Tag Archives: Eyre Estate

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 2

St John’s Wood and the Eyre Estate

Over the years/decades/centuries, the area that had become known as St. John’s Wood would change hands several times as the Kings and Queens of England would take possession of the land only to have the next owner of the throne gave it away again. In the year 1238 A.D.,  King Henry III gave the land to the Knights Templar, until it was taken back by the crown. In 1323, King Edward II bestowed the land upon the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, which is the origin of the name of St. John’s Wood. In 1539, King Henry VII took it back and St. John’s Wood, which by this time was being clear of trees because of the demand for lumber, remained under control by the crown until the 18th century.

Eventually, in 1732, local, wealthy, wine merchant Henry Samuel Eyre (1676 – 1754) purchased almost 500 acres of St. John’s Wood from the Earl of Chesterfield. Never having had any children of his own, Henry would ultimately name his nephew, Walpole Eyre (1734 – 1773), as heir of the entire estate. Upon his death, Walpole would leave the entire estate to his son, Henry Samuel Eyre, Esq. (1770 – 1851).

Starting in the late 1700s, the Eyre estate would be divided up and leased out in lots ranging from a half acre to over 36 acres. The 20 acre plot of land that would eventually contain 3 Abbey Road, was originally leased to Jonathan Alderton in 1796. In total, he leased 7 plots totaling over 70 acres that ran along the west side of Grove End Road and what would eventually be Abbey Road. The land was considered a “grass farm”, meaning it was either used to grow grain or feed or it was used as grazing pastures for farm animals.

Eyre Estate map w/ 3 of Alderton’s plots
Purple line = Abbey Road
Blue line = Road to Kilburn

By 1805, the lease to the same 7 plots, plus several more, were in the hands of John Hill. According to letters held in the Westminster archives, Walpole took exception in 1806 to how Hill was caring for the fields. Walpole wrote in his letter that one of the fields was now a “soil pit” and is being used to dump “all sorts of London filth & nastiness”. Apparently, Hill had also made a road/path leading to this ‘dump’ and along the road, he built two small cottages, which Walpole claimed were against his lease. This “road” would eventually become Abbey Road.

I’ve tried to create a somewhat accurate map to show the different routes that were used to reach Kilburn Abbey. By the time Abbey Road was created, the Abbey had been destroyed. The purple line on both of the maps below mark where Abbey Road would eventually be created after the other two routes to the Kilburn Abbey.

"This work is based on data provided through www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth".

Map showing alternate routes to Kilburn Abbey in 1700s St. John’s Wood, London

 

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