A House of Distinction Facing Twickenham Green
The land today occupied by Gifford House, a closed Retirement Home, was previously the garden of a Twickenham mansion known as
The next recorded occupier wa Admiral of the Fleet Sir Chaloner Ogle (1680-1750), of Kirkley Hall, Ponteland, Northumberland, the son of a Newcastle barrister. A successful naval career was assured when, commanding HMS Swallow in 1722 off the west coast of Africa, he attacked and captured two pirate ships, killing the notorious Bartholomew Roberts. For this he was knighted in 1723 and presented with the ships. These were the foundation of his wealth, augmented by his refusal to pass on any “head” money to his officers and crew. Moving up the promotion ladder following commands in the West Indies he was made Commander-in-Chief at the Nore in 1749.
He commissioned James Gibbs to extend the house in 1748. When he died, in 1750, his widow remained, marrying the 4th Baron Kingston the following year.
The Early House
The appearance of the house in 1753 was celebrated in the engraving by Thomas Boydell, standing to the left of its neighbour Twickenham Grange, facing Twickenham Common. It is the only known view of the houses. Boydell's engraving includes a social commentary, giving an indication of the life and layout of the Common at this time. There are horses, sheep, and horned cattle apparently milked “en plein air”, with a milkmaid and a dog sampling the milk to the consternation of a boy. A coach and six preceded by a rider with drawn sword is going along the road to Hampton. Is the man at the rear a footman running to keep up or perhaps a predatory vagrant? A group of three people stand near the road, in conversation, or is this another milkmaid, being accosted?
The landscape, drawn as a semi-aerial view gives the false impression of a slope. To the left the road out of Twickenham, its verges marked by stone posts, passes Twickenham House. Running parallel with the road is a ditch or perhaps a small stream crossed by a footbridge and containing what appears to be a sluice gate. The stream ends with what may be a rectangular pond enclosed by a timber fence, broken by a sloping pathway down to the water, perhaps giving access for cattle. This enclosure contains a number of shaped trees; was it a public or a private space? Certainly later it became the front garden of Gifford Lodge, enclosed by a high wall as noted in a transaction in the Manorial Court Books for 1800: "....which is enclosd within a wall lately built....with boundaries North/South 182 feet; East/West 170 feet" (London Metropolitan Archives ACC 1379/53 25 Apr, p496).
Gifford Lodge is drawn in some detail. What was probably the original house is flanked by later extensions, a large one on the right. It was probably this which was designed by James Gibbs: a Memoir held to have been written by him reads: “….repared the house and built a fine Room for Sir Challoner Ogle there (Twickenham).” The house (“Lord Kingston's”) stands behind iron railings, piers and timber gates approached along a road which also gives access to its neighbour, Twickenham Grange (“Green Esq”) with its own entrance gates. To the right a partially fenced thicket with mature trees, indicates private ownership at the edge of the Common: this land is now occupied by Holy Trinity Church.
Somewhat later, Twickenham Grange was known for the grapes cultivated by its owner Abraham Prado, as recorded by Horace Walpole. Pauncefoot Green, here as early as 1736, died in 1757 (there is a memorial in St Mary's Church which also includes his widow Susannah who died in 1771, aged 84 years) and Prado came to live here in 1762. After his death in 1782 his widow remained until 1788. According to Cobbett the house was replaced in 1818 with the present house, known as Willow Grange.
The Marchioness of Tweeddale
In 1762, John Hay, the 4th Marquess of Tweeddale and Earl of Gifford (1695-1762) bought Lord Kingston's, as it was then called. He had been living at Twickenham House next door. He did not live long to enjoy the move, dying at the end of that year. He had a distinguished career as a representative peer for Scotland from 1722-1734, Secretary of State for Scotland from 1742-46 (much exercised during the '45 Rebellion) and was appointed Lord Justice General in 1761. Marrying only in 1748, Lady Elizabeth (Frances) Carteret, he was 62 when his son and heir was born. His widow stayed on and enjoying the subordinate title of Countess of Gifford she lent this name to the property during her tenure. She was accompanied by her son George Hay aged 4, now the 5th Marquess, and a number of daughters. Laetitia Matilda Hawkins, living with her father Sir John Hawkins, at Twickenham House nearby wrote later at some length about the family, noting that summer cricket was played on the lawn of Twickenham House. George would be urged by his over-protective mother to come in out of the sun lest he caught scarlet fever or smallpox. Matilda, herself then about the same age as young George remembered the Marchioness “only as interfering very unpleasantly of us when children. At her oddities I could not laugh – of her sincere benevolence I was no judge”.
