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The History of Abbey Road Studio – Part 7

John Henry Cordner-James

John Henry Cordner-James

John Henry was born in 1858, eleven years senior to his wife Marie. They were 33 and 22 when they were married on December 10, 1889 and according to the marriage record, they were already living at the same address. Six days later there was an announcement in the Times of London saying that as of December 11, 1889, John Henry James officially changed his name to John Henry Cordner-James. John’s reasons were that he did this to differentiate himself from all the other John Henry James. Marie would also hyphenate their two surnames.

Prior to moving into 3 Abbey Road, John Henry and Marie had six children: John “Denis”, Philip, Norah, Frank, Michael “Desmond”, and Joan Cordner-James. The oldest son, Denis would pass away from tuberculosis in June 1903 at the age of 12 before the family moved into the estate on Abbey Road in 1912. From the 1901 and 1911 London census, and Norah’s biography, we know they kept at least four servants on staff at the former residences.

John Henry Cordner-James was a mining engineer, consultant and expert that traveled the world for business. In the early 1890’s, John and his brother William started their own firm called James Brothers – Consulting and Mining Engineers. At the same time that the brothers were setting up shop together, another up and coming gold mining engineer began working for Bewick, Moreing & Co., a London based company operating mines in Australia. His name was Herbert Hoover and John Coldner-James and he would become friends, and prior to Hoover becoming the 31st president of the United States.

One of the drawbacks of the mining industry, would be the necessary traveling.  Commercial airline travel was still decades away, so they would travel by ship to Australia, South Africa, India and South America. A one-way trip to Sydney, Australia from England would take 54 days, making it seem as if he spent just enough time at home to get his wife pregnant again before leaving on another voyage. According to Norah’s book, John and Marie were very fond of each other.

While preparing to move his family into their 84 year old Abbey Road abode in July 1912, John Henry got into a long exchange of letters with the Trustees to the Eyre Estate and their lawyers over the cost of repairs and his annual lease terms. He had already paid £300 to buy out the existing lease from the Todd estate and requested that if he forfeit that lease, that he be given a new 21 year lease at the rate of £5 per year (£566 in 2019) for the first seven years and £110 for the remainder (£12,460 in 2019). His request was due to the “dilapidation” of the premises. The house at this time was in need of repairs and upgrades such as changing the gas lights to electrical lighting, changing the pull bells to electric bells, new floors, a lift from the basement to first floor, a new bath and drains. Cordner-James was also one of the first people to own a car in England, so he wished to build a garage. All in all, it would cost him over £700 (approximately £79,292 in 2019). By August, the Trustees were suggesting a 14 year lease with £50 for the first seven years and £180 for the remaining. John Henry called in the services of New & Sons – Architects & Surveyors to look over the property and give their assessment. In a letter the lawyers of the Trustees, they wrote:

We do not think this house will ever let at the rental you mention, it has good reception rooms, but very poor Hall and the approach to the Drawing Room speaks for itself as a makeshift, the Bedroom accommodation is small in number of rooms, with cramped Staircase and passages – we think anyone willing to pay £250 for a house in St. John’s Wood would require a much better planned house than the one in question.”

The letters would continue to be exchanged, sometimes daily, through September, but there is no record of how it was resolved, but the Cordner-James family would only stay 10 years. And this would not be the last conflict that John Henry would have concerning the trustees and the house.

In 1914, the Ladies Workers’ Homes, Limited bought the property 1 Abbey Road “as part of a scheme for providing women workers with small flats. They proposed to build a seven story building with 120 bedrooms and 26 individual flats (apartments) that would tower over the south side of 3 Abbey Road. Obviously, this wasn’t to the liking of John Henry and there was a contract drawn up in 1915 that would limit the height and placement of the new building and also call for glazing on all windows facing the Cordner-James property.

In 1916, advertisements were published saying rooms were now available for let – One of these unusually well-planned FLATS consisting of five rooms, kitchen and usual conveniences, now available. Handsomely furnished. Constant Hot Water and Electric Light throughout. Inclusive rent Four Guineas Weekly. Today, a two bedroom flat in Abbey House costs £675,000 ($814,769).

