81–84 Clapham Common West Side, London SW4

From a Draft Chapter 17 of the Survey of London:

“81–84 Clapham Common West Side (with Beechwood and Maisonette, demolished)
This is the only group of late-Georgian houses to have survived on the west side of the common, and as such is an important reminder of the area’s heyday as a high-class suburb. All four were built in the 1790s on land belonging to the family of Thomas Bond (d.1776), the Lambeth timber merchant who had built himself a large residence here around 1766. He seems to have had no family connection with Benjamin Bond (d.1783), the prosperous Turkey merchant who lived in a mansion on the common’s south side at about the same time.

In 1765 Bond took a lease of a house with about nine acres of ground at the common’s north-west corner, promising to spend £500 on building a new one. This was the mansion later known as Front Hall or Maisonette, where Bond resided until December 1775, shortly before his death, when he leased it to William Vassall, newly arrived with his large family from Boston. A West Indian by birth, from an old East London family of adventurers and settlers, Vassall had been forced to flee Massachusetts on the outbreak of war with England in order to maintain communication with his Jamaican sugar plantations, his sole source of income. His new house was well-appointed, fitted up with statuary and chimneypieces of Sienna marble. Vassall thought it ‘very comfortable desent & Commodious’, and, though homesick, seemed happy with life at Clapham Common except for the high cost of food—‘it is the most expensive & excessively dear place to live in that is in the whole World’, he wrote.

In 1792 Bond’s descendants agreed with the builder-developer James Burton and William Hughes of Clapham to let the remaining ground south of Maisonette for building. Burton had recently become familiar with the area, having taken lodgings here in 1791 in the hope of improving the poor health of his daughter Emily (she died shortly afterwards), and by the next year had bought a ‘cottage’ at Wandsworth Common, which he altered for his own use at considerable expense. Hughes was also involved in property on the south side of Clapham Common. He and Burton had collaborated some four or five years earlier, building houses on the north side of Newgate Street in the City, in 1787–8, on part of the site of the old gate and prison.

Together they were responsible for erecting the present 81–84 Clapham Common West Side between about 1792 and 1796, though Burton seems to have withdrawn from the partnership by 1794 in order to concentrate his resources on developing the Foundling Hospital estate in Bloomsbury, leaving Hughes to complete the contract. Given its close relationship to the other four, a larger, detached house at the south end of Bond’s land, first occupied c.1795–6 by George Pinder and later known as Beechwood, may also have been by Burton and Hughes.

Though style and planning vary between the four surviving houses, it is evident that they were built as a speculative group. All are faced in the same pale golden-brown stock brick, with minimal dressings, and all have prominent double-height bows or bays at the rear, to afford views over the long gardens. Also, shared pedimented coach-houses and stable- blocks were built spanning the boundary walls between Beechwood and No. 81,

and between Nos 82 and 83, the latter surviving.

No. 84, being the fifth house in the sequence, missed out, and so had its own neoclassical stable- block built at the end of the rear garden (which also survives), with a driveway ranged along the side of the plot.

Two of the houses (Nos 81 & 82) were built as a semi-detached pair,

the others as detached residences, and generally were of two storeys, with basements and dormers (though the attics at No. 82 have since been made into a third floor). No. 83, a larger, three-storey house, may once have been similar; but if its full upper storey is an addition, it cannot be much later in date, going by the roof structure above. This is also the only house to have a veranda to the rear—a picturesque addition of cast iron with a tented canopy. A little movement was given to the otherwise plain elevations: Nos 81 & 82 share a central recess, whereas at No. 83 the centre breaks forward. Nos 81–83 seem always to have had their entrance doors and hallways ranged to one side, though the present Ionic porches are later additions, probably of the 1840s or 50s, when alterations are known to have been made to several of the West Side houses.

The staircase balustrade at No. 83, though Georgian in style, is probably of similar vintage.

No. 84 is the only one of the group always to have had a more symmetrical plan with a central entrance and hall, which retains some original decoration. Its northernmost bay and semi-circular ground-floor window are later additions, also of the mid nineteenth century.

