|Grim's Dyke Hotel *||Harrow|
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
Grim's Dyke was built as a country mansion for Victorian painter Sir Frederick Goodall, and from 1890-1911 was the home of the librettist Sir William Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan. It was converted to a hotel in 1970. Formal gardens and woodland surround the house and the walled garden now houses the hotel annexe. The ornamental woodland contains a number of ponds and a lake with the remains of a boathouse and artificial rockwork.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2013
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.grimsdyke.com
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.
Grim's Dyke Hotel from sunken rose garden to north, June 2013. Photo: S Williams
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
Grim's Dyke ('Grimm's Ditch', Grim in Old English meaning devil or goblin) is an ancient earthwork that runs for 3 miles between Harrow Weald Common and Pinner Green, whose original purpose is not known. The date of its construction is debated: it may be C5th or C6th, or it may have Celtic or Roman origins. Similarly its purpose has caused much speculation: it may be have been built by the Catuvellauni tribe as defence against the Romans; a boundary ditch during the reign of Offa the King of Mercia; to keep out cattle raiders; for agricultural purposes; or perhaps to drive animals towards during hunting chases.
The mansion of Grim's Dyke with its extravagant late C19th formal gardens was built in 1870-72 by architect Richard Norman Shaw for the painter Sir Frederick Goodall RA (1822-1904). He was known for his paintings of Biblical scenes, Egyptian and Levantine panoramas. The property's name was changed to Graeme's Dyke at Shaw's request, who felt that 'Grim's Dyke' would give a bad impression of the house. Goodall had purchased over 40 hectares of the Harrow Weald estate owned by the Marquess of Abercorn in 1856 and although he was unable to start building his house for 12 years pending expiry of an existing lease, he was able to commence preparations for landscaping works, having gained permission to plant nurseries of conifers and shrubs such as rhododendrons and azaleas. In his reminiscences, published in 1902, Goodall writes that he 'laid out gardens for fruit and flowers, and moved the conifers to their final place' once the house was completed. He described 'laying out thirty acres of ground as a landscape garden' as 'the greatest spell of relaxation that I ever enjoyed'.
The southern boundary of the property was Old Redding and Harrow Weald Common, with further commonland to the east and farmland to the north. The gardens were bordered to the west and north by the earthworks of Grim's Dyke and along the garden edge was a long narrow canal created by damming the brook running at the bottom of the ditch. This was crossed by two bridges, one from the north of the garden south of the house on an axis with the west terrace and the other dating from 1875 with rockwork beneath it, both said to contain fragments from St Mary's parish church of Harrow on the Hill (q.v.) when it was restored. Goodall's gardens were terraced, with a tennis court to the east of the lawns. The statue of Charles II by Cibber was moved to Goodall's garden from Soho Square (q.v.), and remained at Grim's Dyke until the 1930s when it was returned to Soho Square.
In 1880 Sir Frederick Goodall sold the property to Robert Heriot, a banker, who in 1890 sold it to Sir William and Lady Gilbert. Sir William Schwenck Gilbert was famous as the librettist and dramatist who worked with Sir Arthur Sullivan. The Gilberts changed the name of the property back to Grim's Dyke and undertook works to both the house and grounds, planting trees and rhododendrons and creating a sunken rose garden on the terrace above the canal. Improvements to the house were made for them by Ernest George & Harold Peto. Sir William developed the existing model or home farm on the estate and here he kept Jersey cows, pigs and fowl. He was well-known as a great animal lover and there were a large number of animals at Grim's Dyke, ranging from domestic pets to farm and wild animals, including a fallow deer fawn and a donkey trained to pull the lawnmower. There were dovecotes on the east lawn and beehives in the kitchen garden, which had been established in the 1870s to the north of the earthworks and had an orchard and vineries. To the east of the kitchen garden were stables and outbuildings, and the Gilberts also built a series of greenhouses where peaches, grapes, melons, nectarines and bananas were grown as well as ornamental plants. The tennis court was extended, and a croquet lawn was created on the lawn outside the library.
Sir William created a lake to the south of the house in c.1900, personally supervising the work; it was later extended in 1905 and was drained and refilled every year. It had a central island, a promontory with rockwork cascade at the north end, a boathouse and changing hut, and was planted with bulrushes, water lilies and other plants. Sir William permitted local people to use the lake for bathing and was an active member of the local community, participating in the establishment of the Conservators of Harrow Weald and of the Grim's Dyke Golf Club in 1906, of which he became President. Sadly Gilbert drowned in his lake while swimming to the rescue of a young girl on 29 May 1911.
Lady Gilbert continued to live here until her death in 1936. After this the contents of the house were auctioned and the house was acquired jointly by the MCC and LCC. It was leased to the North West Regional Hospital from 1937-1963 as a sanatorium and hospital for women suffering from TB. It was used in WWII for secret projects, and after the hospital closed it was used as a film set from time to time but it suffered decline over the years. In 1969, then owned by the GLC, it was granted to Harrow Council on a 999 year lease provided that it was preserved and steps taken to keep its past history alive. It was first converted as a hotel in 1970 and opened as Grim's Dyke Hotel and Country Club, run by Mr and Mrs Alberto Della Valle. In 1996 it was purchased by the Melton Medes Group and extensive restoration has been carried out in the grounds.
The formal gardens today have lawns, walls, steps and hedges, backed by spectacular specimen trees. Along the north boundary of the garden is a pond and narrow canal crossed by the pair of bridges, the west bridge retaining its ornamental rockwork below it including a gothic niche inscribed with the date 1875, much decayed. To the north the large walled garden now houses the hotel annexe, Grim's Dyke Lodge, enclosed on the south side by Grim's Dyke and planted with laurel, rhododendron, and two notable Wellingtonias. Nearby is the vegetable garden, with remains of greenhouses. To the west of the gardens, the ornamental woodland contains several ponds and the lake with the last remains of the boathouse and artificial rockwork cascade (pipework still intact) on the promontory. There is rhododendron understorey, bamboo, good sized lime trees, holly and oak. North of the lake is a fine plantation of beech and oak, and there are good views down to Grim's Dyke Golf Course. The house and surrounding grounds are owned by LB Harrow, leased to the hotel.
EH Register Listing. Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 ed) p277; Andrew Goodman, 'Gilbert and Sullivan's London' 1988, 161ff. Joanne Verden 'Ten Walks Around Pinner', (The Pinner Association) 1999 ed.; Walter W Druett, 'The Stanmores and Harrow Weald Through the Ages' (Hillingdon Press, 1938)