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Lot 133

Sold for £ 840 (US$ 1,096) inc. premium
Two conjoint indentures, both signed ("Charles Dickens"), the first being a "Lease of one detached Villa residence No.16 Grove Road Wanstead Essex", the second a "Conveyance of land and premises No.18 (late No.16) Grove Road Wanstead Essex": the lease from "Charles Dickens of Gadshill Place Rochester in the County of Kent Esquire", Malcolm Douglas Crosbie and George Frederick Hudson "mortgagees [i.e. persons conferring the mortgage] of the premises intended to be hereby demised", on the one part, George Horatio Wilkinson of Wanstead, "mortgager [i.e. the person taking out the mortgage] and owner in fee of the same premises subject to the said Mortgage", on the second part, to Edward James Willmott, builder and lessee, on the third part, granted to him "in consideration of the expences incurred by the said lessee in building on the land hereinafter described" and to run for 94 years; the conveyance transferring from Dickens, Crosbie and Hudson, on payment to Wilkinson of £108 the property "known as No.18 Grove Road Wanstead... in the within written Indenture of Lease more particularly described (therein by mistake called No.16 Grove Road)" provided that Willmott maintain it as a private residence and not offer "annoyance nuisance or damage" to the adjoining property "of the said Charles Dickens", on three sides of two skins of vellum, with dockets and titles on the fourth, two sets of duty-stamps and seals, usual minor dust-staining and creasing, especially where folded and filed, 525 x 680 mm., G.F. Hudson, Matthews & Co, Solicitors, 23 Bucklersbury, London, 25 September 1868 and 4 August 1869


  • DICKENS AND A MYSTERY VILLA IN WANSTEAD. Dickens's signatures stand at the head of both these documents concerning the sale of the "detached Villa residence" at No.16, subsequently No.18, Grove Road, Wanstead. The first is signed in his characteristic turquoise ink, without flourishes, the second in brown ink with the usual flourished underlining.

    From the "Ennumeration of Deeds referred to" in the second document, it is clear that Dickens first acquired an interest in this property in November 1860 and, from the terms of the lease, that he owned further land in the area. The lease indicates that the property, described as being on a new road and "unoccupied", had only recently been completed. There is good evidence that, as might be expected, the other parties to this transaction were either builders or speculative developers: Wilmott, the villa's builder, had just finished a development of four houses in Westward Ho! the previous summer (see the town's History Group website); while Wilkinson is recorded as a timber merchant residing in Shoreditch, near Wanstead, and was busy in the 1860s developing properties in Hackney in partnership with Marmaduke Matthews an auctioneer, who is also named in our deed (see Victoria County History Middlesex, Vol.10 'Hackney: Homerton and Hackney Wick', edited by T.F.T. Barker, 1995, pp.51-59). While Crosbie, Dickens's fellow mortgagee, is recorded as inheriting and selling property in Grove Street, Hackney, in 1840 (Access to Archives, Hackney Archives Department, small collections, M220 and 221).

    None of these characters feature in the records of Dickens's life. Nor does the solicitor responsible for drawing up these deeds, namely George Frederick Hudson of G.F. Hudson, Matthews & Co (the George Frederick Hudson who makes a few appearances in the Pilgrim edition of the Letters appears to be a namesake only). The question arises as to why Dickens should have employed Hudson, rather than his friend and usual solicitor Frederic Ouvry, of Farrer Ouvry & Farrer, who not only handled Dickens's separation from his wife, but also his publishing contracts and property affairs (see the Sotheby's catalogue of Dickens's business papers, London, 15 July 1999, lots 160-187). The timing may offer a clue. Having purchased Gad's Hill Place in 1856, Dickens sold Tavistock House in September 1860, for 2000 guineas. Three months after this, on 12 November, we find him giving Wilkinson a mortgage for the speculative development in Wanstead. This gives a ready explanation of the means. A possible motive may lie in Dickens's affair with Ellen (Nelly) Ternan, whom he had met in 1857. She is recorded as having retired from the stage in 1860, that is at about the time that Dickens made his Wanstead investment. He is known to have bought the Ternan family a house in St Pancras, transferring the lease to Nelly on her coming of age on 3 March 1860. But for a house where he could stay with her, he seems to have preferred places further out from central London, renting for her, under the pseudonym 'Charles Tringham', properties in Slough and Peckham. So, just possibly, it was his love for Nelly Ternan that gave Dickens this taste for the suburbs; and that it was their future together he had in mind when making his Wanstead investment.
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