Breakspears was the seat of the Ashby family from the C16th - C20th, an extensive estate with pleasure grounds and parkland, remnants of which survive. In private occupation until 1951, from 1956-87 Breakspears House was an old people's home and it is now converted as private apartments set in grounds that contain remnants of the earlier landscaping. An early C16th dovecote survives to the north of the house, and the private grounds today contain rose gardens, a pinetum and walled garden.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/02/2012
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The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
Breakspears takes its name from William Breakspear who owned the estate from the late C14th. In c.1447 it was sold to George Ashby, Clerk of the Signet to Henry VI's wife Margaret of Anjou. A brass to Ashby (d.1474) and his wife are in the north wall of the Breakspear Chapel in Harefield parish church of St Mary (q.v.). Ashbys appear to have continued to serve the monarchy until 1769 when the last male heir, Robert Ashby, died. The property was inherited by his daughter Elizabeth, who married an apothecary, John Joseph Partridge, in 1770. A map of the estate was made in 1771 showing six houses on the property, including Breakspears House. Partridge purchased additional properties in the area over successive years and on his death in 1793 he left Elizabeth 'all the additions I have made to the Harefield Estate'. By 1813 the estate was over 600 acres but continued to grow with new land acquisitions. After Elizabeth's death in 1817 the estate was inherited by her son John Ashby Partridge, who in 1857 left his property to a relative of his wife, William Wickham-Drake. The latter also died without an heir in 1879 and the property passed to his cousin Captain Alfred Henry Tarleton. Tarleton did not live at Breakspears at first and for a time it was let to W S Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan, who later moved to Grim's Dyke (q.v.).
Tarleton and his wife were living here by 1891 and improved the house and grounds, building two lodges including the northern entrance lodge designed by Ernest Walker, a stable block and cottage on Breakspear Road in 1904. The drive was laid out in 1903-04 and many specimen trees date from the period of the Tarletons' ownership. Tarleton participated in the affairs of Harefield village, becoming vice chairman of the newly formed Harefield Parish Council in 1894, in which he continued until 1901. He provided a Working Men's Club, the Breakspear Institute, on Harefield Green (q.v.) in 1896. Following his death in 1921, his widow Henrietta remained living at Breakspears, although the estate, in the hands of trustees, began to be sold off. In 1936 Middlesex County Council purchased the house and 572 acres of land although Mrs Tarleton remained a tenant until her death in 1951. Harrow Council took over the house and established an old people's home in 1956, which was eventually closed in 1987, and in 1989 it was put on the market.
Breakspears House was probably built in the early to mid C17th, some of which structure remains although the house today is largely C18th with C19th additions. It was originally orientated to the south-east before alterations in the C19th made the north-east the principal front. The estate plan of 1771 shows formal gardens outside the south-east front, giving way to an avenue leading to a lake, with another avenue to the north-east stretching across the road and past Kiln Pond. Originally an elm avenue, this was later felled although in the 1990s some stumps remained near Claypits Wood. The view from the south-east front looked across parkland dotted with trees to the lake, which was backed by ancient woodland of Bayhurst Wood. William Keane, in his 'Beauties of Middlesex' (1850) remarked that 'the attached grounds are not extensive, but by a happy union of objects, a fine stretch of woodland, that forms a conspicuous feature of the neighbouring scenery, appears to constitute a portion of the home domain.' The dovecote to the north of the house has early C16th brickwork and west of the house are remains of a walled garden that contained vestigial fishponds. To the west and south west were C19th pleasure grounds, with a pinetum dominated by Wellingtonias and other ornamental conifers with massed rhododendrons beneath, and shrubberies with yew, holly, laurel and other shrubs. To the south and east C19th parkland planting survives in agricultural land, with the lake at the furthest point of the estate whose ornamental planting includes Wellingtonia dating from at least 1771.
The house and its adjacent grounds are being converted as an exclusive residential estate by Clancy Developments, the residents having private gardens as well as 9 acres of communal grounds that contain remnants of the former C17th and C19th landscaping. In addition to converting Breakspears House into 9 apartments, 8 new houses have been built in the grounds at Ashby Mews and Drakes Row, and the former entrance lodges, Tarleton Lodge and Hammond Lodge, have also been converted. The communal grounds contain a woodland garden with oak and cypress trees, rhododendrons and wild flowers, a pinetum with pine trees and conifers, and a walled garden with numerous varieties of fruit trees including damson, fig, peach, quince, pear and apple.
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 edition) p320; E W Brayley, 'Middlesex', 1816, V, pp560-77; Eileen M Bowlt, 'The Breakspear Estate', in 'Here and There around Harefield', 1989; Clancy Developments' website, www.breakspears.com