7 Fairholt Street, Knightsbridge, London SW7 1EG


Fairholt Street is named after Frederick William Fairholt (1814-1866) who lived the latter part of his life in Montpelier Square. Until 1937 this street was known as Middle Street. No 7 dates from circa 1836, the last full year of the reign of William IV.

The first occupant was a man named Guiver. James Guiver was still living here, aged 45, at the taking of the first national census in April 1841 when he gave his occupation as 'postillion', that is one who guided post-horses into their harness at a change-over, and who sometimes rode astride them. Guiver shared the house with his wife, Susan (45) and with their six children - Eliza, a dressmaker, Alfred, George , Rosetta, Isabella and Sarah. - ranging in ages from 15 to 4. One suspects that in the Guiver's day No 7 was a noisy and rumbustuous place.

In the early days of the Victorian era, the residents of Middle Street were transitory and by 1851 No 7 had passed to a 31-year-old Irish-born 'clerk nd time-keeper' named David McHibbin, his wife, Emma (28) and their four young children, Robert (11), Thomas (6), John (2) and little James aged just one month on the night of the census enumerator's visit in April of that year. From about 1854 until at least 1866 No 7 was occupied by a goffer and goffer-stack-maker name William Osbourne. A goffer was a pleating and ironing tool - a hollow metal poking-stick on a stand. It was heated by the insertion of a hot metal rod, so that material dried as it was pleated. The goffering stack was the rational development of the goffer stick. The damp material was passed iin and out of wooden slats, held concertina-like in a frame, which were weighted down by a secure bar at the top. The process was finally rationalised into the crimping machine.

Records for 1871 show No 7 Fairholt Street occupied by Thomas Pipe (52) who described himself as a 'cellarman'. The balance of probabilities suggests that Pipe was employed at the public house which then existed at Nos 10 & 11 Fairholt Street. A native of Martock in Somerset, he shared No 7 with his wife, Sarah (63), who hailed from Claire in Suffolk, and with their three unmarried children: George (25), a clerk, Thomas 20, an apprentice carpenter, and Sarah 17, an apprentice dressmaker. Their mother supplemented her husband's no doubt inadequate income by letting rooms. One chamber was rented to Susan Star 70, whose occupation is given as 'pew opener'. Mrs Star shared it with her unmarried daughter, Emily 27, a needlewoman. Another room was held by a coachman named George Hopkins and his wife, Hannah. A further suite of two [or possibly three] rooms was let to Frederick Hull 41 and his wife, Emma 37. There were thus eleven people sharing this small house in 1871.

Frederick Hull worked as a cabman. London was choked by cabs in the Victorian era - hansoms, growlers, phaetons, gigs and broughams. Cabmen such as Frederick Hull were expected to perform wonders by manoeuvering through the congested streets at high speed. Brakes were at best rudimentary and the only real safe-guard against mishap was the skill of the driver. Few cabbies owned their own vehicles. Most were hired daily from a cab proprietor for 'yard money'/ This was so extortionate that it took most men at least half a day to earn it and the greatest insult one cabby could serve another was to call out: "Ain't yer got yer yard money, yet?"

Thomas Pipe and his family continued to occupy No 7 Fairholt Street until at least 1888. His widow, Sarah, then lived on at the house until her death circa 1896, by which date she was nearly ninety years of age. On her death, she bequeathed the house to her son, Thomas, mentioned above, who never married, and who shared it with his sister, Sarah [also mentioned above] who in addition to acting as her brother's housekeeper continued in her business of dressmaking, working chiefly from home. Her brother died circa 1924. Sarah Pipe was still featuring for the property on the Electoral Register as late as 1926 - the year of the General Strike - by which date she would have been seventy years of age and this house would have been her home for more than half a century.

The Electoral Register for 1931 lists no voter for No 7 Fairholt Street, an indication that Sarah Pipe had now died. The Land Registry records that on 26th February 1931 one Viola Wilson transferred the property to the City furrier, Roy Douglas Poland, who was responsible for constructing the kitchen at the back and the bathroom above. The Register for 1933 shows the dwelling dually occupied, one section by Eric and Muriel Crundell, the other by Hugo Nowell Pollock and Margaret, his wife. Crundell worked for a firm of timber merchants. Pollock is thought to have been a stock and share broker. By 1937 both families had been replaced by a widow, Elizabeth Grace Rosalie Barnes, who in turn sold the house about 1942 to William Jackson Humphreys. About him we know only that he and his wife sold the house about 1948 to Miss Dulcie Hermione Sinclair-Wemyss (born 6th April 1901) who died there 9th January 1961. She left it to her nephew, John Arbuthnot (1912-1992), who was created a Baronet in 1964. The house was occupied by his mother, Janet Elspeth née Sinclair-Wemyss (1889-1982) until shortly before her death in Sandwich, Kent.

Sir John had been MP for Dover 1950-1964.  He had work done to the house after his mother's death, making the ground floor open plan, changing the bathroom above the kitchen into a study, changing the rear bedrooms on the first and second floors into bathrooms. Shortly afterwards the cellar was made deeper, thereby making the house a little bigger. Sir John let the house to Mr and Mrs Kingman Brewster, who had previously been U.S. Ambassador in London. Another American rented the house before Sir John;s death.  About 1994 Sir John's widow moved into No 7, after making substantial decorative improvements, including changing the front door.

 

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Last amended  21:57  23 December 2005