Actually, George died of measles at the age of twelve, in 1770 and the Marchioness left the property for some years, letting it to tenants. At some point she had rebuilt a part of the house. Laetitia wrote of the property, later reduced in size, in 1822 that “It was a handsome villa, very much raised by a flight of steps; some of the offices still remain, converted into a cottage residence, and made tolerably commodious by additions”. Steps are not visible on Boydell's engraving although the centre section of the house does appear to stand higher than its wings.
To Gifford Lodge in 1772 came Baron Ephrem Lopez Pereira D'Aguilar (c1740-1802), who later moved to Highshot House in Crown Road, Twickenham. The Baron, a Sephardic Jew was born in Vienna the son of Diego Lopez Pereira, Treasurer to the Empress Maria Teresa. He was “a wealthy but eccentric miser, pastured cattle at Bethnal Green and stored furniture in houses there“.*
The Baron was succeeded in 1776 by Alexander Wynch (1721-81) Governor of Madras 1773-5. Wynch had spent most of his working life in the service of the East India Company, becoming a creditor of the profligate Nawab of Arcot. He married twice, the second time Florentia Cradock, aged 17, in 1755. They had at least two children, Frances, born in 1770 and Alexander in 1771 He also had a daughter, Margery, by his first wife who died in 1754 in Madras. When Wynch retired he came back to England, taking a house in Upper Harley Street. It was from there that his daughter Frances eloped with the unreliable son and heir of Sir William Twisden of Roydon to marry at Gretna Green, she at the age of 15, and he fleeing to France immediately afterwards to escape his creditors.
Wynch then moved to Westhorpe House in Marlow, where he died. George III visited Westhorpe in 1881 and bought some of the furniture to give to Queen Caroline. It came into the possession of the Prince of Wales and was installed in the Pavilion at Brighton before finding its way to Buckingham Palace where today it forms a part of the Royal collection.
According to the rate books the Marchioness returned in 1782 for four more years (she died in 1788). In 1786 the house was empty but in 1787 a Mrs Skinner took a tenancy for two years. Nothing is known about her at present.
General John Gunning
In 1789 came the Irish General John Gunning, son of John Gunning of Castlecoote in Ireland and famous for his profligacy, ardour and the beauty of two of his four sisters: Maria (1733-60) and Elizabeth (1734-90).
In 1752 the 19-year-old Elizabeth had so caught the eye of James, 6th Duke of Hamilton, that after a torrid courtship he became impatient to marry her and sent for a parson during an evening assembly at Bedford House on St Valentine's Day. According to Horace Walpole: 'The event that has made most noise since my last is the extempore wedding of the youngest of the two Gunnings, two ladies of surpassing loveliness, named respectively Mary and Elizabeth, the daughters of John Gunning Esq., of Castle Coote, in Ireland, whom Mrs Montague calls "those goddesses the Gunnings." Lord Coventry, a grave young lord, of the remains of the patriot breed, has long dangled after the eldest, virtuously, with regard to her honour, not very honourably with regard to his own credit (they did get married). About six weeks ago Duke Hamilton, the very reverse of the earl, hot, debauched, extravagant, and equally damaged in his fortune and person, fell in love with the youngest at the masquerade, and determined to marry her in the spring. About a fortnight since, at an immense assembly at my Lord Chesterfield's, made to show the house, which is really most magnificent, Duke Hamilton made violent love at one end of the room, while he was playing at Faro at the other end; that is, he saw neither the bank nor his own cards, which were of three hundred pounds each: he soon lost a thousand. I own I was so little a professor in love that I thought all this parade looked ill for the poor girl; and could not conceive, if he was so much engaged with his mistress as to disregard such sums, why he played at all. However, two nights afterwards, being left alone with her, while her mother and sister were at Bedford House, he found himself so impatient that he sent for a parson. The Doctor refused to perform the ceremony without license or ring; the duke swore he would send for the archbishop; at last they were married with a ring of the BED-CURTAIN, at half-an-hour after twelve at night, at May-fair Chapel.” This Duke died and she then married the 5th Duke of Argyll.
