personages the beautiful Mrs. Bosanquet and her children, as they stepped into the studio from their walk or drive, fresh as the Heath itself that they had crossed; the artist’s weary heart turning the while to his waiting wife, who through long years had endured, as Milton expresses it, ‘that greatest injury to the gentle spirit—the suffering of not being beloved, and yet retained.’

But now, when he had reached the desired position where, ‘without reference to gain or patronage, he was free to work out his most ambitious conceptions of art, his strength failed him, his hands shook,’ and after two years’ struggle in his mansion on the hill at Hampstead, where Hayley at this period found him ‘solitary and dejected,’ the mistaken man returned in the summer of 1799 to his faithful wife, whom he had only visited twice in thirty years, to learn, Howitt thinks, from her gentle, unreproaching tenderness how much he had lost by leaving her.

It is a melancholy story, this, of man’s ambitious vanity, losing the zest of life for a vapour of laudation from the mouths of men, but a notice of Holly-bush Hill would be incomplete without it. He lingered, rather than lived, till[147] 1802, and died November 15 of that year, reaching to nearly sixty-eight years of age, helpless as an infant. His Hampstead house and its contents were sold, but being ‘wholly without domestic accommodation, and the gallery and painting-room out of all proportion for family requirements,’ the use which Park assigns to it was no doubt the only practical one to which it could be appropriated.

Prejudices, like old traditions, die hard at Hampstead, and I found in 1898 that some very odd ideas of Romney’s residence still obtained there. He was said to have lived for a few years at No. 5, The Mount, and had at the back of his garden, on Holly-bush Hill, an art-gallery or studio, a weather-boarded building of large size. It was said that the existing buildings (also weather-boarded) were the same, but my informant tells me that he was enabled to prove that this was only partially the case.

Besides Hayley’s account of the artist’s mansion on the Hampstead hill, we have Allan Cunningham’s memoir of Romney at hand, in which he tells us that no sooner had the idea of an ampler gallery in a quieter scene than Cavendish Square possessed Romney, than he forthwith purchased the ground, lined out the site, and began to draw his plans; and in 1797 he writes: ‘The strange new studio and dwelling-house which he (Romney) had planned and raised at Hampstead had an influence on his studies, his temper, and his health. He had expended a year, and a sum of £2,733, on an odd and whimsical structure in which there was nothing like domestic arrangements. There was a wooden arcade for a riding-house in the garden, and a very extensive picture and statue gallery.’ The former, I have no doubt, was the weather-boarded building of large size which subsequently represented to popular imagination the picture-gallery of the great painter.

On the sale of this house (probably in 1803, when Romney’s pictures were sold at Hampstead), it was found, as we have said, useless as a residence, and required rebuilding to fit it for the purpose of an Assembly House, which[148] alteration did not take place till 1807, when the premises appear to have been purchased for this speculation by certain gentlemen of Hampstead, who formed themselves into a company, one of whom was the father of the present Mr. George Holford, who possesses documents relating to this building of the above date.[150]

The builder of the Assembly Room was a Mr. Greening. The fact is, I believe, accepted, that it stands where Romney’s house stood, and that some portion of his gallery remains. The whole set of apartments are now used for the Constitutional Club.[151]

Romney is not the only memorable painter associated with the Holly-bush Assembly Room. In later years we find the Nature-loving, tender-hearted Constable, whose ‘fine presence and genial manners’ were long remembered at Hampstead and its vicinity, giving a series of lectures here on the ‘Origin of Landscape Painting,’ and illustrating his theme by reference to local objects.

Lovers of Hampstead Heath well know the Fir-tree Avenue, or, rather, the wreck of it remaining, of which, then in its prime, he made a drawing, on seeing which Blake exclaimed: ‘Why, this is not drawing, but inspiration!’ From his lecture we learn that in his time there had stood at the entrance of the village a tall and elegant ash-tree, the likeness of which he had taken and exhibited to his audience, while he pleasantly told its story:

‘Many of my friends may remember this young lady[152] at the entrance of the village; her fate was distressing, for it is scarcely too much to say that she died of a broken heart. I made this drawing when she was in full health and beauty.[149] On passing some time after I saw, to my grief, that a wretched board had been nailed to her side, on which was written in large letters, “All vagrants and beggars will be dealt with according to law.” The tree seemed to have felt the disgrace, for even then some of the top branches had withered. Two long spikes had been driven far into her side; in another year one half had become paralyzed, and not long after the other shared the same face.’

Holly-bush Hill, 1840.

On the occasion of Constable’s second lecture at the same place we catch a glimpse of Leslie walking across the West End fields to hear it. It was a summer’s evening, and Leslie pauses now and again to watch the splendid combinations of the glorious clouds, and their radiant effect in and upon the landscape—effects which Constable had noticed also, and called attention to in his lecture.

All the then scientific, intellectual, and social life of Hampstead had its headquarters at the Assembly Room on Holly-bush Hill till after the fifties. Here, as I have said,[150] the public balls and concerts, lectures and conversaziones, took place, and all the social problems and local movements that affected the well-being of the town and its inhabitants were discussed here.

Here, too, were held those memorable meetings which had for their object the frustration of the scheme so subtly and surreptitiously devised, to wrest the Heath and its privileges from the copyholders and the general public; and here were resolved on various occasions those prandial and pyrotechnic displays of loyalty that from time to time have borne witness to the strength of this sentiment amongst the inhabitants of Hampstead. Nor is the Holly-bush Tavern, of which the Assembly Room was in 1855 an integral part, without its own interesting associations. It does not look much like a scene of political intrigue, yet on this account, possibly, it was the rendezvous of Carr (Earl of Rochester), Dering and Goring, who during the wars of the King and Parliament met at this house to devise the rising in Kent, Essex, and Hertfordshire. The cosy parlour saw other company in Charles II.’s time, when the wicked ‘dramatists of the Restoration’ were wont ‘to set the table in a roar’ with wit, the sparkle of which, like the phosphorescent glitter of corruption, has vanished at the presence of the healthy light.

Good wine is said to need no bush, but the acceptability of that at the Holly-bush to men who frequented Powlet’s and ‘knew a hawk from a hernshaw,’ where honest port and good claret were in question, had given a prestige to the wayside inn, not lost even when these lines were first written, especially in the estimation of literary men. One must put a mask on (as the women did who listened to his plays) to penetrate the pleasant parlour during the symposia, at which the handsome, but vicious and immoral Wycherley presided. No such compromise in modesty is needed when Goldsmith turns host, and entertains at no small cost (for the little inn had always a reputation for its cuisine), Garrick, Sir Joshua, Boswell, and the Great Leviathan of learning, Dr. Johnson.[151] I forget the occasion on which the dinner at the Holly-bush came off. I have no doubt it commemorated some rare event that had put money in the pocket of our improvident author—the profits of ‘The Good-Natured Man,’ perhaps.

Sir Joshua Reynolds.

We all know how warmly and truly Johnson regarded Goldsmith, and yet he was capable of wounding him to the quick by his cruel pleasantries. On one occasion—let us hope it was not this—when Goldy, a little jealous of the success of Beattie’s ‘Essay on Truth,’ exclaimed, ‘Here’s a stir about a fellow that has written one book, and I have written many’—‘Ah, doctor, doctor,’ observed the terrible man, ‘there go two-and-forty sixpences to one guinea.’ But time has justified poor Goldy, and the ‘Deserted Village’ is still read, and the delightful ‘Vicar of Wakefield’; Moses and the rest of the Primrose family live on, perennial as their name; while Beattie, except by bookmen, is almost wholly forgotten.[153]


Telford, Leigh Hunt, and Lamb, showed the same faith in the capital cellar and culinary skill to be found at the Holly-bush Tavern. Modern men of their craft have been of the same opinion, and the inn continued till recent times to be a favourite with literary men and artists. The Holly-bush had also the honour (perhaps has it still) of being the headquarters of the Masonic Lodge of St. John; but otherwise its prestige has departed. The Assembly-Room, if it exists, is now the meeting-place of political and other local clubs, and its exterior and surroundings are so altered as to be scarcely recognisable to one who first saw it half a century ago.

To return to the sister eminence, Windmill Hill, so called from having been the site of one of the two windmills that anciently added to the picturesque charms of Hampstead, the mound on which it stood was, when I first knew this delightful spot, plainly discernible in the artificially rising ground on which Netley Cottage stands. In Elizabeth’s time another windmill stood in a field near the church, which Gerard distinguished as the habitat of the white butterfly orchis.

But it is not from its antiquity, old as it is, that Windmill Hill derives its interest, but from the fact of its having been the place of residence for many years of a woman of genius, whose celebrity, so to speak, still clings to it; for apart from Joanna Baillie’s connection with it, there is little to be said of Windmill Hill.[154]


There is a pleasant notice in one of Mrs. Barbauld’s letters from Hampstead of two shy, Nature-loving girls, whom she was constantly encountering in her walks, and who were never so happy as when gathering wild-flowers in the woods and hedgerows, or in seeing the ‘gold-thorn’ blazing on the Heath, or in roaming about the old gravel-pits and water-courses. They were the daughters of her near neighbour, Mrs. Dorothea Baillie, widow of the Rev. James Baillie, D.D., Professor of Divinity at Glasgow, and sisters of the distinguished Dr. Matthew Baillie. But the youngest of these girls was then twenty-two years of age.

Later on (in 1800) Mrs. Barbauld writes to a friend: ‘I have received great pleasure lately from the representation of “De Montfort,” a tragedy, which you probably read a year and a half ago in a volume entitled “A Series of Plays on the Passions.” I admired it then, but little dreamed I was indebted for my entertainment to a young lady whom I visited, and who came to Mr. Barbauld’s meetings all the while with as innocent a face as if she had never written a line.’ The play, she adds, is admirably played by Mrs. Siddons and Kemble, and is finely written, with great purity of sentiment and beauty of diction, strength, and originality of character, but it is open to criticism.[155]

Six years later the young poetess (the prologue to whose tragedy had been written by the Hon. Francis North, and the epilogue by the Duchess of Devonshire) had become famous, and her home on Windmill Hill an object of pilgrimage to men of the highest intellectual reputation.[154] Hither came Sir Walter Scott, Wordsworth, Southey, Rogers, and, as time moved on, succeeding representative men and women, to pay their tribute of respect and admiration to the successful poetess.

No longer shy, but simple and unaffected, and full of genuine kindness, she appears to have had the faculty of attaching those whom she attracted—notably Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott, whose appreciation of her as a poetess led to life-long personal friendship.

It is noteworthy that on the first occasion of the great novelist, whom a clever critical correspondent of mine calls the ‘greatest second-rate man the world ever saw,’ coming to London in the summer of 1806, the year in which Miss Baillie’s mother died, one of his earliest visits was to his gifted fellow-countrywoman—for the little manse, near Bothwell Brig, in the valley of the Clyde, where her father was minister, was Joanna Baillie’s birthplace—a visit that led to many others on both sides, and a friendship, as I have said, that lasted through life. She tells us that at her first meeting with him she was disappointed, so different was he in appearance from the ideal bard of the ‘Lay,’ which her own poetical mind had imagined. She had pictured an ‘ideal elegance and refinement of feature in the poet,’ ‘but found comfort in looking at the benevolence and shrewdness in the rough-hewn, homely face of her great compatriot; and in the thought that were she in a crowd, and at a loss what to do, she should have fixed upon that face among a thousand, as the sure index of a brave kind nature that would, and could, help her in her strait.’ Yet before they had talked long, she saw in the expressive play of his countenance far more, even of elegance and refinement, than she had missed in its mere lines. Henceforth she and her brother, Dr. Matthew Baillie, were amongst the most honoured friends of Sir Walter. The acquaintance on both sides ripened into the most affectionate regard.

Amongst Joanna Baillie’s correspondence, Sir Walter’s letters are about the most interesting. One of them has for[155] the purposes of these pages a twofold interest, not only as showing his admiration of the poetess, but as illustrating the evil reputation of the neighbourhood of Hampstead, and the dangers to which foot-passengers were liable, even at that time. The letter is dated 1811, and was written on the appearance of a new volume of Joanna Baillie’s ‘Plays on the Passions,’ one of them being the passion of Fear, in which appear the lines set to music by Bishop, with which we are all familiar, ‘The Chough and Crow.’

‘Fear, the most dramatic passion you have hitherto touched, because capable of being drawn to the most extreme paroxysm on the stage. In Ozra you have all the gradations from timidity excited by strong and irritable imagination to the extremity which altogether unhinges the understanding. The most dreadful fright I ever had in my life (being neither constitutionally timid nor in the way of being exposed to real danger) was in returning from Hampstead the day which I spent so pleasantly with you. Although the evening was nearly closed, I foolishly chose to take the short-cut through the fields, and in the enclosure where the path leads by a thick and high hedge with several gaps. In it, however, did I meet with one of your thoroughpaced London ruffians—at least, judging from the squalid and jail-bird appearance and blackguard expression of countenance. Like the man who met the Devil, I had nothing to say to him, if he had nothing to say to me; but I could not help looking back to watch the movements of such a suspicious figure, and, to my great uneasiness, saw him creep through the hedge on my left hand. I instantly went to the first gap to watch his motions, and saw him stooping, as I thought, either to pick up a bundle or to speak to someone lying in the ditch. Immediately after he came cowering back, up the opposite side of the hedge, as returning to me under cover of it. I saw no weapon he had except a stick, but, as I moved on to gain the stile which was to let me into the free field, with the idea of a wretch springing upon me from the cover at every step I took, I assure you I would not wish the worst enemy I ever had to undergo such a feeling as I had for about five minutes. My fancy made him of that description which usually combines murder with plunder; and though I was armed with a stout stick, and a very formidable knife, which when open becomes a sort of shene-dhu, or dagger, I confess my sensations, though those of a man resolved not to die like a sheep, were vilely short of heroism. So much so that, when I jumped over the stile, a sliver of the wood ran a third of an inch between my nail and the flesh without my feeling the pain, or being sensible that such a thing had occurred. However, I saw my man no more, and it is astonishing how my spirits rose when I got[156] into the open field; and when I reached the top of the little mount, and all the bells of London’ (it was probably on a Sunday evening) ‘began to jingle at once, I thought I had never heard anything so delightful in my life, so rapid are the alternations of our feelings.’[156]

Writing twelve months later, Crabb Robinson relates how, on a morning of May, 1812, meeting Wordsworth in the Oxford Road (now Oxford Street), and getting into the fields, he walked thence with him to Hampstead, where they met Joanna Baillie, whom he thus describes:

‘She is small in figure, and her gait is mean and shuffling, but her manners are those of a well-bred woman. She has none of the unpleasant airs too common to literary ladies. Her conversation is sensible. She possesses apparently considerable information, is prompt without being forward, and has a fixed judgment of her own, without any disposition to force it upon others. Wordsworth said of her, with warmth: “If I had to present anyone to a foreigner as a model English gentlewoman, it would be Joanna Baillie.”’

Later writers eulogize her quiet, unobtrusive life in the beloved companionship of her sister, and the enjoyment of the yet unspoiled beauty of Nature which surrounded them. A few steps from their house took them to the Heath, with its glorious sun-risings and sun-settings, its cloud and landscapes, its groups and groves of trees, its ferny hollows, and hillocks, purple or golden in their seasons, with the bells of the common heath, or the glittering peach-scented blossoms of the furze. Twenty-nine years after Crabb Robinson’s meeting with her, in the course of a chatty London letter of Lord Jeffreys to Mrs. Innes, he tells her how after breakfasting with Miss Rogers in Regent’s Park, where they had the poet Murray, the hero of the Pawnees, the Milmans, Sir Charles and Lady Bell, etc. (a most lovely morning, by the way), they drove to Hampstead and saw Joanna Baillie, then in her seventy-fifth year.

It was on the occasion of a visit to her some time before this that Mary Howitt, with her little son Charlton, I believe, had the pleasure of meeting Sir Walter Scott, whose admiration[157] of the fair curls and bright looks of the boy was ever afterwards associated with her remembrance of the kind-hearted author of the Waverley novels.[157]

Joanna Baillie.

To the last Joanna Baillie continued to keep a little court for literary callers, and received in her simple, old-fashioned home the homage of the great in rank and intellect. In 1851, at the ripe age of eighty-eight (she was born in 1763), the little churchyard through which she had so often passed received the remains of this lovable and gifted woman.[158]

Her sister, Miss Agnes Baillie, continued to reside at[158] Bolton House, in which she had a number of the windows darkened, so that it came to be called by the children of the Heath ‘the house with the black windows.’ She was becoming very old, and, though sane upon many subjects, had little innocent illusions of going to heaven in the ark, the appearance of which she looked for from day to day. It came at last on April 27, 1861, when she died, aged one hundred years and seven months. Some time before this event a controversy had been going on in a literary paper which questioned the fact of ‘lives of a hundred and upwards,’ whereupon a gentleman wrote to the editor of the Athenæeum as follows:[159]

January 7, 1860.—Permit me to forward a copy of the certificate of birth of a lady in her hundredth year, living at Hampstead, viz., the sister of the well-known authoress Joanna Baillie, and of the deceased Dr. Baillie,’ etc.

The document was lately obtained by Dr. Baillie’s son, Mr. W. H. Baillie, of Upper Harley Street, and is as follows:

‘Copy of an entry in a separate register of the Presbytery of Hamilton under the head of “Sholto.” That Mr. James Baillie has a daughter named Agnes, born 24 September, 1760. Attested and signed at Hamilton the 25 day of November, 1760, in the presence of the Presbytery. Signed (James Baillie); John Kirk, Clerk; Patrick Maxwell, Moderator.’

‘This venerable lady,’ it is added, ‘is still, notwithstanding the recent severe weather, in the enjoyment of her usual health.’

Seven months later she had, as we have seen, joined her sister in the peaceful churchyard; but lives of a hundred years and more have been by no means rare at Hampstead.

In 1895 my attention was directed to a newspaper paragraph, containing a description of the Baillies’ residence at Hampstead, and also to some notes which had appeared from time to time in the Bookman, descriptive of remarkable houses in the locality.


The newspaper correspondent’s account of the date of the Baillies’ residence at Hampstead is certainly incorrect. He tells us that the Baillies came to London in 1791, where they lived with their brother, Dr. Matthew Baillie, at 16, Great Windmill Street, Piccadilly. In 1802, shortly after the appearance of ‘Plays of the Passions,’ vol. ii., they went with their mother to live at Red Lion Hill, Hampstead, and on her death they removed to Bolton House. The first appearance of ‘De Montfort’ was, as I have shown, in April, 1800, at which time the Barbaulds were living in Church Row, from whence Mrs. Barbauld writes of the Baillies as her near neighbours, which they would not have been had they been living at Red Lion (now Rosslyn) Hill, with the whole length of Hampstead town between them.

The Barbaulds left the neighbourhood for Stoke Newington in 1802, the year this gentleman gives as that of the Baillies’ removal to Hampstead.

Still stranger is the chronology of the writer in the Bookman (1895), who gives the year of their mother’s death (1806) as the date of the Baillies’ removal to Hampstead.



When Leigh Hunt wrote of Hampstead that it ‘was a village revelling in varieties,’ he summarised in a sentence its chief characteristic and charm.

Behind the High Street, to the right, there lies a labyrinth of lanes, passages, courts, roads, groves, and squares. The map of the place shows its complications, and the irresponsibility of the builders. Houses seem to have been run up without design or order; a so-called road ends in a cul-de-sac, a square is represented by a malformed triangle, the groves are without trees. Good old houses assert themselves on high places, and mean ones crowd the ways leading up to them. All shows the extemporary mode of building locally prevalent at the time, in which no fixed plan appears; it is the old copyhold mode of temporary convenience consolidated into brick. But variety meets you everywhere. Nature herself aids it in the formation of the ground—the mounts and interposing undulations. Trees are seen here and there, and bits of primitive waste appear in quite unexpected places.

Queer old houses nestle in trellis-work and creepers, interned within high garden walls, and a little compact settlement of them tops the Mount, the altitude of which shows that of the highway to the Heath when Oliver Goldsmith, his heart still true to the memory of ‘Sweet Lissoy,’ climbed it on summer Sunday mornings, and wrote afterwards[161] of the view from Hampstead Hill that ‘Nature never exhibited a more beautiful prospect.’ This was in 1756-57, and the road was not cut through till 1763; so that from its summit, as was said by some old author of Highgate Hill, one trod upon the top of St. Paul’s. And it may be that the solitudes of the upper Heath, with its hawthorn-thickets, its broken ground and gravelly hollows, or the stillness of the rustic lanes in its vicinity, may have proved as propitious to his Muse as they did in later times to those of Keats and Shelley. At all events, to breathe the air upon its heights must have made him who was brimful of the love of Nature feel as the gods felt when respiring that of Olympus—sublimely indifferent to mundane matters. Then the garrulous, flighty talker grew serene: he ‘communed with his own heart, and was still.’


Here, possibly, some portions of the ‘Traveller’ may have been thought out, that poem which modified for Miss[162] Reynolds the ugliness of the sallow, melancholy-looking man with heavy, protuberant forehead, and grim frown between the brows, the result of thought which not even his friends gave him credit for, but whose ‘ill-natured eyes,’ as he himself calls them, grew tender with compassion at the sight of want and sorrow.[160]

It was another thing when, ceasing to be a mere Grub Street hack, he moved to Wine Office Court, and gave suppers, and came hither for a ‘shoemaker’s holiday,’ as he expressed it, with his ‘Jolly Pigeon’ friends. But at the period I am now writing of, Goldsmith was correcting the press for Mr. Samuel Richardson, the literary bookseller of Salisbury Court, whose epistolary novels, as we know, had taken the town by storm, and who himself frequently figured in the shady Hampstead Well walk, as also at Tunbridge Wells, where Loggan, the dwarf,[161] had included him amongst others of our Hampstead celebrities who frequented that pleasant sanatorium: Old Colley Cibber, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, Garrick, and Mrs. Fraisi, the singer, whose fine, expansive person and expensive dress made an important appearance in the walks.

Then the trees, or groups of them, the ponds, the little dells, the piquant ‘come and see what I can show you’ eminences! The old, solid, red or brown brick mansions; that speak of ‘successful commercial enterprise, and its sequel of splendid wealth.’

And, better still, in the shadow of an old lane, an early Georgian house of ruddy brick, unfaded by centuries of storm and sunshine, with a white gallery running round it like a ruff, and a lovely oriel looking to the sunsets.[162] Then[163] the avenues that have some way got adrift from the homes they once led to, and are left stranded on the Heath, and the sweet, tree-shaded lanes; but these are, alas! for the most part lost to us, like the woods, the site of a once-great gathering of them, that had a history before the Conquest, though the history is lost to us, like the concluding chapters of Livy.

The oldest inhabitant of Hampstead will tell you that he does not know the whole of it, and a workman once informed the writer that he had daily crossed the Heath to his employment for many years, but he believed that he had scarcely ever found his way across it or back by precisely the same path. Undoubtedly, Hampstead has the merit of infinite variety, and the charm of compelling those who know it to desire a return to it with great longing. Even the separate districts into which it is now nominally divided have a distinctive character of their own, and West End is no more like Frognal than South End is like North End or Church Row.

North End from the Heath.

North End is easily accessible from any part of the Heath,[164] but if one happens to come out on the Spaniards Road, it is worth while pausing to admire the pleasing effect of the slender spire of Christ Church, showing almost everywhere above the trees that appear massed about it on Squire’s Mount, and everywhere harmonizing with the view. We have the east Heath to the right, with the Vale of Health lying in a green hollow below the Broad Walk, which divides the upper from the lower Heath; and passing the destroyed site of the ‘Nine Elms’ in a dell on the same side of the way, the roof of a grange-like dwelling, noticeable in my time for a bell or clock turret on the stable buildings, peeping through the surrounding foliage. If I remember aright, Mrs. Hodgson then lived there. Bordering the road for some distance we have, or had, the holly-hedge, said to have been wholly the work of Lord Erskine.

Turning back at the Spaniards, we can either take the Sandy Road, as it is locally called, which shows like a terrace path between the pines upon the side of the hill; or, going on past Heath House and Jack Straw’s Castle, make a landmark of one of the Heath-keeper’s red-brick lodges, and steer a course at an angle that will bring us out close to Wildwood Avenue, and pretty low down on the North End Road.

By the first route we pass some charmingly-situated houses on the upper ridge of the Heath, looking towards the south-west, and with their back-fronts, if I may so call them, to the road. Closed in by high walls, the passers-by see nothing of the beauty of the grounds by which they are surrounded, so that by making a slant across the Heath we lose nothing of interest or beauty. Our path brings us out nearly opposite the gates of Cedar Lawn, and not far from Hill House, or The Hill, as it was more generally called, the beautiful home till quite recently of Francis Hoare, Esq. The place was celebrated for its lovely grounds and gardens. In 1895 Mr. Francis Hoare removed to a house in Kensington, and Hill House, that for the best part of a century had been the home of one or other of the Hoare family, now nearly rebuilt, is the residence of Mr. Fisher. It was probably built in George I.’s reign, but had been several times altered and added to. In 1811 Abrahams mentions the house ‘with new buildings,’ and it had no doubt suffered since from modern improvements.


Fenton House, 1780.


The Hill, like the older home of the family at the Heath, had been distinguished as a centre of intellectual life, of active religious thought, and practical philanthropy. Here Wilberforce and Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton discussed their scheme for the suppression of that long-existing blot upon the Christianity and civilization of England, the dreadful slave-trade, and the ever-to-be-honoured Elizabeth Fry found abundant sympathy in her labour of love for the hitherto uncared-for female criminals in Newgate and other prisons. A letter from Lucy Aikin to her niece, November, no date of day or year, but probably in 1826, gives a glimpse of a social evening at Hill House:

‘Yesterday I dined at the S. Hoares’; enjoyed it much. There was no great party, but all were kind and friendly, and we talked of the days of our youth. Mr. Crabbe came in the evening, and we made him tell us of Johnson, whom he had met with Burke at the house of the Reynolds. Then we spoke of modern poets, Burns and Montgomery.’

She calls Mrs. Inchbald a charming writer, and says that Miss Edgeworth has just come to town. In October, 1826, she writes that Hampstead is almost a desert, ‘the Earls away, Mrs. Greaves away, the Misses Baillie not expected till to-morrow.’[163]

In Augustus Hare’s ‘Memorials of the Gurneys of Earlham,’ we get another peep of society at Hill House in 1830, in a letter of J. G. Gurney, who there first met Dr. Chalmers:

‘I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Chalmers at Hill House, Hampstead. We walked in the garden ... at dinner an interesting party. Sumner, Bishop of Chester,[167] Dr. Lushington, Buxton (Sir Fowell), and my sister, Elizabeth Fry.[164] In the evening Joanna Baillie joined our party. Next morning my brother Samuel Hoare took Dr. Chalmers and me to Wilberforce’s at Highwood, beyond Hendon (Mill Hill). Our morning passed delightfully; a stream of conversation flowed between ourselves and the ever-lively Wilberforce. I have seldom observed a more amazing contrast than between Chalmers and Wilberforce. Chalmers is stout and erect; Wilberforce minute and singularly twisted. Chalmers, both in body and mind, moves with a deliberate step; Wilberforce flies about with astonishing activity, while his mind flits from object to object with astonishing versatility. Chalmers is like a good-tempered lion; Wilberforce like a bee, and, except when fairly asleep, is never latent.’

These extracts afford an interesting glance at persons and associations connected with the Hoare family and Hill House. Earlier in the century we might have met Hannah More, Young of the ‘Night Thoughts,’ Mrs. Barbauld, and subsequently the banker-poet, Rogers, Coleridge and many more of the fraternity of letters.

To the right of Hill House lay a little bit of wooded ground, part of the original Wildwood Grove,[165] through which a path running diagonally from the road led into one of the avenues for which Hampstead is remarkable, avenues that, like Coleridge’s discourses, to those who could not understand them, ‘start from no premises, and arrive at no definite conclusion,’ though houses have occasionally been adapted to them, like Flitcroft’s Villa, at the end of the fine grove of lime-trees between Branch Hill and Frognal. Wildwood Avenue, as it is called, consists of a row of horse-chestnut-trees on one side, and a stately file of limes on the other. These, with their widely-spreading branches, through which the breeze sends restless lights and shadows, in[168] contrast with the stronger forms and picturesquely-slanting trunks of the horse-chestnuts, which in some instances have taken a half-spiral direction in their efforts to strengthen themselves against the storms of many winters, have been a joy to successive generations of artists and unnumbered lovers of Nature.

Wildwood Avenue passes the entrance to North End House,[166] to which I am informed it originally led, and the trees go off by twos and threes upon a little triangular bit of greensward opposite to what used to be, perhaps is still, Wildwood Cottage, a plain, white, weather-boarded house, with red-tiled roof, a rustic rose-covered porch, and with a triplet of limes before it. Of this house there is something more to be said further on.

In coming down the avenue we pass on the right hand a paddock belonging to Mr. Gurney Hoare, where in bygone years stood a walnut-tree,[167] to the fruit of which by immemorial custom all the copyholders of Hampstead had a right, a privilege, I am told, that the boys used to take good care should not lapse for want of being annually maintained.

Returning to the road at the end of the wall enclosing the grounds of Hill House, we come out upon a bit of the Heath, with a straggling group of dark-stemmed, storm-stricken fir-trees at its farthest end, near the wall of Heath Lodge, locally known as the Eleven Sisters. Beneath the footpath on the edge of the Heath the main road is continued along a deep cutting past the back-front of North End House, now called Wildwood, a name to which, Mr. Howitt thinks, it had the original right. This cutting, said to be some centuries old, runs parallel with the gardens and grounds of North End House,[168] a name under which the place retains reminiscences of the saddest chapter in the life of England’s great statesman, Pitt, Earl of Chatham, which[169] it would have been well for the interest of Hampstead to have retained. The house stands on a descending tongue of ground, running down, as we have said, between the old avenue and the North End Road, and is embowered in finely-grown trees. The garden runs up the ascent, and has an old, octagonal summer house of three stories at the upper end of it, which can be seen from the footpath on the Heath. This is still in a fair state of preservation.


The house—as old as the early Georgian period—has been altered and raised a story since it was held, probably on lease, by Lord North. It was during his tenancy that his famous brother-in-law, Lord Chatham, when suffering from the agonies of gout, and sometimes, it has been suspected, when only making them a pretext to escape from political vexations and perplexities, was wont to resort thither, sometimes coming all the way from Richmond to find a night’s rest at North End. Lord Mahon, in his ‘History of England,’ gives copies of letters written by the great Minister from this retreat. From one of these we find he was at North End, Hampstead, on Saturday, August 23, 1766, immediately after he became Prime Minister; whilst his last visit here, according to the author of the ‘Northern[170] Heights of London,’ took place some time after March, 1778 (that would be very shortly before his death, which occurred May 11 of that year).

I hope I am not quoting someone else in applying to him that line, ‘Great wits are sure to madness near allied,’[169] but his conduct and eccentricities at times came very near it. He had such a dread of neighbours that he bought up all the houses near his own to ensure his having none. His terror of loud noises and of strangers was excessive, and if in his solitary walks he saw another person on the path approaching him, he would run round corners or down side-paths to avoid a meeting. Even when driving for exercise on the Heath, the blinds of the carriage were close drawn, so that no one might see him.

It cannot be said that in age his looks were in his favour. He was dark, even to swarthiness, with a large hooked nose, and eyes with which ‘he glared at his antagonists, and a scowl with which he overawed them.’

Walpole says he had a black beard which, when suffering with gout, he would leave unshaven for days. But a modern writer, while leaving his portrait intact, transfuses it with genius, and says that ‘with his eagle aspect, and eyes that would blaze a cannon, he commanded the little things that listened to his voice as might an Emperor his legionaries.’ ‘I should not mind what he says,’ exclaimed Lord Holland to his wife; ‘but his eyes!’

There is no doubt that either from physical suffering or mental anxiety he was at times the victim of great prostration and nervous irritability. It may be that at these periods the seclusion and quiet of North End House, with the wooded beauty and fine air of the neighbourhood, may have proved to him in effect what fine music was to the mind of Emerson, at once assuasive and refreshing.

It is probable, too, that these seasons of retirement, in which he withdrew himself even from his family, shutting himself up in a small room, which, with the oriel window[171] belonging to it, was for many years properly left unaltered, enabled him to abstract himself from everything but the political problems of the day, and to map out in his masterful mind the means of coping with difficulties, if not of subjugating them wholly. Mr. Howitt gives the following description of the ‘closet, or room,’ in which Lord Chatham voluntarily imprisoned himself, at which times not even the servant who waited on him was permitted to see him:[170]

‘The opening in the wall from the staircase to the room still remains through which the unhappy man received his meals, or anything else conveyed to him. It is an opening of perhaps 18 inches square, having a door on each side of the wall; the door within had a padlock, which still hangs upon it. When anything was conveyed to him, a knock was made on the outer door, and the articles placed in the recess. When the outer door again closed, the invalid opened the inner door, took what was there, again closed the door, and locked it.’[171]

In all this great man’s afflictive trials it must have comforted him to remember that in the hour of the unfortunate Admiral Byng’s extremity, when women of rank were urging a royal Princess, nothing loath, to be, as they expressed it, ‘for his execution,’ he (Lord Chatham) had been on the side of justice, and had used his utmost influence with the[172] King to procure the Admiral’s pardon, a plea for mercy that must have softened by reflection his own death-bed.[172]

Right opposite the upper end of the garden of North End House, and no doubt close to the highroad in former days, stands an ancient solitary tree, known as the Gibbet Elm, one of two trees between which stood the gallows on which, in the May of 1673, one Jackson, a notorious highwayman, was hung in chains for the murder of Henry Miller on, or near, the spot. There for years from season to season mouldered the skeleton of the murderer, swinging wildly out before the scourging winter winds, with the rusty chain-links creaking, as it were, a ghastly requiem, or in high summer perhaps a nesting-place for birds, such instances of bird-building between the ribs or in the skulls of felons being not uncommon in those days, when gibbets were more plentiful by the waysides than hand-posts. After long years of purgatorial nights and days, Nature would receive into her bosom the time-bleached bones, to make the grass grow greener about the base of the old tree, whose companion was blown down some fifty years ago.

The elm, when I last saw it in 1863-64, was still sound,[173] and, though beaten about and storm-broken, stretched forth its branches a goodly distance, its root

‘Like snakes in wild festoon,
In ramous wrestlings interlaced,
A forest Laocoön.’[174]


The upright of the gibbet, by one of those curious freaks common to ancient landlords, who early learnt the attractiveness of morbid curiosities, and knew with Trinculo that ‘those who will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar will lay out ten to see a dead Indian,’ was converted into a part of the kitchen mantelpiece at Jack Straw’s Castle, serving thenceforth as a fertile subject for the ale-consuming and company-constraining gossip of times not so long past, when few cared to cross the Heath alone after nightfall—times of which Hicks’s Hall and the Newgate Calendar keep record still.

Old Cottages, North End.

Passing Heath Lodge, we leave the footpath for the main road, and find ourselves at North End. In Elizabeth’s time this was literally wildwood and waste. Here, as at Belsize, Gerard found what he calls the white butterfly orchis, ‘near unto a small cottage in the way as you go from London to Hendon, a village thereby, in the field next the pound, or pinnefold without.’

North End, so called from its situation at the northern[174] extremity of the Heath, consists of a cluster of middle-class houses, cottages, and pleasant gardens. It does not seem, says Park, to be a place of any antiquity. No doubt the Wildwood, as the fragment of the old forest was quaintly called, formerly overran the site of the present hamlet, and lingered here after the clearance of the woods from other portions of the district.

We find it marked in the map of Middlesex in Gibson’s edition of Camden’s ‘Britannia’ (1695) as Wildwood Corner. It had been so called in Elizabeth’s time, and the tradition survives in the names of certain messuages, as Wildwood, Wildwood House, Wildwood Lodge, etc.

Bull and Bush, Hampstead.

In all probability, the weather-boarded cottages opposite Wildwood Lodge, and the cosy little inn, the Bull and Bush, are about the oldest habitations in North End. The latter flourished when Addison wrote, and it is said that it shared his favour, and that of his friends, in common with the Upper Flask. In its yew-tree arbour he may have[175] enjoyed himself after the simple fashion of Sir Roger de Coverley, and drunk ripe ale, and smoked his churchwarden on summer afternoons. It has its arbour and garden still—a carefully-kept one—which makes a pretty feature of the unpretentious but comfortable house.

In later times, Gainsborough, Garrick and Foote, Sir Joshua Reynolds (at rare seasons), Cibber, Booth, Hogarth, and Laurence Sterne are said to have been amongst its summer visitors. The room—an upper one—in which their feasts, to which the company brought ‘attic salt,’ were held looks out upon a smooth-clipped lawn with flowery borders, and commands the little eminence overlooking Wildwood, where Blake would first appear to the vigilant eyes of the eldest Linnell’s little daughter on Saturday afternoons, who sat watching for the anticipated appearance of her favourite. Upon the green lawn is the yew-bush or bower to which the inn owes half its name, a whimsey to which rustic landlords in the eighteenth century appear to have been much addicted. Being furnished with a table and seats, it afforded a quiet retirement or smoking-box.[175]

Hither, in the Addison days, came the companionable Dr. George Sewell, with some or other of his many friends, friends who, at his death in 1726, neglected even the common duties of humanity, and permitted this accomplished gentleman and scholar to pass unhonoured to an almost pauper grave, unfollowed but by one attendant, and with the mean obsequies of one ‘whom nobody owns.’ He was a bachelor, and kept no house, but boarded at Hampstead, and we are told ‘he was so much esteemed, and so frequently invited to the tables of the neighbouring gentry, that he had seldom occasion to dine at home.’ He contributed many papers to the supplemental volumes of the[176] Tatler and Spectator, wrote the tragedy of ‘Sir Walter Raleigh,’ and other works, and various poems. His writings impress one with the feeling that he was not only a clever and versatile writer, but a good and amiable man. No memorial was raised above his grave, but a boundary-tree—a holly—in the hedge of the churchyard for some time marked the place of his interment. This has long since been removed.

Coming down the years, we find that literary people, either as residents or visitors, more and more affected Hampstead and the Heath. No matter of surprise to us who have tasted the exhilaration of its fresh breeziness and summer beauty, and witnessed the cold splendour of its wintry landscapes, with a sky such as Danby delighted to paint reddening the west, and making wider the fields of snow stretching around; the still woods wrapped in rime, each tree crystallized, as it were; the tall groups of elm, ash, and pine trees with each reticulated branch and spray standing out with photographic accuracy against the clear atmosphere, whose sharpness stings the pedestrian and warms.

It was under such conditions that Lovell Edgeworth saw the Heath when he visited his philosophical but eccentric friend Day, the author of ‘Sandford and Merton,’ who had ‘lodged his newly-married wife in “inconvenient lodgings” at Hampstead.’ Edgeworth found him walking on the Heath with her, though the snow covered the ground. But then the lady was sensibly attired in a frieze cloak and thick shoes. She surprised the visitor, who had been led to imagine her an exceedingly delicate person, by an appearance of rude health. But this is beside North End.

About the year 1748 Dr. Akenside, divided between the love of poetry and duty to his profession, endeavoured, with the assistance of his friend the Hon. Jeremiah Dyson, who had purchased a house for him in this neighbourhood, to establish himself as a physician at Hampstead.

We have somewhere read that the house which Akenside[177] occupied was really at Golder’s Hill.[176] The two statements are not irreconcilable, as in the directory of this year Golder’s Hill is included in North End. Horace Walpole, writing in 1750, says of him: ‘Here is another of those tame geniuses, a Mr. Akenside, who writes odes. In one he has lately published he says, “Light the tapers ... urge the fire!” Had not you rather make gods jostle in the dark than light the candles, for fear they should break their heads?’

But in criticising the poet’s ‘Pleasures of Imagination,’ he allows that at its first appearance it attracted much notice, from the elegance of its language and the warm colouring of the descriptions. Akenside appears to have been a proud, cold, uncomfortable man, with an overweening opinion of his abilities, a dictatorial habit, a morbid sensitiveness on the score of his connections, and a susceptibility of offence, which seldom left him long without one. He seems to have passed a rather disagreeable time at Hampstead.

In vain his weak but generous friend and patron introduced him at the clubs and balls, the assemblies and the Long-room; he failed to make himself popular with the men, and was ‘too indifferent to feminine nature to ingratiate himself with their wives and daughters.’ So that, with all his mental accomplishments, his handsome person, and the genius which Southey says distinguished his face, he made no friends, but, on the contrary, many enemies.

When the secret of his family connections, and his dependence on Mr. Dyson, who generously allowed him £300 a year, oozed out, society at Hampstead, composed for the most part of opulent City men—which means successful men, too prone to despise the want of success in others—made no secret of its contempt for Akenside’s pretensions to superiority, and the end was that in less than three years all hopes of his succeeding as a physician at Hampstead had to be given up. Mr. Dyson then took a small house for him[178] in Bloomsbury Square, and continued his allowance till his death in 1770, in the forty-ninth year of his age.

A pleasant reminiscence of North End is that for some years it continued to be the chosen home of William Collins, the artist, who, from his boyhood, as his talented son has told us in his delightful memoir of him, had loved Hampstead, and spent many a summer day there, ‘watching the bird-catchers with their decoys and nets, the hedger with his high tanned gloves and bill-hook, cows going afield, hay-makers, and rosy rustic children.’

As he grew up, his love of Hampstead grew with him, and we catch glimpses of the young art student, sketching in the delightful fields and bosky lanes, occasionally laying down his pencil to refresh himself, as it were, with the quaintly-written devotional hymns of George Herbert, which he carried with him. In 1822-23 he married Miss Giddies, and in the summer of the same year took a cottage at Hampstead, and ‘in tranquillity and the companionship of his young wife studied Nature unremittingly.’

Hampstead Heath, which lay close to his door, became the scene and source of his best pictures.

‘Here he found his footsore trampers; the patched or picturesquely ragged beggars; the brutish or audacious boys; the itinerant rat-catcher, with the dirt-shine on his leather breeches, and his ferrets and cage of rats.’ Like Linnell, Leslie, and Constable in those days, and Gainsborough in previous ones, he was never tired of the sweet beauty of his surroundings, or of exhibiting them to his friends. He was for ever discovering fresh points of view and new effects, and Hampstead proved to him, as to all other lovers and students of Nature, inexhaustible.


Cottages, North End.


In 1829 his fame and fortune had both outgrown what Wilkie called his ‘beautiful cottage at North End,’ and he was intending to build himself a house upon the Heath; but there were difficulties in the way of the purchase of the ground, which caused him eventually to give up the idea of building, and content himself with renting a larger house near the Heath. In the end he returned to London, where the latter years of his life were spent. It was at North End, according to the author of the ‘Northern Heights,’ that his three talented sons were born, and here Wilkie—his great friend—and many other artists, and men of note visited him.

Shortly before 1813, Mr. Abraham Robarts, senior partner in the banking house of Robarts, Curtis and Co., resided at North End, in the house previously occupied by —— Dingley, Esq., about 1777, a gentleman memorable for the part he took in the introduction of sawing-mills into this country, which the mob resented and destroyed.

When Park wrote his History, the same house (but he does not describe its situation) was in the possession of John Vivian, Esq., solicitor to the Excise. In all probability it was the square brick house at the end of the avenue, which the inhabitants of North End regard as the house which Dr. Akenside resided in—the house with the newly-laid-out garden running up on one side under the umbrageous shade of the trees that once sheltered a lovely glade, locally known as the Lovers’ Bank or Lover’s Walk, and which, through oversight or forgetfulness on the part of those entrusted with the preservation of the Heath, was left out in the purchase of it, and was granted to the present owner. In this house at one period resided Sir Fowell Buxton, the friend and fellow-labourer with Clarkson and Wilberforce, in their noble efforts for the emancipation of the negro, which led to the abolition of slaves in our colonies, and began that crusade which we are still waging on their behalf. At that period his sister-in-law, Mrs. Charles Buxton, was living at Wildwood, in Mrs. Earle’s house, the white house facing the avenue. It is right that the homes of eminent men and women should be remembered, and amongst such homes at North End, Wildwood Cottage is one of the most interesting. Here for some time lived Dinah Mulock, the late Mrs. Craik, author of ‘John Halifax,’ and other standard works of fiction; and here subsequently resided, from 1864 to 1871, Eliza Meteyard, the painstaking author of the ‘Life[181] of Wedgwood the Potter,’ a work containing much valuable information on the subject of this beautiful manufacture, the interest in which her labour undoubtedly contributed to revive and enlarge. Here she expended years of studious research in the prosecution of her task, in recognition of which Mr. Gladstone—himself a lover and collector of the charming ware—granted her a Government pension of £100 per annum, which, however, she only lived to enjoy one year. She may be said to have lost her life for the sake of her strong interest in the study of this beautiful fabric. Having accepted a pressing invitation from members of the Liverpool Society of Arts to be present at a conversazione and exhibition of Wedgwood ware, she travelled back to town in very inclement weather, and took a chill, which brought on (being neglected) pulmonary complications, ending in her death, which took place in 1879, she dying in the arms of her old friend, the writer of these few lines. Popularly she was better known as the ‘Silver Pen’ of Douglas Jerrold’s and other magazines, in which she strongly advocated the higher education of the people.

For some time Coventry Patmore, the author of ‘The Angel in the House,’ and other charming poems, resided at North End, and here he lost his loving and beloved wife (1862).

We pass the gray, unprepossessing-looking cottage to the east of the large house on the right of Golder’s Hill, known as the Manor House, and said to occupy the site of the ancient North Hall Manor, included with that of Hampstead, and granted by Edward VI. to his favourite, Sir Thomas Wroth, Knight. Shortly before Belsize Gardens were closed, an attempt was made to popularize a medicinal well at North End, and render it fashionable as a Spa and pleasure-place; and though it is said by contemporaries that Belsize Gardens exceeded in immorality and dissipation any place of the kind in modern times, an advertisement in the Daily Post of the opening of the New North End Hall Wells, after promising a profusion of amusement, etc., coolly adds that[182] ‘great care will be taken to keep up the same decorum in everything as at Belsize.’

In 1811 the Lords Granville were living at North End, and Sir Francis Willes for some time occupied North End House. In 1806 Lady Wilson, proprietress of the manor, brought an action against him for cutting turf on the Heath, ‘then covered with grass, and fit for cattle,’ which action put an end to this practice, which every copyholder believed he had a right to, and which was pronounced to be inconsistent with the rights of common pasture.

Golder’s Hill, the seat of Sir Spencer Wells, occupies a large piece of ground, skirted on the side nearest the Heath by the new ride.[177]

To the left of the North End Road are several good houses with enclosed grounds and gardens. The road follows the bend of what was probably a morass in ancient times, but is fertile meadow-land now; and we are told that within memory rushes grew, quaint rural things! at the very point where the North End Road cuts the Finchley Road, and the way was fringed by some magnificent old trees, which have been cut down, with the advantage of throwing open an extensive view of Hendon Fields.[178]

Hence the North End Road runs on to its terminus at the hand-post on Golder’s Green.

