A Blue Plaque for Ronald Fisher’s Childhood Home
May 2002 an English
Heritage blue plaque was unveiled at Inverforth House, the house in
ceremony is described below but first there is an account of the house and its
place in Fisher’s life. The information about Fisher’s childhood is taken from
the biography by his daughter, Joan Fisher Box, and the information about the
house and gardens from Cherry & Pevsner’s volume on
When Ronald was born in 1890 the family—there were five older children—was living in Finchley North London. The family moved to the Hampstead house in 1896. The move reflected their growing wealth. George Fisher, Ronald’s father, was partner in Robinson & Fisher of King St, a firm of auctioneers whose reputation, according to Box, rivalled Sotheby’s or Christie’s. (A Google search on “Robinson and Fisher” produces some traces of its former activity: see here for a page from one of its catalogues.)
House from the back (March 2003) Another photo
Box describes the house and what it provided, “In 1896 George Fisher moved from his home in Finchley to Heath House, a mansion he had built near the top of Hampstead hill, set in five acres of parkland and gardens. There were ponies for the children and a goat-chaise [Harness Goat Society] which they drove round the grounds and a carriage and pair for the parents.” (The account in Baker suggests that the house was not Heath House but Hill House and that George Fisher rebuilt an existing house.)
mother died aged 49 when he was 14. Within eighteen months his father lost his
fortune and the family had moved to Streatham. Ron relied on scholarships to
keep him at Harrow and to send him to
In 1933 when Fisher succeeded Karl Pearson as Galton Professor of Eugenics at University College London he did not follow his predecessor’s example and live in Hampstead. (See Karl Pearson’s Hampstead home.) Fisher stayed in Harpenden close to Rothamsted Experimental Station where he had been Chief Statistician.
There is another blue plaque (London remembers) on the property, commemorating William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851-1925). It reads “Soap-maker and Philanthropist, lived and died here.” Lever lived there from 1904 and in his time the property was known as The Hill. (The entry in Cherry & Pevsner is under this name and is about Lever’s house.) Lever had the house remodelled and enlarged and the garden redesigned by Thomas H. Mawson (see the nice aerial view). The garden, called The Hill, is much admired (1 2 3 4) and has been a public park since 1960. It was restored in the 1990s after a long period of neglect. See also Camden Listed Buildings and Parks and Gardens UK.
There is a plaque for an earlier resident of an earlier house, John Gurney Hoare of the well-known banking family. This was put up by Hampstead Plaque Fund (London remembers) to recall Hoare and his role in preserving the Heath in the 19th century; See Hampstead Heath.
There is no
plaque for Lord
Inverforth, the shipping magnate, who acquired the property after Lever’s
Dawes has left an account of life as a maid in the Inverforth household in
the 1930s. Inverforth died in 1955 and
left the property to
On Friday 17 May the Royal Statistical Society held a meeting
plaque was unveiled by
The chairman of the ‘blue plaque’ committee of English Heritage, Francis Carnwath, and the President of the Royal Statistical Society, Peter Green, gave short addresses, before a gathering of some thirty wellwishers.
The house, now called Inverforth House, is half-way along
In the afternoon papers were read at the Royal Statistical Society to mark the occasion. M.J.R.Healy spoke on Fisher's statistical work, A.W.F.Edwards on Fisher's genetical work and Alan Grafen on Fisher's contributions to evolutionary theory. *
Chair - ISI History of Statistics Committee
* The papers have appeared in The Statistician (Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series D), (2003), 52 (3) pp. 297-330.