By 1919, the London Building Company plan update the wall between 1 and 3 Abbey Road with a new 10’ party wall. Again, weeks would pass with multiple letters being exchanged between John Henry, the Trustees to the Eyre Estate, surveyors and lawyers over the height, placement and lighting of the wall. The wall is still standing today, but not without becoming an issue with some of later owners of 1 and 3 Abbey Road.

Norah C. JamesNorah Margaret Ruth Cordner-James was born in September 1895 in Hampstead, Middlesex, England. She would grow up to be a writer. Her first book, Sleeveless Errand, would be deemed indecent and banned, throwing her and her writing into the public eye. In 1939 Norah wrote her autobiography which gives a glimpse into the inner workings of the Cordner-James family up until she moved out on her own in 1924. She talks about the tension in the house, her father being very strict and her mother being very sweet and loving. John Henry’s temper was blamed for the trouble in keeping maids and governesses on staff. Multiple ads were placed in the local newspapers over the years to hire new maids. Norah also talks quite a bit about a cane that was kept in the nursery that their father would use to give them lashings when were bad.

 

 

By the summer of 1922, the Cordner-James family moved out of 3 Abbey Road and into 41 Park Road, Hampton Hill. At some point, John Henry had an affair with a woman by the name of Edith Emily Osman that produced a daughter in 1924. But despite the rumors that he abandoned his family, in 1934, John Henry and his family moved into a home he had custom built in Aldeburgh called Pinehurst and all phone and voting records show Marie still living with him up until his death at Pinehurst in 1946.

In his will, John Henry Cordner-James left his estate valued at £14,414 in 1946 (£598,673 in 2019) to his mistress Edith Emily Osman, his nephew Alec James and solicitor Kenneth Leslie Titmuss.

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The History of Abbey Road Studios – Part 6

William Todd, Esq. (the younger)

The 4th owner of 3 Abbey Road was William Todd and his wife Caroline (nee Grange). They were the parents to twelve children. At the time of their arrival at their new home on Abbey Road in 1889, William, a retired architect, and Caroline were 65 and 60 years old (respectively) and at least six of their children were still living at home. In 1890, one of their daughters, Constance Honor Todd, married Charles Percy Wilcox, leaving grown siblings Stephen (29) – a wine merchant, Emily (28), Reginald (22) – an electrical engineer, and Harry (19), all living at home. According to the 1891 census, also living in the house were a 49 year old niece and 4 year old granddaughter, along with five servants…13 in all!

1891 Census – 3 Abbey Road

William Todd was the son of William Todd. They didn’t use the term ‘Jr.’ in England in those days. Instead, they were referred to as William Todd the younger, and William Todd the elder. Both of them were architects/builders in St. John’s Wood and it’s believed that the elder Todd was a cousin of Robert Todd, the builder who was besties with Walpole Eyre and the brother in law to Martha Charman, the woman that originally built 3 Abbey Road. Despite Robert Todd’s mention of a nephew named William Todd in his will, there is no evidence that he was the same William Todd (elder or younger) who purchased 3 Abbey Road in 1889. Robert only mentions in his will that in 1836 a building that he owns is being rented to his cousin William Todd. At that time, there were at least three other men named William Todd living in the Middlesex/Marylebone/St. John’s Wood area. Both William Todd the elder and the young were builders and acquired many houses of their own in the St. John’s Wood area, so it’s doubtful that they would have needed to rent a house from their “uncle” Robert Todd.

Unlike Robert Todd and his great relationship with Walpole Eyre, it’s said that William Todd the elder did not get along with the heir to the Eyre estate. A lot of the records and letters concerning anything going in relationship to the estate, especially real estate transactions, have been preserved at the Westminster archives, including some very harsh letters that were exchanged between Walpole Eyre and William Todd the elder. By 1865, William Todd the elder started transferring his leasehold properties to his son.

The Standard – April 27, 1899

William Todd the younger passed away at 3 Abbey Road on February 19, 1899 from pneumonia that he developed after a bout with the flu. At the time, his estate was worth £23,817. In today’s market (2019) that translates to approximately £3,035,103 or $3,699,183. He named his wife Caroline Todd and his son Stephen Turner Todd, who was 38, single and still living at home, as co-executers of his will. Also still living at home was Caroline and William’s unmarried daughter Emily Lucy Todd, age 35. Stephen and Emily remained in the house for a couple more years after their mother’s death on December 17, 1911.

