When the previous house on the site was demolished around 1796 John Nash became involved in the project to create Sundridge Park alongside landscape architect Humphrey Repton who was already working on the site.
Few London golf courses can boast such an impressive architectural legacy as Sundridge Park in the London Borough of Bromley suburbs.
In grounds laid out by renowned 19th-century landscape designer Humphry Repton stands the Grade I-listed John Nash mansion where Edward VII attended shooting parties at the estate, before the golf course was cut out of the valley.
The refurbished house is now The Mansion at Sundridge Park, with 22 flats by heritage developer City & Country, including some in a new annexe, priced from £425,000 to £2.5 million.
From the 17th century a succession of wealthy Londoners lived here and a three-storey brick house was built here early in the 18th century. Sir Claude Scott purchased that house in 1795 and demolished it on the advice of Humphry Repton, building the present mansion on an opposite slope and creating the park. The stuccoed stately home was designed by John Nash and the work was completed under the direction of Samuel Wyatt.
The park became a golf course, with a new clubhouse opened by prime minister Arthur James Balfour in 1903.
Sundridge Park mansion functioned as a luxury hotel until after the Second World War and became a management centre in 1956. A new block of residential accommodation was completed in 1970.
The grand staircase, plasterwork and 18th-century paintings have now been restored. The homes are reached via the estate’s lodge entrance and a half-mile drive beside the fairways.
A forgotten mansion, once rooted in the countryside, now standing quietly within a popular park surrounded by housing estates.
Morden Park House, in the London Borough of Merton, is a small Georgian country house, that once stood in a large swathe of parkland. This land was once owned by Westminster Abbey and later owned by the Garth family until the estate was split in two.
In 1768, Richard Garth, in partnership with the London merchant and distiller John Ewart, procured a private act of Parliament permitting the creation of the Morden Park estate. The double-fronted brown-brick Morden Park House was built in 1770 as a retreat for the Ewart family, who remained until 1788.
Morden Park House should not be confused with Morden Hall Park, a much larger property, built by Sir Richard Garth in the 1770s, and now a National Trust property. This was sold to Gilliat Hatfield (1827-1906) a member of the firm of James Taddy and Co, tobacco and snuff manufacturers, in the 1870s.
A sale notice of 1879 described Morden Park House as a “desirable mansion on high ground, commanding extensive and diversified views, with an ornamental entrance lodge and carriage approach through an avenue from the high road from London to Epsom, with stabling, coach-houses, extensive gardens, pleasure grounds, shrubberies, with cottages, orchard, and park-like meadow land containing about 60-acres.”
After this Morden Park passed through different owners. From the late 1780s the estate was in the hands of the Polhill family and between the 1880s and the 1910s, the house was occupied by the banker John Wormald. The entire estate was eventually purchased by Gilliat Hatfeild, the owner of Morden Hall Park, thus reuniting the two estates.
Morden Park House was tenanted and after Hatfeild’s death, it passed to his son, Gilliat Edward Hatfeild (1864-1941).
For a brief period following the Second World War, the building became the headquarters for the local golf club, and was later purchased from the Hatfeild family by Merton and Morden Urban District Council. The house and 90 acres were preserved as public open space, the house used as council offices for the Parks Department between 1965 and 1985.
Like many country houses, Morden Park House suffered years of neglect and from 1985 onwards stood vacant for lengthy periods. The Grade II* listed house was eventually restored and is now the local register office, subject of a £1.8 million restoration using money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
However, its future has been the subject of speculation, after the Labour council announced plans to close it. It now appears that this decision has been reversed and the register office will remain open.
This country house was once the English home of the exiled King Manoel II of Portugal. It was swallowed by urban development and eventually lost.
On this day, one hundred years ago, events in a distant country brought an English mansion into the headlines. Newspapers reported that the ex-King Manoel, who had been forced to flee from Portugal in 1910, and lived in England, had been proclaimed King of Portugal in Porto and other places by monarchist elements in his country.
However, the press also reported that Dom Manoel had condemned any attempt to restore the monarchy, even suggesting that he had refused the throne.
These were troubling times for Portugal. A monarchist revolt was spreading through several towns in the north of the country, while a Royalist Government had been formed in Porto, with Senor Paiva Couceiro at its head. The Government, however, claimed to be master of the situation.
Away from the unrest, enquiries by journalists at Dom Manoel’s residence at Twickenham were told that “he was not at home.”
Fulwell Park, where ex-King Manoel had lived since he brought his bride to Britain, was an historic mansion, built mainly in the Georgian style. A part of it dated back to James II, but it had been considerably enlarged from time to time, and now contained a magnificent suite of six entertaining rooms.
Fulwell Park had been the home of many famous people, and Twickenham itself abounded with historic memories. In 1800, Orleans House had been the residence of Louis Philippe, then Duke of Orleans; and among other famous inhabitants of the area had been Alexander Pope, Horace Walpole, Francis Bacon, John Donne (the poet), Kitty Clive (the actress), Tennyson, Dickens, Archbishop Temple and Henry Labouchere.
The mansion was built in 1623 and was acquired by Sir Charles James Freake, a London property developer, in 1871 and renamed Fulwell Park from Fulwell Lodge. It passed to his wife Eliza in 1884, then after her death in 1900, to Count Reginald Henshaw Ward , an American millionaire, born of an English family.
Count Ward was born in Massachusetts in 1872 and had been a clerk in a Boston bank at seventeen. He eventually started banks of his own in Boston and New York, and by the time he purchased Fulwell Park, he was a representative of Clark, Ward and Co in England. Ward was also known as ‘The Copper King’, in reference to his large business interests in the copper market. The bachelor moved into Fulwell Park in 1903 and took himself up to the city every morning in one of his five splendid automobiles. His title of Count, by the way, was of Papal creation.
As the years progressed, Ward spent months away from Fulwell Park and by the time it was sold to Manoel in 1913, had been used as a residential country home for paying guests.
Dom Manoel (1889-1932) was the second son of Don Carlos, the King of Portugal, and his wife, Marie Amelie, daughter of the Comte de Paris. She had been born at York House, Twickenham, in 1865. Manoel was born in Lisbon in 1889, barely a month after his father had succeeded to the throne.
King Carlos I and his eldest son, Luiz, were both assassinated in 1908. 18-year-old Manoel, training as a naval cadet, succeeded to the throne as Manoel II, but his reign was brief, a revolution broke out in October 1910.
Manoel and his mother fled to Gibraltar, and from here to England. They settled at Abercorn House in Richmond in early 1911. Manoel married the German Princess Victoria Augusta of Hohenzolern in 1913, and on their return to England settled at Fulwell Park. King Manoel had a liking for the area, and was already a well-known figure in the Richmond, Teddington and Twickenham neighbourhoods.
One of the attractions of Fulwell Park was the nine-hole private golf course laid out in the grounds. But the chief attractions were charming grounds of some fifty acres, where there were shady lawns, extensive flower gardens, peach houses and vineries. There were also several tennis courts in the grounds, especially agreeable for a man who excelled at the game. There was also good fishing in the River Crane, on which boating was also possible.
Manoel found solace in his books, and in his library, he built up a unique assembly of ancient Portuguese works, and then, to show he was no mere bibliomaniac, proceeded to write an authoritative book on them. It was his hobby and life’s work, shared only with his love of grand opera and watching lawn tennis at Wimbledon and on the Riviera.
Manoel had an aversion to the colour blue, and he made sure that the decoration at Fulwell Park excluded any shade of it. The drawing-room was redecorated in rose shades, while a delicate pink was to be found in his wife’s boudoir.
In July 1932, Manoel attended Wimbledon. The following day he suffered a sore throat, a doctor was called, but he died of oedema of the throat.
Manoel left English property valued at £26,447, and to King George V he bequeathed two large vases of lacquer with the Royal Arms of Portugal, which had been in the dining room at Fulwell Park, “in testimony of profound gratitude for all his kindness and friendship.”
His widow left Fulwell Park in December 1933 and took up residence at Fribourg in Switzerland. King Manoel’s collection of books was sent to Portugal, and his widow sold the house in 1934, with an undertaking that it should never again be used as a private residence. The house was sold to Edward Wates, a building company, and soon demolished to make way for suburban housing. A four-ton safe that was used to hold the Royal jewellery at the house is now in St Mary’s Church, Hampton.
