The Swan Circle

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The end of an era: George III’s Jubilee at Kew

Entertainment & Culture, Family History, Society and Politics, The Swan Circle, West Family 1750-1800 2 Comments »

Kew Green in 1810


Kew Green in 1810

It was 1809 and the patriarch was dead. Henry West was long gone and with him the little empire he had built at Kew was dying; the old Swan Tavern on the Brentford Ait had been surrendered by his wife in 1793 to Thomas Samuel Maycock and from him to Elizabeth Legh and her descendants; until finally Robert Hunter irritated occupant of the house opposite, made a complaint to the City of London about the noise. The island, he said 'was a great Nuisance to this parish and Neighbourhood on both sides of the river…,' it lured, enticed and encouraged the worst type of behaviour drawing debauched individuals to the 'House of Entertainment, which has long been a Harbour for Men and women of the worst description, where riotous and indecent scenes were often exhibited during the Summer months on Sundays'.
   Whilst under the proprietorship of the West family, the Swan Tavern had dazzled George IV and he had used it to plot his seduction of Mary Robinson, but by 1800 his father's court had drifted away to Windsor and old King George III paid his last visit to Kew in 1806. He did not return to this fond place of memories for his jubilee, but the remaining members of the West family including my great, great, great grandparents Henry and Henrietta would have joined in the celebrations on Kew Green:

   "The morning was ushered in by the firing of cannon, and the ringing of bells. The board of Artificers walked in procession to Church at ten o'clock. After divine service, Messrs. George and Henry Warren [local landowners and probably relatives of Henry West’s chum Thomas Howlet Warren] entertained 100 persons with roast beef, plum-pudding. &c. in a spacious marquee, erected for the purpose, upon Kew Green. Porter, ale, and punch, were likewise plentifully distributed. On his Majesty's health being drank, 50 pieces of cannon were discharged. In the evening, the whole town was illuminated. A grand gothic arch was erected, from the centre of which the British Star was suspended, and underneath a striking likeness of his Majesty, with the motto of "Virtue, Honour, and Glory." The whole of the trees around the green were illuminated by variegated lamps, in radiant arches, wreaths, and columns, and the evening concluded with a rustic dance, and fire-works".

Surely even a fogyish stick-in-the-mud like Robert Hunter would not have objected to such a celebration on his doorstep.

MJ Holman


An account of the celebration of the jubilee, on the 25th October, 1809; being the forty-ninth anniversary of the reign of George the third, collected and publ. by a lady, the wife of a naval officer
Kew Past, David Blomfield

Clarissa and The Swan

Family History, The Swan Circle, West Family 1750-1800 No Comments »

Brentford Ait

Brentford Ait, 19th Century

"… [Clarissa] was rowed to Chelsea, where she breakfasted; and after rowing about, put in at the Swan at Brentford-Aight, where she dined; and would have written, but had no conveniency either of tolerable pens, or ink, or a private room…"
Samuel Richardson, 'Clarissa, or, The history of a young lady'


In December 1738, Samuel Richardson the author of the novel Pamela leased a house called the Grange in North End Road in west London. The Restoration period property with its grotto and high walled garden, was the country retreat where Richardson created his epistolary novel Clarissa, and where he entertained good company from 'Saturday to Monday'.
   He was a familiar figure in the neighbourhood of Fulham; a widow who kept a public house on the corner of North End Lane, recalled "a round, short gentleman, who most days passed her door", and whose family she would serve with beer. Richardson moved to Parsons Green in 1755 and the Grange was later acquired by Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones, who was said to have been impressed by its atmosphere.

   Richardson did not complete the novel Clarissa until the October of 1746, the year that Stephen West died and passed the ownership of the Swan to his brother Henry (my 4 x gt grandfather). Records show that Stephen had been granted a licence for the Swan in 1729 and had managed to grow a favourable reputation for the hostelry through skilful planning. By the time of Stephen's death, the water bailiff Roger Griffiths wrote that the Brentford Ait was "a very pleasant spot, on which is a publick house, inhabited by a fisherman, who of late years has greatly improved the spot by making therein several fishponds and other ornaments, for the more agreeable reception of those who shall make use of his house".
   Richardson's account of Clarissa's experience of the Swan reads as a very personal one; we can only guess that the author visited the tavern and perhaps did not find things to his satisfaction: no private room, no tolerable pens or ink etc. However, the Swan became famous not because of the quality of its stationery, but because of the excellence of its food and the superiority of its wine.

