Famous County Personalities

Famous County Personalities

THERE can have been few notable personages who at one time or another up to the nineteenth century had not lived or stayed within the hospitable boundaries of Middlesex. Kings, queens, foreign princes and courtiers visited its royal palaces and much has been written in reliable histories to enable readers to conjure up in imagination the gorgeous scenes of tournaments, masques and state functions which took place here many years ago. It will be sufficient if some of the more notable characters in different walks of life are recorded.

Meinhardt, last Duke of Schomberg, the commander-in-chief of the English auxiliary forces in the wars of the Spanish Succession, built a mansion at Little Hillingdon and died there in 1719.

Dona Maria da Gloria, who became Queen of Portugal after the abdication of her father in 1831, lived for some time during her minority at Laleham House, the seat of the Earls of Lucan. George Bingham, the third Earl of Lucan, gave the order for the charge of the Heavy Brigade which followed the more famous charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava, and for his action was severely censured by Lord Raglan.

Francis Scott, second Duke of Buccleuch, a grandson of the Duke of Monmouth, lived at Hillingdon Heath in 1746, and Henry, Lord Paget, at West Drayton. Lord Paget took the title of Uxbridge when elevated to an earldom in 1714. The third Lord Burlington, a patron of literature and art, who was responsible for the reconstruction of Burlington House, built a palladian villa at Chiswick. Henry Bennet, who figured as a member of the Cabal Ministry, was born at Harlington, and was subsequently created Earl of Arlington. His daughter married Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Grafton, the second son of Charles II and Barbara Villiers. Henrietta, Countess of Suffolk, mistress of George II, lived in Twickenham, where her house at Marble Hill was the resort of a distinguished circle which included Pope and Swift.

Lord Heathfield, who defended Gibraltar against the Spaniards during the siege of 1779 to 1783, had a house at Turnham Green. Sir William Wailer, the famous Parliamentary general, and father of a Middlesex justice, occupied Osterley for some years before his death in 1668.

Admiral John Byng, whose trial in 1756 made naval history, had two homes in South Minims: Knightsland, which he bought in 1752, and Wrotham Park, which was built for him.

Several persons who rose to high civic rank were inhabitants within the County, and among them may be mentioned Sir Nicholas Raynton, who was Lord Mayor of London from 1632 to 1633. He owned Forty Hall in Enfield, and left to the parish in his will 10 pound per annum for ever to apprentice three poor children of the village. There is a monument to his memory in Enfield Parish Church.

Among church dignatories, Archbishop Tillotson, when Dean of St. Paul’s, had a country residence at Edmonton, and occasionally returned there after his consecration as Archbishop in 1691. Archbishop John Gilbert died at Twickenham in 1761. Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of London and later of Durham, was Rector of Harrow from 1511 to 1522 and Richard Terrick, who held the See of London two centuries later, was Vicar of Twickenham.

Prominent among the judges and lawyers who lived in Middlesex were Sir Samuel Dodd, Chief Baron of the Exchequer under George I and owner of Colham Manor in Hillingdon; Sir John Bankes, Lord Chief Justice during the Civil Wars, who lived at Stanwell ; Sir Matthew Hale, Lord Chief Justice from 1671 to 1676, had a house at Acton; Lord Chief Justice Popham, who held office under Queen Elizabeth and King James I, resided at Friern Barnet; and Lord Chief Justice Cholmley, who was a witness to the will by which King Edward VI attempted to exclude his sister Mary from the throne, lived at Renters in Hendon. He founded a free grammar school at Highgate. Sir Francis Bacon spent much of his time in Twickenham, where he entertained Queen Elizabeth at his house in Twickenham Park. He died at the Earl of Arundel’s house at Highgate in 1626. Sir Orlando Bridgeman, who presided as Lord Chief Baron at the trial of the regicides, is buried at Teddington.

The Newdigate family lived at Harefield. William Lenthall, Speaker of the House of Commons during the Long Parliament, lived in Twickenham; and Joseph Ayloffe the famous antiquary lived at Hendon.

The arts are especially well represented. Hogarth’s house still stands in Chiswick, and the small house in Church Street, Edmonton, where Charles Lamb lived from 1833, is now known as Lamb’s Cottage. Both he and his sister Mary are buried in Edmonton churchyard. John Keats was born in Enfield and spent part of his early life in Edmonton. Thomas Hood and Leigh Hunt lived in Southgate. William Byrd, the Elizabethan composer, had a house at Harlington. Alexander Pope, Sir John Suckling, Paul Whitehead, Sir Godfrey Kneller, Horace Walpole, J. M. W. Turner and Alfred Tennyson were all residents of Twickenham. Twickenham also has connections with two famous novels. Tradition has it that Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones was written while he was living in Back Lane. Number 4, Ailsa Park Villas was the summer residence of Charles Dickens in 1838. Since he wrote Oliver Twist in that year, he may have written part of the book in Twickenham.

In his later years Henry Fielding had a country house at Fordbrook, Ealing. It was from here in 1753 that he wrote to the Duke of Newcastle giving his views on the “cause célèbre” of the time, the case of Elizabeth Canning who, after declaring she had been abducted and imprisoned in Enfield, was convicted of perjury.

Thomas Love Peacock had a house at Lower Halliford, Shepperton. John Norden, the cartographer, lived at Hendon. David Garrick, before moving to Hampton, was Lord of the Manor of Hendon from 1765 to 1778, and was indicted in 1774, “by reason of his tenure of the said Manor “, for failing to repair part of the bridge.

John Gay, the author of The Beggar’s Opera, and Colley Cibber, the dramatist and actor, lived at Twickenham; John Rich, the pioneer of the pantomime, lived at Cowley, in a house once belonging to Barton Booth, a celebrated tragedian, reputed to be unrivalled as the ghost in Hamlet; Peg Woffington is buried in Teddington Parish Church and her contemporaries, Hannah Pritchard and Kitty Clive, both lived at Twickenham. Joseph Grimaldi, the clown, lived at Fallow Corner, Finchley, from 1806 to 1827. Grim’s Dyke, Harrow, was the residence of Sir William Gilbert.

Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree lived at Walpole House, Chiswick, which tradition identifies with “Miss Pinkerton’s Academy for Young Ladies” in Vanity Fair. Thackeray, in 1817, went to boarding school in Chiswick Mall.

D. Blackmore lived for a time at Gomer House, Teddington.

William Hobbayne lived at Hanworth, where he founded a charity and school; and Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby, started a school in his house at Laleham where his son Matthew was born.

William Penn the Quaker and colonist lived at Teddington in 1688, and Sir William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia, was buried at Twickenham in 1677.

These are by no means all the famous characters in history and literature associated with Middlesex, but their names are sufficient to foster the hope that coming generations may add equally distinguished names to its future history.