|Canons Park *||Harrow|
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
Canons Park is a fragment of the great C18th landscape garden laid out for the Duke and Duchess of Chandos. The estate is so-called after the Augustinian canons of St Bartholomew in Smithfield, who owned the Manor of Stanmore in 1086. The estate had various subsequent owners, notably William Hallett who rebuilt the house in 1760, and Sir Thomas Plummer, who may have sought Humphry Repton's advice on the landscape. The last private owner was Sir Arthur du Cros, for whom formal Arts & Crafts style gardens were laid out by Charles Mallows. The estate was eventually broken up in the early C20th, the house and 10 acres of land purchased for North London Collegiate School in 1929. Part of the remainder of the estate was acquired by Harrow Council and became the public park, although land to the east and west was also sold off for building. 85 acres were sold for the Canons Park Estate, which retained features of the earlier landscape, mature trees and two lakes. In the late 1930s the George V Memorial Garden was laid out within the old walled kitchen garden.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/10/2009
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.harrow.gov.uk, www.friendsofcanonspark.org.uk, www.cpea.org.uk
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.
Canons Park, View along Camber Avenue towards North London Collegiate School, autumn 2007. Photo Sharon Graham
Click photo to enlarge.
Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
With North London Collegiate School (q.v.) Canons Park is a fragment of a great C18th landscape garden. In Roman times tile-making was carried out here, and up to 26 potters may have worked in this area; the medieval church of St Lawrence Whitchurch (q.v.) has Roman tiles in its fabric. In medieval times Stanmore was woodland and pasture with a number of manor houses, that of Stanmore Chenduit was mentioned in 1260-1 and that of Wimborough was referred to until 1753. The estate of Canons, or Cannons as it was previously spelt, is so-called after the Augustinian canons of the Priory of St Bartholomew in Smithfield, who owned the Manor of Stanmore in 1086 and were gifted the land in 1330. An old hedgerow between Southern Parkland and Whitchurch Avenue (the former name for an avenue in the park, mentioned in Chandos's accounts) and the Spinney woodland may be remnants of the earlier landscape.
Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the estate initially passed to Sir Hugh Losse in 1544 who built a house here although its location is not known. His son Robert sold the estate in the early C17th to Sir Thomas Lake, Secretary of State (Chancellor of the Exchequer) to James I. Lake's great grand-daughter Mary married her cousin James Brydges (1673-1744) in 1696 and the estate was part of her dowry. Brydges became MP for Hereford in 1698 and then Paymaster General to the Forces, a position he held until 1713, amassing a large fortune. After Mary died in 1712, Brydges married Cassandra Willoughby, his first cousin, and together they began to enlarge Canons; their palace and grandiose gardens were laid out between 1713 and c.1720. In 1714 they moved here with their two sons and in October 1719 Brydges became 1st Duke of Chandos. Canons became a focus for fashionable society, with much cultural and social activity taking place; the Duke became a patron of Georg Frideric Handel, who from 1717-20 was composer-in-residence at Canons, where he wrote The Chandos Anthems and Concerti Grossi, and 'Acis and Galatea' was first performed in the gardens. Handel also performed in St Lawrence's church, the interior of which was redesigned for the Duke.
Garden designers associated with laying out the grounds for the Duke and Duchess include George London, although this is open to speculation since he died in 1714. Dr Richard Bradley (1686-1732) was consulted from c.1717 but dismissed in 1720 when Tilleman Bobart (1662-1754) took charge of the Canons gardens until 1724. In 1724 Thomas Knowlton (1691-1781) then became Head gardener, who later worked for Lord Burlington, and Alexander Blackwell worked here from 1738-42. Chandos is also said to have employed Dr Desaguiliers to design water features including canals, lakes and fountains. To the west, Stanmore Golf Course (q.v.) retains the partly man-made hill of Belmont, a mound erected as a point de vue from Canons by the Duke. The spectacular gardens were admired by many of their contemporaries, including Daniel Defoe, but others, such as Alexander Pope, vilified them as the height of bad taste, identifying Chandos with the ridiculous Timon's Villa in his 'Epistle to Lord Burlington' (1731). Chandos lost part of his fortune in the South Sea Bubble disaster, but after Cassandra's death in 1735 he remarried a wealthy widow, Lady Lydia Davall.
