The Twickenham Museum
Places : Hampton

Garrick's Villa
his little place at Hampton

the Villa in 1783. Engraved by Medland after a painting by Metz

Early days

It seems that the house eventually known as Hampton House was on a site where a group of timber framed cottages (later amalgamated) was built in the late Middle Ages. The house was held by copyhold of the Manor and Honour of Hampton Court, as were all the properties in the area.

In the 1640s there is documentary evidence that Richard Caswell acquired part of the riverside land and left it to his son Richard. The younger Richard was granted a further lease of land by Charles II in 1662. Richard died in in 1669 and his Royalist son, Captain John Caswell also died in Hampton.

In 1682, the house passed to John's sister Katherine, wife of Nathaniel Lacey. The Laceys lived in the house with Captain John Jones. Both Lacey and Jones were important as founders of the charity from which Hampton School grew.

Nathaniel was a Master of the Grocers' Company in 1706 and owned property in London and Buckinghamshire. In 1714, on his death, the property went to Katherine and, when she died two years later, to her nephew, Humphrey Primatt. It now included house, garden, four and a half rods of river frontage, four cottages and a walled orchard between Church Street and High Street. In 1729, Humphrey Primatt died leaving the estate to his son Nathaniel. He acquired two more plots and extended the river frontage to about its present size. His son Lacey held the estate on his father's death in 1751 and let the house from 1749 until 1753 to Lady Ann Furness (nee Shirley, daughter of the 1st Earl Ferrers), widow of Sir Robert Furness. She had been living in Cross Deep, Twickenham.

Garrick's country retreat

In 1754 David Garrick became the lessee and then bought the property in October that year, making it his country retreat and a place of recreation where he and his wife frequently entertained their friends.

He embarked on extensive alterations inside the house and, either now or at a later stage, employed Robert Adam to re-design the facade in the classical style then in vogue. The wing on the left, though similar in appearance, dates from 1865. In the house as it appears in prints of the late 1770s the upper portico - of four columns rising over an arched podium - was positioned centrally in the facade. The columns with their Corinthian capitals are all of wood and some of the widows are false, to achieve symmetry.

the Villa in 1824 as drawn by J Gendall

Capability Brown advised on the layout of the gardens. Even then the highway from Kingston to Staines separated the house from its riverside land. It was shortly to become a Turnpike. A tunnel enabled the Garricks to reach their riverside garden privately, without having to cross the road.

Of all the additions, the Temple, with its statue of Shakespeare was the crowning glory. Horace Walpole wrote in 1755 "Garrick is building a grateful temple to Shakespeare". The architect is unknown but possibly Adam, Capability Brown and Roubiliac all gave advice. It resembles a structure in the grounds of Chiswick House, where the Garricks spent their honeymoon and brings to mind that Garrick's wife, Eva, was a protégé of the Burlingtons who owned that estate.

A further addition to Garrick's "arcadian" landscape was an orangery at the far end of the main garden. Adam also designed an Orangery in the main garden with Corinthian facade and classical entablature. This was later changed to Greek Doric after Mrs Garrick's death and an upper floor was added in 1922. Extended on either side in the early 1970s to make four self-contained apartments, this later structure is visible from the road.

Garrick owned a good deal of farmland which is now part of Bushy Park and bought other houses in Hampton including Orme House in Church Street, the Six Bells (until recently the White Hart), Garrick's Ait, three other small aits and, just before his death. The Cedars, now known as Garrick House, on the riverside.

After he died in 1779, Eva continued to live in the villa until her death at the age of 98 in 1822. She had difficulty in keeping the house in repair and not long after she became a widow the patent white Liardet coating (a type of stucco favoured by the Adam brothers) began to give way. Sir William Chambers recommended covering the brickwork with the new Hampshire (otherwise known as "mathematical") tiles but when the crumbling plasterwas removed, dry rot was found and extensive repair-work ensued. Luckily all was well in the end and the tile veneer then installed is still in place today.

a fete held in the garden of the villa on 9 July 1908

the 19th century

When Mrs Garrick died the Roubiliac statue went to the British Museum under the terms of Garrick's will and in 1823 a sale of pictures and some of the furniture took place. Many of Garrick's books also went to the British Museum to form an important part of the British Library's collection of early plays.

