Chesington Hall, sketched by Ellen G. Hill. Source: Hill 147. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

This isolated house in Surrey, as it was then, had a very special place in Fanny Burney's life:

CHESINGTON HALL, the home of her "Daddy Crisp," was dear to the heart of Fanny Burney. There her father during his widowhood used to take " his delighted children to enjoy the society of that most valued friend," and so complete was the enjoyment of young and old on these occa- sions that "in this long-loved rural abode," says Fanny, "the Burneys and happiness seemed to make a stand."

"The old Hall," she tells us, "had been built upon a large, lone and nearly desolate common; and no regular road, or even track, to the mansion from Epsom (the nearest town) had been spared from its encircling ploughed fields or fallow ground." So isolated, indeed, was its position that strangers could not reach it without a guide, and to Dr. Burney alone, among his former friends and acquaintance, had Crisp confided the clue which would enable him to discover the route. Crisp had fixed his abode in Chesington Hall that he might be far removed from all contact with the world and its disappointments; but he had not shut out his heart from human love and sympathy, nor his mind from intellectual influences. He was, as Macaulay has said, "a scholar, a thinker, and an excellent counsellor," and he be- came, by common consent, the family adviser of the Burney household, while his solitary home came to be their holiday resort.

Fanny from early girlhood had been accustomed to write long letters to her Chesington "Daddy " to while away his lonely hours by accounts of the various gatherings in the little parlour of her home in St. Martin's Street, where distinguished singers, and statesmen and women of fashion all thronged to wait upon the author of the History of Music. In after life Fanny entered in one of her note books the following memorandum: "A charge delivered to me by our dear vehement Mr. Crisp at the opening of my juvenile correspondence with him: 'Harkee, you little monkey! dash away whatever comes uppermost; if you stop to consider either what you say, or what may be said of you, I would not give one fig for your letters.'"

... At the end of a long passage on the first storey, running from the front to the back of the house, there was a small room which Mr. Crisp had named the "Conjuring Closet," for there his friend Dr. Burney had written a large portion of his History of Music; delighting in the quiet and seclusion of Chesington for his literary work.

It was at Chesington that Fanny was staying in July 1778, when the sudden and unlooked for success of Evelina became known to her. [145-48]

Chessington now comes within the boundaries of Greater London. The house was rebuilt in 1803, but that house too was later demolished, and the land requisitioned for a large housing development.

Image scan, text and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use the image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the source and (2) link your document to this URL or cite it in a text document.


Banerjee, Jacqueline. Literary Surrey. Corrected ed. Headley Down, Hampshire: John Owen Smith, 2011.

Hill, Constance. Juniper Hall, A Rendezvous of Certain Illustrious Personages during the French Revolution, including Alexandre d'Arblay and Fanny Burney. Illustrations by Ellen G. Hill and reproductions of photogravure, etc. London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1904. Internet Archive. Contributed by Robarts Library, University of Toronto. Web. 1 August 2020.

Created 1 August 2020