Grosvenor Place, Camberwell


11 Grosvenor Place, Camberwell,

1833-40



For several years, John Hays has been living at Norwood Lodge, a palatial estate south of Champion Hill and Denmark Hill, in Surrey. Elizabeth Breese Hays died on 12 September 1832. By March 1833 he had moved into his new residence in Camberwell. During his wife’s final illness, Mary Hays left Vanbrugh Castle and lived with her brother, assisting with his young children and the care of the house, even though Hays was 73 at this time. As her sole surviving letterc. from 1832 reveals (addressed to Crabb Robinson), just prior to moving into her brother's home, Hays performed domestic duties in the home of one of her favorite nieces, Sarah Wedd, who has just given birth to the father of the future chronicler of Mary Hays, Anne F. Wedd. After assisting the Wedds (now living in Hackney), Hays returned to her brother John and his family of five children and will live with them until 1840, first at Norwood Lodge and then at 11 Grosvenor Place, Camberwell (see map below), becoming an important tutor and mentor to Matilda Mary Hays (1820-97), the last her many nieces and Hays's favorite in her final years. Matilda Mary will become, like her aunt, a pronounced feminist, a novelist, and journalist, continuing a tradition of women writers in the Hays family that will span more than 100 years.

Crabb Robinson would visit Hays on many occasions during her years with her brother in Camberwell. He writes in his diary for 3 April 1834 that he visited John Hays that afternoon, noting that Mary Hays is “now quite the old woman but she was mild and amiable and I enjoyed the gossip with them.” On 19 June 1834 he walks to Camberwell to see John Hays and finds “My old friend Mary H: unchanged in ultra radicalism She and Mr. J: T: Rutt seem quite parallel in their political and religious stationeriness.” On 9 July 1835 he walks to John Hays’s and has tea with Mary Hays and they chat on “family matters and the old Unitarian liberalism to which Miss H: is as exclusively attached as ever.” By January 1840 she had left her brother's home and was living in a boarding house in Clapton operated by a Miss Farrell.