Chandos died in 1744, and the house was subsequently demolished after 1747, sold to pay off the 2nd Duke of Chandos's debts; the materials of the house were largely auctioned as architectural salvage. The estate and remaining materials were acquired by cabinet-maker turned gentleman William Hallett who built another Canons House in 1760, later much enlarged. Hallett died in 1781, his heir following in 1785, whereupon the estate went through a number of owners. These included 'Captain' Dennis O'Kelly, an Irish racehorse breeder, who was later buried in Canons Park, who purchased the estate c.1800. His racehorse Eclipse had an unbeaten record, sired many thoroughbreds, and was painted by George Stubbs and others. Sir Thomas Plumer, Master of the Rolls, bought the estate in 1811, for whom Humphry Repton is thought to have carried out alterations, as there are records that he was paid 30 guineas by Sir Thomas in 1816; there is also a view of Canons Park by Repton dated 1805. The estate was later owned by Dr David Begg c.1860, and finally by Sir Arthur Phillip du Cros, tyre magnate and founder of the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company, who initially rented the estate in (1896?) 1902, purchasing it outright in (1911?). At that time it comprised 500 acres of gardens, parkland and home farm. Sir Arthur commissioned architect Charles Mallows (1864-1915) to alter the house and re-design formal gardens around it, which date from c.1910.
By 1911 Sir Arthur had sold off the northern and southern part of the estate, largely for housing development but also for a golf course. After WWI he put the house up for sale, which with 10 acres of grounds was finally purchased by the North London Collegiate School in 1929 for £17,500, with the assistance of Middlesex County Council. Part of the remainder of the estate was acquired by Harrow Council and became the public park, although land to the east and west was also sold off for building. This included 85 acres sold to George Cross in 1926, whose Canons Park Estate retained many mature trees as well as two lakes, The Seven Acre Lake and The Basin, as the setting for high-class housing. The Basin, now an irregular pond in Canons Drive, was one of several ponds built by the Duke of Chandos on one of the approaches to his mansion.
Daniel Defoe had described the park laid out with six radiating avenues, a number of which are still traceable in alignments of the suburban streets, principally in the Wellingtonia-lined Canons Drive, which retains giant gatepiers at Edgware High Street end and also in the pedestrian approach from Marsh Lane to the west. The line of the southern avenue has been replanted with a mixture of trees, but few if any C18th trees survive with the exception of Cedars. The C18th walled kitchen garden is now occupied by the George V Memorial Garden whose formal layout dates from 1938 and has a pool, shelters, many specimen trees and shrubs. In the C18th this area of the garden included the Duke's melon ground, fruit trees, vegetable plots and possibly cloches or hothouses for pineapples and other exotic fruits. A classical temple from the Repton period remains on the lawn beneath a large Cedar and a Swamp Cypress, to the north of the walled garden; it once incorporated a heated glass Palm House, and a network of paths once connected the mansion and the Temple, remnants of which are found in the park. South of the kitchen garden is a partially enclosed plantation known as the Hawthorn Orchard, which appears to date back to the C18th designs of Alexander Blackwell; the existing hawthorns were probably planted c.1950.
By the last decades of the C20th Canons Park Open Space, as it was then called, had declined through neglect but was restored during 2007/8 with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, The Heritage of London Trust, LB Harrow and local community groups including Friends of Canons Park. Restoration proposals were developed through consultation with local groups and historic features have been restored together with new features such as improved security. Among the features restored are the avenues, with Whitchurch Avenue the widest of these, thereby re-establishing the main vista towards the park; the George V Memorial Garden has been restored to its 1930s layout, and the Temple and Bothy have also been restored, the latter converted into a base for maintenance and park staff, Friends of Canons Park Café and also a disabled toilet. An adventure playground was added in 2009 and the park was awarded Green Flag status in 2008 and 2009. Canons Park Estate Association is responsible for maintaining the landscape remnants within its land: gate piers at entrance to Canons Drive, Wellingtonia trees, Basin and Seven Acre Lakes, surplus lands on Canons Drive Estate. New facilities in 2010 include a cafe, which is open during the Spring to Autumn months and a new playground for ages 2 - 16.
George Carter et al 'Humphry Repton, Landscape Gardener' (1982), p.157; Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 ed); C H Collins Baker 'The Life and Circumstances of James Brydges' (1949); Joan Johnson, 'Excellent Cassandra: the life and times of the Duchess of Chandos' (1981), pp.89-90; William Keane 'Beauties of Middlesex' (1850), pp.257-60; Gardeners' Chronicle, ii, 1916, pp.208-11; Gardener's Magazine, v.5, 1829, pp557-8 'Canons Park, The Middlesex Residence of Sir Arthur Du Cros, Bart.,' Country Life, 28 October 1916; Building News, 6 October 1911; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Zvi Barzilai and Britta Fuchs, 'History and Restoration of Canons Park' in The London Gardener vol 11 (2005-6); LB Harrow, 'Canons Park History', prepared for HLF Bid (nd)