I'm in shock. I was going to do you a jolly little blog about my visit to David Garrick's villa at Hampton and his Temple to Shakespeare (which I visited on the Open House London weekend). Anyway, as I was nipping through Technorati for some blogs on the legendary 18th-century actor, I came across the news that the Grade I listed villa (below, as I photographed it in 2006) caught fire in October and was badly damaged. English Heritage described the loss of parts of the building as a tragedy, adding that it was of national importance. There's some BBC video of the incident here.
The Temple is actually across the road on the riverbank - Garrick used to access it via a specially built tunnel - so thankfully, it escaped the flames (I'll do a separate blog posting on the Temple at some point). I feel rather shocked and upset about the damage to what Garrick called his 'pretty place by ye Thames side', mainly because his childhood home here in Lichfield has long since been demolished.
Garrick was actually born at the Angel Inn at Hereford, where his father was on an army recruiting expedition, but the family had a house in Lichfield (his mother, Arabella Clough, was the daughter of one of the cathedral clergy). I actually live just up the street from where Garrick grew up, though the site is now occupied by the registry office, which bears a simple plaque (below).
But what a shame about the Hampton villa! When Johnson attended a fête champêtre on Garrick's lawns, he was supposed to have told his host: 'Ah David, it is the leaving of such places that makes a deathbed so terrible.'
Photographs © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.