Kensington – London – Pt. 8

Joseph Addison married the widow of the sixth Earl of Holland and Warwick in 1716. He was an old family friend and had known her long, yet the experiment did not turn out satisfactorily. The Countess was something of a termagant, and it is said that to escape from her he often went to the White Horse inn at the corner of Lord Holland’s Lane and there enjoyed “his favourite dish-a fillet of veal-his bottle, and perhaps a friend.” His married life was of very short duration, only three years, but his brief residence at Holland House has added to its associations more richly than all the names of preceding times. Addison had attempted from the first to influence the young Earl, whose stepfather he became, and some of his letters to the youth are singularly charming, but his care seems to have been ill-requited, and the famous death-bed scene, in which the man of letters sent for the dissolute young Earl to °° see how a Christian can die,” was as much in the nature of a rebuke as a warning. Addison left only one daughter, who (lied unmarried. The last earl died in 1759, leaving no male heir, and the title became extinct.

Through an Elizabeth Rich, who had married Francis Edwards, the estates passed into the Edwardes family, by whom they were sold to Henry Fox, second son of Sir Stephen Fox, Paymaster-General of the Forces in the reign of Charles IL, through whose exertions it was in great part that Chelsea Hospital was built. Henry Fox followed in his father’s steps, becoming Paymaster-General under George IL, and was created Baron Holland in 1763. His second son was the famous statesman Charles James Fox. Thus, after the lapse of about four years only, the old title was revived in an entirely different family. Henry Fox’s elder brother was created first Baron, and then Earl, of Ilchester, which is the title of the present owner of Holland House. The plan of the house is that of a capital letter E with the centre stroke extremely small, and was designed by Thorpe, but added to by Inigo Jones and others. Sir Walter C’ope’s building in 1607 included the centre block and two porches, and the first Earl of Holland, between the years 1725 and 1735, added the two wings and the arcades. It is in a good style of Elizabethan domestic architecture, and within is full of nooks and corners and unexpected galleries, betraying that variety which can only come from growth, and is never the result of a set plan. The rooms are magnificent, and are exceptionally rich in their fittings and collections-collections by various owners which have made the whole house a museum. On the ground floor are the Breakfast, China, Map, Journal, and Print rooms-the last three known as the West Rooms-Allen’s Room, and the White Parlour. On the first floor the most important rooms are the Gilt, Miniature, and the Yellow Drawing-room, the Sir Joshua Blue-room and Dining-room, and Lady Holland’s apartments.

In the entrance-hall are busts of the Duke of Cumberland, by Rysbrach ; Francis, Duke of Bedford, and Charles James Fox, by Nollekens ; the Right Hon. J. Hookham Frere, by Chantrey,.and others. The staircase has a frescoed ceiling, by G. F. Watts, R.A., who has done much for the decoration of the house, and who lives in Melbury Road hard by. There is on the staircase a massive oaken screen with pillars, matching the carved balustrade. The Breakfast-room, facing south, is a charming room; it was formerly the hall when the main entrance was on this side of the house. The walls are hung with velvet brocade and rich silk, and panelled with four arazzi, enclosed in strips of gold embroidery. The tapestries are Gobelins, by Coypel, director of the Gobelin establishment. The China-room contains some splendid services, chiefly of Sevres and Dresden. The rooms called the West Rooms contain many treasures : a collection of prints after Italian masters, and some of the Dutch and French schools. From these is reached the Swannery, a large room on the west side of the house, built by the present owner, and finished in 1891 ; here there is an ornamental painting of swans by Bouverie Goddard, which was exhibited in the Royal Academy. Allen’s Room owes its name to John Allen, an intimate friend of the third Lord Holland, who accompanied him abroad, and was his confidant until his death, after which Allen continued to live at Holland House. The description of the White Parlour in any detail would be impossible, so elaborate is the decoration of its mouldings and panels. In this room there are two chests, the property of Sir Stephen Fox, the Paymaster-General, and very interesting specimens of their time they are. In the Gilt Room upstairs are curved recesses prepared by the first Earl of Holland, who proposed entertaining Prince Charles at a ball when he married Princess Henrietta Maria; however, in spite of the elaborate preparations, the ball never took place. The medallions of the King and Queen, Sully, and Henri IV. are still on the lower part of the chimney-breasts. The upper parts of the chimneypieces and the ceiling were done by Francis Cleyn, who decorated much at Versailles; and when the chimneypieces came down, in 1850, G. F. Watts, R.A,, painted the gilt figures on the upper portions. The gilding and decoration of all the rest of the room have never been touched since Charles L’s day. The ceiling is, however, modern, copied from one at Melbury of date 1602. The Sir Joshua Room would probably he more attractive to many people than any other in the house; there is here the “Vision of St. Anthony,” by Murillo, also a Velasquez, two Teniers, and many portraits by Sir Joshua, including those of Charles James Fox, the first Lord Holland, Mary, Lady Holland, and Lady Sarah Lennox, whose ” Life and Letters ” have been edited by Lady Ilchester and her son, Lord Stavordale. In the Addison or dining room there are several other portraits and more china, including the famous Chelsea service presented by the proprietors of the Chelsea Company to Dr. Johnson in recognition of his laborious and unsuccessful efforts to learn their trade. From here we can pass to the library, a long gallery running the whole width of the house, as a library should do. Besides ordinary books, the library contains priceless treasures, such as a collection of Elzevirs, a collection of Spanish literature, a MS. hook with the handwritings of Savonarola, Petrarch, several autograph letters of Philip II, III., and IV. of Spain, and autographs of D. Hume, Byron, Sir D. Wilkie, Moore, Rogers, Campbell, Sir W. Scott, Southey, and foreigners of note, as Madame de Stael, Cuvier, Buffon, Voltaire, etc.

