The History of 20 Lewes Crescent
1 Dr Thomas Hawkesley
2 Kathleen Farrell
1 Dr. Thomas Hawksley
The Goldstone Pumping Station, now the Engineerium, was designed by the eminent civil engineer Dr. Thomas Hawksley, FRS (1807-1893) whose work around the country on improving water supplies, resulted in huge improvements in public health. He was, of course, a proponent of the water closet as a means of disposing of human waste.
His namesake, also Dr Thomas Hawksley, a physician, (1821-1892) opposed this method of disposal. He wrote several letters to The Times in the 1860s, from his home in Brook Street, Mayfair complaining about the evil of water closets, and blaming the death of Prince Albert directly on their widespread introduction. He was a great supporter of earth closets, and of the system of applying solid sewage to the land for fertilisation. He applied for a number of patents for improvements to earth closets, and strongly supported a number of design improvements developed by others.
There was a heated debate in the press over this topic between these two gentlemen and the public must have found it confusing to follow arguments in opposing directions, each from a Dr Thomas Hawksley. Had the physician prevailed over the civil engineer, we should now be shovelling earth onto our human waste rather than flushing them away!
Dr Hawksley, physician, lived at 20 Lewes Crescent in the 1880’s. He had a thriving practice here and at Brook Street W1. He enthusiastically endorsed Volks proposed ‘Daddy Long Legs’ overwater electric carriage, for its anticipated health benefits. Dr. Hawksley died before its construction was complete.
2 Kathleen Farrell
Kathleen Farrell, 1912-1999, novelist of the 1950’s and 60’s lived here from 1972 until her death. Her work has been compared to her contemporaries Barbara Pym and Jean Rhys, who unlike Kathleen have since been rediscovered. CP Snow, in the Sunday Times, described her 1951 novel ‘Mistletoe Malice’ as “savagely witty and abnormally penetrating”. All her books were published during the two decades she shared with the novelist, critic and sometime publisher Kay Dick. Kathleen had been born to wealthy parents and so had never to worry about money, in contrast to Kay Dick who lived a precarious economic life.
The couple had lived in Great Missenden and Hampstead. Kay and Kathleen’s was a fraught relationship and after they split up, Kay moved to Brighton taking a basement flat at 9 Arundel Terrace. Later, Kathleen moved down to be with her mother in Rottingdean. When in 1972 mother and daughter moved along the coast and into the newly converted flats at 20 Lewes Crescent, Kay was furious that Kathleen should come to live just a hundred yards away. Yet contact between them continued, characterised by stormy telephone calls, extravagant presents and generous cheques from Kathleen to Kay on her birthday and at Christmas.
Kathleen, remembered as a quiet and bird-like figure, retained an alertness and inquisitiveness of the world about her even when she became crippled with arthritis. When, in 1991, her mother died, she moved into her mother’s ‘cottage behind 20 Lewes Crescent. Here there was a garden where she must have had some wonderful garden parties, for she enjoyed entertaining. She had a gift for friendship, particularly with fellow writers such as Ivy Compton-Burnett, Olivia Manning and Stevie Smith and in later years Francis King, John Haylock and Frank Touhy, all of whom visited her here in Lewes Crescent. She would give dinner to Quentin Crisp and Barry Humphries when they were in town; they were both fond of her. She used to play chess with Quentin in Hampstead during the War.
Sebastian Beaumont, the novelist, who looked after Kathleen’s correspondence and finances for a few years in the 90s, until her death in 1999, told me that Kathleen and Kay had daily arguments by phone and would send each other rather extravagant gifts from time to time, whether out of kindness or some sort of strange hostility, he could never tell.
When Kathleen died Sebastian wrote an obituary in which he described her relationship with Kay Dick as ‘stormy’. Kay phoned him up in paroxysms of rage, refuting this and abusing him for quite some time. This continued because he was one of Kathleen’s executors and Kay was convinced that Kathleen’s home had been full of gold and silver worth, at her estimate in early 2000, at least £500,000. She was quite sure that he had stolen this mythic treasure. Lawsuits were threatened and Kay must have spent quite a few thousand pounds of her inheritance pursuing him. In a sense, Kay could never let Kathleen go and pursued her through her legacy in the combative style she employed when Kathleen was alive.
Alison Borrett’s memories of a lovable but infuriating Kay Dick, can be read on this website, see the House History page for 9 Arundel Terrace.