by Val Bott, Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal, 15, 2006
During 1901 a group of men campaigned to save Hogarth’s House from demolition for suburban development. This article considers those involved and their social and cultural networks.
In 2005 a scrapbook came to light in Chiswick’s Local Studies Collection. Its contents – mainly press cuttings – relate to the Hogarth House Preservation Committee (HHPC) of 1901. Though the album has lost its cover and some pages, the care with which it was compiled and the inclusion of letters to Samuel Martin, the Hammersmith Librarian 1889-1919, suggest it was his work.
Opening an artist’s home as a memorial was a relatively new idea – Carlyle’s House in Chelsea, purchased by public subscription in 1895, was one of the first in London. The HHPC campaign was not the first attempt to preserve Hogarth’s House. In 1874 a piece in The Daily Graphic, expressing concern about the House, prompted a letter from Kenneth R H Mackenzie of 2 Chiswick Square stating that the then tenant, Mr Clack, was looking after it well and was prepared to show visitors around ‘this memorable dwelling-place’.
Surviving letters in the Bodleian Library show that the painter, James Clarke Hook RA, and F G Stephens, the art critic, tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Royal Academy to buy the House in 1886, when it was in multiple occupation and in poor condition. Five years later Alfred and Charles Dawson acquired it; their garden of their family home, The Cedars, ran from Burlington Lane to Hogarth’s garden wall. The brothers’ business, the Typographic Etching Company, operated fromthe modest Hogarth Works in Short Road, adjoing the garden wasll on the south-west side. Alfred Dawson restored the House with care and accuracy according to Austin Dobson, Hogarth’s biographer, and let it to John Allgrove, who ran the Hogarth Nursery there from 1895.
When the House was put up for sale in March 1901 the first articles appeared in the press. Martin’s scrapbook documents this campaign, in which he had an important role, writing some of the first letters to the newspapers. A scrapbook cutting from The Daily Telegraph, 9 March 1901 carries the news that the House and its garden would make way for ‘villa residences’. Letters from George Haité and Walter Whitear appeared two days later in the Chiswick Times. Martin’s letter in The Pall Mall Gazette of 16 March, said that the paper had printed an earlier letter of his, in July 1900, drawing attention to the potential loss of the House, and that the danger was now very real. He hoped that ‘the great painters of the present day’ would assist because there were several ‘great masters of the 18th century but only one Hogarth’.
An editorial in The Morning Post for 18 March commented: ‘Its site has been valued out of all proportion to any rent that could be obtained for it as it stands, and the land immediately adjoining has been sold and is about to be built on’. Much of Chiswick had by then become a London suburb so the site was ripe for redevelopment. Four days later The Evening News stated that
‘There is every possibility that Hogarth’s historical house at Chiswick will be preserved from the cheap villa erector and demolition by the public-spirited action of Mr R Percy, whose business premises adjoin the quaint old house. The great painter’s house, with 4 acres of garden attached, has been purchased by Mr Percy and he is ready to co-operate with any movement which will turn the house into a Hogarth museum . . . On Monday next Mr Percy will throw open Hogarth House for public inspection.’
Quotes from letters in the scrapbook were published in The West London Observer on 23 March 1901, showing that Martin’s attempts to obtain support from influential people had little success. Lord Rosebery was too busy, Walter Besant was too ill and J Passmore Edwards wrote grumpily, ‘I prefer spending the little I have to spare in promoting the public library movement to promoting a Hogarth Museum in Chiswick’. Whitear’s letter, inviting Martin to join the Committee, is in the scrapbook but Martin’s reply is not and he seems to have steppedback from campaigning once the committee had been established.
The campaign to raise £1,500 for ‘the purchase, indispensable repairs and other expenses’ continued during the summer. The prebendal manor court formally admitted Thomas Henry Currie, an auctioneer with offices in Hammersmith Road and in Duke Street, St James’s, as the new owner of Hogarth’s House in July 1901, so perhaps Mr Percy had lost interest. Local press coverage of the campaign continued, boosted by the news that a bust of Hogarth was to be provided by J Passmore Edwards for Chiswick Town Hall.
On 11 October The Chiswick Times stated that £700 had been raised and the House was likely to be saved; what was needed was only a quarter of what had been paid to secure Carlyle’s House in 1895. ‘During the past summer’, it said, ‘scores of Americans and others have journeyed to the old house, inscribed their names in the visitors’ book and been “snapped” under the famous mulberry tree’. It also expressed disappointment that more Chiswick people had not supported the campaign.
