History of Pond House

Pond House, which is Grade II* listed, is one of Hackney’s finest late Georgian houses. The architect who designed Pond House remains a mystery, though certain elements of the house are reminiscent of the work of Sir John Soane. Between 1802 and 1803 City stockbroker Benjamin Walsh had a three-storey house in the Greek revival style designed and built for him and his new wife Mary overlooking Clapton Pond. Walsh, the son of a director of the Bank of England, was engaged in the business of selling “war insurance”, under which the insured would be paid if England and France had not made peace by some future date, and he had a reputation in the City for flamboyance and recklessness.

With timber-fluted Doric columns on a raised Portland stone semi-circular porch, adjoining double coach house and stabling for four horses, and what was described as “a handsome carriage approach enclosed with iron gates and palisades“, Pond House was a house of distinction, as befitted a gentleman of means. Walsh took up his seat in Parliament in 1808 for the constituency of Wootten Bassett. However it appears that this was a useful expedient as soon afterwards he was declared bankrupt. As an MP he had immunity from arrest for debt but his financial situation necessitated the sale of Pond House in January 1909. Expelled from the Stock Exchange, in 1811 Walsh went on to commit one of the biggest frauds against fellow MP Sir Thomas Plumer, the Solicitor General, who had entrusted him with £22,000 to buy exchequer bills. Walsh however used the money to play the lottery and lost. He was arrested while trying to flee the country and put on trial at the Old Bailey. The jury found him guilty of felony, which could carry the death penalty, but the judges ruled that there was insufficient proof of felonious intent and he was given a King’s pardon.

During the nineteenth century, Pond House remained in family occupation. The longest running occupants during this period were the family of Samuel Child, a wealthy merchant trading worldwide in dyestuffs, who lived in the house for 23 years. In 1877 a girls school was established in the house by a Miss Pearce. When the school closed in 1904, the house was used as a clothing factory and in 1939 ownership passed to the Hackney Volunteers’ Social Club, made up of men who were volunteers in the Hackney Rifle Regiment. Various alterations and repairs were made to the house during the latter half of the twentieth century, which were out of keeping with its historic character, and by the turn of the century the state of the house was causing concern to English Heritage who placed it on their At Risk Register. Finally the financial drain of retaining the property proved too much for HVCS and the property was sold for development in 2008.

There’s a nice aerial view of the whole plot on the British Listed Buildings website.

As a home:

As a school:

In the 1940s:

And in 2009, before it was boarded up: