|Boston Manor Park||Hounslow|
Boston Manor Park surrounds the old manor house of 1623, which remained in private ownership until 1924 when it was purchased by Brentford UDC. Members of the royal family are known to have visited Boston House, which had a number of illustrious owners. The estate had fine gardens, that in 1918 included a walled garden, glasshouses, a temperate house and vinery and a 200 yard long herbaceous border. The original grounds extended from the Thames in the south to the railway line in the north and the lake appears on maps at the end of the C18th.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/03/2012
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Boston Manor Park - Photo: Colin Wing
Click photo to enlarge.
It is thought that the Manor of Boston (earlier called Bordeston, Borstone and then Burston) was set up by Gervais de Blois, an illegitimate son of King Stephen; it was later granted to Ralf de Brito who built a church and churchyard adjoining his house in 1163, possibly the site of St Lawrence's church (q.v.). In the late C12th the Manor was granted to the nuns of St Helen Bishopsgate (q.v.) and was probably used to for growing food and as a retreat. From 1306 the nuns ran a weekly market and an annual 6-day fair took place from the eve of St Lawrence's Day. In 1538 at the Dissolution of the Monasteries it was taken over by the Crown, and in 1547 Edward VI gave this and other properties, including Syon (q.v.), to the Duke of Somerset, the Lord Protector. Boston Manor was later taken back in 1552 and in 1572 Queen Elizabeth I gave it to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester who sold it to Sir Thomas Gresham, owner of Osterley Park (q.v.).
The house that survives today is the brick manor house built in 1623 by Lady Mary Reade who had inherited the property for her lifetime. She was the widow of Sir Thomas Gresham's stepson, Sir William Reade, knighted by James I. Sir William had died in 1621, and in 1623 Lady Mary married Sir Edward Spencer of Althorp and may have built the house quickly in time for their wedding. In 1642, during the Civil War, the Battle of Brentford was fought nearby and it is rumoured that Charles I watched it from Boston House. A fire in the 1650s destroyed the manor records and part of the house. After Lady Mary's death in 1658, the property was inherited by her relation, John Goldsmith, on whose death in 1670 the estate of some 230 acres was sold for £5,135 17s 4d to James Clitherow, an East India merchant, who extended the house to the north. It was from his descendants that it was bought by the Brentford UDC in 1924.
In 1718 the estate is described as comprising: 'The manor or capital house (called Boston) with gardens, walls, walks, courts, 5 fish ponds . . . Plantation and nursery computed to be 3 acres . . . Whole being well wooded and watered.' A portrait of James Clitherow III (1731-1805) and his wife by Arthur Devis in 1759 shows them in the grounds of the house with the River Brent in the background, and the cedar trees were probably planted around this time. In the late C18th land was sold for the construction of the Grand Junction Canal and the section from the Thames to Uxbridge was opened in 1794, with what was then the second lock from the Thames called Clitherow Lock. In the C19th James Clitherow IV and his wife Jane lived at Boston House, among whose friends were William IV and his Queen, who dined at Boston House in 1834. Although Brentford had become built up as an industrial and disreputable area by the second half of the C19th, Boston House and its grounds remained rural. A description in 1886 in 'The Garden' refers to the charm of the woodland walk, a vista cut through one of the trees creating a view of the park from the house, rose walks and the fine kitchen garden.
In 1918, the estate having become increasingly costly to maintain, it was decided to sell it. The sale catalogue described the walled garden, glasshouses growing melons and cucumbers, a temperate house and vinery and a 200 yard long herbaceous border. Not reaching the reserve price the house contents were sold by auction but in 1923, to avoid the threat of the house being demolished and the park developed for housing, Colonel Stracey Clitherow sold Boston House and 50 acres of land to Brentford Urban District Council. Some land was sold or used for housing development, meadows were made into playing fields and Brentford UDC paid £23,000 for the house and 2 acres of land. The park was opened to the public on 11 September 1924. The ground floor of the house was used as a school from 1940, moving out in 1961. By this time the house, which had been damaged during WWII, was in a bad state but grants enabled its restoration. These were completed and it was re-opened by The Queen Mother in 1963. At that time it was leased by the National Institute of Houseworkers as its headquarters and training centre, with the library and State Rooms open to the public on Saturdays in the summer. Part of the house was later leased to the Over Forties Association for Women who converted it into flats for their members, apart from the State Rooms, and in the 1990s also converted the stable block into self-contained flats.
In the park today are mature cedars and other trees planted by the Clitherows, a pond with an island to the north-west of the house, brick stables and some of the original garden walls. The major event to affect this landscape has been the construction of the M4 motorway, which cut right across it from north-west to south-east in 1964/5. In the C21st works have been undertaken to upgrade the park and have included paths, replanting of shrub, flower and herbaceous borders and tree works. An extensive wildflower meadow was created in 2006 and the historic walled garden has been restore, as has Boston House itself. The Friends of Boston Manor Park and a local tennis club have actively supported the improvements to the park, raising funds and organising numerous events, including the annual Brentford Festival, which attracts more than 5,000 people. Boston Manor Park won a Green Flag Award in 2005, successfully retaining this in subsequent years..
Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 edition); Janet McNamara 'Boston Manor Brentford, A History and Guide', Heritage Publications Hounslow Leisure Services, 1998