The names of Manoel Road, Augusta Road, Portugal Road and Lisbon Avenue in Twickenham commemorate the royal residents. The original housing has since been supplemented by a great deal of infilling, but the legacy of Fulwell Park is long forgotten.
A grand country house that looked after wounded Australian soldiers in the Great War. It later became a sanatorium, the foundation to one of the world’s leading hospitals.
I quote from the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer on 23rd August 1918: ‘An agricultural correspondent tells of an extraordinary sale of farm stock today, at Harefield, Middlesex, a place so out of the way – nearly three miles from a railway station – that, till the selection of a local mansion as an Australian hospital, it was not known even to Londoners’.
These words tell us that Harefield Park, now in the London Borough of Hillingdon, was as remote as anywhere, but decades later this country house was to become world famous.
The earliest records of this historic mansion, sometime called Bellhammonds, dates to 1306. Amongst the evidence pertaining to the estate at this period, was a deed endorsed Knights Cortes, ‘whereby Prior Alexander and the Convent of Harley granted this Manor in Harefield, with all their lands in Harefield and Rykemesworth, to Richard Weltekart, of Louth, Thomas, his son, and Florence, the wife, to hold to them, and the heirs of Thomas, of the chief Lords of the fee forever, paying one hundred marks for the same’.
Harefield Place was the creation of George Cooke, the chief prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas, the first of the Cookes who settled at Harefield, after his marriage in 1700. He created the estate after buying an ancient house called Ryes, or Rythes, and about 700 acres of land, from John Stanyan Gent, in February 1704.
Before his death in 1740, he built the present house, planted the ornamental timber, made the garden, and added about 200 more acres of land, bought at different times. Amongst his purchases was a small tenement, with stables and orchards, with three acres of land, called Bellhammonds, which he bought in 1713. He then gave that name to his own house. In ancient records, the name of Bellhammonds and Bellhackets frequently appeared as landowners in the village.
In 1750, his son, George Cooke, M.P. for Middlesex, added several farms with about 400 acres, and the mills on the River Colne, which he purchased from Sir Robert Newdigate. In 1758, he bought the Evesden Farm and fishery from William Ashby, of Breakspears. In 1824, General Sir George Cooke, his grandson, added the farm called Weybeards, or Hammonds, which he purchased from the executors of Mr R.G. Spedding, once the manager of the Copper Mills.
It was about this time that the estate came to be known as Harefield Park.
Sir George Cooke died suddenly at his chambers in the Temple in 1740, and lies buried at Hayes, where he was also Lord of the Manor. On his death, and his brother, Sir Henry, the property descended to his nephew, Mr William Frederick Vernon, who prepared a complete history of Harefield for private circulation.
The park was well timbered, and commanded extensive views of the Colne Valley. Prominent in the grounds was a fine grove of ilex of considerable size. Close to the house and south of the terrace was a large statue in white marble of Sir George Cooke, the founder of the estate, long thought to be the work of John Michael Rysbrack, but later attributed to Sir Henry Cheere, 1st Baronet, a renowned sculptor and monumental mason.
A full-length picture of George Cooke, painted by John Vanderbank in 1726, hung in the billiard room of the mansion, and many other valuable pictures were left behind by the Cooke family.
At the start of the 20th century, Harefield Park was in the possession of Mr Charles Billyard Leake, who owned extensive sheep farms in Australia. Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, he offered his house and estate to the Australian Government as a convalescent hospital for the overseas forces. From 1915, the house became the No.1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital, the grounds around the mansion arranged with many huts, in all accommodating about two thousand men. During the occupation, it was visited by King George V, Queen Mary, the Duke of Connaught, and Mr Billy Hughes, the Prime Minister of Australia.
In 1919, Middlesex County Council bought Harefield Park to provide additional sanatorium accommodation for the Middlesex County Hospital for the use of tuberculosis patients, with the Government contributing £38,400 towards the cost.
What a difference one hundred years makes!
After becoming part of the NHS in 1948, Harefield first became a general hospital and then a specialist heart and lung centre. Ground-breaking work, led by Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub in the latter part of the 20th century, included the first successful heart transplant in 1980 followed by the world’s first combined heart and lung transplant in 1983. This led to Harefield Hospital having the largest transplant programme of its kind anywhere in the world.
In 1998, Harefield Hospital merged with Royal Brompton Hospital, Chelsea, to become Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust before achieving Foundation Trust status in 2009. The organisation is now referred to as Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust.
Grade II* listed Harefield Park mansion provided many years of service, but soon became lost on a rapidly expanding site. It was last used as accommodation for Harefield Hospital’s medical staff and is still standing, although it has become a long-serving entry on Historic England’s ‘Buildings at Risk’ register. According to the list, the house is vacant and in very poor condition, the building is propped-up and a temporary roof is in place.
A house with a retail history. This house was bought twice from the fortunes of shopping empires
One hundred years ago today, the picturesque and well-placed residence, known as Hill House, went to auction at the Mart, Tokenhouse Yard, in London.
Grade II listed Hill House at Great Stanmore, then in the county of Middlesex, was built in the early 1700s by John Boys, Vicar of Redbourn, Hertfordshire, who also owned nearby Aylwards and Broomhill. It was originally called the Great House, probably due to its imposing appearance on the top of rural Stanmore Hill.
It was sold in 1771 to Reverend Samuel Parr, a master at Harrow School, who after the disappointment of missing out on becoming headmaster, set up a rival establishment at the Great House, taking many of the pupils with him.
The school was short-lived but was used as a schoolhouse again when it was bought by John Sharpe.
One of its greatest occupants was Charles Drury Edward Fortnum (1820-1899), who had moved to South Australia in 1840 where he bought a cattle ranch. Five years later he left for Europe with the objective of putting together a collection of art, especially minor arts of the Italian renaissance. He married Fanny Matilda Keats, a cousin, that provided access to the wealth of the grocery store Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly. With an advance of £4,000 from his wife’s fortunes, Fortnum chose Stanmore to settle – buying and repairing Great House in 1852 and later renaming it the Hill House. Fortnum also become an alderman of the Middlesex county council, and eventually also a deputy-lieutenant of the county too.
Together they travelled the world and gathered a large collection of ceramics, bronzes and other objects most of which were later donated to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The collection was so large they had to build a separate wing to the newly-named Hill House, now called the Fortnum Gallery. Fanny died in 1890 and Charles died nine years later, leaving the remainder of his collection to the British Museum.
After Charles Fortnum’s death in 1899 it became the residence of Mr and Mrs Charles Waterlow. In 1904, they were honoured to receive Princess Louise Augusta of Schleswig-Holstein, who opened a bazaar in aid of the ‘Church of England Waifs and Strays Society’.
The house was later the home of Sir Matthew Wilson but appears to have been let to several tenants. The most notable of these were the Count and Countess Benckendorff who stayed in 1914-1915. They were in good company. Close neighbours were the Earl and Countess of Essex, who had Cassiobury Park and the Earl and Countess of Clarendon at The Grove, Watford.
We don’t know who purchased the house at the 1918 auction. The most likely candidate is Frank Charles Bearman (1870-1956), who was resident at Hill House during the 1920s and 1930s. A draper by trade, Bearman had opened a shop in Leytonstone High Street in 1898 that became a thriving family business for the next 64 years.
Bearmans Department Store was a success, and in 1910 he built Bearmans Arcade, which led to the popular Rialto Cinema. Frank Bearman copied the style of successful London shopping arcades, with a glass roof and the highest quality goods on display. Between 1908-1921, Bearman was also the co-owner of Allders, the Croydon department store, building it into a 50-store business.
After Frank Bearman’s death in 1956, Bearmans suffered increasing competition and it was eventually sold to the London Co-Operative Society. It finally closed in 1982.
His son, John Garland Bearman, later married the Hon. Gloria Mary Curzon, daughter of Richard Nathaniel Curzon, 2nd Viscount Scarsdale, of Kedleston Hall.
The Second World War had an impact at Hill House. In common with many large houses it was requisitioned as a secret RAF establishment, a satellite of RAF Bentley Priory.
The RAF remained until the 1950s but Hill House itself became home to Air Chief Marshal Sir John Nelson Boothman (1901-1957), who was Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Coastal Command from 1953 until his retirement in 1956. Sir John had piloted a Supermarine S-6B plane in 1931 which had won the Schneider Trophy outright for Britain at a speed of more than 342 mph.
The house and stables have now been converted into flats.
