With the expanding practice and the increased staff at Spring Gardens, it is not surprising that Caroline, with the boys aged five and two, was finding life increasingly uncomfortable. Scott wrote ‘I fear it was wrong towards my dear wife to subject her to such disturbances particularly as her health, after the birth of my second boy John was very indifferent’ so they moved to 12, Avenue Road, St John’s Wood, where in August 1844 ‘a few days after our removal from Spring Gardens’ their third son, Albert Henry was born. If the removal did take place at that time, it would have been between the visit to Calais and the decision to enter the Hamburg competition.
Avenue Road is a long straight tree-lined avenue stretching north from the northern side of Regent’s Park to Swiss Cottage. The earliest development took place along the road between 1828 and 1834 on land owned by the Duke of Portland at the southern end. The Scotts’ new home was one of the few semi-detached houses in this development, and it was situated on the west side about two hundred yards from the North Gate of the park. It existed until about 1900, when, with its two neighbours to the south, it was demolished and its site enlarged to accommodate the detached house, now numbered 23 Avenue Road, that still stands there. The few original houses still existing indicate that the development consisted of stuccoed Regency villas with low slate roofs and a few Greek ornamental details. Spring Gardens, at two-and-a-half miles from Avenue Road, was an easy ride or walk through Regent’s Park and then along Regent Street. Why Scott wanted to move there is not clear. In spite of the present enthusiasm for John Nash’s masterpiece of town planning and landscape, Scott would certainly not have acknowledged that this great scheme gave him any enjoyment on his journey to and from work.
Clearly it was not the architecture of St John’s Wood or Regents Park which attracted Scott to Avenue Road. It is more likely that the attractions were social and the accessibility to public transport. With a growing reliance on the railways, Scott, at Avenue Road, would have been less than half-an-hour’s walk to both the main-line termini at Euston and at Paddington. Also, St John’s Wood had an excellent omnibus service ‘that provided genteel transportation to and from both the City and West End, and made the maintenance of a private carriage unnecessary’. The social attraction of St John’s Wood was its exclusiveness. No mews or stabling was required and therefore there was not the need for the poorer members of the population who usually tended the horses in inner urban areas. In fact it provided social homogeneity with withdrawn seclusion. A writer in 1850 stated that for the most part its inhabitants were ‘the opulent and industrious professional men and tradesmen of London’. Spring Gardens was an insignificant congested side-street, hemmed in by pubs and offices, with all the noise and smell of the centre of the world’s biggest city. The house there was inconvenient and gave Caroline little privacy and very little dignity. Avenue Road could provide all the things that Spring Gardens lacked, including a garden which was most important to Caroline, and was also where Scott could carry out experiments on the concrete foundations for his Hamburg church. Here the Scotts had room to bring up a young family, with accommodation for the necessary nurse, cook, house maid and nurse maid, as well as his young pupil, Bodley.
They stayed there for twelve years. Albert Henry arrived very soon after they moved into the house, Alwynne Gilbert in 1849 and, after a gap of five years, Dukinfield Henry in 1854. But the continual problem ‘has been my dear wifes delicate health’, since John was born in 1842.