No. 83 was the first to be completed, in 1793–4, while Burton was still actively involved, and must have been the ‘neat modern built House and Offices’ at Clapham Common ‘now finishing’ that he advertised in the press in March 1793. By April 1794 it was in the occupation of James Jopp, a Lombard Street merchant with connections to the Jamaica trade through a related company there (Bagle & Jopp). Jopp remained until 1796 or 1798, and was followed, from c.1799, by George Hyde Wollaston, a merchant and banker formerly based in Genoa. He and his wife resided at No. 83 until their return to Italy in 1802, though they came back to Clapham Common shortly afterwards, to live at Beechwood.

The pair at Nos 81 & 82 was first occupied around 1796–7. No. 82 was later the London home of Sir Charles Trevelyan, the colonial administrator, in 1841–3, then recently appointed assistant secretary to the Treasury. Trevelyan was connected to the Clapham Sect milieu through his wife, Hannah More Macaulay, daughter of Zachary Macaulay. He then moved to No. 84 and was succeeded at No. 82 from c.1847 to c.1869 by Sarah and Mary Anne Hibbert, daughters of William Hibbert and nieces of George Hibbert, slave factors and West India merchants, both of whom resided at Clapham Common; George especially was an active and vocal opponent of Wilberforce’s reforms.

During their stay the Misses Hibbert built the Hibbert almshouses in Wandsworth Road (1859), in memory of their father. No. 84 was the last house to be finished and occupied, in 1798.

Other residents include: Beechwood, G. H. Wollaston (c.1804–40); Field Marshal Sir George Pollock (1854–72), hero of the Khyber Pass and relief of Jalalabad; No. 81, Adelina Patti, opera singer (1875); Herbert Shelley Bevington, leather and fur merchant (1896–1926); No. 82, Charles Andreae, German cotton merchant (1869–89), who gave it the name Frankfort House; No. 83, Thomas Wood, City merchant, stockbroker and auctioneer (c.1803–33); Edward I’Anson, architect (c.1845–7); Sir William Augustus Fraser, Bart, MP, politician and author (c.1878–98), who named it Leannach Lodge; No. 84, Richard Thornton, wealthy Baltic trader (c.1815–28); Sir James Mackintosh, historian and statesman (c.1829–31); Charles Trevelyan (1843–7); Maisonette, John Peter Gaubert, merchant, director of the Ouglitch Paper Mill, Upper Volga (c.1850–8); Cam Sykes, husband of Emily Thornton, Marianne Thornton’s niece (1859–61).

Beechwood was demolished c.1899 for new housing in and around Culmstock Road; Maisonette was purchased in 1858 by Henry Sykes Thornton of Battersea Rise House, with which it was demolished in 1908. Encroaching lower middle-class development robbed the surviving large houses of their allure, and after 1900 most succumbed to institutional use; doctors’ surgeries were popular in the early 1900s. In 1907 No. 83 became Carlyle College, a private preparatory music school for girls (also later at Glenelg, see below), and was subsequently converted to flats. No. 84, also known as Western Lodge, has been in use as a hostel for homeless poor men since 1931. A chapel was added in 1932, to designs by Elgood & Hastie.

No. 81 was converted to a motor garage (West Side Garage) at about the same time, and until relatively recently had unsightly lock-ups strewn about its rear garden.

But since the mid 1990s the area has experienced an influx of wealth and renewed interest in such properties as single-family residences, and Nos 81–83 have been restored with some sensitivity. The re-conversion at No. 83, the biggest of the sites, was carried out in 2009–11 by the classical experts Robert Adam Architects for the multi-millionaire businessman and philanthropist Michael Hintze, and includes a new garage at the front of the house (in a style intended to complement the original stable blocks) and an indoor swimming-pool and gymnasium block in the rear grounds.”

“Circa 1796 with alterations. Three storeys and basement. Three windows wide. Grey brick with stone bands between the floors, stone cornice and blocking course. Centre bay projects and has tripartite windows. Rendered closed Doric porch, above stone steps between abutments. Garden elevation has centre 3-window splayed bay and raised ground floor verandah with iron balustrade and tented canopy. Interior has some contemporary features. Brick pedimented coach house on south boundary, now altered, connected to house.” (Historic England)

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