The origin of the name of Frognal, first recorded in the early 15th century, is not known. The ‘house called Frognal’, lay on the west side of the road, probably on the site later occupied by Frognal House. The locality is of some importance as it contained the Hampstead Estate manor-house where the Courts Leet were held.
By the 17th century there were several cottages and houses at Frognal; by then the name probably indicated the road leading from the church and manor farm northward to the heath, between the demesne (land that the lord of a manor, in feudal times, kept for himself rather than letting out) on the west and Hampstead town on the east.
The Hampstead demesne lands at Frognal occupied from four to five hundred acres of the best land stretching from Child’s Hill to Belsize. The old manor-house which stood at the north-east corner of West End Lane, was a long, low farmhouse building which contained a big hall. Mr Pool, a lessee, pulled it down and built a brick house on the site, and, later, built a small house on the south side of the lane, where he went to live himself. The Courts followed him, and were held there.
There were two houses or cottages there by the beginning of the 18th century, held by brothers, John and Thomas Smith. Thomas, a bricklayer, had divided his into two.
Set back from the road in 1½ acres, adjoining the churchyard, was Frognal Hall, which probably existed by 1646 and can be identified with the attorney-general’s house visited by Pepys in 1668. It may have been rebuilt by the architect Isaac Ware, who owned it from 1759 to 1765. The southernmost house was that later called Priory Lodge, opposite Frognal Lane, which has been identified with the ‘small house just beyond the church’, alluded to by Samuel Johnson, where his wife lodged for the country air according to Boswell and where Johnson wrote most of the Vanity of Human Wishes, published in 1749.
In 1792 Frognal was praised for its ‘salubrity of air and soil, in the neighbourhood of pleasure and business’. As early as 1762 some 43 acres of demesne were leased to copyhold tenants who used them as pleasure grounds.
In 1811 Frognal was described as a a ‘hamlet of handsome residences’, surrounded by groves and gardens ‘of an extent begrudged by builders in these modern days’. In 1824 arguments against the proposed new road made particular reference to the houses occupied by Carr, Blunt, Innes (sic), and Thompson, the few gentlemen’s houses valued for their privacy and the views which they or their grounds commanded.
When the Finchley Road was built through the middle of the demesne between 1826 and 1835, it destroyed the exclusivity and converted the farmland into ripe building land, which the lord of the manor, Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson, was eager to exploit. He was thwarted by the will of his father, Sir Thomas (d. 1821), which left him unable to grant building leases, and by local defenders of the heath who opposed his private bills. The demesne became available only after his death in 1869, when building was further delayed, mainly because the new lord Sir John (d. 1876) and his son Spencer needed to resolve their differences in order to break the terms of the entail. In 1873 they agreed to divide the estate, allocating to Spencer frontages along Finchley Road, and on two proposed new roads, Priory Road and Fitzjohn’s Avenue, on all of which it was planned to build, and land in the north. Apart from Spencer, whose grandiose plans ultimately prevailed in Fitzjohn’s Avenue, the main influence in shaping the estate was F. J. Clark, the land agent who advised the Maryon Wilsons to build the main roads and sewers themselves and to release the land for building in an orderly manner.
Some of the earliest building on the demesne estate was along Finchley Road. To the south, building was already completed on the St. John’s Wood estate up to the boundary with Spencer Maryon Wilson’s estate. Much of the demesne west of Finchley Road was occupied by railways, with a station called Finchley Road opened on each of the three lines, in 1860, 1869, and 1879, respectively. In 1872 Holy Trinity church was built on the east side of Finchley Road on a site given by Sir John Maryon Wilson and six cottages were built in 1873 on the Finchley Road brickfield, which had been leased to John Culverhouse in 1871. Holy Trinity Vicarage was built in 1877 and a skating rink in 1880, and 29 houses and at least five shops were built in Finchley Road from Swiss Cottage northward in the early 1880s and another 19 houses at the end of the decade. In 1891 another five shops were built and five houses altered into shops; the Midland Railway built six coal offices.
The old road, Frognal, had been extended southward beyond Arkwright Road by 1878 and reached Finchley Road soon afterwards.
In 1878 Frognal was described as a beautiful suburban village, full of gentlemen’s seats. In 1903 it still had an air of affluence but was overlooked by ‘many windowed, scarlet-faced mansions’ and had lost its ‘aimless paths and trees’. Building had covered most of the frontage to the road, old as well as new, and was encroaching on the large private gardens.
