The Bull and Bush

In the hamlet of North End stands the ” Bull and Bush ” Inn, the supposed date of which is 1645. For many years a farmhouse, it afterwards became the private residence of Hogarth, an interesting memorial of whom is the ring of aged yew-trees which are said to have been planted by the painter himself, but from the appearance of their age, they have shaded him by their branches. A garden-seat encircles the interior of this dark retreat, and it is a helpful spot in which to linger and reconstruct the scenes of the past. We look hence upon the lawn the necessary bowling-green of the eighteenth century with its smooth, even surface ; and upon the red-tiled roof of the historic dining-room, rising amidst a forest of green branches. When Hogarth gave up this country house, it was adapted to the purposes of an inn, and was visited by Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick, Kean and Macready. In ‘ Wine and Walnuts ” Payne gives an account of an expedition, when some of these guests alighted from their drive at eight o’clock one morning in the early summer. It is still quite possible to repeat the experience a hundred and fifty years later ; the air is of almost the same purity and freshness, and an outdoor breakfast near the Heath the most exhilarating romance. While taking our new-laid eggs and coffee on the ” Bull and Bush ” lawn at that hour, there is very little to disillusion us as to the date ; the song of the bullfinch is the same as in the year 1759, and the sparrows make friendly overtures quite as unabashed in their motive in the reign of the fifth George as in that of the second.

Early in the nineteenth century the ” Bull and Bush ” entertained, among many other literati, William Hone, the antiquary, and Charles Lamb, who were one day wandering among the brushwood on the Heath near the back of the inn, denouncing the evils of snuff, and by heroic agreement threw away each one his snuff-box, after which they returned to their London homes wiser but melancholy men. Early next day Lamb was seen poking among the furze bushes, when Hone appeared walking in the same part of the Heath with eyes riveted on the ground, and with apologies and sadness offered his friend snuff from a paper packet bought this same morning.


From the book by Anna Maxwell: “Hampstead, its historic houses, its literary and artistic associations”.


 



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