Find out what was on the menu in the next blog post.

MJ Holman (@mishjholman)


No. 73 Kew Green & a Royal visit

Family History, The Georgian Home, The Swan Circle, West Family 1750-1800 No Comments »

Centre of picture: Nos.  73, 75 and 77 Kew Green

Henry West and his wife Elizabeth lived in a house on the north side of Kew Green until Henry's death in 1784. The property they owned in copyhold is now two houses, nos. 73-75*, or no. 784 on the manorial survey and is described as part of 'five messuages, outhouses and yards about 1 rood and 14 perches'. Number 73 is now a Grade II listed dwelling (listed 1950) and consists of 'three storeys. Three windows. Parapeted brown brick front. Doorway with elliptical-arched fanlight. First floor balcony with tented canopy' (English Heritage).
After Henry's death the property transferred into the hands of his spinster daughter Sarah, who must have shared it with her mother Elizabeth and my great great great grandfather Henry. Henry junior married Henrietta in 1787 and they had one child Stephen who was probably born in the property in 1790. The house at number 77 was owned by John Dillman Engleheart who belonged to the famous dynasty of artists and he left the property to his niece Ann Engleheart; the dwelling was then let to German immigrant Frederick Albert, the father of Mrs Charlotte Papendiek assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe to the Queen. From the 1790s the house appears to have been occupied by Mrs Clementina Jokkobinn Sobeiski Schnell formerly Macdonald, who claimed to be the god-daughter of the Old Pretender.
    All these families would have watched from their windows as the carriages of visitors to Kew Gardens mounted and parked on the Green; how many times did they idly perambulate amongst the flowerbeds and trees of those famous gardens? Were they the ones that complained about Sunday parking and coaches causing ruts and destroying the grass?
    During the stay of George III and his family, the royal entourage passed along the road directly in front of the row of houses on its way to and from Kew Palace, accompanied by a troop of life guards. The Wests took this opportunity to entertain their royal neighbours. In her memoirs, Mrs Papendiek vividly recalled the parties the West family gave in their house on the ait opposite the Kew bank, entertaining the Court and no doubt the sons of George III, 'Parties came up by river too,' she wrote, 'with bands of music, to the ait opposite the Prince of Wales's House. The whole was a scene of enchantment and delight'.
    With such close ties to the royal household, the families alongside the Green would have been shocked by the attempted assassination of George III by Margaret Nicholson. On 2 August 1786, the King alighted his carriage at St James's Palace and was approached by a well-dressed woman carrying a slip of paper, thinking it was a petition he took the note, but the woman lunged at the King with a dessert knife. The King was unharmed and during the days that followed, burgesses and officials throughout the land paid grateful homage, thankful for the King's escape (London Gazette, 8th August).
    On 8 August 1786, the royal family arrived at Kew to a reception from the local inhabitants. Fanny Burney, who had taken a position as Second Keeper of the Robes earlier that year, recorded the event:

"An exceeding pretty scene was exhibited to-day to their Majesties. We came, as usual on every alternate Tuesday, to Kew. The Queen's Lodge is at the end of a long meadow, surrounded with houses, which is called Kew Green; and this was quite filled with all the inhabitants of the place — the lame, old, blind, sick, and infants, who all assembled, dressed in their Sunday garb to line the sides of the roads through which their Majesties passed, attended by a band of musicians, arranged in the front, who began "God save the King!" the moment they came upon the Green, and finished it with loud huzzas.
This was a compliment at the expense of the better inhabitants, who paid the musicians themselves, and mixed in with the group, which indeed left not a soul, I am told, in any house in the place.
  This testimony of loyal satisfaction in the King's safe return, after the attempted assassination, affected the Queen to tears: nor were they shed alone; for almost everybody's flowed that witnessed the scene. The Queen, in speaking of it afterwards, said, " I shall always love little Kew for this!"

If not a soul was left in any house as Fanny wrote, then Elizabeth, Sarah and Henry West were amongst those that greeted the procession and the meeting upon the Green, ever thankful for the safety of their King.

*They owned part of no. 75 as it was split into two copyhold plots. A single plot of three stories appears to have been added after 1777.

MJ Holman

No. 75 Kew Green1771 Manorial Survey of Richmond






From left to right: No. 73 Kew Green, No. 75 Kew Green, The manorial survey of 1771 showing plot no. 784 (no. 73)

No. 73 Kew Green is partly open to the public. Visitors can access the gardens of four houses along the north side of the green including no. 73 by visiting the NGS:

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