Situated in the heart of St John’s Wood looking over Lords cricket ground, this house, for sale with Chesterton Humberts, has been the home of a lyricist, a poet and the former editor of Tatler. It was also visited by Stella Gibbons, the author of the much-loved novel, Cold Comfort Farm.
The house was built in 1838 and first appeared in the parish rate books in 1840 when it was recorded as the home of John Goodcheap, but the records show it was occupied by ‘John Goodcheap’s tenants’. Within a few years this large Victorian house became the home of a Caribbean heiress, Mrs Elizabeth Beckles. The 1851 census records Mrs Beckles was a widow, aged 72, and in the house with three unmarried daughters. Ten years later Mrs Beckles was still in the house and listed as a ‘lady’, but a greater number of her family were in the house, including a further three unmarried daughters and a married daughter, Maria and her daughter, Margaret. All the women of the house were simply listed as ‘lady’. Mrs Beckles also had three female servants who had travelled with the family, as their birthplaces were Trinidad, Dominica and Barbados.
From around 1890, when much of surrounding St John’s Wood and Maida Vale had been built over, the house transformed from the home of ladies to that of a Farrier Smith (fitted horse shoes), Mr Thomas Phelps. Phelps and his wife, Caroline, along with their three children lived in the house, as well as two boarders from Wales, James Davies and Walter Parisen. Mrs Phelps continued in the house for the longest period, remaining as the landlady until 1914.
After the turmoil of World War I, the residents of the house changed again when in 1924 it became the home of lyricist, Douglas Furber. Furber is best known as the author of Me and My Girl and The Lambeth Walk, both in 1937, but he wrote a number of well-known songs, including The Bells of St Mary’s, which was famously sung by Bing Crosby in 1945. Furber’s work has also featured in a number of soundtracks including renowned gangster films, The Godfather and Goodfellas. Furber lived along Wellington Place with his wife Peggy until the early 1930s.
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After World War II, the house became the home of another notable resident, playwright and poet, Louis Macneice. Macneice was known for his poetry, but later in life he joined the BBC and gained a name as a successful producer of radio shows, including The Dark Tower in 1947.
More recently, the house along Wellington Place was the home of former editor of Tatler, John Oliver and his wife, actress, Renee Bourne Webb. John Oliver was editor of Tatler from 1961 to 1965 and is credited with bringing the popular magazine into the modern era, greatly increasing its circulation. Renee Bourne Webb was a successful stage actress during the mid 20th century, including performances in Twelfth Night at the Savoy Theatre in 1947.
* To read the full history visit my blog The House Historian