The Lady’s Magazine, in 1816, announced the death at North End, Hampstead, at an advanced age, of Elizabeth Dowager Marchioness of Waterford, in January, 1816 (no other date); whether resident or a visitor was not stated.



At the hand-post on Golder’s Green—a bit of the original waste in 1859—Hampstead parish ends in this direction. Here Finchley Road, running north and south, divides the road to Hendon from North End Road.

The name of Hendon reminds me that John Taylor, the ‘Water Poet,’ in his curious poetical production ‘The Fearful Summer; or, London’s Calamitie, the Countrie’s Discourtesie, and both their Miserie,’ while including the inhabitants of Hampstead with the other country people around London as ‘beastly, barbarous, cruel countrie cannibals,’ excepts those of Hendon, who did what they could for the plague-stricken Londoners.

With Finchley parish Hampstead has no other connection than that it borders it; but having taken the Finchley Road, it is scarcely fair to leave this once too-famous neighbourhood without a word. The Common had for many years been a terror to travellers, and in 1790-1, when Landmanor wrote his ‘Recollections and Adventures,’ its reputation had not improved. It was still the haunt of footpads and highwaymen, as, indeed, was Hampstead Heath also.

Half a dozen years after the above date, Lord Strathmore, then residing at Hampstead, was attacked by two men when driving over Finchley Common, who rode up to the carriage intending robbery, but his lordship, with the aid of his servants, turned the tables on them, shot one, and made[184] the other prisoner—an evil day for these ‘gentlemen of the road.’ Yet, in spite of such incidents, some hardy householders were bold enough to purchase property and build houses in the neighbourhood; and Mrs. Barbauld tells us that at one time (about 1754), when Richardson was looking about for a country retirement, as became a fortunate bookseller who was his own novelist, he bethought him of the pretty district of Finchley.

While thinking of doing this, his friend Mr. Dunscombe wrote to him that the place would ‘affect his nerves,’ for that all the crimes in the Decalogue were of daily occurrence there, and finished by saying: ‘If you are planted so near the scene of action as to be constantly hearing of highwaymen and viewing of gibbets, in vain will Lady B. [Braidshaigh] send you her sylphs and fairies, in vain will Miss M. [Miss Mulso] terrify with dreams and visions.’[179]

The author of the ‘New and Complete British Traveller’ prosaically confirms this account: ‘A large tract of ground called Finchley Common has long been remarkable as a particular spot for the commission of robberies, and it has been usual to erect gibbets on it, where some of the most notorious malefactors have been hung in chains.’

So, though the village on the west side of the Common had some good houses on it, Richardson’s inclination for a Tusculum at Finchley was probably not very strong, or his friend’s badinage, from the proportion of truth it contained, proved convincing, for we find him settling down in the placid respectability of Parson’s Green, and the enjoyment of that delightful summer-house at the end of the garden, with room enough in it for the literary young ladies who buzzed about him like bees about a bed of borage, with their mild suggestions and criticism, all commendatory, and praises altogether saccharine, till we believe in the truth of Johnson’s remarks to Mrs. Thrale, afterwards Madame Piozzi: ‘You think I like flattery, and so I do, but a little too much disgusts me. That fellow Richardson, on the[185] contrary, could not be contented to sail quietly down the stream of reputation without longing to taste the froth from every stroke of the oar.’ An anecdote which Finchley is not concerned in, though apropos to our talk of Richardson.

Madame Piozzi.

If we take the Finchley Road back, we can make our way by Cricklewood to Child’s Hill Lane, and so back to the West Heath. There were in 1859 two or three good houses to the left of the road, with large, newly-enclosed grounds, but a few years later this portion of the Finchley Road was the least interesting and the most vitiated place on the skirts of Hampstead. The melancholy attempt to raise good houses on either side appeared to have been blighted by the unwholesome airs arising from the ill-drained and already-crowded suburb of Child’s Hill lying in the bottom to the right. Here various businesses the reverse of sanitary were carried on, the vile smells from which in hot weather, even at a considerable distance, made the inhaling of them[186] dangerous, and occasioned a sort of local fever, from which it was said the neighbourhood was seldom free.

It was a relief, when leaving the sight of coal-yards covering what had been delightful meadows only a few years ago, and the useful, but certainly unpicturesque, railway-station to the right, to turn the corner by a semi-rural hostel at Cricklewood, and a row of village shops, and, mounting the slope, to enter what was quite recently a deep-hedged country lane, into which, according to the exploded theory of my antiquarian friend, the old Roman road over Hampstead Heath struck down by way of Cricklewood to Hendon. We pass the Hermitage, the temporary summer home of many well-known artists, and two or three cottages. The road, in places still fringed with trees, suggesting the shady way it must have been in olden time, ends at the spot that Platt’s Lane brought us to, within a short distance of West Heath.

Had we desired a longer walk on the Finchley Road, we might have found our way back through a field-gate a little to the east of Platt’s Lane, and of the path I have already described, leading to a gate opening into Oak Hill Fields at New West End, a region of rich grass fields, the quality of which recommended the purchase of 14 acres of meadow-land at Child’s Hill to the trustees of the Campden Charity, with which they joined the bequest of an unnamed but eccentric gentlewoman who left the parish £40 for the purpose of distributing among the inhabitants of Hampstead, rich and poor, halfpenny loaves (cross-buns, probably) on the morning of Good Friday annually.

If we follow the path, we find ourselves in the midst of a scene of pastoral beauty still unspoiled. Cattle, such as Sidney Cooper loves to paint, sleek and dappled, were, when I last saw it, placidly cropping mouthfuls of juicy grasses, or lying about on the slope of the upland field, lazily chewing the cud. In the hedgerows oak-trees, some of them hollow with age, and others young and verdant, appeared scattered over the face of the hill, which takes its name from the[187] numbers of them once growing there. It was a walk for summer mornings and summer evenings—peaceful, sequestered, lovely—a walk that many a poet had trodden, and one in which many an artist besides Landseer had found inspiration and charming subjects. The hedgerows still sheltered their indigenous wild-flowers; hawthorn and elder, wild rose and woodbine, beautified the hedges in their several seasons, and though it felt and looked far away from the town, a very short walk to the gate or stile led to the main road, and past Oak Hill House, and Oak Hill Lodge, to the junction of Frognal Rise with Branch Hill.

We may either follow the latter road to the West Heath, or strike into the road past Lower Terrace, and come out between the enclosure of the Hampstead Waterworks and the walls of Mrs. Johnstone’s premises, at the angle of which, railed in, stands a fine old elm,[180] memorable as Irving’s Elm, under the shade of which some of the old inhabitants of Hampstead may remember to have seen the preacher of the ‘unknown tongue’ take his stand, and with vehement language and gesture address a crowd half curious, half eager to listen to his passionate pleadings or fierce denunciations.[181]

It is curious that Edward Irving, like Whitfield, was remarkable for a fearful squint. The Edinburgh Review, with a cruelty not unusual in its criticisms, attacked his appearance, actions, tones, gesticulation, and pronunciation, and stated that he thundered forth a growling falsetto, and ‘draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument.’ It describes his violent contortions of countenance, and winds up by asserting that there had never been such a tossing of brawny arms, and such a lowering of bushy eyebrows performed ‘to so little purpose.’ But the critic adds that, ‘were he to dispense with his absurd, fitful,[188] inappropriate vehemence, and eternal straining after singularity in the most minute points, he might become a rational and respectable minister of the Gospel.’

Turning back a few yards to Branch Hill, a road runs off at an angle with the main road past Lower Terrace, at No. 2 of which Constable, with his ‘placid companion’ and their little ones, had lodgings in 1821, and takes us out by the reservoir of the Hampstead Waterworks upon the Heath.

By making a little détour to the left, in front of Upper Terrace, and taking advantage of an opening between the houses, we find ourselves in the Judges’ Walk, or Prospect Terrace, as at one time modern Hampstead was inclined to call it, forgetting the archæological interest attached to the old name, and find ourselves face to face with a surprise of prospective beauty—a view so wide in extent, so rich in woodland scenery, rolling on over the Hertfordshire hills to the right, and all between a wide expanse of fertile country, that in all England there is scarcely a finer woodland and pastoral view. The trees and houses to the left shut out the sight of Harrow, and the glittering waters of the Kingsbury reservoir are no longer seen; but looking to the right, the view is charming, and to witness a sunset from this eminence is worth, on a fine summer’s day, a pilgrimage to Hampstead.

The Judges’ Walk was so called, it is said, because during the year of the Great Plague the judges removed their Courts from Westminster, and, returning to the normal practice of their prototypes in Saxon and Norman times, held their Seats of Justice ‘under the green tree’s shade.’ Court Tree, in the Isle of Sheppey, has its name from this antique custom, and the laws are thus annually promulgated on the Tynwald Hill in the Isle of Man.


Harrow and Welsh Harp, from Hampstead Heath.


Now that we are so near the Whitestone Pond, and the half square of houses opposite, let us cross over, and, passing at the side of the last of these, walk to the end of the tree-shaded alley, the view from which is one of the many scenic surprises of the Heath. There lies—or has it, with many other charms, been swept away?—the still pond, its surface scarcely ruffled by the movements of the swans, the green Heath on this side dipping down to its margin, and beyond the wooded heights of Highgate and the church. It is a picture that requires no composing; it is perfect in its natural picturesqueness.

A path under the garden wall of a house to the left brings us out at the Holford Road, between high walls, skirted by well-grown trees, past Heathfield House to the left, and other enclosed premises to the right, with Christ Church facing us, fringed by some grand old trees (part of a grove), leading by Cannon Place to Squire’s Mount. To the left of the church is a space half surrounded by houses, in one of which the well-known popular Nonconformist minister and eloquent preacher and writer, the Rev. Newman Hall, resided. To the east of the church are the school buildings appertaining to it, and Christ Church Road, which runs down to the Willow Walk and East Heath.

Leaving the church, which stands slightly raised above the roadway, on the right hand, we pass a row of good but dully-situated houses, known as Cannon Place, which extends from Christ Church to Squire’s Mount, and takes its name from the old cannon which stand as kerb-posts, muzzles downwards, in front of the courtyard of Cannon Hall, at the north-east corner of Squire’s Mount. Unfortunately, the history of the cannon is lost, and so also is that of the man who originally placed them there. Modern Hampstead is inclined to believe it the work of Sir J. C. Melville, but the older inhabitants, whose ‘fathers have told them,’ assert that the cannon were there long before this gentleman resided at Hampstead. There are, besides these peacefully-utilized pieces, two other very curious small bronze pieces of ordnance of beautiful workmanship and great age (said to have been taken from the Dutch), one bearing the date 1640, the other inscribed 1646. These find a place in the very beautiful grounds in which the house stands, an old red-bricked, two-storied mansion of early eighteenth-century design. The views from it—especially to the south—are[191] said to be very extensive. It possesses a garden an acre in extent, and the ornamental grounds descend from 400 feet to the level of the Thames.

At the end of Cannon Place is Squire’s Mount, with some good houses cresting it, and a row of cottages running in a straight line towards the East Heath, with the Vale of Health (not assertive in offensive ugliness, as at present) modestly nestling right opposite, the Broad Walk crossing the Heath above it. At Squire’s Mount, in the house (one of those with some fine old trees sheltering them on the north-east) distinguished by a magnificent horse-chestnut in front of it, resided the octogenarian artist, Mrs. Harrison, a fine-looking, genial old lady, whose charming transcripts of spring flowers, wild blossoms, bird-nests, and bits of hedgerow beauty, were well known to visitors at the Old Painters in Water Colours’ Exhibitions. So late as the spring of 1864-65 she had copied primroses from nature.

At the back of Squire’s Mount Cottages are a group of small houses, known as Heath Cottages, looking out on a delightful view, but one which is said to be threatened with extinction. It takes in the red viaduct and wooded neighbourhood of Caenwood Farm, with Highgate; but when these lines were written, a brickfield smouldered on one side, and the ground it covered will, it is said, be shortly in the hands of the builders.

If, instead of walking across the Heath, we desire to return to the town, we must turn back to Cannon Place, at the western end of Squire’s Mount Cottages, and, crossing the road at the bottom to the right, keep down a short lane, at the end of which is Well Walk. Keep straight past the Burgh, and Wetherall House, and, still bearing to the right, above the new districts of Gayton and Gardener’s Roads—the latter probably so called in memory of the allotments, formerly the garden, playground, and orchard of a rather celebrated school—keep on down Flask Walk to the High Street. Or return by Christ Church Road, here leading east and west; or by way of New End to Heath Street.[192] And this reminds me that New End requires some notice.

Squire’s Mount, about 1840.

It marked, no doubt, as its name implies, a new epoch in the growth of Hampstead, and an attempt at making a straight street, which the genius of the place appears to have resented, the outline of New End representing that of an ill-proportioned funnel, with its mouth to the east, and its narrow termination in Heath Street, where, on both sides of the way (for the place was sadly in request by tramps journeying to London), used to be posted up ‘To New End and the Workhouse.’ Park does not mention the neighbourhood, except to notice the purchase by the parish of Mrs. Leggatt’s mansion for the new workhouse. Yet in 1811 there were fifty rateable tenements, besides some untenanted, in the district; eight of them rated at £25 per annum, one at £60—the residence of a Mr. Richard Otley—were probably private residences.

These houses rose on the rim of the bowl in which[193] Mrs. Leggatt’s handsome red-brick mansion (as we see it to-day the façade remains unaltered) was set down, a reason, no doubt, for disposing of it, and which was objected to on the part of some of the people in authority as likely to prove detrimental to the health of its future inmates. From the schedule before me of the old materials, it is possible to rehabilitate the mansion, the body of which forms the centre of the present workhouse, and relieves, with brilliant ruddiness, the added ugly gray buildings overlooking it. It had a ventilator and turret on the roof; there were bows to the parlour, dining, and drawing rooms looking to the east, a probably uninterrupted view originally.

These rooms had handsomely stuccoed ceilings, cornices, and mouldings, and marble chimney-pieces, carved, no doubt, after the lovely fashion of their day, with an old Roman triumph, or a procession of Ceres, or a vine-crowned Bacchus and Bacchantes. The great stairs, with mahogany hand-rail and banisters, sprang up from the ground-floor in the centre of the building to the two-pair story; and these, and all the marble chimney-pieces, except those left in the Master’s room, and the room over it, were to be taken at a valuation by the contractors, unless available in the work. All the offices were at the west side, or back, of the house; there was a clinker-paved stable, a laundry, and greenhouse, and what are called stewing-stoves in the kitchen—in short, all the appointments of a well-arranged establishment, the finishing touch to which is suggested in the enriched chimney caps.

Since then the character of the whole district seems to have fallen, and New End is chiefly occupied by humble shops and cheap lodging-houses. The square, an imperfect triangle, still asserts itself superior to the dingy, sordid neighbourhood, about which the less said the better.



From Hampstead Heath Station a branch of the East Heath Road leads direct to this popular and well-known part of the Lower Heath, while innumerable pathlets traced by the feet of visitors impatient to reach the goal of their pilgrimage all trend in the same direction.

The present name of the Vale dates back to the period of the wells fashion, a period when sheltered places were believed to be more conducive to health than more open ones, especially for invalids.

When the fame of Dr. Gibbon’s ‘Fountain of Health’ brought many visitors to Hampstead, quite a crop of small dwellings rose in this vicinity to meet the needs of a class of invalids unable, or indisposed, to put up at the taverns, or the ‘Wells Dwelling-house,’ or in the then fashionable lodging-houses in Pond Street and the Lower Flask Walk.

Upon the decline of the wells in public estimation, and the consequent falling-off in the number of visitors, many of these easily-run-up habitations (mostly weather-boarded cottages) disappeared. But of the few that survived till quite modern times, some of them, as we shall see, have had remarkable tenants.

The little cluster of cottages upon the margin of the pool in the bottom of the Vale constituted the headquarters of the craft which made the greater part of the population of Hampstead in Tudor times—the laundresses, who washed[195] the linen of the Court and gentry and of the chief City merchants and citizens, abundance of water, dry breezy air, and unlimited bleaching and drying ground, making a very paradise for the suddy sisterhood.

These privileges were possessed by their successors for many years after I first knew Hampstead, who made it appear in the early half of each week as if the grassy spaces between the turf-grown gravel ‘hills and holes,’ as children called them, and all the level growing beds of whortleberry, and coverts of furze, belonged to them.

It was not unpleasing to an idle observer to watch the bringing up from the Vale of the great bucking-baskets of fresh-washed linen by the youngest and strongest of the lavandières, to give them their prettiest appellation, fresh-cheeked, full-chested, large-armed lassies, with elf-locks blowing about their faces, who soon made a wide part of the Heath appear as if an army were about to picnic there.

As time went on, the proprietors of these cottages (marked on the map of the Ordnance Survey as ‘Grottoes and arbours’) developed the sensible idea of providing in a humble way for the refreshment of the many summer-afternoon visitors to the lovely village, and preserved in my time the tradition of the tea and bun houses with which Hampstead had formerly been too abundantly provided. A humble guild, with no better properties than deal tables and benches, coarse white or coloured ware, of which there used to be great piles, and clean tablecloths for the first comers. The knives, when required, were bone-handled, and blunt; and the spoons—well, sensitive persons used to wash them in the slop-basin, and dry them surreptitiously on the edge of the tablecloth. It was not exactly Frascati’s,[182] but it was a pleasant picture in its way of homely, hearty enjoyment, and the crowning joy of many a girl and boy’s afternoon holiday on Hampstead Heath.

One of them, rather an old boy now, has told me that, after an independent excursus in Bishop’s Wood, a general[196] exploration of the Heath, a game of hide-and-seek with his sisters among the gravel-pits, and a donkey-ride from the Whitestone Pond to the Spaniards and back again, or from the same starting-point round the West Heath to Jack Straw’s Castle and the Whitestone Pond, few things could be more pleasantly suggestive than the fuming chimneys in the hollow of the Vale of Health, and the near sight of the several tables with big family teapots, flanked by heaped-up plates of serviceable slices of bread-and-butter (delicious after the ‘crug’ of Christ’s School), and new-laid eggs, and water-cresses from the spring, which made the general menu of these al-fresco entertainments.

It was not unusual on summer evenings to see the whole space in front of these cottages thronged with respectably-dressed family and other parties taking tea in the open, and enlivening the placid scene with social gaiety.

It was with the hope of alluring a portion of this company, and the expected crowds which the opening of the North London Railway promised, that the East Heath Tavern intruded its gaunt ugliness upon this peaceful spot, a speculation that ultimately failed.

As the only place on Hampstead Heath outside the taverns where in the forties and fifties a cup of tea could be had, or hungry folk find refreshment for their children or themselves, the Vale of Health was well known and appreciated. But its higher claims to be regarded and sought out and visited, I think, as a rule, the general inhabitants of the town of Hampstead had forgotten or ignored.

Neither William Howitt, Baines, nor a writer in the Bookman—who in 1893, 1894, and 1895 contributed some notices of Hampstead to that publication—appears to have known anything decided of the whereabouts of Leigh Hunt’s cottage, otherwise than that it was situated in the Vale of Health. The desire on all sides appears to have been to furnish the poet with a more important habitation than he himself tells us he occupied.

In or about 1855-56, it was believed that Vale Lodge, then[197] the hospitable home of the talented writers of ‘The Wife’s Secret’[183] and ‘Ingomar,’ was the veritable house in which the poet had resided, and in one of the rooms of which Keats had composed the first verses of ‘Endymion.’

There is lying before me a note from a lady since closely connected with Hampstead, in which she writes:

‘M. asks me to say that she finds Leigh Hunt and Douglas Jerrold both lived in Mr. Lovell’s present house in the Vale of Health.’

In a series of sketchy, ill-considered papers—the very memory of which makes my ears tingle—I helped to give currency to this belief, but subsequently, on reading the letters of Leigh Hunt, and the literary recollections of his friend, Charles Cowden Clarke, I found, both from description and allusion, that Vale Lodge could not possibly be the ‘little packing-case, by courtesy called a house,’ which Leigh Hunt himself describes as his home at Hampstead, where he had gone for the sake of his ‘health, and his old walks in the fields.’

It seemed a case for the ‘oldest inhabitant,’ and I was fortunately referred to Mr. Paxon, of High Street, rate collector, etc., as his father had been before him. An old and ailing man, but intelligent, courteous, and communicative, he at once gave me the information I sought for, and was at pains to point out the white, weather-boarded cottage where, when a lad, as his father’s clerk, he had often delivered the rate-papers to Mr. or Mrs. Hunt, whom he well remembered, and their children also.

Even then the cottages—a row of four, if I remember aright—their prospect bounded by the margin of what is now the Spaniards Road, with a space of unspoiled sward before them, coming down to the garden rails, had an air of mild gentility, the effect, probably, of their retired situation, and the cared-for little garden plots before them,[198] not much bigger than an old sea-captain’s bandanna handkerchief, and quite as flowery. Some resident had named the one Leigh Hunt had tenanted Rose Cottage. It had then a little green trellised veranda smothered in roses and scented clematis above the French window that opened on the garden.

My informant told me that Lord Byron had at one time lodged in another of these cottages, and had written with a diamond on a pane of one of the windows two lines which afterwards appeared in ‘Childe Harold.’ The pane existed in his time, but had either been broken, or cut out and removed. This was before Leigh Hunt’s residence there.

When, in 1895, after a prolonged absence from Hampstead, I again visited it for the purpose of reviving my impressions of certain localities, I naturally desired to revisit Leigh Hunt’s cottage; but time and the alterations in the neighbourhood had confused my recollection of the way to it, and upon inquiring, I am obliged to confess there is some truth in the accusations of certain American magazine writers, that the people generally are not well up in the traditions of their neighbourhood, nor greatly interested in the homes of the poets, painters, and other celebrities, the memory of whose fame has enriched it.

My quest was met by a frank ignorance: neither the cottage nor its memorable occupant had been heard of by the ordinary dwellers in the neighbourhood.

Wandering on, I was fortunate enough to recognise the high-hedged orchard-garden that had belonged to Vale Lodge, and I had no farther difficulty in finding my way to the whereabouts of Leigh Hunt’s cottage. Now, instead of the open space before it and its fellows, the approach is strangely narrowed and closed in, but on the top of the garden-gate of the last of the row of what were four white weather-boarded cottages in my time (of which only two remain, the place of the others being filled by two tall, narrow brick houses), the Town Council, or Board of Works,[199] or some other local authority, had had inserted a brass plate, some two inches wide and five or six in length, inscribed ‘Hunt’s Cottage.’ After this, let no American or other traveller say that we do not commensurately keep alive the memory of our men of genius! For one mistaken moment I felt grateful; the next I had realized that this was not the cottage I had been assured on such excellent authority was the one lived in by Leigh Hunt, though next door to it. But what does it signify? Fame is far-reaching, and the space covered by the row so small that the memory of the one little home includes the whole, and clothes these few cottages on the south-west side of the Vale of Health with undying interest.

Then I remembered how Leigh Hunt had written: ‘Strada Smollett is delightful. By-and-by there will be such streets all over the world. People will know not only the name of a street, but the reason for it.’

Soon I found myself wondering if such an important body as the Town Council or the Board of Works could really be answerable for the sparse bit of brass, and the obscure ‘Hunt’s Cottage’ graven on it, which might mean any man’s cottage of the name of Hunt. There are quite a number in the London Directory, whereas there is only one Leigh Hunt, the author of ‘Rimini’ and ‘The Old Court Suburb,’ etc. Why, if intended to honour the poet, had they deprived him of the Christian name that distinguished him, and has a place in every reader’s memory?

I will not despair of seeing this rectified and expanded, so that all who pass by may see the ‘writing on the wall,’ and know that for some few years of his long life the ‘Pink of Poets,’ as his adverse critics sarcastically called him, resided in one of these cottages, where he wrote the greater part of, and finished, the story of ‘Rimini.’

In 1812, Leigh Hunt, writing from 37, Portland Street, Oxford Road, to Mr. Henry Brougham, tells him that he ‘longs to get into his Hampstead retreat, out of the stir and smoke of London.’ And a little later he informs[200] the same correspondent that he is about to move to a cottage at West End, Hampstead, ‘a really bonâ-fide cottage, with humble ceilings and unsophisticated staircase; but there is green about it, and a garden with laurels.’

I mention this because I think it is to this circumstance he alludes when he writes in his Autobiography that ‘early in the spring of 1816 he went to reside again in Hampstead.’ His friend Charles Cowden Clarke tells us that soon after his release from Horsemonger Lane Gaol[184] Leigh Hunt ‘occupied a pretty little cottage in the Vale of Health.’ And Leigh Hunt himself, in a letter to a friend in 1821, observes, ‘I came to get well in our little packing-case here, dignified with the name of house.’

Again, in later years, in answer to a letter from his friend Mr. Dalby, he says: ‘I defy you to have lived in a smaller cottage than I have done. Yet it has held Shelley and Keats and half a dozen friends in it at once; and they have made worlds of their own within the rooms. Keats’ “Sleep and Poetry” is a description of a parlour that was mine, no larger than an old mansion’s closet.’

Cowden Clarke tells us that when Keats slept there a bed was improvised for him on a couch in Leigh Hunt’s library, a room at the back, rather larger, if I remember, than the parlour.[185] Keats himself writes of it in the poem Leigh Hunt alludes to:

‘For I am brimful of the friendliness
That in a little cottage I have found!’[186]


Whilst Shelley, writing from Italy, tells how Mrs. Williams’ singing of ‘Dorme l’amour’ transports him back to the little parlour at Hampstead. ‘I can see the piano, the prints, the casts, and hear Mary’s [Mrs. Hunt] “Ah! ah! ah!”’ Whenever Leigh Hunt or his friends refer to the Vale of Health cottage, the smallness of the place is, as it were, insisted on, and accentuated by the diminutive ‘little.’


With such evidence as this as to the size and position of the poet’s habitation, it appears a work of superfluity to seek after the site of a dwelling that has never existed except in the generous imagination of those who think talent receives honour from exterior surroundings to which it never made pretence. Leigh Hunt in his pretty little Vale of Health cottage (which, by the way, appears to have been as largely receptive as the kindly heart of its proprietor) was as interesting, as regarded, and as much sought by his friends—and what a cluster of bright names they make!—as if he had inhabited a mansion. The same refined taste that had given[202] grace to his prison room reigned here, and we may depend the roses were not wanting in the little garden-plot that had given living, as well as pictured, beauty to those gloomy walls.[187]

W. Hazlitt.

Here the magnetism of its master, whose personality was even more fascinating than his writings,[188] drew around him a society of the most intellectual and clever men of the day—Hazlitt and Haydon, Telford, Ollier, Charles Cowden Clarke, Charles Lamb, Shelley, the brothers Horace and James Smith, Keats, and many others. Leigh Hunt himself was not only a brilliant talker, but an accomplished musician; he sang and played delightfully, and amongst his friends and frequent guests were the Novellos, a family to which England[203] is much indebted for the growth and appreciation of good music. No wonder, therefore, that Keats should sing:

‘Scarce can I scribble on, for lovely airs
Are fluttering round the room, like doves in pairs.’

Grave Mary Shelley found the recurrence of the host’s fugues, and the masses, madrigals, and part-songs of his musical allies at times too much for her, and she wearied of them, but not of her delightful host.

Of all his friends, Shelley, Charles Lamb, and Keats appear to have kept him closest company. From the first he was soon parted; but genial, ‘gentle Elia,’ and the sensitive yet strong-souled Keats, were his sympathetic friends and frequent companions.

There is no doubt, with all his originality and independence of thought and character, Keats was greatly influenced by Leigh Hunt. Keats’ young enthusiasm and gratitude for Hunt’s encouragement and sympathy made him greatly overrate his mental powers. Both were saturated with the natural beauty of their surroundings—the woods, the fields, and what Bacon would call ‘the winsome air and amenities of the spot.’

Even Shelley owed some of his inspirations to the sweet influences of Hampstead; and we find him loitering in the fields, or leaning, notebook in hand, upon the old gray gate that admitted (notwithstanding the notice to trespassers) to the green glooms of Caen Wood, or one of those other gates, leading up to the charming walk to Highgate, with Caen Wood on one side, and the linked ponds on the other. I pleasure myself in thinking that it may have been in the blue, clear, ambient sky above the Heath that he heard the skylark singing:

‘Like a poet hidden
In the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heedeth not!’


Sometimes he might be seen pensively sauntering in Millfield Lane,[189] between Caen Wood and Highgate, an ideal lane in those days, secluded between great wayside elms and other trees, ‘Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,’ curving in its course, and farther sheltered by high hedges, not looking as if begrudged the ground they occupied, but buttressed by wide, grassy banks, bright with wild-flowers, fragrant with rose and woodbine in their season, and clustered generously with primroses in spring.

Highgate Ponds and Sheep.

Hither came Collins, and Leslie, and Constable, as Gainsborough had done before them, for their foregrounds of soft mosses, that underline the sward in late autumn as down does the breasts of birds; and the big bronze dock-leaves, and vari-coloured toadstools, and the painted cups of scarlet[205] peziza[190] that bloom, as it were, on bits of sere wood and dead branches. A lane so lovely that it charmed the ordinary wayfarer, and inspired poets and artists; so that when, some years ago, a correspondent of the Athenæum drew attention to the fact that official vandalism was destroying its natural loveliness, cutting down some of the fine old trees, and lopping others of the umbrageous branches that had shaded the heads of Coleridge, Keats, Shelley, ‘Elia,’ and Leigh Hunt, as well as those of many of our best known and loved artists, a feeling of general indignation was aroused, and much local influence exerted to stop the farther destruction of a spot so full of interest and association, but with what effect I am ignorant.


To this picturesque old lane, and other lovely bits of Hampstead and its neighbourhood, the triad of poets whose centre was Leigh Hunt’s cottage are indebted for many a rustic image, many an exquisite description of pastoral and[206] woodland scenery. The picturesque old trees, the aerial suggestions, the near cornfields and country lanes, the rippling or moss-muffled rills that then channelled the grassy slopes, and trickled down to the Fleet ditch at Kentish Town, were mentally preserved, to reappear in verse that gives them immortality.

From a boy, Leigh Hunt, whose father at one time lived in Hampstead Square, had been familiar with the beautiful suburb, and for some months before the publication of ‘Rimini’ had been daily wandering about the precincts of Caen Wood, and the grassy land

‘From which the trees as from a carpet rise,
In knolls, and clumps, with rich varieties,’

just as they did on South Hill half a century ago.

There, too, he found his ‘plashy pools with rushes,’ and it may be—for Hampstead Heath has seen many such morns of May:

‘Last of the spring, yet fresh with all its green,
For a warm eve, and gentle rain at night,
Have left a sparkling welcome for the light.
And there’s a crystal clearness all about;
The leaves are sharp, the distant hills look out,
A balmy briskness comes upon the breeze,
The smoke goes dancing from the cottage trees;
And, when you listen, you may hear the coil
Of bubbling springs about the grassy soil.’

It may be that the inception of these felicitously-descriptive lines was due to local influence, for, though written of Italy, they are as true a transcript of many an early summer’s morn at Hampstead (where Crabb Robinson tells us the pleasure of waking and looking out of window from his friend Hammond’s house[191] was worth walking from London overnight to enjoy) as of a waking village landscape in the neighbourhood of Ravenna.

It is otherwise in winter, with snow on the ground, and a fierce wind blowing, for the wind, Leigh Hunt tells us, ‘loses nothing of its fierceness on Hampstead Heath.’ It was on[207] such a bitter winter night that Shelley, in either going to or leaving the little cot in the Vale of Health, found a woman lying insensible on the snow on the top of the hill, and, knocking at the first door he came to, asked to have her taken in and cared for—or, at least, that she might be placed in an outhouse out of the inclement night. Being refused, he made an application at the second house, with the same result. Indignant at this seeming want of charity and the uselessness of his intercession, he took her up, and carried her down the frozen path to his friend’s cottage, the expansiveness of which he well knew when an act of compassion was in question. Nor was it ill bestowed. The woman, who was on her way to Hendon, ‘had been all day attending a criminal court, at which a charge had been made against her son, and, though he had been acquitted, the suspense and agitation, added to fatigue, had affected her so seriously as to produce fits; from which the doctor who was called in asserted she could not have recovered but for the timely care and shelter bestowed upon her.’

Cowden Clarke gives us a glimpse of Shelley on the Heath under other conditions—‘scampering and bounding over the gorse bushes late at night, now close upon us, and now shouting from the height like a wild schoolboy.’ It was on his return to town, after one of his overnight visits to the ‘Hampstead bard,’ that Shelley, accompanied by the latter, astonished the only other inside passenger of the Hampstead coach—a stiffly-silent old gentlewoman, who, in spite of various attempts to draw her into conversation, determinedly maintained a severe reticence—by suddenly exclaiming:

‘For God’s sake, Hunt,

‘Let’s talk of graves, and worms, and epitaphs,
Make dust our paper, and, with rainy eyes,
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth;
Let’s choose executors, and talk of wills’

—a choice of subjects that seemed to scare the lady, and make her look as if she believed herself in the near neighbourhood of one Bedlamite at least.


It was Leigh Hunt who introduced Keats to ‘the old man eloquent’—S. T. Coleridge—whom they met when walking in the fields between Highgate and Hampstead—the upland fields that offered such fair views in those days to the lovers of them. They walked with him two miles, at the end of which Keats tells us that, though the sage had broached a hundred subjects, all he knew was that he had heard his voice as he came towards them, and heard it as he moved away—and all the interim, if he might so express it; but apparently the discourse had no sequence or conclusion, except that utterance of the mild, then somewhat fatuous-looking old man; that it was just as well he did not comprehend, who, after shaking hands with Keats, turned to Leigh Hunt, who lingered in bidding the author of ‘Christabel’ and ‘The Ancient Mariner’ farewell, and whispered to him that he felt death in the touch of the young poet’s hand.

Mrs. Cowden Clarke tells us that Charles C. Clarke introduced Keats, his old friend and schoolmate, to Leigh Hunt in his Vale of Health cottage. But this is a mistake; Hunt himself, in his Autobiography, distinctly says: ‘It was not at Hampstead that I first saw Keats; it was in York Buildings, in the New Road’ (now Euston Road), ‘No. 8, where I wrote part of the “Indicator,” and he resided with me in Mortimer Terrace, Kentish Town, No. 13, where I concluded it.’

Leigh Hunt’s tenancy of his little Vale of Health cottage was but a short one; he went there, as we have seen, in 1816, and early in 1819 we find him writing to C. C. Clarke:

‘As we must certainly move, we have made up our minds to move to Kentish Town, which is a sort of compromise between London and our beloved Hampstead. The London end touches so nearly Camden Town, which is so near London, that Marianne will not be afraid of my returning from the theatres at night, and the country is extremely quiet and rural, running to the woods, and the shops between Hampstead and Highgate.’


Accordingly, on February 15, 1819, he writes from Mortimer Terrace:

‘Hampstead is now in my eye—hill, trees, church, and all the slope of Caen Wood, to my right, and Primrose and Haverstock Hills, with Steele’s cottage, to my left.’

Charles Lamb.

One looks regretfully back to the breaking up of the little literary home in the Vale of Health—the roof under which Hunt tells us that he had introduced Shelley to the young poet Keats; that had welcomed the handsome, brown-faced Charles Lamb, and his always-to-be-pitied sister Mary; where the genial C. Cowden Clarke came and went as he listed, bursting in like a mingling of breeze and sunshine, full of freshness and warmth; and Keats, keenly sensitive and self-contained, who, loving his old schoolmaster’s son, to whom he owed deep obligations—the ‘first to teach him all the sweets of song’—yet thought the laughter-loving Clarke, in spite of his poetical taste, ‘coarse.’ One would fain have kept them a little longer dwellers in ‘sweet Hampstead.’

First Shelley sails away for Dante’s land, whither Hunt and Keats were eventually to follow him—the first to join Lord Byron in a literary enterprise that did not answer its[210] noble projector’s expectations,’[192] and Keats in the companionship and care of his devoted friend, the young and promising artist Severn, with the vain hope of lengthening the thinning thread of life that bound him to earth. Throughout these years of failing health and mental trial Keats was suffering the sordid cares of insufficient means—cares that to an independent, upright spirit such as his, must have been an ever-present source of uneasiness and depression. The critics’ half-hearted verdict on ‘Endymion,’ when, as in the case of some of his reviewers, it was not cruel, must have deeply wounded the sensitive nature of the poet, who had yet the manliness to hide his wounds, and the faith in himself to fall back on the consolation of his own conviction of the vitality of his work. It stirs one with a feeling of indignation, remembering the depreciation of the poem in the poet’s lifetime, to read that at a sale of autographs in the September of the year 1897 the original manuscript of John Keats’ ‘Endymion’ sold for £695.

It has been told me by one who knew Leigh Hunt long subsequent to his return from Italy, that no one who came within the charm of his kindly nature and delightful fancy could refrain from loving him. He was full of friendliness and human sympathy, and ready to render kindness to all who needed it, virtues that made men overlook other short-comings in his character—his vanity and want of a proper feeling of self-dependence: he was too apt to throw himself and his difficulties upon his friends. Mrs. Barbauld could see no beauty in his ‘Rimini’; it is, according to her ideas, ‘most fantastic’; she was without the power of feeling the natural simplicity and picturesqueness of Hunt; to her he was an author, who, ‘in exaggeration of all the slovenliness of the new school, has thought proper to come[211] into public with his neckcloth untied and his stockings about his heels.’ She could not comprehend his originality, or the half-antiquated but expressive phraseology that gave such piquancy to his prose writings, and has made his Essays, as a recent writer has observed, worthy to have a place on the same shelf with those of ‘Elia.’

Long after Leigh Hunt had vacated the little cottage in the Vale of Health another charming reminiscence attaches to the locality.

Leigh Hunt.

Lord Dufferin, in his delightful memoir of his lovely and talented mother, Helen, Lady Dufferin (then Mrs. Blackwood), the writer of many sweet lyrics, tells us that she tenanted one of those toy cottages in the Vale of Health,[193] Hampstead, where she sought health, and found it—so much so that the next summer she took a larger cottage in the same neighbourhood, probably Pavilion Cottage, a rather[212] odd association, which Mr. Baines mentions as having been her ladyship’s abode at one time. He does not name her having lived in one of the smaller cottages previously.

Some time between 1855-60 the Lovells removed from their house in Mornington Crescent, where they had been the near neighbours of George Cruikshank, the Westland Marstons, Mrs. Oliphant, and many other literary and artistic friends, to Vale Lodge, in the Vale of Health, which, as I have elsewhere said, they fully believed to have been the Hampstead home of Leigh Hunt—a representation that, perhaps, the agent, or some other interested person, found useful in letting the house. Though of very modest proportions, it by no means tallied with Leigh Hunt’s description of his ‘little packing-case,’ nor did the parlours (there were more than one) resemble an old mansion’s closets, which the single one in the toy cottage did very closely. Mr. Lovell’s residence here was not a very long one, and the family subsequently removed to Lyndhurst Road.

Since I first knew this part of Hampstead it has grown into quite a large and noisy suburb of the town, and the secluded and rustic character of the Vale has wholly changed. Rows and terraces of fifth-rate houses cover the grassy slopes and gravelly mounds, then crested with furze-bushes and occasional beds of heath, and the turf that, in spite of the thousands of feet that at Easter and Whitsuntide trod it nearly bare, continued to renew itself.

There was not much left for the botanist on the East Heath, but plenty of space and freshness, and the wild simplicity of natural heathland, for the twice yearly throngs of visitors from the dull courts and stifling alleys of London.

Now two large hideous buildings, utterly out of character with the locality, dominate the houses—the one a German club-house, the other used for refreshment-rooms, which have partly put an end to the simple, out-of-doors accommodation of the cottage folk.


The Vale of Health.


This part of the Vale is further vulgarized by what appears to be a stationary steam merry-go-round, swings, etc., additions to the ‘’Appy ’Ampstead’ of ’Arry and ’Arriet, but an eyesore to those who imagine the freshness of leafy trees and greensward would be more real enjoyment to town-worn folk than the conventionalities of a country fair, or a gas-lighted corner off the High Street, Battersea.

Yet, as long as Hampstead survives, and that infelt law of attraction in human hearts to visit the homes of men and women whose thoughts have touched the spirits and enriched the minds of tens of thousands of their fellow-creatures, so long will Hampstead have its pilgrims, and Leigh Hunt’s lowly cottage be sought for.

I can hardly get away from it, with its memories, not only of the poet-essayist, but of his affinities. The best writers, and other men ‘of mark and likelihood,’ in the first decades of our swiftly-waning century, were its guests, and shared those frugal symposia that Cowden Clarke has told us of, severely simple, at which not the viands, but the company, made the feast. And then, on summer evenings, the strolling on to the Heath, of which the cottage was but the vestibule, with Clarke and Shelley, or Lamb and Keats, watching the glorious sunsets from the western heights, and lingering on till twilight deepened and the stars came out. Or waiting at high-tides, till the white moonlight of the summer night enwrapped the woods, and Heath, and shining ponds, and made the whole scene one of ethereal beauty, the charms of which, and of their own converse, belated them, until the early thrush and blackbird serenaded the dawn, and the friends said ‘Good-night’ and ‘Good-morning’ in the same breath.



Caen Wood (or Ken Wood, as Lord Mansfield always spelt it), lying between the villages of Hampstead and Highgate, belongs to neither, but is situated in the parish of St. Pancras, which adjoins Hampstead Heath at the upper corner of Lord Mansfield’s demesne. Part of Caen Wood comes out upon the Heath, from which it has been emparked, and the whole is so nearly connected by neighbourhood and association with the local history of Hampstead, that in writing of the one it is impossible to ignore the other.

Ken Wood, a name which Loudon believed preserved the British one of Kerns, or oak-woods, with which its site was anciently covered, is thought by Lysons to be derived from that of some remote possessor, a family of the name of Kentewoode having in bygone times held land in this neighbourhood and in Kentish Town.

Mr. Lloyd quite recently, in a lecture entitled ‘Caen Wood and its Associations,’ gives it as his opinion that the name comes from the French Caen; and he says that in all probability the Conqueror gave the property to a relation of his own, who, having lands at Caen in Normandy, naturally called his new estate after that town. I give this suggestion, which is very probable, for what it is worth.

In the time of Charles II., I learn from Somers’ Tracts, Ken Wood was not the name of a part only, but of the whole remaining portion of the great woods belonging to the[216] See of London, part of the old Forest of Middlesex, of which Park, with reason, imagines Ken Wood to be a remnant.[194] It is situated in the Manor of Cantleowes, in the north-east corner of the parish of St. Pancras, and ‘is a portion of one of its four great manorial properties, viz., Cantleowes, Kentish Town, St. Pancras, Somerstown, Ruggemere, Marylebone, and Tottenhall, Tottenham Court Road.’[195]

Leaving the names of its more ancient proprietors to the dead past, in 1640-42 Sir James Harrington resided at Ken Wood. He was an active Commonwealth man, and fled beyond seas at the Restoration, having narrowly escaped arrest. Subsequently we find Mr. John Bill, the younger, whose father, John Bill, Esq., one of the King’s printers,[196] had been sequestered for delinquency by the Long Parliament, writing to Sir Harry Vane for his advice touching the purchase of the property, which he (Sir Harry), then—1658—resident in his fine house on Hampstead Hill, knew all about. He reports that the ‘estate of Ken Wood appears to him to require handling well; the home demesne is particularly good, and capable of much improvement, but that little castle of ruinous brick and stone could only be used for materials to build another house. There are nearly thirty acres of waste, as ponds, moate, etc., and a deal of trees to be cut down, and many serious expenses to be considered.’ He adds that it is not worth by £100 the price asked for it, and advises his friend not to purchase—advice which appears to have met with the usual fate of counsel that runs counter to the inclination of the client, for two years afterwards (1660) Mr. John Bill the younger purchased the estate. It then consisted of 280 acres of land, well covered with timber, and the house is described as a ‘capital messuage of brick,[217] wood, and plaster.’ That ‘little castle of ruinous brick and stone’ on the demesne must have been a mere excrescence, a relic of more antique times. There were, besides, eight cottages, a farmhouse, windmill, and fishponds.[197] The windmill occupied the summit of what is now known as Parliament Hill, where, says my authority, ‘the trench formed by the removal of its foundation is still to be traced.’[198]

It was, no doubt, the Manor Mill, a source of much profit to the Lord, ‘the tenants being compelled to grind their corn there, at his own price.’ Having ‘found a place that he could live in with comfort,’ as he expresses it, Mr. John Bill married Diana, daughter of Mildmay, Earl of Westmoreland, and widow of John Pelham, Esq., of Brokesly, Lincolnshire, whose name the lady preferred and retained. The St. Pancras register for 1661 records the baptism of Diana, daughter of John Bill and Lady Pelham, at Caen Wood, an event that inspired James Howell, the author of ‘Poems on Several Choice and Various Subjects: Lond. 1663,’ to write one

‘Of Mrs. Diana Bill,
Born and Baptized lately in Cane Wood,
Hard by Highgate.’

The title is sufficiently curious, and so are the lines that follow, for which I refer my readers to Lysons, or Park.

I am reminded that Pepys in his Diary records that he and Lady Bill (a well-bred but crooked woman) stood sponsors for a friend’s child. Meanwhile Mr. Bill has been busy with his estate, and has surrounded twenty-five acres of it with a brick wall. In 1661 occurred the strange outbreak[199] of the Fifth Monarchy men, who, being driven out[218] from St. John’s and Hornsey Woods, took refuge in Cane Wood (as it was then written). Here flew their banner, with its wild motto, ‘The King Jesus, with their heads on the gate!’—that gate, as someone writes, that from reign to reign ‘resembled a butchery with the heads and quarters of men.’

Here Venner, preacher and cooper, with his scanty handful of followers, for three days in mid-winter, when Mr. Pepys’ pew was gay with rosemary and bays, kept their woody stronghold, and prayed and starved, till Raresby, ‘who wanted a little action,’ rode out with a band of soldiers and surrounded them. Even then Venner, who fought desperately, would not suffer himself to be taken till he was badly wounded, and most of his party cut down or prisoners. In 1673, much to his wife’s (Lady Pelham) satisfaction, we may be sure, the name of John Bill, Esq., appears in the list of Middlesex gentry, an honour he survived for seven years, dying at Caen Wood in 1680. He was buried in Hampstead Church. Their only daughter—and, I believe, their only child, for in his will he desired that the estate might be sold at the death of his wife—had in the meantime married Captain Francis D’Arcy Savage, and died, his widow, May 23, 1726. She ‘lies buried,’ Park tells us, ‘against the north wall in Barnes churchyard.’

Nine years after the death of Mr. Bill, the estate of Caen Wood was the residence of a Mr. Withers; and some time prior to 1698 Mr. William Bridges, Surveyor-General of the Ordnance, resided here.

