The Old Court Suburb, or Memorials of Kensington, Regal, Critical, and Anecdotical, Volume II

Hunt, Leigh





NEAR Holland House, in a portion, still accessible, of the late thoroughfare leading


to it, called, Nightingale Lane, stands Little Holland House; a small mansion compared with the other, but still a mansion; isolated, countryfied, and standing in a garden. Here Mrs. Inchbald once spent a couple of weeks with its occupant, a Mr. Bubb, and dined frequently with him on Sundays (who was he?); and here lived and died Miss Fox, the sister of the late Lord Holland, a lady deserving to be remembered; for everybody seems to have loved her. In her girlhood, she and a young friend, Miss V., a distant connection of the family, were much in the house of another family connexion, the first Lord Lansdowne, at that time Lord Shelburne the minister, where she became intimate with his Lordship's protege, Jeremy Bentham, who at that time was still young himself. The future venerable jurist possessed a great deal of vivacity; played on the harpsichord


and violin; and being in a curious state of perplexity between his amatory and his cross- examining tendencies, appears to have fallen at one and the same time, in love with Miss V., and in dread of the match-making intentions of his noble host, who seems privately as well as publicly to have been considered a very plotting personage. Bentham thought that his Lordship was constantly meditating marriages for all his young lady visitors. The consequence was, that the philosopher delayed the declaration of his love till he was grown old; and what is more curious, he took it to heart that the lady refused him. He had not much cultivated her acquaintance meantime; yet seems to have concluded, that she had remained single on purpose to wait her chance. We do not know whether he ever again saw the lady, after the refusal; but one of the last glimpses


which biography affords as of himself, is his walking from Little Holland House, one Sunday morning, in company with Miss Fox and the Reverend Sidney Smith, on the way of the two latter to church. Bentham did not go to church with them. He did not think it right; and he was too honest to belie his opinions. On the other hand, he tells us, that the reverend wit apologized to him for going, alleging that it was his " trade." It may be doubted, nevertheless, whether Sidney, in making this apparently "indiscreet" observation, was not bantering the philosopher's tendency to such assumptions; and intimating that it was hopeless to suppose him capable of taking any other view of the proceeding. Wits, however, it must be owned, are apt to make questionable churchmen.

The turning out of the high road, next to Nightingale Lane, is Addison Road; and in


a right angle with this turning, in the high road itself, is Addison Terrace; places named after the former illustrious inhabitant of Holland House.

Addison Road, the houses in which, upon the whole, are in good taste, is terminated by the villa of General Fox, in whose person, the descendants of Sir Stephen Fox have again married with royalty; the lady of the gallant officer being one of the daughters of King William the Fourth.

It is curious to see the new turns that are taken by the children of new generations. A royally descended ancestress of the Foxes, grand-daughter of King Charles the Second, would as soon have thought of flying to the moon, as of " editing" a political romance. The name of Lady Mary Fox has transpired in editorial connexion with a book of this kind; which, under the the title of an " Expedition


to the Interior of New Holland," is an Utopian speculation, remarkable for its powers of reflection and for its liberal principles, without, in the least degree, derogating from what is becoming in the sex of the fair editor.

The landlords of some of the houses in Addison Road did not very happily christen them, when they called them " Homer Villa," " Cato Cottage," &c. Cato might very well have lived in a cottage; and his ancestor, Cato the Censor, probably did; but people are not accustomed to associate the idea of Caesar's antagonist with a cottage; and the impression is not mended, when they find that the cottage is named after Addison's tragedy. "Homer Villa" is worse; for who can associate the idea of the great ancient wandering poet with a modern citizen's box ? or what critic could have fancied, that a house in a road named after Addison would ever


have been named after Homer, because Addison was supposed to have written the version of the first book of the "Iliad," which bore the name of his friend Tickell !

Addison Road is of some length; is adorned with a modern chapel in good ancient style; and the backs of the houses on the eastern side make sequestered acquaintance with the trees of Holland Park. Addison Terrace does not do equal honour to its name. The houses have a thick, stunted, and huddled appearance. We believe, however, that they are better and larger than they seem.

