At 18 Westbourne Terrace, in 1867, Thomas Hardy wrote the curiously medieval love poem called 1967. From 1867, when he lived there, the poem broods forward a hundred years, to a time when all those then living would be dead. It is an extraordinary sort of memento mori in the form of a love poem.
What possible explanation can there be for such a poem? Hardy's father was a builder in Dorchester, specializing in church restoration. In 1862, Hardy came to London with a letter of recommendation as an architectural assistant. By good chance he was employed by Arthur Blomfield and was to work in his office for seven years.
Blomfield, who was born in Lambeth Palace, was the son of one bishop (who gave his name to Blomfield Avenue, Paddington) and the brother of a second. Arthur Blomfield had an flourishing architectural practice at 18 Adelphi Terrace, with a bias, as one might perhaps expect, towards church architecture.
Few records remain of his actual practice, but a trawl through The Builder from 1862-67 reveals some of the work done in Hardy's time.
During his work for Blomfield, Hardy supervised the clearance of the old St Pancras Cemetery to make way for St Pancras Station. There he found a coffin containing two skulls. Blomfield found this hilarious, telling the story at every dining table in London. To Hardy it was a sombre subject and could perhaps have inspired this poem, with its two lovers being eaten by the same worm. Today we are further away from 1867 even than Hardy imagined and far further then the young Thomas Hardy was from Mrs Siddons.
It was while Hardy was living in Westbourne Terrace that Neeld and Vigers, of whom we shall hear more later, were developing the streets to the north of Harrow Road.