When Mackey wrote his ‘Tour through England’ (1720), Ken Wood had become the property of one Dale, an upholsterer, who is said to have bought it out of the ‘Bubbles.’[200] His hold upon it appears to have been quite as fleeting, for he very soon mortgaged it to Lord Hay for £1,575. Fifteen years later we find his lordship bringing an action[201] to foreclose, on the plea that he can neither get principal nor[219] interest from him, and that a second mortgage had been made to William, Lord Forbes, and the mortgagee had suffered the house to go to ruin, had felled a quantity of timber, and committed great waste. The end was that, after being allowed six months to pay £1,907 7s. 6d. (October 24, 1724), the miserable upholsterer found himself absolutely foreclosed of all equity of redemption of the mortgaged property, and shortly after, February, 1725, the same order was made against Lord Forbes, the second mortgagee. ‘This is interesting,’ says Mr. Lloyd, ‘as showing the value of the property 167 years ago. It is set out as a messuage, pleasure-grounds, orchards, kitchen-garden, paddock, and woodlands, with four ponds, covering 22 acres, together with £5 per annum parcel of £15 a year secured upon lease granted to the Governors of the Waterworks. Yet, all this only brought as much as would cover the first mortgage, under £2,000—little more than £100 per acre; and yet within the last three years (1892) some 200 acres of the adjoining bare land has been sold by Lord Mansfield for public purposes at £1,000 per acre! and the vendor was so completely master of the situation as to compel the erection of a fence by the public of something approaching the value of the fee simple of the estate when it was sold by order of the Court in 1724; and doubtless it would have sold for more if cut up for building purposes.’

In the same year that Lord Hay recovered the estate the famous Duke of Argyle purchased it; and at his death he left it to his nephew, Lord Bute.

Horace Walpole, his old schoolfellow, describes him as a man of taste, who he thinks ‘meant well.’ He was said to be the favourite of the Dowager Princess of Wales (mother of George III.), who, according to the above authority, forced the King to employ him. He proved a weak and incompetent Minister, who, in his desire to fuse all parties, offended all. He married the only daughter of the celebrated Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the sometime friend and correspondent of Horace Walpole and Pope, and, Court[220] scandal apart, proved passably amiable in his domestic relations.[202]

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, in her letters to her daughter, tells her that she well remembers Caen Wood (she spells it Kane Wood[203]) House, and cannot wish her a more agreeable place. But in those days the house was comparatively insignificant, and the gardens and grounds not nearly so extensive or so well laid out as at present. Neither was it so secluded or self-contained. The road to Highgate at this time came close up to the principal entrance.

A wood called Turner’s Wood adjoined it, which became in 1737 the site of the very original and favourite place of amusement, New Georgia—a tea-drinking house, and pleasure-grounds, with waterworks, and various ingenious contrivances laid out, invented, and executed by a sexagenarian, who appears to have had considerable mechanical skill, and some humour in his application of it. The cottage, on which an inscription set forth that he, Robert Caxton, had built it with his own hands,[204] contained several rooms, in one of which a chair sank on a person sitting in it, while another contained a pillory, into which, when a gentleman put his head, he could only be extricated by a lady kissing him—a grace which the free manners of the times allowed on the part of maids or matrons without the fear of scandal or the police-courts. We learn from contemporary writings that this contrivance became exceedingly popular, and the Connoisseur[205] informs us ‘that it made a favourite[221] Sunday recreation of the citizens to put their necks into the pillory at New Georgia.’[206]

But the close neighbourhood of this popular place of resort could scarcely have added to the charms of Ken Wood or the peace of its noble proprietor, and accordingly, some time subsequent to 1755, ‘for a cause that did him honour’ (the payment of his debts), Lord Bute sold Ken Wood to the then Attorney-General, the erewhile Mr. Murray of the Chicken House.

Turner’s Wood, with the humorous cottage, garden, ponds, labyrinths, etc., became absorbed in the grounds of that domain.[207]

Notwithstanding the sneers of Malone, it is impossible, in tracing the career of Mr. Murray, not to agree with Boswell’s opinion of him, that he was ‘no mere lawyer.’ The life-long friend and companion of some of the greatest wits and writers of his time (and there were giants in those days) must have had more in him than good company to have deserved, and retained, their friendship, or to have felt sympathy in their society. There is more poetry in human nature than finds expression in verse; the courage, faith, and self-reliance—precious but easily packed possessions—that sat as lightly in the breast of the poor but well-born boy as he himself upon the rough Scotch pony on which he made his two months’ journey to the Metropolis, like the younger son in a fairy tale, with three good gifts for his portion, have in themselves the elements of poetry. He seems through life to have retained these gifts, and to have owed to a strong will, brave heart, and noble ambition, the achievement of eminence that has won him a historical name, independent of his father’s, and has[222] made that of Mansfield little less memorable than that of Murray.

Roscoe tells us that his success was the legitimate and logical result of the means he sedulously employed to secure it. Remembering his want of wealth, the well-known predilections of his house for that of the Stuarts, and his consequent want of influence with those in power, it is pretty evident that in the early part of his professional life he had no honours thrust upon him that he had not hardly and justly earned. Ten years before the purchase of Ken Wood, in the ever historically memorable 1745, we find Mr. Murray, then Solicitor-General, called before the Privy Council and put to his purgation touching his suspected Jacobite tendencies, being accused (though a Westminster boy at the time) of having drunk the Pretender’s health upon his knees; and also that on the trial of the Scotch rebels, instead of applying to them the latter epithet, he had referred to them as ‘unfortunate gentlemen.’ Yet in the next year, when the heads of the Lords Lovat, Kilmarnock, and Balmerino had fallen on Tower Hill, the astute Scotch lawyer maintained his legal and social status; but when, eight years later, he was made Attorney-General (1754), it is said that he was so afraid of the accusation he had been called to answer before the Privy Council being brought against him in the House of Commons that he offered his Sovereign, George II., to resign his place, saying that ‘the person who served His Majesty in that high office should not be suspected of treason.’ ‘Sir,’ replied the King, ‘were I able to replace you with as able a man as yourself, I might perhaps permit you to give up your place.’

A year afterwards he became Chief Justice of the King’s Bench (1755), and entered the House as Baron Mansfield.

Recollecting his passionate admiration of the neighbourhood of Ken Wood (I call it so because he did), his purchase of it reads like the crowning chapter of a romance. It was Lord Mansfield who first declared that the air of England was too pure for a slave to breathe, and that every man[223] who inspires it is free!—a decision pronounced in favour of a runaway negro, James Somerset.[208]

He decided against the barbarous custom of wrecking then, and till comparatively modern times, prevalent upon our coasts. He also favoured freedom of religious opinion, gave literary copyright to authors, and is said to have been the founder of the commercial law of this country. But his liberality only extended to a certain limit. He took the part of the Crown against the North Americans’ righteous resistance to taxation[209] without representation; and he would have restricted the liberty of the press. He had not sufficient magnanimity to forego monopoly of his highly-paid offices, for it was said of him that ‘next to the King he regarded the coinage,’ and had a keen appetite for emoluments.[210]

About the years 1767-68 he had become so thoroughly unpopular, that not only were the public prints filled with abuse of him, but the very potters emphasized this feeling by making him figure disagreeably on articles of pottery and porcelain. At a recent sale of ceramic ware, I remember to have met with a curious example on a Chelsea porcelain punch-bowl, which was painted with portraits of John Wilkes in a shield surmounted by the British lion, with Lords Camden and Temple as supporters, inscribed ‘Wilkes and Liberty!’ with the motto underneath, ‘Always ready in a good cause,’ and a pendent portrait of Lord Mansfield, surmounted by a serpent, with George III. and the devil as supporters, and underneath a motto, ‘Justice en pettee!’

But the silver-tongued Murray bore all this, and much more, with apparent equanimity, and exhibited even to his political enemies a heroic moderation. To his honour, he assisted in reversing the sentence of outlawry against Wilkes, who had returned from abroad in 1767, and had been chosen to represent Middlesex. On that occasion we find from his speech that he was suffering from a similar persecution to[224] that complained of by the late Lord Chief Justice during a famous trial[211]: ‘Numerous crowds attending in and about the hall;’ ‘audacious addresses, dictating to us from those they call the people the judgments to be given;’ ‘reasons of policy being urged from danger to the kingdom by commotions and general confusion.’ ‘I pass over,’ said his lordship, ‘many anonymous letters I have received.... The threats go farther than the abuse; personal violence is denounced. I do not believe it. It is not the genius of the[225] worst men of this country in the worst times. But I have set my mind at rest. The last end that can happen to any man never comes too soon if he falls in support of the law and liberty of his country ... for liberty is synonymous with law!’

Lord W. Mansfield.

In the ‘Historical Chronicle’ of the Gentleman’s Magazine, under the date of January 1, 1773, it is recorded: ‘This day the Right Hon. Lord Mansfield entertained at his house at Caen Wood, near Hampstead, about four hundred people, and gave each a half-crown and a quartern loaf after dinner.’

Years of scarcity were but too common in the last century, and this might have been one. Under any circumstances such seasonable hospitality was calculated to make the donor popular with the masses, yet seven years later, in the course of the Gordon Riots, when, under pretence of religious zeal, the mob resented his lordship’s supposed favour of Catholicism,[212] we find Horace Walpole writing to the Countess of Ossory, June 7, 1780, that Lord Mansfield’s house in Bloomsbury was in ashes, and that George Selwyn had just told him that 5,000 men were marching on Kane Wood. ‘It is true,’ he adds, ‘and that 1,000 of the Guards are gone after them.’ Then, by way of postscript: ‘Kane Wood is saved! It will probably be a black night. I am decking myself with blue ribbands like a May-day garland.’

But Horace Walpole was not alone in adopting blue ribands on that occasion. Every wayfarer donned the same colour, and every house had a blue flag or favour hung out. The very Jews inscribed on their dwellings, ‘This house true Protestant’; and chalk was in great request,[226] affording as it did an easy washable way of asserting ‘No Popery!’ The father of Grimaldi chalked up, ‘No Religion!’

We already know the result of the raid on Ken Wood, and the enterprise of the quick-witted landlord of the Spaniards.[213]

Literature still deplores the loss of his lordship’s fine library, his splendid collection of law books and autograph letters, but most of all his private notes and papers, which it is said had been accumulating for fifty years.

The Spaniards.

All his contemporaries bear witness to the calmness and dignity with which he bore this irreparable loss,[214] nor (for all that is said of his love of money) would he accept of any pecuniary compensation for it. His hard, inflexible animosity to his noble opponent, Lord Chatham, whose death ‘he witnessed without compassion, whose funeral he refused to[227] attend, and when the House moved for a pension to be granted to the widow and her children had kept silence, voting neither one way nor the other,’[215] was the great moral blot on Lord Mansfield’s character. But on this occasion of keen mental pain and bitter personal disappointment—far beyond his great monetary loss—he exhibited no vindictiveness against the perpetrators of it, and himself directed the acquittal of Lord George Gordon.

One wonders if he came face to face in the hour of his calamity with the memory of his own past want of mercy, and recognised in fire and the devastation of his best-prized treasures the form of a protean Nemesis.

Not long after this event Mrs. Boscawen, writing to her friend Mrs. Delany, tells her that she has called at Ken Wood; that Lord Mansfield appears to bear his trial with great equanimity, but that Lady Mansfield is looking very ill.

It was a happy thing for the Chief Justice that, like his neighbour and friend Erskine (notwithstanding all their occasional professional antagonism), he too found pleasure in simple things, especially in the improvement of his grounds; and though not so ardent and practical an arborist as Lord Erskine, several of the trees in the demesne are of his plantings—especially the cedars of Lebanon, which make so interesting an appearance in the grounds opposite the house. There are three of them, planted at the angles of an equilateral triangle, and, unlike most cedars of Lebanon, they grow from 50 to 60 feet high without branches. The trunk of the largest measures in girth, just above the ground, 24 feet.[216]

Another source of relief from mental corrosion was his fondness for the society of young persons, and it is pleasant to learn from a letter in the correspondence of Mrs. Delany[228] that twelve months after the Gordon Riots he had recovered, if, indeed, he had ever lost, his accustomed serenity.

This lady, then in her eighty-first year, was visiting Mrs. Boscawen (widow of the Admiral) at Glanville, Colney Hatch, and she writes to her niece under the date of July 23, 1781:

‘Last Friday Lady Mansfield and Miss Murray (grand-niece to the Lord Chief Justice) came here from Kenwood, and invited Mrs. Boscawen and all her guests to dine there yesterday, which we did. A most agreeable day it proved, Lord Mansfield in charming spirits; and after dinner he invited me to walk round his garden and through his wood; and by the time we came back to tea it was eight o’clock. We had walked two miles at least, and though I felt a little tired, the pleasure of the place and his conversation made me not sensible of it till I came home.’

This walk was most probably the serpentine path which is mentioned by Brewer, nearly two miles in extent, and which conducted round the most interesting part of the grounds, and through the large and venerable woods. In this perambulation some charming views occur, revealing landscapes wholly unconnected with the demesne, but which add greatly to its apparent extent and picturesqueness. Looking at an engraving of Caen Wood House, taken after its restoration and enlargement by Robert Adam, and subsequently Saunders, soon after it came into the possession of the then Attorney-General, it looks a fitting home for learned leisure, or the refreshment of one weary of the toil of public life. Handsome without magnificence, lapped amongst bowery woods, with charming views, fine gardens, water, and beautifully laid-out grounds. We read that within the house the arrangements were more imposing than the exterior would suggest, the rooms being large, lofty, and well proportioned.[217][229] Amongst the pictures were several portraits of celebrated men, notably two by Pope (who took lessons of Jarvis, the face-painter), the famous head of Betterton, the actor, and the portrait of the poet himself. After the burning of his lordship’s house in Bloomsbury Grove, hundreds of persons called at Caen Wood to inquire if Pope’s portrait had been saved.[218] Lord Mansfield lived to be eighty-six years of age, and voluntarily resigned in 1788 (not a day, it was said, before it was imperatively necessary for him to do so) the Lord Chief Justiceship of the Court of King’s Bench, which he had held for thirty-two years.

Caen Wood House.

When Fanny Burney, on the occasion of her visit to Mrs. Crewe at Hampstead, was taken by that lady to see, amongst other places of interest, Caen Wood, she tells us Lord Mansfield had not been out of his room for four years, though he continued to see his intimate friends.

His last years, she is careful to note, were brightened by the assiduous attentions and tender care of his nieces, the Hon. Miss Murrays. He died March, 1793.


Lord Mansfield was noted for the charming quality of his voice—an immense force in oratory, helping as it does to sway the feelings of the audience. Pope is said to have had this charm in so remarkable a degree that in his childhood he was called ‘the little nightingale,’ a term more applicable to vocalization than to speaking, and, like Pope, Murray had studied elocution.


He is said to have had a greed for money-getting, and never to have given an opinion gratis or unprofessionally. There is a story told of a lady who, wishing to have the authority of his ideas upon the subject of the French Revolution, inquired how he thought it would end, and was answered that, ‘as the event was without precedent, so the end was without prognostic,’ a sentence that could not have greatly added to her enlightenment.

It was through Lord Mansfield’s suggestion that the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn are in possession of Hogarth’s picture of ‘Paul before Felix.’ A legacy of £200[231] had been left to the Inn, and as the best way of spending it his lordship recommended the Benchers to employ Hogarth to paint them the picture, which hangs, or did hang, in the Benchers’ old hall.

It is pleasant to record of Lord Mansfield that, at a time when the criminal law of England was Draconic in its indiscriminating severity, he, as a rule, leaned to the side of mercy. It was Lord Mansfield who directed a jury to find a stolen trinket less in value than ten shillings in order that the thief might escape capital punishment, to which the jeweller who prosecuted demurred, asserting that the fashion of the thing had cost him twice the money. ‘Gentlemen,’ replied the judge, with grave solemnity, ‘we ourselves stand in need of mercy; let us not hang a man for the fashion’s sake!’

His kinsman and successor, the second Earl of Mansfield, spent much of his time at Hampstead, of which he was also a warm admirer; and when, in the autumn of 1829, it became necessary for the freeholders and copyholders to consider what measures should be taken for the preservation of their own privileges, and the prevention of further encroachments on the Heath, by breaking up and destroying the herbage, for the digging and selling of sand, etc., and also to oppose the further progress of what was called Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson’s Estate Bill, which had actually arrived at its last stage in the House of Lords without their knowledge,[219] and, consequently, without a voice being raised against it, Lord Mansfield wrote to the committee promising to support the opposition, and subscribing £50 towards the necessary expenses.

Six years later, in the summer of 1835, Caen Wood received the honour of a royal visit, in the gaiety and gratulation of which event Hampstead naturally shared. Their Majesties William IV. and his amiable Queen, Adelaide, on[232] whom kindness sat more easily than state, had announced their intention of being present at a garden-party to be given by the Earl and Countess of Mansfield, and forthwith the loyalty of the village, whose church bells had not rung out on such an occasion since the passing by of Queen Mary, wife of William III., in the summer of the year of her death—1694—was put upon its mettle how best to demonstrate itself. Eventually the exultation and excitement of the inhabitants, guided by the good taste of the gentlemen (there were a hundred of them) who had formed themselves into a committee of management, took the pretty form of dressing the houses on the line of route from Rosslyn Hill to the top of Heath Street with green boughs, flowers, and variegated lamps. At the entrance of the Heath, just short of the White Stone Pond, the decorations culminated in a triumphal arch, not quite as large as Temple Bar, but far more ornamental. It spanned the road, and was draped with the royal standard and St. George’s banner, and many other flags, the bright colours of which, mingled with garlands and festoons of flowers and greenery, lent themselves well to picturesque effect.[220]

On either side were enclosed recesses for the ladies privileged by rank or courtesy to represent the élite of the neighbourhood; and here their Majesties’ carriage was to pause while Colonel Bosanquet, chairman of the committee, read a loyal address. The rejoicings were to end with a pyrotechnic display upon the Heath and the illumination of the village.

The day was radiant, as days will sometimes be even in England in the solstitial season, and Caen Wood, with its fifty acres of flower-garden and pleasure-grounds, its leafy woods and park, and sheet of water, broken by groups of trees, and crossed by an artificial bridge at a distance, looked its very best, especially from the terrace along the south[233] front of the mansion, on which a state sofa had been prepared for their Majesties. On this occasion the whole suite of apartments on the ground-floor had been thrown open to the company, the principal dining-room being reserved for the royal party.

If we look back to the Court Journal of that day, we shall find that the six carriages, in the last of which, drawn by four white horses, were the King and Queen, entered the village of Hampstead a little after 4 p.m. The parochial authorities had met them at the boundary of the parish; charity children were drawn up in ranks and had saluted them; and the spectators all along the line of road from Tottenham Court Road to Chalk Farm had made the air resonant with hearty cheers, which were caught up and continued all the way to Caen Wood.

A royal salute notified their Majesties’ arrival at Hampstead. A moment after hurrying avant-couriers appear on the edge of the Heath. The band of the 1st Life Guards struck up the National Hymn, the tiers of elegantly-dressed women rose on either side of the triumphal arch, at the entrance of which the royal carriage stopped, the steps were let down, and Colonel Bosanquet and a deputation of the committee approached. The Colonel, bowing profoundly, laid a white-gloved hand on the carriage door, and, apologizing for arresting their Majesties’ progress, read the address of the loyal inhabitants of Hampstead. Whereupon the King answered that he received with pleasure on the part of himself and the Queen the loyal expressions of the inhabitants of all classes of the parish and ‘beautiful village of Hampstead.’ Let that phrase be remembered as an unpremeditated pearl of praise from the lips of Majesty, in sight of the loveliness of views expanding on both sides of him, an echo intensified, as it were, of Constable’s ‘sweet Hampstead.’

Thence to Caen Wood, as we have said, the route was a popular ovation, the way lined with spectators and carriages that were filled with them. At Mansfield House—so we find[234] it called at this date, their Majesties were received at the north entrance by Lord and Lady Mansfield, the Ladies Murray, and Lord Stormont, then a boy of seven years of age; while a brilliant company (700 in number) gathered in the grounds, where tents and marquees shone white upon the lawns. Small boats, decked with flags, floated on the water or glided to and fro, giving colour and animation to its surface. The woods echoed to the notes of the Styrian Hunters[221] and the Coldstream band; and subsequent to the banquet, when the twilight deepened into dusk, and the lake, boats and bridge appeared outlined with coloured lights, and many of the trees entwined with them, the whole resembled fairyland. Their Majesties remained till past ten o’clock, and departed amidst the same enthusiastic crowds of loyal people and the same manifestations of popular regard, every house in the ‘beautiful village’ along the line of road vying with its neighbour in illuminated devices, ciphers, etc.

At Caen Wood the ‘pleasures of the place,’ the dance music of Weippert’s band, the delicious strains of the Coldstreams, and various other devices of delight, kept the company enthralled till

‘Some stars the tranquil brow of heaven still crowned;
The birds upon the trees sang one by one.
Dark night had flown, bright day was not yet come.’

This was the first and last semi-state visit of royalty to Hampstead. The drive along the Broad Walk and by Caen Wood and Fitzroy Farm is said to have been a favourite one with Queen Victoria in her early days, on which a strict privacy was observed. But on philanthropical occasions, when the Divine gift of charity is supposed to be largely moved by the honour of presenting purses to royal receivers of them, kind-hearted Princes and Princesses have never been wanting; and once, on the occasion of a benevolent and[235] unforgotten function by those who witnessed it, the opening of Vane House as an asylum for soldiers’ daughters, the Prince Consort himself inaugurated it, and was right loyally received.

But of late years neither the ‘beautiful village’ of Hampstead nor the sylvan beauty of Caen Wood had power to lure the third Lord Mansfield, who was High Constable of Scone, from his Northern palace for more than three months in the year. In the absence of the proprietor, this charming demesne—one of the brightest jewels, as it were, in the coronet of his ancestral honours—has been left to solitude and comparative neglect.

The late Lord Mansfield died at his Castle of Scone, August 2, 1898. He was born February 20, 1806. Caen Wood House is now in the hands of his grandson, Lord Stormont having died during his father’s lifetime.

In 1825 the peaceful shades of Caen Wood were the scene of a sad domestic tragedy, for here, in a wood near the house, Colonel James Hamilton Stanhope, who was on a visit to his father-in-law, the second Lord Mansfield, committed suicide. The unhappy gentleman had long been suffering from mental depression, the result of an unhealed gunshot wound he had received at the siege of San Sebastian.

It is pleasant to hear that the present owner of the beautiful demesne is likely to reside there more frequently than his predecessor.



The appearance of the Upper Heath, as that portion of it beyond Jack Straw’s Castle to the north-west is called, shows that the purchase of it for the sake of its preservation was not a day too soon, while as far as preserving the primitive beauty of the Heath, it was years too late.

The surface, originally flush with the paddock near the North End Hill, has been delved by sand and gravel diggers into a series of pits and hollows, with corresponding mounds and hillocks. At one period (1811), owing to the multiplicity of building operations going on, upwards of twenty loads a day passed through Hampstead, besides the quantity taken away by other roads.

Looking at the ravaged Heath as it appeared in 1872, it would seem as if this wholesale devastation had been going on ever since, without reference to anything but the market value of the deep layer of gravelly sand which geologists tell us overlays the Heath in places to the depth of 80 feet. No doubt the barren appearance of the surface east of the Spaniard Road and in the vicinity of the Vale of Health may be attributed to the removal of this gravelly substratum till the clay was reached, which formed the vari-coloured hillocks that used to make quite a feature of this portion of the landscape. Subsequently, as we have seen, the highest part of the Heath was treated as one huge gravel-pit, the purchasers of which dug out their loads any and[237] every where, encroaching within my memory on the Fir-tree Avenue, in front of the historic houses at Park Gate, as this entrance to the Heath continues to be called; and, not content with delving it in the open, the purchasers were permitted to ruthlessly dig out the sand from under and between the roots of the fine old trees, undermining many of them, and leaving them a prey to the first tempest.

In this way nearly all the trees on this part of the Heath have suffered; and to this cause may be attributed the fragmentary condition of the Stone Pine Avenue, and the curious exposition at one time of the efforts of some of the remaining ones to support themselves by sending pile-like roots into the ground on the side on which they are most exposed to tempests. Fortunately for their existence, the Board of Works have taken steps to preserve their weird beauty to the Heath, and protect the groups of elm and ash and other trees, which so long as the season of leafage and blossom remains to them will literally keep green the memory of that lover of Nature, the planter of the majority of them, Mr. Turner, of Thames Street.

Naturalists and geologists may still find here abundant materials for their studies,[222] and the geology of Hampstead Heath would in capable hands prove a most interesting chapter in its history. But the writer is not a geologist, so must be content to summarise what others have said, or written, of it.

Time was when a sea a hundred fathoms deep rolled over the present site of London and the lands around it.[223] Evidence of its having been above Hampstead Hill is found in the deposits it left on the summit of it.

On the highest part of the Heath there lies a horizontal bed of light-coloured ferruginous sand, mostly coarse and[238] gritty; but an admixture of fine sand and thin bands of loam occurs in places, which, like the sand, is destitute of fossils.

In the lowest part of the deposit it becomes more clayey, and passes gradually to sandy clay, and eventually to the stiff blue clay called London Clay. Many well-preserved fossils are found in the sandy clay, which proves that the deposit was formed 50 fathoms below the sea-level; while the fossils of the London Clay indicate a much deeper sea.[224]

The lowest portion of the sandy clay is known by the appearance of swampy ground, and by the oozing out of the springs, as in Well Walk, in Conduit Fields, and at North End. It is the property of clay to hold up water, and the lower part of the sand, through which it percolates, lying horizontally on the clay, and becoming very full, the water comes out at the edges of the hill, especially at the places indicated. The sandy clay leading down to the London Clay is about 50 feet thick, and from that at Child’s Hill beautiful marine shells, quite perfect, showing that they had neither been rolled nor drifted, were found at a depth of 30 feet in an excavation for drainage in the Finchley Road (Child’s Hill, 1872). Below this comes the stiff London Clay, about 350 feet thick.

The chalk at Hampstead Hill is another proof of its submarine formation. This is many feet thick, and is pure carbonate of lime, composed of minute sea-shells, and must have taken an immense period of time to form. There have been found in it hard portions of animals similar to those which now dwell in the sea. So many evidences exist around the British Islands of change of levels, both by elevation and depression, that there is no improbability in supposing that Hampstead Hill has through past ages been gradually raised from below the level of the sea, and at times has been again depressed, which change geologists believe[239] to have taken place more than once, the hill not taking its present form till after several upheavals.

The changes of temperature must have been as vast as the geological ones. Tropical animals—large elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotami, etc.—are said by Professor Owen to have inhabited the neighbourhood of Hampstead; and though no evidence remains here of the glacial period, icebergs floated at Finchley, and left their deposits in the shallows of the sea that covered it, and doubtless at that period Hampstead was covered with thick ice. The fossil nautilus, sharks’ teeth, and the plates and spines of echini,[225] have frequently been found, the latter in gravel-pits upon the Heath. Modern geologists have stated that the sand at the top of the Heath is only a small patch, very irregular in shape, and that there was another patch on the top of Highgate; and it is suggested that perhaps these were formerly connected, but that the depression of the ground at Caen Wood may have swept the sand from them. Park, on the other hand, observes ‘that vast quantities of sand exist at Hampstead, the Heath being covered with it at an average to the depth of 10 feet, though in some places it is more than 25 feet in depth, notwithstanding the length of time it has been supplying the Metropolis and intermediate villages.’ Could both be thinking of the same stratum?

That the Heath is covered with sandy gravel (in fact, the Heath is confined to the sand) is sufficiently apparent to the ungeological eye, especially in this rugged and denuded portion of it. It has been a vexed question with the artists and the conservators of the Heath whether to fill up these irregularities of the surface or leave them to Nature’s healing. Already, taking advantage of the past year or two’s rest from aggression, she has covered the scarred places with her green mantle, and crowding fronds of common brake have taken to grow on the graves of its old habitat. Great spaces amongst the gravel-pits have been brilliant with the glittering[240] flowers of the common broom, and where the unquenched springs still drain themselves into pools and shallows, stocks of willow-wood have in some instances been driven, which have taken root and put forth branches, and in a few more seasons will be vigorous trees.

Our hope is that the present conservators of the Heath, to whom great praise is due for the visible improvement in its appearance, will be patient with this seemingly most hopeless portion of it, and leave the rest to the great Mother’s care. In time the rugged superficies will round and soften, and the hollows be converted into bosky dells, tangles of woodbine, wild-rose, and arching brambles. We have already seen indications of the return of Erica cinerea and E. tetralix, once common on the Heath, and the tufted stems and silvery lilac flowers of the indigenous heather.

If loving hands a little after harvest-time would bring an alms of hips and haws and mountain-ash berries and drop them carelessly about the turf, the birds would scatter them, and help to bring back beauty to the Heath, that wild beauty that is Nature’s own, and, though quite unpremeditated, is ever in agreement with its surroundings.

For the geological part of this chapter I am indebted to notes taken of a lecture on ‘Hampstead Hill in Past Ages,’ delivered by C. Evans, Esq., F.G.S., in Rosslyn Hill Schoolroom, March, 1872.



In the chain of ponds which make so charming a feature between Highgate and Caen Wood, or in some of them at least, we have, according to the brothers Storer,[226] all that remains visible of the river Fleet, which originally formed them. The others are as old as the time of Henry VIII., and owe their existence to the necessities of the citizens of London for a better water-supply. The ancient springs, which previous to 1544 abundantly supplied the city, had about that time ‘diminished and abated to the great discomodity of the inhabitants, and the threatened decay of the said Citie, if a speedy remedy was not provided.’ We learn that Sir William Boyer, Knight (subsequently Mayor of London), called ‘unto him dyvers grave and expert persons,’ who, by ‘diligent search and exploracion found dyvers great and plentiful springes at Hamstede Heath, and other places within five miles of London, very meet, proper, and convenient, to be brought and conveyed to the same.’ Upon which an Act was passed to empower the said Mayor and Commonalty to lay pipes, dig pits, and erect conduits in the grounds of all persons whatsoever, making satisfaction to the proprietors of the soil. Special provision being made for the protection of the springs ‘at the foot of the hyll of the sayde Heath, called Hamstede Heath, now closed in with brick for the comodity and necessary use of the inhabitants of the towne of Hamstede.’


These works were carried on in 1589-90 by Sir John Hart, and about the same time the course of the ancient river Fleet, which rose on the south slope of Hampstead Hill, and fell into the Thames at Blackfriars, being much choked and decayed, it was undertaken that by draining divers springs about Hampstead Heath into one head and course (for which £666 17s. 4d. were collected by order of the Common Council), and connecting the rivulets with Turnmill Brook, or the river of Wells[227] and the Old Bourne, which rose in a clear stream near Holborn Bar, that both the city should be served of fresh water in all places of want, and also that by such a follower (as men call it) the channel of this brook should be scoured into the river. But by continual encroachment on its banks, and casting of refuse into the stream, after much money had been spent to little purpose, the Fleet became more ‘choaken’ than before. Subsequently the springs were leased out by the City of London (1692), and the Hampstead Water Company was formed, whose office, Maitland tells us, was in his time in Denmark Street, St. Giles’s, to which belonged two main pipes of 7-inch bore, which brought water from the ponds at Highgate and Hampstead.

In a terrier of the Manor of Hampstead, taken about the end of the seventeenth century, to which Park had access, he found among the copyholds ‘the Upper Pond on the Heath, stated to contain three roods thirty perches. The Lower Pond on ditto, one acre one rood thirty-four perches.’ In Park’s time the Hampstead Water Company still supplied some parts of the neighbourhood of Tottenham Court.

As a result of this speculation, it may not be uninteresting[243] to subjoin the following paragraph, which appeared in the Times of August 4, 1859:

‘Yesterday at the Auction Mart, Mr. Marsh offered to public sale twenty-five shares in the property of this company (the Hampstead Water-Works), which was formed in 1692, having for its object to raise a capital for the supply of water from springs within the parishes of St. Pancras, Hampstead and Hornsey, the right to which had become vested in the promoters under the lease from the City of London, the lease being renewed from time to time. By an arrangement recently effected with the New River Company, the renewed lease and the property have been transferred to the New River Company for the consideration of an annuity of £3,500, payable in perpetuity by the New River Company, being at the rate of £5 16s. 6d. per share on the 600 shares of the company.’

The shares sold at from £100 to £110 per share. In 1870, when the preservation of the Heath was almost accomplished, Mr. Le Breton stated at a vestry meeting that he had been ‘to the New River Company to make out the history of these ponds, and he had heard what we have just recited, that they had formerly belonged to the Hampstead Water-Works, whose rights were bought by the New River Company. So far as they could learn, the land was still vested in the Lord of the Manor. The company had a right to the easement of the water, but not in the land. It was said there was a lease of the ponds for 999 years; the secretary of the New River Company seemed to think they only had a right to the water, and Sir John Wilson was very anxious that the ponds should remain as ornaments to the Heath’—a desire in which every lover of the picturesque must join him.

Hughson has fallen into the error of regarding Turnmill Brook, or the River of Wells, as one and the same with the Fleet, simply because, as already stated, it was ultimately included in its outlet; but a little examination and research would have shown him that at the time of the making of[244] Domesday Book, the Fleete, the Tybourne, and the Brent, were the principal streams which carried the waters from the northern heights through the Great Forest to the Thames; and that Turnmill Brook, or the River of Wells, was, as he himself observes in another place, formed ‘by the influx of many springs in the neighbourhood,’ and not a substantive and self-supplied stream as the Fleet was. This year, he observes (1503), the ancient River of Wells (afterwards called Fleet Ditch) was cleared, and made navigable for craft as far as Holborn Bridge. Maitland also calls it ‘Fleet Dyke, now Fleet Ditch, the remains of the ancient River of Wells.’ It is all plain enough if we admit the Fleet to have lost its identity in that of the River of Wells, or Turnmill Brook, at an early stage of its set-out from Hampstead Hill.

But unless we take the word ‘Fleete’ in its general Saxon sense as a flood, or mere watercourse, how can we separate the idea of an important stream from one that presumably gave a name to so many objects and places?

It was always a troublesome stream, going wrong immediately after it got to Holborn, as early as 1307.

‘The first mention I find of this watercourse by the name of Fleet,’ says Maitland, quoting Stowe, ‘is in a complaint made to a Parliament held at Carlisle by Henry, Earl of Lincoln (in the above year), setting forth that the watercourse under Fleet Bridge, formerly frequented by many ships, was then, by encroachments and other obstructions, rendered unnavigable.’ And very curiously (recollecting what he has written above of the Fleet Ditch) he goes on to observe that this complaint, through great inattention, is quoted by Stowe to prove that the Fleet was then denominated the River of Wells, whereas from a charter granted by the Conqueror to the Collegiate Church of St. Martin le Grand, and also quoted by Stowe, he had shown the direct contrary in these words:

‘I do give and grant to the same Church all the land and the moor without the postern which is called Cripplegate, on either part of the postern, that is to say, from the North[245] corner of the wall as the River of Wells there near runneth, departeth the same moor from the wall, unto the running water (Wall-brook) which entereth the City.’

Moreover, the most westerly of the springs which fed the River of Wells appears to have been St. Clement’s Well, Clerkenwell, and Skinner’s Well; the others were much more to the east. But in describing the Liberty of St. Sepulchre, Maitland tells us that the street vulgarly called Turnbull Street was anciently called Turnmill Street, from the mills thereon erected by the Knights of St. John, which were wrought by a stream of water from Hampstead and Highgate, which, being apparently dried up, had given occasion to some to represent the same as lost, whereas, had they taken trouble to inquire, they would have found that the said stream was brought to the suburbs of London in two large wooden pipes of 7 inches bore each, the original contrivance of Sir John Hart, probably.

The modern local opinion is that the Fleet had its rise about the middle of the Flask Walk, whence it ran downhill, at the back of the cottages and houses in Willow Walk,[228] to South End Green, where there used to be a pond; thence by what is now Fleet Road, through Kentish Town, to Bagnigge Wells Road,[229] the present King’s Cross Road; and so on by Farringdon Street to the Thames, debouching somewhere about Blackfriars Bridge.

Undoubtedly it rose in the clay on the slope of Hampstead Hill, and, long before the Norman took seizin of our shore, is mentioned in Edgar’s forged charters to the monks at Westminster of land at Paddington, of which it made the eastern boundary, that on the south being the Thames, on the north[246] the Roman Road, and on the west the Tybourne. In maps of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, one stream—the Fleet—is seen descending from the south side of Hampstead Hill.

It is said to have been navigable as far as King’s Cross in Edward I.’s time. When the brothers Storer published their ‘History of Clerkenwell,’ in 1828, they tell us that from a point in their parochial boundary the banks of the Fleet River were seen to jut out in little wild crags, and break into miniature precipices, as it meandered originally between green slopes at the foot of the uplands, clothed with umbrageous trees.

Charles Mathews’ House, Highgate.

In Crosby’s ‘Notes’ mention is made of the varying and interesting windings of the Fleet River in its course from Hampstead to the Thames. Even in his ‘Additional Notes’ (1845) he speaks of the silver Fleet meandering through and irrigating those charming meadows which reach on either side of Kentish Town to the sister hills of Hampstead and Highgate.

It was only a little later than this date that I first knew these meadows, and the dried channel of the winding[247] stream he speaks of, the course of which might be traced by the decaying alders and old willows that fringed it through Gospel Oak fields, at the end of which it had subsided in a ditch.

It had remained navigable as far as Holborn Bridge till Henry VII.’s time, from which period the less we say of its city life the better. It had been dredged and scoured to no purpose, but after the Great Fire, much of the débris being thrown into it, it became, in Charles II.’s reign, an abomination. In Anne’s time, Gay gives us a sufficiently disagreeable description of the desecrated river, and Pope, in the ‘Dunciad,’ asserts it

‘The king of dykes, than whom no sluice of mud
With deeper sable blots the silver flood.’

It was the Creek that in modern times was called Fleet Ditch. It had its entrance immediately below Bridewell, Blackfriars being to the east of it, and reached as far as Holborn Bridge, at the foot of Holborn Hill. Here it received the little river Fleet, Turnmill Brook, and the rivulet known as the Old Bourne. The latter rose at Holborn Bars (removed[230] not many years ago), and gave its name to Holborn. It lost itself, as has been said, in the Fleet at Holborn Bridge.

In 1737 Fleet Ditch was covered over, and the space gained was occupied by Fleet Market. Nearly a hundred years later (1829) this was removed, and Farringdon Street now occupies its site.

Upon the right, going towards Holborn, stood the Fleet prison for debtors, founded in the first year of Richard I. I remember its removal in 1845, and, long before I ever saw it, hearing my mother tell of the sad feelings with which she had often passed it in her youth, by reason of the melancholy implorations of certain of the prisoners, wretched-looking beings, who let down bags from the windows, and cried to the passers-by: ‘Please remember the poor debtors!’ One[248] penny loaf per day was the gaol allowance, and those who had not friends to supply them with food to supplement this dole literally starved to death.

This was the scene of the Fleet marriages. Pennant tells how in his youth he had often been tempted by the question ‘Sir, will you please to walk in and be married?’ and he tells us that a painted sign of a male and female, hands conjoined, with the inscription ‘Marriages performed here,’ was hung on the walls of the building. A dirty fellow invited you in, and the parson, a squalid, profligate figure, ‘clad in a tattered plaid nightgown, with a fiery face,’ stood just within, ‘ready to couple you for a dram of gin or roll of tobacco.’ This state of things was not put an end to till 1753.

But the Fleet prison has a history of its own, and lies outside the Hampstead story of the river.

To return to the water-supply. The ponds in the valley between the sister hills, as Thomson calls the acclivities of Hampstead and Highgate, have often proved dangerous to children and others, from the sudden shelving of their banks.

Suicides, too, lured by the lonely quiet of these silent pools, have sometimes sought oblivion in them; but, as a rule, anglers and naturalists are their more persistent visitors, and they may generally be trusted. One specially dangerous is that at the back of the tavern in the Vale of Health, on which the swans make so pleasing an appearance, and children are likely to approach too near the margin in their eagerness to feed them.

The town of Hampstead, till quite recent times, was supplied from the well in Shepherd’s Fields, where a conduit had existed in very early times, the water of which is said to have been remarkably sweet and soft.

This well was mentioned in the last Act relating to the conduits in the time of Henry VIII.



Every period has produced some specific or other for ‘the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to,’ and during the latter part of the eighteenth century, and the early years of the present, mineral waters were the fashionable panacea.

From traditional times the curative properties of the spring in Well Walk had been known to the inhabitants of Hampstead and the neighbourhood. It oozed out of the green hillside to the east of the village into a self-made pool, whose surface was covered with a rust-coloured film that disclosed its ferruginous nature. But something more than a mere local reputation must have suggested to the Hon. Susannah Noel the gift of the ‘medicinal spring, together with six acres of heathland lying about and encompassing it,’ for the sole use and benefit of the poor of Hampstead for ever. The indenture by which this gift is made on her own part and that of her infant son, Baptist, Earl of Gainsborough, is dated December, 1698, and is the foundation of what is known as the Wells Charity.

For some time after the date of this indenture, the project seems to have remained in abeyance, but in the Postman of April 16 and 20, 1700, an advertisement appears, stating that the Hampstead chalybeate waters are ‘so highly approved by the most eminent physicians, that they are by direction of the trustees of the Wells aforesaid, for the convenience of those who yearly drink them in London, carefully[250] bottled up in flasks, and sent to Mr. Phelps, Apothecary, at the Eagle and Child in Fleet Street every morning at the rate of 3d. per flask, and if any persons desire to have them brought to their houses, they will be conveyed to them upon leaving a note at Mr. Phelps’, aforesaid, at 1d. a flask more.’ Here we have the origin of the names given to the two taverns of Upper and Lower Flask, and of the Walk in the vicinity of the latter. It is further stated that ‘the true waters are nowhere else to be procured, unless they are sent for to the Wells, Hampstead.’

An advertisement in the same newspaper (August 27 and 29 of this year) sets forth that:

‘By order of the Trustees of Hampstead Mineral Waters, These are to certify that the Widow Keys is discharged from the Wells, and carries no more of the said waters, the Trustees now only employing Mr. Adams, a potter at Holborn Bars, to deliver out the said mineral waters. If any other person pretends to bring Hampstead waters, they (the purchasers) are desired to try them, so that they be not cheated. Also, the Trustees will let the said waters, with six acres of land, by lease or yearly rent. Such as desire to treat about the same, may meet the Trustees at Craddock’s Coffee-house, Hampstead, every Saturday from 10 to 12 o’clock in the morning untill the 29th of September next.’

This same month and year, in the Court Rolls of Hampstead, it is ordered that ‘the Spring by the purging Well be forthwith brought into the town of Hampstead, at the parish charge, and yt ye money and profit arising thereout be applied to the easing of the poors’ rates hereafter to be made.’

In the early part of 1701, we find the advertisement of the letting of the Wells, and the land attached to them, reappearing in the Postman, with the effect of attracting a lessee; for soon after we read of the Wells dwelling-house and tavern, the latter with a very fair bowling-green attached, without which no gentleman of the period would have been pleasurably provided for. Subsequently, tea and coffee[251] rooms and a dancing-room were added, and the new watering-place is announced as ready to receive company.

May was the pleasant month in which the water-drinking season primitively began, though later on, from June till Michaelmas, was considered the best time for taking them. An old advertisement of the opening of the season reads as follows:

‘These are to acquaint all persons that have occasion to drink Hampstead waters that the Wells will be opened on Monday next, being the 11th of May, with very good music for dancing, and will continue every Monday during the season for water-drinking, and there is complete accommodation for water-drinkers of both sexes with accomodation of a very good bowling-green, and very good stabling and coach-house.’[231]

There is a vagueness in the phrasing of this notice that leaves a doubt whether it is the Wells or the music that will continue every Monday, but from other sources we learn that ‘very good music for dancing went on all day long every Monday during the season.’

Dr. Gibbons, who resided at Hampstead, was the first physician who encouraged the drinking of the waters, setting a practical example himself, and continuing in it till his death (1725). Others of his profession supported the opinion of their excellence, and the sale of them in London, as well as their local use, seems to have largely increased in consequence. Instead of one or two agents, the advertisements set forth that, being approved by the most eminent physicians, the said mineral water continues to be brought fresh from Hampstead Wells every day to Mr. Adams, Glass-seller, near Holborn Bars; to Mr. Cresset’s at the Sugar-loaf at Charing Cross; to Nando’s Coffee-house,[232] near Temple Bar; to[252] Sam’s Coffee-house, near Ludgate; to the Salmon in Stock’s Market; and by Mr. Pratt to the Greyhound in King Street, Bloomsbury; to Howe’s Coffee-house in Cheapside by the Half-moon Tavern, and to the Black Posts, Fleet Street.

At this time there was no lack of small but pleasant lodgings to be had in South End, and on the Lower and Upper Heath, weather-boarded structures for the most part of the cottage species, some of which survived till our own time in the Vale of Health and about Squire’s Mount; one of the ancient customs of the Manor of Hampstead being that the tenants of their own free will might ‘let, sell, take down, or remove any of their tenements without any fine or forfeiture to or for the same to the lord,’ a custom that greatly facilitated the raising of inexpensive removable dwellings.

A few of the houses in Well Walk in the early part of the century were probably of this description, and, I suspect, of an earlier date than the flat-faced, narrow-windowed brick edifices with fan-lighted hall doors that faced the Walk in the fifties. Instead of that decorous straight line, I imagine irregularity in the appearance, as well as in the positions, of the original structures, which followed no fixed plan, but were added to as wanted.[233]

Neither do I imagine that the tenements which arose between the date of the advertisement of the letting of the Wells, and that which announces their opening in the summer of the same year (1701) could have been of very solid construction. There was no time for the work that English builders in those days put into the building of brick houses, and everything shows that the preparation for the[253] convenience of visitors to the spa must have been of a hurried, and for the most part of a temporary, nature.

Very soon we read of bun-houses and raffling-shops, which appear to have been set up over against the Long Room, from which some years later Steele crossed over to watch the cheating play in one of them. In deference to the religious wants of the visitors, we find the proprietor of the Wells building a chapel at his own expense, of which I shall have more to say farther on.

Happily, the most interesting, from its associations, of the Wells buildings, the Long Room, still exists in Weatherall Place, a long, low, white structure when I first knew it, of timber, brick and mortar. It has been used as a private residence for quite a hundred years, and a late proprietor, Mr. Routh, has wholly metamorphosed its appearance by having it cased with red brick.

Sion Chapel, which afterwards became notorious in the history of Hampstead, was a much-needed and, for some time, decently conducted place of worship, at which one or other of the many ejected Nonconformist ministers of the time officiated, for even then the ancient chapel of St. Mary (now St. John’s) was almost ruinous, and inadequate to the yearly increasing number of parishioners, and so could afford little, if any, accommodation for strangers.