From this point of Kensington, to its western boundary, a little further on, we know of nothing worth mention, except the boundary itself, which runs through the nursery-grounds of the Messrs. Lee. These


grounds have been known in the parish books, under the title of the Vineyard, ever since the time of William the Conqueror. Wine, described as a sort of Burgundy, was actually made and sold in them, as late as the middle of last century.

Wine was formerly made in many parts of England, probably in no great quantity. It naturally gave way to drinks more congenial to the soil. The right, popular wine of countries which do not produce wine of the best quality, is that which free trade ought to bring them (and will bring them) from those which do.

Another interesting circumstance connected with this spot, is, that it has been in the hands of the respectable family that occupies it, for three generations. The founder of it, James Lee,author of one of the earliestpopular systems of Botany, was a correspondent of Linnaeus.



In order to avoid the dullness of retracing our steps, we go a little beyond the bounds of the parish, and turning north and westward through pleasant Brook Green, and no less poetically-named Shepherd's Bush, return to it, and ascend Notting (originally, perhaps, Nutting) Hill. By this we arrive at Kensington Gravel-pits, which is a kind of second Kensington High Street, being to the northern boundary line of the suburb, in the Uxbridge Road, what the High Street, commonly so called, is to Kensington Proper, the road to Hammersmith.

Since the disappearance of the actual Gravel-pits, their name seems to have been superseded, of late years, by the joint influence of the new streets on Notting Hill and in Bayswater, all this portion of Kensington to the west of the turnpike being now addressed, we believe, post-officially, as Notting


Hill; and all of it, to the east of the turnpike, being understood, in like manner, to belong to Bayswater.

We regret the loss of the old name, for many reasons. The district called the Gravel- pits, or at least so called in books, and in directions of letters, appears, on a rough calculation, to have comprehended all the north and north-western side of Kensington, lying between Notting Hill, Bayswater, Holland House, the Church, and the Palace.

Readers may call to mind a remnant of one of the pits, existing but a few years ago, to the north of the Palace in Kensington Gardens, and adding greatly to their picturesque look thereabouts. A pleasant poetical tradition was connected with it, of which we shall have something farther to say. Now, the Gravel-pits were the fashionable suburb resort of invalids, from the times of William


and Anne to the close of the last century. Their " country air," as it was called, seems to have been preferred, not only to Essex, but to Kent. Garth, in his "Dispensary," makes an apothecary say, that sooner than a change shall take place, from making the poor pay for medicine, to giving it them gratis,

"Alps shall sink to vales, And leeches in our glasses turn to whales, Alleys at Wapping furnish us new modes, And Monmouth Street Versailles with riding hoods: The rich to th' Hundreds in pale crowds repair, And change the Gravel-pits for Kentish air."

Swift had lodgings in the Gravel-pits during the winters of and ; and Lord Chatham's sister, Anne Pitt (as like him, says Horace Walpole, " as two drops of fire ") is recorded to have died at " her house, in Pitt Place, Kensington Gravel-pits," in


. In the pleasant little corner entitled the Mall (why so called we know not, probably from its having been a more open place formerly, and frequented by players of the game so called) lived and died, not long since, the admired painter of our cold northern skies and sea-coasts, Sir Augustus Callcott; whose death was followed, in the same place, by that of his wife, previously known as Mrs. Graham (an estimable writer of travels and history). It had been preceded, some years, also, in the same place, by that of his brother, William Callcott, a learned and interesting musician, celebrated for his composition of glees. He was author of the pathetic composition, " It was a Friar of Orders Grey;" and is understood to have been the ruin of Sir John Hawkins's " History of Music," by no greater weapon than a musical pun; having expressed, in a catch on


the subject, his preference of Burney's History; which, by the frequent repetition of its. title, in contradistinction to that of Sir John's was made to say, with a horrible re-iteration, "Burn his History."

Have you Sir John Hawkins' hist'ry ? Some folks think it quite a myst'ry. Music fill'd his wondrous brain; How d'ye like him ? Is it plain? Both I've read, and must agree Burney's hist'ry pleases me. Sir John Hawkins-Sir John Hawkins, How d'ye like him ? how d'ye like him ? Burney's hist'ry--urney's hist'ry, Burney's hist'ry pleases me.

