Sunday, 15 January 2012
Today has been the first crisp, cold, day of the winter. The sun was shining brightly so I decided to go over to the Freud Museum which I had never been to before. It is situated in Maresfield Gardens, on what is to me the other side of Hampstead, the Finchley Road side.
On the way over I photographed the new ‘Peace Gardens’ they are busy planting near the Hampstead Heath railway station. It is beginning to look as if it might turn out to be OK: one is always suspicious of the use of ‘peace’ in this way – I always remember George Orwell, who in 1984, labelled the Ministry of War as the Ministry of Peace.
I then took the opportunity to have a good look at one of Hampstead’s more exuberant Victorian houses, the Old Conduit House, at the corner of Lyndhurst Road and Lyndhurst Terrace.
This was built in 1864 to the design of John Burlison, the chief assistant to Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, and has been called a fine example of the ‘masculine’ gothic style.
There is also an interesting house opposite it on the other side of Lyndhurst Terrace, but I can’t read the inscription giving its name.
Then I went by mistake down Netherhall Gardens and saw a very large house with a plaque on it which turned the turned out to be to Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Did they really own the whole house? Or did they simply live in a flat on one of the floors? Is this where they spent their whole life? Or did they just happen to live there for a year or so?
I then went to Maresfield Gardens and found the Freud Museum. Over opposite there was another dark plaque that turned out to commemorate the house of HH Asquith the Prime Minister, directly opposite the Freud house; though presumably Asquith was long dead by the time the Freud came.
The Freud Museum in was in the house where Freud lived for just a year after he fled the Nazis in Vienna in 1938, until he died in September 1939, a few days after war was declared. There is also a blue plaque to his daughter Anna, who was a distinguished child psychologist. When he fled from Vienna, he was able to bring his furniture, books and antiquities with him, which was very lucky, though it means that although the Austrians have now made his old house into a museum, we have all his furniture and belongings and they have nothing!
It was a strange house with a very large hall which I suppose suited him as a place where his visitors could wait. To one side there was the combined consulting room and his famous study, and the couch on which his victims reclined while he sat, out of sight, at the head. There was a dining room, but no kitchen, and I presume that one end of the house had been blocked off for the administrative offices and caretaker’s flat. Then up the elaborate stairway there is a room dedicated to the memory of Anna Freud, including her loom, where she apparently wove to relax. There was also a room with a running film about Freud.
The most interesting aspect was the great emphasis on archaeology. Freud regarded himself as being an archaeologist who excavated down into the human mind and his main desk was crammed with archaeological objects which he had purchased from dealers in Vienna. There was a very nice Tang horse, and some Egyptian and a lot of classical material.
It was a fascinating visit — much more interesting than I had expected.