Last Updated on 1st March 2021 by Sophie Nadeau
I often find that it’s not the places themselves but the stories that the walls could tell that make a house (or, in this case, cottage) so special. It’s the people the place has housed, the secrets that the walls harbour. And there’s nothing more fascinating that peeling back layers of disco wallpaper or unlocking the mysteries within. Peel Cottage near Notting Hill in Central London is no exception to this rule…
With a trailing ivy-clad facade and friendly exterior, the house invites you in to share its part in history. Seemingly at odds with the rest of the terraced row of houses on the street, Peel Cottage is situated at 80 Peel Street and was completed in the late 1870s.
However, in of itself, the history of the house is not too fascinating; to be honest, there’s not much about it on the web. I was strolling past, taking photos a couple of weeks ago when I noticed a little blue plaque to the right of the door.
Now, these blue plaques always tell you about fascinating people that lived at the address. In fact, one in Bloomsbury informed me that I once lived on the same street as Lenin had done in the early 20th Century.
This time, the blue plaque was saying that Sir William Russell Flint had lived at Peel Cottage. He lived at Peel Cottage from 1825 until 1869; the year of his death.
Who was Sir William Russell Flint?
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1880, Flint was a prominent Scottish artist and illustrator. In fact, many go so far as to say that he is the best watercolour painter of the last century and he was eventually knighted for his services to Britain.
Throughout his lifetime, Flint wore many hats. From husband to father to naval officer to illustrator for medical purposes, he always remained a painter. From age 14 to 20 he worked in an apprenticeship as a draughtsman, learning various drawing and painting techniques in the process.
At the tender age of 20, he packed up and left Edinburgh, heading straight for the big smoke, to London. After a brief stint as a medical illustrator, he decided that regular employment with someone as his boss wasn’t for him and he left.
Instead, he began to pursue his passion; drawing, illustrating and painting. His fame grew and he was soon commissioned for all manner of books and publications. Then came the first World War. Like hundreds of thousands of men from his generation, Flint joined the war effort and signed up to the navy.
He spent the majority of the war serving on ships around the UK. Following the end of the war, Flint decided that it was time to pursue his passion as a painter full time. He grew to become of the most loved and most controversial Scottish painters of his generation. Although his works were loved by many, his depiction of the female form was often seen as vulgar and too much for art critics.
Flint’s work for The Savoy Opera Publications
Sir William Russell Flint also illustrated a number of publications for the Savoy Opera. A comic late Victorian type of Opera, and performed at the Savoy Theatre, the productions were later compiled into a series of books (the ‘Savoy Operas’).