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Eagle House including Nos 6, 8, 10 Marryat Road Merton
   
Summary: Eagle House is an early C17th stucco-fronted, triple gabled Jacobean property on four storeys. It has a large landscaped forecourt with perimeter shrubs and 4 mature trees. Its remaining rear garden, now within a single walled area with lawn, paths, shrub beds and trees, was formerly much larger but an extensive area was sold in 1992 for housing development. At that time it was the only known archaeologically investigated walled garden from the Jacobean period. A plaque at the entrance gates refers to the origins of the house and its most notable owners between 1613 and 1887. On the front of the house itself another plaque refers to German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer who attended school here in 1803.
Previous / Other name:
Site location: Marryat Road
Postcode: SW19 5EF > Google Map
Type of site: Garden Feature Remnants; Private Garden
Date(s): 1613
Designer(s):
Listed structures: LBII*: Eagle House
Borough: Merton
Site ownership: private
Site management: Knight Frank estate agents
Open to public? No
Opening times: private (awaiting sale)
Special conditions:
Facilities:
Events:
Public transport: Rail/Tube: Wimbledon (District) then bus. Bus: 93, 493. 200
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/11/2011
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.wimbledon@knightfrank.com

Fuller information:

Eagle House was built for an estimated £1,200 in 1613 by Robert Bell (1564-1639), a founder of the East India Company and Master of the Worshipful Company of Girdlers. In a survey commissioned in 1617 by Thomas Cecil, Lord of the Manor, it was described as a 'fayre new house, garden and orchard' on 3 acres. An archaeological survey by the Museum of London in 1992 found a small formal garden with a parterre crossed by sand and gravel paths, lined by box hedges and beds probably used for roses and gilly flowers. At the end of the garden was a terrace reached by brick steps. Beyond the rear wall were the orchard and fields.

After Bell’s death, the house was owned by the Betenson and Ivatt families for 120 years. In the 1650s, part of the estate was sublet for an inn known as the Sign of the Rose, which was renamed the Rose and Crown after the Restoration of Charles II and is still there today as a Young’s Brewery pub. Around 1730 a north wing was added to the house with an oak-panelled dining room and fine marble chimneypiece. The house was sold for £2,500 in 1766 to George Bond, a wealthy London merchant. He leased it in 1787 to the former Prime Minister Lord William Grenville, then a minister under William Pitt the Younger who became a frequent visitor with his own room overlooking the garden.

After Grenville’s departure, the property was bought in 1790 by a parson and former schoolmaster Thomas Lancaster, who established it as Wimbledon School for Young Noblemen and Gentlemen. It soon acquired a reputation as one of the best private schools near London and for three months in 1803 it was attended by the future German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer while his parents toured the country. It was renamed Nelson House School after a visit by Lord Nelson and Emma Hamilton in September 1805 shortly before the Battle of Trafalgar. The couple lived nearby at Merton Place.

In the 1850s, the fourth successive headmaster, Revd. John Brackenbury, transformed the school into a military academy, which became so successful that he had to move to larger premises elsewhere in Wimbledon. But the building retained its educational function, from 1860 hosting Eagle House School, which moved there from Hammersmith and gave the house its present name. This school also enjoyed a fine reputation under two further headmasters and then moved to Camberley.

In 1886, a builder planned to demolish Eagle House and redevelop the entire site for housing but fortunately the eminent architect Thomas Jackson bought it for £3,700 the following year and restored it as a home for himself, his wife and their two sons. A mulberry tree in the garden at the time was thought to have been planted before 1625 in the reign of James I. A keen gardener, Jackson later recalled the garden of Eagle House growing 'more and more lovely year by year'. In the house itself he had all the school dormitories, dining halls and offices removed and restored the place nearly to its original form with a Great Hall, library and panelled dining room. He also had a Latin inscription cut on the stone pier of the door leading from the hall into the garden to record the building’s many changes since its creation. In 1903 Jackson was a founder and first President of the John Evelyn Club, today’s Wimbledon Society, and years later in 1918 he allowed Eagle House to host its museum temporarily during WWI. Knighted for his work in saving Winchester Cathedral from collapse, he had originally made his name in designing buildings at Oxford University. He died in 1924.

Eagle House remained a private residence but was used as an observation post in the WWII. In 1947 Wimbledon Council bought it for £10,250, planning to use part of it for a museum, let the rest of the building as flats, and build maisonettes in the garden. It was given listed status in June 1949. The museum proposal was dropped in 1951 and the basement, oak-panelled Georgian rooms overlooking the garden, and Jacobean rooms on two floors became offices for an engineering consultancy until 1985. A company, Griffon Land and Estates Ltd, then bought the property and added a large four-story extension at the back of the house.

In 1988 Eagle House was bought by the Saudi oil magnate Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani for the Yamani Cultural and Charitable Trust. For the next 21 years it was used to conserve manuscripts representing the intellectual heritage of Islam. Officially opened in 1991, the Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation aimed to survey, copy, catalogue, edit and publish manuscripts covering every aspect of Islamic thought, philosophy, art, poetry, religion, mathematics and science, providing a safe haven for works otherwise threatened by neglect or instability in their home countries. Original features of the house were restored while elements of Islamic design were introduced alongside them. What was once William Pitt’s bedroom was given rather an oriental feel, while a number of original Delft and William de Morgan tiled fireplaces showed a more European influence. The Great Hall’s stained glass windows overlooking the garden showed the original coat of arms of Robert Bell, together with his family dates.

The house proved a popular venue for conferences and lectures. However, Bell’s original estate had already shrunk and the orchard and fields were long gone. Most of Jackson’s beloved garden was sold off in 1992 and large houses built in its place. In 2003-4 there were plans to reintroduce a school role for Eagle House with teaching for special needs pupils. However this came to nothing and in March 2009 the Islamic Heritage Foundation moved out and Eagle House was put up for sale with an £8.5 million asking price. It was still unsold in November 2011.

Sources consulted:

R Milward, 'Eagle House: A Short History', Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, 2001; HM Land Registry Plan, 8 Feb 2010; Eagle House Planning and Development Appraisal, 20 May 2010

LPGT Volunteer Research by Tony Matthews, 20
Grid ref: TQ238711
Size in hectares: 0.22
   
On EH National Register : No
EH grade:
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
No
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
No
 
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.
On Local List:
In Conservation Area: Yes
Conservation Area name: North Wimbledon
Tree Preservation Order: Not known
Nature Conservation Area: No
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: No
Special Policy Area: Yes - Archaeological Priority Area
Other LA designation:
   

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