|North London Collegiate School *||Harrow|
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
With the adjacent Canons Park, the grounds of North London Collegiate School are a fragment of the grand early C18th landscape of Canons 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 Plumer, 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 in 1910 by Charles Mallows, and were highly regarded. The estate was eventually broken up in the early C20th, the house and 10 acres of land purchased for the school in 1929. In addition to remnants of the C18th and C19th landscaping, the school grounds retain Mallows' formal gardens, particularly south-east of the main building, which is the core of Hallett's villa.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2007
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School Grounds (Canons), 2011. Photo: North London Collegiate School
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Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry for Canons see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
With Canons Park (q.v.) the grounds of North London Collegiate School are a fragment of a great C18th landscape garden. 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. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the estate initially passed to Sir Hugh Losse, whose son Robert sold it 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 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; together they began to enlarge Canons, and 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; Chandos 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. Garden designers associated with laying out of the grounds for the Duke and Duchess include George London, Richard Bradley, Tilleman Bobart and Alexander Blackwell and he is also said to have employed Dr Desaguiliers to design water features including canals, lakes and fountains. 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, and Sir Thomas Plumer, Master of the Rolls, 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 a view of Canons Park by Repton dated 1805. The estate was later owned by Dr William Begg, and finally by Sir Arthur Phillip du Cros, tyre magnate and founder of the Dunlop Rubber Company, who acquired the estate in c.1896, and it was eventually broken up from the early C20th. 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 1905 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 as the setting for high-class housing.
North London Collegiate School had been founded in 1850 in Camden Town in North London by Miss Frances Mary Buss, who was its head mistress for 44 years and a great believer in education for girls. It came to be regarded as a model school and catered for 'daughters of gentlemen and respectable tradesmen'. Originally run as a private school from the family home, it gained public status in 1870 and, having outgrown its first home, moved to Camden Road, then to Sandall Road in 1879 where it was run much like a boys' public school. It became a direct grant school from 1944 - 1976, and is now an independent school with charitable status. Although it purchased the property in 1929, the school eventually settled at Canons in 1939, additional buildings having been designed by Sir Albert Richardson, who also designed the drawing school of 1957.
Within the school grounds are the core of William Hallett's villa, the lake now with Rhododendron walks around it, and the C18th layout is still discernible in the grounds to the east. The approach to the school from Edgware High Street formed the main drive in the C18th and two gate piers remain on the main road, as does the avenue of Wellingtonia, and The Basin, now surrounded by housing. There are remnants of the C19th landscaping including mature trees, such as Cedar of Lebanon and horse chestnut trees, although the lime tree walk to the Lake was probably replanted in the early-mid C20th. The pond on the north west of the main school building is another remnant of the C18th layout, the small late C20th summerhouse on the site of an earlier garden building. Charles Mallows' elaborate formal terraces and gardens of c.1910 remain largely intact to the south and east of the main building, although his garden to the north was later built over for new school buildings. The south-east front of the main building looks onto a symmetrical, rectangular Arts and Crafts style garden with balustrading, pergola, crazy paving and a square pond. Central steps from this garden now lead to late C20th tennis courts beyond which is a circular temple designed by Mallows. The balustraded garden continues around the north east of the main building and parallel and below this is a long herbaceous border and walkway running the full length of the house, beyond which are playing fields.
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), pp257-60; 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)