From before 1066 Hurlingham and the surrounding area belonged to the Bishops of London, who had their summer residence at Fulham Palace. An act of King William and Queen Mary in 1693 allowed the Bishops, for the first time, to grant leases. Thereafter ‘people of quality’ built villas to enjoy rural and riverside peace a few miles from the City and Westminster. There may have been yet another attraction to the fields at Hurlingham – until the 18th century the term a ‘Fulham virgin’ meant a lady who was, perhaps, not too well qualified for such a title!
In 1760 Dr William Cadogan (1711-1797), a famous physician of his day, leased nine acres from the then Bishop on which he built a ‘cottage’ – now the core of the present Hurlingham House. In 1797 the lease was re-granted to John Ellis (1757-1832), who later acquired the freehold and an additional 11 acres in 1800 for £3,150.
Mr Ellis employed the architect George Byfield (with landscape advice from Humphrey Repton) to enlarge the ‘cottage’ into the neoclassic mansion as we see it today. In 1807 the estate was sold for £16,000 to George O’Brien Wyndham (1751-1837) the 3rd Earl of Egremont, a magnificent patron of the arts and the turf, who in turn sold it on to John Horsley Palmer (1779-1858) in 1820 for £12,000. Mr Palmer, later the Governor of the Bank of England, added a further 16 acres to the property and in the mid 1830s he let it to Richard, Marquess Wellesley (1760-1842), elder brother of the great Duke of Wellington.
In 1860 Mr Palmer’s executors sold Hurlingham House and estate to the last private owner of Hurlingham, Richard Naylor (above right) (1814-1899), a great Victorian capitalist and builder of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange.