Sir Frank Crisp (1843-1919)
Image: Friar Park, Crisp's country retreat in Henley (built c.1889-90)
Crisp was a successful London-based lawyer, who in 1889 bought an existing house at Friar Park in Henley, and completely rebuilt it in fantastical style as a weekend country retreat.
Crisp joined the legal firm of Ashurst and Morris, in which he became a partner in 1871. His main focus was company law, which brought him important international clients, and he was responsible for the contract drawn up for the cutting of the Cullinan diamond. A lifelong Liberal, Crisp also became legal adviser to the Liberal Party. He was knighted in 1907 and received a baronetcy in 1913.
Crisp's wide interests included horticulture, landscape gardening, natural history, and microscopy (the science of microscopes). He became a leading member of both the Royal Microscopical Society and the Linnean Society, of which his wife was one of the first women fellows. His horticultural interests - including an interest in medieval gardens and herbs - were expressed in the extraordinary gardens at Friar Park, developed over many decades. Though he kept his London town house in Holland Park, Crisp spent a good deal of time at Henley, where he took an active and philanthropic interest in town affairs. The grounds of Friar Park were thrown open for town events such as the Horticultural Show, and Crisp entertained there lavishly, inviting Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, George V, and other royalty during Regatta week. A Liberal fete was held in the grounds in 1898. Though Crisp himself was not a nonconformist, he was a grandson of John Filby Childs, a leading Congregationalist campaigner against church rates, and with his Liberal politics had close and friendly relations with the prominent Congregationalist group at Henley. When Henley's Congregationalist church was rebuilt in 1907, Crisp contributed generously to the cost. Crisp died at Friar Park in April 1919, and was buried in Henley parish church (St Mary's). Friar Park was sold soon after. For a fuller account of Crisp's life see the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.