A fairly random blog post this week dating back to last September when I went to see Hurlingham House, famous as the home of international polo. (I know: it makes no sense to me either. But it is.) This was just the last of the grand houses that we visited last year before we decided to hide indoors and wait for Spring.
Hurlingham House sits on the Thames at Fulham. Actually, when the Thames floods, it sits *in* the Thames: several inches of water covered the ground floor when the Thames burst its banks in 1928.
The house was originally built in 1760 as a “cottage” for Dr William Cadogan, a doctor whose book, ‘An Essay upon Nursing and the Management of Children from their Birth to Three Years of Age’ made him the Dr Spock of his day. The doctor died in 1797 and the relatively humble house was refronted in the early 1800s, producing the rather grand river frontage we see today.
The central room between the two wings is oval in shape, which put me in mind of another building of a similar period. The White House was rebuilt in 1815-17 after the original was burnt down by the British.
Today’s Oval Office was only built in 1909 but there was an oval room at the centre of the original White House and this was retained when the White House was rebuilt after the fire. Wikipedia assures me that:
Hurlingham House is the only UK example I’ve noticed myself and the parallels with the original design of the White House are interesting. (The South Portico, which emphasises the oval, was not added until 1824.)
Back in Fulham, the estate was leased to a private club in 1869 and it has been the Hurlingham Club ever since. The Hurlingham Club started life as a pigeon shooting club and went on to become the home of polo. (The Hurlingham Polo Association is still the governing body for polo in the UK and many other countries throughout the world.) Nowadays the club offers many sports, from swimming to croquet. The house, though important, is not necessarily the club’s main attraction for many members. Over the years it has been modified, enlarging the space available for dining rooms and bars and removing the bedrooms, which have largely been replaced with offices.
The most significant changes were made in 1906 the north front and much of the interior was remodelled by Sir Edwin Lutyens.