From 1701 to 1712-13, that happy period when, as Dr. Gibbons tells us, the Wells were frequented by ‘as much and as good company as go yearly to Tunbridge Wells, in Kent,’ the searcher of old newspapers will find concerts of vocal and instrumental music, as well as other entertainments, to have been constantly advertised to take place in the Long Room. The prices of admission to the concerts were one shilling in the morning, and (except on extraordinary occasions) sixpence in the evening, when, ‘for the convenience of gentlemen returning to town,’ the concerts commenced at five o’clock. The early hour is suggestive of the then state of the roads in the suburbs of London. At this period a stage-coach started for Hampstead every[254] morning, from the Greyhound in Holborn, and another from the Chequers, returning at night,[234] besides a carrier daily; but in all probability the coachmen preferred driving home by daylight, not only on account of the roughness of the roads, but to avoid running the risk of being stopped by highwaymen on their track, or at the meeting of the ways at the half-way house, the Old Mother Red-Cap, a place noted for waylaying the coaches, probably from the facility of escape which the divergence of three separate roads afforded.

It happened, fortunately for the fashionable visitors to the Wells, that the summer meetings of the Kit-Cat Club, which had been instituted a few years before (though some say after their opening) coincided with the period of drinking the Hampstead waters, and as people walked after dinner in those days, some one or other of the witty brotherhood would often saunter down from the bosky covert of the gardens of the Upper Flask, or across the Heath from the Bull and Bush, at Wildwood Corner (as Camden calls North End) to greet their friends in the Long Room or in the walks, or look in, as Steele was wont to do (with an eye to copy and the correction of morals), at the cheating play in the raffling-shops, the proprietors of which appear to have been knaves of the worst order. Steele took great pleasure in exposing them. It is to such a passing inquisition that the subscribers to the Tatler in the summer of 1709 owed the witty paper that describes one of these rogues as ‘a person deep in the practice of the law, who, under the name of his maid Sisly, had set up this easier way of conveyancing and alienating estates from one family to another.’

Some years later, the Spectator informs us—probably by the same hand—that ‘a Count figures amongst this fraternity, who is humorously described as “the errantist Count of all the Courts of England,” and who, believing the fair diversion-table at Hampstead to be all foul play, has vouchsafed to set[255] up another himself, in imitation of it.’ The company, under these circumstances, became, we may be sure, considerably mixed; adventurers of both sexes found their way to the upland village, and the idle and profligate, as well as the invalid and ennuyé, mingled with personages of rank and fashion at the Wells.

Card-playing went on all day in the Long Room, and dancing pretty well all night. But, then, card-playing was the general amusement of all classes in that day. At Hampstead it became a passion, especially with women, ‘who, possessed by excitement and avarice, and in the hope of winning seven guineas for one by giving the enamelled ball a graceful twirl to induce it to fall upon four cards nominated for luck’s sake, out of two-and-thirty, staked and lost money, diamonds, beauty, and reputation at the fair diversion,’ as our essayist calls it, all which had been translated from the neighbourhood of Bloomsbury and Red Lion Square to the Wells and raffling-shops of Hampstead.

It is not until 1710 that I find in the Postboy (April 18) the following advertisement:

‘As there are many weddings at Sion Chapel, Hampstead, five shillings only are required for all the church fees of any couple that are married there, provided they bring with them a license, or certificate, according to the Act of Parliament. Two sermons are continued to be preached in the said chapel every Sunday, and the place will be given to any clergyman that is willing to accept of it, if he is approved of.’

In Read’s Weekly Journal, September 8, 1716, we come upon this:

‘Sion Chapel at Hampstead, being a private and pleasure place, many persons of the best fashion have lately been married there. Now, as a minister is obliged to attend, “This is to give notice that all persons upon bringing a license, and who shall keep their wedding dinner in the gardens, only five shillings will be demanded of them for all fees.”’

Park adds that, from these advertisements, Sion Chapel would seem to have been the prototype of the Fleet and Mayfair marriages, but this is incorrect. Fleet marriages[256] took place as early as 1704. The honour of primitive suggestion belongs rather to Gretna Green.[235]

Amongst other popular attractions of Hampstead, though hardly to the taste of the more refined visitors, was a pleasure fair. In the Spectator for July 29, 1712 (No. 443, original edition), a notice appears that Hampstead Fair will be held upon the Flask Walk on Friday, August 1, and will hold four days. As fairs were annual occurrences, we must conclude that for four days yearly the rural quiet and beauty of Hampstead were delivered over to ‘rude mirth and tipsy revelry,’ much as it is in these days at the holidays of Easter and Whitsuntide.[236]

A triangular bit of waste ground, open in my time at the upper part of Flask Road, was pointed out to me by an archæological friend as the place where anciently that earliest institution of social life, the village pound, and subsequently the stocks and cage, stood, as the after-site of the fair. The fair (continued for more than thirty years after this date)—a fair for the sale of gingerbread, toys, sweetmeats, chap-books, wares such as Autolycus the rogue sold, or affected to sell, the maids. But a pleasure-fair by no means precluded the presence of unpleasant company, and here, as at other fairs, to intoxication, rioting, and uproar, robberies were superadded.

The fair, not being a chartered one, but simply permissive by license of the Lord or Lady of the Manor, or the Middlesex magistrates, had frequently been written about and complained of; but the nuisance was suffered to go on till, at length (as late as 1746), it became so great a drawback to the comfort of the respectable inhabitants and visitors, that it was forbidden by the authorities at Hicks’s Hall, a prohibition that did not prevent an impudent attempt, two years subsequently, to revive it, on the part of one Thomas Keate, probably the landlord of the Lower Flask Tavern, who made his purgation in a London newspaper as follows:


The Flask, Hampstead,

August 2, 1748.

‘Whereas I published an advertisement on Saturday last, declaring a sale of goods and toys to be held at Hampstead, which advertisement was addressed to persons usually frequenting Hampstead Fair, and occasioned great numbers of loose and disorderly people to resort to Hampstead, under the notion that the Fair suppressed two years since as illegal, would be revived, and held in the Flask Walk ... I take this publick opportunity to declare that I am extremely sorry, that I should ignorantly be engaged to act in opposition to the Magistrates of the County, in any endeavour to revive a Fair deemed illegal by authority; and I hope this public acknowledgment of my error will satisfy their worships, and declaring that I will desist from any such attempt for the future.

Thomas Keate.

This epistle, as far as I have discovered, is final with regard to the fair in Flask Walk, though sadly out of chronological order here. Happily for the lovers of historic Hampstead, the site of the ancient Pump-house in Well Walk has been discovered, while that of the modern one is preserved by an inscription on a part of the house now occupying its place. But the situation of Sion Chapel, of which we completely lose count after the early advertisements I have transcribed, is not known.

Unfortunately, the easy access to the Wells from London—a walk of only four or five miles being but an ordinary recreation to persons unaccustomed, as a rule, to any other mode of locomotion—made it impossible to maintain the exclusiveness dear to the dignity of the Ladies Betty, Moll, or Susan, who stepped so stately,

‘Alack! the little heels won’t let them haste!’

under the then young limes shading the Well Walk. This ease of access bounced into their midst the City madams[258] and pert, Fleet Street seamstresses, that furnished the fun of Baker’s comedy, a force stronger in the end than the Bon ton, who, after a decade of endurance, forsook the Fons Sanitatis of Hampstead, and its high-priest, Dr. Gibbons.

But intermediately the proprietor of the Wells had been doing a thriving business in illicit marriages and frequent wedding-dinners; and Hampstead had won for itself a quite unenviable notoriety. Play often ran so high at the gaming-tables that the Justices at the Quarter Sessions at Hicks’s Hall recommended the great room at Hampstead to the particular attention of the petty constables and head-boroughs of the parish, to prevent all unlawful gaming, riots, etc. As for the rest, Baker’s comedy, to which I have alluded (and which is still extant) offers a very graphic description. Park has quoted at considerable length from it, but Park is not often read out of the reading-room of the British Museum, or the Public Library at Hampstead.

Smart, in the said comedy, discussing philosophically the social peculiarities of the Long Room, observes that assemblies so near town give us examples of all degrees. ‘We have Court ladies, all air and no dress; City belles, overdressed and no air; and country dames with broad brown faces like a Stepney bun; besides an endless number of Fleet Street seamstresses, that dance minuets in their furbeloe scarfs, and whose clothes hang as loose on them as their reputations.’

Arabella (another character in the same play) observes: ‘Well, this Hampstead is a charming place; to dance all night at the Wells, and be treated at Mother Huffs’;[237] to have presents made one at the raffling-shops,’ etc. Occasional visitors to the Wells on assembly nights might reasonably[259] desire to dance the day-dawn in for safety’s sake; and the extension of the hours at the Long Room might possibly have originated in the perils of getting home from it. The roads, hazardous even by day, were doubly so after dark, especially in the neighbourhood of towns. The Hampstead coach had quite recently been stopped and robbed (1713), although a portion of the Hampstead road was just then unpleasantly occupied by the body of a murderer hanging in chains,[238] an object-lesson our forefathers were fond of exhibiting with deterrent intention, and with about as much practical result as from the suspension of criminal crows in a harvest-field.

But to return to the Wells. Let us be thankful for the old newspapers and magazines, that in feeble type and quaintly-worded paragraphs and advertisements have yet preserved for us faithful transcripts of the ways and fashions of the times, so that with a file of old Postboys, Mists, and Read’s Weekly Journal, and the Lady’s Magazine, but little imagination is required to revivify the company in Well Walk (that focus of fashion whilst fashion clung to it), to reclothe them in the costumes they wore, and busy them again in all their old occupations and amusements.

We can see in fancy the large, cumbrous, top-heavy coach toiling up the steep hill, tacking like a ship against a head-wind, until it landed its passengers at the coach office, the Bird-in-Hand,[239] or, higher up, at the Upper Flask. Say that it is the afternoon of a summer’s day in 1713-14. Amongst a crowd of other passengers, a lady in a little flutter of expectation, her head-dress a lace or muslin hood, with turnover (a species of fichu) ... and ruffles to match, steps out on the points of her high-heeled shoes, letting her hoop expand with a grace totally unknown to the modern wearers of crinoline.[240]


Be sure she has in her netted or embroidered hand-bag a little of the famous ‘Bavarian red liquor,’ which gave such a ‘delightful blushing colour to the cheeks pale or white,’ and which is not ‘to be discovered as other than the natural colour by the most fine sight.’ Nor is she without a bottle of Hungary, or citron water, for being a fine lady she must have nerves.

To-morrow what a stir she will create on the Well Walk in her voluminous brocade or Italian silk gown, shining with gold or silver flowers, and cut in the latest fashion!

There is no dearth of matters to be discussed by the general company. The Lottery and the South Sea Scheme are flourishing, and afford interesting topics for all grades of society; then there is the opera and the theatres, and the last duel, and, apart from the ladies, the recent doings at Hendon and Hockley-in-the-Hole.

Should Arbuthnot, or Swift, or Steele, happen to be amongst the crowd of visitors, Pope, who has already made a name in literature, and, like his friend Mr. Murray, been early admitted to the fellowship of the wits at Button’s and the Scriblerus Club, is not likely to find their criticisms on his recently-published verses wholly favourable, though regarded as giving great promise, which the ‘little fellow,’ as Johnson subsequently called him, is bound to make good.

Quite in opposition to Dr. Gibbons’ advice, the ladies, one and all, file into the tea-room, where the best Bohea at eighteen shillings a pound is dispensed in diminutive Nankin china cups without handles, to hold and drink out of which gracefully is in itself a fine art. Pope describes

‘How her red lips affected zephyrs blow
To cool Bohea, and inflame the beau;
While one white finger and a thumb conspire
To lift the cup, and make the world admire.’

Or they stroll off to ransack the raffling-shops for gloves, fans, etc., while the gentlemen smoke, play at bowls, or adjourn to cards. In the Long Room the musicians play, and those who like may dance, or rehearse their steps and figures[261] for the evening exhibition of them. Some wander away to the green skirts of Caen Wood, or seek the deep-hedged lanes, where the elm boughs meet overhead. While others are content to find their pleasure on the Heath, with its ever-varied, ever-lovely views, or choose the pleasant shade of its leafy groves, that both diversify the scene and break the force of the winds that blow upon it. Others, again, ride or drive to some of the many pretty places, or the seats of friends in the vicinity, Highgate, and Hornsey, and Colney Hatch being in much favour with the gentry as sites for country-houses. Then at the orthodox hour for the promenade, what a flutter of fans, and tapping of fine snuff-boxes, and lifting of laced or feathered hats, as the company bow, and curtsey, and smile, and ogle, as they pass and repass in the walks, the ladies resplendent in ‘stained silks,’ damasks, and flowered satins, that from the perfection of their texture would, in the parlance of old folks describing them, have literally stood alone. Nor was the dress of the gentlemen less superb. Their quaintly-cut, wide-skirted coats, with great cuffs bound with gold or silver lace, and deep flapped waistcoats richly embroidered, were often of the most costly materials, accompanied with flowing cravats—or falls, as they were called—and hanging ruffles of Mechlin or other lace. Then there were the shoes—the beaux wore them—with red heels and silver or brilliant buckles; and, again, the sword-hilt, band, and knot, allowed of a variety of dainty devices, the sword-hilt being sometimes of plain steel or silver only, but sometimes gilt and jewelled.

No record remains to us of the great ladies who gave the encouragement of their presence to the fashion of the Hampstead Wells in those early years; but we know that Addison, and Garth, and Steele, and Arbuthnot, Sir Godfrey Kneller, Swift, and all the Kit-Cats, were of the company. And their presence there has made the Heath and Well Walk classic ground for all who love the eighteenth century. It was a time of lordly bows, deep curtseys, stately[262] manners, and coarse speech, and the day of depraved morality and affected sentiment. Women in want of an expletive had hardly given up the use of oaths; Her Grace of Marlborough habitually retained them; and men felt but little restriction in the presence of women. Indecent equivoke and double entendre were thought witty even in good society, and judging from Swift’s correspondence with Lady Betty Germain and Miss Arbuthnot, there was a freedom of speech between the sexes that astonishes one. Modesty must have been relegated to the fan, for evidently it was not on guard in the ear any longer.

Away from the temptations, engagements, and frivolities of town life, as housewives and mothers (to give them their due), these ladies took an active part in domestic affairs, and taught their children, harshly enough sometimes, the lesson of dutifulness and obedience—a lesson too much neglected in modern education. But for a woman to exhibit a love of learning or a predilection for its pursuit was to incur the suspicion and contempt of her own sex, and the derision of the other. Ordinarily women read, in the language of the day, ‘to kill time,’ and this amusement was chiefly supplied to them by the playwrights or the novels of Fielding or Mrs. Aphra Behn, works of fiction that taught their readers a new use for the squabs of the settee or sofa whenever a visitor was announced.

The mission of the essayists who produced the Spectator and Guardian was to purify the manners of the times, to awaken an interest in literature for its own sake, and to show through the amusing medium of narrative and anecdote the meanness and wickedness of much that was going on unconcealed, and yet unnoticed, around them.

It is said that the publication of these works exercised a perceptible influence on society, and produced a permanent improvement in morals, no mean mission, nor contemptible result, if they ever effected it.

Few country ladies, unless privileged persons who desired to keep up their relations with the Court, came to London[263] in those days, except on urgent occasion. The great trouble and expense the journey involved, the execrable condition of the roads, and terror of the highwaymen who infested them, were reasons quite sufficient to account for the home-staying, which has often been put to their account as a virtue, and flaunted in the face of their travel-loving great-great-great-grand-daughters. The principal event in the lives of many country ladies was the summer visit to one of the fashionable spas—Bath or Harrogate, Tunbridge or Hampstead Wells—where they met old friends and renewed acquaintances, picked up the threads of unfinished family histories, saw dress ‘as worn in the politest circles,’ compared notes with one another, and acquired the newest information of the world that lay outside their own, so that on their home-going they became exemplars and oracles on all social and society matters to those of their acquaintance who had not had the felicity of visiting the spa.

But to return to Hampstead. The light-hearted indifference to what was going on around them enabled the fashionable visitors to endure the scandal of the runaway marriages at Sion Chapel, the hurly-burly of the four days’ fair, and the company brought together by these doings; but at last the cheating play at the raffling-shops, and the morals of Hampstead, became so notorious ‘that persons of character were almost ashamed to be seen there, even with their own relations,’ and the most reckless of the rank and file of fashion found it necessary to turn their backs upon it. Yet, before it reached this last depth of moral degradation, Hampstead Wells must have exhibited a brilliant epitome of Bath and Tunbridge. Of course, the behaviour of the company at the Assembly and Long Room was not lost sight of by the wits and satirists of the day. The ballad-singers preserved the follies of the Wells in wicked verse; the playwrights—at least one of them, as we have seen—dramatized them; and I should not wonder if Baker’s holding of the ‘mirror up to Nature,’ or the modish pretence of Nature that so often passes for it, had something to do with the[264] waking up of thoughtful people, and the falling-off of fashion from the place.

A few people of the upper class, who had learned to love sweet Hampstead for its own sake, continued, from season to season, to return here for change of air, so that the better kind of lodging-houses in Pond Street and elsewhere were not wholly deserted. Neither were the Wells, of which we have a rather deterrent proof in the following advertisement from the Daily Courant of June 18, 1718:

Hampstead.—Whereas it has been reported that a robbery has been committed this season upon the road to Hampstead Mineral Well, this is to inform ladies and gentlemen that for the future at half-past ten in the evening, every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday (being public days), there will be a sufficient guard, well armed, sent by the inhabitants of the said Wells, to attend the company thence to London.’[241]

Evidently the citizens and their wives, and others of the inhabitants of London, did not forsake the allurements of the Long Room and the Walks. Neither did the City seamstresses in their vamped-up fine clothes, nor the City fop,

‘Who put on belt and sword at Temple Bar.’

The early termination to the evening’s entertainment, in contrast with the all-night dancing Arabella had enjoyed at the Wells, is noticeable in the above advertisement, but is by no means attributable to the improved morals of the place. It appears to have sunk year by year.

The cheating at the gambling-tables led to fighting and riots. Footpads lurked in the fields and hedges, and highwaymen infested the roads, making them more than ordinarily perilous for foot-passengers, and adding greatly to the duties of the magistrates at Hicks’s Hall (the annals of which would, I imagine, throw considerable light upon the story of the Hampstead Wells at this intermediate period).

Ten years after the decline of their fashion, many of the[265] buildings in the Well Walk disappeared, but the tavern, then known as the Whitestone Inn,[242] the Assembly-room and pump-room (under the same roof), and the Long Room, with the tea and coffee rooms adjoining it, remained. Dr. Gibbons still lived, and still retained his faith, as did Dr. Arbuthnot also, in the valuable curative quality of the water, and the invigorating air of Hampstead, which, when occasion required, he not only recommended to his friends, but sought himself. In this way it is that we find Gay here in the summer of 1722, whose friends had ‘brought him,’ as he says, ‘to Hampstead at a time when his life was despaired of,’ after the failure of the South Sea Scheme, in which his slender fortune was invested. Here, in Well Walk, we can imagine him seated, with Pope and Arbuthnot by him, owing his recovery almost as much to the tenderness of the author as to the skill of the doctor.

It was during Gay’s stay at Hampstead that he wrote his tragedy of ‘The Captive,’ which he was requested to read to the Princess of Wales at Leicester House. On that occasion, when the hour came, and he saw the Princess and her ladies in expectation, advancing ‘with reverence too great for any other attention, and pre-resolved to impress Her Royal Highness as favourably towards the poet as the poem, he quite lost sight of a footstool in the way, and, stumbling over it, fell against a large screen, which he overset, and thus made his obeisance in a style that threw the ladies into no small disorder, and himself into such a state that but for the good-nature of his royal auditor must have told severely against the effect of the tragedy,’[243] which was brought out at Drury Lane, and played on the third night by particular desire of the Princess of Wales.[244] Think of the good-natured[266] merriment with which Arbuthnot, ‘who was seldom serious but when attacking some great enormity,’ received the account of his fat friend’s sudden projection into the royal circle; how Swift must have chuckled over the comicality, Pope and the rest of the witty brotherhood joining in a loud laugh that none would enjoy more heartily than the genial-tempered subject of it.

In 1723 I find Mrs. Pendarves writing to Swift that ‘the beautiful Irish girl, Miss Kelly’ (the Syren of this lady’s letters to her sister) ‘is at Hampstead, quite alone, and she deserves it. She is in a very expensive way, with her sickness, her servants, and her horses, high passions, low spirits, and a tyrannous father.’

Not a very pleasing picture of the wilful Irish beauty who paid Hampstead the compliment to prefer it to more fashionable places. Yet the fair widow had previously written of Miss Kelly as ‘very harmless, and not at all coquet; she brings in all the news that flies about, and now and then adds a little of her own.’

This is the lady about whom Lady Betty Germain eight years later writes to Swift, observing:

‘Miss Kelly was a very pretty girl when she went from hence, and the beaux show their good taste by liking her. I hear her father is now kind to her, but if she is not mightily altered, she would give up some of her airs and equipage to live in England.’

In a letter of a later date, to the Dean, Lady Betty says:

‘Surely your Irish air is very bad for darts, if Miss Kelly’s are blunted already. Make her cross father let her come here, and we won’t use her so in England.’

Once more, May 1, 1733, Lady Betty, still writing to Swift, says:

‘I am extremely Miss Kelly’s humble servant, but I will never believe she is more valued for her beauty and good qualities in Ireland than she was in England.’

Then comes a bit of ill news concerning the Hibernian beauty:


‘I am heartily sorry for your new friend, Mrs. Kelly, who writes in a desponding way to Mrs. Chambers (Lady Betty Germain’s niece) about her health, and talks of going to Spa. This is a melancholy subject, and I hate to be vexed, so I will say no more of it.’

But she does say some more about it in a letter to the Dean from Knowle (or, as she spells it, Knole), July 9, 1733:

‘I hear poor Mrs. Kelly is not near so well as she says; and a gentleman that came from Bristol says she looks dreadfully, and fears that it is all over with her, and that no mortal could know her. So ends youth and beauty!’

And so exit the beautiful Miss Kelly, of whom I find no further traces at Hampstead or elsewhere. Her story, I think, may easily be traced in these few epistolary extracts: ‘That she belonged to the beau monde is evident, or she would not have been received into that “old courtiers’” set,’ as Mrs. Pendarves calls Lady Betty, whose name visitors to Knowle will be familiar with.[245]



Although it could not be said that the Wells were ever actually closed till subsequent to 1809, the visits of the head-borough and a posse of constables at unexpected hours had so disarranged the system of play in Well Walk that before 1725 the gaming-tables, and with them the raffling-shops, had disappeared.

Defoe, in an early edition of his ‘Tour of Great Britain,’ tells us, in describing the Hampstead Wells, that besides the Long Room, where the gentry meet to amuse themselves and play at cards publicly, on Monday evenings, there is an Assembly-room for dancing 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, elegantly decorated. Every gentleman who subscribes a guinea has a ticket for himself and two ladies; to non-subscribers the fee for admission is two and sixpence. Another authority adds that most of the resident gentlemen are subscribers.[246]

In these days of incandescent gas and electric light, one shudders at the thought of this handsome sixty-feet-long assembly-room illuminated by chandeliers filled with pyramids of candles, with others in plated or pewter sconces at set distances on the walls.

At Almack’s, long afterwards, where only the best wax-lights[269] were tolerated, complaints of the destruction to the ladies’ dresses, and gentlemen’s also, from the dropping of the melted wax upon them, were frequent. I have no doubt the same lamentation was heard at Hampstead, where the method of lighting could scarcely have been as perfect. But if the illumination inside be thought inadequate, what is to be said as to the state of things outside? It was a happy circumstance when a full moon fell due upon an assembly night, and was accordingly set forth in the advertisement. Otherwise a row of lanterns, suspended from tree to tree above the Well Walk, lighted the visitors to the rooms, though these, towards the end of the century, were superseded by ill-smelling and uncertain oil-lamps.

Under these circumstances, leaving the rooms was perilous. Groups of flambeaux in the hands of waiting serving-men and link-boys threw a lurid glow through the foul-smelling smoke that clouded them, and under cover of which cut-purses and pickpockets, amongst them, perhaps, the notorious Jenny Diver herself,[247] were enabled to mix with the company leaving the doors, and relieve them of laced handkerchiefs, fans, purses, snuff-boxes, and jewellery, without detection. Not unfrequently the throng was swelled by a mob of roughs (as we now call them), who, getting up a quarrel for the express purpose of creating confusion, could so cover the retreat of the thieves.


This state of things was often recurring in Well Walk, and continued down to quite the end of the eighteenth century. Cradock, quoted by Lord Campbell in his ‘Lives of the Lord Chancellors,’ tells his readers that one evening the Misses Thurlow (there were three of them),[248] being at the Hampstead Assembly, were on returning in some danger from a riot at the door, from which they were rescued by a young officer who happened to be present, and who handed them in safety to their coach. The incident reads like the opening of a Della Cruscan romance; but, alas! the Lord High Chancellor Thurlow had outlived romance, though he made a point of calling the next morning on the young gentleman, whom he found at breakfast, and satisfied his sense of obligation to him by offering to partake of it, which he did.

How or when the notorious Sion Chapel was disposed of we learn nothing.[249] Park is silent on the subject. I think it not impossible that on the falling off of visitors to the Wells, and the probable discontinuance of marriages at the chapel, the latter being private property, the owner may have turned it wholly to secular uses, and have converted it into the fine Assembly Room, with the hope of adding a new attraction to the place for the general public.

If so, he appears to have wholly failed in his speculation, for, owing to the questionable company who found admittance to it, the resident gentry withdrew their patronage, and held their assemblies in the long room of the Upper Flask. This movement must have destroyed at one stroke the prestige and prosperity of the beautiful Assembly Room, the assured support of which rested with the resident subscribers.

But if Park ignores the fate of the degraded Sion Chapel, he is almost as reticent with regard to the New Episcopal Chapel in Well Walk. He makes a mistake of eight years[271] in the date of its opening. The bell, and the altar plate, the first given by Mr. Rous and Mr. Wood (a name long known in connection with Hampstead), the latter by the old physician, Dr. Gibbons, were severally inscribed, ‘New Chapel, Hampstead, 1725,’ and ‘Nova Capella de Hampstead, 1725.’ Park did not know of this till the editor or a contributor to the Gentleman’s Magazine challenged the correctness of the date he had given (1733) for the opening of the new chapel.

In 1725 Dr. Gibbons died, leaving, as a testimony of his concern for them, £100 to the poor of Hampstead. Six years later I find in the obituary of the Gentleman’s Magazine, under the date of September 26, 1731, ‘At Hampstead, Mr. Rous, who built a chapel there.’ Park states that the New Chapel in Well Walk was universally understood to have been the Assembly room of the Wells Tavern,’ but he admits that Mr. Rous having built a chapel, and the expressions ‘Nova Capella’ on the altar plate, and ‘New Chapel’ on the bell, seem rather to contradict the traditionary account that it was originally a ballroom; but he observes with the tenacity of an unconvinced man, ‘I have met with no positive evidence on this subject.’

During the lapsed quarter of a century between the opening of the Wells and the opening of the New Chapel in Well Walk, great additions and alterations had taken place in the village. The beauty of the situation and the well-known healthiness of the air induced many of the wealthy merchants of London to purchase or build mansions on and about the Heath, and their example was followed by some of the well-to-do people of a lower grade, who began to run up (every man being his own architect) edifices that in their fantastic reality vied with the imaginary structure of Joseph Wilks, of Thames Street, Esq., who, in the event of his ticket in the lottery winning, resolved to fit up a snug little box at Hampstead in the Chinese taste for his retirement on Sundays.[250]


I find from a guide-book of 1724 that at that time Hampstead had risen from a little country village almost to a city. In October, 1734, Dr. Arbuthnot, who was ill at Hampstead, says when writing to Swift: ‘I am going out of this troublesome world, and you, amongst the rest of my friends, shall have my last prayers and good wishes.’ He had gone there so reduced by a dropsy and asthma that he could ‘neither sleep, breathe, eat, or move,’ and, contrary to his expectation, had recovered his strength to a considerable degree, and was able to ride, sleep, and eat with appetite. He tells his friend that he expects upon his return to London and the coming of winter that the symptoms of his disease will return with them, for that ‘no man at his age could hope to recover.’

His experiment had been, not with a view to life, but ease. ‘I am at present,’ he says, ‘in the case of a man that was almost in harbour, and then blown back to sea; who has a reasonable hope of going to a good place, and an absolute certainty of leaving a very bad one;’ and then he corrects himself, having experienced many comforts in this world in the affections of his family and the kindness of friends, and gives a touching peep at his domestic relations in three or four lines:

‘My family give you their love and service. The great loss I sustained in one of them gave me my first shock, and the trouble I have with the rest to bring them to a good temper to bear the loss of a father who loves them, and whom they love, is really a most sensible affliction to me.’[251]

Shortly after the date of this letter, Pope, writing to one of the Miss Blounts, tells her that he had seen Dr. Arbuthnot, who was very cheerful:

‘I spent a whole day with him at Hampstead. He was in the Long Room half the morning, and has parties at cards every night. Mrs. Lepell and Mrs. Saggione and her sons and two daughters are all with him.’


In the March following Dr. Arbuthnot died, as he believed he should on his return to London.

‘Poor Arbuthnot, who grieved to see the wickedness of mankind, and was particularly esteemed by his own countrymen,[252] is dead, to the great regret of everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him intimately.’

Of him Swift wrote to Pope, referring to his humanity and benevolence, ‘Oh that the world had but a dozen Arbuthnots in it! I would burn my travels’ (‘Gulliver’); and when a lady asked the satirical Dean for the Doctor’s character, he summed it up in a sentence, ‘He has more wit than we all have, and his humanity is equal to his wit.’

The presence of such an invalid at the Wells is a proof that faith in the potency of the regimen observed there, and in the health-giving air of the Heath, was by no means withdrawn from them. Indeed, we read that at this date and during the previous season, more company had been seen in the walks than had visited the village for years—a fact not lost upon Dr. Soames, the friend of, and possibly the successor to, Dr. Gibbons, whose treatise afforded him the literary material and groundwork for his pamphlet on the ‘Hampstead Mineral Wells, with Directions how to Drink the Waters’—an essay calculated to impress his patients, and even the general public, with the sanitary combinations of the rural resort. It was published in 1734, and is not without interest. He repeats the description of the older writer and physician, that Hampstead ‘is situated somewhat romantic, but every way pleasant, on several little hills, on high ground of different soils.’

‘That here persons may draw in a pure and balmy air, with the heavens clear and serene, at that season of the year that the great and populous City of London is covered with fogs and smoke. And what adds,’ observes the doctor, ‘to the blessings of the place is the salubrious water of[274] Hampstead, which may be justly called the Fountain of Health.’

He describes the chalybeate as breaking out from the declivity of the hill, to the east of the town, near the chapel and bowling-green, and tells us that it was conveyed through a pipe to a marble perforated bowl or reservoir adjoining the chapel. Dr. Soames, as his predecessor had done, notices the views from the Heath, its soils, and the number of aromatic plants growing on it, and adds that the Apothecaries’ Company seldom miss coming to Hampstead every spring to have their botanizing feast.[253] ‘As for walks and shady groves,’ he continues, ‘we have our share, and those are very delightful.’ But his praises of the spring which trickled till within the last few years into its basin on the left-hand side of the walk on entering it from the Heath, and his regimen for the water-drinkers, are the most amusing part of his treatise. He assures his readers that ‘the chalybeate, though as strong, if not stronger, than that of Tunbridge Wells of the iron mineral, is not at all unpleasant; that if well corked and sealed down, and kept in a cellar for one or two years, when you have drawn the cork it will be most ready to fly, and when poured into a glass, will sparkle and knit up like a glass of champagne or Herefordshire cider.’

He recommends the drinking of this water in cases of defective digestion, in preference to the drinking of drams (a thing too common in his day), which he hopes ‘may not spread its contagion beyond his own sex.’ At the same time he greatly hopes that the inordinate drinking of thea may be retrenched, which, if continued in, will infallibly ‘cause the next generation to be more like pigmies than men and women.’[254] The best time to take the waters is from June[275] to Michaelmas; the time of day an hour after sunrise (no wonder music began in the Long Room at 6 a.m.). He allows his patients balm, or sage tea, with a little orange-peel in it for breakfast; or chocolate, milk, porridge, or mutton-broth, with bread-and-butter. An hour after taking the water, coffee may be used—the less the better—but as for the green or bohea thea, that ‘ought to be banished.’

Smoking appears to have been allowed, for Dr. Soames observes that those who take tobacco ‘may do so with all safety’; only he politely suggests, ‘let them not offend the company, especially the ladies, who cannot well relish that smoke with their waters.’ He recommends his patients a ride of four or five miles one hour after drinking them, or, where there is an objection to riding, to divert themselves with the amusements of the place. These, as we have said, had considerably contracted since the days when the members of the Kit-Cat Club had mingled with the visitors in the walks, and exchanged smart repartees together, as was the fashion of the day, when the last bon-mot at Button’s was set against the newest scandal at the Wells.

Dr. Soames’ regimen, it will be seen, consisted in early hours, temperance, pure air, invigorating exercise, and whatever tended to maintain a cheerful temper; these made the curative charm of the Hampstead waters, and for a time restored the reputation of the Wells.

It is rather amusing to find the curate in league with the doctor, and setting himself forth as an example of the efficacy of the waters. ‘Could my pen convey to others the idea I have of them,’ exclaims this enthusiastic partisan, ‘and the advantages we should have in using them, we should see the walks crowded as heretofore, twenty or thirty years ago. And it is some pleasure,’ he adds complacently, ‘to be informed that this summer they have not been without a pretty number of visitors.’


Old Cottages, North End

If we add the amount of satisfaction felt by Mr. Watts, Curate and Lecturer of Hampstead, to that of the inhabitants whose tenements were at the disposal of the said visitors, we get the idea that Hampstead must have smiled all over this season with a satisfaction it had not known in many preceding ones. All the little green-fenced white cottages in the neighbourhood of South End and the Vale of Health (reminiscent in its very name of the Gibbons and Soames period), as well as those on the upper slope of the East Heath and Squire’s Mount (to which a then leafy lane ran up from the Wells), had had a fresh coat of spotless paint put on. The mistresses of them were nodding and smiling to one another at their doors, and asking if they were ‘all let,’ or ‘quite full,’ or some question or other, indicative of a personal and neighbourly interest, which left it without doubt that they themselves had not another room to spare; while the select houses in Pond Street, and Lower Flask Walk, with their better accommodation and superior landladies, received such an access of purification and polish,[277] that the flashing of the fanlights over the hall doors, and the shining of brass knobs and knockers, and the superlatively white, neatly-festooned blinds to every window, were in themselves so many letters of recommendation writ large.

Lodgings were to be had in the High Street, where little else was to be had, the few shops in it, with their half-hatch doors, open shop-boards, and hanging shutters, showing only the most simple necessaries of village life—always excepting the so-called general shop, with its heterogeneous stock of dry-goods, drapery, and drugs. Every household in those days baked its own bread, and an itinerant butcher visited the village weekly.[255] But the farms and cottages around supplied the freshest butter, eggs, milk, cream and poultry, with the common kinds of vegetables and fruit; for the rest, there was the London carrier, who led his horse by easy stages up the hill, bringing provisions, as requisitioned from day to day, for the visitors.

At the opening of the season, the farmhouse productions rose to famine price; the laundresses who lived in a congeries of cottages, at the bottom of the Vale of Health, with their backs to the east wind and the pool—for the pond as we see it now was not made till 1777, previous to which date it was a mere pool fed by a spring that trickled from the bank that margined it—immediately raised their prices. The parson bethought him of charity sermons, and the doctors of increased fees; and thus the whole social system of the village found itself comforted, and enriched, by a restored faith in the medicinal springs. In fact, to again quote Baker, ‘everything became as dear as a freeholder’s vote, and as great an imposition as a Dutch reckoning.’

But the Hampstead of these later days was an altered place from what it had been when Baker’s comedy was[278] written. It had been made to see the error of its ways, and as the greatest sinners are said to become the greatest saints, so the peccant village appears to have recoiled to the opposite degree from its former self, even to the verge of decorous (some said dismal) dulness, and had fallen into neglect, as Dr. Soames very oddly phrases it, ‘through the knavery of some, the folly of others, and the exceeding great zeal for the glory of God and the good of the poor.’

The raffling-shops shut up, Mother Huff’s no longer heard of, the tea-gardens deserted for the most part by all but the common people, ‘who on Sundays, always mindful of the commandment which enjoins them to do no work on that day, took occasion to eat buns at Chelsea, drink beer at St. Pancras, of being sworn on the Horns at Highgate,[256] and of drinking tea at Hampstead or Little Hornsey,’[257] which was in the centre of the present Finsbury Park.

New Georgia was as yet unheard of, but, if I remember aright, the bowling-green had not disappeared. The tavern is doing a brisk business; the Long Room is full of fine company, and the walks between the elms and limes in blossom, bright with colour, and gay with mirth, which, more robust than in these artificial times, laughed out merrily and was not ashamed.

Cards, I am obliged to say, were as much in request as ever, but the cheats at them were not professionals; and though Dr. Soames distinctly set his face against the ‘violent exercise of country dances,’ the fortnightly meetings in the Long Room were not thinned thereby. Concerts were of frequent occurrence, and the following ditty,[258] originally printed on a broad-sheet, and which afterwards appeared in the Musical Entertainer, and was set to music by Mr. Abel[279] Whichello, under the title of ‘The beauties of Hampstead,’ was, in all probability, first sung at the Wells:

‘Summer heat the town invades,
All repair to cooling shades;
How inviting, how delighting,
Are the flowery hills and vales!
‘Here, where lovely Hampstead stands,
And the neighbouring vale commands,
What surprising prospects rising,
All around adorn the lands.
‘Here ever-woody mounts arise,
There verdant lawns delight the eyes,
Where Thames wanders—in meanders—
Lofty domes approach the skies.
‘Here are grottos, purling streams,
Shades defying Titan’s beams;
Rosy bowers, fragrant flowers,
Lovers’ wishes, poets’ themes.
‘Of the crystal, bubbling well,
Life and strength the currents swell;
Health and pleasure, heavenly treasure.
Smiling, here united dwell.
‘Here, nymphs and swains, indulge your hearts,
Share the joys the scene imparts;
Here be strangers to all dangers
All but those of Cupid’s darts!’

It is not impossible that a local speculator may have bribed the muse of one or other of the ever-ready Grub Street poets to compose these verses, which read very like a lyrical advertisement of the place; while the broad-sheet form in which they first appeared was the usual one in which such poetical puffs were presented.

Nothing can be more Arcadian than the conceits and images in this effusion; no one reading it at this time of day would imagine danger lurking in the shape of footpads[280] in St. Pancras Vale, where Smollett makes one of his heroes walk with a drawn sword by the side of his mistress’s coach on her way to town from the Flask Walk. It was better to fall into the hands of the redoubted Turpin himself than into those of these cruel and rapacious robbers.[259] He, on the other hand, affected a certain bonhomie in his proceedings, and loved best to disembarrass his victims of their property without unnecessary violence. His wit appears to have been heavier than his hand.

‘You will soon be caught!’ cried out an angry but non-combative gentleman, one of two in a chaise, whom, besides others, he had robbed on a certain Sunday on the road between Hampstead and Highgate.

‘So I have thought myself,’ returned Dick, ‘but believe I am in no danger from you!’

During the years that had passed between the first opening of the Wells and this temporary resuscitation of their popularity, death had broken up that knot of brilliant wits and writers whose presence there has made Hampstead classical. Addison and Steele, Arbuthnot and Gay, were, in one sense, simply names, but names so intimately interwrought with the literature of their age and country as to be for ever inseparable from it.

‘Those sovereigns of the Muse’s skill
Are the true patterns of good writing still!’

Swift, parted by the Irish Sea from his old associates, still lived, Dean of St. Patrick’s; and only Pope, pale and sickly, represents the bright band of literary brothers who had found many suggestive themes, in the Well Walk and its vicinity, for the exercise of their genial humour or piquant censorship. Jarvis, the friend of the poet, writing about this period to Dean Swift, observes: ‘Pope is off and on, here[281] and there, everywhere, à son ordinaire, therefore as well as we can hope for a carcase so crazy.’ Jarvis was the well-known ‘face-painter,’ contemporary with Sir Godfrey Kneller, and who had given lessons to Pope in portrait-painting.[260]

The latter continued to visit Hampstead for Murray’s sake, whose love for the charming place ‘amounted almost to a passion,’ and who sought it on every opportunity.

One of the persons most constantly seen in the Long Room and the walks, at this period, was the newly-made Poet Laureate (Colley Cibber), a man of vast intelligence, though a little too full of self-importance, and perhaps egotism. His ‘Birthday Odes’ were the delight of the wits and the amusement of the critics, who pounced down upon them in the Grub Street Journal, and other publications, and literally tore them line from line. Colley was himself insensible to satire, though he could wield it very successfully against others. He always remained perfectly satisfied with his own performances as playwright, manager, and poet. So devoid was he of any sense of the absurdity of his odes, that he was in the habit of carrying them about with him, and reading them to those of his acquaintances who would listen, all the while unconscious that the little ill-dressed man, with the pain-drawn, sallow face and large, dark, luminous eyes, who was never without a knot of the best people in the company, la crême des beaux esprits, about him, was passing round an epigram of his own, the reading of which occasioned hilarious laughter.

The lines ran as follows:

‘In merry old England it once was a rule,
The King had his poet, and also his fool;
But now we’re so frugal, I’d have you to know it,
That Cibber can serve both for fool and for poet.’


Let us take Swift against Pope:

‘Sir, I admit your general rule,
That every poet is a fool.’

No doubt Colley Cibber, who at seventy years of age aped the airs of a man of fashion, made himself as ridiculous on the walks at Hampstead as he subsequently did on the Pantiles at Tunbridge Wells, where Richardson describes him making love to the handsome Miss Chudleigh (the pseudo Duchess of Kingston[261]), and growing green with jealousy when she bestowed a smile on anyone but himself. His appointment to the Laureateship, and the Birthday and other odes in which he exhibited his poetical fitness for the honour of the wreath, occasioned Lady Betty Germain to remark, in one of her clever letters to Dean Swift, that if it was the Queen, and not the Duke of Grafton,[262] that picked out such a Laureate, she deserved his poetry in her praise.

In May we find Mrs. Donnellan,[263] sister to the Bishop of Killala, and a friend of Swift’s and Mrs. Delany’s,[264] writing to the latter that she is waiting in Dublin to cross to England ‘when the wind served.’ This lady, who appears to have frequently renewed her visits to Hampstead, was received in the best society, and especially sought that of distinguished[283] literary people. She was the Philomela of the Widow Pendarves’ correspondence with her sister—an affectation that suggests that, like so many of her charming country-women, she had the gift of a melodious voice added to that exquisite Gaelic endowment of taste and feeling in the use of it. Richardson, who after the appearance of ‘Pamela’ had become famous, and was fêted and run after, especially by women who affected literature, was a friend of hers. She appears to have preferred Hampstead, not only for the sake of the Wells, but from her innate love for the natural beauty of the place.

In 1748, the year ‘Clarissa’ took the reading world by storm, Richardson succeeded in persuading her that the air of the north-west suburb was too sharp for her, and so lured her for a time to North End, Fulham. But though getting into years, the lady appears to have had a will of her own, and in the summer of this year returned to her favourite place of abode and the shelter of Pond Street.

Richardson, writing to Mrs. Delany, informs her of her friend’s removal, and adds: ‘I did myself the honour to dine with her there (Pond Street) yesterday. The weather was not propitious ... she complained.... I chid her for her removal. But upon my word, madam, I do think it is not so very much amiss sometimes that control ... but no more on this subject.... I will only add that she rejoices in her prospects variegated with hill and dale. They are certainly very fine.’ To this epistle, the style of which is very like that of his epistolary novels, Mrs. Delany, whose ‘deportment was all elegance, and speech all sweetness,’ as Burke expressed it, a born courtier at heart, replies that she has written to Mrs. Donnellan, ‘condemning her, though she was loath, for going to that ugly Hampstead, which she had never loved since Clarissa had such persecutions there.’

Nevertheless, Mrs. Donnellan continued to enjoy the air of Hampstead from time to time for ten years longer. Mrs.[284] Barbauld, in her ‘Life of Richardson,’ tells us that a friend of hers at Hampstead could remember her ‘a venerable old lady with very sharp, black eyes.’

She was an intimate friend of the famous Mrs. Montague, the acknowledged patron of the literary and artistic celebrities of the time, the entrée to whose drawing-rooms bestowed a sort of diploma on the favoured recipient, which, by the way, was never extended to the literary bookseller. Mrs. Donnellan died of what Mrs. Montague calls ‘a cold and fever,’ the precursor, probably, of our modern influenza, as universal a plague in 1772 as the latter in 1893-94.

Though for a brief period after the publication of Dr. Soames’ treatise the presence of an increased number of visitors gladdened his heart, it soon became apparent that no persuasive pamphlet, no poetical puff, could restore it. The favour of people of fashion had passed away from it.

The walk without the raffling-shops and gaming-tables, and the ballroom without the freedom of the all-night dancing, had no charms for any others than the real lovers of the delightful suburb for its own sake. It came to be considered as a sort of natural sanatorium, a pleasant rustic summer resort and resting-place; and as the fame of the waters fell away, except in the grateful remembrance of those who had imagined themselves benefited by them, the reputation of its pure, health-giving air and the natural beauty of its situation and surroundings became more obvious to persons who, like Mrs. Donnellan, Mr. Murray, and others, were permeated with an ever-growing love of them.

It was no doubt the dearth of entertainment for the visitors that suggested to the inventive imagination of the sexagenarian Robert Causton the idea of opening the tea-drinking house, with pleasure-gardens, waterworks, and various ingenious contrivances (to which I have elsewhere referred) in a part of Turner’s Wood, the wood where the lilies-of-the-valley, once indigenous on Hampstead Heath, lingered latest.

It was opened in 1737, and became so popular with Londoners[285] and the general public, that it remained open twenty years afterwards, so that the enterprise must have amply repaid the originator.

From this it would seem that not only Mother Huff’s, but others of these apparently innocent places for refreshment and recreation (so-called tea and bun houses), with their fair bowling-greens, and garden bowers, for summer evenings’, and Sunday afternoons’ rest and pleasure, were included in the general blight which the drastic measures of the magistrates at Hicks’s Hall had inflicted on Well Walk and its neighbourhood. We recognise the reason for this measure when we learn that many of their proprietors had succeeded, through a direct infringement of the law, in obtaining licenses for the sale of wine and punch, and in this way tea-houses had become sources of dissipation and vice.

In 1744, Pope, whose life had been one long illness, finally disappeared from the Well Walk, where with Murray and so many other wits and celebrities he had shared with the lighter crowd in the fashions and follies of the place—the last but one of that bright galaxy of literary stars in which it had been his privilege to shine and mingle. He died, to the regret of many admirers and the sincere sorrow of his friends. With all his faults—and they were flagrant—there must have been something lovable and sympathetic in his nature, to have won and kept the life-long friendship of men with minds and dispositions so differently constituted as Dr. Arbuthnot’s, Dean Swift’s, John Gay’s, and Mr. Murray’s.