Frognal has a diverse architecture, with many architecturally notable buildings. The central area, lacking large council estates, has undergone less change than some other parts of Hampstead. University College School, an independent day school founded in 1830, relocated to Frognal (the road) in 1907. Frognall Grove, Grade II listed, (1871–72) was large house inherited by the architect George Edmund Street, who made additions to it. It was later subdivided into four semi-detached houses.
Notable houses of Frognal
Branch Hill Lodge was left by Clarke in 1764 to his patron Thomas Parker, earl of Macclesfield (d. 1795), who leased it to Thomas Walker, Master in Chancery, and then to Lord Loughborough, who lived there before he moved to Belsize in 1792. Stephen Guyon (d. 1779), a merchant, lived in Frognal Hall, which by 1791 was the home of Sir Richard Pepper Arden (1745-1804), Master of the Rolls, later Lord Alvanley and Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. He was leased 6 acres of adjacent demesne land, part of which he later bought and all of which was occupied by his widow for some years. In 1799 the earl of Macclesfield’s son sold Branch Hill Lodge to a wealthy merchant, Thomas Neave, who became a baronet in 1814. Neave enlarged the house, which he filled with stained glass from convents plundered during the French Revolution in addition to the glass taken from the Chicken House. To his 4 acres of copyhold land Neave added 9 acres of demesne freehold, which he purchased in 1807 and 1815; he was leased another 21½ acres of demesne from 1808. He sold Branch Hill Lodge, which later briefly housed Lord Byron’s widow.
Bay Tree Cottage On Frognal’s west side, north of the demesne houses, Bay Tree Cottage existed by 1841.
Frognal Grove Many important lawyers lived in late 18th-century Frognal. From 1772 until 1794 or later Frognal Grove was the home of Edward Montagu, master in Chancery, and from c. 1810 to 1813 of Richard Richards, chief justice of Chester.
Frognal Close John Thompson, an auctioneer who owner Manor Cottage separated 4 acres from it and built a new house by 1818, called by 1834 the Priory or Frognal Priory. He had added a lodge by 1820. The house, on an elevated site with extensive views, had Gothic crenellations, Renaissance windows, Dutch gables, turrets, and a cupola. It was filled with furniture claimed by Thompson to have belonged to Cardinal Wolsey and Elizabeth I and drew many visitors. Thompson was still the occupier in 1840 but by 1851 the house had passed, under his will, to Barnard Gregory (1796-1852), editor of the Satirist, whose title was successfully disputed by Thompson’s relations, the McCullochs. Frognal Priory, ‘very far in ruin’ in 1869, and let to John Culverhouse in 1871, was demolished in 1876. Another Gothic house called Frognal Priory, designed by Richard Norman Shaw for Edwin Tate was built in 1881-2. The break-up of Thompson’s Priory estate opened up the area south of Frognal Lane to development. Frognal Priory was replaced in 1937 by Frognal Close, six large semi-detached houses but in a modern style by E. L. Freud, Sigmund’s son.
Frognal Gardens Alexander Gray bought the Old Mansion on the east side of old Frognal c. 1889, laid out an L-shaped road, Frognal Gardens, through the grounds, and commissioned James Neale, a former pupil of Street. He added a wing to the old house, and designed no. 100 Frognal and five houses in Frognal Gardens, built by the local firm Allison & Foskett from 1890 to 1896. They included no. 18 (Frognal End), built in 1892 for the novelist and antiquary Sir Walter Besant (1836-1901). Two houses were added in the rear in 1907.
Frognal Park John Metcalf, who bought no. 23 in 1804, acquired some 27 acres of demesne land, on which by 1806 he built a ‘new white house’, later called Frognal Park, set well back from Frognal Lane, north-west of the other houses. Frognal Park, in parkland and possibly the largest of the Frognal houses, passed in 1809 to Joseph Blunt, a solicitor, and between 1826 and 1831 to John F. Menet, whose widow Louisa subleased the estate in 1849 to Henry Hucks Gibbs, a merchant. Frognal Park was leased from 1856 to after 1896 to James Anderson, a shipowner, who by 1861 had rebuilt it after a fire.
Manor Cottage Between 1810 and 1814 a timber cottage, later called Manor Cottage, was built on the south side of Frognal Lane, east of Manor Lodge. It was mostly occupied by undertenants of the demesne farm, including a newsman of Tottenham Court Road in 1817, a New Bond Street hatter in 1851 and the manorial bailiff in 1872-3. In 1815 Manor Lodge was occupied by John Thompson (d. 1843), a retired auctioneer, called Memory Thompson for his phenomenal knowledge of London. In 1817 he relinquished the house and about 4 acres of the 8 acres of demesne leased to him, which were leased, together with the demesne farmland, to William Baker in 1819 and Robert Stone, a Marylebone stablekeeper, in 1834. The house was sublet and from 1843 to 1871 was occupied by George Chater, a wholesale stationer, who obtained a direct lease in 1848 and extended the house in 1849.
Manor Lodge Damed Peggy Ashcroft, the actress, had in 1987 lived at Manor Lodge in Frognal Lane from the 1950s.
Montagu Grove was enlarged in the 1860s by the architect G. E. Street, whose family had acquired it through marriage.
Oak Hill Park Estate A builder, Thomas Clowser built 10 houses in the 1870s in what he called Oak Hill Park estate after the new road running from Frognal to Oak Hill House and Lodge. Florence Nightingale was a frequent visitor to Oak Hill Park, where Manley Hopkins, an authority on maritime law, lived in the 1850s with his family, including Gerard, the future poet.
Oak Hill Lodge/House Thomas Neave sold Branch Hill Lodge and built two houses to the west on former demesne land, Oak Hill Lodge, where he was living by 1840, and Oak Hill House. George Smith (1824- 1901), founder of the Dictionary of National Biography, lived from 1863 to 1872 in Oak Hill Lodge, where he entertained leading writers and artists.
Priory Lodge Between 1819 and 1844 John Hodgson considerably enlarged Priory Lodge with a baywindowed extension.
Sandfield Lodge Thomas Neave moved to his family seat at Dagnam Park, Romford, taking his glass collection with him, and the Frognal estate passed to his third son Sheffield Neave, a director of the Bank of England, possibly as part of Sheffield’s marriage settlement in 1851. By 1850, Sheffield was associated with a local builder, Thomas Clowser, in building two houses in Branch Hill field, Sandfield Lodge and another large house on the borders of the Neave estate, near the Grange, which existed by 1870.
The Grange A cottage called the Salt Box was built on demesne land on the edge of the heath north of Branch Hill Lodge between 1789 and 1808 and was replaced by a house called the Grange probably by 1834. The actor/manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852-1917) later lived at the Grange which he left in 1891 because of the difficulties of travel to ‘such a remote country spot’.
University College School In 1906-7 Arnold Mitchell designed University College school, ‘an impressive group of Edwardian baroque buildings’ just south of Priory Lodge.
2-16 At the Finchley Road end of Frognal nos. 2-16, ‘huge but coarse Queen Anne pairs’ were built in 1889-91 and most of the 25 houses and four blocks of flats built in Frognal between 1891 and 1896 were by E. H. & H. T. Cave.
10 Hugh Gaitskell (1906-63) lived at no. 10 Frognal in the 1940s and as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1950.
18 Frognal End was built in 1892 for the novelist and antiquary Sir Walter Besant (1836-1901). Two houses were added in the rear in 1907.
19-21 A single house covering two addresses was built in the grounds of Frognal Manor House. Thomas Pool occupied the western house and at great expense had completed it by 1800 when he sold it to George Stacey, a Holborn chemist, who then obtained a direct lease from the lord. William Carr, a solicitor to the Excise, replaced George Stacey at nos. 19 and 21 Frognal Lane in 1807, obtained a direct lease in 1812, and lived there until 1829 or later. Carr, with his large and sociable family, entertained Joanna Baillie and Maria Edgeworth. The latter often stayed with the family several times between 1819 and 1822, in a ‘delightful airy bedchamber’ with a bow window. From 1833 to 1841 the house was occupied by James Gordon Murdoch. In 1841 the house, with 6 acres of grounds, was leased to William James Ferguson, who assigned the lease in 1845 to Robert Prance (d. 1869), a stockbroker and magistrate. By the 1890s, 19-21 Frognal was called Maryon Hall, was the home of Reginald Prance, a stockbroker, from 1871 until 1894, when he moved to the Ferns. In 1896 Francis Tasker of Bedford Row converted Maryon Hall into two dwellings, with separate doorways.
