|St Vincent's Provincial House||Barnet|
The house was formerly Littleberries, built on the site of an earlier house that was altered and improved from 1712 following its acquisition by George Littlebury in 1691. The estate underwent numerous changes over the years and had fine grounds, including descending grass terraces leading to a temple. An estate survey of 1754 shows a series of ponds, walled garden, and square 'pleasure ground' with three variously shaped ponds and a mount. In the C19th J W Pawson made further improvements, probably planting monkey puzzle trees, a number of which survive. In 1885 it was acquired by the Order of St Vincent and although the ponds are filled in the landscaping between house and temple is not much changed.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/11/2005
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It is said that Nell Gwynne once lived here but there is no evidence for this. The name almost certainly derives from George Littlebury who acquired the property in 1691. In 1712 he paid the Lord of the Manor, Lord Powis, £18 5s for improvements made to the house and grounds. Various owners have added to the site over the years, the result being that the original plan has been lost under the bricks and mortar of later generations. Rocque's map of 1754 shows a broad tree-lined avenue-like strip of land running north-east from the house. C18th improvements consisted of a pedimented pavilion-like room of c.1712-21 projecting from the main body of the house. Formerly profusely gilded, it was known as the Gilt Room, the centre of each wall having a circular medallion containing portraits identified by Sir George Scharf, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, as Caroline of Ansbach, George I, George II and William III. The room was connected to the garden by a contemporary curved double flight of steps, commanding a vista down a broad avenue across three descending grass terraces to an Ionic temple, variously described as a banqueting or summer house.
An estate survey of 1754 shows a sequence of two ponds on the axis before the temple, a square pond on the middle terrace and a round or polygonal one directly before it. A walled garden behind, possibly planted as an orchard by 1796, led to a larger square 'pleasure ground' with three variously shaped ponds and a mount. In the C19th the estate was again improved by the owner J.F. Pawson, who was probably responsible for planting 4 monkey puzzle trees that are shown on the OS map of 1868 on the upper terrace close to the house. A low-relief plaster roundel of this period in the temple shows a view of the vista towards the house.
All the ponds have been filled during the last 40 years, although the round pond briefly reappeared after heavy rain, otherwise the landscape between house and temple is little altered today. The stuccoed temple with C19th glazing was later surmounted by a statue of Christ, and framed by clipped privet hedge and mature yew, holly and conifers. Scharf had described the temple interior as 'highly decorated with figures and ornaments in low relief, all in white plaster. They include portrait medallions of females, supported by sphinxes, mermaids and tritons. These faces are all in profile, full of individuality, and probably represented members of the family who then occupied the house'. Since 1962 the Order of St. Vincent has added a devotional statue in the centre of a small formal rose garden on the upper terrace, adjacent to three surviving monkey puzzle trees. North of the temple the C18th walls of the former walled garden survive on two sides, together with the site of the gate to the pleasure ground, now bricked up, this area is now an orchard. East of the old gateway an iron gate leads to a rough paddock on the site of the former pleasure ground, since 1962 with a small fenced burial ground on the eastern side.
E Harwood 'The Garden at St Vincent's Provincial House, The Ridgeway, Mill Hill'; LB Barnet Listing report for EH, 1989; George Scharf, 'Notes and Queries 21 January 1882' p 41-43; Edward Walford, 'Village London: Part 1: West and North' 1985 (originally published in 1883); Arthur Mee 'The King's England: London North of the Thames except the City and Westminster' (Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 1972).