GARRICK, David (1717-1779)
Plaque erected in 1970 by Greater London Council at Garrick's Villa, Hampton Court Road, Hampton, TW12 2EJ, London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames
Theatre and Film
DAVID GARRICK 1717-1779 ACTOR lived here
The actor David Garrick was an 18th century celebrity, famous for his energetic portrayals of tragic heroes such as King Lear, Macbeth and Romeo. His villa in Richmond-upon-Thames features a temple to his idol, William Shakespeare.
STAR OF THE STAGE
The social status of Hampton in the 18th century was boosted by the arrival of Garrick. From the time of his début in 1741, Garrick made a sensational impact on the London stage with his dynamic and expressive acting. He was also a successful manager, running the Drury Lane theatre from 1747 until his retirement in 1776. Dr Johnson, an old friend, said that his ‘profession made him rich and he made his profession respectable’.
Garrick and his Austrian wife Eva Maria, née Veigel (1724−1822) rented what was then named Fuller House in Hampton in January 1754. They purchased the property eight months later and remained there until their respective deaths. The house was the Garricks’ summer retreat, their main residences being 27 Southampton Street (from 1749) and 5 Adelphi Terrace (from 1772), off the Strand, both since demolished.
Robert Adam was employed to make alterations to the villa, including the building of the façade with its central portico facing the river. The gardens, which sloped down to the Thames, featured ‘a grateful temple to Shakespeare’, whose reputation Garrick did much to foster. The temple survives intact and opens to the public on Sundays over the summer months.
In Hampton, the couple entertained lavishly – their ‘night fêtes’ were famous – and on one day each year they opened the grounds to local people. Reflecting on life at Hampton, Samuel Johnson was once moved to say, ‘Ah, David, it is the leaving of such a place that makes a death-bed terrible’.