M. Fetis, the most learned of musical critics, has well disposed of the merits of the two histories, by showing, that neither of them was as good as the author supposed; but that each contains matter wanting in the


other, and turnable to account. Burney, however, besides being a musician professed, had made himself personally acceptable in the circles of literature and fashion, by his agreeable manners; whereas, Hawkins, who was only an amateur (he had been bred an attorney), was pragmatical, niggardly, and censorious. Hawkins was one of those men who, in a special manner, "take upon themselves to know;" and, like most such persons, he was apt to pronounce grand final judgments upon things of which he knew little. Hence the epitaph that was written upon him, and that so briefly and pleasantly expresses the knight's pompous manner, and the nothings which he uttered.

Here lies Sir John Hawkins, Without his shoes and stawkings.

Turning southwards from the Mall towards


Church Street, the visitor of Kensington lately passed Sheffield House, which owed its name to property possessed in this quarter by another pompous man, who made great pretentions in his day to wit and poetry-- Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire (he is often erroneously called Duke of Buckingham). Sheffield is said to have made love to Queen Anne when she was princess; and he subsequently married her illegitimate sister, Catherine Darnley, a personage as pompous as himself.

The property, we believe, is still in the possession of a respectable descendant of the Sheffield family; and a new and pretty line of houses, overlooking Campden House Garden, has received their name.

Sheffield House has disappeared; and on its site (while we are writing these notices) another line of houses is in course of erection,


the backs of which look towards Palace Gardens, and ought to have pretty gardens of their own, if justice be done to the picturesque, broken ground, with its trees and bushes, that lies between the two thorough- fares.

We are now approaching the northern end of that same Church Street, which we noticed when passing on the south along High Street. We glance, for a moment, up pretty little Campden Grove, a street so called for its possession of one side of a woody bit of ground; and step again into Church Street, for the purpose of noticing a gateway next the George Tavern, inscribed, "Newton House." This gateway belongs to a large old brick house, which stands in a curious, evading sort of way, as if it would fain escape notice, at the back of other houses on both sides of it; but notice escape it


must not; since it was the residence of no less a man than Isaac Newton.

The great astronomer came here from London in consequence of an attack of the lungs, from which he appears to have been rescued by a fit of the gout. We have already mentioned some property which he possessed in another part of Kensington. Sir Isaac lived in this house for two years; then returned very ill of another disease to London; again returned to Newton House, and died there in less than a month. The house is now a boarding-school. The memory of Newton has rendered this out-of- the-way looking place the most illustrious spot in Kensington; but Newton is in no want of record, and we must return to the spot just mentioned, on which Sheffield House is being displaced by a new line of buildings, in order to notice a mossy old


buttressed dead wall, which occupies the other side of the way, and which is the garden wall of another old house possessing an interest of a different yet peculiar sort, not unsuitable to its appearance.

This is Campden House; and we are here on the eastern border of Campden Hill, which forms a larger portion of the same elevated ground on which Holland House is situate. Between the two houses lies a pleasant enclosed district of some extent, occupied by detached villas, with their respective gardens. One of them belongs to the Bedford family. Sir John South possesses a house and observatory in the western portion of the hill; new streets, on a small but agreeable scale, are daily rising to the north and east of this house: Campden Grove, which we have just glanced at, is among them; and north of Campden Grove is


Campden House, which is still the most conspicuous object in this quarter, as it has ever been since it was first erected about by Sir Baptist Hickes, a wealthy silk mercer of Cheapside, founder of the old Hickes's Hall at Clerkenwell, which the present Sessions House superseded. Sir Baptist was one of the money-made baronets of James the First, who afterwards advanced him to the titles of Lord Hickes and Viscount Campden (of Campden in Gloucestershire). He was reported to have " purchased or won " the house "at some sort of game," from Sir Walter Cope, the lord of the manor, and builder of Holland House. But Sir Walter and Sir Baptist were both such prudent persons, that we hold the story of the game to be nought. The wary old gentlemen were not likely to have bowled away one another's houses at a game of


skittles, as Duke Sheffield or Sir John Suckling might have done. The old parishioners had probably seen the comfortable old boys at skittles together, and could not well understand how the silk mercer could have set up so fine a rival establishment in the neighbourhood of the lord of the manor, without some such piece of good luck.