From the Yellow Drawing-room, in which, among other things, is a curious picture representing one eye of Lady Holland, by Watts, the Miniature Room is reached : miniature in two senses, for, besides containing an assortment of miniatures, it is very small. The miniatures are mostly Cosways, Plymers, and Coopers. On January 10, 1871, Holland House caught fire, and the chief rooms that suffered were those known as Lady Holland’s Rooms, on this side. Luckily the fire did not do much damage, and all trace of it was speedily effaced.

Holland House is not shown to the public, and few persons have any idea of the treasures it contains; to live in such a house must have a liberal education. It can hardly be seen at all in summer on account of the extent of the grounds of 55 acres stretching around it, and making it a country place in the midst of a town. It has the largest private grounds of any house in London, not excepting Buckingham Palace, yet from the road all that can be seen is a rather dreary field. Oddly enough, there is a considerable hill on the west, though no trace of this hill is to he found in Kensington Road; it is, however, the same fall that affects Holland Park Avenue on the north. Besides the fine elms bordering the avenue, there are a variety of other trees in the grounds, among them many cedars, still flourishing, though beginning to show the effects of the London smoke. Excepting for the Dutch Garden, with its prim, though fantasticallydesigned flower-beds, there is little attempt at formal gardening. Here stands the seat used by the poet Rogers, on which is the inscription:

” Here Rogers sat, and here for ever dwell

With me those `Pleasures’ which he sang so well.” An ivy-covered arcade leads to the conservatory, and various buildings form a picturesque group near; these belonged at one time to the stables, now removed. Not far off is the bamboo garden, in a flourishing condition, with large clumps of feathery bamboos bravely enduring our rough climate ; in another part is a succession of terraces, through which a stream runs downhill through a number of basins linked by a circling channel; the basins are covered with water-lilies, and the whole is laid out in imitation of a Japanese garden. Alpine plants are specially tended in another part, and masses of rhododendrons grow freely in the grounds, giving warmth and shelter. There is nothing stiff or conventional to be seen-Nature tended and cared for, but Nature herself is allowed to reign, and the result is very satisfactory. There are many fascinating peeps between the rows of shrubs or trees of the worn red brick of the house, seen all the better for its contrast with the deep evergreen of the cedars.

In a field close by Cromwell is said to have discussed his plans with Ireton, whose deafness necessitated loud tones, so that the open air, where possible listeners could be seen at a distance, was preferable to the four walls of a room. In the fields behind Holland House was fought a notable duel in 1804 between Lord Camelford, a notorious duellist, and Captain Best, R.N. Lord Camelford fired first, but missed his opponent. He afterwards fell at Best’s shot, and was carried into Little Holland House, where he died in three days. The exact spot where the duel was fought is now enclosed in the grounds of Oak Lodge, and is marked by a stone altar.

To the west of Holland House is Melbury Road, a neighbourhood famous for its artistic residents. The houses, mostly of glowing red brick, are built in different styles, as if each had been designed to fill its own place without reference to its neighbours. A curious Gothic house, with a steeple on the north side, was designed by William Burges, R.A., for himself. In the house next to it, now the residence of Luke Fildes, R.A., King Cetewayo stayed while he was in England. Sir Frederick Leighton, P.R.A., lived at No. 2, which has been presented to the nation. Little Holland House, otherwise No. 6, Melbury Road, is occupied by G. F. Watts, R.A. The name was adopted from the original Little Holland House, which stood at the end of Nightingale Lane, now the back entrance to Holland Park; this house was pulled down when Melbury Road was made.

Melbury Road turns into Addison Road just below the church of St. Barnabas, which is of white brick, and has a parapet and four corner towers, which give it a distinctive appearance. The interior is disappointing, but there is a fine eastern window, divided by a transom, and having seven compartments above and below. Quite at the northern end of Holland Road is the modern church of St. John the Baptist; the interior is all of white stone, and the effect is very good.

There is a rose window at the west end, and a carved stone chancel screen of great height. The church ends in an apse, and has a massive stone reredos set with coloured panels representing the saints. All this part of Kensington which lies to the west of Addison Road is very modern. In the 1837 map, St. Barnabas Church, built seven years earlier, and a line of houses on the east side of the northern part of Holland Road, are all that are marked. Near the continuation of Kensington Road there are a few houses, and there is a farm close to the Park.

Curzon House is marked near the Kensington Road, and a large nursery garden is at the back of it; and further north, where Addison Road bends, there are Addison Cottage and Bindon Villa, and this is all. Addison’s connection with Holland House of course accounts for the free use of his name in this quarter.

Going northward, we come to the district of Shepherd’s Bush and the Uxbridge Road, known in the section of its course between Notting Hill High Street and Uxbridge Road Station as Holland Park Avenue-a fact of which probably none but the residents are aware. Above it, Norland Road forms the western boundary of the borough. Royal Crescent is marked on the malls of the beginning of the nineteenth century as Norland Crescent; Addison Road was then Norland Road. Further westward is the square of the same name, on the site of old Norland House. Addison Road leads up to St. James’s Church, designed by Vulliamy, and consecrated in 1845 ; it has a square tower of considerable height, with a pinnacle at each corner. The chancel was added later. St. Gabriel’s, in Clifton Road, is an offshoot of this church, but, curiously enough, it does not come within the parochial boundaries. It was built in 1883. Following the road on the north side of the square, we pass the West London Tabernacle, a brick building in the late Romanesque style. Close by are St. James’s Schools.