a 12 acre estate
Twickenham House and its garden occupied the land now covered by the properties of Heath Gardens at the west end of Heath Road on the south side. The estate originally included more land, extending along Twickenham Green as far as Gifford Lodge. At the time of the Enclosure Award in 1818 the estate amounted to over 12 acres. By 1845 some of this land had been sold off for development along the south side of The Green and in 1863 the new railway line between Twickenham and Strawberry Hill was built, further reducing the extent of the property.
The house was probably built by the beginning of the 18th century, occupied in 1708 and possibly earlier by Lady Mathews, who died elsewhere in about 1730 the widow of Captain Sir George Matthews (d1717), of Southwark. Knighted on 7 Sep 1704 and elected MP for Southwark 1711/12, he was described as “of London, Captain of a company of…(at St James’s Palace)”. He served as Churchwarden in 1716 and 1717. A George Mathew (sic) subscribed £50 towards the rebuilding of St Mary’s Church in 1713. Next to him in the list of subscribers was Peter Vandeput who had married his daughter Frances in 1712. Vandeput first paid rates in Twickenham in 1718 for an as yet unidentified property, although Heath House just across the road is a candidate.
Following Lady Mathews’ death the advertisement for sale of the estate, starting on 1 August 1732 (advertised in The Proceedings of the Old Bailey for 26 July 1732) describes the property as it was then:
THE Dwelling-House of the Lady MATHEWS, deceas'd, at Twickenham in the County of Middlesex, being pleasantly situated near the Common; consisting of several Rooms on a Floor, Coach-Yard, Coach-House, and Stabling for six Horses, a large Barn, Brew House, Wash House, and other Out-Houses, a large Court-Yard before the House, fine Pleasure and Kitchen Gardening, with a good Green-House, the Gardens being exceedingly well planted with Fruit and other Trees; a Padock with a Canal well stored with Carp; also two small Fields adjoining thereto, being part Copy hold and part Freehold, in the Manor of Sion, in extraordinary good Repair, having two Pews belonging to it in the Church.
Also the Houshold Furniture; consisting of fine Needlework, Chintz, Silk, and other Standing Beds, with Chairs, Hangings, and Window Curtains suitable to the same; Crimson Damask Window Curtains, Chairs and Hangings; India Cabinets, Screens, Chests and Tables of the rare old Japan, fine large Pier and Chimney-Glasses and Sconces, and a curious large Parcel of old Japan China Ware of the most useful Sort; Counterpanes, Pictures, and several valuable Curiosities, and all Manner of Kitchen Furniture; as also Statues, Vases and Flower-Pots, Orange, Lemon, and other fine Trees, Flowers, &c.
The 4th Marquess of Tweeddale
For the next ten years the house appears to have been occupied by a Captain Newton, about whom nothing is known. However, in about 1746 the property was acquired by John Hay, 4th Marquess of Tweeddale and Earl of Gifford (1695-1762), whose main family estate was at Yester, Haddingtonshire. He had a somewhat unsatisfactory political career but, from 1742-46, he acted as Secretary of State for Scotland and so was closely involved with the problem of the 1745 Rebellion. He cannot be said to have been effective either in predicting or managing the response to the uprising. However, being also Master of the Ordnance in Scotland he enjoyed access to military trophies, particularly from the Culloden battlefield. It appears that about 190 broadswords had been collected from the battlefield on the orders of the Duke of Cumberland. 150 or so were brought down to Twickenham House. Here they were erected as a fence in a line on a stone plinth across the middle of his garden, remaining there until the house was demolished in 1888. There is no known record of the significance or the reason for this rather macabre gesture.
Sir John Hawkins
In 1760 the Marquess sold the house to John Hawkins (1719-89) and bought the house next door, later known as Gifford Lodge, so named after his secondary, though more ancient, title.
Hawkins became a magistrate and so a much respected chairman of the Middlesex Bench. He lived here until1771 (he was knighted the following year) and during this time may have built the circular rooms at the rear of the house, in the upper of which he was accustomed to hold musical soirées beneath medallions painted for him by Angelica Kaufman (1741-1807). Work on his five volume General History of Music was started at Twickenham House, published in 1776.
There was a building in the garden, later known as “Diamond Villa” where, according to Richard Cobbett, literary gatherings took place. If so they probably included David Garrick and Dr Johnson and even other members of Johnson's Ivy Lane Club, and of his Literary Club in London. Hawkins was one of the nine founder members of the former, in 1749. Unfortunately he quarrelled with Edmund Burke, another club member, and so resigned. Johnson, though his friend, described Hawkins as “unclubbable”.
Hawkins' wife Sidney, whose inheritance had enabled purchase of the property, their daughter, Matilda Laetitia and her brother Henry (“Harry Classic”) lived with him here and Matilda later wrote three volumes of reminiscences which described Twickenham and their time at the property. These included stories of the family's relationship with the Marchioness Tweeddale, now widowed and living next door in Gifford Lodge.
Paul Vaillant (1716-1802)
In 1771 Hawkins sold the estate to Paul Vaillant , magistrate and bookseller. They appear to have known each other well, to the extent that Vaillant actually christened two of his own daughters Letitia (if so, one must have died young). He was of a Huguenot family: his grandfather, Francois Vaillant and his wife Jacqueline Guillemin and 5 children had fled Saumur in 1685 on the revocation of the Treaty of Nantes. Francois may have started a bookseller's business in the following year with his brother, Paul I. His son Paul II(1672-1739) continued in the business at 82 Strand, marrying Frances Moset in 1714, and their son Paul III was born in 1716. He, too, entered the business, continuing after his father died in 1739: it had, by now acquired a considerable reputation.
the 19th century
Vaillant died in 1802, having just sold the property to Thomas Ingram, a retired barrister of Lincoln's Inn. Ingram died in 1815 and his widow remained here until her own death in 1827. Between this date and 1858 there were a series of owners and occupants of the property, some known at present by little more than their names.
William Green inherited from Mrs Ingram, but does not appear to have lived here. He sold on to Alexander Leach (1766-1843) in 1835. Leach was a surveyor from Hoxton. He bequeathed the estate to William Carr Burt (1772-1843), described as a “Tide Surveyor of Portsmouth”, probably a relative, who died that year leaving his wife Ann, and a daughter, Mary resident in the house. Mary had an unhappy experience: after marrying on 27 June 1743, Thomas Connor, she discovered he was a bigamist. He was indicted and tried at The Old Bailey in July 1846, found guilty and sentenced to transportation for 7 years.
Morris Emanuel (1797-1849) bought the property from Carr Burt, or perhaps his widow, in 1843, while he was living at Heath Lane Lodge, but he did not move in: the purchase was to enable him to acquire some land facing Twickenham Green where, in 1845, he built the row of semi detached houses known then as Apsley Villas. More of the remaining land, previously occupied by the canal, was later acquired for the railway line leading from Twickenham to Strawberry Hill. This, on a raised embankment, completed by 1863 diminished the amenities of the property, now overlooked by passing steam trains.
On 27 May 1844 Emanuel sold the house to Edward Saunders (1805-66), a brewer, who owned the Britannia Brewery at the beginning of Colne Road, across the way, and various properties in Twickenham. Saunders built a row of cottages on part of the frontage of the property and moved into one: 1 Amber Villas. Thus, living modestly, he leased the house, first to Dr William Harcourt who ran a boys' school for several years and then to Thomas Royle Quicke, a barrister. Finally, Dr Hugh Welch Diamond took a lease on the property in 1858. Here, he opened a private asylum, mainly for women, for the treatment of mental disorders, accommodating as many as 17 in the house for the next 28 years until his death in 1886. Dr Diamond appears to have used John Hawkins' music room as a bedroom for the use of his patients: there were 4 beds in it when the house was sold.