Viscount Campden's heiress, his only child, took her father's titles into the family of the Noels of Rutland, who became Earls of Gainsborough, an honour now extinct. In , during the Commonwealth, the third Viscount was obliged to compound for Campden House with the Commissioners of Sequestration, who for a time ousted his lordship, and took the house for their official residence. At the restoration, Charles the Second went one night to sup with him.


The Viscount's father-in-law, the third Earl of Lindsay, famous for offering to sacrifice himself for the salvation of Charles the First, and for having, when young, surrendered himself prisoner at the battle of Edgehill, in order to be able to attend on his captured father, died in Campden House; a circumstance which, whatever may be thought of his politics, gives a consecration to the place for its association with so loving and noble a spirit. Thirty years afterwards the house was let to Princess, subsequently Queen Anne, who, for the accommodation of her household, made a considerable addition to it on the western side, which is now let apart from the other, and called Little Campden House. The Princess had been residing at Craven Hill, in the house of the old lord of that name, for the benefit of the health of her son, the infant Duke of Gloucester,


whom she now brought here; and here she and her husband, George of Denmark, divided their time with their other mansions in anxious pursuit of that object, the Duke being the only child that was left them out of a numerous family, and presumptive heir to the crown.

The history of this poor little personage is painfully curious. There is a common saying, " As happy as a prince;" and if ever prince was thought happy by those who were not in the secret of courts, this premature victim of his birth and breeding was probably held to be supremely so, especially by all the little boys of England. He was heir to a throne; he lived apart from its troubles in the house of his father and mother; and, what must have appeared a stupendous felicity in the eyes of the little boys, he not only possessed a real, right-earnest, steel sword,


instead of one made of lath and paint, and besides that, a suit of real soldiers' clothes- absolute right earnest regimentals, all red and gold-but, amazing to think! he was colonel of a positive regiment of boys, all dressed in soldier's clothes too. He rode at the head of them; he sat opposite them during parade on a live horse, his own pony; could order them about, and cry March! and look grand and manly; and all the while music would play- real proper fifes, and drums, and trumpets, not at all "penny;" and he had cannon too, and castles, and a wooden horse to put his soldiers on, when they did wrong; and they stood sentinels at his door-ways, and were the terror of the neighbouring cake-shops and apple-stalls, like any proper full-grown gentlemen soldiers. They even had field-days on Wormwood Scrubs, and reviews in Kensington Gardens, and King William was


there to see. In short, Campden House was Little Boy's Paradise.

Alas! the god of this paradise was a sickly, big-headed child, the victim of his very birth and breeding, and doomed to an early death. He was the only survivor of seventeen children, not one of whom ought to have been born; for Anne had destroyed her person and constitution by gross living- a propensity derived from her mother, Anne Hyde, perhaps from her grandfather Clarendon; and as the most important of all physiologies was not studied in those days, nobody seems to have suspected (indeed few people still suspect) what disastrous liabilities are entailed upon offspring by habits of this or of any other injurious kind, in parents. The poor little prince was afflicted with water on the brain. He had a head large enough for a grown person, with all the


sickly tendencies that accompany such a warning symptom; yet his dull, though anxious, and not naturally unkind parents, so little knew how to treat him, or attended so little to the advice of those who knew better, that after making him weak in body and obstinate in mind with wrong indulgences, they tried to force him into health and good temper by severe treatment. The poor child was flogged to make him take his medicine; flogged to make him walk when he needed help; flogged to make him go up and down stairs. At the age of eleven he was no more.

We shall have more to say of Anne and her husband when we come to Kensington Palace. In the year , Campden House was in the occupation of the Dowager Countess of Burlington and her son Richard Boyle, afterwards Earl, famous for his taste in the


fine arts. The Boyles had married into the Noel family. Not many years afterwards, the Noels parted with the property to Nicholas Lechmere, a Whig lawyer and politician who was created Lord Lechmere, and who resided here several years. He was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. His Lordship made some noise in his time, but is now distinguished for nothing but the place which he occupies in Gay's (or Swift's) ballad entitled " Duke upon Duke," of which he is the joint hero with one Sir John Guise, another distinguished gentleman who has vanished into nothingness. The adventure related by the ballad itself has become equally obscure. Lechmere and Guise, whom it styles Duke of Guise, appear to have been a couple of cronies, as proud and fiery as one another, though not equally valiant. Lechmere invites Guise to a game at whist


in Campden House. Guise says he can't come, owing to the gout. Lechmere goes in a passion to Guise's house at Brompton, to insist on his coming.

The Duke in wrath call'd for his steeds, And fiercely drove them on: Lord ! Lord! how rattled then thy stones, O kingly Kensington!

Guise persists in not stirring, till Lechmere tweaks his nose, and gives him a box on the ear! Upon this, Guise knocks Lechmere down. Lechmere challenges Guise, and the challenge is accepted; but when they go out to fight, the challenger contrives to get into his carriage and give his foe the slip:

Back in the dark, by Brompton Park, He turned up through the Gore; So slunk to Campden House so high All in his coach and four.



The ballad is witty, but very coarse. Lechmere appears to have been a kind of grim dandy.

Firm on his front his beaver sate; So broad, it hid his chin; For why ? he deem'd no man his mate, And fear'd to tan his skin. With Spanish wool he dy'd his cheek, With essence oil'd his hair; No vixen civet-cat so sweet, Nor could so scratch and tear. Right tall he made himself to show, Though made full short by God; And when pall other dukes did bow, This Duke did only nod.

Exeunt the two Dukes, as mysteriously as they enter.

About the middle of the last century, Campden House became a fashionable boarding-school. George Selwyn speaks of going


there to see a protegee of his, who was held to be a very lucky person; for he and his friend Lord March (the late profligate Duke of Queensberry,-" Old Q ") took themselves respectively for her father, and left her a fortune a piece. She married the late Marquess of Hertford.

Campden House, which had fallen into the hands of a Mr. Pitt (we know not whether any relation to the Chatham family), continued to be a boarding-school up to a considerable period of the present century, but has now again ceased to be such; and though altered in some respects from its first appearance, and long become two houses instead of one, it retains an interesting look of other times. The tenants appear to have studied its preservation. The gentleman who lately occupied the larger portion, which still bears the name of Campden House (Little Campden


House being the designation of the other), went so far in his love of the antique, as to build a little old-looking brick tower in the north-eastern corner of the garden. It abuts on the public road, " astonishing the natives," and startling at first sight the antiquarian passenger, who in vain calls his records to mind in order to refresh his memory on the subject. On coming nearer, the mystery is cleared up by the nature of the materials and the spirit of the composition; and he begins to doubt whether the building, before long, will not be something more of a ruin than it was intended to appear. Meantime he sees, however, that there must be some agreeable prospect from the top window, for those who have the courage to go up to it.

We have a liking for hobbies, and a proper Shandean inclination towards persons


who go out of the ordinary way of the world to indulge in them; and we must own we cannot wish the tower down, now that it is up. It reminds us, if not of impregnable forts and enchanted castles, yet of the love of such things in imagination; of the books that speak of them; and of the intense delight we should have felt in being able to realize such an edifice for ourselves in childhood.

This last consideration helps the tower to something of a retrospective propriety, in relation to the poor little Duke of Gloucester. These were his own grounds, and this is just the thing he might have set up in them, after reading Jack the Giant Killer, or the Seven Champions of Christendom. We imagine him ordering his honest Welsh servant and biographer, Lewis Jenkins, to personate Jack's Welsh giant, inside a great wicker-basket


erection made for the purpose, with a horrible bushy countenance at the top of it; then to go to the top of the tower and look down and goggle and roar horribly, making as if he would come down and eat Jack; and, finally, to roar much worse, and shriek so that nobody ever heard the like, and go dreadfully shuffling and stooping about while his Royal Highness Jack cuts his basket-work all to pieces.

JENKINS. But perhaps your Royal Highness won't quite bear in mind where the false head begins ; while the real one, inside the stomach, is being frightened.

GLOUCESTER (who is a wit, laughing). Oh! never mind that, Jenkins. It will only make it more like right earnest, you know; and if I fetch blood, you shall have a famous Welsh rabbit for supper.

Here his Royal Highness's light infantry


set up a laugh, which Jenkins is obliged to swallow, though he longs to run at every one of them, and kick their souls out of their provoking and prematurely-insolent little bodies.