Lyric Road, SW13

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Named after the ill-fated Lyric Club which bought the large mansion house St Ann’s as a sports annexe, in March 1888. The Lyric had been established in Bond Street when friends Dr Francis Charles Scott Sanders and Harry Mackenzie, decided to buy it out. Under their management they intended to open a country residence, as an added attraction to members. Having secured Lord Londesborough as chairman in the hope of attracting high society members, the Lyric appeared destined for success. Among the early investors was Mackenzie’s father Sir Morrell Mackenzie, the ear, nose and throat specialist, whose expertise had been sought by the crown prince of Germany (Mackenzie had made a fortune by claiming that the prince’s throat cancer was a minor infection, thus allowing him to be crowned Emperor… he died a few months into his reign). Despite these high hopes, almost from the outset the club attracted trouble. Its new premises in Coventry Street, in the West End, which they had lavishly decorated, became the subject of a long and protracted legal battle brought by a previous owner. Although the club won, they had racked up huge legal bills in the process. In the meantime the partners had purchased St Ann’s, in Barnes, with the furniture and fittings, for the sum of £13,000, paying upfront £1,500, the balance to be paid before March, 1893. The Old Bailey was later to hear: “The expenses of the club were something outrageous; there were 100 servants employed, and everything was carried out in a most extravagant manner. Nothing like accounts were kept, and everything was in a state of confusion. At one time there were as many as six banking accounts opened.” Perhaps sensing that all was not going well the Mackenzies pulled out of the club shortly after the Barnes deal and managed to claw back their original investment. By July 1891, spiralling into debt the “venturesome young physician” who had once rowed for Cambridge in the Boat Race, began to forge cheques in Londesborough’s name. By the summer of 1892, this had amounted to some £200,000 of forged cheques to keep the club going – although he himself had not benefited. At the same time his new business partner, Hugh Scott, had grown increasingly suspicious over how the money was being raised and a warrant was issued for Sanders’ arrest. Realising the game was up, the doctor attempted to flee the country with the plan of setting up a medical practice in Mexico. Even now, luck was not with him. His train was delayed resulting in him missing his passage to America. Detained in Liverpool, he was arrested. On him were £197,000 of forged cheques and several copies of Londesborough’s signature. At his trial held shortly before Christmas 1892 he pleaded guilty to 12 offences and was sentenced to six years in prison. To further cement his fall from grace, he was struck from the medical register. The club was eventually wound up, its remaining membership transferring to the Prince of Wales Club, its opulent furniture was sold off to pay creditors and on May 27, 1893 the following advert appeared in The Times: “ST ANN’S, Barnes, lately the well-known and extremely popular quarters of the Lyric Club, an attractive property of about 14 acres, very pleasantly situate, overlooking the river Thames at the most interesting point of the course of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race and other aquatic contests only a few minutes walk from Barnes-common and station, and within an easy drive of the metropolis, rendering it especially suitable for the purpose of fashionable resort, while it is equally adaptable to the requirement, of a public institution. It includes a commodious mansion approached from the principal lodge entrance by a carriage drive, and containing handsome and spacious apartments on the ground floor, within numerous rooms on the upper storeys and in the lofty tower, extensive offices: other spacious buildings; and Pavilions in the grounds, constructed for halls and other recreations : stabling and a riding school capable of standing some 60 horses : and kitchen, gardens. with ranges of glasshouses. This extremely valuable PROPERTY will be LET upon LEASE, or the Freehold might be Sold, in which event it offers exceptional facilities for development as an important building estate. All particulars may be obtained of Messrs FAREBROTHER, ELLIS, CLARK, and Co., 29, Fleet-street, and 18 Old Broad-street, E.C.” The road was named in 1903.

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1 thought on “Lyric Road, SW13”

  1. I have a book “The Queens London” with a pic of the boat race 1895 caption states “the building with the tower was formerly the country house of the Lyric Club. The captive balloon beside it owes its elevation to the enterprise of some advertiser.”
    The balloon interested me, the area was served with gas to fill them and was ideally situated for trips across London with the prevailing SW winds.

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