HARLEY STREET, world renowned for its first class medical specialists, was first rated in 1753. It takes its name from Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford, the ground landlord.
Before the doctors moved in, this was a street of ‘rank and fashion’. In 1772, No. 108 was briefly the London town-house of James Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale (1736-1802) a man of ‘immense wealth and political influence whose violence, despotism and caprice constituted a form of madness. Known from his acquisitive nature as ‘Jemmy Graspall, Earl of Toadstool’, he cared for nobody save his mistress, who, when she died, he placed in a glass-topped coffin, which he kept always beside him.
By 1792, No. 108 Harley Street was in the occupation of a very different sort of man, Edward Bocham, a captain in the Grenadier Guards. Bocham was replaced here in 1796 by Charlotte Baillie, the widow of William Baillie (d.1782) a Lieutenant-Colonel in the army of the East India Company, who had died in captivity after being defeated by Hyder Ali in 1780. His widow left No.108 Harley Street in 1812 – the year of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow - in favour of John Fisher, a city mercer. Fisher was in turn replaced here in 1815 - the year of the battle of Waterloo - by David Hall, a prosperous actuary.
Records for 1823 show the house in the possession of the Hon./ Henry Windsor, a son of the 1st Earl of Plymouth. It next passed to another aristocrat, the Hon. William Barrington, who took possession about 1828. Barrington lived here with is wife Emily, the fourth daughter of the 1st Lord Ravensworth. In 1829, a year after taking up residence at No 108 Harley Street, Barrington succeeded his father as 6th Viscount Barrington.
When Viscount Barrington left this house in 1835, it was acquired by a widow named Ackland. In 1843 it had passed to another widow, Mary Hughes, who bequeathed it to her son, Thomas Hughes, a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn, a magistrate for his native county of Denbigh and a captain in the Denbighshire Rifle Militia. Hughes lived at No. 108 until about 1890,.
In 1905, No.108 was acquired by the Ophthalmic Surgeon Nathaniel Bishop Harman (1869-1945), following his marriage. His publications included “Analysis of 4288 Cases of Blindness” and “The Eyes of Our Children”. In 1906, his daughter Elizabeth was born here. Twelve years later she married from this house, taking as her husband Frank Pakenham, afterwards a brilliant Labour Cabinet Minister, better known today as Lord Longford, the penal reformer. Lady Longford wrote in her biography “The Pebbled Shore”, that when her father purchased No. 108 on a 999 year lease ‘he was allowed to put up only two other brass plates beside his own’. She added that as a child, ‘the face over the door always appeared to have a peculiarly nasty sneer’.
Nat Harman, says his daughter, was strikingly unlike her mother, Katherine, who was the first cousin of the future Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. ‘Where she was small and dark, he was over 6 foot 2, lanky and fair. Both parents were doctors, though only the father practised. Katherine Chamberlain, qualified at the Royal Free Hospital, but earned only one private fee of £3 for extracting a wisdom tooth before marrying Nat Harman. She never practised again. She was already thirty-three when I was born in 1906 and forty one when the last of her five children arrived. We were all brought into the world at No. 108 Harley Street.’
Lady Longford recalls that her father’s consulting-room here ‘was something of a dragon’s den to us children when young, for we were always supposed to walk past in dead silence on our way upstairs, in case he had a patient with him. If we occasionally forgot and passed his door in a spate of chatter, he would burst out in a rage and roar at us to be quiet. He must have frightened his patients far more than his children. We regarded our mother as perfection, him as a spoilsport’.
Nathaniel Harman continued to live and practice at No. 108 Harley Street until his death in 1945, when the house passed to his son, John Bishop Harman, a Consultant Physician at St Thomas Hospital. He was a popular doctor and teacher, with a trim upright figure in a bowler hat. His snuffbox was always at the ready (old patients were often given a pinch and many a houseman was convulsed on ward rounds by accepting an injudiciously large helping). He achieved national fame by appearing as a witness for the defence on behalf of Dr John Bodkin Adams in the notorious murder trial in 1957. His legalistic mind was put to good use on the Medical Defence Union of which he was president from 1976 to 1981. He was also a great supporter of the Royal College of Physicians of which he was 2nd vice-president, 1981-1982.
In 1946 John Harman married Anna Spicer. They had four daughters, all of who became solicitors and one of them Harriet Harman becoming a Labour Member of Parliament. He continued to live at No. 108 Harley Street until his death in 1994.
In 1990, the house was purchased by Mr O J A Gilmore, a Consultant Surgeon on the staff of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, who specialises in diseases of the breast and renowned for his operation “Gilmore’s Groin”, a procedure undertaken on numerous sportsmen with torn groins in order to return to sport.
In 1991, 108 Harley Street was completely refurbished and an X-ray Department was installed together with a Day Surgery Unit. Thus today, 108 Harley Street is able to offer first class facilities all on site.
Services available at 108 Harley Street
Contact 108 Harley Street
108 Harley Street
Telephone: 0207 563 1234
Fax: 020 7563 1212