Elm Tree Road until the 1870s

Ideals of the Eyre estate

Elm Tree Road epitomised the ideals of the Eyre estate – seclusion, love of nature and the creation of a community for respectable people.  It was developed following the principles that governed the estate, with walls or fences defining the properties and giving privacy from neighbours, and even more important, preventing the residents from being overlooked by the servants of neighbours. These were urbane little houses with long grey walls to guard their privacy from pavement and carriageway, with little rectangular gardens with little monastic grilles in their gates, whose occupants wanted to be each a little squire with a parcel of land for his own. (To the Wood no more Ernest Raymond)

No 21 (now numbered 8) is the oldest remaining house in St Johns Wood, built on land developed by William Hall and originally leased to Samuel Gardner, a plasterer/bricklayer, their agreement being dated 4 Oct 1825 (EE 2651/52)

George Daniell a trunk maker with wife and 3 daughters at no 14 had an interesting sideline as a naturalist and described the trees in St John’s Wood in 1849:

Oaks, elms, horse chestnut and other hardy forest trees thrive vigorously and where the Queens Road is now formed, some small portion of the original St John’s Wood remained until within a few years, consisting of  a narrow belt of woodland formed of old oaks, elms, hornbeams, white poplar, wild service trees, crab apple, common maple etc –the whole scene then formed a beautiful and natural English landscape before the formation of the Wellington and Avenue Roads entirely destroyed its sylvan character. (quoted in Galinou, p 171)

In 1832 Leigh Hunt,(1784 – 1859) essayist and poet, was living at 18 Elm Tree Road; he had been editor of various literary periodicals including the radical weekly Examiner which he founded in 1802, and in 1813 had been imprisoned for two years for libelling the Prince of Wales. On 3 February 1832 he wrote to Thomas Carlyle for the first time, thanking him for an invitation to visit the Carlyles – The invitation  which Mrs Carlyle and yourself have been good enough to send me, is just the one that suits and pleases me best, and I shall be with you at the hour you mention tomorrow evening.  In fact, you cannot conceive how much it has gratified me for since the death of some dear friends, I have lived almost entirely out of the pale of intellectual acquaintance, a toiling solitary; and with the spring, many unlooked-for comforts seem to await me, of which this is one. 

William Hall built stabling on some of the land acquired from the Eyre Estate and in 1848 Walpole Eyre wrote (Mr Hall) built these stables, I suppose under a conception that stabling would be wanted for the convenience of the inhabitants of Elm Tree Road and the adjioining neighbourhood.

1841, 1851  and 1861 census

The 1841 census, when the houses were not numbered in the returns, shows residents of independent means, professional men and merchants, all attended by plentiful young servants. John Goodchild, a surgeon lived there with his wife and four children, and his widow and two children were still at No 21 10 years later;  There  was a girls’ school with 9 pupils which may be the same establishment as the small ladies school  at no 16 ( with 4 pupils and 3 teachers) in 1851.

Thomas Hood,(1799 – 1845) the poet who wrote the Song of the Shirt and Eugene Aram, was already broken in health when lived at No 17 from 1841 until 1844, then moving to Finchley Road until his death a year later. He had endured years of penury but at last was earning £300 p.a. as editor of the New Monthly magazine. Charles Dickens with his wife and sister-in-law visited him at No 17 and he wrote to Dickens in 1842

I never had but one American friend, and lost him through a good crop of pears. He paid us a visit in England; whereupon in honour of him, a pear tree, which
had never borne fruit to speak of within memory of man, was loaded with ninety dozen of brown somethings. Our gardener said they were
a keeping sort, and would be good at Christmas; whereupon, as ourJonathan was on the eve of sailing for the States, we sent him a few
dozens to dessert him on the voyage. Some he put at the bottom of a trunk (he wrote to us) to take to America; but he could not have been gone above a day or two, when all our pears began to rot! and I presume spoilt his linen or clothes, for I have never heard of him since. Perhaps he thought I had done him on purpose, and for sartin (sic) the tree, my accomplice, never bore any more pears, good or bad, after that supernatural crop.