According to Brian Southall’s book, Abbey Road, Stephen Todd turned over 3 Abbey Road to his cousin Olive Westbrook Todd (daughter of Harold Cameron Todd) to manage as a rental property. This probably never happened since in 1916 when Olive was just 15 years old (4 years after Caroline Todd’s death), her parents moved the family to Quebec, Canada. Olive eventually became a buyer for the T. Easton department store chain in Canada and did return to England several times on business before eventually becoming a fashion designer herself and opening her own store in London in the 1920s.

On March 14, 1912, the contents of 3 Abbey Road was auctioned off at 12 pm.

The Times of London – March 2, 1912

 

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The History of Abbey Road Studios – Part 5

Joseph Hornsby Wright

Joseph Hornsby Wright, Esq. was born January 7, 1817 in the County of Kent, the first born of nine children to Elizabeth (nee Bacon) and Augustus Wright (a clerk in the Royal Arsenal). He is an alumni of the Merchants Taylor’s School (a private day school for boys ages 11-18), but by the age of 15, Joseph had signed an Article of Clerkship with Alexander Mitchell, Esq. of Westminster on May 18, 1832 for a period of 5 years. In 1840, his mother would pass away and the 1841 census shows Joseph, age 24, still living with his father and several siblings.

Ten years later, the 1851 Electoral Register shows Joseph Hornsby Wright residing at 2 Abbey Road (it wouldn’t officially become 3 Abbey Road until 1872). When he married Ann Oakes, the only daughter of the late Ann and the late Major Lawrence Oakes of the 89th regiment, on August 11, 1853, Joseph had already set up household. While living there over the next five years, they would have three children: Robert Augustus Arthur (1855), Arthur Hornsby (1856) and Edith Ann (1858). According to the 1861 census, there were six servants living in a house with the five family members – a housemaid, two under-housemaids, a nurse, a cook and a footman.

Joseph Hornsby Wright was more than a lawyer during his time living on Abbey Road. By 1871, with only his 12 year old daughter still lived at home and he had retired… “No profession – deriving income from land and government securities” according to that year’s census. That same year, he began writing books: Confessions of an Almsgiver (1871), Investigation in some of its Features (1872), Thoughts and Experiences of a Charity Organisationist (1878), Beggars and Imposters (1883) and Charity Organizations (1883). As one can tell by the titles of his books, Wright was a true believer in charitable giving, spending 15 years as an Honorary Secretary to the St. Marylebone Charity Organization Committee and he even joined an Emergency Committee to discuss the crisis in Ireland between landlords and tenants. Some of the organizations Joseph and Ann would donate to were: The Church of England Scripture Reader’s Association, North London College Hospital, London Society for Teaching the Blind, and The New Metropolitan Convalescent Asylum.

Unfortunately, the Wright’s second son, Arthur Hornsby, died of phthosis (tuberculosis) on December 14, 1872. He passed away 60 miles from home at 20 Holland Road in the sea town of Hove, Sussex County.  It’s not known if he was a student at Hove or for his consumption diagnosis.

10 years later in 1882, things would get shaken up a bit more at 3 Abbey Road in a very strange turn of events that would shocked London and make headlines for months to come.

1881 London Census – 3 Abbey Road

On Monday, December 11, 1882, two men attempted to deliver a package addressed to a Mrs. Green at 3 Abbey Road, St. John’s Wood. At that time, the Wright family had a 56 year old cook/domestic servant by the name of Mary Green living and working in the house. For reasons unknown, the two men were unsuccessful in delivering the box and returned it back to the shipping warehouse. The package was a wooden starch box that measured about 24” x 18” x 18”. The carrier, Carter, Paterson & Co. made an effort to return the box to the sender, but that proved to also be unsuccessful, so they returned it to the carrier’s central office in London where it remained for the next 5 weeks. That is until a really foul odor started emanating from the package.

On January 17, 1883, the manager ordered the box to be open. Inside were found the remains of a young girl. The coroner determined that the emaciated and seriously decomposed body was that of a 13-14 year old girl. The girl, though well taken care of was emaciated and had traces of morphine in her system. The coroner and doctors who examined her were unable to determine whether she had starved to death, been killed by ingesting morphine or a combination of both. The body resembled that of two missing teenage girls from West Ham that had vanished separately a year and 2 years earlier. Both of their parents were called in to examine the body, but both said it was not their daughter.