His love for his mother and Gay was almost feminine in its steadfastness and tenderness, and I fancy we may discover something noble in his self-restraint when tending the latter from time to time during his illness at Hampstead, for, though suffering himself from the same circumstances, he never seems to have alluded to his own share of loss in the South Sea Bubble.

How affectionately each of the three ‘Yahoos’—Jonathan[286] Swift, John Gay, and Pope—alludes to the time they spent together at Twickenham, and how much of real pathos he, the most artificial of poets, crushed, as it were, into the two last lines of his intended epitaph on Gay!—

‘For all thy blameless life the sole return,
My verse, and Queensberry’s tears above thy urn.’

Everyone knew of the misunderstanding between him and Addison from the commencement of his career; yet in expressing his regret for the essayist’s death, he observed there was in Addison’s conversation ‘more charm than he had heard in any other man’s.’ High praise from a supposed adversary, but praise that was assuredly due to him.

In the Penny London Advertiser, under the date of June 13-15, 1744, and the heading ‘Home News,’ it is stated that ‘Last week the body of Mr. Pope was privately interred at Twickenham, when twelve men and twelve women were entirely new cloathed, and attended his corpse to the grave, pursuant to his will.’[265] No reference is made to his genius, no word is said of his works; nor does it appear that any personal friends attended his funeral. I have said that, owing to his deformity and other causes, his life had been pronounced one long disease. I wonder if his more robustly-constituted critics took this fact into consideration when sitting in judgment on the bitterness, irritability, and other sins of omission and commission of the man of whom the friends around his death-bed observed ‘that his humanity survived his understanding,’ and whom Gay had said ‘he loved as his own soul.’ Think of fifty-six years’ habitation of a misshapen, dwarfed, feeble body, in which he could never have known freedom from physical depression, and say how many of us under the same conditions might not have dentated sharpest incisors rather than wisdom-teeth.


In 1748 Richardson, after eight years’ abstinence from novel-writing, produced his crowning work, ‘Clarissa Harlowe,’ a book that occasioned intenser excitement and more eager expectation than any work of fiction that had preceded it. To understand this, one has only to take a course of eighteenth-century belles-lettres, as exhibited in the romances of the magazines, and so-called memoirs, and narratives of the day.

In these no attempt is made to depict human nature naturally, or to endue the characters represented with the ordinary language, idiosyncrasies, temper, or feelings of living beings. Richardson’s style was formal and spiritless, and the epistolary form in which he developed his long-drawn stories absolutely wearisome; but he painted men and women, and made them speak. Their joys and sorrows, trials and temptations, were true to Nature, as were their weaknesses and vices; and this living force in his delineations—the human passion and the human pathos, that make many of his descriptions throb with life—touched the hearts of his readers, unaccustomed to such graphic treatment, with spontaneous sympathy, and set all England weeping over the imaginary wrongs and sorrows of Miss Clarisse, which Mr. Lang tells us the Young Pretender, with a reward of £30,000 for his apprehension hanging over his head, requested a lady of his acquaintance to secure for him. Not only matrons and maidens, but men also, persisted through the seven or eight volumes with unflagging interest, and any amount of lachrymatory effusion, amongst them a Bishop, who cheerfully averred that he had ‘shed buckets full of tears over its pages.’[266] No wonder if the author (whom Horace Walpole and others regarded as a ‘conceited prig’) did feel a little lifted up in self-estimation, especially when Johnson sententiously observed to him that in writing his story of ‘Clarissa Harlowe’ he ‘had enlarged the knowledge[288] of human nature, and taught the passions to move at the command of virtue.’

There is no doubt that Richardson’s writings initiated the English novel, which henceforth became the favourite form with writers of fiction. It will be remembered by those who have read ‘Clarissa Harlowe,’ a reprint of which, edited by Dallas, was brought out some years ago, that the heroine, in her innocence, takes shelter at the Upper Flask Tavern, and subsequently finds lodgings in Flask Road. Mrs. Barbauld tells us of her own knowledge of a Frenchman who paid a visit to Hampstead for the ‘sole purpose of finding the house in Flask Walk where Clarissa had lodged, and was surprised at the ignorance or indifference of the inhabitants on the subject,’ just as if Clarissa had been a living being.

Her story indelibly associates the author with Hampstead, where, indeed, the smooth-faced, precise, placid-looking little man might often be seen in retired corners of the pump-house or Long Room, or sidling behind the trees in the walks, or propped upon his stick, his favourite attitude, ‘one hand in his bosom, and the other supporting his chin.’ The year in which ‘Clarissa’ appeared was that in which Johnson, in spite of his poverty, had taken lodgings for the exacting Tetty in that ‘little house beyond the church,’ and was hard at work upon the ‘Vanity of Human Wishes,’ possibly to provide the means of paying for them. In this year—the ‘Clarissa’ year—the inhabitants of Hampstead being ‘very desirous to prevent any robberies or felonies being committed in the said parish,’ had joined with those of Hackney, Clapham, and probably other outlying suburbs, and subscribed amongst themselves to a common fund, which enabled them to offer a reward of ‘ten pounds to any person or persons who shall apprehend or take any highwayman or footpad, who shall commit any robbery within the said parish.’[267]


Similar announcements, differing in no way but in the name of the place, appeared almost simultaneously in the columns of the Daily Advertiser in the month of June, 1748.

As early as 1736 the gentlemen of Hackney, then a beautiful subrural village, much affected by rich City men and merchants, had agreed to have ‘a good and substantial watch to patrol the footway between London and Hackney, from six at night till ten, all armed with halberts’; and years previously the turnpike men had provided themselves with long speaking-trumpets, that upon the first notice of a robbery they might alarm the distant villages, and enable the inhabitants to pursue the robbers. It was this state of social terror that roused the householders from time to time to band themselves together, and, armed with blunderbusses and cutlasses, to patrol the roads in the neighbourhood of their homes for mutual protection. Evidently a lawless time, with only one remedy, the gibbet, which an appearance before Sir John de Veil, or other Bow Street justice, was almost certain to be the prelude to.

The laws of England were draconic, the quality of mercy unknown. All gradations of crime were condemned together, and convicts came out by cart-fulls to Tyburn, where the cruel, stealthy, midnight murderer, and the pitiful thief who had filched a sixpence from a farmer’s boy,[268] came to the same end, and were hanged. ‘The death penalty,’ says Horace Walpole, ‘was as frequent as curses in the Commination Service.’

Through all these years no attempt had been made by those in authority to remedy the dangerous state of the roads. All round the Metropolis, even at noonday, no traveller was safe. Barnet, Hoxton, the Hendon Fields, Finchley Common, Tottenham Court Road, Pancras Meadows, the Half-way House (Mother Red-Cap), Kilburn, and the Highgate Road, were all haunts of footpads and highwaymen, of whom, in 1736, Dick Turpin, especially in Epping Forest,[290] was the most active and successful. Hence the crude co-operation of the inhabitants of Hampstead and other villages to defend themselves.

A pamphlet written by Henry Fielding, the novelist, who had been himself a magistrate, lets us into the fact that the sympathies of the working classes were with the law-breakers, who, though publicly known for such, rode impudently through the streets[269] in the very sight of an officer who held in his pocket the warrant for their arrest, but dare not serve it for his life’s sake. It was verging towards the close of the eighteenth century before Sir Richard Ford established his plan of the horse patrol, or blind Sir John Fielding his system of Bow Street runners—his ‘black band,’ as they were called—and it was not till the fifteenth year of George III. (1774) that an Act was obtained for the lighting of the streets, roads, and public passages within the town of Hampstead, and for the establishment of a nightly patrol between the said town and London.

With light, and the horse patrol, the vocations of footpad and highwayman very soon showed signs of decline; but intermediately we read such paragraphs as the following: ‘On Saturday night between eight and nine o’clock four men were attacked in a field between Tottenham Court Road and the Half-way House to Hampstead by a single footpad, who came to them with a pistol in each hand, and robbed them of what money they had.’

A Mr. Herman was robbed of eight guineas and some silver on Finchley Common, on his return from Barnet, by two well-mounted highwaymen. A man was stopped close to the barn near the Mother Red-Cap by some villains, who robbed and murdered him, leaving him under the eaves of[291] the barn, and two ladies were robbed on Hampstead Heath by a young man who informed them that he was ‘a baronet’s son, but in great distress.’

Very often we read of persons dying from wounds received in these brutal encounters, the scene of which, as in the instances above quoted, was often very near to Hampstead. ‘Mr. Bocket, an old inhabitant, remembered the mail-coach being robbed opposite Pilgrim Lane in 1800’—a fact for which I am indebted to Martin H. Wilkin, Esq.



At the present day all that remains of the original Well Walk are the great elms on the bank above the bench at the Heath end of it, with two houses so facially improved that I do not recognise them, and the celebrated Long Room (Weatherall Place), converted to a private house about a hundred years ago. Gainsborough Mansions on one side of the way, and Gainsborough Gardens on the other, which memorise the name of the donor of the Wells, and the 6 acres of waste land lying about it, afford a striking proof of the growing value of ground for building purposes in the near neighbourhood of town, and the magnificent increase in the value of the Wells property to the poor of Hampstead.

In 1811 Well Walk and thereabouts contained thirty-nine houses. In one of these lived Thomas Park, the engraver, father of the precocious historian of Hampstead. It did not escape Mr. Abrahams that he was occupying a house rated at £24 per annum, which should rightly have been rated at £36. It is a pity that no inhabitant of Hampstead appears to have taken any particular notice, or have kept any record of the remarkable young man—Park junior—who, at an age when other youths are scarcely out of the playground, was eagerly collecting materials, and seeking every fragment of information he could obtain towards the history of this interesting suburb.


Beyond the fact of his valuable work[270] and that he was the son of a respectable inhabitant, we know nothing of the youth whose after-career it would have been interesting to follow.[271]

In 1817, between the publication of his first poems and ‘Endymion,’ Keats was lodging in Well Walk. The house was either the first or second from the tavern,[272] and its proprietor was Bentley, the postman. It was here, feeling the benefit that Hampstead air had been to himself, that he invited his consumptive brother Tom to join him; and here he nursed and tended him till his death, probably hastening by this act of fraternal devotion the development of the germs of the same fatal disease in himself.

His next-door neighbours were two ancient, soft-hearted single gentlewomen, whom Keats, who had a lively sense of humour, informed his sister ‘possessed a dog between them, who had grown so fat,’ ‘a corpulent little beast,’ he calls it, ‘that when taken out for its daily exercise it had to be coaxed along at the end of an ivory-tipped cane.’ The ladies, the Miss Jacksons, continued to reside in Well Walk long after Keats had left it, and the one who lived longest attained a sort of local fame and memory, from the fact of her leaving her dog a legacy, to insure its being taken care of after her death, the legacy taking the form of a life annuity to the animal.

Keats’ visit to Scotland occurred whilst he was Bentley’s tenant, and at a time when his bodily strength was scarcely equal to the fatigue of rough roads and climbing hills, and he writes:

‘I assure you I often long for a seat and a cup of tea at Well Walk.’


After his return, this walk with its seats and shade became his favourite outdoor resort; and here it was, as we have elsewhere said, that Hone saw him for the last time.

Well Walk.

In 1830 Well Walk received another memorable tenant in Constable, the painter, who from his first coming to London had known and loved Hampstead. Immediately after leaving the mills and streams of Berghold, we find him passing whole days upon the Heath, and, with all a poet’s ineffable love of Nature, making his fairest transcripts of her at his ‘Sweet Hampstead’—an endless treasury to him for all the purposes of his art. After his marriage he had been in the habit of spending a portion of the summer months here with his wife and children, always with the same result, ‘no illness amongst them.’ But this year[295] (1830), instead of returning to the old lodgings at No. 2, Lower Terrace, he rented a house in Well Walk, from which in the August of the same year I find him writing to his friend Leslie:

‘Will this weather tempt you to walk over the fields to my pretty dwelling in Well Walk?’

In the next year (1831) I think it is quite clear that, for some reason or other, he gave up this house in favour of a larger and better situated one, else why should he write thus to his friend Dean Fisher?—

‘This house is to my wife’s heart’s content.... It is situated on an eminence at the back of the spot in which you saw us’ (Well Walk), ‘and our little drawing-room commands a view unsurpassed in Europe, from Westminster Abbey to Gravesend. The dome of St. Paul’s in the air seems to realize Michael Angelo’s words on seeing the Pantheon, “I will build such a thing in the sky.”’

‘We see the woods and lofty grounds of the East Saxons to the north-east.’

The Well Walk then extended some distance, but in a straight line and on level ground. Dean Fisher says the house he visited was at the bottom of the walk, and Constable himself that the one he is writing of was on an eminence. I imagine that it must have stood on the same side of the way as the Long Room, but beyond the walk, on the slope of the rising ground about Christchurch, where at that time of open spaces such a view was possible. I remember an old and respected inhabitant of Hampstead High Street telling me in 1859 that thirty years previous you could see from what he called ‘Perrin’s Corner’ Erith Reach, and the ships sailing up and down the Thames, while the back-windows of his house looked over open fields to Pancras. The house we are in quest of was rented at £52 per annum, and £24 taxes—not an unimportant house in those days—yet when William Howitt wrote his ‘Northern Heights of London’ there was no house in Well Walk possessing such a view as Constable had described; nor[296] could he,[273] though not much more than thirty years had passed since the delightful painter of the ‘Cornfield, a View near Hampstead,’ and the ‘Fir-tree Avenue on the Heath,’ had resided in the vicinity, discover his sometime abode.

Here the artist lost his beloved and loving wife, and wrote in his diary under the date of her death, ‘I shall now call Hampstead home.’

Whereabouts, I wonder, stood that elegant group of trees, ashes, elms and oaks, of which he made a study, and that were to be of as much service to him as if he had bought the field in which they grew? But his sketch-books were full of the likenesses of the sylvan beauties of the Heath and its neighbourhood—the beautiful trees that, like the clouds, seemed to ask him to do something like them. Perhaps those in the grounds of Mr. Charles Holford, of which he made a sketch, may still be flourishing.

In 1832 he exhibited ‘Sir Richard Steele’s Cottage, Hampstead,’ and the next year finds him lecturing on art in the Assembly Room on Holly Bush Hill. The date of his last lecture before the Literary and Scientific Institution was July 26, 1836. I was told a little story of Constable, recounted by his son to an old gentleman who resided at Hampstead, which exhibits the painstaking genius of the painter. As a boy, he said, he used to sleep in his father’s studio, and one of his earliest recollections was that of being startled by seeing his father enter the room in the middle of the night, very lightly clad, with a candle in one hand and a brush in the other, for the purpose of adding a suddenly conceived idea or additional touch to a picture, before the suggestion should have faded away. After the death of his wife, Constable retained his Hampstead house as an occasional residence. He died in London in 1837, and rejoined his beloved and two of their little ones in the churchyard at Hampstead.


In the magnificent summer of 1834 the brothers Chalons, as full of charm, brightness and fancy as their pictures, spent six delightful weeks at Hampstead, giving Constable an opportunity he never lost of pointing out his pet views and all the loveliest trees and best bits of his ‘Sweet Hampstead.’

I remember Mr. and Mrs. Valentine Bartholomew, who knew them well, telling me the following story of the pleasant brothers: how a very large, straggling old vine which covered the back of their house, and that of a titled neighbour in a quiet street off a then fashionable square, suddenly appeared en papilotte, to the astonishment of the next-door household, whose share of the vine had never developed a single blossom. A few days later a ladder was laid against the wall, and one or other of the brothers ascended it, and appeared deeply interested in examining the vintage, which, looking at the number of paper bags covering the vine, appeared to be quite wonderful. The artists’ old French manservant and the housekeeper next door were on very friendly terms, and she had essayed all her arts to discover the mystery of the one-sided behaviour of the vine; but the secret of its productiveness was his master’s, and Le Brun was impenetrable. At last—for there had been other innocent delusions and merry conceits on the part of the light-hearted brothers—this daughter of Eve fell upon the plan of pretending distress at the fruiterer’s failing to send grapes in time for dessert, conscious that, if there was any reality in appearances, this feint would discover it, and was more than ever confounded when the old Frenchman made his appearance no great while after, with messieurs his masters’ compliments, and a basket of delicious grapes—‘their own fruit.’

Doubtless there have been other residents in Well Walk of ‘mark and likelihood,’ but I am ignorant of them. The most important houses in it in my time were the Pump-House School, the Long Room, and its close neighbour, the gloomy-looking Bergh, then the officers’ quarters of the militia barracks close by. This, I am told, is now a private[298] residence, with handsome grounds and garden, concealed by high walls. The Wells died out slowly, for outsiders still retained their faith in the potency of the waters.

When Dr. Hughson in 1809 published his ‘History of London and its Neighbourhood,’ he states that Hampstead then ranked high for the number and variety of its medicinal waters; that beside the old spa of chalybeate quality, there were two other kinds of mineral water. One of them, a saline spring, was discovered by Mr. John Bliss, an eminent surgeon of Hampstead, 1802. The other owed its disclosure to Dr. Goodwin, another local practitioner; so that it would appear that, though no longer a place of amusement, the Wells continued to be resorted to by invalids.

In my own time it was quite common for working men from Camden and Kentish Towns, and even places much farther off, to make a Sunday morning’s pilgrimage to Hampstead to drink the water, and carry home bottles of it as a specific for hepatic complaints, and as a tonic and eye-water.

We know from modern analysis that only one of the springs contained sufficient iron to be of any medical use, but, on the other hand, we have the practical testimony of Dr. Gibbons, and of the royal physician, Dr. Arbuthnot, to their curative qualities. May not modern building and drainage have interfered with the sources of the springs and deteriorated them?

There has always been an uncertainty in modern times as to the origin of the chapel in Well Walk. Hampstead’s own historian, Park, appears to have had no better foundation for his short notice of it (p. 236, 1818 edition) than surmise and tradition; but there are cases in which Tradition may be trusted as the handmaid of Truth, and this is certainly one of them.

The chapel appears to have served a very useful purpose for more than a hundred years, ninety-three of them as a chapel of ease to the parish church, St. John’s Chapel, on[299] Downshire Hill, not having been built till 1818. For many years after I knew Hampstead these three continued to be the only places of worship connected with the Establishment; now I understand there are, within the fourteen ecclesiastical districts into which the parish is divided, as many churches, besides a number of other places of worship.

The opening of St. John’s Chapel of Ease to St. John’s, Frognal, does not appear to have interfered with the congregation attending the chapel in Well Walk, who continued to worship there till Christ Church was built, when the congregation removed to it, about 1852-53. Then the chapel in Well Walk was let to the Scotch Presbyterians, and it remained their place of worship till about 1861-62, after which (never having been consecrated) it was let to the Hampstead Rifle Volunteers, who were in want of a drill-hall, and it continued to be retained for this purpose till about a dozen years ago, when it was taken down and the site used for building upon.

A gentleman then connected with the Hampstead Rifle Corps, and who was deputed to oversee the alterations in the building, necessary to fit it for its new purpose, has kindly enabled me to follow, and with his help unravel, the story of the origin of the Wells Chapel.

The conversion of this mutable building to military uses involved the taking down of all its former fittings—pews, galleries (of which there were three), etc. The space thus gained resulted in a vast room, 90 feet long by some 36 feet wide, and 24 feet high. A wainscot, about 4 feet high, ran round the wall, and on removing a portion of it at the north-east end of the apartment, a sort of niche or recess in the depth of the wall, which was very thick, disclosed itself, and was clearly, to men acquainted with such appearances, the place where the basin and discharge-pipes of an old fountain had been. It had remained hidden behind the wainscot from the time this had been put up. This was surprise the first; but ‘some time after’ (I will let my correspondent tell the story) ‘the workmen, who were cleaning the[300] walls for recolouring, came to tell me that they had found some old paintings on the walls. On going to look at them, I found that there were just nine life-sized figures representing the Muses. There could be no doubt about this, for the name was painted under each figure—Clio, Euterpe, and so on. These paintings were seen by various people; but they were rather faint and much damaged, and, as the work of redecoration had to go on, they were again coloured over with distemper.’ Now, leaving the region of fact and entering that of speculation, I think that this large apartment, some 90 feet long by 36 feet wide, could not have been the chapel spoken of by various writers.[274] I cannot but think it was the old Pump Room, converted afterwards into a large chapel (with its galleries capable of holding some 1,000 persons). My correspondent adds: ‘Besides its great size, one can hardly imagine that such uncanonical figures as the Muses could ever have been painted on the walls of a chapel, and I am sure that the paintings I saw were as old as the building itself.’


Assembly and Pump Rooms, Well Walk.


All this mystery was delightful to me, for I felt sure I held the key to it. I remembered the fine Assembly Room, 60 feet long, and elegantly decorated, and felt confident that Park’s belief was vindicated, and that, as he had stated, the chapel in Well Walk was ‘made out of the old Assembly Room.’ This room, however, was stated to have been 60 feet long, and here were 90 feet to be disposed of. But my informant quickly wrote: ‘Thanks to our correspondence, I think I see a way of explaining that which has perplexed you with respect to the chapel mentioned by the authors you quote. Your last letter seems to give the clue to the whole matter. If you will kindly refer to the sketch-plan I sent you, you will see that the size of the building there depicted is given as 90 feet long by 36 feet wide. I have, perhaps, rather mistaken the width. Now, if you take off from this building 60 feet, you will have left an apartment 30 feet long. Was not this smaller room the Pump Room, and the other the Assembly Room? If you look at the view of this old building given in Baines, you will see that it is one as seen from the outside, and I know from my own observation as a surveyor that from its style this building must have been built about the commencement of the last century. I consider,’ adds this gentleman, ‘that the Pump Room and Assembly Room were converted into what was known as Well Walk Chapel in the last century.’[275] The change took place, as we know, in the first quarter of it. Subsequently I learned that the paintings were at the end and sides of the building farthest from the recess, which, of course, appertained to the Pump Room. Baines’ view shows that there were eight windows on the north-west side of the building, next the Well Walk, and my informant thinks the windows on the opposite side were equal in number. The figures of the Muses were painted in the spaces between the windows and at the end. The exterior walls of the building were of red brick, but had been coloured over, and, after the mode of building in those times, were very solid. I think this discovery definitively establishes the origin of the Well Walk Chapel, and proves Park to have been correct.

Until pretty deep in the fifties, the upper part of Well Walk possessed a small but beautiful grove of century-old lime-trees, now very nearly destroyed by the unskilful hands of someone ignorant of the knowledge of forestry. It is perhaps noteworthy that Mr. Gurney Hoare, his brother, wife and children, were members of the Well Walk Chapel congregation, the first part of the family, it is said, to become members of the Church of England.

About fifteen years ago the public basin on the left-hand side of Well Walk as you entered it from the Heath was removed, and a new stone structure, with pipe and basin, was placed by the Wells Charity on the opposite side of the Walk. A memorial tablet attached to this structure bears the following inscription: ‘To the Memory of the Honourable[303] Susannah Noel, who with her son Baptist, third Earl of Gainsborough, gave this Well, with six acres of land, to the use and benefit of the poor of Hampstead, December 20, 1691.’

Under this inscription appear the following lines:

‘Drink, traveller, and with strength renewed
Let kindly thoughts be given
To her who has thy thirst subdued,
Then tender thanks to Heaven.’

G. W. Potter, Esq., a gentleman eminently interested in all that concerns Hampstead and its inhabitants, and to whom I am indebted for much valuable information, tells me that people come in numbers to the fountain of a morning, but the water barely drips, and is only very slightly chalybeate in character. But this circumstance induced him, as one of the trustees of the Wells Charity, to get his fellow-trustees to make a small grant of money to be expended in the endeavour to discover the old chalybeate spring, and in greater volume. The Vestry’s workmen were accordingly employed under his direction, with the result that a source of the true chalybeate waters in abundant quantity was discovered. ‘Unfortunately, the analysis showed that the water contained a small amount of organic matter, and the local officers of health very properly will not allow the water to be used by the public unless it is practically pure.’

‘I have reason for thinking,’ continues my correspondent, ‘that the water was fouled accidentally by the workmen making the trial shaft, and further efforts are to be made.’ With what results to Hampstead who can tell?



In later years, as soon as May fretted the Kilburn meadows with cowslips, and the birds began to warble the livelong day and half the night in the woods and the thickets and groves upon the Heath, sensitive persons ‘in populous city pent’ found themselves irresistibly drawn to one or other of the many paths crossing the Marylebone fields, or that ran up from the west, by Lisson Grove, then a tree-shaded, pleasant neighbourhood of good houses, and so by Kilburn meadows to the Heath and Hampstead, ‘each rural sight, each rural sound, fraught with delight.’

Such persons sought it simply for the pleasure of the place, the charming views, the ‘sweet, salutary air,’ the walk, and a few hours’ idling on the turfy slopes of the West Heath, or elm-shaded lovers’ bank now lost to us. Every breath was an inspiration of health, every whiff of air came laden with the odours of melilot and sweet-scented vernal grasses—not yet quite ready for the scythe. For some travellers there followed luncheon or a cosy dinner at one or other of the favourite taverns (there were no hotels in those days), and for frugal mothers and their little ones tea or new milk, home-made bread and fresh-churned butter, the milk from the Morland-like farmhouse at North End, familiar to us as Collin’s farm,[276] or at some convenient cottage, the cleanliness and modest charges of which were well known, and tried by past experiment.


Dr. Johnson.

Amongst these summer visitors to Hampstead in the last half of the eighteenth century many old familiar names jostle. Here we again meet Dr. Johnson, with his dictionary speech and ponderous learning, dogmatic and dictatorial as ever. But he has in the meantime finished his great word-book, and, no longer dependent on booksellers, but much to his comfort, though directly against his principles (thanks to Lord Bute), is in the receipt of a Government pension of £300 a year, and able to indulge the active benevolence of his nature, and to make his house in Bolt Court, Fleet Street, an asylum of bounty to many grumbling dependents, hardly grateful to him. Mercifully, ‘Tetty’ had deceased before the augmentation of her husband’s means could help her in the larger development of her personal wants; and though he decorously mourned her with closed doors for[306] forty days, he by this time, with the aid of company and the clubs, appears to have overcome his sorrow, and to be having an excellent time of it in the society of Mr. Reynolds (not yet Sir Joshua), with whom almost from the period of his coming to town he had had a club and tavern familiarity. At last, according to Northcote, after many failures, he had succeeded in getting admission to the great painter’s house in Leicester Fields, as well as to the tea-table of his sister, Miss R. Reynolds, with whom he soon became a prime favourite.

It was after criticising the “Percy Ballads,” and drinking unnumbered cups of his favourite beverage, that the Doctor (the rhythm of the verses running in his head) burst into his clever impromptu imitation of it:

‘Oh, hear it then, my Renny dear,
Nor hear it with a frown:
You cannot make the tea as fast
As I can pour it down.’

It was after this that he made the acquaintance of the rich Bermondsey brewer, Mr. Thrale, and his young and clever papillon wife (afterwards Mrs. Piozzi), and became a weekly guest, and subsequently almost a fixture, at their hospitable Streatham home, Thrale Park. Better fortune has made but little change in him so far as appearance is concerned: he is just as slovenly and personally uncared for as in the years gone by; perhaps, if possible, he is even more awkward and ungainly, because grown more massive, so that, though written of another,[277] it might be said of him,

‘When Johnson treads the street the paviours cry,
“God bless you, sir,” and lay their rammers by.’

Yet it is something added to the interest of Hampstead and its walks, that they have known the weight of the great Doctor’s tread, and the pressure of the serviceable oaken staff with which he steadied the uncertain movements of his unwieldy frame and vacillating legs, which, like his arms, to[307] quote Lord Chesterfield, were never in the position which, according to the situation of his body, they ought to be in.

His burly figure is so familiar to us—thanks to friend Reynolds—that we can easily imagine him rolling along, not averse to a talk with any intelligent passer-by, for he himself was an illustration of his own remark, ‘that one man would learn more in a journey by the Hampstead coach, than another would in the course of the Grand Tour.’

It is not the love of Nature, however beautiful, or of fine views, that brings him here—he valued neither. Either he accompanies friends, or expects to meet some or other of his club associates, Goldy or Garrick, whom he ‘allows no man to find fault with but himself.’ Or it may be Hogarth in his sky-blue coat, who, with the actor, likes to be where folks foregather, and loves Hampstead for its own sake. Did he not select the Hampstead Road for the scene of his “March to Finchley”?[278] There was a time when he brought with him his favourite friend, the genial old sea-captain, Thomas Coram. How could a kindly-hearted man, the merriest in Fleet Street, enjoy the finest views, and air nearest heaven in his neighbourhood, and not desire the Jonathan of his soul to share them with him? While he, having seen his scheme of a foundling hospital accomplished, could with a white conscience afford himself a ‘sunshine holiday.’ But all that is past. The old philanthropist died in 1751, and

‘Home had gone and ta’en his wages.’

As it is, what a unique party they must have made at one or other of the pleasant taverns, and how much has Boswell lost for us, by not hearing the rich after-dinner talk of them over the ‘wine and walnuts,’ or bowl of punch, or often the homelier refreshment of brown ale and clean Broseley pipes! The number they smoked and the quantity of ale they consumed remains a social problem of their times unsolved.

The Well Walk is clean swept out of many of its old properties, but the Tavern, the Episcopal Chapel, with a[308] modern Pump House, and the Long Room on the other side of the way, still remain. In summer the Walk is seldom destitute of company; either the force of habit or the associations of the spot attract visitors to it. At this period patients, though few, were never wholly absent, and conversation and cards had still their headquarters in the Long Room; invalids naturally preferred the level walk and the benches in the Lime-tree Avenue, from which the unimpeded view eastward must have been very charming.

James Boswell.

It seems a long way back to the days when Addison, with[309] that knot of literary men (‘who gave a more undying lustre to the reign of Queen Anne than even the brilliant victories of Marlborough’) met here; yet Pope, the last of them (save Swift), had been lavish in praise of Richardson’s “Pamela,” and knowing nothing personally of Johnson at the time, but the reputation of his scholarship, and of his poverty, upon the publication of the latter’s poem, “London,” used all he had of influence with Swift, and that of others with Lord Gower, to procure the writer of it an Irish degree, so that the title of Doctor might enable him to obtain a mastership of £60 per annum. The act was unsolicited, and should always be remembered to the credit of the bard of Twickenham. Pope had passed away, but Johnson had personally known him. Richardson, whom we last met in 1748, and who had fed ever since on the honey of feminine adulation, is still an occasional visitor to Hampstead, and finds his way to the Well Walk with his old friend Mrs. Donnellan, where Mrs. Delany and the Dean, who managed to spend a considerable portion of their time on this side of the Channel, might sometimes be met with, for they had personal connections and friends in Hampstead and the neighbourhood.[279]

Dapper little Colley Cibber, ‘the greatest fop either on or off the stage’ that Lady Braidshaigh had ever seen—‘an irreclaimable old sinner’ she calls him—still visits his favourite suburb, and haunts the precincts of the altered Wells, hunting after new faces, and as happy if he can obtain the notice of a fine woman as he was at the age of seventy-seven, when Richardson found him dabbling with the Tunbridge Waters, and described his vanity in a letter to Miss Mulso. In the interim one of his odes has been set to music by Mr. Greene, and been sung in the clubs and coffee-houses. But some things have gone out of his life. Mr. Foote is too busy with his summer performances at the Hay market to be wiled from business by the ancient Laureate, and his old friend, the handsome, clever Barton[310] Booth, has long since found a place amongst the celebrities in Poets’ Corner.

Pertinaciously present at the Assembly balls and in the Long Room, we should see Dr. Akenside, pale and proud, and with the stamp of genius on his handsome brow, passing without recognition, or meeting supercilious looks of contempt, which he is not slow to return with scorn.

Sometimes Garrick brings his graceful Viola (she was called Violette by command of Maria Theresa), on the occasion of a special concert or other entertainment in the Long Room, where Goldsmith, who loves music, and still better to escort Miss Reynolds and her friends, appears in bag-wig and sword and his second-best suit of ‘Queen’s blue silk,’ lined with satin. Once Miss Reynolds was asked to toast the ugliest man she knew, and instantly named Oliver Goldsmith, but on reading “The Traveller,” rescinded her opinion. The beautiful thoughts of the poet transfigured the man, and she could never after think him ugly.

Another noticeable person seen here from time to time was the cheerful, chatty Dr. Young, the protégé of Mrs. Boscawen, widow of the Admiral who resided at Colney Hatch, the friend and correspondent of Richardson. Young’s daily utterances had no affinity with his sombre “Night Thoughts,” lines lit with loveliness though many of them be. Charming Mrs. Montague, too, occasionally appeared—a little later than May Day, when she was wholly engaged with her annual feast and garden-party, her guests being the little sweeps of London, enfranchised for one summer day in their miserable existence by this lady’s compassionate thought for them. Her death must have been a real sorrow for the black brotherhood of London climbing boys, their one friend out of all the great multitude of its inhabitants, till Elia’s gentle-hearted friend Jem White for some years resumed the festival.

As we have said, the persons we have recalled are well known to us, almost as well as if we had lived, and walked, and talked amongst them; they stand out saliently from the general[311] company. But there is a new order amongst these whom we know not. The Toupees, young gentlemen of fashion, who, while periwigs were still worn, wisely took the ordering of their heads into their own hands, and wore their own hair powdered and brushed up from the forehead in a top-knot or toupee. They appear to have been the precursors of the modern masher, and when on the Mall, or at Ranelagh, or Vauxhall, were said to be composed of powder, lace, and essences. ‘You may know them,’ says one authority, ‘by the dress of the toupee, the buckles in their shoes, the choice of the waistcoat, and the cock of the hat.’[280]

But there were times when these ‘pretty fellows’ aspired to quite another rôle, that of hackney-coach and curricle driving, the latter vehicle being of such a height and build as to render the exercise really dangerous. Yet to drive furiously was a sine quâ non; and as the public parks scarcely admitted of such performances, the race-course at Hampstead was a favourite rendezvous for these “young bloods,” and the Chicken House, and other summer lodgings, were for some seasons much patronized by Templars, and other youths in the ranks of the Toupees.

To old ladies they seem to have been a terror in more ways than one, and they do not always appear to have put off the characteristics of the hackney coachman with his three-caped coat. When Swift, remembering the clever horsewoman Lady Betty Germain had been when Lady Betty Berkeley, recommended her for her health’s sake to ride when in London, among other reasons which she gave him for not doing so was this: that ‘nothing would more rejoice the Toupees than to see a horse throw an ancient gentlewoman.’ Miss Burney a few years later introduces us, in ‘Evelina,’ to some of these eighteenth-century Jehus.

Meanwhile, one after the other of the frequenters of the Hampstead walks we have recalled is missed from them. First the soft-hearted old seaman, Captain Coram, passes away; then Colley Cibber vanishes; and Richardson dies[312] (1761), and is followed a year later by his venerable friend, Mrs. Donnellan. More than a dozen years after Richardson’s death, I find in the delightfully-named ‘Flowers of Parnassus,’ in the Monthly Miscellany for 1774, ‘Lines addressed to a Lady weeping over “Clarissa.”’

From the period of what is called the Augustan Age of English literature, Hampstead had claims to be considered, if not the literary suburb which it subsequently became, at least an appanage of the Muses. If their most famous representatives did not absolutely reside here, they were, at all events, frequent visitors, so much so that the Muses themselves were poetically fabled to have forsaken

‘Aganippe’s font,
And hoof-ploughed Hippocrene,’


‘Hampstead courted by the western winds,’

as Dr. Armstrong in his poem to ‘Health’ sings of the upland suburb, where he and his brother resided for some time, being very well regarded by the inhabitants. Could the doctor have been that other ‘tame genius’ that Horace Walpole bracketed with Akenside?

In those years plain little Thomas Gray,[281] who could see the ‘northern heights’ from his lodgings west of the museum, with their woods and massy elms, and loved them as much as Milton had done—Gray of the deathless ‘Elegy,’ that, had he never written another line, would have ranked him with the immortals, might occasionally have been met wandering alone upon the Heath, or in the company of friends in the walks, an incomprehensible poet to the author of ‘Rasselas,’ who could neither feel his sensitiveness to the influence of Nature nor the exquisite pathos of this poem.

As one by one the bright lights of literature faded out,[313] others arose in their stead, and found their way as visitors to the topmost of the London levels. Dr. Johnson still survives the greater number of his contemporaries, and is occasionally to be found at Hampstead, a guest at the suburban feasts given by his friends.

In 1778 Miss Burney’s ‘Evelina’ appeared, to the surprise and delight of the world of letters, and little Fanny Burney, Dr. Johnson’s ‘Fannikin,’ became famous. Certain scenes in her novel assure us of her acquaintance with Hampstead Wells and its sometime visitors. Her description of the ball in the Long Room has done as much to memorise that building as Richardson’s ‘Clarissa’ did for the Upper Flask and Flask Walk.

When, in 1782, ‘Cecilia’ was published, Miss Burney’s fame enlarged. The greatest men of the day eulogized her works, and overwhelmed her with compliments and congratulations, Burke, Johnson, Reynolds, Windham, Gibbon, and Sheridan being of the number. At public places she became the ‘observed of all observers,’ and the gaze of admiring crowds ‘followed her along the Steyne at Brighton, and the Pantiles at Tunbridge Wells.’ Two years later, in 1784, the year her friend Dr. Johnson died, Mrs. Barbauld was staying in London, and witnessed a balloon exhibition at the Pantheon, which occupied the site of the future opera-house. In a letter to her niece she observes that next to the balloon Miss Burney is the object of curiosity. In the next year, 1785, when the Barbaulds moved from Wimbledon to Hampstead, Mrs. Barbauld brought her literary reputation with her, and was at once received in the best local society, the centre of which at this time, as I have elsewhere said, was Heath House, the home of the liberal-minded Quaker banker, Samuel Hoare. Here she made the acquaintance of many literary persons of note, amongst others that of Dr. Beattie, and Dr. George Crabbe, the author of the ‘Borough,’ the poet of the poor as he was called, and subsequently that of Mrs. Hannah More, Miss Seward, Mme. Chapone, and, in curious contrast with them, the banker-poet, Samuel[314] Rogers, and later still Montgomery, whose sobriquet was ‘Satan,’[282] and nearer again to this century Campbell, and Coleridge. In the autumn of 1788 I find Samuel Rogers writing to Mrs. Barbauld that they are to have an assembly at the Long Room on Monday, October 22, ‘which they say will be a pretty good one,’ inviting her to join their party. He was probably staying with his sisters at Hampstead, a frequent practice in those days instead of going to the seaside.

In 1855 the author of the ‘Pleasures of Imagination’ and various other works died, aged ninety-two years. He was born in 1763.

In 1785 there had appeared in the journals and magazines of the day the appointment of Miss Burney to the Court function of Dresser to the Queen, and for five years the literary world lost sight of the clever novelist, who at their expiration managed to get enfranchised from what had proved to her the house of bondage, and we find her at Hampstead in 1792, the guest of the celebrated Mrs. Crewe.

At this time many notable persons were living here. Lord Loughborough, rather tolerated than trusted, resided in the Chesterfields’ old house, which we are told resembled in appearance an ancient French château, and on receiving the title of Lord Rosslyn he renamed it Rosslyn House. Lord Erskine had his home at the Evergreens, or Evergreen Hill, as it was sometimes called, not very far from Caen Wood, Lord Mansfield’s seat, and Lord Thurlow, the ‘lion of the law,’ had a retreat at Hampstead. His town residence was in Great Ormond Street, then abutting in the rear on fields, whence the thieves who stole the Great Seal made their way to the house. Other men high in legal office, bankers, and rich merchants, were living at Frognal, and North End; and so far as rank and wealth were concerned, the village of Hampstead at this period was eminently favoured.

Lord Thurlow, who seems to have ostentatiously set social laws at defiance, in spite of fashion, was wont to[315] appear amongst the visitors ‘wearing his full suit of cloth of the old mode, great cuffs, massy buttons, great wig, long ruffles,’ his black eyebrows exceeding in size any Lord Campbell had ever seen, and ‘his voice, though not without melody, was like the rumbling of murmuring thunder.’[283] Fanny Burney says of his voice: ‘Though low, it was very melodious.’ I do not know if when at Hampstead he permitted the companionship of the tame white goose by which he was generally attended in his London home, and which followed him about his grounds, and is said to have been never absent from his consultations. If so, the presence of his feathered pet must have considerably added to the grotesqueness of his own; for a gentleman’s dress of the period, as established ‘in the polite circles of St. James’s and at Bath,’ consisted of a light-coloured French frock, with gilt wire or gold buttons, breeches of the same colour, and tamboured waistcoats for afternoon dress. His lordship’s wide-skirted coat, like the rest of his habiliments, must have been a score of years behind the mode. Strong passions and a hard, vindictive, unforgiving nature lowered in the large dusky eyes and thick, almost meeting eyebrows of his lordship. His treatment of the daughter who had offended him by marrying the man she loved, but who nursed her father with the greatest tenderness in his last illness, fully bears out the character that his countenance indicated.

With the commencement of the present century, new names appear in connection with Hampstead and its celebrities. Joanna Baillie, the shy girl of Mrs. Barbauld’s acquaintance, upon the publication of her tragedy of ‘De Montfort,’ was at once accepted as a genius and poetess. A few years later Sir Walter Scott visited Sweet Hampstead to do her honour, and heralded the poet of Rydal Mount,[284] some years in advance of his appearance there in person. Later on in the present century we find Lord Byron, for his health’s sake, I presume,[316] spending some weeks of summer in one of the toy cottages in the Vale of Health, two doors distant from that subsequently tenanted by Leigh Hunt. It was on a window-pane of this humble habitation, and not, as has been stated, in Leigh Hunt’s cottage, which he never visited, that he wrote with a diamond (a favourite amusement of the time when diamonds were less common than in these days) two lines which are said to have afterwards appeared in ‘Childe Harold.’

In 1816 the presence of Leigh Hunt, fresh from expiating, by a fine of £1,000 and three years’ confinement in Horsemonger Lane Gaol, the crime of libellously characterizing the Regent as ‘a fat Adonis of fifty,’ is felt as a social shock by some of the eminently loyal residents of Hampstead, especially when the magnetism of the man attracted Shelley to him—the disowned and denounced Shelley; then came Charles Lamb[285] and Keats, and robust Charles Cowden Clarke, with his voice and laugh as strong as the blast of the rams’ horns that levelled Jericho—in brief, the brotherhood who constituted what the critics of that day called the ‘Cockney School of Poets,’ a school whose works—those of three of them, at least—were destined to a worldwide reputation. The ‘Essays’ of Leigh Hunt are too delightful reading to be ever wholly laid aside.

When Keats’ first book of poems appeared, one of these critics, more mannerly than most of them, admitted that the author had ‘a fine ear for the grand, elaborate, and abstracted music of Nature, and now and then catches a few notes from passages of that never-ending harmony which God made to retain in exaltation and purity the spirits of our first parents.’ A curious limitation to the power of an eternal harmony. At the same time, he accuses the poems of ‘savouring too much of the foppery and affectation of Leigh Hunt.’

When the tall, fragile figure and beautiful face of Shelley[317] were no more seen on the Heath, when Keats had forsaken the ‘places of nestling green for poets made,’ and Elia and his sister were no longer met with in the vicinity of the Vale of Health, and Leigh Hunt himself—the slight, rather tall, straight gentleman with the wide low forehead, dark eyes, and foreign complexion, whom Godfrey Turner remembered and described to me, and to whom (except in height) his son Vincent, whom I knew, must have borne a strong resemblance—had all left Hampstead, there still remained Joanna Baillie and her literary home, which had, as time went on, become a pilgrimage and shrine, not only to the most celebrated men and women of England, but of those of other countries also.


As we approach contemporary times, we find Hampstead as attractive to the Howitts, and the authors of ‘Festus ’ and ‘Orion,’ poets who almost ‘achieved greatness,’ and yet failed to grasp it; and Westland Marston, and William Allingham, and Ruskin, and Tennyson himself, and all the[318] wits of the first Punch period; and that bunch of novelists who bloomed almost simultaneously—Thackeray and Dickens, Ollier and Ainsworth, Lover and Lever, Anthony Trollope and Douglas Jerrold, and a host of other authors and artists; for, from the days of Addison and Sir Godfrey Kneller, no neighbourhood has proved more in sympathy with the pursuits of both brotherhoods, whether of pen or pencil.

Oh, those old taverns!—those trysting-places of successive generations of wits and men of genius! May your walls, coeval with the Kit-Cats, keep their memories green for generations yet to come, and with them those of the men of genius of our day, whose names are ‘household words’ in the land of their birth, and in every other English-speaking country also.

To-day, as in the older days we have attempted to recall, artists and literary men and women still feel the attractions of the pleasant suburb, and increase them by the magnetism of their own; for delightful as the natural beauties of Hampstead are, how much less would they loom without the charm of these associations that meet us everywhere, and people the Well Walk, and the Hill, and Heath with memories of the deathless men and women who have trodden them!

Nor do we forget that a share of this interest is due to our American kinsfolk, who have freely sent us their stars, whilst reserving their stripes for our enemies; for them, as for us, the facts that Washington Irving, Longfellow, Hawthorne of the ‘Scarlet Letter,’ the fated Margaret Fuller, Mrs. Stowe, Wendell Holmes, and many others of their gifted nation, have made pilgrimages to the gleby Heath, and looked with loving eyes on scenes made sacred by the transition of immortals through them, whose works live on through the dead centuries, and whose names have passed into glories, are so many added charms to the intrinsic ones of our Sweet Hampstead.



As I approach the end of my pleasant task, the contrast between the ‘Sweet Hampstead’ of Constable’s (and even of my own) time with the present, makes itself felt with a sense of loss and change that is almost pathetic, so many of its lovely accessories are now missing. It is like contrasting the simplicity and grace of childhood with the conventional man or woman it has subsequently developed.

Instead of rejoicing in its enlargement, and the importance of the townlike outgrowths on its skirts, at the increase of its wealth, and the growing numbers of its population, I like to think of it as it was in those far-away days, when the walk to it through Gospel Oak Fields was such an easy one to me, and the toil of the ascent of what is now the East End Road repaid itself in refreshing draughts of the ‘impalpable thin air’ one breathed upon its summit.

Then Hampstead was a street of village shops upon the slope of the hill, with a broken sky-line of red-roofed, one-storied, brown-brick or weather-boarded houses, with small windows, often glazed with glass that darkened light. Some of the shops had still hanging shutters, and open shop-boards, and many of them half-hatch doors, a few of which, with a fine vein of what was called independence, were comfortably bolted against all comers during meal-times. Not many years ago I met with the same custom in practice at Totnes, on the river Dart.


A narrow footway paved with cobble-stones followed the irregular outlines of the street, and made Hampstead, like other places of pilgrimage, a place of penance also for the pilgrims who chose that narrow way. The shops then were dusky little places, with not much choice of goods; and what there were, were exhibited with little taste in the arrangement of them. What did it signify? Everyone knew of what his neighbours’ stock consisted, and consequently where to get what he wanted. There was no hurry in those days, and plenty of time for everything. Very few people except visitors were to be seen about, and there was a delightful freedom from the sounds of vehicles—a stillness in the uphill street that suggested somnolence. The little windows seemed to blink at the sunshine like the half-shut eyes of the sleek tabby I used to see there taking her afternoon nap amongst the soft goods in one of them.

