The Admiral's House, Hampstead - rather a long way from the sea!


The Admiral's House, Hampstead - rather a long way from the sea!

In P.L Travers’s "Mary Poppins" books, the Banks family live next door to an eccentric Admiral, who has a house shaped like a ship, and who fires his cannon every now and then. Travers based this idea on the Admiral's House in Hampstead.

An eccentric 18th century naval officer named Fountain North missed his life at sea so much, he constructed a ship’s quarterdeck on top of his house in Hampstead, London. North even mounted cannons up there, from which he fired salutes on the king’s birthday and after Britain’s naval victories.

The strange-looking house, which came to be called Admiral’s House, located on Admiral’s Walk, inspired P.L Travers, who lived in Hampstead and heard the tales of Fountain North. The house was built in about 1700, and still stands. North died in 1811 and over the next half century the house was occupied by a variety of residents.

The Admiral’s House has also attracted the attention of many artists over the years. During the North years it was painted several times by the artist, and local resident, John Constable.

One such painting was exhibited in 1832 and bore the delightful title "A Romantic House at Hampstead." The painting can be seen at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Some later residents of the house include Sir John Fortescue, a librarian and archivist at Windsor Castle, and his wife, Winifred Fortescue, an actress and novelist. Sir Gilbert Scott, the prolific British architect, also lived in the house for a few years, and a blue plaque at the site marks this particular period in the house’s history. 

In the 20th century, a wing of Admiral's House was converted into a separate house, named Grove House. John Galsworthy, the novelist and author of The Forsyte Saga, lived at Grove House from 1918 to 1933.

Further reading

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