Horace Walpole wrote to Lady Ossory on 6 September 1788 in his usual gossipy way, of Elizabeth, now the Duchess of Argyll “who went with her (Lady Tweeddale) to hire a house the Marchioness has here on Twickenham Common, for her brother General Gunning. Marchioness –'But will he pay me for it?'” Elizabeth undertook to underwrite the bargain. One does not know if he did actually pay the Marchioness because she died on Christmas Day that year.
Gunning had married Susannah Minifie, novelist daughter of a Somerset parson in 1768 and there was a single daughter, Elizabeth, who allegedly practised a talent for targeting the aristocracy in search of marriage: the Duke of Marlborough, his son the Marquis of Blandford and her cousin the Marquis of Lorne, heir to the Duke of Argyll, apparently abetted by her mother. This so enraged the General that, in 1791, he threw them both out of his house, but was it Gifford Lodge? Susannah wrote to the Duke of Argyll that year that .she 'regretted twenty-two out of twenty-three years of marriage' to John. Gunning had troubles of his own: in that year he fled to Naples with his mistress and was fined five thousand pounds for 'criminal conversation' with his tailor's wife.
Thus John Gunning's stay was short: later in 1789 the house was taken by Thomas Wildman (1740-95), lawyer and MP for the pocket borough of Hindon in Wiltshire. He had been living at 16 Bedford Square (now the Paul Mellon Centre) since 1783. He was partner in a very successful firm of solicitors in Lincoln's Inn (Coulthard & Wildman) who today own a portrait of him by George Romney, possibly commissioned by a client who may have had cause to be grateful for his services. Wildman came from the north of England. He had family connections at Hornby, near Lancaster and owned property at Coldcotes, west of Harrogate and a farm at Cragg, near Hebden Bridge.
He was closely associated with William Beckford's business affairs for many years. It may have been Wildman who in 1764 took a house in Albemarle Street in order to accommodate a political club formed in opposition to the Earl of Bute.
Wildman died on 21 December 1795, leaving a wife, Sarah, and five children: Thomas, Edward, George, John and Mary and was buried at St Mary's Church, Twickenham, on Christmas Day. There is a memorial in his memory on the wall of the south gallery, and another memorial below following her funeral here thirty five years later. She was buried on 6 December 1830, Widow of Thos. Wildman Esq, MP, aged 79, her abode given in the register as Newstead Abbey, Notts where she may have gone to live with her son. He was Colonel Thomas Wildman who, a friend of Lord Byron from their schooldays at Harrow, bought Newstead Abbey from him in 1818 for £94,500; funds which he had acquired through his association with the Beckford family, owners of Jamaican sugar plantations.
Wildman's death was recorded in the Gentleman's Magazine in March 1796:
“The late Mr. T. Wildman was an eminent solicitor, and partner with, but not in any way related to the late Mr. Coulthard of Lincoln's Inn. As a practitioner in the law, he was a man of intelligence, endowed with a mind active and ever fervid for the good of his client, whose cause he seemed to make his own, and in the close of which he was seldom unsuccessful…..the ardour of his zealous endeavours, added to the natural warmth of his mind, has more than once introduced Mr. Wildman among the squibs of the day, in some strokes of wit, probably from the pen of an unfortunate opponent, who has too late known that a firm and active solicitor can make the worse the better case”.
The 19th Century
Sarah Wildman did not remain at Twickenham, moving to Heathfield House on Turnham Green. Gifford Lodge was let to a Mr Burton who stayed only for a few months. What happened next is not entirely clear, although it appears to have been briefly owned during 1798 and 1799 by John, and then Samuel Davies, a prosperous Church Street butcher. He may have reduced the house in size, something which was suggested by Laetitia Hawkins, as already noted. Certainly its rateable value halved, from £100 to £50 compared with Twickenham Grange next door, valued at £102.
This may have made it an attractive proposition for the next owner. Rating and Manorial records show that the property was bought, and owned between 1799 and 1811, by Dorothea Jordan the actress, and mother of fifteen children, ten fathered by the Duke of Clarence, later William IV. However, Dorothea did not actually live here; she used the property to accommodate her daughters born before her liaison with William: Frances, Dorothea and Lucy Hester. No doubt she would visit the establishment, from Bushy Park where she lived with William.
