The History of Wandsworth Common

Added 23.3.2020


16 Bellevue Rd

aka "Athol House"

(Click on image to enlarge)

JP (2017, e.2020):

From 1900 to 1925 this house, with iron railings in front, was occupied by the photography firm Dorrett & Martin (the partners were Harry Dorrett and Paul Martin).

"On April 1st, 1899 Dorrett and Martin entered into a partnership and bought the premises of Fred Kingsbury, who had a photographic business at 16, Belle Vue Road, Upper Tooting, and for a short period also at 60, The Strand, in London...
Among their multifarious photographic activities they included studio portraits, developing and printing for amateurs, photographic jewellery, such as lockets, and photo-badges. The photo-button craze had spread from America and became very lucrative for the partners during the 1914-1918 war when badges of generals sold especially well. They also produced unexceptional postcards of the local area for themselves and others. Their own postcards are identifiable by the inclusion of either 'Dorrett and Martin' or 'D&M' on the picture side of the cards."

[Croydon Camera Club: "Biography of H.G. Dorrett"]

[PB: I have yet to find anything on Fred Kingsbury, but I haven't looked very hard.]

A sign saying "PHOTOGRAPHER" can be seen above the door in a number of photographs and postcards of Bellevue.

D&M are responsible for many of the old photographs now held in the Wandsworth Heritage Service archives, - their names or initials D & M can be seen in the bottom corner of some.

No. 16 then became the Rendezvous Restaurant until about 1950, after which it was briefly a dancing school and then a guest house. It is now a private house.

[PB: Notice the date in a ?tablet ?cartouche [if that's what it's called] at the top of the house - 1887.]

16 Bellevue, 1887

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Photograph of the lake by Dorrett and Martin. Notice the Hope end of Bellevue in the distance. Unknown date.

[What is the building with the inverted V roof top left?]

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Helen Thomas, wife of poet Edward Thomas, and their son Merfyn, photographed in D&M's "Athol Studios" - Merfyn was born in 1900, so presumably late 1900/early 1901 [check dates].

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No. 16 when it was the photographers Dorrett and Martin.

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Panel from Jennifer Penny's original U3A presentation in 2017.

Notice the very useful listing from Kelly's Directory, 1933 (left).

A panel from Jennifer Penny's original U3A presentation in 2017.

(Click on image to enlarge)

16 and 17 Bellevue Rd

(Google 2019)

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Hello, Dave

You enquiry was passed on to me.

Your ancestor's house is one my favourites - I've collected some info about it (and other houses in the area)

There's a summary here:

Leonard Bottoms is mentioned, for example, in vol.50 of the Survey of London, which I quote.

Do you have anything you can add? If so, I would love to see it.

Do you live locally? Have you ever visited?

All best

Philip Boys

PS You are also likely to receive information direct from Keith Bailey, who knows an immense amount about builders in the Battersea area.


Date: 19 March 2021 at 12:39:45 GMT


Subject: 16, Bellevue Road


Dear Sir/ Madam

Am doing a little bit of family history research on my own family. My great grandad Leonard Bottoms (1842 - 1902) was a builder in the Wandsworth area in the late 19th century and apparently built a rather nice looking house at 1 BELLEVUE RDD. I wondered if you had any pictures of the property from about that time. I believe he ran a building business from that property and it was called Athol House at some point.

Any help gratefully received

Many thanks

Dave Bottoms

From: Keith Bailey _Sent: 24 March 2021 09:25_To: dbottoms@john-lewis.com_Subject: Bottoms Brothers Builders

Dear Dave

Your message to Philip Boys about 16 Bellevue Road has been copied to me for additional comment. I've forwarded his message/attachment on 16 Bellevue to you..

Having studied Victorian building/builders in Battersea for very many years, mostly at a time when its was either impossible or excessively laborious to track them through the Census and other sources, it's good to be able to turn them from statistics into "real" people.

My first sighting of Leonard is in 1861, when he was described as an Excavator, lodging in Chelsea. Basically, a navvy, hence only peripheral to housebuilding. By 1871 he was in Battersea, as a bricklayer, a description also used in 1881 when he was at Basnett Grove with brother Noah, also a bricklayer. Oddly, all of the houses which they are known to have built (from the District Surveyors' Returns) are in north Battersea and all were built between 1877 and 1881 - total 55.