Mrs Garrick's solicitor, Thomas Carr, bought the estate and tried to keep everything as it had been in Garrick's time. He and his wife showed visitors round and even installed a replica statue in the Temple.

When Thomas Carr died, in 1839, Garrick's Villa, as it was now called, was sold to a London merchant, Silvanus Phillips, for £3,600. Phillips died in 1861 leaving the estate to his three sons, the youngest of whom, also Silvanus, lived there and added the west wing in 1865. In about 1867, the house was let to Edward Grove, a successful restaurateur, who purchased it in 1870. He died in 1875 but his widow continued to live there until 1902. During this period the grounds were used for school treats, flower shows and athletic sports and Mrs Grove revived Garrick's custom of entertaining the village children at a tea party where she gave them cakes and money. The Garrick Lawn Tennis Club was formed in 1883 and players used courts at the Villa. The Temple Lawn became the centre for summer regattas.

the 20th century

With the coming of the trams, the road was widened and the house bought by the London United Tramway Company in 1902, for demolition. Fortunately the General Manager, Clifton Robinson, took a fancy to it and decided to live there. To facilitate the widening of the road the farmland was exchanged with the crown for a strip of land formerly part of Bushy Park. The garden walls were set back some twenty feet and the underground passage extended.

Clifton Robinson had tramway tracks made into his entrance at the west end of the site so that he could travel from door to door to his office in Chiswick. He also treated his staff and their families to annual garden parties at the Villa and was photographed in the garden with a large hound reminiscent of the one in the Zoffany picture of Garrick and his wife on the Temple steps.

The first tram ran to Hampton Court in April 1903 and was replaced by the trolley bus in 1935 and subsequently by the 267 bus service (now only on summer Sundays).

Sir Clifton and Lady Robinson left Garrick's Villa in 1910. At this point Sir Charles Wyndham wanted to see it become a Garrick Museum. The Hampton Urban District Council tried to raise the money to buy it but failed - at the sale, the bidding did not reach the reserve price of £9,600. It was commandeered by the army in World War I and subsequently Flora Hutchinson, who had acquired the house, let it on a repairing lease to Mr James Wooller who neglected to conduct any repairs.

Plan of the estate as auctioned in 1921

In March 1922 Mrs Hutchinson divided the house into seven flats and in 1923 sold the Temple and most of the riverside lawn, along with the kitchen garden and stabling. During World War II the house again became regarded as a country retreat, though in a different sense. Hoping to avoid the blitz, Sir Desmond MacCarthy, Literary Editor of the Sunday Times, moved to Hampton from central London and lived in a large flat on the first floor.

Post-war conditions made it hard for a single owner to maintain the estate. Throughout the late 1940s, the 50s and the 60s Dr Laura McConnell, who was now the owner, sought planning permission, unsuccessfully, for houses to be built in the grounds. Finally, in 1966, a plan preserving the broad sweep of the lawn between the Villa and the Orangery was approved and, under the watchful eye of the Hampton Residents' Association, the development went ahead.

In 1969 the Villa, by now a Grade I listed building, was re-converted into nine self-contained apartments. Though much of the interior has been altered over the years, some internal features from Garrick's time have survived. Enough remains of the original landscaping for the garden also to be listed Grade II. Several very old trees survive, among them the mulberry, visible from the pavement by the bus stop on the north side of the Hampton Court Road. This is said to be a scion of the tree originally planted by the Garricks, itself a cutting from Shakespeare's mulberry in Stratford. The tunnel, still in situ but not open to the public, was designated Grade II in 1974. Together with a small section of the riverside lawn it remained part of the Garrick Estate until the 1970s when it was sold to the owner of the Astoria houseboat. It was expertly restored by its present owner in the early 1990s and is visible both from the river and the towpath on the Surrey bank.

(This piece was written by Joan Heath and Sara Bird. It has been edited and adapted for inclusion in the website)

back to top