Richard Ancell (1756-1844) “of Downing Street” lived here from 1812 with his wife. Ancell had been Librarian and Keeper of the state papers in the Foreign Office. Retiring to Twickenham, he became a Churchwarden at the parish church of St Mary the Virgin in 1816. When Ancell died in 1844 his wife remained at the house until her own death in 1860 and her unmarried sister Charlotte Speller stayed on herself until 1868.
The long tenure of the Ancells marked a quieter, less colourful period in the history of the house. Later occupiers, where known, are presently recorded only as names. Whether these conceal further scandals, or raffish episodes or not is a matter for further research.
The house was set well back from the road across Twickenham Common, enjoying a close relationship with its neighbour, Twickenham Grange. While under alteration, some time before 1800, a boundary wall was constructed, affording privacy to the land forming its extensive front garden. The Common was the eastern extremity of Hounslow Heath, finally enclosed for the benefit of the poor in the community in 1818, and now to be known as Twickenham Green. A part, at the western end was reserved as a vegetable allotment for the use of the Workhouse to the north. Cricket came later to this land.
In 1841 Holy Trinity Church was opened next door, to the designs of George Basevi. Twenty years later there was insufficient space for the growing population and the church was extended, not to the designs of Basevi who had fallen to his death from the tower of Ely Cathedral, but by a pupil, F T Dolman. The extensions consisted of transepts and the apsidal chancel, providing an increase in congregation from 600 to 1,000. The new chancel brought the church closer to the garden of Gifford Lodge from which it was separated by the entrance drive to the house: a narrow lane then known as Ancell's Road, later the start of Pope's Avenue.
On the other side of the Gifford Lodge garden a row of 15 linked stucco villas were built in about 1845. The land formed a part of the garden of Twickenham House in Heath Lane which Morris Emanuel had bought in 1844. Morris moved to Kneller Hall that year. Previously he had occupied Heath Lodge in Heath Lane. The terrace was first known as Apsley Villas, taking this name from the London residence of the Duke of Wellington. The land they occupy can be seen on Boydell's engraving, traversed by the stream.
Morris was a son of Joel Emanuel, one of two brothers who came to London from Bavaria at the end of the 18th century. Joel first settled in Bevis Marks in the City and founded a jewellery business in Bond Street. Morris was one of his five sons, born in 1797. He took up property and land speculation with considerable success. However, he died comparatively young, in 1849, leaving a widow, Eliza, and a son Henry Joel Emanuel. They inherited his property in succession so that it was not until 1891 that Apsley Villas were sold to various individual occupiers and other purchasers.
The 20th Century
During the first half of the 20th century Gifford Lodge, like so many other Twickenham properties entered into slow decline and, in about 1950, was acquired by the Council. A single storey Day Nursery was built in the front of the garden. The house remained, with much of its land but, in 1963 now run down it was occupied by squatters, caught fire and was demolished. This, of course, released the whole property for redevelopment The Council sold a strip of land behind the site of the house, along Grange Avenue to a private developer to build houses. He took his time and the facades presented to Gifford House were less than distinguished. The Day Nursery was rebuilt on the site of the house and the Care Home, was built on the site of the Day Nursery. The best that can be said of this is that the last two were community facilities.
The 21st Century
It would be reassuring to know that future rebuilding on this land lay in hands sympathetic to its history and context and willing to restore some lustre as a tribute to the memory of the early house and past residents. The first exercise, happily now abandoned, did not demonstrate any such ambition. An incoherent proposal, a crowded “rookery” of 27 dwellings and yard for 30 cars illustrated only commercial avarice, exploiting government pressure for the construction of more and more smaller and smaller dwellings: little more than a recipe for social strife and tension.
* From: 'Bethnal Green: Judaism', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11: Stepney, Bethnal Green (1998), pp. 240-41. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=22765.
Lewis Melville, The Life and Letters of William Beckford of Fonthill, Heinemann, 1910
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
W S Lewis, Horace Walpole's Correspondence, Yale, 1937-83
D H Simpson, The Twickenham of Laetitia Hawkins, 1760-1835, Borough of Twickenham Local History Society Paper No 39, 1978
Clare Tomalin, Mrs Jordan's Profession, Viking, 1994
A chronology of the known tenants and owners of the property can be found on this website at Places/Houses of Local Interest.