Their partnership was formally dissolved at the end of 1885, after which Leonard proceeded south and built the very distinguished 16 Bellevue. If, as seems likely, an architect was involved, he has not been identified. Likewise, there is no trace of any more houses built by LB in any part of Wandsworth/Battersea that I've got data for, though given the location of his works, he may have been active in Streatham.

By 1897, Leonard had returned to Beds. as a farmer, while in 1901 Noah was a builder & contractor in Luton.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes

Keith Bailey


To: "'Keith Bailey'"

Sent: Wednesday, 24 Mar, 21 At 10:17

Subject: RE: Bottoms Brothers Builders

Dear Keith - this is terrific stuff. I discovered by doing a newspapers archive search that Leonard (and Noah too probably) got into drainage and sewerage contracting in the 1890s while based at Wandsworth/ Battersea/ Tooting (it seems to vary but all the time at 16 Bellevue I think). They tendered for work all over the country Hants/ Cornwall/ etc but came to grief when they won the tender for York and then failed to cope with the excessive mud around the river Ouse - he overspent and then failed to get money back off York Council and unsuccessfully took them to court with further financial losses.

I think this basically bankrupt him which is probably why he left 16 BelleVue and returned to farming in the villages South of Bedford. He was a tenant farmer at Wrest Park which is a big stately home south of Bedford and when he died there was quite a bit of stock to auction off from his farm so think he was probably doing all right for himself again by then. He was also chairman for the parish and a district councillor so had some 'standing' in the community up until his somewhat sudden death in 1902.

Please pass my thanks to your colleagues too.

Every best wish for the future

Dave Bottoms

Hello, Dave

You enquiry was also passed on to me.

Your ancestor's house is one my favourites - I've collected some info about it (and other houses in the area)

There's a summary here:

Leonard Bottoms is mentioned, for example, in vol.50 of the Survey of London, which I quote.

Do you have anything you can add? If so, I would love to see it.

Do you live locally? Have you ever visited?

All best

Philip Boys

PS You are also likely to receive information direct from Keith Bailey, who knows immense amounts about builders in the Battersea area.

Between Bellevue Road and St James's Drive

This was part of a larger, 20-acre wedge of ground between Trinity Road and St James's Drive enclosed between 1848 and 1853 by Henry McKellar, a wealthy local landowner, to add to his extensive Wandsworth Lodge estate adjoining to the west.8 It was claimed at the time that McKellar had agreed to take only a small plot, and had appropriated the rest without authority. Here is J. C. Buckmaster, champion and protector of the common, on the subject:

one gentleman had a three-cornered nuisance of five acres conveniently near to his own house. The court leet gave him permission to enclose it, with the distinct understanding it was never to be built upon. The gentleman thanked the court leet and "stood glasses round"; in a few days the business of ditching and fencing goes on, and somehow it is not only the three-cornered piece which is enclosed, but another piece by the side of it, four times larger than that which was represented as a nuisance.9

There was still nothing but empty fields here in 1863 when McKellar died and this land was sold along with rest of his estate.10 The chunk between Trinity Road and St James's Drive, known as McKellar's Triangle, and two other lots adjoining on the west side of Trinity Road, were acquired by the Liberal-backed National Freehold Land Society and British Land Company to form a new estate. This was intended to attract buyers of small freeholds for house-building (which came with voting rights) from among London's growing mass of respectable working people, tradesmen and lower middle-class professionals.

Very quickly the British Land Company's surveyors began laying out new streets: Althorp, Nottingham and Wiseton Roads within the area covered by this chapter; Brodrick and Wandle Roads just outside. Road frontages were divided into house-plots, which were sold at auction in the summer of 1864.11 Characteristically, these plots were only as big as was required to give the new owners the right to vote - hence the small size of many early houses. However, some buyers seem to have taken multiple plots in order to accommodate larger houses; and as well as the owner-occupiers, small-scale builders took the opportunity to buy up lots in twos, threes and fours, and build short runs of speculative houses.12

Three of the earliest buildings, erected in 1864 - 5, were the Hope Tavern, standing at the apex, opposite the site later taken for the railway station (suggesting that this was already anticipated) - the ideal spot for a pub - and two good-sized double-fronted houses situated some way down the two main roads: White Lodge, at 23 Bellevue Road, and Clifton Villa, now 111 St James's Drive.