20 Sir Bernard Spilsbury (1877-1947), the pathologist, died here.
Frognal Manor House In 1674 the manor house was leased to a Londoner, Benoni Honywood, who occupied it for only six weeks a year, subletting the land and part of the house. From 1757 and probably earlier the manor house was divided and although one half was used as a farmhouse, the other may always have been a dwelling house detached from the farmland. By 1774 the eastern part, leased to John Foster, had been made by him into two distinct houses, each with its own stabling. Foster lived in one until 1783, when the two were converted into a single house, occupied from 1785 until 1803 by the Revd. Charles Grant (d. 1811), the curate, and, after the manorial court met there in 1802, was called the Manor House. In 1785 the western part of the very dilapidated manor house was leased to Thomas Pool on condition that he carried out considerable repairs. Pool probably began work on the eastern end, apparently preserving the carcase of the old building; he borrowed £300 from the lord of the manor, which perhaps led to an inscription on a datestone, ‘erected by Sir T. S. Wilson by. 1785’.
23 One of the houses built in the grounds of Frognal Manor House by 1797. It was occupied from 1798 by John Ogilvie, an army agent who spent heavily on completing the building, which he leased directly from 1801 until his bankruptcy in 1804. John Metcalf subleased no. 23 in 1805 to Jeremy Bentham’s brother Sir Samuel (1757-1831), naval architect and engineer, who had superintended shipbuilding in Russia, where he had been made a general. He obtained a direct lease in 1813 but left England again in 1814; the house was empty in 1820. In the mid 1820s it was occupied by John Innos and during the 1830s by Miss Anne Hetherington. It was leased to Henry B. Fearon, a wine merchant and one of the founders of London University, in 1841 and occupied throughout the 1850s and most of the 1860s by his widow. The Ferns, was leased from 1868 to William Dunlop Anderson, a colonial broker, who made alterations in 1883 and whose widow obtained the freehold in 1889.
37 Dennis Brain (1921-57), the horn player, lived here.
39 Tile-hung in the style of a Surrey Weald cottage with a studio across the top, designed in 1885 by Norman Shaw for Kate Greenaway (1846-1901), the illustrator, who died there.
40 After living at 19 Frognal, Thomas Pool moved to ‘another messuage opposite’ on which he spent money between 1798 and 1800 and which was later called Manor Lodge after the manorial courts held there. In 1810 Pool was leased the house with its surrounding 5 acres and outbuildings on the southern side of Frognal Lane, formerly occupied by farm buildings only.
42 Basil Champneys (1842-1935) built himself a house on the site of farm buildings on the Priory estate in 1881. A red-brick four-square house, ‘very snug and solid’, it was called Manor Farm and, from 1894, Hall Oak and was occupied by the architect until his death.
49 In 1895 the architect Sir Reginald Blomfield (1856-1942) built no. 49, occupied by William Morris’s typographer, Thomas Cobden Sanderson (1840-1922), south of the junction with Frognal Lane.
51 In 1895 Sir Reginald Blomfield built no. 51 Frognal for himself.
59 On the northern side of Frognal Lane the Manor House was occupied from 1804 to 1817 by Thomas Norton Longman (1771-1842), the publisher. The house changed hands several times until it was occupied 1834-41 by Robert M. Kerrison, a doctor and 1842-81 by Matthew Thomas Husband, a leather merchant from Regent’s Park, who rebuilt it probably soon after he took the lease. The Manor House, the easternmost of the demesne houses in Frognal Lane, was demolished in 1938 and three houses (nos. 59, 61, and 63 Frognal) were built by D. E. Harrington.
61 The architect D. E. Harrington built this house for himself as part of the 59-63 Frognal development he built.
63 The Manor House, the easternmost of the demesne houses in Frognal Lane, was demolished in 1938 and three houses (nos. 59, 61, and 63 Frognal) were built by D. E. Harrington.
65 Completing the frontage of 59-63 Frognal, No. 65 was built by its owner, Miss W. B. Acworth, in 1934.
66 North of Frognal Way, was designed by Connell, Ward & Lucas and built in 1937 of reinforced concrete ‘in the extreme idiom of the day’ as an attempt to ‘épater les bourgeois’. Unlike most of the new houses, which were ‘charming’, it was considered out of character with the district’s brick and Georgian architecture.
69 Anton Walbrook, the actor, died here in 1967.
79 George Hornblower built nos. 79-87 Frognal (the Oaks), including an Italianate watch tower for no. 79, for E. P. Musman in 1902.
