LICHFIELD HOUSE, RICHMOND, SURREY
THE HOME OF MARY ELIZABETH BRADDON
Lichfield House, which was situated in Sheen Road, was demolished in the 1930s, and Lichfield Court flats was built on the site. Braddon and the Maxwell family lived at Lichfield House for over fifty years. This web page was originally published in 2003 and later removed. It is now being republished and expanded to mark the 100th anniversary of Braddon's death and the anniversary of her birth and will continue to be updated.
In March 1866
Braddon cashed in some of her investments in order to buy Lichfield House
in Marsh Gate Road (today known as Sheen Road). Lichfield House was a magnificent
red brick Georgian mansion built for the Earl of Abergavenny, with panelled
walls, carved doorways, stables, paddock, kitchen gardens, an orangery and
extensive grounds. It had once been the residence of the Bishop of Lichfield.
At the time they bought it had at least nine main bedrooms, dining room, drawing
room, sitting room, library, breakfast room, kitchen, servants' quarters,
water closets and cellars. Outside there was a conservatory, kitchen garden,
pond, stabling, a coach house with quarters, brewery, laundry, poultry yard
and paddock. There were substantial gardens and over the years the grounds
grew as more were purchased. Braddon, her husband the publisher John
Maxwell, and the rest of her family moved in to the house in March 1867
After Braddon's death in 1915 Lichfield House is said to have become shabby and dilapidated and was sold in 1920. A decade later it was demolished to make way for flats.
The drawing room at Lichfield House. It was a large room,
measuring 38 foot long.
Over the years, Braddon and Maxwell furnished Lichfield House in a grand manner. John Maxwell was an enthusiastic collector of antiques and paintings, as was Braddon's mother Fanny. Braddon herself collected Crown Derby china and one room had white panelled walls and was hung with her collection of plates. The drawing-room was described as a gallery, and throughout the house there were paintings. In the dining room there was the large portrait of Braddon painted by William Powell Frith, an Alma Tadema, a couple of Gainsboroughs and many other works. In the breakfast room was the table used by Wellington to write his despatches during the Peninsula war. The house contained a large library, to which Braddon added books in French and other languages. She was also fond of gardening and made alterations to the grounds.
Lichfield Court flats today.
Bibliography and Recommended Reading:
Jennifer Carnell, The Literary Lives of Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Sensation Press, 2000).
'Mary Elizabeth Braddon in Richmond' - the previously unpublished paper given by Jennifer Carnell at Richmond Museum in 2004 and now published in the 2015 Braddon Keepsake.
Robert Lee Wolff, Sensational Victorian: The Life and Fiction of Mary Elizabeth Braddon (New York: Garland, 1979).
SERVANTS AND STAFF
Braddon and the Maxwell family lived at Lichfield House for over fifty years. Over this period many servants and staff worked at the house in Richmond. Most of these people are now unknown, but a few names have been recorded.
MRS. ADDINGTON: Children's nurse.
MARY BOLTON: Parlourmaid. Known to be an employee in 1901, when she was listed in the census. In 1901, Mary was 24 years old. She was born at Salem, Berkshire.
MARY BROWN: Working for the Maxwells in 1891 when she was 20 years old. Mary was born in Ringwood, Hampshire. It is possible she did not work at Lichfield House and was only employed by the Maxwells at Annesley Bank in Hampshire.
ELLEN BUTTER: A servant in 1891, age 30. She was born in Woking, Surrey.
HARRIET CAMBLE (called CAMPBELL by W.B. Maxwell): Children's nurse. In 1871 she was 61 years old. She was born at Tonbridge, Kent. Harriet was lured away by a local beer seller, called William Kemp, who had promised her marriage and instead made her a drudge. She died at Richmond in 1885.
JANE CHAMBERLAINE (CHAMBERLAIN?): In 1881 a housemaid age 30. Jane was born at Wells Green, Somerset.
KATE CHARLTON: Parlourmaid, known to be an employee in 1877.
KATHERINE DADSWELL: Kitchenmaid and housemaid in the early 1900s. She left after 8 and a half years in 1914. Katherine married Mr. Frank P. Burtenshaw, a shopkeeper in Teddington.
LOUISE DAVEY (DANEY?): A sick nurse in 1881, age 25. Louise was born in Battersea, Surrey (now London).
CAROLINE GRANT: Working as a servant in the Maxwell household in 1891 when Caroline was 25. She was born in nearby Twickenham, Surrey.
ROBERT HILL: Butler, known to be an employee in 1886 and still in their employ in 1891. Robert was age 36 in 1891, married and born in Weymouth, Dorset..
WINIFRED HOOPER: Housemaid. Known to be an employee in 1901, when she was listed in the census. In 1901, Winifred was 24 years old. She was born at Exeter in Devon.
MISS A. JONES: Maid and assisted Braddon as she became increasingly infirm.
ADA KEW: Kitchenmaid. Known to be an employee in 1901, when she was listed in the census. In 1901, Ada was 23 years old. She was born at Basingstoke, Hampshire.
THOMAS KNIGHT: Coachman. Braddon was fond of Knight, and left him a pension of £50 in her will. On one dramatic occasion, Knight saved the lives of Braddon and her children when a steamroller caused the carriage horses to take fright. Knight's face was badly scarred as he fought to bring the horses to a halt.
LACY: Senior gardener.
ARABELLA LAMBERT: Cook. Known to be an employee in 1901, when she was listed in the census. In 1901, Arabella was 29 years old. She was born at Wilton in Norfolk.
ELIZA MARY PRYKE: Born in Suffolk at Poslingford, Eliza was one of the longest serving members of the household. She came to work for the family during the earliest days at Richmond, while they lived briefly at Dunstable House in 1866. She stayed for 23 years, eventually becoming chief housemaid, and only leaving on her marriage. During the scandal of 1874, when it was revealed Braddon and Maxwell were not married, Eliza was the only servant not to hand in her notice. In 1881 Eliza was the parlourmaid at Lichfield House. After her marriage at Richmond in 1889 to Joseph, she became Mrs. Gilby and they lived at Twickenham; her daughter, Mrs. Blanche Horwell, was interviewed by Rex Sercombe Smith in 1956.
About a year after I first wrote this in about 2004, I received an email from the great grandson of Eliza who confirmed Eliza's married name was Gilby and corrected the original spelling I had of of Gilby and Horwell. He very kindly told me Eliza and Joseph went on to have three children and that she died in Twickenham in 1931.
SARAH TAYLOR: Sarah Taylor was a 19 year old housemaid in 1871, born at Wareham. She was probably the young woman who became Sarah the nursemaid.
ANNE VICKERY: Cook. A widow, age 51 in the 1881 census. Born in Wellington, Somerset.
ANNE VICKERY: Lady's maid. Presumably the daughter of Anne Vickery, the cook. Age 24 in the 1881 census, born in Lambeth, Surrey (now London).
ANN OR ANNE WHIPPS: Cook. A widow age 35 in 1871. Born in Farrington, Berkshire.
ELIZABETH WILSON: Working for the Maxwells in 1891 when she was 25. Elizabeth was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland.