26 March 2013

London Shh Connections

The London Shh group consists of small historic houses built in different time periods, which were home to various famous residents; buildings which all tell their own unique stories. Perhaps, however, there are fewer degrees of separation than you might think. What follows is a series of connections between the houses; be it their inhabitants, construction or collections.

-          Fenton House displays an original Dutch harpsichord which may have been owned by composer George Frideric Handel, who lived and died at Handel House on 25 Brook Street

-          A performance Handel’s Water Music on the musical glasses inspired Benjamin Franklin to invent the glass armonica in 1761, a working replica of which is held at the Benjamin Franklin House

-          Franklin met Dr Samuel Johnson in 1760 at a meeting of The Society to Promote Christian Knowledge. Johnson resided at many different addresses in London including 17 Gough Square known as Dr. Johnson’s House

-          Dr Johnson was plagiarised by John Wesley who officially apologised for borrowing heavily from one of his essays in March 1775

-          In 1804 John Keats’ father fell off his horse outside Wesley’s House and never recovered from his injuries. Keats was 8 when he died, leaving his mother a widow. Keats later took up lodgings at Wentworth Place, now Keats House Museum

-          ‘An American Memorial to Keats’ was published in 1895 by Kelmscott Press, which was founded and run by famed artist and socialist William Morris

-          William Morris was a friend and peer of Emery Walker who lived near Kelmscott House in Hammersmith. The Emery Walker House is full of Morris furnishings and mementos of their friendship

We struggled to connect the remaining houses, but found those located in Hampstead have their own fascinating links:

-          Erno Goldfinger, the Modernist architect, built and lived at 2 Willow Road in Hampstead. He was an idol of architect, Ernst Freud, who resided at 20 Maresfield Gardens (now the Freud Museum) with his father Sigmund

-          Ernst’s son, Lucian, became a famous portrait artist and voiced his great respect and admiration for landscape artist John Constable. An exhibition about Constable is currently on display at Burgh House and Hampstead Museum

So there it is, all eleven houses linked by their history. If you know of any more facts or anecdotes which tie these places together please contact us, or even better, visit the houses in person!

By Luke Holmes, Intern at Benjamin Franklin House. Edited by Sally James, Operations Manager at Benjamin Franklin House.