Two Brentford Mansions

by Jim Storrar, Journal 29, 2020

The prosperous market town of Brentford acquired its own small suburb when the fine houses in The Butts at Brentford were built between about 1680 and the mid-1700s. Brentford’s proximity to the royal residences at Kew made it a desirable place to live and larger houses were built to the north of the town during the 18th century. Amongst these were Grove House at the corner of Boston Road and Windmill Lane, the building now known as Inverness Lodge and the demolished New Grove House, both built in the 1790s. These were the homes of prominent businessmen and professional men and their families.

Grove House (later Clifden House)
Grove House appears to have been built by the Lateward family during the period 1745-1755 and was probably the most prestigious house in Old Brentford.It was described by Pevsner as ‘a three-storeyed brick mansion with seven bays and a central pediment, containing fine ceilings and woodwork. A little Ionic porch connected in one composition with the window above’.

Clifden House with part of Brentford Library (right) Chiswick Local Studies ME7208

John Lateward was probably born in Shropshire in about 1670 and we first encounter him living in the City of London in 1695 when he is listed as a gentleman. At that time he was living in the house of Richard Merryweather at 34 Great Tower Street. By 1700 Richard Merryweather already had a connection with Brentford: ‘the great row of elms [in The Butts] were planted in 1700, by Richard Merewether, Esq’ (1).

The Latewards were also living in The Butts during the first half of the 18th century. In 1703 John Lateward married Mary Merryweather, uniting the families, both of whom were associated with the dissenting chapel in the town. This may have influenced the choice of a site for Grove House very close to the new Chapel in Boston Road.

When John Lateward died in 1751 he was described as ‘one of the most considerable wharfingers in England’ and he was said to have left a fortune of £40,000. This was today’s equivalent, in terms of purchasing power, to about £4.6 million. John Lateward’s sons, Richard and William, were also wealthy wharfingers and by 1758 they managed 11 wharves in the Port of London.

Annotated detail from OS 25 to 1 mile 1896 Crown copyright

In 1777, aged only 13, John Schreiber, William Late-ward’s grandson, inherited the house, a landed estate worth £2,000 a year, and a legacy of £500.  John Schreiber later changed his name to John Lateward. Between 1788 and 1795 John Deschamps, a merchant, lived there, then the house was occupied by John Wynne, the owner of a plantation in the West Indies.

The house was then occupied for a brief period by John Lateward before it was leased from 1799 until about 1814 to Henry Welbore Agar-Ellis, 2nd Viscount Clifden, an absentee Irish landlord and a member of the Irish House of Commons. He later became one of the two Members of Parliament for Heytesbury (population about 80) in Wiltshire.

Henry Welbore Agar-Ellis, 2nd Viscount Clifden (1761-1836)

Schreiber’s son, Richard Lateward Lateward (1782-1815) left almost his entire landed estate to his only child, his 8-year-old daughter Sophia Jane. In addition to Grove House his estate included the Manor of Perivale where he was buried, and properties in Marylebone, Epsom and Blackfriars Road.

Sophia Lateward’s story is fascinating in its own right and deserves to be told fully on another occasion. She married Sir Thomas Emsley Croft in 1824 when she was only 17 years old but they were granted a separation in 1829 on the grounds of her infidelity. When Sir Thomas died in 1835 Sophia immediately married William Lyster and when he also died she married, again with almost indecent haste, Jacques Delpierre, a ship owner from Boulogne.

Sophia spent the rest of her days at the Chateau Pry Fouquieres, Pas de Calais. She died in 1890 but throughout her life Grove House remained in her ownership.

By 1840 William James Lambert, a Brentford currier, and his family were living at Grove House. In 1851 the house was recorded as a boarding school known as Clifden House School, the first reference to the name ‘Clifden House’. The school had about 32 boarding boys aged between 6 and 17. George Bevan senior, the headmaster, died at Clifden House in 1853 and it seems that his son George Bevan junior and his sister Mary continued to run the school before George junior died in 1860. The school was then run by Mary Bevan, George’s widow. This must have been a very difficult time for Mary because, although she was assisted by three teachers, she had to look after her own four children aged from 3 months to 9 years. In 1861 there were only 6 pupils at the school which may have been because the school was failing or perhaps because the Census was taken at a time when most pupils were on holiday at their homes.

By 1868 the schoolmaster was William Henry Morris who died in 1871. His son, of the same name, took over the running of the school and in 1874 he published Greek Lessons, a book about how useful and easy it is to learn Greek. It is likely that Clifden House School had closed by 1886. In 1888 Clifden House was let by Dame Sophia Jane Lateward Croft Delpierre to the Brentford Local Board as offices and following her death in 1890 the Local Board purchased it. The 1855 Libraries Act had enabled local authorities to put a penny in the £ on the rates to finance local libraries. After initial hesitation in Brentford this was agreed and in January 1890 a library was provided in Clifden House. Both Brentford Baths, opened in 1896, and Brentford Library (1904) were built in the grounds. In 1927, because of pressures on space, the children’s section of the library was moved from the main library to Clifden House, only to be returned to the main library in 1932.

Alcove with columns used for the first public library in Clifden House, Chiswick Local Studies ME7212

The house was used as council offices until 1927 when Brentford and Chiswick Urban District was created. When it gained the status of municipal borough in 1932 the local authority stopped using Clifden House and its activities were transferred to Chiswick Town Hall.The move to Chiswick was opposed at the time and there was a strong body of opinion in Brentford which supported the retention of local offices at Clifden House. Councillor Davis asked if it was necessary for Brentford ratepayers to have to ‘troop up to Chiswick for every piffling little thing’ (2).