Other pieces over the next few weeks suggested that Chiswick’s District Council should provide funds or take over part of the House as a free reading room for the young people of Chiswick New Town: ‘it would take them off the streets and wean them from “Hooliganism”‘.
Early in November Sir W B Richmond, who was to unveil the Hogarth bust, wrote to The Times urging support for the purchase of the House. On 22 November The Chiswick Times carried an interview with George Haité; Currie was to auction the House three days later and the funds required had not been raised. The newspaper felt that the HHPC had relied too much on its friends and contacts and too little on wider public support and now appealed for ‘some public-spirited philanthropic resident of the district to step into the breach’. It was Lieut-Col Shipway of Grove House, Chiswick, much to the surprise of the newspaper, who stepped in at the insistence of his wife and purchased Hogarth’s House for £1,500.
Two weeks later the HHPC issued a statement. They had sent out 5,000 circulars, approached men of wealth and written widely to the newspapers but they had raised only £472, in addition to the one guinea donated by each HHPC member to defray the costs of the campaign. Most gifts had come from their friends and only £12 from Chiswick people. They now had no choice but to return this money to the donors. It is not clear why they failed and, though many committee members were wealthy men in their own right, only one appears in the donors’ list.
Shipway set to work, restoring the structure, assembling a print collection, commissioning furniture from the Chiswick Art-Workers’ Guild and taking his own photos for the first guide book. Ironically he also had to take Mr Percy to court in 1902 for undermining the south-east corner of the house by excessive gravel extraction; you can still see the resulting slope in the first floor panelling. He opened the House to visitors in 1904 and presented it to Middlesex County Council in 1909.
Why did Shipway buy it? He was very wealthy, leaving £93,000 at his death in 1928, so he could afford to. At the inaugural dinner he said that he happened to hear about the imminent auction and paid tribute to his wife’s insistence that he should buy it. As a prominent Chiswick resident he must have been aware of the campaign to save it. And he certainly knew Phillimore who, on realising that Shipway had been defrauded in 1896 by a bogus genealogist forging evidence of his family tree, called in the legal authorities without Shipway’s knowledge. Poor Shipway was humiliated by the wide coverage of the court case in the national press, which showed how he had been duped at a cost of £683. Perhaps preserving the House was his attempt to recover his social standing and to show that he could achieve what the HHPC could not.
The committee members
The May 1901 HHPC handbill announced the campaign and the other, issued in August, carried a list of donors and sums given or promised. The twenty-six men listed with their addresses in the first leaflet had increased to thirty-one by August, though one had stepped down. No HHPC archive survives so identifying members’ occupations and interests was necessary. Searching the internet proved to be a quick and serendipitous way of finding links; the short biographies in the National Portrait Gallery’s on-line catalogue are invaluable and trustworthy, while data on various personal archives, in the British Library and university libraries, offered useful clues.
At the heart of the committee were local people and London residents. Amongst them are the biographers of writers and artists, local historians, art critics, collectors, librarians and curators. There were members of various bohemian clubs – the Kernoozers (named from an overheard working-class mispronunciation of ‘connoisseurs’) with interests in armour and old oak furniture, The Calumet, a talking club for Bedford Park residents, The London Sketch Club (whose inaugural meeting was held at George Haité’s home) and the Sette of Odd Volumes, founded in 1878 by the antiquarian book dealer Bernard Quaritch, which linked six of them. ‘United once a month to form a perfect sette’ the Odd Volumes dined, gave talks and exhibited their collections to each other.
The chair of the committee was George C Haité FLS, RBA, RI (1855-1924) a Bedford Park resident from 1883. He painted in oils and water-colours, designed textiles, wallpapers, metalwork, leaded glass and the cover of the Strand magazine. He served as President of the Society of Designers, Vice-President of the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts and President (1898-1903) of the London Sketch Club. He was the ‘Art Critic’ in the Sette of Odd Volumes, its Vice-President in 1887 and President in 1892. A Kernoozer, he collected old oak furniture and he was interested in Japanese prints.
Walter H Whitear FRHS (1853-1932), the Hon Secretary, was a City tea merchant who lived in Ravenscroft Road; an authority on Samuel Pepys, he also wrote a series of local history articles for the Chiswick Times in the 1890s, with William Phillimore Watts Phillimore MA BCL (1851-1913), of Grove Park Terrace. A solicitor and genealogist, Phillimore wrote a best-seller, How to Write the History of a Family, in 1887 and went on to campaign tirelessly for the better preservation of local records. In 1897 he established the publishers, Phillimore & Co, which continues today.
