Holland Park Circle
The leading artists of the ‘Holland Park
Frederic, Lord Leighton P.R.A. (1830 –
Valentine Prinsep R.A. (1838 – 1904)
George Frederic Watts O.M. (1817 – 1904)
Sir Luke Fildes R.A. (1843 – 1918)
Marcus Stone R.A. (1840 – 1921)
Sir Hamo Thornycroft R.A. (1850 – 1925)
Colin Hunter A.R.A (1841 – 1904)
Sir James Jebusa Shannon R.A.
(1862 – 1923)
William Burges (1827-1881)
P.R.A.: President of the Royal Academy
R.A.: Royal Academician
A.R.A.: Associate Royal Academician
O.M: Order of Merit
Notes on the 'Holland Park Circle'
Download the visitor factsheet: Holland Park
Circle [PDF] (file size 550kb)
When Leighton’s house was first completed in 1866, the view
from the dining room was onto open parkland stretching to the
north. While never entirely losing this semi-rural character, the
outlook changed dramatically over the 30 years that Leighton lived
in Holland Park Road, as a unique colony of artists’ houses grew up
around him - the 'Holland Park Circle'.
In 1875 Melbury Road was laid out across the back of the garden.
Following Leighton’s example in Holland Park Road, many of the
plots along it were bought by up-and-coming artists who then
commissioned leading architects to design houses that combined
studio space with domestic quarters for them and their families.
Built on a grand scale and to the artists’ exacting requirements,
these houses were investments, designed to further the reputation
and standing of their occupants. Ultimately the painters and
sculptors living in ‘Paradise Row’ became the backbone of the
artistic establishment enjoying great wealth and fame. With
the exception of Colin Hunter, all were made full Royal
Academicians (Watts resigned following Leighton’s death), with
numerous public honours and titles bestowed upon them. Although the
reputation of many of these artists has faded, all but two of their
houses still remain, allowing us an insight into the wealth, tastes
and social standing of successful artists in late Victorian
Leighton and his immediate neighbour Val Prinsep built
their houses in tandem and remained firm friends until
Leighton’s death. However Prinsep then objected strongly to the
idea that Leighton’s house should become a museum and even more so
to the proposal that Holland Park Road might be re-named ‘Leighton
Road’, making his views known in letters to The Times.
Prinsep’s architect, Philip Webb, had designed Red House in
Bexleyheath for William Morris in 1859 and was a leading architect
of the Arts and Crafts movement. Initially built on a modest scale,
the house was greatly extended in the early 1890s following
Prinsep’s marriage to the shipping heiress Florence Leyland.
Shannon’s was the last of the studio-houses to be built along
Melbury Road and Holland Park Road. Constructed on the site of what
had been a farmhouse, this final addition encroached ever closer to
Leighton’s own home and was composed of two distinct blocks – one
containing the family home and the second the working studio. Born
in the United States, Shannon’s fortune came from his success as a
fashionable portrait painter.
At the time Melbury Road was being laid out in the mid-1870s,
Leighton extended his garden to ensure that any new building would
not come too close. The plot directly to the rear was secured by
Marcus Stone and the resultant house is one of two in Melbury Road
designed by the architect Norman Shaw in the ‘Queen Anne’ style. At
the artist’s request, a glass winter painting studio was built on
the first floor. Many of Stone’s very successful paintings of
romantic trysts and troubled courtships were set in his garden.
Leighton and Watts were the two artists at the heart of the
‘Holland Park Circle’. They were close friends and would often call
on each other using a gate that connected their
gardens. Watts' house contained four studios.
He also built a large gallery extension to display his work
designed by the architect of Leighton's house, George
Aitchison. Following a planning hearing at which few objections
were raised, Watts’s house was demolished in 1964 to make way for a
block of 30 flats designed by Austin Blomfield. It is the only one
of the Holland Park Circle houses to have been wilfully