Where did Lucy Atkinson live after her husband, Thomas, died in August 1861? Until that point they had been living at Hawk Cottage on the Old Brompton Road, although for the last months of his life, when he knew he was dying, Thomas lived in Lower Walmer in Kent, presumably in order to take advantage of the sea air.
Hawk Cottage no longer exists, but we know what it looked like from a watercolour that has survived – not by Thomas, but by the artist William Cowen.
The modest house had a walled garden which offered a degree of privacy. Outside was little more than a country lane that led out towards Earl’s Court and the edge of town. It would probably have been described as a ‘genteel’ area, well away from the hustle and bustle of the City of London and the docks. The location of the house can be seen in the map below to the right. Today The Boltons nearby is one of the most exclusive streets in London, with houses changing hands for tens of millions of pounds. Cresswell Lodge, the property that backed onto Hawk Cottage, was until the 1860s at least a boarding school for young ladies.
Thomas, Lucy and Alatau are shown living at Hawk Cottage in the 1861 Census, where he is described as an ‘Author of Travels’. Alatau is described as a scholar, although I have yet to find out where he was attending school. The great Victorian scientist, Sir Francis Galton, mentioned the Atkinsons and the cottage in his autobiography. Referring to their return to England he notes: “They took a picturesque but ramshackle small house and garden, called Hawk Cottage, that stood on the old Brompton Road, nearly opposite to where Bina Gardens are now, on a spot that had not then passed into the hands of the builders of streets. They were much visited by members of the highest Russian nobility and by many English friends.” (from ‘Memories of my Life’).
When Thomas died his estate went to his first wife, Rebecca Atkinson, who was living in Beaufort Street in Chelsea. Lucy was soon in financial difficulties (see articles below) and six months later, in March 1862, she made an application to the Royal Literary Fund for a grant. Her application was successful and she was awarded £80, to be followed in 1863 by the award of a Civil List pension of £100. But what is noticeable is that the address she gives for her application to the RLF was No 9 Lilly Terrace, New Road, Hammersmith. Did she have to move because she could no longer afford the rent for Hawk Cottage? I think that is very likely.
New Road was renamed Goldhawk Road in the 1890s, but of Lilly Terrace there is no trace. However, a clue to the location of Lilly Terrace can be found in a map of the area dated 1862. This shows that between Wells Road and Serle Terrace there was a ‘Lily Street’. It doesn’t quite make sense that a terrace on New Road should be called Lily Street, so my guess is that this was actually Lilly Terrace. The houses were newly built at this time and it may be that the mapmaker was using a temporary name. Either way, this is the most likely location of the terrace, which you can see on the map below just below the N in New Road.
Today, it is not easy to see the old houses, as shopfronts have been built along most of the road. But by standing back you can still see the old terrace quite clearly.
Lucy stayed here for a few years before she disappeared from view for some time. It is likely that some time before the end of the 1860s she returned to Russia for a while, perhaps working in her old profession as a governess. By 1881 she was back in London, living in Mecklenburg Square, close to Kings Cross. She was to stay there for the rest of her life.