Kensington – London – Pt. 7

The most celebrated house here was Campden House, completely rebuilt fifty years ago, and entirely demolished within the last two years. Old Campden House was called after Sir Baptist Hicks, created Viscount Campden. It is said that he won the land on which it stands from Sir Walter Cope at a game, and thereupon built the house. This is the generally accepted version of the affair, but it is probable that there was some sort of a house standing here already. Bowack says: “Two houses, called Holland and Campden Houses, were built . . . by Mr. Cope . . . erected before the death of Queen Elizabeth.” And, again (quoting from the Rev. C. Seward), ” The second seat called Campden House was purchased or won at some sort of game of Sir Walter Cope by Sir Baptist Hicks.” He adds that it was a “very noble Pile and finished with all the art the Architects of that time were capable of.” The mere fact of such a prize being won at a game of chance was likely enough in the days when gaming ran high. Lysons, on the other hand, distinctly says that the house ” was built about 1612 by Sir Baptist Hicks, whose arms with that date and those of his sons-in-law, Edward, Lord Noel, and Sir Charles Morrison, are in a large baywindow in the front.” It is most probable that Sir Baptist, on taking over the estate and the house then existing, so restored it as to amount to an almost complete rebuilding. He was created Viscount Campdem in 1628, with remainder to Lord Noel, who succeeded him. Lord Noel’s son, Baptist, the third Viscount, had Royalist tendencies, for which he was mulcted in the sum of £9,000 (luring the Rebellion. He married for his fourth wife Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl of Lindsey, and the Earl himself died at Campden House. The title went to Viscount Campden’s eldest son Edward, who was created Earl of Gainsborough, and in default of male issue it afterwards reverted to his younger brother. The house itself had been settled on another son, Henry, who died before his father, leaving a daughter, who married Richard Boyle, third Earl of Burlington. Previous to this Queen (then Princess) Anne had taken the house for five years on account of her only surviving child, William Henry, Duke of Gloucester. There are few stories in history more pathetic than that of this poor little Prince, the only one of Anne’s seventeen children who survived infancy. With his unnaturally large head and rickety legs, he would in these days have been kept from all intellectual effort, and been obliged to lie down the greater part of his time. But in that age drastic treatment was in favour, and the already precocious child was crammed with knowledge, while his sickly little frame was compelled to undergo rigorous discipline. He was a boy of no small degree of character, and with martial tastes touching in one so feeble. He died at the age of eleven of smallpox, not at Kensington, and perhaps it was as well for him that, with such inordinate sensibility and such a constitution, he did not live to inherit his mother’s throne. His servant Lewis, who was devotedly attached to him, wrote a little biography of him, which is one of the curiosities of literature.

In 1104 the Dowager-Countess of Burlington came here with her son Richard, then only a boy, afterwards famous as an architect and art lover. In 1719 the house was sold, and came into possession of the Lechmere family. It did not remain with them long, but was purchased by Stephen Pitt, who let it as a school. In 1862 it was partially destroyed by fire. It was then bought by the Metropolitan Railway Company, who rebuilt it, and let it to tenants. Later on a charmingly-built row of houses and mansions rose up on its grounds to face Sheffield Terrace. The appearance of the later house was very different from that of the old one, and the arms mentioned by Lysons as being over a front window had quite disappeared.

Little Campden House, on the western side, was built for the suite of the Princess Anne, and Stephen Pitt occupied this himself when he let Campden House. It was latterly divided into two houses ; one was called Lancaster Lodge, and the other, after being renovated and redecorated, was taken by Vicat Cole, R.A., until his death.

Gloucester Walk, on the south side, is, of course, called after the poor little Duke. Sheffield Gardens and Terrace, as well as Berkeley Gardens, stand on the site of old Sheffield House. Leigh Hunt says that the house was owned by Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire, but he adduces no fact in support of his assertion ; in any case, there are no historical associations connected with it.

In Observatory Gardens Sir James South, the astronomer, had a house, where there was a large observatory. He mounted an equatorial telescope in the grounds, by the use of which, some years previously, he and Sir J. Herschel had made a catalogue of 380 binary stars. He strenuously resisted any opening up of the district by road or rail, lest the vibrations of traffic should interfere with his delicate observations and render them useless. He died here in 1867. On the south side of Campden Hill Gardens are a number of houses standing in their own grounds, and, from the rank of their residents, this part has gained the name of the °° Dukeries.” Holly Lodge was named Airlie Lodge for a few years when tenanted by the Earl of Airlie, but reverted to the older name afterwards. Airlie Gardens is a reminiscence of the interlude. Lord Macaulay lived for the three years Preceding his death in Holly Lodge.

Holland Lane is a shady footpath running right over the hill from Kensington Road to Notting Hill Gate; it passes the wall of Aubrey House, once the manor-house of Notting Hill. Though the name is a comparatively new one, the house is old and, to use the favourite word of older writers, much “secluded”; it is shut in from observation by its high wall and by the shady trees surrounding it. The building is very picturesque and the garden charming, yet many people pass it daily and never know of its existence.

St. George’s Church, Campden Hill Road, dates from 1564; the interior is spoilt by painted columns and heavy galleries, but the stained glass at the east end is very richly coloured, and there is a carved stone reredos. The tower is high, but it is dwarfed by the tower of the Grand Junction Waterworks near at hand. Across Campden Hill Road is the reservoir of the West Middlesex Water Company, which, from its commanding elevation, supplies a large district by the power of gravitation.

Holland Park is a great irregular oblong, extending from Kensington Road on the south very nearly to Holland Park Road on the north.

Its average length is little more than a mile, and it varies from five-eightls of a mile in its widest part to a quarter of a mile in the narrowest.

In the summary of the history of Kensington, at the beginning of the book, it was mentioned that when Sir Walter Cope bought the manor at the end of the sixteenth century, Robert Horseman had the lease of the Abbot’s manorhouse, and being unwilling to part with it, he made a compromise by which he was to be still permitted to live there. Sir Walter Cope had, therefore, no suitable manor-house, so in 1607 he built Holland House, which at first went by the name of Cope Castle. He died seven years later, leaving his widow in possession, but on her re-marriage, in another seven years, the house came to Cope’s daughter Isabel, who had married Sir Henry Rich. He was created Lord Kensington a year later, and in 1624 made Earl of Holland. He added considerably to the house, which was henceforth known by his name. Holland was a younger son of the Earl of Warwick, and after his execution for having taken arms in the cause of Charles L, this title descended, through lack of heirs in the elder branch, to his son, as well as that of Earl of Holland.

The house was seized by the Commonwealth, and the Parliamentary Generals, Fairfax and Lambert, lived there. Timbs quotes from the

Perfect Diurhal, July 9 to 16, 1649: “The LordGeneral Fairfax is removed from Queen Street to the late Earl of Holland’s house at Kensington, where he intends to reside.” The house was restored to its rightful owners at the Restoration. The widowed Countess seems later to have let it, for there were several notable tenants, among whom was Sir Charles Chardin, the traveller, who went to Persia with the avowed intention of seeking a fortune, which he certainly gained, in addition to unexpected celebrity. He died in 1735, and is buried at Chiswick. Afterwards, William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, was a tenant of Holland House; the name of Van Dyck has also been mentioned in this connection, but there is not sufficient evidence to make it more than a tradition.