During an inquiry on February 13, 1883, into the cause of death of the little girl in the box, Mary Green, the Wright’s servant, was questioned and said, “I am an unmarried woman, and live at 3, Abbey-road, St. John’s-wood. I have lived there four years. I have heard of a box being found with a body in it, but I know nothing of it. I have never had a child, and know no one of my name in Abbey-road who has had one. I know no circumstances that would cause anyone to send the child to me.”

A year later in 1884, the body of another fair skinned, young girl of about 10 also with auburn hair was discovered this time wrapped and tied in towels in the garden of a house in Paddington. This young girl too had been starved for several days before her death and both their bodies had been tied up. None of the cases were ever solved.

Joseph Hornsby Wright died at 3 Abbey Road in 1885. His widow Ann and his daughter Edith Ann continued to live in the house until about 1889 when they moved to 20 Phillmore Gardens where Ann would live out her years until her death in 1892. Joseph and Ann’s son Arthur Hornsby Wright had died in 1872 at the age of 16. Their oldest son Robert Augustus Arthur Todd had left home to study law around 1879.

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The History of Abbey Road Studios: Part 4

Richard Cook, R.A. and 2 Abbey Road

The first recorded owner after Martha Chapman is the artist Richard Cook, R.A..  Richard Cook was born December 10, 1784 in London to Jonathan and Phillis Cook. In 1800, he entered the Royal Academy of art and in 1808 started showing his work. Richard became an Associate member of the Academy in 1817 and received his full honors of Royal Academian (R.A.) on February 9, 1822. Six months later, he married Sarah Elizabeth Waddilove and set out on a long honeymoon “on the continent”.

Richard Cook | Artist | Royal Academy of ArtsSarah Waddilove came from a well to do family. Her father John, who died in 1801, was a lawyer. Her and her four brothers inherited £40,000 each after John’s death. Upon her mother’s death in 1821, one year before Sarah married Richard, Sarah inherited another handsome sum from the dower of her mother. It’s been concluded that after Richard Cook married into a wealthy family, he no longer had any interest or need to paint. He never produced another painting for the Academy which angered some of the other members and had them publicly questioning Richard’s position as a member and judge. Some even said he was elected a member because he gave expensive dinner parties!

According to the book Abbey Road by Southall, Vince and Rouse, Richard Cook purchased the future Abbey Road Studios in 1833. He is listed in the 1833 London Blue Book as living at 2 Abbey Road (the house would be changed to 3 Abbey Road in 1872). In the 1841 and 1851 censuses, Robert and Sarah lived at Abbey Road with three servants: a footman, housemaid and cook.

There are sources that say Richard loved to throw large extravagant parties for all his art friends. But one story involves one of his brother-in-laws and the law. According to an item that appeared in The Times of London, Richard Cook was dining with his brother-in-law, Alfred Waddilove, at Richard’s home at 2 Abbey Road on Sunday, March 31, 1839. Alfred was the youngest of 8 siblings. They may have been celebrating Alfred’s impending Master’s Degree in law from Trinity University that he would receive on May 2nd, or possibly they were celebrating his upcoming nuptials to Mary Elizabeth Codd in August, but whatever the two men might have been drinking to that night, it spill out into the street.

The article says that thirty minutes after leaving the Cook residence on a “powerful horse” moving at 10 mph, Alfred’s horse came into contact with a gig. The two wheeled horse cart, moving at the rate of 2 mph, was being driven by William Partridge and his wife Hannah, both 38 years of age. Unfortunately, the collision caused the gig to tip over, spilling the Partridges onto the sidewalk. Alfred Waddilove not only got thrown from him horse, but the horse fell on Hannah Partridge causing her to be bedridden for the foreseeable future.

When the constable showed up, he quickly determined that Alfred Waddilove was intoxicated. Probably because when someone offered Mrs. Partridge a glass of water, Alfred exclaimed, “Don’t give her water, give her gin!” Alfred was taken to the police station and fined for drunkenness. Richard Cook, when questioned by officials, said Mr. Waddilove was sober when he left his house. The judge sided with the Partridges, but determined that the two parties should settle the matter amongst themselves. Alfred Waddilove paid them £10 to settle the matter.