There was another peculiarity in many of the Hampstead shops: the earth had so accumulated outside the houses that the difference in the level of the street with the floor had to be taken into consideration when entering them, otherwise the unaccustomed customer was very likely to make a more precipitate than graceful entry. This state of things continued even as late as 1895, at the old post-office and elsewhere. Such things as these only proved the antiquity of the delightful suburb, and its unlikeness to other places.

In the old sunny days South End lay, a picturesque little hamlet of red-roofed houses, embosomed in green trees—an integral part of the parish of St. John, but unenfolded in it—a sort of Hagar’s child, outside Hampstead.

I am told that part of South End still remains in South End Road, close to Hampstead Heath Station, and that South End Green—with a few houses that have not been converted to shops, with their palings and gardens, in a very dilapidated condition—also exists. The Green has on it a fountain, erected in 1880 by a lady resident (Miss Crump) to the memory of a relative. It stands on a piece of greensward,[321] surrounded by iron railings, nearly opposite her house, and no doubt answers a very useful purpose, for South End Green is now the terminus of the tramcars, which in summer bring many thirsty children and travellers to Hampstead.

In the days I am recalling, a road ran out of South End over the sloping fields, sweet with white clover flowers, to Parliament Hill, and the mounds like tumuli on the sunk road in the field at the east end of the Heath. I used to think these mounds were barrows, but am told that they only cover the dead hopes of a rapacious Lord of the Manor, who between forty and fifty years ago intended building houses on the field, but, having only a life interest in the estate, was prevented doing so. The road and ground delved for foundations, and thrown up in great heaps here and there, was left neglected and desolate. But Nature soon covered the scarred earth with a green mantle, and turned its unsightliness to beauty. Only a few years ago a subscription was raised amongst the inhabitants of Hampstead, and the fields, with Parliament Hill, and the storied Pancras meadows, were purchased and added to the Heath.

But in my time there were what Shelley, who knew the whole of Hampstead by heart, and remembered it with yearning amidst the lovely landscapes of Italy, called the beautiful meadows near Shepherd’s Fields, and tells his friend Hunt that he often longs for them, and the Hendon Road, and Hampstead lanes, and the pretty entrance to the village from Kentish Town.

How well I remember the Shepherd’s Fields,[286] and the old conduit in them, round the margins of which the yellow stars of the lesser celandine first opened, and Shakespeare’s ladies’ smocks were soonest seen.

Then there were other pretty meadows near Chalk Farm, the peacefulness of which had often been desecrated by duellists, and of which some tragic stories might be told, but not here.


Old Chalk Farm.


In those days my walk from the White Stone Pond often led to the Nine Elms and the old bench beneath them. The trees grew in a sort of irregular half-circle around it, tall and straight, of no great girth, being planted too close together; they drew one another, as gardeners say, but the boughs and upper branches afforded plenty of shade. The floor was paved with a sort of natural parquetry, made by the interlacing of the roots, which was smooth and polished in places by innumerable feet of loiterers. This was said to have been the favourite resting-place of Pope and Murray.

It did not need much imagination to see them in the serene moonshine of a summer’s night, approaching from the Upper Flask towards the elms. They walked slowly across the turf, on which the moonlight played freaks of exaggeration with the crooked figure of the poet, and caricatured the wide-skirted coat, and three-cornered hat, and the little sword he wore. But Pope is familiar with the ugly shadow, knows himself superior to it, and is indifferent about it. Moreover, at noonday, into whatever assemblage of his fellow-men he takes that defective frame of his, the people crowd around him; or else, as when Sir Joshua Reynolds saw him at a book auction, they make a lane for him to walk through, he bowing prince-like right and left as he passes. I saw the same thing happen to plain little Charlotte Brontë at the Hanover Square Rooms, a compliment at least on a par with the homage shown to the physical beauty of the two lovely Irish girls, the Miss Gunnings.

But to return to the Nine Elms. Here, with the stillness and solitary beauty of Nature, the wits became philosophers, and gave their spirits air and space in higher realms, and exercised themselves in profounder thoughts than any of the salons, clubs, courts of law, or the great town itself, suggested to them. At such times the gravest and profoundest cogitations of the human soul by some celestial attraction rise to the surface, and compel us to oracular confession. At such seasons one can imagine the nature of[324] the little satirist enlarged, and softened, the spirit of the ‘Universal Prayer’ filling his heart, and the natural influence of their surroundings imparting a gravity, mingled with poetic exaltation, to their converse, that must have made it as solemn, and yet more sweet than Johnson’s talk with Boswell in Dr. Taylor’s garden on that serene autumn night, when, emboldened by his friend’s ‘placid and benignant frame of mind,’ his hereafter biographer ‘directed the discourse to a future state.’

Seated here, how often must Pope have seen the shades of friends and kindred spirits flit across the old familiar paths,

‘Under the silent blue,
With all its diamonds trembling through and through,[287]

Steele, Gay, Arbuthnot, and the rest, who, as we know, had slipped out of the daylight of the sweet landscape, years and years before, but now

‘Revisiting the glimpses of the moon,’

with nothing earthly about them but the still clinging likeness of their old humanity. No one will ever more dream dreams or see visions under the Nine Elms, that made such a charming landmark from the East Heath, and of which it was locally said that when they fell Windsor Castle would fall also. This prophecy was, of course, attributed to Mother Shipton, whose power to prophesy had ceased long before the Nine Elms were planted, and which, I cannot help thinking, had its origin in a transverse reading of two lines of Edward Coxe’s poem, ‘To Commemorate the Preservation of the Nine Elms on Hampstead Heath’:

‘While yonder castle towers sublime
These elms shall brave the threats of time.’

In the years I am writing of, the Heath possessed more natural beauty than at present; then the grove of pine-trees opposite the old citizen’s house who had reared and planted[325] them looked much as it looked when Constable painted it, or as it appeared in Blake’s illustration of Dante, which gave these trees (amongst the artist’s friends) the name of ‘the Dante Wood.’ Twenty years farther on in my remembrance of them, time and winter storms had thinned their boughs, and bared them of their foliage (if one can apply this phrase to their needle-shaped leaves); moreover, the sand and gravel diggers had excavated under and between their roots, leaving them bare, and with scarcely any hold upon the earth, an easy prey to the first hurricane.

Judge’s Walk.

But the contrast of the tall, orange-brown trunks with the dusky green, jagged and stretched-out branches made them picturesque objects; and seeing how well they once flourished on that windy eminence, and the proofs some of the best artists have given of the eminently pictorial effect of these trees, let us hope that the conservators of the Heath may be induced to plant others.

In those far-off days the Judge’s Walk, though greatly despoiled of its primal beauty, retained sufficient of it to[326] show what a handsome double grove this triple row of elms, magnificent in height and form in the amplitude of spreading boughs and summer foliage, must have made. A friend of mine possessed a very fine lithographed drawing of the walk when at the apparent acme of its perfection, the recollection of which makes one grieve at its present almost hopeless decadence, the trees pollarded and lopped out of all resemblance of their old forms, and more than three parts of their number dead.

I hear of the planting of flowering shrubs and trees, and of artificial cascades, and as I do so my heart goes back to the wild picturesqueness of the uncared-for Heath, with its groups of storm-bent old hawthorns, its thickets of blackthorn, and twisted crab-apple-trees, pink all over with their rosy blossoms in May.

It was under the Hawthorn bushes on the Heath that Gerard found lilies of the valley growing. I remember its coverts of swarthy furze, twice yearly glorified with golden blossoms, and how on one of these occasions, when every hillock was ablaze with its brightness, Frederika Bremer, whom her friend Mary Howitt had brought with her to the Heath, burst into tears at the first sight of the floral splendour. Her great countryman, Linnæus, is said to have fallen on his knees and thanked God for the sight.

It was on a gorse bush on North End Hill that I first found dodder, ‘like a red harp string winding about it.’ Black alders grew on the margin of the Leg of Mutton Pond, and there used to be wide spaces covered with the creeping willow, and great beds of close-growing whortleberry, which turns red in autumn, and dyed portions of the Upper Heath at that season with its crimson leaves; and upon North End Hill, breast-high coverts of branching ling, with ferns of other species, besides the common Lastrea felix mas, and Athyrium felix femina.

The vari-coloured clay and sand and gravel that overlies the Heath were then the cause of very picturesque effects. The deep orange and yellows of the gravel-pits were contrasted[327] by the glistering hollows scooped in the hillside beyond Jack Straw’s Castle, where brown gipsies dug the ‘lily-white sand’ with which they supplied London and other housewives for domestic purposes; while in various places there cropped up little hillocks, patched with blue and yellow and ferruginous brown clay, occasionally verging to red, dashing in bits of colour in the landscape with charming pictorial effect. The very irregularity of the surface made one of its chiefest charms, and the wide beds of treacherous sphagnum bordering the old watercourse that drained into the deep-set, sullen-looking Leg of Mutton Pond were full of interest for the botanist. There grew, with their roots in the stream, clusters of turquoise-blue forget-me-nots, and the pretty yellow pimpernel, the ‘creeping Jenny’ of the London area and attic, with purple brook-lime, and pink ragged-robin with torn petals, between groups of straight brown rushes, and beds of flags, and water-mint. The silken flocks of the greater cotton-grass that lie before me grew there once, as did the little red-leaved Rosa solis or sundew, with its crook-shaped flower-scape, and atomic insect remains still held in its hinged leaves; and this brown bit of dried vegetation, a specimen of one of the loveliest of wild flowers, ‘buck-bean,’ with its curiously-feathered corolla, and these unfaded rosy flowers of bog-pimpernel, looking so large by comparison with the slender stems and tiny leaves set in couplets on them—all lived upon those pale-green sphagnum beds.

It was a delight to trace the descendants of the plants old Gerard found upon the Heath, still lingering in their ancient habitats, all but the primrose, the odorous violet, and the lily of the valley, which, before the fashion of the Wells had waned, retired from the Heath to Turner’s Wood, and was wholly lost sight of by outsiders when Lord Mansfield enclosed it in Caen Wood.

In those far-away times gipsies, with glittering eyes, bangled arms, and bright orange or red kerchiefs snooding their blue-black hair, were not the only picturesque figures to be met with on the Heath. It was no unusual thing to[328] meet with speculative lace-makers from Buckinghamshire, in their short red cloaks, frilled with black lace, and wonderful black bonnets, with cushion and pendent vari-coloured bobbins swinging from it, selling their thread lace to chance customers, and taking orders from others who had learned the value of their wares.

But, after all, their appearance was an accident, while the gipsies’ was of common occurrence. You passed a furze clump or a sheltered hollow, and saw no one, but an instant later a nut-brown palmist stood in your path, with speculation in her eyes, and promises of love and fortune on her lips. We have changed all this. The brown hand goes uncrossed with silver, and faith in palmistry is reserved for drawing-room professors of it.



The sub-manor of Belsize, lying on the south side of the parish of Hampstead, was given to the Abbot and Convent of Westminster by Sir Roger le Brabazon in 1317, upon condition that they should provide a priest to say a daily Mass in their church for the souls of Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, Blanch, his wife, the said Sir Roger, and all the faithful departed this life.

Whether, at the dissolution of the abbey, it passed through the hands of the Bishop of Westminster is not known. At present it is the property of the Dean and Chapter of that minster. The manor-house was for a long period the residence of the Waad (subsequently Wood) family, who held the lease during many years of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, under the said Dean and Chapter.

Armigall Waad was Clerk of the Council to Henry VIII. and Edward VI. He was also a nautical adventurer of some notoriety, and Anthony Wood asserts the first Englishman who discovered America. This idea, for it amounts to nothing more, is derived from the inscription formerly on an old monument in Hampstead Church—apart from which, it is said, there is not a shred of evidence of a discovery to which, as everybody knows, he had no claim. It is not even clear that he was amongst the first Englishmen who visited that country. Fuller says that his voyages are fully described by Hakluyt; but Park says that readers may search there or elsewhere in vain for Waad’s voyages, although in Hore’s[330] account of his voyage to Newfoundland, in 1536, Waad is mentioned as an adventurer in that undertaking.

Queen Elizabeth employed him on an undertaking of some importance, and in old age he retired to Belsize, where he died in 1567. He was buried in Hampstead Church, under a fair monument of alabaster, the inscription on which Nordon copied. Gerard tells us that in a wood by a village called Hamstede, ‘near unto a worshipful gentleman’s house (Belsize), one of the clerks of the Queen’s Council called Mr. Waade,’ he found betony with white flowers, whence he brought the plant into his own garden at Holborn.


James I., who hoped to buy popularity by scattering titles broadcast, knighted Mr. Waade’s son and heir, who succeeded to his father’s office as Clerk to the Council, and after being employed in various foreign embassies and other high official services, was made Lieutenant of the Tower. His widow (a second wife), daughter of Sir Henry Browne, Knt., Lady Anne Waad, disposed of her interest in Belsize in 1640.[288] Twenty-eight years afterwards Pepys, in[331] his ‘Diary’ under the date of August 17, 1668, tells us that he went to Hampstead to speak with the Attorney-General (Sir Geoffrey Palmer), whom he met in the fields by his old route and house, and, after a little talk about business, went and saw the Lord Wotton’s house and garden (Belsize), ‘which is wonderfully fine, too good for the house the gardens are, being, indeed, the most noble that ever I saw, and brave orange and lemon trees.’ In June, 1677, Evelyn pronounces the gardens ‘very large, but ill-kept.’

Remembering that the Tradescants, father and son, were successively gardeners to the Wotton family, it is not to be wondered at that the gardens and grounds of Belsize House exceeded in beauty any that the diarist had previously seen. Lord Wotton made Belsize his principal residence for many years—Brewer says from 1673 till 1681.

In the year 1681, under the head of ‘London, October 18,’ we read:

‘Last night eleven or twelve highway robbers came on horseback to the house of the Lord Wotton, at Hampstead, and attempted to enter therein, breaking down part of the wall and the gate; but there being four or five men within the house, they very courageously fired several musquits and a blunderbuss upon the thieves, which gave an alarm to one of the Lord’s tenants, a farmer that dwelt not far off, who thereupon went immediately into the town, and raised the inhabitants; who going towards the house, which was half a mile off, it is thought the robbers hearing thereof and withall finding the business difficult, they all made their escape. It is judged they had notice of my Lord’s absence from his house, and likewise of a great booty which was therein, which put them upon this desperate attempt.’—The True Protestant Mercury, October 15-19, 1681.

Lord Charles Wotton’s mother, Catherine, the eldest of the four daughters and co-heirs of Thomas Lord Wotton, of Wotton in Kent, married for her third husband Daniel O’Neale, Esq., Gentleman of the Bedchamber to Charles II., to whom the grant of Belsize had been renewed in 1660. This lady had married, firstly, Henry, Lord Stanhope,[289][332] eldest son of Philip, first Earl of Chesterfield, by whom she had one son. Her second husband was Poliander de Kirkhoven, Lord of Hemsfleet in Holland, by whom she also had one son, Lord Charles Henry Kirkhoven, who, on account of his mother’s descent, was created Lord Wotton in 1650; to whom on her demise in 1667, without issue by Mr. O’Neale, her third husband, the grant of the manor and demesne of Belsize was renewed.

Upon the death of Lord Wotton without issue 1682, his half-brother, Philip, Earl of Chesterfield,[290] obtained a renewal of the grant of the estate.

Park states that after Lord Wotton’s death the manor had always been in the occupation of under-tenants. But though the manor might be so let, it seems quite feasible that the mansion and demesne should be retained by the owner. It is hardly to be supposed that the beautiful gardens and the house (which at some period in Charles II.’s time had been rebuilt) would be immediately deserted by the new proprietor. It appears not only possible, but extremely probable, that the second Earl of Chesterfield resided here at times until his death in 1713; and five years afterwards we find that the gardens required putting in order, a proof, I think, that intermediately they had been kept up and attended to. In one of Swift’s letters to Stella, dated September 7, 1710, three years before the death of the second Earl of Chesterfield, he tells her that ‘going into the City to see his old schoolfellow, Straford the Hombourg merchant,’ and turning into the Bull on Ludgate Hill, where they met, the latter forced him to go to dinner with him at his house at Hampstead, ‘among a great deal of ill company, Hoadley (afterwards Bishop) being one of them.’ But he adds, ‘I was glad to be at Hampstead, where I saw Lady Lucy and Moll Stanhope.’ And he notes on the 24th of the same month, ‘I dined to-day at Hampstead with Lady Lucy.’ True, he does not name Belsize; but neither does Pepys[333] when describing Lord Wotton’s gardens. But Evelyn does, and says that O’Neale built Belsize House.

Philip, second Earl of Chesterfield, is said to have sold his interest in the estate. It was either before or immediately after the death of this nobleman that it was let to Mr. Charles Povey, who appears to have been the first tenant.

In 1733 we find the late Earl’s grandson, Philip Dormer Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield, obtaining a renewal for three lives of the manor and demesne of Belsize; and in 1751 he again procured a renewal of the grant.

The estate continued in the possession of his kinsman, Philip Stanhope, Esq.,[291] son of Arthur Stanhope, deceased, lineally descended from the first Earl of Chesterfield, who succeeded to his titles and estates, till 1807, when, having obtained an Act of Parliament for selling this and several estates, it was jointly purchased by four gentlemen resident at Hampstead,[292] who in the next year divided the estate, containing about 234 acres, into four allotments.

On this partition the mansion of Belsize devolved to James Abel, Esq., the proprietor when Park published his ‘History of Hampstead.’

When Mr. Povey, a retired coal-merchant, entered upon his occupation of Belsize House, he very soon found his possession a white elephant. A man of many grievances against the Whig Government, he strove to avenge them by publishing a violent pamphlet entitled ‘England’s Inquisition; or Money raised by New, Secret, Extinct Law, without Act of Parliament.’ He complained of a series of unjust extortions and persecutions practised upon his person, property, and estate by Commissioners of Excise and others, and enumerates amongst other services and sacrifices he claims to have made for his country, and which had been ungratefully overlooked by those in power, his having refused to let Belsize House to the Duc d’Aumont, the French Ambassador,[334] who had offered him £1,000 per annum for the use of it during his residence in England, being resolved that the new chapel attached to the mansion should not be used as a ‘mass-house.’

Subsequently, in the profoundness of his patriotism, he had made an offer of Belsize to the Prince of Wales, as an occasional retirement or as a constant residence. But though he had taken care to inform the Prince of the tempting offer he had had, and of his self-sacrifice in refusing it for conscience’ sake, his future King (George II.), with scant courtesy, never even honoured him with an answer, though he ‘waited in expectation of it, and kept the mansion house and park unlet for a considerable time.’

In the meanwhile, as I have elsewhere said, Hampstead, under the magisterial rule of Hicks’s Hall, and subjected to the inquisition of the Head-boroughs and their men at unexpected moments, sank rapidly in the affections of the populace. The time for a new place of entertainment was ripe, and Mr. Povey in despair, when one Howell, who appears to have been the Barnum of his day, conceived the idea of converting Belsize House, with its spacious park and beautiful gardens, into a place of amusement for the public on a more than usually magnificent scale. He made his offer, which, after two years of Belsize unlet, Mr. Povey accepted, and one can imagine the disgust society people must have felt on the appearance of the following announcement in Mist’s Journal of April 16, 1720:

‘Whereas that ancient and noble house near Hampstead, commonly known as Belsize House, is now taken and fitted up for the entertainment of gentlemen and ladies during the whole summer season; the same will be open on Easter Monday next, with an uncommon solemnity of music and dancing. This undertaking will exceed all of the kind that has hitherto been known near London. Commencing every day at six in the morning, and continuing till eight at night, all persons being privileged to admittance without necessity of expense, etc. The park, wilderness, and gardens being wonderfully improved, and filled with a variety of birds, which compose a most melodious and delightful harmony. N.B.—Persons inclined to walk and divert themselves, may breakfast on tea or coffee as cheap as at their own chambers.’


From time to time we find the proprietor of this ancient prototype of Cremorne, under the title of ‘His Excellency the Welsh Ambassador,’ introducing various novelties for the diversion of his visitors. Now he announces ‘A Plate of Six Guineas to be run for by eleven footmen!’ At another time, ‘For the better diverting of the Company he designs to have Duck-hunting every evening; and what will be more extraordinary, the proprietor having purchased a large Bear-dog that will hunt a duck as well as any spaniel in England; and any gentleman may have the liberty to bring his own spaniel to try him.’

Who doubts that this announcement proved a triumph to the money-getting sagacity of Mr. Howell, more especially when we know that the great canals and walks in the grounds were very commodious for the purpose, and that all ‘the expense attending the diversion is met by the payment of sixpence for gentlemen at the time of going into the park; while the ladies are admitted free.’ But to meet certain inconveniences attending this liberality, an N.B. adds that ‘No person will be admitted but who will be thought agreeable.’

Again we learn that a great quantity of wild deer have been purchased, and that it is the spirited proprietor’s intention ‘to hunt one down every Thursday and Saturday through the whole season; and that on these days, for the convenience of single gentlemen, there will be a good ordinary at two o’clock, and for one of the dishes there will constantly be venison.’ Verily, this Welshman appears to have been exceedingly astute as to the sporting and gastronomic propensities of Englishmen, Metropolitan or otherwise. This advertisement involved a double pleasure—the delight of the chase, enhanced by the expectation of this feast in kind afterwards.

Twelve months after the opening of Belsize Gardens, Read’s Journal, July 15, 1721, contained the following announcement:

‘Their royal highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales dined at Belsize House, near Hampstead, attended by several[336] persons of quality, where they were entertained with the diversions of hunting, and such others as the place afforded, with which they seemed well entertained, and at their departure were very liberal to the servants.’

On such occasions the mounted company rode over the park with horns blowing, and beagles barking, the proprietor leading the hunt in person. I have tried in vain to find the advertisement of this royal visit, which doubtless figured on handbills, or otherwise, in advance of the event, and with as successful an issue to the treasury of Belsize House as the appearance of the Prince of Oude, or the Siamese Ambassador, at Cremorne or the Surrey Gardens in modern times, or the Shahraza at the Crystal Palace in the summer of 1895. Such visitors, of course, bestowed a certain prestige on the new place of amusement, and brought it into favour with (to use a pet phrase of the day) the bon-ton. But this ‘delightful place of amusement’ was by no means dependent on the patronage of lords and ladies; those who could not afford silver were encouraged to spend their pence, ‘a part of the house being set aside for the accommodation of the meaner sort’; while the beaux and coquettes of fashion, who promenaded the Long Room, or minced in high-heeled shoes over the lawns or through the garden alleys, sipped coffee, tea, chocolate, or ratafia, or dined at princely prices à la Pontac, do not appear to have secured perfect immunity from vulgar and even questionable associates, since ‘sham gentlemen’ not unfrequently crept in—anyone, according to the writer of a satirical poem, written only two years after the opening of Belsize as a place of entertainment,

‘Who would at charges be,
Might keep their noble honours company.’

Indeed, the irregularities of the establishment seem to have led to the proprietor’s imprisonment in Newgate within the first year of his lesseeship. No wonder, therefore, that in May, 1722, we find Belsize included in the Justices’ order[337] to the Head-borough of Hampstead, touching the prevention of unlawful gaming, riots, etc. Yet the fashion of the place does not appear to have declined greatly on account of its disreputable notoriety and inexclusive character, or the license of which it was said to be the scene. On the contrary, its vogue increased, so that on a day of June, 1722, the attendance of the nobility and gentry was so numerous, that they reckoned between three and four hundred carriages. On this occasion a wild deer (which in the satirist’s description becomes a starved buck) was hunted down and killed in the park, after affording the company three hours’ diversion.

It is easy to imagine the crowds thronging between the painted grenadiers[293] that stood sentinel on either side of the gates, or walking up the grand old avenue, or dispersing over the greensward, fluttering and glittering amongst the trees and glades, for, after all, gold and silver lace, steel sword-hilts, brilliant buckles, hoods of all hues, that made a box at the theatre in those days look like a bed of tulips, hooped petticoats, gorgeously-coloured gowns, and floating scarfs and ribbons, are fine things at a fête champêtre. One can fancy the blue sky with fleecy cloudlets dappling it, and a tepid breeze lifting the leaves, rippling the long grass in the adjacent meadows, and giving motion to the lace and ribbons of the ladies’ dresses—a sunny, breezy day of ‘leafy June,’ before our seasons grew sophisticated, and the prime of the year took to the ways of April, and became lachrymose—for June was always the grand month of the season at Belsize, and, looking back, one sees the day and the place in all its pristine brightness. If we could pass out of the breezy[338] sunshine and shifting shadows into the Long Room, where balls and concerts were given, we should find it, according to the satirist before quoted, the focus of the quintessence of vanity in both sexes. The women were there to captivate, the men to admire and be admired; and if outward appearance counts for anything, the embroidered coats and waistcoats, gold-clocked stockings, red-heeled shoes, feathered hats, and clouded canes of the beaux, betrayed as absolute a desire for effect as any modish madam or lisping coquetilla of the day could have aspired to.

Gay describes them on the promenade ‘tuning soft minuets between their pretty nothings,’ but here, between the breathings of the dance, the snuff-box helped their little affectations, and

‘Spanish snuff to modish nose is put:
At which the perfumed handkerchief’s drawn up,
T’ adjust some bold disorder of the face,
And put the chin-patch in its proper place.’

No doubt Gay, for all his despondency and ill-health, being at Hampstead this summer, visited the fair gardens at Belsize, and yet oftener the assembly and gaming rooms, where the Captain Macheaths and Polly Peachums of the times were frequent visitors. This mention of the Captain naturally reminds one of the state of the roads, which, owing to the fields and woods in the vicinity, were so beset with footpads and highwaymen that in the handbills of the entertainments at Belsize House for this season (1722) it is stated that for the safety of the company the proprietor has hired twenty stout labouring men, well known about Hampstead, to line the road betwixt Belsize and London, so that they will be as safe by night as by day. In the first announcement of this arrangement the number of these bucolic guardians of the road is only twelve, so that the highways round the Metropolis had meanwhile become doubly hazardous.

Not only did the stage-coaches carry an arsenal of cutlasses and blunderbusses, and equestrians ride with pistols in their holsters, but private carriages were built with a[339] sword-box at the back, as much for the safety as the convenience of their occupants, and no one thought of venturing out after nightfall between the suburbs and the city unarmed.

The satirist already mentioned aims an ill-natured blow at the Welsh Ambassador’s arrangement, and suggests as questionable whether one-half of what he calls

‘the rabble guard,
Whilst t’other’s half-asleep on watch and ward,
Don’t rob the people they pretend to save.’

Belsize is noticed in an old London guide-book of 1724 as ‘an academy of music, dancing, and play for the diversion of the ladies,’ and it adds with heavy playfulness that ‘where they are the gentlemen will not fail to be also.’ It describes the ballroom and gaming-rooms as particularly fine and handsomely adorned, and intimates that it would surprise one to see so much good company as came hither in the season.

Concerts of music, open-air fêtes, hare and buck hunting, fine grounds and sweet gardens, with fishing, dancing, etc., from six in the morning till eight at night, were sufficient inducements to render a less agreeable spot attractive. The free admission was, of course, a bait by which the visitors were drawn in just far enough to induce them to go farther. At any rate, it became a place of resort for persons of all ranks, and some of the most questionable characters, and according to contemporary writers, appears to have exceeded in immorality and dissipation any place of the kind in modern times.

In 1729 Galloway Races, to be run for a Plate of £10 value, were advertised to take place at Belsize, the horses to pay one guinea entrance, and to be kept in the stable at Belsize from entrance to the time of running.

Long after rank and fashion had deserted it, Belsize continued to be popular with the multitude, and remained open as a tea-drinking house, etc., till 1745, when foot-races were advertised to take place. This, however, was nothing new. A paragraph under the head of ‘Domestic Intelligence’ in the Grub Street Journal of April 1, 1736, informs its readers that ‘yesterday Mr. Pidgeon and Mr. Garth ran[340] twelve times round Belsize for £50 a side, which was won with great difficulty by Mr. Pidgeon, although Garth fell down and ran ten yards on the wrong side of the post, and was forced to return back; yet he lost it only by a foot.’

This diversion appears to have been amongst the last devices of the proprietor to retain the patronage of the people. But new tea-gardens had been opened; New Tunbridge Wells at Islington had put forth renewed claims to popular favour, and a new generation had arisen indifferent to the past prestige of Belsize House, which was subsequently restored as a private mansion, and tenanted by several persons of importance, amongst them the unfortunate Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, who was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons, May 15, 1812, by Bellingham, ‘a mild-mannered man,’ maddened by misfortune.

Mr. Perceval, whose character, both in public and private life, appears to have been unimpeachable, had taken an active interest in all that concerned the well-being of Hampstead and its inhabitants, especially where the poorer classes of them were concerned. But when, on the suggestion of his colleagues in the conduct and support of the Sunday-school (less than half of the scholars in which were unable to attend a day-school for want of funds), it was proposed to introduce the Lancastrian system, Mr. Perceval withdrew his patronage and resigned his presidency of the schools, to which Mr. Holford (an old and honoured name in Hampstead), who had been vice-president for years, was nominated. Park says nothing of it, but in the Lady’s Magazine, 1812-13, it is noted that Mr. Samuel Hoare had obtained permission to establish a Lancastrian school.

Subsequently Belsize House was let to other persons of position, and in 1811-12 Mr. Everett occupied it, and afterwards Mr. Henry Wright, a London banker, resided here.[294][341] How it was afterwards tenanted I do not know. In 1841 the house and demesne were offered for sale for building purposes, and subsequently the whole fell into dilapidation and decay. When I first knew it a great gloom seemed to have settled on the place. Many of the windows were boarded up, and the house assumed that air of mystery that always appertains to large, old uninhabited houses. If one inquired, unknowing that it waited purchasers, the reason for the neglected appearance of the mansion and grounds, curiosity was met by a common cause for it in those days, viz., that the property was in Chancery, which it was not.

But one was free to wander in the unpruned wilderness and forgotten flower-garden, and under the large-limbed magnificent trees, the planting of which one or other of the Tradescants might have superintended.

At this time Belsize Lane was absolutely rural.[295] Great elms shaded its high grassy banks, with woodbine, wild-rose, and elder blowing in them. There you might still hear a ‘charm of birds’ on summer mornings, and gather blackberries in autumn. Between 1842-45 the estate fell into the builder’s hands, and the site of the famous mansion, which had had a name in local history from the time of the Crusades, became mapped out in formal lines, parallels, and parallelograms, which have since resulted in Belsize Avenue, Belsize Gardens, Belsize Square, Belsize Crescent, etc., and with a church in its own precincts. It may be that some of the fine old elms—part of the grand avenue that led from Haverstock Hill to the mansion; they were but few when I last saw it—may remain. If so, these and the name are all that are left to remind us of Belsize House, except the sketch of it in the doggerel verse of the satirist when the Welsh Ambassador was Master of the Revels:

‘This house, which is a nuisance to the land,
Doth near a park and handsome garden stand,
Fronting the road betwixt a range of trees,
And is perfumed by the Hampstead breeze.’


Belsize Lane, 1850.

There was, when I knew it, a little-used, gloomy, thorn-hedged footpath running out of Belsize Lane to Chalk Farm—now covered with houses, but then a very solitary place of ill repute after nightfall—which on the evening of February 21, 1845, became the scene of the murder of Mr. James Delarue by Thomas Henry Hocker, a young man only twenty-one years of age, who was convicted and executed. Jealousy was said to have provoked the crime, but the treachery, falsehood, and cruelty of the culprit appear to have hardened all hearts[343] against him.[296] This is how Lucy Aiken writes of the unsavoury affair:

‘I rather congratulate myself on not being in Church Row during the delightful excitement of the murder’ (the murder of Delarue) ‘and the inquest, which appear to have had so many charms for the million. One comfort is, that the murdered man appears to have been anything but a loss to society. But I think the event will give me a kind of dislike to Belsize Lane, which I used to think the pleasantest, as well as the shortest, way from us to you.’[297]

From this time Belsize and the beautiful lane became suspected; people looked shudderingly down the by-paths before entering them, and few cared to pass that way after nightfall.

For some time part of the house remained, with windows boarded, the garden run to waste, the paths weed-grown, the lilied ponds filled up, the park a wilderness, the great trees lopped and broken, till the builder and his men set about their business in earnest, and evolved almost a suburban town on what had been a nobleman’s mansion and park for centuries.



As only one side of this hamlet is in Hampstead parish, there is not much to be said of it here. It was rapidly increasing when Park wrote his description of it; but that was nothing to the proportion of its increase during the last ten years, when it has grown to the dimensions of a town. Its name comes from two Saxon words, kele, cold, and bourn, a rivulet.

By this cool stream,[298] which rose on the southern slope of Hampstead, hard by the forest-side, one Godwyn, in the time of Henry I., built himself a cell, and for a time at least led a hermit’s life.

There can be little doubt, from the fact of his ultimately making over this nucleus of the future nunnery, with the grounds belonging to it, to the Church of St. Peter of Westminster, in trust to the Abbot for the use and abode of three retired Maids of Honour to Queen Matilda (herself a Benedictine nun), that Godwyn was a penitent courtier or nobleman. Eventually he himself was made Warden of the abode[345] and guardian of the maidens, Emma, Christiana, and Gunilda, who took upon themselves a holy life, though no particular monastic rule is mentioned, nor does it appear in the foundation deed that they were vowed to celibacy.

On the death of Godwyn some other person was to be chosen to his office, with the advice of the Abbot of Westminster, and with the consent of the nuns themselves; no one could be appointed without their approval, nor was to interfere with matters relative to their temporal affairs, nor with the affairs of the church, except at their desire.

The Abbot, Osbert de Clair, Prior of Westminster, augmented the grant to the cell of Kilburne by a rent of thirty shillings and land at Knightsbridge, after which it became a nunnery of the Benedictine Order, dedicated to the Virgin and St. John the Baptist. At the dissolution of the monasteries the lands of Kilburn nunnery at Hampstead and Kilburn were given by Henry VIII., in exchange for Paris Garden and other estates, to the Knights of Jerusalem, whose Order he soon after dissolved (1540).

Subsequent to the dissolution of the Knights of St. John it became the property of John, Earl of Warwick, who lost no time in alienating it to Richard Taverner, Esq. In 1604 Sir Arthur Atye died seized of Kilburn and Shuttop Hill. It was recently in the family of the Powells, an old name at Hampstead.

At no time does it appear to have been a religious house of any importance, though dignified with the name of Priory. Park states its revenue at the time of the Dissolution to have been under £200 per annum. Dugdale sets it down at £74 7s. 11d. per annum, and the whole building, inclusive of kitchen, larder, bakehouse, and brewhouse, beside the church, contained only twelve rooms.

From a rude but interesting etching in Park’s ‘History of Hampstead,’ of some parts of the domestic buildings, the only relics of it remaining, and which were standing in 1722, no idea can be formed of the appearance of the conventual structure, the site of which was distinguishable at the beginning[346] of the present century by a rising bank in what was called the Abbey Fields, near the Tea Gardens.

No doubt the Kilburn well, a mild chalybeate, was one of the so-called holy wells with which the vicinity of London abounded in Catholic times. But it was not until 1714 that some speculator bethought him of converting the slightly-medicated waters to use.

The George Inn before 1870.

The spring or well is situated at the south-western extremity of the parish of Hampstead. It rises about 12 feet below the surface, and is enclosed in a large brick reservoir, with the date cut in the keystone of the arch over the door. It is a simple saline water with too little iron to give it the character of a true chalybeate, as may be easily imagined when we read that in 1813 it was used chiefly for the domestic purposes of the adjoining tavern. In 1773 the Kilburn wells were attached to a tea-drinking house, ‘well known to the holiday folk of London,’ the advertisement of[347] which, transcribed by Park from the Public Advertiser in the July of that year, is amusing:

Kilburn Wells, near Paddington.—The waters now in the utmost perfection; the gardens enlarged and greatly improved; the house and offices repaired and beautified in the most elegant manner.

‘The whole is now opened for the reception of the public, the great room being particularly adapted to the use and amusement of the politest companies; fit for music, dancing, or entertainments.

‘This happy spot, celebrated for its rural situation, extensive prospects, and the acknowledged efficacy of its waters, is most delightfully situated on the scite (sic) of the once famous Abbey of Kilburn, on the Edgware Road, at an easy distance, being but a morning’s walk from the Metropolis, two miles from Oxford Street, the footway from Marybone across the fields still nearer. A plentiful larder is always provided, together with the best of wines and other liqueurs.

‘Breakfasting and hot loaves.

‘A printed account of the waters, as drawn up by an eminent physician, is given gratis at the Wells.’

Brewer tells us that this house was much frequented by holiday people from London.

We have noted elsewhere that Oliver Goldsmith had lodgings in a cottage near a place called The Priory at Kilburn. Poor Goldy had retired thither with the intention of practically studying the habits of some of the animals he was writing of in his ‘Animated Nature.’ His range of subjects must have been necessarily restricted, for, beyond the humble farmyard of his landlord, the rusticity of Kilburn appears at that point of time to have been limited to cow-keepers and market-gardens. It had an evil fame for dog-fights and pugilistic encounters, at which Hogarth is said to have been a frequent spectator—not from a love of such sights, but with a view to the work of humanity he was then doing, in displaying the coarse brutality and repulsively cruel features of those so-called sports with all the realism of his caustic pencil.

Many years later Kilburn lay heavy on the minds of the Middlesex magistrates, and during the first half of the present century its reputation was decidedly low, and its inhabitants,[348] or the additional ones they sheltered, a frequent trouble to the constables of those days.

Time and the builders have amended all that, and the village of Kilburn is (1860) partly a suburb of genteel villas, and a struggling ground for newly-started professional men and tradesmen of large hope and small capital, with ultimate success as the prize for those who can play a losing game longest.

Before leaving Kilburn I may add that, in the spring of 1878, when the work of widening the London and North-Eastern Railway was going on at Kilburn, the workmen came upon a curious brass coffin-plate, bearing an effigy supposed to be that of an Abbess of Kilburn Nunnery. The nuns gave a touching reason for the dilapidated condition of their house (which lay close to the highway for wayfarers and pilgrims to the shrine of St. Alban’s) in the daily charity of the poor sisters to those of the poorer sort, a charge they were ill able to bear; and this fact, in connection with the well-known poverty of their house, exempted them from taxes to the Crown, which recompensed itself at the dissolution of the religious houses by taking the whole of the little they possessed. At this time the buildings of the priory consisted of the hall, the chamber next the church, the middle chamber between that and the Prioress’s chamber; the buttery, pantry, and cellar; the inner chamber to the Prioress’s room, the chamber between the latter and the hall, the kitchen, the larder-house, the brewhouse and bakehouse, the three chambers for the chaplain and the hinds or husbandmen, the confessor’s chamber, and the church. The orchard and cemetery, valued at ‘xxs. by the yere, and one horse of the coller of black at vs. For all these chambers 2 bedsteads of bordes, 1 featherbed, 2 matteres, 2 old coverlettes, 3 wollen blanketts, a syller of old stained work, and 2 pieces of old hangings paynted,’ appear a sparse allowance of comfort. They were better off in the matter of church furniture and vestments, as not only altar-cloths, curtains, hangings, copes, which were nuns’ work, and very likely made by them, but[349] chalices are enumerated; and they also possessed, closed in silver, and set with counterfeit stones and pearls, a relique of the Holy Cross, and a cross with certain other reliques, ‘wt silver gilded. Item, a case to keepe in reliques, plated and gilt ... and a clocke.’ These were the nuns’ small treasures, and all were confiscated.

In the ‘Romance of London,’ by the late industrious Mr. Timbs, there is a legend, quoted by Mr. Walford, of Kilburn Priory. He calls it traditionary, and says that Mr. Timbs could not trace it to any authentic source; yet it appears to have been well known to that enthusiastic collector of ancient ballads and legendary lore, Sir Walter Scott, who had written a lyrical version of the story long before Mr. Timbs produced his ‘Romance of London,’ though without publishing it. Here is the tale of its origin, according to Mr. H. G. Atkinson, who tells us the verses (which I give further on) remained unpublished till their appearance in the columns of the Athenæum, September 17, 1881:

‘My father, an architect, was a friend of Scott’s, and helped him, as a friend, in the decoration and finishings of Abbotsford. Scott would often dine with my father when in London, and was greatly interested in the garden. In one corner there was some rockwork, in which were inserted some fragments of stone ornaments of Kilburn Priory, and crowning all was an irregularly-shaped stone, having a deep red stain, no doubt of ferruginous origin. This stone was sent to my father by Lord Mulgrave in one of his cement vessels, my father having been struck with its appearance on the shore at Whitby, and from these simple, really unconnected facts Scott made out the following story in verse, which might be regarded as a kind of friendly offering in return for services rendered. Here are the lines; I had supposed them lost, but my sister, in turning over some old papers, found a copy.’

This I have taken the liberty to reproduce:



For the blessed rood of Sir Gervase the Good
The nuns of Kilburn pray;
But for the wretch who shed his blood
No tongue a prayer shall say.
The bells shall ring, and the nuns shall sing,
Sir Gervase to the blest;
But holiest rites shall never bring
His murderer’s soul to rest.
‘Now tell me, I pray, thou palmer gray,
Why thou kneelest at this shrine;
And why dost thou cry so eagerly
Upon the help Divine?
‘Oh, tell me who the man may be,
And what his deadly sin,
That the Church’s prayer, for his soul’s despair,
The mercy of Christ may win.’
‘I cry at this shrine on the help Divine
To save the soul of one
Who in death shall lie ere morning shine
Upon this ancient stone.
‘Sir Gervase rode forth far in the north
To Whitby’s holy see;
In her bower alone his lady made moan,
A fairer could not be.
‘His false brother came to the weeping dame:
“Oh, I love you dearer than life.”
“Hence! would you win to shame and sin
Thy brother’s wedded wife?”
‘“He is far away, thou sweet ladie,
And none may hear or see;
So, lady bright, this very night,
Oh, open your door to me.
‘“Sir Gervase rides forth far in the north,
’Tis long ere he comes back,
And thine eyes shine bright like stars by night,
From thy hair of raven black.”
‘“The fire shall burn at the door stone
Ere I open my door to thee,
And thy suit of hell to Sir Gervase I’ll tell,
And a traitor’s death thou wilt die.”
‘“Then fare ye well, Dame Isabel,
Thou lady of mickle pride;
Thou shalt rue the day thou saidst me nay,
When back to thee I ride.”
‘The day declined, the rising wind
Sung shrill on Whitby sands;
With ear down laid, and ready blade,
Behind a rock he stands.
‘Sir Gervase rode on in thought alone,
Leaving his men behind;
The blow was sure, the flight secure,
But a voice was in the wind:
‘“False brother, spur thy flying steed,
Thou canst not fly so fast;
But on this stone where now I bleed
Thyself shall breathe thy last.”
‘That stone was then on Whitby’s shore,
And now behold it here;
And ever that blood is in my eye,
And ever that voice in mine ear!’
‘Now, thou palmer gray, now turn thee, I pray,
And let me look in thine eye.
Alas! it burns bright with a fearful light—
Like guilt about to die.
‘That stone is old, and o’er it has rolled
The tempest of many years;
But fiercer rage than of tempest or age
In thy furrowed face appears.’
‘Oh, speak not thus, thou holy man,
But bend and pray by me,
And give me your aid in this hour of need,
Till I my penance drie.
‘With book and beads, with ave and creed,
Oh, help me while you may;
When the bell tolls one, oh, leave me alone,
For with me you may not stay.’
Sore prayed the friar by the gray palmer,
As both knelt o’er the stone;
And redder grew the blood-red hue,
And they heard a fearful groan.
‘Friar, leave me now, on my trembling brow
The drops of sweat run down;
And alone with his sprite I must deal this night,
My deadly guilt to atone.’
By the morning light the good friar came
By the sinner’s side to pray;
But his spirit had flown, and, stretched on the stone,
A corse the palmer lay.
And still from that stone at the hour of one—
Go visit it who dare—
The blood runs red, and a shriek of dread
Pierces the midnight air.

Mr. Timbs’ prose variant of the story, briefly told, is as follows:

At a place called Kilburn Priory, near St. John’s Wood, there was a stone of a blood colour, which stain was caused by the blood of Sir Gervase de Morton, or de Mortonne, who was slain by his brother centuries ago. The latter, Stephen de Morton, had sinfully fallen in love with the beautiful wife of Sir Gervase, whom he persecuted with his illicit passion, till at length she threatened to inform her husband. To prevent this, and enraged by hate and jealousy, the wicked brother lay in wait in a narrow lane through which Sir Gervase had to pass on his way home, and on one side of which was a quarry with some rocks projecting. Here Stephen de Morton lay in ambush, and, as soon as his brother passed, stepped from his concealment, and stabbed him in the back. Sir Gervase fell forward upon a part of the rock mortally wounded, and in dying recognised his brother in his murderer, who he solemnly predicted should also die upon that stone.

Stephen appears to have thought but lightly of his crime, and less of his murdered brother’s denunciation. He returned immediately to the prosecution of his design; but the lady[353] was obdurate, and resented his insulting proposals with indignant scorn, upon which his base passion turned to hate, and he pitilessly consigned her to a dungeon.

Subsequently he strove to forget his crime, and the innocent cause of it, by riotous living, but all to no purpose; his conscience would not rest, and he suffered such an access of remorse that at length he caused the remains of his brother to be brought to Kilburn Priory, and ordered a handsome tomb to be erected to his memory. The stones used in building it were brought from the neighbourhood of the place where the murder was committed, and amongst them was the one on which the blood of Sir Gervase had flowed, and which, as soon as the wretched Stephen approached it, oozed out blood. Upon this the horrified man confessed his crime to the Bishop of London, submitted himself to severe penance, and bequeathed all his worldly possessions to Kilburn Priory. But all in vain; he soon after pined away and died, breathing his last upon the stone stained with the blood of his brother, and this miraculous stain was the ‘Bleeding Stone’ of Kilburn Priory. Not a word is said of the unfortunate lady’s release from her undeserved dungeon, from which we can only hope she was freed to find a place amongst the nuns, and be near the resting-place of her husband.

Mr. Atkinson, in writing of Sir Walter Scott’s verses, thinks their origin interesting, equally in an artistic, literary, and psychological point of view; but looking at Mr. Timbs’ independent presentation of the same story, the inference is that, the legend being known to Sir Walter, the juxtaposition of the red stone and the fragmentary relics from Kilburn Priory quickened the imagination of the poet, and helped him to produce the lines. In some place or other the tradition must have had an independent existence, or it could not have appeared in Timbs’ ‘Romance of London’ previous to its publication in the Athenæum.




It would be doing injustice to a family long known and honoured in this neighbourhood to bid farewell to Hampstead and the Heath, without some special notice of Heath House, the present residence of Lord Glenesk, but in 1790 the home of Samuel Hoare, Esq.

