Stop 7: Camden Place

Camden Place
Camden Place flying the tricolour
The clock and crest above the main entrance

There has been a house here since the early 1600s, but the present house was developed and first occupied by Charles Pratt, lawyer and politician who later became Lord Chancellor. He was created 1st Earl Camden in 1794, adopting the name of his house. The house itself is reputed to be named after William Camden, a great antiquarian and historian who lived in a previous house on this site until his death in 1623. The house was rebuilt by a later owner, who then named it Camden Place in honour of the great scholar.

Nathaniel Strode, a later owner, altered it in the style of a French chateau. It was to become the home of the Emperor Napoleon III of France (nephew to Napoleon Bonaparte) after his exile from France in 1871 to join his wife, the Empress Eugenie and their son the Prince Imperial who had come here the year before. Chislehurst became the site of the French Court in exile, and there were many visits from British and French politicans and royalty, including Queen Victoria. Their presence put Chislehurst firmly on the list of fashionable places to live. The exiled Emperor died here in January 1873.

Both Napoleon III and the Prince Imperial, were the subjects of lavish funeral processions from Camden Place. Reports and images can be found here... and here... The Empress left Camden Place in 1882, shortly after her son died.

William Willett owned the house for a while, and plans were prepared to develop the whole of the estate for housing. Fortunately these plans were never fully implemented, with only Camden Park Road and the Wilderness being developed. The remaining parts of the estate now form part of a private Golf Club.

An earlier death here was more sensational. Previous residents Thomson Bonar and his wife Anne, were found murdered here in 1813. The footman, Philip Nicholson, was arrested, and though he initially denied his guilt, he subsequently confessed. A monument to Bonar, bearing details of the murder, lies in St Nicholas churchyard.

Napoleon III had visited Chislehurst as a young man, and it is thought that he had paid Strode to buy it and mantain it as a bolt-hole.
Go back to the crossroads, and take the first left, down Prince Imperial Road. Look to your right after 100 yards or so.

Want to read more about the French Imperial family? Tom Bushell's book, Imperial Chislehurst, provides an interesting insight into life in Chislehurst during the years when Napoleon and his family were in residence. More...