Now vacant, the estate was sold for redevelopment in 1887. There were three sales in that year, first, of the contents, in June and the second in August, of reusable fittings and building materials from the house and garden; a melancholy catalogue. The third sale, in October was the land, now laid out with 71 building plots of varying size, Diamond Villa being no55. The sales were conducted by John Nash Goatly who occupied premises for his business on a part of the land facing Heath Road. Before demolition, views of the property, inside and out, were painted by Rosa Wallis: a record of the first building in Heath Road to be lost, presaging a dreary future as, one by one over the next thirty years the villas and mansions from the 18th century were demolished and replaced with undistinguished shop and commercial premises.
Rosa was a daughter of George Wallis F S A (1811-91), at that time Keeper of Art Collections at the South Kensington Museum (later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum). She had a sister, Kate, and at least two brothers one of whom, Sir Whitworth Wallis became Director of the Birmingham Art Gallery. Rosa spent her life painting in the soft and free style she used for these views. Her father and Dr Diamond were Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries, Wallis from 1878. He was a well known figure in the art world and joined Diamond's weekly gatherings at Diamond Villa in the garden.
Diamond Villa and the swords
Diamond Villa survives today as a private residence in Heath Gardens. In 1887 it contained a kitchen, a “middle room”, dining room, drawing room and bedroom, standing facing the house at the end of the garden lawn against the boundary with the garden of Savile House next door. Beside it was the fence of sword blades, standing in a line across the centre of the garden and described in Mr Goatly's sale particulars (item 121) as “The sword fence division of lawn and kitchen garden, made from sword blades brought from the battlefield of Culloden 64'6” long”, where it had stood for the past 141 years. The garden at this point was approximately 225 feet in width, the Villa on one side and garden buildings, including a green house on the other: the fence occupied the centre section of the dividing line. Its line can be seen on the 1863 Ordnance Survey plan, the line set forward diagonally at each end. It is evident that these buildings were built or already in place in 1746.
Apparently the swords were bought at the sale by a local scrap merchant for 26/- and deposited in his yard in Richmond. Here they were found by Lord Archibald Campbell, bought, and 137 taken up to Inverary Castle in Argyllshire. Lord Campbell (1846-1913) was the 2nd son of the 8th Duke of Argyll, a Deputy Lieutenant and J P and captain in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He wrote a book about his collection. Today, some of the swords are on display at the Culloden Visitor Centre. It is claimed that these swords were made by the Italian sword-cutler Andrea Ferrara, or his family, who are reputed to have made many claymores for Scottish use, stamping them either with their name or a crown.
Two of the sword blades were acquired by Rosa Wallis and presented to Twickenham Library in 1927. She wrote to Mr R V Jacobs, the Borough Librarian, on 1 September 1934 about her paintings and relating what had happened to these swords, which had been in her possession for 40 years:
“….I was the lady mentioned in Miss Leeson's letter who used to stay at Twickenham House in her early girlhood and (who) will remember my bringing the sketches to you on the suggestion of Dr Leeson to whom I also took the two sword blades which I gave to the library – the blades were given to me by Dr Cashmore Clarke (Dr Diamond's son-in-law) after Dr Diamond's death…..my father was a great friend of Dr Diamond.”
The “sketches” have survived and, with the manuscript letter, are now held in the Richmond upon Thames Local Studies Library, but sadly the two swords are nowhere to be found.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
W McKeown, Apsley Villas on Twickenham Green, 1982, typescript in Richmond upon Thames Local Studies Library
D H Simpson, The Twickenham of Laetitia Hawkins, 1760-1835, Borough of Twickenham Local History Society Paper no39, 1978
Lord Archibald Campbell, Scottish Swords from the Battlefields at Culloden (ed E Andrew Murray), 1894. Study of a remarkable find of Scottish broadsword blades that were preserved after the battle.