Thomas Hearne – The Keeper’s Lodge or ‘Cheesecake House’, Hyde Park


1 in stock

Watercolour and grey wash, with pen and brown ink, over graphite on wove paper. Presented in a new rag board mount.

Sheet: 7 1/8 x 10 in. (18 x 25.4 cm.)
Mount: 13 5/8 x 16 3/16 in. (34.6 x 41.4 cm.)

Provenance: Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd. 43, Old Bond Street, Piccadilly W, London. No. 16543. Cat No. 48. The Keeper’s Lodge Hyde Park.


The Lodge stood on the north side of the Serpentine next to the Ring (a circular track around which the nobility could drive their carriages). It was known as the Cheesecake House (among other names) where refreshments could be purchased.

Thomas Hearne made several watercolours and drawings of the Cheesecake House which had become a favourite subject for landscape painters in the 1790s: Including Paul Sandby, Michael Angelo Rooker and Dominic Serres. Another example of the same subject by Hearne is in the Paul Mellon collection, Yale Center for British Art, and is dated c.1795. In their watercolour the bridge is constructed in a more conventional manner as opposed to the fenced version depicted in our watercolour, because of this it may be that our watercolour is earlier than the Mellon example.

The Cheesecake House was an ancient building, about half an hour’s walk from Westminster or Charing Cross, made of timber and plaster with a flat tiled roof, it stood in the park from at least the reign of Charles II (and perhaps even earlier). To gain access to the front door, the visitor had to cross the small stream which ran in front of the building via a rudimentary wooden bridge. Samuel Pepys was a visitor; in 1669 he took his wife for a visit, and they sat in their coach and ate ‘a cheesecake and drank a tankard of milk’.

In the time of Queen Anne, it was known as the Cake House or Minced-pie House and later was called Price’s Lodge (later sources say after Gervase Price, chief under-keeper of Hyde Park). By the late seventeenth-century Price’s Lodge was run by a widow named Frances Price.

St. James’s Park is frequented by people of quality; who, if they have a mind to have better and freer air, drive to Hyde Park, where is a ring for the coaches to drive around; and hard by is Mr’s Price’s where are incomparable syllabubs.

A Journey to London in the year 1698 by Dr William King (1663-1712)

But it is best remembered as the Cheesecake House, after one of the delicacies which could be bought there as cheesecakes, custards, tarts, and syllabubs were all on the menu.

Mrs Price was still the landlady in 1712 when a famous duel was fought literally on her doorstep in Hyde Park between James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton and Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun on 12th November 1712.

Lord Mohun’s coach was stopped by the keeper of Hyde Park but, telling him they were headed for Price’s Lodge, he allowed it to pass. Mohun and his second, an Irish officer named George Macartney, got out of the coach, and walked away, bidding the coachman to go into the lodge and ask John Reynolds, the Drawer, to get some ‘burnt-wine’ ready for when they returned. Reynolds was wise to their tricks. He said he would not do so, ‘for very few came thither so soon in the morning but to fight…’.

The duel was fought with swords and the seconds joined in too; both Hamilton and Mohun were wounded, Mohun fatally but the Duke of Hamilton only received a cut on his arm, at least at that point. Accounts differ, but it was claimed that the duke then dropped his sword and Macartney, Mohun’s second, delivered a fatal blow to him. John Reynolds came out and tried to help the duke walk to the house but before they reached the bridge, Hamilton said, ‘he could walk no further’ and died on the spot.

With both the main protagonists dead, the two seconds, Macartney and the duke’s man, Colonel Hamilton were charged with manslaughter; Macartney fled to Hanover, but Hamilton stood trial and was found guilty.

Frances Price died around 1719 and her will, written seven years earlier, left Price’s Lodge to her grandson, John Price. However, Frances’ would stipulate that, if she wanted to take over the management, her widowed daughter, Anne Silver, who lived with her mother in Hyde Park, should be allowed to do so, paying John Price an annual sum of £10 a year for the use thereof. Sadly, Anne Silver was to predecease her mother.

By 1801 the Cheesecake House was in use as a boathouse and in the nineteenth-century was demolished altogether. Except when there was a fair, for around a hundred years no refreshments were allowed to be sold in Hyde Park, a situation which caused many complaints. Finally, on 1st April 1909, the Ring Tea House was opened, a newly built Georgian rustic style circular building which catered for the park’s visitors.
Cheesecakes of the period contained no cheese and were akin to a Yorkshire curd tart.

Blog: Joanne Major September 18, 2018.


