Saturday, 30 May 2009

Sandown park

This is an extract from "Cycle Rides Round London", written over a century ago, by Charles Harper, in 1902.

Notice the very highly ornamental iron gates and railings of the park : a romantic history belongs to them. 

They came from Baron Grant's palatial mansion of Kensington House, built but never occupied, and then demolished, which stood in Kensington Gore.

Kensington House is now quite forgot, and on its site rise the stately houses of Kensington Court. It was in 1873 that Baron Grant, bloated with the money of the widow and the orphan, plundered from them in his Emma Mine and other rascally schemes, purchased the dirty slum at Kensington then known as the "Rookery," and set about building a lordly pleasure-house on its site. Just as it was finished, his career of predatory finance was checked, and he never occupied the vast building. For years it remained tenantless, and was then demolished. "Grant," as he called himself, died obscurely in 1899. He had in his time been the cause of the public losing over £20,000,000 sterling.

The Daily News spoke of him as an Irishman, but it will readily be conceded that his real name of Gottheimer is not strikingly Hibernian. He was, it is true, born in Dublin. So was Dean Swift: but, as the Dean himself remarked, to be born in a stable does not prove one to be a horse.

Although "Grant " died obscurely, and his name and his schemes had long before that time become discredited, it must not be supposed that he was personally ruined with the wreck of his projects. Not at all. He lived and died very comfortably circumstanced, while many of his creditors remained unsatisfied. He could pay debts when he chose, but when he chose not to, there were no means of compelling him. Where have we heard the same story in recent years?

Where indeed, Mr Harper. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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