The Swan Circle


...a story of Georgian networking.

Yesterday was a sunny and pleasantly warm day at Kew Green. I sat on the park bench with my iced cold frappe watching the cricketers practicing in the nets and the traffic as it rumbled along the Kew Road. Most visitors bemoan the sight of the road as it cuts across the green, spoiling the ambience and solitude of the village, but of course the tarmac lays on top of a rather ancient highway.

When Fanny Burney stepped out from Kew Palace for one of her ‘strolls’ she had no fear of falling under a No. 65 bus – probably because it never came along, as I have discovered on a number of occasions. Still, in her day and when my family had property on the north side of the green, Kew was an isolated peaceful spot and Kew Road passed through the green as it does today.

On the east side lies Haverfield House (see forthcoming post Miss Haverfield by Gainsborough) and it appears from the letting signs outside this marvellous Georgian lodge, that it is currently being converted into three apartments. In fact, whilst sitting on the bench I could hear and see the decorators working on the top floor. It seems a little sad to see this family home split up.

Though I feel blessed knowing it still exists and I can sit on this park bench imagining my 4x great grandfather sauntering across the green to see his chum John Haverfield who resided at the lodge. One presumes they were chums based on the responsibility Henry gave John Haverfield in his Will, but bureaucratic documents often do not reveal the true nature of relationships in the same way letters and memoirs can bring familial love or friendships into focus.

John Haverfield and my antecedent Henry West may only have been business acquaintances. This would not have been without it’s advantages for both men. Such was Georgian society, close-knit in status and class, that rubbing shoulders with the influential could lead to a ripple of acquaintances. It was definitely a case of not what you knew, but who you knew.

This circle of family, relatives, friends, acquaintances, influencers and influenced are the subject of this blog. It is a family history based on six degrees of separation. I have placed at the very centre of the circle the Swan Tavern, that building in the heart of the Thames, because I believe that for the purpose of this history, it was from there that all the ripples of acquaintance emanated.

This is a new version of my old blog which can now only be seen on the Wayback Machine website:

The Swan Circle

Not all the old posts have been archived and so many will be featured here including ‘Clarissa and the Swan.’