Hearne, Thomas (1744-1817)

Thomas Hearne was born at Marshfield, Gloucestershire, on 22 September 1744, the only son of William Hearne and his wife, Prudence. His father died when he was about five years old, and he then moved with his mother to Brinkworth, near Malmesbury, in Wiltshire. In his teens, he was sent to London to become apprenticed to an uncle, who was a pastry cook in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden. It has been suggested (Fenwick 2004, page 160) that he was ‘probably encouraged ... to pursue his artistic inclinations’ by his next door neighbour, the draughtsman and engraver, John Miller (who had been born Johann Müller in Nuremberg in about 1715). Gaining premiums from the Society of Arts for a still life drawing in 1763 and an equestrian subject in 1764, Hearne became apprenticed to the engraver, William Woollett, in 1765. During the years of his apprenticeship, he exhibited watercolours at the Free Society of Artists and the Society of Artists, in a style influenced by Paul Sandby, and decided to become an artist rather than an engraver. Woollett introduced him to his friend, the Rev Charles Davy, and, for six weeks of the spring of 1771, they stayed with Davy at his home in Enstead, Suffolk. There they were joined by the 18-year-old Sir George Beaumont, to whom Davy was the tutor. Beaumont developed a passion for drawing at this time, and would become one of Hearne’s most important patrons. Later in 1771, Hearne was appointed draughtsman to Sir Ralph Payne, the new Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of the Leeward Islands, a group of sugar colonies in the Caribbean. He stayed for three and a half years in the Leewards, recording the terrain, the towns and the inhabitants in order to celebrate Payne’s successful stewardship. Hearne’s achievement has been described as ‘an almost unique record of colonial life of the period’ (Fenwick 2004, page 160). In 1775, Hearne and Payne returned to England, and Hearne spent a year and a half preparing the work that he had produced for engraving. Though never going abroad again, Hearne travelled widely in Britain. From 1777, he worked with the engraver, William Byrne, providing 84 drawings for Antiquities of Great-Britain, a record of the nation’s historic monuments that was completed in 1807. The series has been considered to have 'set a new standard in the pictorial recording of mediaeval architecture' (Conner 1996, page 279), and it led to Hearne being elected a member of the Society of Antiquaries in 1793. Byrne also issued Rural Sports (1780), a smaller set of Hearne’s designs, and literary titles, including Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield (1780) and Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews (1781-88), with Hearne’s illustrations. Fifteen of Hearne’s drawings would be engraved for Britannia Depicta, one of Byrne’s later projects, issued between 1806 and 1818. Many of Hearne’s travels were made in the company of Sir George Beaumont. These included a visit to the Lake District in 1777, on which they were joined by the painter and diarist, Joseph Farington (whose writings are an important source of information on Hearne). In the following year, he and Farington joined Beaumont and his new wife, Margaret, on a tour to Scotland. Then, in 1794, he and Beaumont journeyed along the Wye valley. By 1782, Hearne had met the collector and writer, Richard Payne Knight. In that year, he took on the task of executing a number of watercolours of Sicily, which he worked up from sketches by Jakob Philipp Hackert and Charles Gore that they had made in the company of Knight during a tour of 1777. Between 1784 and 1786, he made visits to Knight’s estate at Downton Castle, Herefordshire, in order to record the newly landscaped grounds. A decade later, he would provide illustrations to Knight's The Landscape: A Didactic Poem (1794), which propounded the principles of picturesque landscape gardening. Between 1785 and 1793, Hearne exhibited work at the Royal Academy; he stopped because he did not like the way that watercolours were hung, and would only show there once more, in 1806. However, his work also became known through the ‘academy’ of the physician, Dr Thomas Monro, which was held at 8 Adelphi Terrace, Monro’s home from 1794. Monro made available fine examples of master watercolourists, for such younger artists as Thomas Girtin and J M W Turner to copy, and especially those of Hearne, so becoming his leading patron from this time. In turn, Hearne became a good friend of Monro and his family, often visiting Adelphi Terrace, and staying at his country houses, at Fetcham, Surrey, and, after 1805, Bushey, Hertfordshire. While generally maintaining a 'precise and judicious manner of tinted drawings until his death' (Conner 1996, page 279), Hearne did become a little freer in handling in some later works. In old age, he was supported by generous friends, including Sir George Beaumont, who, for instance, had him to stay at his ancestral seat of Coleorton hall, in Leicestershire, in 1808. Having remained a bachelor, Hearne died at his home of more than 30 years, at 5 Macclesfield Street, Soho, London, on 13 April 1817. Monro paid for his funeral, and had his body interred in the churchyard of St James’s, Bushey. He lies beside Monro and their mutual friend, the artist, Henry Edridge. His work is represented in numerous public collections, including the British Museum, Tate and the V&A; The Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge) and Leeds Art Gallery; and the National Galleries of Scotland (Edinburgh). Further reading Patrick Conner, ‘Hearne, Thomas (Marshfield, Avon, 22 Sept 1744; London, 13 April 1817)’, Jane Turner (ed.), The Dictionary of Art, London: Macmillan, 1996, vol. 14, page 279; Simon Fenwick, ‘Hearne, Thomas (1744-1817)’, h C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, vol. 26, pages 160-161; David Morris, Thomas Hearne and His Landscape, London: Reaktion Books, 1989; David Morris and Barbara Milner, Thomas Hearne 1744-1817: Watercolours and Drawings, A Catalogue of a Touring Exhibition, Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, 1985