A Prosperous Lawyer, and a Red House and Red Lion Connection

James Beale was a prosperous solicitor, with a town house in London’s Holland Park and a country house at Standen in Sussex, built in 1892-4 and now owned by the National Trust.

Standen - rear of property

A posh lawyer from a London firm? Not quite. Mr Beale ran the London office of Beale & Co, a firm with its home in Birmingham and founded in the 1820s. Remarkably, the Beale name lives on today in the firm of Hadgkiss, Hughes & Beale, with offices in the Birmingham suburbs of Acocks Green and Moseley.

The firm addresses the needs of individuals and small businesses. However, the chances of a partner today in this type of practice being able to generate funds to buy a 21 bedroom country retreat designed by one of the name architects of the time, are perhaps remote.

Impressive the property certainly is - a glorious example of Arts & Crafts architecture, designed by Philip Webb.

Standen - front - a family-friendly environment

Standen has an Arts & Crafts style, denoted by factors including:

  • Building materials sourced locally
  • Some, at least of the interior design is evident from the external shape of the building (contrast Georgian terraces with their enigma of uniformity)).

The interior you see today is carefully furnished and ornamented to reflect the life of the large Beale family (seven childen) in the 1920s.

Cultural activity at the piano

And at the snooker table

The family rocking horse
The drawing room - each to their own pursuits

The ladies retired after breakfast to the morning room - restrained decor?

A murky light in the dining room, but Standen was an early house to have electricity,
and max light bulb wattage was c.25W

With 21 bedrooms and only two bathrooms.....

The architect’s connections are revealed by this shot of wallpaper in the house.

Philip Webb was a close friend of William Morris, and they met when both were working in the Oxford office of George Edmund Street. The law connection is not lost, as Street’s most significant achievement is the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand.

Together they became members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, alongside characters such as the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the artist and designer Edward Burne-Jones.

The influence and work of Morris is present throughout Standen. Webb also designed Morris’s own home in Bexleyheath, South-East London, The Red House (another National Trust property) although Morris only lived there for some five years.

And the other red? This is Red Lion Square near Holborn in central London, the offices of the firm that started in 1861 as Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. (with Webb as one of the partners) but that latterly became the simpler Morris & Co.

The building for the Morris firm, 8 Red Lion Square, has since given way to an unprepossessing bar, but further along on the same side of the square is a building where Morris, Rossetti and Burne-Jones lived at various points in the 1850s.

A Pre-Raphaelite Enclave, with plaque

in 1851
Poet and Painter
and from 1850 to 1859
Poet and Artist

The name of Morris & Co lives on, and in London its fabrics and wallpapers can be bought from stockists including Harrods, Peter Jones and John Lewis.

Probably William Morris’s most famous quotation is:

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”

The Beale family seem to have gone a long way towards meeting this challenge; whether many of the rest of us could go as far is another matter.

The author is a City of London and City of Westminster guide, and former law firm partner, who runs walking tours in the City and in Westminster. On Thursday 5th April he is running a tour London Inside & Outside the Law. See tabs for details.