In the 1930s Brentford and Chiswick Borough Council proposed to demolish Clifden House to build two blocks with a total of ten cottages, but in 1938 an Air Raid Precautions Officer was appointed and the house was proposed to be used for the storage of equipment. As preparations for war gathered pace volunteers were recruited for various emergency posts and in 1939 steel shelters were erected, for demonstration purposes, in the grounds of Clifden House.

In September 1939 anti-gas cleansing facilities were installed at Clifden House and later the same year the house became the No 1 First Aid Post for Brentford and Chiswick. On the ground floor the Air Raid Wardens set up their quarters, while on the first floor the Stretcher Company had their common room with bagatelle, snooker, wireless and a fitted kitchen and bedroom. In October 1942 the headquarters of the No 311 (Brentford and Chiswick) Squadron of the Air Training Corps was opened at Clifden House (3).

The house was demolished in 1953. It is said that some of the panelling in the lunch room of Haberdashers Hall, City of London was taken from Clifden House.

New Grove House
New Grove House, in the Greek Revival style, was built immediately to the south of Inverness Lodge by the Harrington family in  the 1790s. It is probable that the building took its name from the older Grove House (later known as Clifden House).

New Grove House shortly before demolition, 1971 Chiswick Local Studies ME8144

Thomas Harrington (1725-1793) was a coal merchant, distiller and maltster in Brentford who had acquired a half share of Goat Wharf. Susannah, one of his daughters, married Thomas Smith, the son of Thomas Smith senior, Harrington’s business partner. Thomas Harrington provided for his children; for example, in his will he left Susannah £2,000 and bequeathed this property in Boston Lane to his son Thomas Harrington junior(4). In 1807 the distilling company of Smith and Harrington in Brentford was the fourth largest distillery in London. In 1817 the business was sold to the Booths of Clerkenwell and in 1845 it was producing nearly one million gallons of spirit every year (5).

The Smiths were clearly a wealthy family; from 1829 to at least 1856 Thomas Smith, Susannah and Thomas’ son, still owned New Grove House while he was living at Ramsbury Manor House in Wiltshire. Following Susannah Smith’s death in 1840 New Grove House was offered for sale or lease and the description of the house gives us an impression of the grandeur of the property:

New Grove House, pleasantly situate at Brent ford-butts, overlooking the celebrated nursery-grounds of Messrs Ronalds . . . comprising a very desirable family residence, in every respect adapted for the residence of a family of the first respectability and contains a good kitchen, scullery with force-pump, wash-house, three servants’ bed-rooms, larder, store-room, dairy, servants’ hall, butler’s pantry, wine and coal cellars, spacious entrance-hall, capital dining-room, two elegant drawing-rooms, communicating by folding doors, 44 feet by 18 feet; billiard-room, parlour, library, housekeeper’s rooms, footman’s room, china-closet, and water-closet . . . the out-offices consist of two four-stalled stables and double coach-house, with harness-room, and loft over; the lawn and pleasure-grounds are tastefully laid out in flower beds and gravel walks; the kitchen-garden is walled, and well stocked with choice fruit trees; the house and premises contain about two acres, and are abundantly supplied with excellent water’(6).

From 1840 to 1850 New Grove House was occupied by William George Lyle, a prosperous solicitor, and his family. At some point between 1851 and 1853 New Grove House was divided into North Grove House (No 1) and South Grove House (No 2). The back garden was divided too, although the front area was common. When both properties were offered for sale in 1873 the advertisement suggested that it would be easy to recreate the single mansion ‘at a trifling cost’ (7). It mentioned its airiness and the lofty rooms, the entrance hall’s white marble floor, and the stone stair with a small conservatory on the landing.

The two separate properties had a series of occupants. For example, by 1881 William Ruston, a solicitor, and his family were living at South Grove House. William Ruston was a noted local figure who occupied several official posts including Clerk to the Hanwell Rural Sanitary Authority, Registrar to Brentford County Court, Clerk to New Brentford Burial Board, and Clerk to the Twickenham Local Board. By 1901 North Grove House had become a law school under the proprietorship of Charles Falloway. In addition to a tutor and three servants the property was occupied by eight law students from places as far-flung as France, Uruguay, Trinidad and Peru.

In May 1917 the first children attended the Brentford Day Nursery at New Grove House where Sister Pudsey was the matron. The nursery was established partly through grants from Brentford Council and from the Ministry of Munitions and the main aim was to enable mothers to do work to aid the war effort. In 1923 the entire property was offered for sale; the advertisement suggested that it could be converted into flats, used as a residential club premises or an educational institution. By the early 1930s New Grove House had been converted into nine flats and renamed New Grove Mansions. Number 1 New Grove Mansions provided accommodation for a caretaker and his family.

In 1953 part of New Grove Mansions was used as the offices of Industrial Products (Speco) Ltd, a subsidiary of Sperry Gyroscope, and by 1968 the registered offices of the New Holland Machine Company were at New Grove Mansions. Following a fire in the late 1960s
New Grove Mansions was demolished in November 1971.

1 The History and Antiquities of Brentford, Ealing, & Chiswick, with biographical notices of illustrious and eminent persons.   Thomas Faulkner (London, 1845)
2 West London Observer 2 December 1927
3 Middlesex Chronicle 26 September 1942, Marylebone Mercury 9 September 1939 and 24 October 1942
4 The Victoria County History of Middlesex: Volume 7 (London, 1982)
5 See Livestock Feeding & the Distilling Industry in Brentford, Jim Storrar, Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal 28, 2019
6 Morning Advertiser 6 July 1840
7 Pall Mall Gazette13 June 1873

About the Author
Jim Storrar has lived with his family in Brentford for over forty years and before blissful retirement he was a town planner. He has a strong interest in the local history of Brentford and he has published four books on the history of the small town in Scotland here he was born and brought up

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