16 March 2014

Recollections of Mr Pitt at Frognal Hall, Hampstead

Fig. 1: Lord Alvanley (Richard Pepper Arden), unknown artist, after 1788
Reminiscences of a person, even if they are long dead, often help to furnish us with a glimpse into that person's character. This can be particularly the case when a memory is recalled from one's childhood. In 1860, the 5th Earl Stanhope was receiving letters of congratulation regarding the multi-volume biography he was then writing of William Pitt the younger. One of these letters came from Sir Archibald Edmonstone, 3rd Baronet (1795-1871), recalling Pitt's love of children. Sent from Glasgow in Scotland, Edmonstone remembered being in William Pitt's company when Edmonstone was just a child of about six or seven. Although the memory was quite fleeting, the warmth of his memory lasted with him for a lifetime. 

Edmonstone recalled to Lord Stanhope the Mr Pitt he once knew:

“Sir Richard Pepper Arden was on the footing of great intimacy with Mr Pitt, and having married my aunt, as a child I used to spend my summers with them at [Frognal Hall, Arden's estate] Hampstead. There Mr Pitt used to come on Saturdays and Sundays, I should think I am speaking about the year 1802, and there I perfectly remember him: - the more so, as he was very fond of children, and for some cause he took a fancy to me, and I distinctly call to mind climbing on his [Pitt's] back and sitting on his shoulders. His playfulness and elasticity of spirit, even at that time when his health must have then been beginning to fail, is not I think generally known.” [1]

Fig. 2: 'Near Hampstead' watercolour by John Laporte, early 19th c. Frognal Hall is in the foreground

Richard Pepper Arden, Lord Alvanley, lived at Frognal Hall in Hampstead, which was the estate immediately west of Hampstead Parish Church [2]. The church is known as St. John at Hampstead [3]. Like many Georgian homes, Frognal Hall was demolished in the 1920s to make way for new housing developments [4]. It was replaced by what is now numbers 96-98 Frognal, numbers 3-9 Frognal Gardens, and by Frognal Way [5]. The area is still beautiful, socially exclusive, and verdant. Walking through modern-day Frognal, the mind's eye can easily conjure up Pitt romping around outside with Lord Alvanley's family and giving piggy-back rides to the children. Pitt's kindness and playfulness must have made an impression on Edmonstone for him to vividly picture the scenario nearly 60 years later!


1. Kent History & Library Centre, Stanhope of Chevening Manuscripts. Pitt MSS. U1590/C405/2.

2. Howitt, W.  (1869) The Northern Heights of London; Or, Historical Associations of Hampstead. London: Longmans, Green, & Co., pp. 153; 248.

3. www.hampsteadparishchurch.org.uk.

4. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22635#n146.

5. Ibid.

Image Credits:

Fig 1: Portrait of Lord Alvanley (Richard Pepper Arden), after 1788. Lithograph after an unknown artist.

Fig 2: 'Near Hampstead' by John Laporte (1761-1839). An early 19th century view of Hampstead, with Frognal Hall in the foreground. Source

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