Atkinson Morley's Hospital Green Space
The first stage began about 1757 when Peter Taylor, a London goldsmith, built “a handsome villa” just to the east of the site of the modern Atkinson Morley’s Hospital. He called it Prospect Place because it had “an extensive prospect to the south”. Ten years later his son sold the small six acre estate to Moses Isaac Levy…[who] had recently made a fortune out of Army contracts in the Seven Years’ War. He used some of the money to enlarge the house and lay out the garden “judiciously”…
Landscaping by Humphry Repton
His successor four years later, James Meyrick, a Parliamentary agent… transformed the Prospect Place estate, buying all the Pettiward land [a large wood on the south side of Copse Hill and named after the owners, Pettiwards of Putney] and a lot more right down to Coombe Lane and across as far as the line of the modern Pepys Road, in all 250 acres. He then spent a large sum improving the grounds, employing Humphry Repton to lay out large “decorative” gardens with a five acre lawn and many fine trees …The rest of the estate was used to graze cattle (as in a field that later became Holland Gardens) or grow wheat (especially in fields along Coombe Lane) Pettiward Wood seems to have been cut down at this time, but a few of its trees may have survived, notably the two fine oaks just below Lindisfarne Road.
After the death of Meyrick and his widow, the estate was put up for auction. It was bought in 1825 by a rising young politician, John Lambton, later Earl of Durham. A leading Whig reformer and later an important Governor-General of Canada, he seems to have had little effect on the district, apart from the two roads named after him. On becoming Lord Privy Seal in 1831, he sold the estate to a fellow Whig politician who was to have a far greater impact on Wimbledon, Charles Pepys, a descendant of the famous diarist’s uncle.
The future Earl of Cottenham was
just fifty, a leading barrister, an able judge, but so shy that he made
hardly any friends. As the Whig party had few distinguished lawyers,
his promotion was rapid: Solicitor-general, Master of the Rolls, and in
1836 Lord Chancellor. He therefore presided at the young Queen
Victoria’s first Council of State. His chief interest, however, was his
family. He was happily married with fifteen children…He had bought
Prospect Place primarily for his family as a haven from the smells and
disease of London… Pepys began his own improvements: a large model farm
on Copse Hill (just to the west of the site of
Christ Church), where he
experimented with new farming machines; and new entrances to the estate
with lodges and private drives, which later became Durham and Cottenham
[On Pepys’ death in 1850] his family
promptly sold Prospect Place and forty acres of the land to the second
Duke of Wellington. He lived there for a few years, but then moved
elsewhere and left the house empty. In
December 1862, the property was purchased by a William Sim, but
unfortunately his wife died shortly after childbirth in May 1863, and he
moved north to Lannhall in Dumfrieshire. The house was pulled down and the
site sold to St. George’s Hospital for a convalescent home they were
planning to build with a legacy from Atkinson Morley.
At the same time as the house was sold to the Duke of Wellington, the rest of the estate, now called Cottenham Park, was bought by developers [who] … drew up covenants to secure it as a “high-class” neighbourhood with buildings no nearer the road than thirty feet”.*
All that now remains of the original Prospect Place is the stable block, a low brick building on the Copse Hill frontage, which has been extended and enhanced as part of the new residential development retaining the name Prospect Place. Cottenham House, the big house set well back from the road, is a Grade II listed building.
*The above has been reproduced with the kind permission of local historian Richard Milward, from his book “Historic Wimbledon: Caesar’s Camp to Centre Court” (Publ: The Windrush Press and Fielders of Wimbledon 1989).