It is a large, square, heavy-looking Georgian house of brown brick, surrounded by trees and shrubs, close to the Broad Walk on one side, and divided by a narrow roadway from Jack Straw’s Castle on the other. It stands upon the highest ridge of the Heath, at the same elevation as the tavern, and the windows command fine views east, west, and north, whilst from the flat, lead-covered roof one may see on a clear day, it is said, six counties.

In 1772 Mr. Hoare had joined the firm of Bland and Barnett, bankers, of 62, Lombard Street, in which his son, grandson, and great-grandsons were afterwards partners, when the bank was known as Barnett, Hoare and Co.

When the first Samuel Hoare moved to Heath House, his family consisted of himself and second wife, whom he had married two years previously; his only son Samuel, a boy seven years old; and a little daughter. The coming of this family to the Heath was an epoch in the social history of Hampstead.

Refined, intellectual, religious in the best sense of the phrase, yet largely liberal, the Quaker banker opened wide his hospitable doors to friends and neighbours, and brought into their midst the men and women then most distinguished in literature, philanthropy, and for high social aims. Nor were the poor forgotten in the[355] ‘beneficent schemes that filled the mind of this benevolent man.’ Whatever could improve the condition, or help the needs of his humble neighbours had his earnest aid. England had been for some time conscience-smitten, and agitated with the wrongs inflicted on the unhappy negro race. Young Clarkson was calling the attention of every man of influence he could get at to their cause, and Wilberforce, one of his earliest converts, had become his eloquent and pertinacious second. It is well known that the first petition for the abolition of the slave trade presented to the House of Commons came from the people called Quakers. To this amiable and unobtrusive sect belongs the honour of having taken the initiative in the crusade against this barbarous traffic, and the young enthusiast Clarkson, who was preparing for the Church, but had chosen a wider platform for the diffusion of his impressions of Christian charity, found in Mr. Hoare, not a disciple, but an apostle already in close sympathy with his purpose, and daily working for its accomplishment.

Here at Heath House these ever-to-be-remembered men discussed with their host their trials, hopes, and disappointments; for during a series of sixteen or seventeen years the Bill for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, which Wilberforce Session after Session presented to the House of Commons, was as constantly thrown out, and two years before the final triumph of their cause (1827) their associate and helper, Samuel Hoare senior, died (1825), aged seventy-five.

I have not seen it mentioned in the History or ‘Records of Hampstead,’ but find in a paragraph of the Lady’s Magazine, December, 1812, that ‘the Lancastrian school which Mr. Hoare, the banker, has erected at his own expense at Hampstead was opened a few days ago with about a hundred children. The establishment is capable of accommodating about one hundred and fifty, and promises to be soon filled up.’

Some years before his father’s death, Samuel Hoare junior had married one of the famous Earlham sisters, Louisa, daughter of John Gurney, banker, of Norwich, and had gone to reside at the Hill, North End (the house a wedding-gift from his father). Later on Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, who had married Hannah, another of the Miss Gurneys, also resided for some time at North End, at a house now known as Myrtle Wood, a delightful[356] event for the sisters, their relatives, and friends. It is of Hill House, during the residence of Sir Fowell and Lady Buxton in its near neighbourhood (1820), that the celebrated Severen of Cambridge wrote: ‘More of heaven I never saw than in the two families at Hampstead’ (the Hoares and Buxtons).

Of course, the same circle of friends were received at the houses of both father and son; but when the death of Samuel Hoare senior occurred, though his widow and daughter continued to occupy Heath House, the delightful reunions that have made it memorable ceased.

Like his father and his brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, Samuel Hoare the second entered heartily into the views of his friends, Clarkson and Wilberforce, and gave their great scheme for the abolition of slavery his steady help and influence. He lived long after the cause they battled for so pertinaciously had been won, and, with his sympathetic wife, inaugurated various projects for bettering the condition of the poor of Hampstead, some of which I am told are still actively beneficial.

There are just two or three old inhabitants of Hampstead who remember the tall figure of the second Samuel Hoare, who used to go down to town on horseback followed by his servant; later on I am told the servant’s place was changed, and he rode very close to—indeed, side by side with—his master, who towards the end of his life was subject to sudden seizures.

This gentleman died December 26, 1846, at the comparatively early age of sixty-four, and Hill House became the property of his son Samuel, who did not live very long to enjoy it, dying in the twenty-sixth year of his age, October 27, 1833. The present Sir Samuel Hoare, Member for Norwich, is the fourth of the name, and the great-grandson of the first Samuel Hoare of Heath House, of which he is the owner, as well as of the Hill, and other property at Hampstead.

Mrs. Hannah Hoare, the second wife and widow of Samuel Hoare of the Heath, continued to reside there with her step-daughter for many years in the near neighbourhood of their relations at the Hill. There is something touchingly suggestive in the fact that they both died in the same year, the widow on January 21, and her step-daughter on October 21, 1833. Mr. Gurney Hoare, son of the second Samuel Hoare, lived[357] at Hill House many years, and died there. The only representatives of this family now at Hampstead (1899) are Mrs. MacEnnis and her sister, Miss Greta Hoare, who reside at Wildwood Avenue.


The now frequented thoroughfare of John Street has been long in coming into its inheritance—namely, the interest it derives from the fact that, after the death of his brother, John Keats resided here for nearly twelve months, and the last month of his life in England was spent here.

Wentworth Place lies on the right side of the road going from St. John’s Chapel (on Downshire Hill) to the station. It consisted of two adjoining houses, one of them occupied by Charles Armitage Brown, the personal friend and sympathetic admirer of the poet; the other by the Dilkes—Charles Wentworth Dilke, the critic, who was afterwards editor and part proprietor of the Athenæum, and his brother William.[299] A lady, born at Hampstead, and who resided there till twenty-two years of age, remembers that a low fence encircled the garden, within which was a hedge of laurustinus and China roses; latterly it was railed round.

I can imagine the road then, with only a few houses bordering it, each in its setting of greensward and evergreens, almost impinging on the green slope of South Hill, and leading round by Sol’s Row, where Wilkie at one time had lodgings, and where a great nobleman and his wife and daughter called upon him with a proposal for him to paint the portrait of one or both the ladies, to which the unsophisticated Scotchman bluntly replied that ‘he would think about it.’

Sol’s Row then looked out upon a wide stretch of meadow-land, beautiful with divisional elms and other trees, and had a fair-sized pond in the foreground.

It was with his friend Brown, as I have before said, that Keats visited Scotland, but had not strength left to attempt it a second season. He occupied the front sitting-room in his friend’s house, and here he wrote the greater part of ‘Hyperion,’ and the Odes[358] to ‘Indolence’ and to ‘Psyche,’ ‘On a Grecian Urn,’ and to ‘A Nightingale.’ Here also he commenced the unfinished ‘Cap and Bells,’ and wrote ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’; and here, at a party given by the Dilkes, he met Miss Brawne, the lady who ‘was not Cleopatra, but was at least Charmian,’ and who, with her fine eyes and fine manners, and her rich Eastern looks, was fated to play so large a part in the inner tragedy of his short life.

The lady whom I have just now alluded to, who knew Miss Brawne till she herself was fifteen years of age, when the latter left England, describes her as a very striking, dignified-looking woman, fair, but pale, with bright dark eyes and light brown hair. She remembers her mother saying that Fanny Brawne was a lovely girl, but that she had lost her colour in an illness she had after her engagement with Keats was broken off—‘that mad boy Keats,’ as they used to call him.

When subsequently the Dilkes moved to Westminster, Mrs. Brawne and her daughter took their house, so that the lovers must have seen each other daily. Keats resided with his friend from 1818 to 1819, when, in order to be near Leigh Hunt, who had left the Vale of Health and was living at Kentish Town, he removed there. Afterwards, when Hunt left England for Italy, Keats made trial of a cheap lodging in College Street, Westminster, where he only remained a week, returning instinctively to Hampstead, where the Brawnes, from womanly compassion, received him (he was then hopelessly ill), and tenderly nursed him in the white bedroom, with the white curtains and white quilt, in which Haydon, the painter, saw him, the bright hectic of his flushed cheeks the only relief to the surrounding wanness. Here he remained a month, the last month of his life in England, and Hampstead and his lady-love possessed it.

If ever a spot of earth could claim as its own one whose charmed gift of poesy has impenetrated and irradiated the whole sphere of intellectual life, surely Hampstead may call Keats her own.

When the Brawnes left Wentworth Place, an actress of some eminence—a Miss Chester, who held the post of Reader to George IV.—took both houses, threw them into one, and called her home Lawn Bank, by which name it continued to be called till inquiries began to be made for Wentworth Place, which readers of the ‘Northern Heights of London’ will remember[359] William Howitt could not find. The name has now been restored.

Upon this house the Society of Arts placed a memorial tablet of terra-cotta, inscribed:

Lived in this House.
Born 1795. Died 1821.

Not a very clearly-expressed inscription, since anyone ignorant of the poet’s history might naturally infer that he had not only lived, but had been born and had died here. However, this is better than barren forgetfulness, and now John Street has its visitors, as Flask Road had in times gone by, but with far livelier interest, for he who lived and wrote some of his most lovely poems within these walls, to paraphrase his own prophecy, ‘lives among the English poets after death.’

Alas! it would seem that even this poor, long-delayed honour, the only one his countrymen have afforded him, was a mere mockery, for I find it stated in the public papers under the date of August 1, 1898, that Wentworth House has been sold on a building lease of ninety-nine years, with a proviso that only houses of a superior class shall be erected on the site.


It is generally believed that the fine old red-brick mansion to the left of the road as you ascend Rosslyn Hill, now the ‘Home of the Soldiers’ Daughters,’ is the veritable house which the unfortunate Sir Harry Vane built for himself on Hampstead Hill, a place in which he had hoped to pass the declining years of his life in peace.

Of the original house only an old staircase leading to the garden exists, but the interior of the mansion has suffered so many changes, both before and after it became the residence of the celebrated Dr. Butler, that, together with the alterations necessary to fit it for its present use, not one of the original apartments remains.


The south wing of the house has been cut off; the northern half is in good repair, and makes a commodious house. It has received the name of Belmont. When Baines wrote the ‘Records of Hampstead’ this was the home of H. J. Griffiths, Esq. The fine avenue of elms that anciently skirted Vane House, some of which were standing in quite recent years, has wholly disappeared.

The gardens and grounds were very extensive and well laid out, but these have been despoiled, though ‘one ancient mulberry-tree survives.’

When the grand old house was converted to its present use, two-thirds of the garden were taken for the children’s playground, and quite recently half an acre of the kitchen garden has been sold for £5,000!

It seems extraordinary that there should be any question as to the identity of the house. Its original owner was executed on June 14, 1662, just thirty years before the birth of Butler, who was born in 1692. The Bishop, who only lived to be sixty, dying in 1752, appears to have resided here for many years, and ornamented the windows with a quantity of painted glass.

One would imagine that a building of such distinction, so strikingly situated, and tenanted from time to time by important personages—it was afterwards the home of Mr. Thomas Neave and of J. Pilgrim, Esq.—without the tragic story attached to it, was not one to be lost sight of in the annals of the then small village. Its history might, one would think, even without the aid of highway and parish books, be fairly trusted to oral tradition from one generation to another, in a period covered by ninety years, from the date of Sir Harry Vane’s execution till the death of Dr. Butler. The architectural characteristics of the building when intact bore out its claim to have been built in the days of the Commonwealth.

Eliza Meteyard, in her ‘Hallowed Spots of Ancient London,’ a book deserving a better fate than it has met with, tells us that the famous avenue was the scene of Sir Harry’s arrest. Here on the evening of an early day in July, 1660, just as the sun was setting, Sir Harry walked and meditated, as was his wont, till the glowing splendour of the western sky gradually faded, as did the sounds of the cotter children at their play, the barking of a sympathetic[361] dog, or some broken scrap of hymn, and still Sir Harry continued to pace beneath the elm-trees, the sweetness and the stillness deepening with the twilight, when the measured tramp of soldiers on the hill, some of whom marched straight to Vane House, whilst others guarded the exits, struck terror into the hearts of his humble neighbours, who, before night settled fully down, saw Sir Harry taken from his home, a prisoner on his way to the Tower, whence, after two years of torturing uncertainty, and removals from one place of captivity to another, he came forth on another summer’s day, June 14, 1662, to die by the hand of the executioner on Tower Hill, another martyr to the liberties of his country.

Readers will remember Pepys’ hurry to shut up his office that morning, and get off with his friends to see how the great Commonwealth man would comport himself on so public and so trying a platform as the scaffold. He is a witness, amongst others, to the calmness and self-command which the ill-used enthusiast exhibited in parting from mortality.


Pond Street—evidently the fashionable street in the eighteenth century for the reception of visitors of the class dignified as the ‘quality’—appears to have been in the early years of this, the Harley Street of Hampstead. Here resided Baron Dimsdale, in a house on the left side of the road going down, the physician who inoculated the Empress Catherine of Russia for small-pox. It will be remembered, to the Empress’s credit, that she requested him to leave the country as soon as possible after the operation, as in the event of her death he would be held guilty of it.

Dr. Rodd, Dr. Lond, and various other medical men, lived in Pond Street.

I can remember it with a row of trees on the right-hand side of the way as you entered it from the highroad, and a strip of greensward running down it—a quiet street of formal appearance, with an air of genteel frigidity characteristic of its period.


It was in Pond Street that ‘poor Kirkman,’ as Keats sympathetically calls him, ‘fell amongst thieves,’ who stopped and beat and robbed him of his watch. He had been visiting the poet at Wentworth Place, and left about half-past eight in the evening, and was on his way to the London Road, probably intending to meet the coach there, when he was waylaid, maltreated and robbed. This was in 1818, so that the middle passage between Hampstead and the Metropolis was not even then without its danger.

Keats, writing to his brother some days after the event, tells him he had been to see Kirkman, who had not recovered of his bruises.


In the reigns of Elizabeth and James the herbalists appear to have had Hampstead Heath very much to themselves. The laundresses must have had light feet, and children have been comparatively few.

Otherwise they did not wander so far as Bishop’s Wood, or the old Target Bank, where the lilies of the valley grew so plentifully in Johnson’s time. Johnson was the pupil of Gerard, and the editor of a new edition of his master’s work, the ‘Great Herbal.’ To this lover of Nature, an apothecary by profession, is due the honour of having prepared the first catalogue of local plants ever published in England, the locality of these plants being the Heath and the Woods of Hampstead; many of the plants have survived the predatory habits of London flower-vendors, and still flourish in their old habitats.

Of the survivors, we are glad to give the following list from personal acquaintance with them:

March and April.

Common Daisy (Bella perennis).—Perennial everywhere. We gathered it on the East Heath January 26, 1874.

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa).—Upper and West Heath.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris).—The borders of the old watercourse at the back of Jack Straw’s Castle. This watercourse is now extinct (1895).


Pasque Flower (Anemone Pulsatilla).—On a bank at the edge of the Upper Heath. A small bed of it amongst the whitethorn-trees going to the Leg of Mutton Pond.

Dandelion (Leontodon taraxacum).—In grassy places. East and West Heaths, everywhere.

Wood Crowfoot, Goldylocks (Ranunculus auricomus).—Amongst the trees beyond the red viaduct, Lower Heath.

We look in vain for the primroses which adorned the hedgerows and overspread the woods in Gerard’s time, and the cowslips ankle-deep in the meadows between Kilburn and the Heath. Like the lilies of the valley, the orchids and ophreys, they have long since been exterminated by mendicant root-vendors, or buried under the foundations of modern streets.


Wild Hyacinth, Bluebell (Hyacinthus non-scriptus).—Plentiful on the grassy banks beside the New Road leading to Child’s Hill.

Speedwell Germander (Veronica).—In the same neighbourhood.

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella).—Under the shade of some old thorn-stocks, south side of the watercourse, Upper Heath.

Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus).—Bushy places about the neighbourhood of the pond, near the red viaduct, Lower Heath.

Shepherd’s Purse (Bursa pastoris).—Common by roadsides everywhere.

Crab Apple (Pyrus malus).—On the right hand of the watercourse behind Jack Straw’s Castle, descending the Heath, near the pond.

Hawthorn, Hagthorn, Maybush (Crategus oxyacanthus).—In the same neighbourhood, right and left.

Dog Violet (Viola canina).—In various places on the West Heath.

Dwarf Willow (Salix repens, Smith, Salex repens, Bab.).—Near the bog opposite the grounds of Hill House, North End.


Common Watercress (Nasturtium officinalis).—In a pool at the lower end of the watercourse.


Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi).—On the moist margin of the same place near the pond.

Marsh Stitchwort (Stellaria glauca).—Same habitat as the above.

Water Ranunculus (R. aquatilis).—In the pond at the bottom of the old watercourse.

Needle Green-weed, Petty-whin (Genista anglica).—On high ground on the West Heath.

Common Broom (Cytisus scoparius).—Frequent on both Heaths, making the gravelly hollows luminous. These now effaced (1895).

Buck Bean (Menyanthes trifoliata).—On the sphagnum by the watercourse.

Marsh Red Rattle (Pedicularis palustris).—Beds of its rosy flowers in moist places frequent on the West Heath.

Cotton Grass, Downy-stalked (Eriophorum pubescens).—Once plentiful in May and June beside the watercourse, in the bed of which I found it lingering in the summer of 1873. Abundant June 3, 1874; lost 1895.

Cotton Grass (Eriophorum angustifolium).—Same habitat.

Marsh Pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris).—In damp places on the West Heath.

Cuckoo-flower, Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis).—On bogs on West Heath, of a beautiful deep lilac hue.

Common Milkwort (Polygala vulgaris).—I call it gay-wings. Blue, pink, purple and white, disports itself in all the grassy hollows on the Western Heath.

Sweet Woodruff (Asperula odorata).—In the shade of the trees in the neighbourhood of the red viaduct, near Lord Mansfield’s grounds, Lower Heath.

Scarlet Pimpernel, Shepherd’s Weather-glass (Anagallis arvensis).—Borders of the sandy roadsides, fields and paths.

Lesser Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea).—In the little dells on lower part of West Heath.

Rest Harrow (Ononis arvensis).—On Upper Heath.

Common Furze (Ulex europæus).—Everywhere amongst the gravelly mounds and hollows on the Upper Heath and North End Hill.

Mare’s-tail (Hippurus vulgaris).—Margins of ponds, Upper and Lower Heath.


Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga).—In channel of the old watercourse.

Common Elder (Sambucus nigra).—Plentiful in hedgerows and lanes in the vicinity of the Heath. Constable noticed the beauty of its rounded cymes.

Speedwell (Veronica spicata).—On West Heath, near Leg of Mutton Pond.

Sheep’s Sorrel (Rumex acetosella).—Abundant on West Heath, its deep red clustered spikes of flowers conspicuous above the yet unopened white ones of Galium saxatile, among which it frequently appears.

Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea).—Amongst the bushes near the Leg of Mutton Pond, West Heath.

White Dutch Clover (Trifolium repens).—Sparsely on the West Heath, near the reservoir, and in the fields going to Parliament Hill.

Dwarf Mallow (Malva rotundifolia).—Under the garden-wall of Hill House, North End.


Devil’s-bit Scabious (Scabiosa succisa).—On the higher part of West Heath.

Common Eye-bright (Euphrasia officinalis).—On the high ground under the western plateau of the Heath. One of Milton’s flowers.

Common Bugle (Ajuga reptans).—In moist places; abundant over all the Heath; perennial.

Upright St. John’s Wort (Hypericum pulchrum).—On the dry banks above Leg of Mutton Pond, at the foot of the watercourse.

Common Filago (F. germanica).—Frequent about the gravel-pits, Upper Heath.

Wood Sage (Teucrium scorodonia).—Abundant on Upper Heath.

Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus).—Abundant on the West Heath.

Greater Bird’s-foot Trefoil (Lotus major).—Near the old watercourse, towards the pond.

Purple Sandwort (Arenaria rubra).—On the sandy paths and hillocks east of Jack Straw’s Castle, Lower Heath.


Tormentilla (T. reptans).—Its red trailing stems, strawberry-shaped leaves, and bright yellow flowers, common everywhere upon the Heath all summer.

Heath Bedstraw (Gallium saxatile).—Great spaces on the high ground of the Upper Heath snowy white with the dense panicles of this lovely little plant.

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia).—Common over all the upper parts of the Heath.[300]

Lesser Spearwort (Ranunculus flammula).—Along the margins of the old watercourse.

Celery-leaved Crowfoot (R. sceleratus).—In the same neighbourhood.

Great Reedmace, or Cat’s-tail (Typha latifolia).—In the pond on Lord Mansfield’s grounds, beside the viaduct, where an old boat lies stranded (1856).

Water Violet (Viola palustris).—Margin of the same pond, and in the pool at the bottom of the watercourse behind Jack Straw’s Castle.

Meadowsweet, Queen of the Meadow (Spiræa ulmaria).—In the bed of an old runnel on the right of the New Road going to Child’s Hill.

Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia).—Boggy places amongst sphagnum beds in the vicinity of the watercourse, West Heath.

Common Yarrow, Milfoil (Achillea millefolium).—Almost everywhere on the Heath.

Mouse-ear Hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella).—Runs over all the little mounds and hillocks on the Western Heath; abundant all the summer.


Common Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis).—In many places on the Upper Heath.

Dodder (Cuscuta epithymum).—Found on furze bushes on the Upper Heath August, 1859.

Betony (Betonica officinalis).—Amongst furze clumps in a line with the old watercourse.


Fine-leaved Heath (Erica cinerea).—On the West Heath in gravelly, grass-grown hollows.

Ling (Calluna vulgaris).—Amongst the gravel-beds frequent.

Yellow Water-lily (Nuphar lutea).—In the pond at the viaduct, Lower Heath. Note its flask-like seed-vessels, which have libelled it with the name of ‘brandy-bottle.’

Common Arrow-head (Sagittaria sagittifolia).—Margins of the same pond.

Small-flowered Hairy Willow Herb (Epilobium parviflorum).—Lower end of old watercourse.

Sweetgale (Myrica).—On West Heath.[301]

To this list I may add a few other plants found on the Heath and its vicinity by Messrs. Bliss, Hunter and others, leaving out those proper to Caen Wood, which is still rich in the plants that flourished on the Heath and in the woods when Gerard wrote:

Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger).—Near the Vale of Health.

Lesser Centaury (Erythræa pulchella).—In the same habitat and on the West Heath.

Great Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris).—In a field near North End.

Lesser Periwinkle (Vinca minor).—Under the hedge in Belsize Lane.

Bog Pimpernel (Anagallis tenella).—Boggy places on the Heath, west side.

Black Whortleberry, or Whinberry (Vaccinium myrtillus).—On several parts of the Heath.

Lesser Skullcap (Scutellaria minor).—Among the bushes near the bogs on the west side of the Heath, and very abundant on the east side between the Vale of Health and Well Walk.

Musk Mallow (Malva moschata).—In a field between Turner’s Wood and North End.

Only two species of moss were said to grow in a bog to the west of the Heath, and these I found still growing there, viz.: Hypnum stramineum, straw-like feather moss, and Hypnum cuspidatum, pointed bog feather moss. In 1895, the researches[368] of the London Natural History Club added quite a long list to them, and they appear to be as numerous in the bogs and on the Heath as in the strictly preserved precincts of Caen Wood.


One of the earliest benefactors of Hampstead was Elizabeth, Dowager Viscountess Campden, widow of Sir Baptist Hicks, the donor of Hicks’s Hall to the county of Middlesex, and Lord of the Manor of Hampstead (whose town house, by the way, was Campden House, Kensington), ‘with whom, in all peace and contentment, she lived, his dear consort and wife, for the space of forty-five years.’

She bequeathed by will, dated February 14, 1643, the sum of £200 to trustees for the purchase of land of the clear yearly value of £10, ‘in trust to pay yearly for ever one moiety towards the better relief of the most poor and needy people that be of good name and conversation, inhabitants of the Parish of Hampstead; to be paid to them half yearly at or in the Church porch. The other moiety to put forth annually one poor boy, or more, of the said Parish to apprenticeship.’ To this gift was joined the sum of £40, bequeathed by an unknown but eccentric gentlewoman in the same year, for the purpose of distributing a halfpenny loaf (probably a crossed bun) annually on Good Friday morning to the inhabitants of Hampstead, rich and poor. Mad as a March hare! for what did the rich inhabitants of Hampstead want of a halfpenny loaf on Good Friday, or any other morning, even in the days when a crossed bun was a panacea for almost every ailment? Yet the bequest proved as bread cast upon the waters, and seen after many days; for being joined to Lady Campden’s £200, the whole was laid out in the purchase of fourteen acres of meadow-land at Child’s Hill, in the parish of Hendon, of the clear value of 10s. per acre.

When Park wrote, this estate was rented at £84 per annum; at the present day it must be worth much more, though on inquiry being made on the part of the Vestry into the management[369] of this charity in 1873, it was said that it had not been developed.

Next on the list of Hampstead benefactions, in point of time, but far beyond the Campden charity in its importance, is what is called the Wells Charity, that gift of ‘six acres of waste land lying about and encompassing the Well of Medicinal Water,’ which the Hon. Susanna Noel of the one part, and the grantees of a piece of waste ground on the Heath of the other (on behalf of Baptist, Earl of Gainsborough, her son, then an infant), bestowed with all the improvements of the same in trust to the sole use and benefit of the poor of Hampstead.

On this land stand the houses and chapel in Well Walk, which when Park lived there produced £95 per annum, the trustees having at that period £1,100 stock in the Three per Cents. In 1859 the estate was said to be capable of producing from £2,000 to £3,000 per annum.

This charity is applied—or at least a portion of it—to apprenticing poor children of both sexes. The parents of the children must have been parishioners (not receiving parochial relief) for three years. The boys must be fourteen, the girls twelve years of age; and in order to enter an application it is necessary to obtain a recommendation from one of the trustees.

Appertaining to this charity there is also a fund for charitable distribution. Besides these gifts, certain poor widows and housekeepers were to be maintained and assisted by the benefactions of Elizabeth Shooter, spinster, the possible foundress of one or other of the four almshouses formerly existing at Hampstead, and one of which, being removed from a part of the Heath by Sir Francis Willes, and the site taken into his grounds at North End, was rebuilt by him in the Vale of Health. A Mrs. Mary Arnsted, of Hampstead, widow, assisted in this charity.

Francis Marshall, Esq., of Hampstead, in 1772 left £100 in the Three per Cents., to be distributed to poor housekeepers annually on Easter Day. Besides these, there is another important bequest, known as Stock’s Charity.

One would like to know the ancient whereabouts of the donor, John Stock, Esq., paper-stainer, citizen, draper, and philanthropist, while resident at Hampstead, who, having, as the white marble tablet in the north-east corner of Christ Church, London,[370] tells us, ‘acquired with the strictest integrity considerable wealth, bequeathed the greater part of it at his death, September 21, 1781, for the promotion of religion and virtue ... the advancement of literature and art ... the relief of the decrepit and comfort of the blind.’ He specially bequeathed £1,000 (which, with the dividends that had accrued, and some donations from the trustees, purchased £2,000 in the Three per Cents.) to the minister and gentlemen parishioners of Hampstead for the purpose of clothing, educating, and putting out apprentice ten poor fatherless children of the parish—viz., six boys and four girls, the former to receive £5 as an apprentice-fee, the latter £2. Eight boys and seven girls received the benefit of this fund in 1812, and as it increased a proportionate number have benefited since then.

To these generous and useful charities many a poor widow has been indebted for the training and suitable settling in life of her otherwise destitute children; but for them many a household would have been broken up and scattered, and decently-born children and respectable matrons reduced to the dead-level of the poor-house. But the large compassion of those ancient benefactors of the beautiful village, and the more recent charities of honest John Stock,[302] have enlarged and widened, as it were, with the years and the number of the necessitous, and continue to strengthen the hands and comfort the hearts of the widows and fatherless with timely and efficient aid.

The funds of the Wells Charity have grown out of all proportion to the original intentions of the donor of them, and proposals have been made to utilize them for the benefit of a class above those whom the foundress desired to benefit. But the working classes themselves, or their representatives, have suggested many ways of using them without wresting them from their proper[371] channel, by which not only they themselves, but the whole community, will be advantaged. It has been suggested to build baths and wash-houses, and a working men’s hall and institute; and who can doubt the reciprocal blessings to rich and poor that must spring from cleanliness, temperance, and those mental improvements which come of intelligent association and rational means of amusement?

Other charities exist in the parish—various bequests of small sums, which if amalgamated, like the Campden Fund with the £40 for annually bestowing halfpenny loaves, would create useful stock, and go far to relieve the ratepayers of the parish.

While these lines were being penned, we had the pleasure to see that a memorial to the Attorney-General, with Mr. Gurney Hoare at its head, had been signed to provide a working men’s club and institute at Hampstead with a portion of the revenue of the Wells Charity.

It has also been suggested, in accordance with the necessities of the times, that a larger premium be given with apprentices, to ensure better masters and mistresses. Some persons have even advocated a plan for improving the dwellings of the local poor, and others, again, a middle-class school for poor tradesmen’s children; but, unless the funds are capable of extension to cover the whole of these plans, the middle-class school scarcely seems to come within the scope of the Hon. Susanna Noel’s intentions. It appears the germ of a working men’s unsectarian club has been for some little time in existence, and that the want of class-rooms and other suitable premises has made the members, and the projectors and encouragers of it, actively alive to the prospect so appositely thrown open to them.

Soon, therefore, we may hope that a handsome building will arise—an ornament to the town and a monument to the memory of the foundress of the Wells Charity.

We have already alluded to the practical services rendered by Mr. Perceval and Mr. Montagu during their residence at Hampstead and in its neighbourhood. It would not be difficult to trace the seeds of the present anxiety for mental and social improvement on the part of local working men, and the desire to aid them in their advance on the part of their employers and friends, to the discussions of the Philo-Investigists, and the Sunday and night[372] schools on Rosslyn Hill. Mr. Fearon’s philanthropy took a wider field: it belonged to no party, or time, or class; his efforts were for the freedom of human intellect, and the advancement through education of all. He belongs by right of residence to Hampstead.

There is in the churchyard a monument to two children of the Hon. and Rev. Edward John Tornour, a member of the noble family of that name, the seventh and, at that time, the only child of the Right Hon. Edward Garth Tornour, Earl of Winterton, Viscount Tornour, and Baron Winterton, who had been resident at Green Hill, Hampstead, for several years. Benevolence seems to have been a hereditary virtue of this noble family. Mr. Tornour took Holy Orders for love of the sacred office, and not for the emoluments of the Church; and previous to becoming a permanent resident of London, whither he was obliged to move for the sake of his health, he had accepted the offices of curate, afternoon preacher, and evening lecturer at Hampstead, where he resided till he could no longer bear the sharp air. While there he acted as a county magistrate and guardian of the poor. It is impossible to look at the engraved portrait of him, after a painting by Drummond, without feeling the fine nature of the man; the broad, full, philanthropical forehead, the large, sweet, compassionate eyes and kindly mouth, are full of benignity and goodness, though we are not aware that he benefited the parish he served pecuniarily. He was living there about, or shortly before, the date of Park’s History. The tears and blessings of the poor do not follow the unreal Christian minister, nor the unworthy magistrate, nor the uncompassionate guardian, and from the character given of him on his death, and which may be seen in the pages of the European Magazine, we venture to regard him as one of the Hampstead worthies.

We find the following notice in the columns of the Grub Street Journal:

‘Yesterday [April 16, 1736], of the gout in his stomach, Mr. Andrew Pitt, of Hampstead, one of the most eminent of the people called Quakers.’ After thirty years’ attention to business, he had, in the language of Voltaire, who corresponded with him, ‘the wisdom to prescribe limits to fortune and his desires, and settle in a little solitude at Hampstead.’ Ceasing from business, however, by no means prevented his active occupations in other ways.


At the beginning of this year (1736) all the Nonconformists of England were petitioning against the cruel Test Act, and Tithe Bill, and Mr. Pitt, as the representative of his ‘people,’ waited upon the Prince of Wales to solicit His Highness’s favour in support of the Quakers’ Tithe Bill. Perhaps there is no greater proof of the charm of manner ascribed to the Prince, and the tact with which he could soften even the refusal of a request when so minded, than the fact that, though Mr. Pitt failed, he came away greatly pleased with the Prince’s reply and his excellent notions of liberty.

It is evident that Voltaire had personally known Mr. Pitt.[303] He describes him as hale and ruddy, a perfect stranger to intemperance of any kind, and as never having suffered from sickness.

Another inhabitant who deserves notice was Mr. Thomas Hayes, who as a poor lad began life in the humble and unpromising capacity of a pot-boy at a local public-house, from which post he raised himself, ‘entirely by his own merit,’ to that of a surgeon. He received his knowledge of pharmacy from Collins, whom Park calls ‘the glossarial stalking-horse of Steevens.’ Mr. Hayes died May 7, 1787, beloved and regretted by his friends and neighbours, respected and unenvied. He was laid in his native churchyard in Maiden Lane.

Another inhabitant of Hampstead who has won the right to be remembered in a description of it was Mr. Thomas Mitchell, for twenty of his forty-eight years of life a schoolmaster in the town. He was the real founder of the Sunday-school, ‘and, by great application and attention to its interests, left it supported on a firm basis.’ He appears to have carried out with great earnestness the spirit of his self-made motto, ‘Do all the good you can.’ The poor were special objects of his care, and, without the aid of money, his practical good sense and actively philanthropical nature enabled him to strike out permanent means of assisting them. He was one of the Society of the Philo-Investigists, a society which, as we have elsewhere said, aimed at intellectual improvement, and suggested the benefit society afterwards known as the Flock of[374] the Philo-Investigists. He did not live to see his benevolent scheme in action; but some years after his death, in 1799, it came into effect under the name of the Parochial Benefit Society.

In 1802 Josiah Boydell appears to have taken a very keen interest and an active part in the care of the poor inhabitants of Hampstead, and to have materially aided in procuring better quarters than the old workhouse at Frognal for the superannuants and ailing pensioners of the parish.


I have had occasion to speak of Mr. Abrahams’ pamphlet[304] several times in the course of these pages, a publication that fell like a bomb in an unexpectant place, and aroused among the well-to-do inhabitants of Hampstead anything but gratitude.

This gentleman, who had ‘a way,’ he tells us, ‘of looking into things for himself,’ having become a parishioner of St. John’s, proceeded to act as he had done when resident in St. Luke’s, London, where his scrutiny into parochial transactions had resulted in a saving to Government of upwards of £2,000, and a reduction of the poor rates from 4s. 8d. in the pound to 3s., a result that led to an annual commemoration of the event at Canonbury House.

But the people of Hampstead did not desire to be saved from themselves, and resented this new inhabitant’s interference with indignation. There is something very amusing in Mr. Abrahams’ account of the proceedings.

Provided with a list of the names of the inhabitants, he called on the overseer of the parish and requested he would return it to him with the figures at which they were rated to the poor. Whereupon the irate overseer demanded to know if he came to disturb the harmony that existed among the parishioners in a parish where everything was properly conducted; they wanted no looking after, and therefore he should treat his request and the[375] list accompanying it with the contempt they deserved by setting his pipe alight with the latter. Upon which Mr. Abrahams made no more requests to the courteous official, but possessed himself by other means of the amounts to which the inhabitants were assessed, and drew public attention to the matter by the publication of his pamphlet. It would have been well for parishes generally had they possessed a representative as energetic as this new parishioner of St. John’s, for the ignorance and dishonesty his pamphlet disclosed appears to have been pretty general.

Six years later (1817) we find Sir Walter Scott writing to his friend Mr. Moratt, who had himself written a pamphlet on the subject, ‘Pray let me have your pamphlet on the poor-rates as soon as it is out. It is an Augean stable; it is the very canker in the bosom of the country, and no small claim will he have on the gratitude of England who can suggest a practical remedy.’

But the people of Hampstead, until they had tasted the fruits of Mr. Abrahams’ interference, thought otherwise. At that time they were paying from the inequalities of the rates 4s. 8d. in the pound poor rates, and 1s. 9d. in the pound for lighting, watching, and repairing the roads.

In the happy days which preceded the appearance of this reformer, neither the parson, vestry clerk, nor beadle paid rates, and, as has elsewhere been said, the landlord of the Spaniards Inn enjoyed the same pleasant immunity. The Lady of the Manor (Lady Wilson) was rated at £100 for the Heath, to which the critical Abrahams objects that ‘when the rate was made, and till within the last few years, when so great an impetus had been given to building, sand, that now sold at 4s. 6d. a load, and gravel[305] at 6s. per load, had sold for 2s. 6d. and 4s. 6d.;’ he rated the Heath therefore at five times the sum, £500.

Lord Erskine’s house, garden, pleasure-grounds, stables, coach-house, etc., were also rated at £100, and very few proprietors were rated higher.

The following are the places named in his report: Church Street, Hampstead Hill, the Lower Flask Walk, New End, the Well Walk and thereabouts, the Square, part of the Heath, the Terrace, Nag’s Head side, Frognal, the Heath, and North End,[376] the whole of which produced at that time £21,078, but might, according to Mr. Abrahams’ rating, produce above a fourth more, or £26,788, and reduce the poor rate by 1s. 2d. in the pound. Amongst the land-owners mentioned at this period are the names of Neave, Todd, Milligen, Holford, Hoare, Lord Mansfield; Everett (late Perceval), Belsize House, Haverstock Hill; Lady Watson, Well Park—a list not very different from Carey’s notes of the inhabitants a twelvemonth later, in the fifth edition of his ‘Book of the Road,’ 1812.[306] He is describing the Barnet road, which led up to and skirted Hampstead Heath:

‘On the left of the three-mile stone from St. Giles’s Pound, Pryor, Esq.’ (a name retained in the ‘Pryors,’ the present home of Walter Field, Esq.), ‘whose family have been for some time resident at Hampstead.’ ‘A little further on Belsize House, William Everett, Esq., and C. Todd, Esq., nearly opposite to which is T. Cartright, Esq. Farther on the left Roberts, Esq., and Coke, Esq. An eighth of a mile on the left, Rosslyn House, Mrs. Milligen. On the top of Red Lion Hill, to the right, is T. Gardner, Esq.; opposite is Pilgrim, Esq., adjoining to which is Mrs. Key. On the entrance to the Heath, T. Sheppard, Esq., M.P. for Frome’ (who resided in Steevens’ old house, now the home of the Misses Lister); and ‘across the Heath, S. Hoare, Esq., and a distant view of Caen Wood, with the seats of Charles Bosanquet, Esq., and Lord Erskine.’

He does not mention Edward Coxe, the poet, who was their neighbour the preceding year. ‘On the right is Caen Wood, Earl of Mansfield, and near it Fitzroy Farm, Lord Southampton. Between the Castle (Jack Straw’s) and North End, on the left, Kerney, Esq.; adjoining Ware, Esq., and opposite S. Hoare junior, Esq., Hill House, and James Kesteven, Esq. On the right Robert Ward, Esq., and opposite John Thompson, Esq., The Priory; and beyond the Hoop on Golder’s Green are seats of Henry Woodthorpe, Esq., Beck, Esq., and Amand, Esq.’

Abrahams tells us that in 1811 Church Street (as he calls it) had 25 residences; Flask Walk, 58; New End, 59; the Well Walk and thereabouts, 39; the Square, 20; part of the Heath, 20; the Terrace, 58; Nag’s Head side, 74; the Heath and North End, 38; Heath Street is not mentioned.


In this year it is stated in the Lady’s Magazine:

‘We hear that it is in contemplation to form a new Ranelagh and Vauxhall near Chalk Farm, and a contract has been entered into for forty acres of land to be appropriated to that purpose.’

New Georgia had long gone to increase Lord Mansfield’s demesne and the acreage of Caen Wood. North End Hall and Well had proved a failure; but the people of Hampstead and its neighbourhood still hankered after the flesh-pots of Egypt, and regretted the affluent days of the Wells fashion, and the bankruptcy of Belsize. Nothing, however, appears to have come of the idea, and long years passed before the beautiful meadows in the neighbourhood of Chalk Farm disappeared.


As early as 1829 we find the freeholders and copyholders of the Manor of Hampstead meeting at the Assembly Rooms on Holly-bush Hill, to discuss the best means to prevent further damage being done to the Heath, by destruction of the herbage, and digging sand and gravel thereon, as well as to inaugurate a subscription to try by law the right of the Lord of the Manor to so disturb and destroy it, or to build on or enclose any part of it.

Even prior to this date there seems to have subsisted an ill-feeling between the inhabitants of Hampstead and Sir Thomas Wilson. The copyholders claimed the right to improve their own copyholds by building on them, or otherwise, as also to get materials for such purposes off their own land, or from the waste. This matter had been tried between Lady Wilson and Sir Francis Willes, and had gone against the latter, because his removing the herbage had been detrimental to the rights of the other copyholders, who on certain parts of the Heath had a right to turn in their cattle, levant et couchant. Yet from the beginning of the century, as we have seen, the digging of sand and gravel for the benefit of Lady Wilson, and subsequently for the Lord of the Manor, had been going on without stint, and with scarcely any intermission, though in doing so (to quote the phrase of Professor Vaughan of Oxford, a resident near the Heath) they were carting[378] away the climate and the drainage, and therefore the health of the neighbourhood, which depended on the sand and gravel.

But the then Lord of the Manor was not living for posterity, but for himself. In the May previous to the meeting we have mentioned, without even the courtesy of giving the usual notice to the copyholders, Sir Thomas Wilson had brought his Estate Bill before Parliament, by which he sought to abrogate the privileges of the copyholders, and appropriate to himself the power of granting licenses to improve their customary estates, and licenses to get materials for that purpose from their own copyholds, upon payment of 40s. fine to the Lord of the Manor, and £3 3s. fee to the steward for every such license. The Bill also sought power to grant building leases of the Heath, or other wastes of the manor, and to extend the power of granting building leases over certain lands formerly part of the waste, which were granted by the Lord of the Manor to himself, in the name of a trustee, with the consent of the homage, upon the express condition that no buildings should at any time be erected on them.

It was by mere accident, it is said, that the people of Hampstead heard of this Bill being before the House, and only just in time to oppose its being carried through surreptitiously.

No wonder that there were meetings in hot haste, and resolutions passed to defend the rights and privileges of the freeholders and copyholders, and at the same time those of the inhabitants and visitors. The sympathy of the public, as well as of the principal residents in the neighbourhood, was with them. Lord Clifton favoured the opposition. Lord Mansfield headed the subscription, as we have elsewhere said, with a donation of £50.

The inhabitants, well aware how much of their prosperity was due to the natural beauty of the Heath and its surroundings, gave with no niggard hands towards the fund for its protection. But, as we subsequently learn, the £3,000 raised by voluntary contributions was expended with no other result than the prospect of endless litigation.

It was impossible for this state of things to exist without a certain degree of personal ill-feeling being imported into it. Sir Thomas was rich and resolute, but the copyholders had their rights, and determined to hold by them. The years ran on without any radical adjustment of the questions at issue.


Every now and again, not Hampstead only, but the heart of Nature-loving London, was shaken by reports that the Heath was forthwith to be built on, and then would come appeals for further subscriptions, with the hope of purchasing it, appeals headed grandiloquently, but earnestly, ‘Awake! arise! or lose the Heath for ever!’ and thenceforth other meetings would ensue, fresh resolutions be declared, but to little apparent purpose, so far as the assurance of the preservation of the Heath was concerned. Happily, in the meantime, Government had taken up the question of public parks and recreation-grounds for the people, and measures were being adopted for the preservation of the commons at Wandsworth, Wimbledon, Clapham, Tooting, and Putney.

The Hampstead Heath Committee put themselves into communication with the Board of Works, and authorized it to negotiate the purchase of the Heath with the Lord of the Manor of Hampstead.

But though propositions had been made for its purchase in 1856, it was not till the latter end of 1866 that, from information received, the Board imagined that the time had arrived when Sir Thomas Wilson might be willing to negotiate for the sale of his rights in the Heath. Accordingly an interview was arranged between the then Chairman of the Board of Works, Sir John Thwaites, and the Lord of the Manor, upon what proved to be wholly delusive premises. Instead of being willing to listen to overtures on the subject, Sir Thomas was altogether indisposed to entertain any such proposition, or to acquiesce with the Board in any application for the necessary powers to deal with the Heath.

Though himself having only a life-interest in the estate, he insisted on regarding it as building land, and modestly estimated the value of the property at from £5,000 to £10,000 per acre, a prohibitory price, of course, to those who sought the purchase of the Heath.

At the commencement of 1870 there stepped in an unexpected arbitrator, or, as one of the vestrymen expressed it, ‘the hopes of Hampstead people were brightened by the death of Sir Thomas Wilson.’ His brother succeeded to the estate, and once more, and with reason in this instance, it was said that if an offer of[380] £50,000 was made by the Board to the new Lord of the Manor, Sir John Maryon Wilson would be disposed to accept of that sum, and surrender all his rights and interest in the property, comprising an area of about 240 acres.

In consequence of this belief, negotiations were renewed at the suggestion of Mr. Le Breton, the representative of Hampstead at the Metropolitan Board, an honoured name in the neighbourhood from its associations with that of the Aikins family, Mrs. Barbauld’s grand-niece being the wife of Mr. Le Breton.

This gentleman, in conjunction with Mr. Gurney Hoare, and a committee of the influential lease and copy holders, reopened the overtures for the purchase of the Heath, which had so signally fallen through with the late Lord of the Manor (Sir Thomas Wilson), and happily with success.

Sir John Maryon Wilson and his son, Mr. Spencer Wilson, agreed to give up all the rights of the Lord of the Manor of Hampstead in the Heath for the sum of £45,000—costs to solicitors, surveyors, etc., not to exceed £2,000.

The Lord only reserved certain defined portions for the making new roads, which will not affect the enjoyment of the public.

Thus the struggle between the Lord of the Manor and the people of Hampstead—we may say, the people of the Metropolis—came to a final close. The Bill for the Preservation of the Heath passed the Houses of Parliament in the next spring, and the Act by which the ownership of Hampstead Heath was transferred to the Metropolitan Board of Works in trust to maintain it for ever as an unenclosed space for the purpose of health and recreation received the Royal Assent June 29, 1871, a day to be long remembered in the annals of Hampstead.

Very general pleasure and gratification was felt on the occasion by all who knew the lovely suburb, and regarded it as a pleasure spot of the Metropolis; and when the fears which the name of the Board of Works evoked, of straight lines, gravel-paths, and frigid plantations, had spent themselves in deprecating any attempt to make it other than itself, a wild heath, disfigured by turf and gravel-digging, scarred in all directions, and naked in parts, but with sufficient recuperative strength, if let alone, to renew its greensward and gorse and heather, and to restore the vigour of trees and undergrowth, a formal taking possession of it, and dedicating it to the use of the public for ever, was resolved on.


The circuit of its extent was marked out with flags. The officers of the Board of Works and local authorities were to perambulate it. But the free atmosphere of the vagrant Heath seemed to resent the intended formalities, and a downpour of rain put an end to the whole programme. Flags and bands and festive company were out of the question, and the ceremony consisted of a few officials and other gentlemen in close carriages making the partial circuit of the Heath, pausing at certain points where alterations and amendments were to be made, but eventually taking the shortest road to the Flagstaff and Jack Straw’s Castle, where the Vestry were about to entertain the officers of the Board of Works, the local authorities, and other guests at a handsome déjeûner. At the Flagstaff Colonel Hogg, in a brief but graceful speech, proclaimed the fact that Hampstead Heath was dedicated to the free use and recreation of the people for ever, and expressed a hope that it would prove that blessing which had been so long and fondly desired by the great Metropolitan community, the spirit of which speech, no doubt, the hearts of all present echoed.

Having thus far traced the story of this loveliest of London suburbs, we, too, rejoice that its wide views on three sides can never be impeded, but that, as in the days of Defoe, visitors to the Heath may on a clear day distinguish in the north-west Hanslip steeple, which is only eight miles distant from Northampton, and see the Langden Hills in Essex to the east—objects which lie at least sixty-six miles apart. Then there is the prospect of London, and beyond to Banstead Downs, Shooter’s Hill, and Redhill; while on the west the view is uninterrupted to Windsor Castle. But to the north topographers tell us we can see no further than Barnet, which is only six miles distant.

But, unfortunately, there were other troubles to be encountered. The Board of Works were privileged to make grants of some portions of the Heath, a privilege that resolved itself into helping certain influential individuals to enclose some of the loveliest and most interesting portions of it into their own premises. The angle of ground on which stood the famous group of trees, the Nine Elms, was made over to the late Lord Mansfield, with what result we all know. Another gentleman, before a voice could be raised against it, was allowed to enclose the loveliest bit[382] of North End, known for generations as the Lovers’ Walk, in his demesne. And just when a third claimant was bargaining for the historic grove of trees called the Judge’s Walk, the remnant of which recalls a memorable fact, not only in the history of Hampstead, but of England,[307] Mr. Le Breton, who had fortunately heard of the transaction, was enabled to interfere and frustrate it.

A similar piece of good fortune helped the inhabitants to preserve the remains of the Old Avenue at North End from being enclosed in an adjacent demesne. The committee of the Hampstead Heath Protection Society, who now charge themselves with looking after the Heath and maintaining it intact for the people, are resolved on getting back as many of its original acres as possible. When, therefore in the summer of the year 1898 the beautiful estate of Golder’s Hill, the residence of the late Sir Spencer Wells, was to be sold, the inhabitants of Hampstead were naturally disturbed by the report that a syndicate of builders were plotting its purchase, with the intention of covering the charming grounds with streets of houses.

Part of these grounds impinge upon the Heath, and it was said included the Flagstaff Hill, the very crowning point of view upon it, the threatened loss of which affected all the inhabitants, and roused, says my authority, a collective spirit of resistance. A letter from Mrs. Hart, widow of the artist, who had left a sum of money for such contingencies, appeared in some of the London papers, and called popular notice to the threatened vandalism. A committee was formed, and subscriptions were raised, to which the local and London County Councils, as well as many of the inhabitants of Hampstead, generously contributed, till the whole of the purchase-money, £40,500, was in a very short time happily provided.

It is intended to let the house, but the picturesque grounds are to be kept in their integrity and added to the Heath, from which, the new ride now divides them. The cost of the ground purchased[383] averages about £1,000 per acre. This was the price paid to Lord Mansfield for 209 acres of the Heath, while Sir Spencer Wilson received £100,000 for sixty-one acres, making together, with all extra expenses in the purchase of the Heath, £302,000.

Everyone who knows the pleasant suburb must rejoice that a neighbourhood which has delighted the people of successive ages, as well as our own, is reserved to give enjoyment to those who shall come after us, and that henceforth, from generation to generation, each being, we may hope, more able to appreciate its natural beauty than the last, Hampstead will continue to be the scene of unnumbered holidays; the Heath,

‘Where sweet air stirs
Blue harebells lightly, and where prickly furze
Buds lavish gold,’[308]

with its wide margin of hundreds of added acres, under the wise supervision of skilled conservators, growing year by year into fuller beauty of Nature-planted wild-flowers and indigenous furze and ferns.

Long may the people of the close courts and alleys of London come hither in their tens of thousands on the gold-letter days of their sparse holidays, to revel in the winnowing freshness of its breezy height, and pleasant groves and lanes and grassy nooks, and take back with them to their crowded homes a measure of the health that ‘floats upon the genial atmosphere.’ So shall Hampstead still (as in old Drayton’s time) ‘remain the noblest hill.’

The old Heath covered 220 acres, so that 261 acres acquired by recent purchase up to 1889, have more than doubled the expanse of the old Heath (1899).


[1] One find I specially remember in connection with this neighbourhood of peculiar interest with reference to the great forest that once covered the site: When making the railway through Gospel Oak Fields, a hillock had to be cut through; some gigantic roots of trees, hard as ebony and black as bog-oak, were unearthed, bearing witness to the ancient woodlands that had covered it.

[2] Written 1855-60.

[3] Built in 1845-46.

[4] Quoted by Park.

[5] No cause is mentioned for the great increase of deaths.

[6] ‘Pomander’: a round, perforated box, filled with musk, ambergris, civet, or other sweet-scented ingredients. It was used to perfume apartments, and was frequently made of some precious material. Doctors used them for the head of the cane they usually carried as a prophylactic.

[7] Park’s ‘History of Hampstead.’

[8] The present sign, the copy of an older one, represents her in a red conical hat, with a glass of ale in her hand. Her modern memorialist says:

‘She was an old camp-follower through the campaignes of the Duke of Marlborough, and set up a hedge alehouse after the Peace of Utrecht, with her own portrait as a sign.’—Ante ‘The Anecdote Library.’

[9] Blake.

[10] Mr. Rhodes died at a house on Muswell Hill. Rhodes of Rhodesia is said to be a near descendant.

[11] This house appears in Hogarth’s ‘March to Finchley.’

[12] For some years Portland Place was used as a fashionable promenade by the rank and fashion of the town.

[13] Gray’s ‘Letters.’

[14] Romilly’s childhood’s home was in the High Street, Marylebone, then a small village about a mile and a half from London, with the cheerful country close to it. Sir Samuel was born 1757; he died 1818.

[15] At the present time it is said to contain 2,245 acres.

[16] The charter of Ethelred II. (who began to reign 979) to St. Peters, Westminster, A.D. 986: ‘Starting from Sandgate east to Bedgar’s “Stywei” (? lea); then south to Dermod’s house; from Dermod’s house to middle Hamstead: so forward along the hedge to the rushes; from the rushes west by the side of the marsh to the barrow west along the boundary to the stone pit; from the stone pit to Watling Street, so north along Watling Street to the boundary brook, back east by the boundary to Sandgate.’

This last document has only lately become accessible. It is one of the Stowe MSS. recently secured by the British Museum. This charter has, I believe, never before been printed, except in Mr. Maude Thompson’s catalogue of the Stowe MSS. It is No. 10 in that catalogue.—Article by Professor J. W. Hales, M.A., F.S.A., in Baines’ ‘Records of Hampstead.’

[17] ‘The Common-place Book’ of the late Miss Catherine Fry.

[18] ‘Planché, who has gone deeper into the subject of the Peverels than either Eyton, the Shropshire historian, or Mr. E. Freeman (who rejects this supposition with contempt and indignation), puts it in this wise: “During all the battles and commotions in Normandy preceding the Conquest, we hear nothing of the Peverels. No land is called by their name, nor do we hear of it till that of Ranulph, in Domesday Book, when he figures as the lord of sixty-four manors. Planché suggests what Mr. Eyton has overlooked that the Saxon lady of rank might have visited Normandy before 1051, a circumstance that would remove the only serious difficulty in the story. The latter Ranulph Peverel was the founder of Hatfield Peverel, in Essex, as shown by Camden, Glover, Dugdale, Sandford, Weever and others.”’ The author of the ‘Roman de la Rose’ makes no mention of Peverel.

[19] Norden.

[20] London was a city long before the Romans entered it. Ammianus Marcellinus says that 1200 years before his time it was a city, i.e., about 900 B.C., which, if correct, would make it 200 years older than Rome itself.—C. A. W.

[21] Unfortunately, when copying this account, having no idea of using it, I neglected to note the date or number of the magazine, but I believe it was during Mr. Ainsworth’s editorship.

[22] Where was Roman Lane, which Dr. Hughson must have known?

[23] ‘Bordarii,’ I think, Park scarcely understood for a Domesday Book word. These would not be bordarii before, but Saxon churls; and ‘hame stead’ is ‘home station,’ i.e., the outhouses or cots to the big lord’s residence.—C. A. W.

[24] Hughson thinks that it possibly referred, by way of pre-eminence, to the residence of the Lord of the Manor.

[25] Sanctus Albanus Verolamiensis.

[26] Park’s ‘History of Hampstead.’

[27] In the reign of Henry VI., in the fifteenth century.

[28] See Park’s ‘History of Hampstead,’ pp. 100, 101.

[29] ‘Eccles. Hist.,’ ii. 324, quoted by Park, ‘History of Hampstead,’ p. 21.

[30] Lysons.

[31] The Heath was generally so called. Lord Erskine speaks of his house on Hampstead Hill, The Evergreens, near the Spaniards.

[32] Park.

[33] Daily Advertiser, July 19, 1748: ‘To-morrow, the 20th inst., will be run for on Hampstead Course, a considerable sum, between two poneys, at the Castle on Hampstead Heath. There are great bets depending. The poneys will be rubbed down at the Castle aforesaid.’ In reference to this race we read: ‘On Wednesday a race was run on Hampstead Heath between a bay poney belonging to Lord Blessington, and a gray poney of Mr. Woods, of Jack Straw’s Castle, for a considerable sum of money, which was won by the former.’

[34] Horace Walpole’s Letters.

[35] Hampstead, July, 1810. It is stated in the Morning Post that the Hampstead Volunteers, who had been practising firing at a large target on the Heath, ‘had fired many excellent shots, some of which nearly entered the bull’s eye.’ They have improved upon this since then, as have also their firearms.

[36] Howitt’s ‘Northern Heights of London.’

[37] Morden’s Map of Middlesex, 1593, shows this road, which skirts the Fleet for a short distance in the neighbourhood of old St. Pancras, and runs up Tottenhall or Tottenham Court Road, passing by Lower Chalcot and Upper Chalcot to Pond Street.

[38] Burnet’s ‘History of his own Times.’

[39] See Macaulay’s ‘Essays.’

[40] Steele had his office at the Cockpit, in Whitehall. He held the post of Gazetteer and Commissioner of Stamps.

[41] There has been a question as to the burial-place of Steele, which the following note, kindly forwarded me through a friend, sets at rest: ‘Sir R. Steele was buried in the church at Carmarthen, and only in August, 1876, was there a memorial tablet placed over his remains by a gentleman of the name of Davies. It bears the inscription:

‘“Sir Richd. Steele, Knight,

Author, Essayist, and first chief promoter of the periodical press
of England.

Born in Dublin, March 12, 1671.

Buried in this church, and below this tablet.”’

[42] ‘Lives of the Lord Chancellors.’

[43] ‘Lives of the Lord Chancellors.’

[44] A contributor to Baines’ ‘Records of Hampstead’ states: ‘Under an old thorn-tree, near the house, on the north side of the avenue, there was within the memory of living people a dipping-well for public use.’ Is this, I wonder, the small fountain of delicious water, the footpath to which from the High Street Lord Rosslyn tried to stop? But, though on the Woolsack, he failed to do so. The case appeared in a Times newspaper of 1878.

[45] At the present (1899), only one of the beautiful trees is standing.

[46] Subsequently Sir Rowland Hill resided at Bartrum Park, a little to the east of the green, on the same side of the way.

[47] Where the small-pox sheds stood, the Hampstead Hospital for Fever and Small-pox stands now (1899).

[48] There is an engraving of this house in Mr. Gardener’s collection, copied in Mr. Howitt’s ‘Northern Heights of London.’

[49] An engraving of this picture appeared in the European Magazine.

[50] See Appendix.

[51] The father of this gentleman, the second Thomas Norton Longman, resided here. He was unfortunately killed by a fall from his horse about 1842. Soon after his daughters came to live at Frognal Rise.

[52] ‘The Presbyterian Chapel on Rosslyn Hill was built by Isaac Honeywood, Esq., who inhabited the adjoining mansion, and died there, November 8, 1740. He was cousin-german to Sir Edward Honeywood, the first baronet. Frazer Honeywood and Sir John Honeywood, of the same family, were subsequently resident at Hampstead.’—Baines, ‘Records of Hampstead.’

[53] ‘Worthies of Middlesex.’

[54] James I., in his speech to Parliament, 1609, says that on his entrance to England he made knights by hundreds and barons in great numbers.

[55] This was called Hicks’s Hall; many of the milestones were reckoned from it.

[56] Stowe.

[57] This family held the Manor of Hampstead for nearly a century.

[58] See Notes and Queries, s.s. viii. 511.

[59] Park, 1813.

[60] Spencer Perceval, who was shot by Bellingham, and is buried at Charlton in Kent, had married the youngest of the three daughters of Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson.

[61] Howitt.

[62] W. Howitt.

[63] ‘There are periods in which the human mind seems to slumber, but this is not one of them. A keen spirit of research is abroad, and demands reform. Perhaps in none of the nations of Europe will their articles of faith, or their Church establishments, or their models of worship, maintain their ground for many years in exactly the same position in which they stand at present. Religion and manners act upon one another. As religion, well understood, is a most powerful agent in ameliorating and softening our manners; so, on the other hand, manners, as they advance in cultivation, tend to correct and refine our religion. Thus, to a nation in any degree acquainted with the social feelings, human sacrifices and sanguinary rites could never long appear obligatory. The mild spirit of Christianity has, no doubt, had its influence in softening the ferocity of the Gothic times; and the increasing humanity of the present period will, in its turn, produce juster ideas of Christianity, and diffuse through the solemnities of our worship, the celebrations of our Sabbaths, and every observance connected with religion, that air of amenity and sweetness which is the offspring of literature and the peaceful intercourse of society. The age which has demolished dungeons, rejected torture, and given so fair a prospect of abolishing the iniquity of the slave-trade, cannot long retain among its articles of belief the gloomy perplexities of Calvinism, and the heart-withering perspective of cruel and never-ending punishment.’ This is very clever writing for her, but how absurdly wrong she is in the total!

[64] Miss Aikin published her ‘Life of Queen Elizabeth,’ 1813.

[65] A great man, and student of Swedenborg.

[66] In 1461 we find the Abbot and Convent of Westminster instituting John Barton to the Rectory of Hendon cum capella de Hamsted eidum annexa.—Park.

In the time of Edward VI., the curacy of Hampstead was valued at £10 per annum; but up till that time the inhabitants chiefly consisted of laundresses and their families.

[67] Park’s ‘History.’

[68] He built St. Giles’s Church.

[69] For a portrait of Harrison, see the European Magazine, October, 1789.

[70] I regret that on my recent visit to the churchyard I found this description no longer true. An air of neglect, very painful to one who remembers its appearance thirty years ago, pervades it now; and all the neatness and care seems to be transferred to the newer portion of the graveyard on the opposite side of the church.

[71] On the last occasion of my visiting the graveyard (1896), I could not find this tomb.

[72] Copied for me by Mrs. Godfrey Turner.

[73] The toll is still exacted. Several attempts have been made by the parish authorities to extinguish the right, but they have never come to terms with the successor of Miss Sullivan (1899).—G. W. P.

[74] The church now St. John’s. Rebuilt in 1745.

[75] Lysons, ‘Environs of London.’

[76] The Rev. Samuel White, at that time resident at Frognal.

[77] ‘At the above date Hampstead, with many other parishes, took advantage of a statute passed in the reign of George I., which, with the consent of the major part of the parishioners, empowered the churchwardens and overseers of parishes to purchase or hire any house in the parish, or to contract with any person to lodge and keep and employ the poor ... hiring them, in fact, to contractors. The system, for a while, appeared to work well, but after a time ceased to be useful.’—Howitt, ‘Northern Heights.’

[78] It was he who built the magnificent Chesterfield House, Mayfair.

[79] Park, p. 342.

[80] Obituary, European Magazine, 1804. Haydn says 1805, which is wrong.

[81] Howitt, ‘Northern Heights of London.’

[82] Every ticket was sold before the drawing took place.

[83] Obituary, European Magazine, of this month and year. Haydn says 1805.

[84] Fenton House has had many tenants in modern times, amongst them the Honourable Miss Murrays and the Baroness Grey. It has been called the Clock House, a resident, some thirty years ago, having placed a sham dial-plate on the front of the entrance porch.

[85] Park, the historian of Hampstead, so often referred to in these pages.—C. W.

[86] I have a clinging impression that much of the ‘Vanity of Human Wishes’ was composed in Greenwich Park without being committed to paper, but I cannot refer now.—Note by C. A. Ward, Esq.

[87] Mrs. Desmoulins had lived with Mrs. Johnson for some before her marriage with the Doctor.

[88] Mr. G. W. Potter reminds me that a very interesting discussion and much correspondence has recently (May, 1899) taken place as to the house inhabited by Dr. Johnson, the result being that Park’s account is believed to be quite correct, viz., that it was the last house south in Frognal. Park’s father had lived for years in Hampstead, and at the same time as Dr. Johnson; he must, therefore, have given his son accurate information on the point. The house in question is now called Priory Lodge, and the difficulty arose from its being a large house with a very large garden and stabling. ‘I was enabled,’ continues my correspondent, ‘to point out that the large garden and stables were taken from Frognal Hall only some thirty-five years since, and that at the same time large additions were made to the house itself. A Mr. Watson, whose father I well remember, saw my letter in the Hampstead Express, and corroborated it, saying that his father, who had lived in it—i.e., Priory Lodge—some fifty years ago, had also enlarged it. An inspection of the house shows that it has grown from a very moderate-sized house to a much larger building.’

[89] Howitt.

[90] In 1868 Frognal House was used as the Sailors’ Daughters Orphan School, and continued for some twelve years to be so used, till the house on Green Hill was ready for their occupation.

[91] The original house was known as North Court, and a public well which existed on Branch Hill, Park tells us, was known as North Hole.

[92] Lord Burlington was the friend of Handel, who lived in his house for three years. ‘He used to drive down to the Foundling Hospital with Gay in his coach-and-four, to hear Leveridge sing there—“Leveridge, with his voice of thunder.”’ Lord Burlington patronized music, literature, painting, and architecture.

[93] Exactly opposite Montagu House is the modern North London Consumption Hospital, on Mount Vernon.

[94] Park, ‘History of Hampstead.’

[95] The first charity school was established in St. Margaret’s, Westminster, 1688.

[96] Henry James, Harper’s Magazine, September, 1897.

[97] At one period Miss Jane Porter occupied Grove House.

[98] Constable painted it, and subsequently exhibited his picture, ‘A Romantic House, Hampstead.’

[99] Hone, of the ‘Table-Book,’ has given an account of Thompson.

[100] It was said that Soho Square and many streets in its neighbourhood belonged to him.

[101] A Jacobean porch said to have belonged to an old Shropshire manor-house.

[102] I believe Thompson did bequeath to the Queen a beautiful bedstead of ivory or some costly material.—C. A. Ward.

[103] Vide Howitt’s ‘Northern Heights.’

[104] T. Norton Longman, who died at Hampstead, February 5, 1797, aged sixty-six, and was buried at Barnet. Nichols gives an account of him in ‘Literary Anecdotes,’ vi. 439. Vide Park.

[105] The sketch referred to is now in the collection of Landseer’s early drawings in the South Kensington Museum. It is said to be wonderfully lifelike.

[106] Park.

[107] I am informed by Mr. G. W. Potter, who was a member of the court for thirty years, that the manorial courts are still held at Manor Lodge, which is in the lane near Frognal, and which is said to stand on the site of the old manor-house.

[108] It now stands an empty and desolate building. The tenant, for some breach of the law, forfeited his license about three years ago, and the disreputable old inn is now (1899) advertised for sale as a building site.—G. W. P.

[109] This year (1896) it is said that this is to make room for a new road.

[110] Mr. Joseph Hoare died at Child’s Hill House in 1886.

[111] This house is now let as a school for young gentlemen.

[112] Her real name was Mrs. Hemet, Lessingham being the name she adopted for the stage.

[113] In January, 1773, Mrs. Lessingham was playing Lucy in ‘The Rivals,’ at Covent Garden.

[114] This gentleman died some twenty years ago, and the house is now occupied by its owner, Mr. Gross.

[115] Mrs. Miles, widow of John Miles, Esq., was buried in the family vault in Hampstead Parish Church, which was specially opened for the purpose.

[116] Neither Park nor Abrahams mentions Heath Street, though many of the houses look very old.

[117] This is now the middle of Heath Street, and divides old or Upper Heath Street from Lower Heath Street, leading to Fitzjohn’s Avenue.

[118] It has been suggested to me that it was so called from Kit’s cates.

[119] Cunningham says circa 1700.

[120] ‘Dunciad.’

[121] ‘Mirror.’

[122] It was Dr. Garth who, being present on an occasion when the Duchess of Marlborough was pressing the Duke to take a medicine, and, with her accustomed warmth, added, ‘I’ll be hanged, Duke, if it do not prove serviceable!’ exclaimed, ‘Do take it, my Lord Duke, for it must be of service in one way or the other!’

[123] Lately blown down and destroyed (1895).

[124] Park.

[125] Edward Coxe.

[126] Mr. Steevens left the greater part of his property to his niece, Miss Steevens, who died at Hampstead.

[127] Locally memorable as the last person who wore a pigtail at Hampstead.

[128] Park.

[129] C. Deane was another artist who loved and painted Hampstead Heath. He exhibited a scene from Hampstead at the British Gallery in 1823—a most perfect representation of local scenery. I owe this note to an odd number of the Literary Gazette.

[130] Alfred Edward Chalon proposed to give, in 1859, to the inhabitants of Hampstead his own large collection of sketches, and his brother’s unsold works, and some endowment to uphold the collection, if they would provide suitable premises; but it fell through by their default, and he died on October 3, 1860.

[131] Varley was very chary of drawing horoscopes. He was often terrifically right.

[132] ‘A copy of the ancient customs used in the Manor of Hampstead was made, February 14, 1753, from a paper found by Mr. Tims at Jack Straw’s Castle, where several of the bailiffs of the manor had lived, and, from the style of the writing, appeared to have been written eighty or ninety years before.’—Baines, ‘Records of Hampstead.’

[133] ‘Pickwick Papers.’

[134] There is a quaint detached tea-room at the Spaniards, approached by an outside flight of wooden steps. Until about thirty years ago there was inscribed on one of the panes of glass in the end window the autograph of the late Emperor of the French. He is said to have cut this inscription with a diamond ring, about 1845-46, when in exile here as Prince Louis Napoleon. The window has been altered, and the pane has disappeared.—G. W. P.

[135] When Gibson wrote his additions to Camden, 1695, Mother Huffs was a house of entertainment on Hampstead Heath. I have recently learned that in an old map of 1630 a small house near the Elms is marked ‘Mother Houghs.’

[136] ‘Lives of the Lord Chancellors.’

[137] It was Martin who inaugurated the idea.

[138] This house was occupied for many years by Captain Sir Edward Parry, the Arctic explorer, who was connected by marriage with the Hoare family.—G. W. P.

[139] ‘Sylvan Sketches,’ by the author of ‘Flora Domestica,’ 1825.

[140] ‘Collins’ and Tooly’s Farm were two adjoining but separate grass-farms; now they are one, in the occupation of the late Mr. Tooly’s son. Mr. Collins was the occupant of the other, and lived in the farmhouse, or cottage, where Dickens and so many other famous men have lived. This cottage is now occupied by Mr. Arthur Wilson, the son of the late Rev. Daniel Wilson. He has added to the cottage without in any way spoiling it.’—G. W. P.

[141] The new paling at the end of the holly hedge shows the place where the nine elms and the old seat stood.

[142] Said by some writers to have been married in 1776—a statement disproved by the magazines of the day, and by the fact of Mrs. Crewe’s magnificent masquerade in 1775. There is a portrait of Mrs. Crewe painted by Reynolds.

[143] The members of this celebrated club included the Dukes of Roxburghe and Portland, the Earl of Strathmore (whose encounter with the highwaymen on Finchley Common I have alluded to), Mr. Crewe, Fox, Sheridan, Lord Carlisle, and others. The club was established in Pall Mall in 1764, and the proprietor in 1775 founded the present Brooks’s, in St. James’s Street.

[144] Mirabeau, in one of his letters, tells of two ladies just arrived from Paris with tall feathers in their hats, who, as he was conducting them from the Bell Inn, Holborn, to Hatton Garden, were surrounded by a mob, from whom they were only rescued by some English gentlemen on horseback, who used their whips on the crowd, and thus dispersed it.

[145] Sir Aston Lever, who had just made a present of his collection to the British Museum.

[146] Fox’s verses to Mrs. Crewe were printed at Strawberry Hill.

[147] On his death-bed Fox observed: ‘There are two things I wish heartily to see accomplished—peace with Europe, and the abolition of the slave-trade; but of the two, I wish the latter.’

[148] While rewriting this chapter, a sale of Romney’s engravings took place at Christie’s, when Lady Hamilton as ‘Nature,’ engraved in colours by Meyer, sold for 100 guineas (May, 1894).

[149] This picture, I am told, is not by Romney.

[150] It must be patent to everyone that, had the Assembly House been originally built for that purpose, a proper entrance would have formed an essential part of it, whereas, as I have said, it was without one till quite modern times.

[151] I am indebted to Mr. G. W. Potter for the above information.

[152] The birch-tree, with its light sprays and silvery bark, is very frequently styled the ‘Lady of the Woods.’ Constable used the appellation in connection with the beautiful ash metaphorically.

[153] ‘Goldsmith’s English, when English comes to be the sole tongue wanted to run the wide world round, as it spins by day and night under the sun, will necessarily be more and more resorted to as the best model to be had of plain and simply effective speech. His “Village” and his “Vicar” will be carefully searched into to help counteract the ever-augmenting virus of vulgar dialectical debasement from oversea offshoots, colonial or enfranchised, that is to-day poisoning the living font of Chaucer. Addison will then be less read than even now he is, and Johnson will never be sought for at all out of Boswell. The huge autocrat of yesterday is with the worms to-morrow, and Oliver, “who talked like poor Poll,” will then sit enthroned as preceptor of English to the universe.’—Mr. C. A Ward.

[154] I am reminded that Mr. Richardson, the friend and correspondent of Sir W. Scott, resided here for several years.





De Montfort Mr. Kemble.
Rezenvelt Mr. Talbot.
Albert Mr. Barrymore.
Manuel Mr. Powell.
Jerome Mr. Dowton.
Conrad Mr. Caulfield.
Jane de Montfort Mrs. Siddons.
Countess Miss Heard.

[156] ‘Life of Sir Walter Scott,’ vol. ii., pp. 267, 268.

[157] Sir Walter Scott paid his last visit to Hampstead and Joanna Baillie in April, 1828. It might have been on this occasion that Mrs. Howitt met him.

[158] To-day the inscription on her tomb needs the tender hand of Old Mortality to remove the lichen that hides it!

[159] Athenæeum, March 20, 1861.

[160] There is but one good portrait of Goldsmith—that painted by his friend Sir Joshua Reynolds, now at Knowle.

[161] Loggan had been dwarf to the Princess of Wales. He kept a hairdresser’s shop on the Pantiles at Tunbridge Wells, and painted fans, which were ornamented with likenesses of all the most important persons who appeared there.

[162] See p. 165.

[163] At this time Miss Aikin had published her ‘Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth,’ and Miss Edgeworth was writing ‘Comic Dramas.’

[164] It will be remembered that the Hoare family allied themselves by marriage with the Norfolk Gurneys, the Buxtons, and the Frys.

[165] This name is now given to a row of poor little modern dwellings at North End.

[166] I find it is a tradition in one of the oldest families on Hampstead Heath that this avenue formerly belonged to Lord North’s House.

[167] Mr. G. W. Potter tells me a very aged walnut-tree still stands in this paddock, and may be the tree referred to.

[168] It shows a want of archæological interest to have altered the name.

[169] Dryden.

[170] North End House is now the residence of Mr. Figgis; and I read in Baines’ ‘Records of Hampstead’ that the room fraught with such sad interest is used as a day-nursery.

This does not appear to be the description of a room that would adapt itself, or be capable of adaptation to the uses of a day-nursery; and we sincerely hope that Mr. Baines has been misinformed, and that the room remains as when Mr. Howitt described it, sacred to the memory of the great orator.

[171] I have several times been in this historic room, and visited it only last summer with the Hampstead Antiquarian Society. The room is a double one: the smaller apartment has the double-hatch door, and the larger room opening from it is quite large enough for a nursery. The tradition is that the Earl of Chatham occupied the double apartment.—G. W. P.

[172] Horace Walpole, who also vindicated Byng, and regarded his fate as a gross injustice, or, rather, we should say, a judicial murder, tells us that, being with Her Royal Highness Princess Amelia at her villa of Gunnersbury, amongst other interesting anecdotes, she told him that while Byng’s affair was depending, the Duchess of Newcastle sent Lady Sophia Egerton (the wife of a clergyman, by the way) to beg her to be for the execution of the Admiral. ‘And, indeed,’ she continued, ‘I was already for it. The officers would never have fought if he had not been executed; nor would Lord Anson have been head of the Admiralty.’

[173] I have seen it this year (1895), and rejoice at its healthy appearance.

[174] Tom Hood.

[175] The bower or seat at the Bull and Bush is about 12 feet from the ground, among the branches of the yew-tree, and is reached by a rude staircase. The tree was a very ancient one, but a ring of young shoots have sprung up from the roots, and are growing vigorously round the spot where the old trunk stood.—G. W. P.

[176] Hughson’s ‘History of London,’ 1809.

[177] This well-known physician has died since these lines were written.

[178] These fields are now covered with houses.

[179] Mrs. Barbauld’s ‘Richardson’s Correspondence.’

[180] I believe the elm has been preserved, but the house has been removed.

[181] Mr. Le Breton, who heard him, says it was the first large elm-tree on the Heath.

[182] The Park, Brussels.

[183] Said to have been one of the most reliable of Charles Kean’s stock pieces.

[184] Leigh Hunt and his brother had been condemned to two years’ imprisonment each, and a fine of £1,000, for having, as he ludicrously phrases it, contrasted the Morning Post’s description of the Regent as an Adonis in appearance, and the Mæcenas of his age, with the old real, fat state of the case, and for having said that H.R.H. had lived for fifty years without doing anything to deserve the admiration of his contemporaries or the gratitude of posterity.

[185] A tradition of the inhabitants of the cottage when I saw it.

[186] These lines do not appear in ‘Sleep and Poetry,’ in Moxon’s edition in the Pocket Series.

[187] Old John Cleave, the publisher, and friend of Douglas Jerrold and William Linton, who visited Leigh Hunt in his Surrey cage, told me that not only were the walls covered with a rose-patterned paper, but that the poet had trained living roses on them.

[188] Vide Mary Cowden Clarke.

[189] Millfield Lane is said to be a very ancient road. This was the road traversed by the mounted messenger in 1780 who was despatched for the military, while the would-be wreckers of Lord Mansfield’s house were being regaled by the landlord of the Spaniards Inn.

[190] A fungus so called.

[191] Hammond’s house was in Elm Row.

[192] Some persons have asserted that Lord Byron was one of Leigh Hunt’s visitors in the Vale of Health, but Hunt himself tells us that though Lord Byron visited him in Horsemonger Lane Gaol, he did not afterwards. His interviews with Lord Byron took place at his lordship’s town-house.

[193] In the garden of which her three-year-old son celebrated his mother’s birthday by eating laburnum seeds, which nearly killed him.

[194] Those who have had experience of forestry consider the mighty beeches and oaks in Caen Wood to be the real descendants of the primeval giants of the old Forest of Middlesex.

[195] Lloyd’s ‘Caen Wood and its Associations.’ A lecture.

[196] State Calendars of Charles I. and II., April 24, 1630, and September 21, 1660.

[197] There is a tradition that the ponds were enlarged, if not made, by the Monks (Lloyd).

[198] The old mill has still a local tradition in Millfield Lane, by which it was approached from the hamlet of Green Street, Kentish Town (ibid.).

[199] Haydn.

[200] The South Sea Scheme, thus called.

[201] Lloyd.

[202] It was Lord Bute who granted Dr. Johnson a literary pension of £300 a year.

[203] Here are all the letters—Kaen, Caen.

[204] The inscription was as follows: ‘I, Robert Caxton, begun this place in a wild wood ... stubbed up the wood, digged all the ponds, cut all the walks, made all the gardens, built all the rooms with my own hands. Nobody drove a nail here, or laid a brick, or a tile, but myself; and ... thank God for giving me strength at sixty-four years of age, when I began it,’ etc.

[205] Edited by Colley Cibber.

[206] Mr. G. W. Potter informs me, that while a skating pond was being enlarged about seven or eight years ago, traces of this strange building were found.

[207] It was said of Murray, that he had less law than many lawyers, but more practice than any. Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, was one of his clients.

[208] Referred to in a speech, at a City banquet, by Sir Bartle Frere, July, 1874.

[209] ‘Lives of the Lord Chancellors.’

[210] Ibid.

[211] That of the claimant to the Tichborne baronetcy.

[212] It is curious to notice the different description of the event which Mrs. Delany (writing at the same time as Horace Walpole) gives us, the latter averring that the Guards, a thousand strong, had been despatched to prevent the intended arson, whilst the lady writes that the mob was met by a regiment of militia on the march, who turned them back. It is plain that Horace Walpole’s description was correct, otherwise there would have been no obligation to the landlord of the Spaniards, which, it is said, Lord Mansfield never forgot.

[213] Abraham states that the Spaniards Tavern paid no poor rate. There may be no relation between the facts, but as cause is wanted for this exemption, one wonders if the saving of Caen Wood had anything to do with it.

[214] More than £30,000 by the burning of his house.

[215] ‘Lives of the Lord Chancellors.’

[216] Lambert tells us that amongst the celebrated cedars of Lebanon at Caen Wood, young when he saw them, was one planted by Lord Mansfield himself.

[217] The ‘Man Milliner,’ as a correspondent of the European Magazine writes himself, suggests in the August number of that year (1781) that Lord Southampton at Fitzroy Farm might with advantage stucco the front of his three rooms to the west. His neighbour Lord Mansfield’s south front will show him the permanent beauty of the new stucco.

[218] I have been told that this portrait is still preserved at Caen Wood House.

[219] The freeholders and copyholders of the manor did not even receive the courtesy of a notice of the intention to bring in the Bill, which was almost surreptitiously passed through the House.

[220] Prints of the handsome arch were treasured in Hampstead homes long after the event. One of them, coloured and gilt, is now before me, rather the worse for sixty-three years’ wear and tear.

[221] The Styrian Hunters were a band of foreign musicians so called, very popular in London just then.

[222] This was written in 1872 before the great hillocks had been levelled, or the pits and hollows filled up.

[223] It is the belief of geologists that the whole of Middlesex was the bed of an estuary of the sea, from which the waters subsided into the Thames.

[224] A lady whose girlhood was spent at Hampstead tells me she used to find bright little stones amongst the gravel, locally known as ‘Hampstead diamonds’; a ring made of them, in her possession, still sparkles very prettily.

[225] These have been found in the gravel-pits, and also a specimen of Concha rugosa.

[226] Authors of the ‘History of Clerkenwell,’ London, 1828.

[227] So called because formed of the united streams which supplied the city and suburbs with clear, sweet, and wholesome water in the west part, whose first decay was owing to certain mills erected thereon by the Knights of St. John, and by degrees gave it the name of Turnmill Brook, which name is still preserved in Turnmill Street, through part of which it took its course. In time this name was lost in that of Fleet Dyke or Ditch.

[228] There is a mystery about this Walk which, when I first knew Hampstead, I often heard spoken of. Now I am told, on very reliable authority, that no such Walk exists; yet the above traditional account of the course of the Fleet was given me as late as 1895 by a very intelligent inhabitant, and he spoke of Willow Walk as if he knew it.

[229] After great falls of snow or heavy rains, the Fleet frequently overflowed the Pancras valley and the Bagnigge Wells Road, rendering them impassable in places.

[230] The Holborn Bars are removed, but the posts stand.

[231] These latter buildings, or part of them, I am told, are still in being, and used for their original purpose.

[232] A celebrated house, much frequented by the wits. This mention of Nando’s Coffee-house reminds me that it figures in one of the amusing papers in the Tatler (No. 180), which Steele had started in 1709. In this paper the public are informed that ‘a coach runs daily from Nando’s Coffee House to Mr. Tiptoe’s Dancing School’; and then is added by way of postscript, ‘Dancing shoes not exceeding four inches height in the heels, and periwigs not exceeding three feet in length, are carried in the coach box gratis,’ a satire upon the high heels and exaggerated wigs then in vogue.

[233] There was, I am told, an old weather-boarded house opposite the Wells Tavern called Willow House, which remained till some twenty years ago, when its site, and that of its large garden, were built upon, and six or more houses were erected there. This was probably the type of the early houses in Well Walk.

[234] There was a coach running in 1708.

[235] See Haydn’s ‘Dictionary of Dates.’

[236] Bank Holidays, though in the near future, had not been inaugurated when this was first written.

[237] Gibson, who published his additions to Camden at the Black Swan, Paternoster Row, 1695, tells us that Mr. Pittiver found what he calls cluster-headed goldy-locks (Ranunculus bulbosus?) in going from Mother Huffs’ to Highgate. Mother Huffs’ would seem to have been situated pretty near the Spaniards Inn, and was in all likelihood a tea-drinking house.

[238] The murderer of a Mr. Posto.

[239] The Bird-in-Hand, like the old post-office, was said to be of the same age as the Chicken House.

[240] This ungraceful adjunct to dress was flourishing when these lines were first written (1852-53).

[241] I respect the unknown hand that appended the above newspaper cutting to Soames’ ‘Treatise on the Hampstead Wells,’ in the reference-room of the Hampstead Library.

[242] In 1721 the tavern in Well Walk was called the White Stone Inn.

[243] Anderson’s ‘Life of Gay.’

[244] In this same year, 1722, I find Gay writing to Swift that he is persuaded Pope had borne his share in the loss of the South Sea—a sentence that says much for the fortitude and unselfish forbearance of the latter who had taught himself in this instance to forget his own loss in endeavouring to strengthen and comfort his friend and fellow-sufferer.

[245] Lady Betty Germain, second daughter to Earl Berkeley, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, to whom Swift was either private secretary or chaplain, or both(?). Visitors to Knowle will remember Lady Betty’s chamber, and the bed-hangings, chair-covers, etc., of the lady’s own embroidering.

[246] This description is repeated in every edition of this work, long after the Assembly-room had ceased to exist, and is given verbatim in several topographical descriptions of Hampstead.

[247] That this too ambidextrous individual visited Hampstead is well known. But so she did Belsize and Ranelagh, as well as the opera, the theatres, and, indeed, the churches—every place, in fact, where well-dressed persons congregated. Many years ago an old inhabitant of Hampstead lent me a scrap-book in which was a likeness of Jenny Diver, a by no means unpleasant-looking woman. She was represented with an ostentatious display of pearls and other ornaments round her neck and waist. She held a watch in one hand, and a purse in the other, and under a cap wore her hair turned back from a rather clever forehead; the remainder, while tied behind with a ribbon, fell in loose curls upon her neck. Gay introduces her in the ‘Beggars’ Opera.’ According to the text, she was demure-looking. March, 1740, closed Jenny’s career at Tyburn.

[248] The daughters of Mrs. Hervey.

[249] It could not have been the Marriage Act that put an end to it, as that was not passed till 1753, and Sion Chapel had ceased to be before 1725.

[250] Connoisseur.

[251] Dr. Arbuthnot died in March, 1734-35.

[252] He was a Scotchman. Letter of Mr. Pulteney to Swift. See ‘Correspondence.’

[253] I am told that this custom is still maintained.

[254] This is precisely the language of Jonas Hanway, the traveller, and introducer of that useful article, the umbrella. This was also the favourite argument of the clergy, when preaching against the use of tea, as they also did against vaccination.

[255] I am told by an old resident that as late as 1830 there was but one butcher’s shop in Hampstead.

[256] A ridiculous custom, of which an account will be found in Hone’s ‘Table Book.’

[257] Connoisseur.

[258] Quoted in ‘Hampstead and the Heath,’ which appeared in Sharpe’s Magazine early in the sixties.

[259] Twelve months later, 1736, Turpin rides on the Highgate road, wearing an open gold-laced hat, while his companion (who sometimes passes for his man) has a plain gold-laced hat.

[260] He was Court painter to George II., and the translator of ‘Don Quixote.’ Sir Joshua Reynolds thought so little of his paintings that when asked where they were to be seen he replied, ‘In the garret.’

[261] Tried for bigamy, and found guilty, 1776.

[262] The Duke of Grafton was Lord Chamberlain.

[263] Mrs. Donnellan (the prefix Mrs. was then frequently applied to unmarried ladies) was the daughter of Chief Justice Donnellan, and sister to the Bishop, of Killala. Dr. Clayton married her sister, and gave his wife’s fortune to Mrs. Donnellan, who seems to have passed a great part of her life in England, making Hampstead a frequent place of residence.

[264] The rich and beautiful Widow Pendarves married the Irish Dean Delany, 1732, to the great disgust of John Gay. See his letter to Swift in the correspondence of the latter. ‘As Dr. Delany hath taken away a fortune from us, I expect to be recommended in Ireland. If authors of godly books are entitled to such fortune, I desire you would recommend me as a moral one—I mean in Ireland, for that recommendation would not do in England’ (Swift’s Correspondence).

[265] I have seen it stated that the burial-place of Pope is unknown.

[266] Clergymen extolled ‘Clarissa’ in the pulpit, and Pope observed of ‘Pamela’ that it would do more good than all their sermons.

[267] The Daily Advertiser, September 26, 1748.

[268] William Moray, for robbing John Head, a farmer’s boy, of sixpence (Universal Magazine, February 15, 1775).

[269] About nine o’clock on a July morning, Turpin was seen by two gentlemen who knew him, at Tottenham High Cross, mounted on a gray horse, with a boy behind as servant on a brown horse, with a black velvet cap and silver tassel. He rode through the town without molestation.—Grub Street Journal, 1736, No. 397.

[270] Park’s ‘History of Hampstead,’ published when the author was little more than of age.

[271] Mr. Baines, in his ‘Records of Hampstead,’ has remedied this oversight, and has given some interesting particulars of the young historian’s after-life.

[272] Then the Green Man.

[273] I am told upon excellent authority that the house Constable lived in was taken down and rebuilt about six years ago; this house is now 44, Well Walk.

[274] Sion Chapel.

[275] Mr. G. W. Potter.

[276] Now Tooley’s Farm.

[277] Lintot.

[278] Hogarth is said to have painted this picture at Hampstead.

[279] Mrs. Delany was a Granville.

[280] Richardson’s ‘Correspondence’

[281] ‘Gray was a little man of very ungainly appearance.’—Horace Walpole.

[282] The name of one of his poems.

[283] ‘Lives of the Lord Chancellors.’

[284] Wordsworth.

[285] Charles and Mary Lamb were at this time living in Russell Street, over a brazier’s shop.

[286] The fields commonly called the Conduit Fields lie under Fitzjohn’s Avenue, and a fountain at a corner of it represents the conduit.

[287] Keats.

[288] Brewer’s ‘Middlesex.’

[289] Park calls him her second husband, which is wrong. See Pepys’ ‘Diary,’ vol. i., p. 6.

[290] See Lord Braybrooke’s ‘Notes to Pepys’ Diary,’ vol. iv.

[291] Not his son, as a recent writer on Belsize asserts.

[292] These gentlemen were German Lavie, James Abel, Thomas Roberts, and Thomas Forsyth, Esqs., of Hampstead.


‘And on each side the gate a grenadier;
Howe’er, they cannot speak, nor see, nor hear;
But why they’re posted there no mortal knows,
Unless it be to fright jackdaws and crows.’

A modern writer on the neighbourhood appears to have been misled by these lines into the supposition that the gates were guarded by living soldiers.

[294] Belsize House stood at the bottom of the present avenue. One of the last inhabitants was old Mr. Martinez, of the famous firm of port-wine shippers, Martinez, Gassiot and Co, Mark Lane, about 1847.—C. A. Ward, Esq.

[295] When Lysons wrote his ‘Environs of London,’ 1812, Belsize was a subrural place, the house modern.

[296] There was a little stile in the lane, at the south-west corner of the estate, and this was the spot of the murder, just as Delarue was mounting it.

[297] Letter of Lucy Aiken to Mrs. Mallett, Hampstead, September, 1845.

[298] The Kilburne rises near West End, Hampstead, and passes through Kilburn to Bayswater, supplying the Serpentine River, Hyde Park; and in Park’s time it flowed through the fields to the Thames at Ranelagh.

‘In a note sewn into a copy of the “Speculum Britanniæ,” wrought by Travaile, and view of John Norden of Fulham, in the year 1596,’ the name is spelt three different ways—Kylburne, Keylbourne, Kulleburne (quoted from Baines’ ‘Records,’ etc.).

[299] Great-uncles to the present Sir Charles Dilke.

[300] The author of the ‘Saturday Half-Holiday Guide’ mentions a pure white variety of Campanula rotundifolia growing on the Heath, but I never had the good fortune to meet with it.

[301] All the plants enumerated in this catalogue have been found by the writer in the habitats indicated on Hampstead Heath.

[302] In reference to this charity, the following paragraph from the ‘Monthly Chronicle’ of the European Magazine for January, 1790, is interesting: ‘At a meeting held in London of the trustees of John Stock, Esq., of Hampstead, who bequeathed a bounty of £100 a year to be divided amongst ten poor curates of the Church of England, whose incomes should not exceed £40 per annum ... thirty-eight petitions were presented and read from poor curates to partake of his benevolence, many of whose stipends were not more than £25 yearly, with which they have to support numerous and burdensome families. As ten only could receive the gift, twenty-eight were unsuccessful candidates.’

[303] In the winter of 1727 Voltaire was lodging at the White Peruke, Covent Garden, and visiting Pope at Twickenham. It may have been on this occasion that he made the acquaintance of Mr. Pitt.

[304] ‘A Pamphlet on the Unequal and Partial Assessments; or, The Book of Assessments to the Poor Rates of the Parish of St. John, Hampstead, in the County of Middlesex, laid open by A. Abrahams, 1811, with a view to Meliorate the Situation of the Middling and Lower Classes by a New Assessment.’

[305] At this time twenty loads per day passed through Hampstead, besides what went other ways.

[306] Abrahams mentions Miss Baillie at Frognal, and G. Paxon the Flask—the Lower Flask, of course.

[307] The reason for the name of this avenue has been gravely questioned, and the legend attached to it is looked upon as a mere fable. But in 1859 Sir Francis Palgrave, then Deputy-Keeper of the Record Office, discovered a full account of the assize which was held under these memorable trees in the year 1662—Communicated by G. W. Potter, Esq.

[308] ‘Endymion.’



Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row, London.