The second day – a tour of Windrush Square, behind the scenes at Tate Brixton Library, Tate’s mansion at Park Hill and the Tate family mausoleum at West Norwood Cemetery
On Saturday 28th May we gathered on Windrush Square, where the paving slabs are patterned with sugar cane. Local historian Alan Piper told us a history of Brixton and the Tate Brixton Library.
We moved indoors to meet Vincia Bennet, the manager of Brixton Tate Library, who introduced us to the ins-and-outs of a day in the life of the library.
From the library we drove to Park Hill in Streatham, Brixton’s neighbouring borough, where Henry Tate lived and initially housed his collection of British art.
Park Hill was designed and built between 1830 – 1835 by J. B. Papworth (1775-1847), a founder member of Royal Institute of British Architects, for William Leaf, a banker and silk merchant from Streatham. Henry bought the property in 1874 and became a resident during the 1880’s.
Works from the current Tate Collection, such as John Everett Millais’s Ophelia (1851-52) and John William Waterhouse’s Lady of Shalott (1888) were originally displayed at Park Hill. It’s rumoured that Henry opened his doors to the public on Sunday afternoons.
The house was modified in 1880, when Henry commissioned the landscape designer Robert Marnock (1800-1889) to redesign the gardens, and a review was published inGarden magazine in 1886. He also added an entrance porch and extended other features of the house. The building and grounds are now a Grade II listed. Tate lived at the house until his death on 5thDecember 1899, when he was buried at the nearby Norwood cemetery.
Park Hill was redeveloped as a residential complex between 2001 and 2002, and renamed Sir Henry Tate Mews. We were warmly accommodated by Debbie Orl and her family, who are the current owners of the house.
In the gardens of Henry Tate Mews three flights of steps, each flanked by sphinxes on plinths, lead down from the terrace to the orchard. The terrace walls and small doric summerhouse at the north end are all grade II listed.
We took the train to West Norward Cemetery, where Jill Dudman took us on a tour around the Cemetery and showed us to the Tate family mausoleum. Henry commissioned his family mausoleum in 1884. It was designed by the architect Harold Peto (1854-1933).
“Did Henry choose the inscription and the design of his mausoleum himself? Did lots of graves of the same period in Norwood cemetery have that line from the Song of Solomon?” – Caroline Hendrie
We finished the day in the Cemetery rose garden, where Caroline Tate shared letters from her great, great grandfather about the opening of his gallery.