94 The Old Mansion. A house, on the east side of Frognal was leased by a London draper, Charles Purrett, to Robert James in 1616. It was occupied by John Towse (d. 1645) and by a London goldsmith Richard Hodilow (d. 1698). It was rebuilt c. 1700 as a nine-bayed brick house.
96-98 Frognal Hall was occupied c. 1878-c. 1890 by Julius Talbot Airey but by c. 1903 it housed a school. Priory Lodge and Frognal Hall, threatened in 1899, finally succumbed in the 1920s. They were replaced by nos. 96-98 Frognal and nos. 3-9 Frognal Gardens, by E. B. Musman, in 1923 and by Frognal Way, which has been described as the ‘showpiece of interwar Hampstead housing’ and also as exhibiting styles ranging from neo-Georgian to Hollywood Spanish-Colonial and South African Dutch. The first house was built there in 1924 and at least five others were added from 1928 to 1935, including no. 7 by Oswald Milne, no. 13 by C. H. B. Quennell, no. 11 in 1925 by Albert Farmer, no. 5 in 1930 by Adrian Gilbert Scott for himself, no. 4 in 1934, no. 20 in 1934 for Gracie Fields, the singer, and no. 9, the Sun House, by Maxwell Fry in 1935. The last, Fry’s first London building was one of the most important embodiments of the modern, international movement of the 1930s in Hampstead. Houses were also built on the east side of Frognal, between University College school and Frognal Way, in 1934.
97 Frognal House was in a dangerous state in 1896 but repaired, and Frognal Mansions flats were built by Palgrave & Co. next to it together with an astronomical observatory in 1897. The central area of Frognal lacking large council estates, has undergone less change than some other parts of Hampstead. It continued to attract those involved in the arts, like Kathleen Ferrier (1912-53), the contral to, at Frognal Mansions, no. 97 Frognal, from 1942.
99 Frognal House. The 15th-century tenement was probably the ‘house called Frognal’, which lay on the west side of the road, on the site later occupied by Frognal House. There were two houses or cottages there by the beginning of the 18th century, held by brothers, John and Thomas Smith. Thomas, a bricklayer, had divided his into two. All the property had passed to John Padmore of St. Giles-in-the-Fields by 1741, when he acquired waste near the house lately built there, presumably Frognal House, no. 99 Frognal. No. 99 housed the Sailors’ Orphan Girls’ Home from 1862 until 1869. General Charles de Gaulle lived from 1942 to 1944 in 99 Frognal.
100 Alexander Gray and James Neale designed no. 100 Frognal and five houses in Frognal Gardens, built by the local firm Allison & Foskett from 1890 to 1896.
102 William Page, historian and general editor of the Victoria County History, lived at Frognal Cottage (now 102 Frognal) from 1906 until 1922.
103 In 1762 the estate, which also included Upper Frognal Lodge and a pair of houses to the south, was held by John Padmore’s nephew John Padmore Perry (d. 1764).
104-106 The architect Henry Flitcroft (1697-1769) built the house variously called Bleak Hall, Judges Bench House, and Branch Hill Lodge. On pieces of waste next to Northwood well, buildings had been erected by a lessee, Henry Popple, between 1731 and 1739. They included a house by 1745, when the property passed to Thomas, later Sir Thomas, Clarke (d. 1764), Master of the Rolls. A pair of cottages (nos. 104 and 106) was evidently built soon afterwards.
105, 107, 109 In 1741 the architect Henry Flitcroft (1697-1769) acquired from Thomas Watson-Wentworth, earl of Malton, a house dating from 1700 or earlier on what was then heath, a coach house and stable and another cottage, and himself obtained further grants of adjoining waste, including the lime walk illustrated by William Collins. (fn. 90) He probably built Frognal (later Montagu) Grove on the site (nos. 105 and 107); no. 109 was formed from the stabling.
108 Adjoining the 17th century Grove Cottage, no. 108 was built slightly later. Tamara Karsavina Diaghilev, the ballerina, lived at no. 108 Frognal in the 1950s.
110 The 17th century Grove Cottage stood behind an early inn, called successively the Three Pigeons, Pilgrim, and Duke of Cumberland’s Head. E. V. Knox (1881-1971), the editor of Punch lived at no. 110 Frognal from 1945.
Based on: T F T Baker, Diane K Bolton and Patricia E C Croot, ‘Hampstead: Introduction’, in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9, Hampstead, Paddington, ed. C R Elrington (London, 1989)