The Hope was a three-storey squareish box, with bay windows to its first floor at the front and sides; the single-storey bar extension in front was added subsequently (Ill. 19.2). The two houses were of pale brick, and originally would have shared a similar old-fashioned flat-fronted style; the prominent two-storey bay windows of White Lodge are a later addition, of 1883.13

Around these three cornerstones further development followed quickly.

Between 1866 and c.1871 much of Bellevue Road filled up, mostly with small two-storey houses and shops, as at Nos 4 & 5 and 6 - 11, though there was also a large dairy at No. 14. Later infill of the 1870s and 80s introduced considerable variety, for example: the bulkier three-storey red-brick shops at Nos 12 & 13 (1876); a pair of red-brick houses at Nos 18 & 19 (1884), built in the grounds of an earlier house (Churzee Cottage, of 1866), by its owner; and especially the fine group of house, stables and workshop in rubbed red brick, erected in 1887 at No. 16 by Leonard Bottoms, a local builder, for his own use (Ill. 19.3).14

Like Bellevue Road, the west side of St James's Drive became built up in the late 1860s, but almost entirely with houses, the only commercial properties here being a shop and later a bank at the corner with Nottingham Road.

At first most were smallish semi-detached pairs, such as 1 - 4 Hope Villas (now Nos 133 - 139), built c.1865 - 6 at the north end, beside the pub. Bigger three-storey semis were erected at Nos 115 & 117 in 1869 - 70 for S. & T. Dunkley, to designs by the architect Frederick Sullivan. Also, the two-storey, double-fronted house in the manner of White Lodge and Clifton Villa was popular here, as at Nos 83 (originally Milford Villa), 89 (Graythorne), 97 (Dalton Villa) and 99 (Woodbine Cottage), all of c.1871. These were often of white brick, with simple but attractive cut or moulded brick decorations (Ill. 19.4).

Other examples of this type, more elaborately ornamented, can be found further down St James's Drive, outside the area covered by this

volume. Bigger houses included the three-storey and basement pair at Nos 85 & 87, of 1871, and a detached residence with a prominent central staircase tower, originally called Bentley House (now No. 91), built in 1879 for George Dempster of Serpentine Lodge in Hyde Park, alongside an earlier development of his, Hyde Park Villas (now Nos 93 & 95).15

Most of these St James's Drive houses were given raised ground floors to make the most of the prospect overlooking a small wedge of common land, protected under the 1871 Act, which was well planted with trees to screen the view of the railway lines and platforms beyond.

The first houses in the side-streets between the two main arteries, in Althorp, Wiseton and Nottingham Roads, were generally smaller, often with just a 16ft frontage, and the speculative builder seems to have been a bigger presence here.

The regular rows at 6 - 26 Nottingham Road (of c.1866), 32 - 44 Althorp Road (c.1867), and 21 - 39 Wiseton Road (c.1867) are typical examples, all being small, two-storey cottages with two rooms to a floor, characteristic of the type of housing erected around London under the freehold land societies at this time (Ill. 19.5).

Smith's Terrace, at 35 - 47 Althorp Road, of c.1869 - 70, was a rare attempt at a palazzo-style terrace, albeit in a crude, old-fashioned neoclassical style, with the name in a small pediment; the developer was Henry Smith (Ill. 19.6).

Later, bigger houses here include Nos 1 & 3 Althorp Road, a pair of three-storey semi-detached villas with barge-boards, erected in 1878 by G. Wallis, a Balham builder.16

All these side-streets also had a smattering of trade or commercial properties (see Social and commercial character, below).

Of later alterations and additions, the most important before the war were the red-brick flats and shops of Bellevue Parade, erected at the corner of Bellevue and Wiseton Roads in 1928 to designs by J. W. Stanley Burmester and G. Whittaker. The modishly flat fašade, without bays or projections, was not simply a stylistic choice, but was required by the local authorities under the existing building regulations.17

[Survey of London, vol 50, chapter 19 (50.19_deep_south.pdf).]

Here is St James's Drive . . .

Here is Althorp Road . . .

Here is Wiseton Road . . .

Here is Trinity Road . . .