Wilkie Collins lived at 82 Wimpole Street
from early 1888 after leaving his former house at 90 Gloucester Place.Wimpole Street
is in central London's Harley Street
area on the Howard de Walden Estate and the archivist, Richard Bowden, recently
unearthed the Estate's documents on Wilkie's last home.The house today is unlike its immediate neighbours, having been
completely rebuilt during the 1920s.The
original appearance can be seen in a photograph illustrating Arthur Compton-Rickett's
article 'Wilkie Collins' on pp. 107-122 of The Bookman of June 1912.
82 Wimpole street as it
appeared in Collins's time and until 1926.
The earliest document from the archives is dated 15 March
1850 and refers to the existing lease to a Mr Thomas Huddle due to expire on
Lady Day 1854.The new lease will be
granted to Mr Thomas Burn by His Grace the Duke of Portland for a period of 36
years at an annual rent of £50 for a payment or 'fine' of £247.
The next document brings us towards the period of
Collins's occupation and is dated 5 October 1886.It represents a new lease for a further 36 years, this time granted by
the Trustees of the will of William Henry Cavendish Scott, Fourth Duke of
Portland to 'Joseph Walker, Esqre M.D. of 22 Grosvenor Street, W.' for a rent of £80.Walker
is "forthwith to insure the premises" for not less than £1,200 and
to pay a fine of £500.The lease
also details extensive works to the house which must include thorough repairs to
the roof, windows and basement, relaying the floors and drains; and making good
brickwork and the first floor balcony and verandah.
Lease granted to Joseph
Collinsis not mentioned
by name in the lease but we can assume that the house was in excellent order by
the time he moved in as a sub-tenant during February or March 1888.In a letter of 22 December 1887 he had written "I have taken refuge
in the upper floors of 82.
Wimpole Street, having the whole place to myself excepting only the dining rooms.I may move next month. I must move in February."Wilkie remained in the house until his death in September 1889.
The final document in the archives is dated 26 July 1922 on
behalf of The Right Honourable Thomas Evelyn Baron Howard de Walden and Seaford
and grants a new lease to A. H. Michell Esq. to commence on 6 April 1926.The rent will be £25 for the first twelve months and £70 thereafter.The document also includes a complete Particulars of Works "To pull
down the whole of the existing buildings on the site", defining precisely
the nature of the materials to be used in rebuilding the house, "The works
are to be completed by 6 April 1927."