30 April, 2021

A research Post by Peter Trott

When I started researching Clifton House I had no idea of just how complex and interesting it would be. The following is quite accurate but still several questions remain unanswered:

If we go right back to 1745 John Roque’s map shows two or three buildings on the south side of the North Highway (Uxbridge Road) mid-way between Starch Green (Becklow Road) and Shepherd’s Bush Green. Two buildings are much clearer on Salter’s map of 1830. One is directly opposite a small road (now Bloemfontein Road) and the other is next to it on the right. Take special note the field and garden boundaries south of the houses as they are still evident today.

Around that time the author and printer Samuel Bagster the Younger moved out of London due to ill health. He set up home in Shepherds Bush which he described as a village principally surrounded by cow pastures. With his wife Elizabeth and two spaniels he lived in the cottage on the right, which he named Aldine Cottage after the 1494 Italian printers The Aldine Press. As well as keeping poultry he was passionate about bees and set up an apiary in the large garden. In 1834 he printed and published his own book ‘The Management of Bees’ and in the book he gave a description of his invention ‘The Ladies Safety Hive’.

He died, at the young age of 34, on 1st July 1835 in his bedroom overlooking the garden. In the years following Aldine Cottage was occupied by the Blewit family, Matthew Faulkner, George Bridge and Hobart Moore. In 1870 Hobart Moore, a print seller and picture dealer, was made bankrupt and after that I found no further mention of Aldine Cottage.

John Wyld’s map of 1848 shows both cottages but only names Old Oak Villa next door. In 1871 Old Oak Villa is occupied by the Hunt family but close by are two unoccupied premises named Stanley Villa and Clifton Villa. One possibility is that after Hobart’s bankruptcy Aldine Cottage was sold off and demolished and these two villas were in the process of being built. This is partly corroborated by the 1869 OS map that shows a very different shaped building to the one shown on the 1893 OS map.

Maps above by Wyld 1848 & OS 1969

I have not found a date for the construction of Clifton Villa nor any clue as to why the Prince of Wales feathers appear on the top of the building. I’m sure that if it was connected to the Prince of Wales it would be well documented. Without any royal connection that might explain why the words ‘Ich Dien’ are not present on the carving. Another possibility is that the owner was from Wales but I have found no Welsh links to the property. Rather oddly between 1873 and 1882 I only found two people attached to the premises and the actual name of the building changed too. In 1873 an A. Phillips is listed in an art catalogue alongside the address Clifton Villa, and from 1880 to 1882 Mr Stevens Tripp (solicitor) is shown living at Clifton Lodge.

On 9th May 1874 Major General Archdale Wilson of Delhi died and at the age of 55 his widow Ellen Frith became Dowager Lady Wilson. Nine years later on St Luke’s Day 1883 she opened the ‘Home of the Good Shepherd’ in Aldine House, Uxbridge Road, Shepherd’s Bush (possibly reverting to the earlier name in recognition of Samuel Bagster who was a very religious man). It is even possible that the three feathers were added at this time due to the religious connections to the Fleur-di-Lis.

Surprisingly, Lady Wilson lived in the house, which accommodated 30 girls who had gone astray but desired to return to an honest and industrious life. By 1884 the number of girls had risen to 38. On 1st February 1886 the Bishop of London opened a chapel, laundry and infirmary adjacent to the Aldine House. The contemporary report added that the inmates were given thorough industrial training and employed in needlework, dressmaking and the laundry. A new altar for the chapel was dedicated in 1889.

The 1891 census shows that 23 ‘penitent’ women, seven staff and Lady Wilson were living there. The last positive record of her at Aldine House is in 1892, by which time she would have been 73 years old. Possibly she retired and moved to Surrey where she died on 1st January 1916, just short of her 97th birthday. The last positive records I could find for Aldine House was on the 1894 and 1895 electoral rolls which listed Lady Lucy Cavendish. Also known as Lady Frederick Cavendish she had helped Lady Wilson set up the home. She was a pioneer of women’s education and Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge was named in her honour in 1965. It seems that the home closed down and remained empty for at least a year (a later report dated 1908 stated the home was abandoned due to increasing problems with the residents).

OS Maps above 1893 & 1912

The first Church Army Home for the homeless was opened in London in 1890. In 1897 The Church Army opened a Magdalen Home which could accommodate 38 ‘fallen women’ in Aldine House (now renamed Clifton Home) and for the first time the building was listed as 127/129 Uxbridge Road. Number 127 is the current address and probably 129 was the extension opened in 1886. In 1901 there were 9 staff in charge of 37 inmates.

In 1911 numbers 127 and 129 are listed as The Church Army Home with 42 staff and residents and number 131 next door is shown as a hostel with 14 staff and residents. Probably number 131 was the original Old Oak Villa or a later building on the same site. For the 15 years leading up to WW2 Church Army Captain Arthur Stroud was in charge of the home. In 1938 Clifton House was listed as a home for youths and young men in need of protection and guidance, some of which were noted as being orphans. The 1939 register shows that all the residents were men.

It appears that the Church Army vacated the premises sometime towards the end of the war as the 1945 electoral roll show the building occupied by families, all with the same address as 127 Uxbridge Road. It was not until around 1960 that the building was given the individual flat numbers of 1 to 12. For many years Tom Morris the former Mayor of Hammersmith (1970/71) lived at number 2 until mobility problems caused him to move out. He died in 2002 aged 100.

1935 OS

Postscript: In the 1920s the telephone exchange was built on this site of 131 Uxbridge Road. Interestingly in 1911 number 131A is shown as Brilliant Sign Co. Ltd., which was built on the old gardens of Old Oak Villa. Clifton House is still numbered 127 Uxbridge Road but the Telephone Exchange and later extension are now numbered 143 (which would have been the last house on the Uxbridge Road before Coningham Road).

Photo P Trott

It just shows what you can find out with a little research in LBHF archives – opening soon. Perhaps you have a little article from your research don’t be shy get in touch