He was a much loved husband, father and friend  and the public subscription after his death raised £1386 15s 6d for the benefit of his family.

By 1851 there was an omnibus yard with stables at No 1 and a nursery garden at No 3, and a third of the houses were headed by women. Thomas Hall, house agent and son of William Hall, lived at no 22 and James Greenland, a builder, was starting his 30 years at No 11 with his family. The superintendent of St Katherine’s Dock, William Hunt was at no 18.   Samuel Hyde, a painter and decorator, featured in the 1851, 1861 and 1871 censuses.  Apart from the Goodchilds in 1841 who employed a boy of 15, the  comfortable but moderate incomes of the residents are shown by the fact that no house had a man servant.

William Ashdown a jeweller aged 40, his wife and son and daughter lived at No 15, and they had some exciting visitors at the time of  the 1851 and 1861 censuses.  Baron Clement de Bode, a Russian Counsellor of State Civic and a widower of 44, his sister Charlotte (d 1875)  and her husband Alexander Cazalet (1794 – 1878),  and their 14 year old son Edward, (1837 – 1923)  had all arrived from St Petersburg, where the Cazalets had been born.  The Cazalets were one of the earliest families to be part of the English expatriate community in Russia, Alexander’s father Noah having started a  rope factory for Catherine the Great, and like all the Anglo-Russians they had aquired a distinctive sing-song English accent which must have sounded exotic in Elm Tree Road. When their son Edward returned to feature in the 1861 census he was recorded as a hemp merchant

Clement’s mother had been an aristocratic Englishwoman, Mary Kinnersley, who had married a Frenchman Baron de Bode, and they had had their estates in Alsace confiscated during the  French Revolution and had fled to Russia where they were eventually given estates by Empress Catherine. As Clement had been born in Staffordshire and was an English citizen he claimed to be entitled to a share of the money the British Government was dispensing to those who lost estates in the French Revolution and began a lawsuit in London which resulted in Clement often having to be in London. Clement had been Secretary of the Russian Embassy in Teheran and wrote  about his travels in Persia. – for example  “On the Races of the Southern Shores of the Caspian Sea” Journal of the Ethnological Society of London (1848-1856 vol 4 p 155). The lawsuit dragged on so long that de Bode finally ran out of money. (De Bode’s Case, 1845, 8 Q.B. 208) In 1846 he had been the tenant of Grove House Regent’s Park but had also been mentioned in Walpole Eyre’s correspondence when he seemed to be living in Circus Road or Elm Tree Road and it appeared to Walpole that the Baron is determined to annoy his neighbours. He had erected a wooden fence 12 foot high above the top of the fence wall which obstructed both the air and light to Mr Currie, tenant of 11 Circus Road.

1858 saw the sale of large parts of the Eyre estate, including Lords and most of  Elm Tree Road , which enabled the Trustees to settle all the debts that had been incurred.  Most of  the freehold property backing on to Lords was sold  apart from no 21 and the house adjoining Hood’s house, and these two houses do not feature on the map.

In  1861 John Gough a cab proprietor with 3 cabs and 6 horses, a wife and 3 children, and George Barber, owner of 1 cab and 2 horses, and wife and 2 children lived in Elm Tree Yard at the Grove End Road end of the road. John Short, a gardener, and William Willis, a coachman, lived in Nos 3 and 4 with their families. There were various fundholders and merchants, Mr Greenland the builder, and at No 10 (now called Devon Villa), lived Joseph Snowe, proprietor and editor of the Observer, the first  Sunday newspaper in the world, founded in 1791. Unfortunately his liberal views, supporting universal manhood suffrage and taking sides with the North in the American Civil War, resulted in a great decline in readership and by 1871 the paper had been sold.

There was a large establishment at No 23, comprising Henry Addison, late of the Indian army, his wife and 4 children, his sister in law, a cook, housemaid,  parlourmaid, general servant, a musical governess, a German governess, two girl scholars and a boy page aged 7.

Information concerning Elm Tree Road leases and George Daniell and much else beside comes from Mireille Galinou’s Cottages and Villas

This page was added on 07/05/2013.

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