Haité and Whitear brought in P W Ramsay Murray, Vice Chairman of the Chiswick Library Committee in 1901, as Hon Treasurer, and the Rev F W Isaacs, Vicar of St Nicholas (1898- 1919), representing the church where Hogarth is buried.
Three members were Hogarth enthusiasts. Henry Benjamin Wheatley FSA (1838-1917) edited a 10-volume edition of Samuel Pepys’ diary in the 1890s and wrote Pepys’ London and Hogarth’s London. He was the prime mover behind the Index Society, whose early volumes Phillimore edited. From 1894 he was ‘Recorder’ in the Sette of Odd Volumes.
Henry Austin Dobson (1840-1921) lived in Ealing. A senior civil servant and a poet specialising in French verse forms, he went on to be Shipway’s adviser on the creation of the museum at Hogarth’s House. His friend, William Cosmo Monkhouse (1840-1901) was another poet and civil servant who wrote on art for The Academy, the Magazine of Art and The Saturday Review. He wrote A few words about Hogarth and Dobson dedicated his biography of Hogarth to him.
Bedford Park residents include Sir James Barr (1849-1938), a consultant physician and amateur artist who lived in Woodstock Road from 1881 to 1908 and was a member of the London Sketch Club, and James George Joseph Penderel Brodhurst (1859-1934) who lived in Bedford Park in the 1880s and ’90s. Descended from the Penderel who hid Charles II in an oak tree, his later home in Harvard Road was said to have a tree grown from an acorn of the original oak. He edited The Guardian 1905-22, contributed to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and wrote books on furniture and church architecture. C Christopher Carter of 2 Blenheim Road has proved difficult to trace as this address was empty at the time of the 1901 Census.
Dr John Todhunter (1839-1916) the Dublin- born poet, playwright and doctor of medicine, lived in The Orchard and was a member of the Calumet. His verse plays inspired W B Yeats whose family lived nearby. ‘Playwright’ in the Sette of Odd Volumes, he was its Secretary in 1892 and wrote them a paper on Pepys.
Frederick York Powell (1850-1904), Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, lived in Priory Gardens. A friend of Verlaine and Rodin, he was a member of the Calumet and ‘Ignoramus’ in the Odd Volumes. His interests included boxing, horse-racing, Icelandic sagas and collecting Japanese prints. He also wrote for the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Charles Holme FLS (1848 -1923) of The Red House, Bexley Heath, was founder and editor of The Studio. He was Pilgrim’ in the Sette of Odd Volumes and its President in 1890. He imported the Japanese goods which furnished artistic homes like those in Bedford Park where his son later lived. Several committee members had written to support the campaign in the press.
Lord Ronald Charles Sutherland Leveson Gower
Samuel Wayland Kershaw MA FSA (1836-1914) had been Librarian to the Royal Institute of British Architects, then from 1870 to 1910 Librarian at Lambeth Palace. He wrote Art Treasures of Lambeth Library and, with George Clinch, Bygone Surrey (1895). His letter in the St James’s Gazette on 15 March 1901 proposed a London committee to save Hogarth’s House which was ‘of world-wide interest’. John Leighton FSA (1822-1912) painted under the pseudonym Luke Limner and was a prolific designer of book-bindings for his family business. He wrote to the press promising to give his copy of Hogarth’s self-portrait to the committee. An unsigned copy of this self-portrait is in store at the House but labelled ‘presented by Charles Robinson, Long Acre’, the older brother of W Heath Robinson and a member of the London Sketch Club and the Savage Club. Aaron Watson JP (1850-1926) of Newcastle-upon-Tyne wrote a history of the Savage Club and an autobiography, A Newspaperman’s Memories, though his interest in Hogarth is not clear.
