There is no certainty about who lived in Fortismere in 1851, but from the size of his establishment, one candidate must be Edward Morgan, a stockbroker of 43, with his wife Katherine, aged 42 and their eight children from 14 to 2 years old and five domestic servants. One of these lived in a separate dwelling in the grounds, which could be the cottage occupied by the coachman Narroway and his wife in later schedules and which Collins was to put to good use fifty years later.

The Woods appeared on the census in 1881 but were not there in 1871, so who occupied the second Fortismere House before the Woods I do not know. W.J. Collins bought both houses in the last decade of the nineteenth century as his family home and began developing the estate. The other house which W.J.Collins bought was Firs, at the top end of what is now Firs Avenue, standing in about two acres of ground which stretched down the slope. We learn about the man who lived there from a lecture on 'Literary Muswell Hill', by Dr Draper, Headmaster of Tollington Boys School. This was printed as a charming pamphlet, full of literary history and well worth reading today.

As mentioned earlier, the Lehmann family held a literary salon at Woodlands, in Muswell Hill Road. An anecdote about Chorley, the critic, tells us something about the owner of Firs. As Dr Draper describes it:-

An old friend of the Lehmaims was the eccentric Chorley, literary and musical critic of the Athenaeum, who sometimes, dining at their house, behaved as if the dinner was of his own choosing and the guests invited by himself. One night at Woodlands the Lehmanns gave a dinner party at which Chorley knew everybody but a Mr Brockett, who lived at the Firs in Fortis Green Road. He was particularly taken with Mr Brockett, as a host should be, even when he isn't the host, and kept sending good things round to him. "Take the champagne to Mr Brockett please," and so on. Afterwards, in the music room, Chorley informed Frederic Lehmann: "I shall certainly ask Mr Brockett again. He is very nice."

John Symonds Brockett appears on the 1871 census and, from the anecdote above, we can identify the house as the Firs. He was a solicitor, aged 38, who was living with his wife Emily, three years younger, and five children aged from seven to one year old. They had six servants including a nurse and an under-nurse, a housemaid, a coachman, groom and cook. Amue Beare, a widow, was also in the household, but who she was is not clear - perhaps his wife's mother.

By 1881 Firs was occupied by Pierre Michaud, a Bordeaux Shipper from France, and his wife Gabriella, also from France. On the night of the census they had two visitors, Flossie Fiveline, a schoolgirl from Camden Town and Andre Beyle, aged 24, who was a clerk in an office, again born in France. Perhaps he was in Michand's London office, perhaps in an office in Bordeaux. There were three servants, a cook aged 11 according to the schedule but clearly this is wrong, a parlourmaid and a housemaid.

By 1901 Michaud had moved and Firs was occupied by Thomas Wilson. Either Wilson or his landlord sold the estate to Collins soon after this. As the houses in Firs Avenue

 

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