There is no mention of Sarah Elizabeth Cook after she married Richard. Her brothers on the other hand turn up quite often in court cases involving various real estate deals that are in default. When reading about their antics, you really get the impression of spoiled rich boys running amuck with no sense of responsibility. Richard would be mentioned occasionally in the London newspapers when there was news of new art installations, shows, etc. at the Academy.

And Richard was listed in the 1850 London Directory as still living at 2 Abbey Road. We know that Richard and Sarah remained at 2 Abbey Road up until at least 1851 according to that year’s census.

Sarah passed away on November 23, 1855 while they were residing at No. 11 Great Cumberland-Place, Hyde Park according to the newspapers. And Richard would pass away at the same location on March 11, 1857.

 

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The History of Abbey Road Studios: Part 3

Martha Charman

The honor of being the person responsible for the building of the house that we know today as Abbey Road Studios goes to a woman! Martha Charman, a spinster, signed an agreement on September 24, 1822 to have a 4 story home built (that includes the basement and attic) on Abbey Road one week before her 43rd birthday.

Martha Charman was born on Sunday, October 1, 1775 to Peter and Elizabeth (nee Buckland) Charman in Westminster, London. She was the second oldest of six surviving children born around the time Great Britain was trying to tame the rebel colonists into submission in the new world. Her father, Peter Charman, and her older brother, also named Peter, were both jewelers in Aldgate and Piccadilly.

Martha never married, so all official records of her after the age of 18 refer to her as “Martha Charman, spinster”. Elizabeth, Martha’s younger sister, married Robert Todd, the most well-known and accomplished builder on the Eyre Estate and a best friend of Walpole Eyre. This would benefit Martha well when it came time to build the future Abbey Road Studios.

Martha’s early years are a blur, but what we do know is that after her father’s passing, she is listed as a ‘dealer in toys’ at 32 Aldgate, not far from where her father’s jewelry shop had been. We can’t be sure if her working came about because of father’s death in November 1812 since he left his entire estate, including several properties around Aldgate, to his wife Elizabeth. And, up until 1811, the toy store had been listed as being in the hands of George Shuter, toyman, on an insurance policy. In 1813, it’s insured under Martha Charman.

From 1815-1820, Martha Charman is listed as a resident at 20 Aldgate Street, another property owned by Shuter, on the tax records, but George died in 1815, so the property was probably now being managed by his widow Rebecca. Martha continued to rent the house when in February 1816, Martha and her two sisters inherited £3000 to be split between them from their Uncle Henry Reddington. Henry was their mother’s half-brother. In 2019 numbers, £3000 is worth £290,022.94, which is worth $359,909.77.

On September 22, 1822, an agreement was signed between William Hall, builder, and “Martha Charman of Grove Street in said parish of Saint Marylebone”. The address of Grove Street (which no longer exists) was an area of terraced houses at the southern tip of the Eyre Estate developed by Walpole Eyre in the early 1800s. Terraced houses in London are what Americans refer to as row homes.

There are no records as to when Martha Charman moved into Grove Street. Making the mystery even more interesting is that she is mentioned as letting a piece of land on Grove End Road on the north side of land that Robert Todd is purchasing from William Hall in a lease agreement dated April 3, 1823. So we know she was not only building homes, she was leasing multiple properties on the Eyre Estate.

Returning to the Abbey Road agreement:

“The said William Hall agrees to sell and the said Martha Charman agrees to purchase at the sum of four hundred and ninety five pounds the peppercorn lease of all that piece or parcel of ground situate and being on the south west side of a certain newly made road…”

The September 1822 agreement goes on to say that Mr. Hall will build a four story house about 36 feet square by Michaelmas (September 29) 1823 on the walled half acre property. The four story home will include an attic and basement which would be used as servants’ quarters, offices and outbuildings.

Though the agreement said the home would be built by 1823, there is no record of it being built until May 15, 1828. The lease drawing of the home and land show that two narrow, but long parcels of land were purchased and one building was put in the middle of the 92’ x 250’ property.

  • Top floor/attic contained two bedrooms for servants.
  • Second floor had seven bedrooms, the largest being 24’x16’, and a water closet/powder room.
  • Half-landing between the first and second floors there was a bathroom.
  • First floor included the dining room with a service lift to the basement, drawing room, library, morning room, study and water closet.
  • Half-basement had two servants bedrooms, the kitchen, laundry/washroom, servants dining hall, pantry and another water closet.

There is also no record of whether or not Martha Charman ever really lived at her new home on Abbey Road. As said earlier, she owned another parcel of land a small walk down Grove End Road, and in 1833, upon the death of her mother, Elizabeth, she inherited the house that she and her mother were living in at No. 4 Grove Road. At the time it was customary for women to will land to their daughters since laws always favored husbands and fathers when it came to land ownership. Martha continued this tradition in her own will when she left one of her mother’s other homes on “the north west side of Hall Place” to her niece Mary Charman. She left her home on what was now called No. 4 Grove End Road to her nephew Harry Charman. By the time of her death, the Abbey Road house will have changed hands two more times.

In an interesting side story about Martha’s father that will make sense later on in the story of 3 Abbey Road – he appeared in a book published in 1815 titled, “Memoirs and Confessions of Captain Ashe”. In an attempt to get promoted from the rank of Ensign to Captain, Thomas Ashe would try to by the favor. Ashe’s friend, Broome, “took me to a jeweller’s in Saint Jame’s Street, Mr. Peter Charman, now residing in Piccadilly, corner of Albermarle Street…” Broome lets Mr. Charman know that he has noticed Mary Anne Clark frequenting his shop and asks if there is any particular piece of jewelry that she favors. When it is decided that it is a £300 diamond necklace, Broome instructs Charman to gift the necklace to her and charge it to Thomas Ashe. And ask Miss Clark “…if she will undertake to promote our friend Ashe from his ensigncy in the Fencibles, to a company in a regular regiment of foot…” She apparently had the ear and the heart of the Duke and he “made a merit of doing the most outrageous things at her suggestion.” Needless to say, after the whole monstrosity played out, Mary Anne Clark was one diamond necklace richer and Thomas Ashe was £300 poorer. Peter Charman didn’t fare well either because he had lost $170 in credit he had given Ashe based on his supposed promotion in the Army. This theme of buying favors will play out again at 3 Abbey Road in the early 1900s.

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The History of Abbey Road Studios: Part 1

Now that I had the opportunity with last week’s post to do a lead in to what I’ve been researching for a couple years, I’ll start at the very beginning of the story behind 3 Abbey Road or as we now know it…Abbey Road Studios.

In order to understand the history of Abbey Road Studios, we need to start at the beginning with the actual Abbey Road. Obviously, one can assume by the name that it has something to do with an Abbey somewhere along the road. But, when you look at a map, there is no Abbey along the one mile stretch of Abbey Road in Middlesex. There are churches and synagogues, but no Abbeys.

The abbey that is referenced in Abbey Road was Kilburn Abbey which would have been located somewhere in close proximity to the northern end of Abbey Road. No one is quite sure of its exact location, but it was approximately 3 miles north of St. Peter’s Church (the future Westminster Abbey) and about 1.3 miles northwest of what was to become Abbey Road Studios. What we do know is that it was originally a hermitage that was built by a man named Godwyn who decided he need to get away from London during the reign of King Henry I (1100-1135). At the time, the area (that would later be called St. John’s Wood) was mostly wooded and very popular among the royals for hunting.

After many years, around 1130, Godwyn grew tired of the solitude and gave the hermitage and its land to St. Peter’s Church. There’s no record as to how Godwyn acquired ownership of the property but it’s speculated that it may have been by squatters rights. Herbert, the Abbot of Westminster, decided to give the Kilburn Priory to Emma, Gunilda, Cristina – three virginal Ladies in Waiting to the late Queen Matilda. Herbert put Godwyn the Hermit in charge of them. Not a bad gig for a hermit, eh?

That is the simple explanation of how Abbey Road got its name, and it would be nice if it were that simple. But Abbey Road isn’t the original footpath that led to Kilburn Abbey. According to a 1799 map of St. Marylebone, the original path led north along what was to become the west side of Regents Park and then turned northwest at what is now the intersection of Grove End Road and Finchley Road. There was another footpath to the Kilburn Abbey that ran north to south along what is now Hamilton Terrace.

I’ll try to create a simple map for next week’s post about the history of 3 Abbey Road…

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