A letter from W P Wilson Browne of Birmingham, in The Times 23 March 1901, urged the provinces to support the initiative of London correspondents, quoting as a parallel Stratford-upon-Avon’s memorialising of Shakespeare for the nation. Lord Ronald Charles Sutherland Leveson Gower (1845-1916) had sponsored the Gower Memorial to Shakespeare which he presented to Stratford-upon-Avon in 1888. The youngest son of the 2nd Duke of Sutherland, he exhibited at the Royal Academy as Ronald Sutherland. His mother, uncle (the Duke of Devonshire) and aunt, Lady Granville, were all residents of Chiswick House. George C Williamson DLitt was a Guildford local historian, an expert in old coins and tokens and an Odd Volume. He wrote artists’ biographies, of Morland (1904) and Cosway (1905), and in 1908 planned the Milton tercentenary exhibition. Milton and Shakespeare were two of Hogarth’s heroes, whose works appear in the 1745 self-portrait.
Several members were interested in places associated with famous people. Frederic George Stephens (1828-1907) of Hammersmith Terrace was involved in an earlier attempt to preserve the House. His book, Artists At Home, was published in 1884. Art editor of The Athenaeum for over 40 years he had been, with William Michael Rossetti, one of the two non-artistic members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Rossetti donated a guinea to the HHPC fund. A letter of his, now at Hogarth’s House, states that his brother, Dante Gabriel, had considered moving into Hogarth’s House. Sir Sidney Colvin MA (1845-1927) was Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum. His studies on artists and writers include Early Engraving and Engravers in England, with AM Hind (1905), and Memories and Notes of Persons and Places (1921). Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919) was a young studio assistant to Burne-Jones. He collected Old Masters, acted as agent for the National Gallery and became a partner in Agnews. A sought-after portrait painter, Murray took on Burne-Jones’ former home, The Grange in Fulham, on his death in 1898.
Amongst other artists and designers on the committee was Harry Furniss (1854-1925) who produced caricatures of politicians for Punch – the House of Commons Library has 400 of them. He later went to work with Thomas Edison in the USA as a writer, producer and actor in films. Walter Crane, RWS (1845-1915), Principal of the Royal College of Art, was an engraver and a designer of textiles, wallpaper and tiles (some of which can be seen in The Tabard) as well as children’s picture books. He and John Hassall, RI (1868-1948) were greatly influenced by the flat colour of Japanese prints. A prolific designer of posters, greetings cards and children’s books, Hassall was London Sketch Club President in 1903-4. His paintings of the battles of Turnham Green and Brentford can be seen on the front cover of Journal 14 and the back cover of Journal 15.
J Hunter Donaldson was an artist who helped design the British exhibits at the Paris Exhibition of 1889. Philip H Newman RBA, FRSI, artist and engraver, was Hon Secretary of the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts, when Haité and Dr Phené were elected as Vice-Presidents in 1900. Dr John Samuel Phené FRIBA, FSA RSL MRI (d 1912) of Chelsea was an HHPC member in May but not in August. He developed the Oakley Street area, where he built himself a ‘chateau’. His crusade for the planting of trees to purify the air in towns and prevent epidemics inspired Prince Albert to plant trees in South Kensington.
Edward Fairbrother Strange CBE (1862-1929) of Brook Green was an expert on Japanese colour prints and published Alphabets, a Handbook of Lettering (1895). Librarian at the South Kensington Museum in 1901 his interest in Japanese prints may have brought him into contact with other HHPC members. Marion Harry Alexander Spielmann (1858-1948) wrote pieces for numerous journals, including one on the Kernoozers. He edited The Magazine of Art 1886-1904, was art editor for the Encyclopaedia Britannica and contributed to the Dictionary of National Biography. John Starkie Gardner FSA (1844-1930), an eminent craftsman in metal, used only traditional methods at his Lambeth works. He compiled portfolios of 42,000 images, many by himself, on historic British metalwork, and wrote about armour, historic iron- and silverwork and the geology of Dorset. Gardner donated one guinea to the preservation fund.
Mainly about Bedford Park People by L Duttson; correspondence with Juliet McMaster, University of Alberta, on Stephens and Hook;
‘Join the Kernoozers’ by Bevis Hillier The Times 18.03.1978, The Sette of Odd Volumes: archives at Bernard Quaritch; ‘BQ & the OV’ by Colin Franklin in The Book Collector 1997; Spy Cartoons, Vanity Fair: Lord Ronald Sutherland, 18 August 1877 and Prof Frederic York Powell, 12 March, 1895. Websites: London Sketch Club (www.londonsketchclub.com), National Portrait Gallery (www.npg.org.uk) and Oakley St (www.oakleystreet.org.uk)
Val Bott has lived in Chiswick since the 1970s and works as a museum and heritage consultant. She is Honorary Treasurer of the Thames Explorer Trust and Chairman of the William Hogarth Trust.