‘A Palace of Palaces’: When Osterley Park, a gift of Lord Jersey, was accepted for the nation.
In the 1940s, the future of Osterley Park, near Isleworth, was the cause of frustration for George Child Villiers, 9th Earl of Jersey.
The Manor of Osterley had been bought by Sir Thomas Gresham, Chancellor of the Exchequer to Queen Elizabeth, in 1562, who erected an ‘agreeable edifice’ built of brick and described as ‘large, convenient and thoroughly finished’.
In 1711 the house was bought by Sir Francis Child, a banker and city magnate, and it was one of his descendants, Francis Child, who employed the fashionable young architect Robert Adam, who in 20 years transformed Osterley into a palace.
Two years after Adams’ engagement Francis Child died, but his brother and heir, Robert (1739-1782), saw to the completion of the operations. Robert Child had one daughter, Sarah, who in 1782, eloped to Gretna Green with John, 10th Earl of Westmorland. The couple were soon forgiven, and their eldest daughter, Lady Sarah Fane, eventually inherited Osterley. She married in 1804 Viscount Villiers, who succeeded as 5th Earl of Jersey, and it was his heir who wanted rid of the property.
There had been long drawn-out negotiations with the National Trust. James Lees-Milne had been negotiating the transfer of the property for years, and in his 1944 diaries wrote:
“What a decline since 1939! Now total disorder and disarray. Bombs have fallen in the park, blowing out many windows; the Adam orangery has been burnt out, and the garden beds are totally overgrown. We did not go round the house which is taken over by Glyn Mills Bank, but round the confines of the estate. There are still 600 acres as yet unsold, Smith and I both deprecated the breezy way in which the Osterley agent advocated further slices to the south-east of the house being sold for building development, in order to raise an endowment. It is going to be a difficult problem how to estimate figures where so much is problematic, the outgoings associated with the museum, the number of visitors and the potential building value of the land itself.”
Lord Jersey had first offered his estate to the National Trust in 1946, but in 1948 withdrew the offer because the Middlesex County Council failed to agree on the management scheme. Afterwards Lord Jersey made new proposals which resulted in the final transfer of the property.
In December 1949, the National Trust announced that Lord Jersey’s gift of the house and 140 acres of land had been accepted.
The Victoria and Albert Museum bought from Lord Jersey the furniture and furnishings specially designed for the State rooms by Robert Adam. The arrangement and showing of the house was in the hands of the V&A, to whom the Trust lent four panels of Beauvais tapestry to hang in the gallery. The Trust had let the property on a long lease from the Ministry of Works and it was intended that after necessary alterations the house would be opened as a public museum. ( ‘The Sphere’ said at the time that the Government had actually handed over £120,500 for the contents of the house).
Lord Jersey moved to the island of Jersey, taking many pictures (including works by Rubens, Van Dyck and Claude) with him. Sadly, many of these were destroyed in a fire while en route to his new home.
The National Trust took full ownership in 1991, but has been accused by critics that Osterley was being ‘increasingly despoiled and dumbed-down’. Last year ‘The Spectator’ scoffed at plans by the Trust ‘to spend £356,000 and turn it into a ‘child-friendly leisure centre’.
The story of a country house that almost became home to Winston Churchill. Instead it was ‘swallowed by suburbia’ and lost forever.
Little Grove, East Barnet, might have been famous had it not been for a change of mind by Winston Churchill. In June 1922 the then-Secretary of State for the Colonies was looking for a country estate to buy. It was widely rumoured that he had set his sights upon Little Grove, in Hertfordshire, with one newspaper stating that ‘it was highly likely that the deal will be carried through’. In the end, Churchill bought Chartwell in Kent, and Little Grove headed into obscurity instead.
This house came to my attention after coming across a sale advertisement in an August 1911 copy of the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. It had been posted by Messrs. Trollope’s Register of Houses and listed an imposing mansion with extensive pleasure grounds and 112 acres of beautiful timbered parkland at East Barnet. That was about all it said about the house, other than it might be suitable for private occupation, or as an institution.
The identity of the house involved a painstaking search of images of old houses around East Barnet. It was eventually found to be Little Grove, built in 1719, by John Cotton of Middle Tempest and originally called New Place. Built of red-brick, later covered with stucco, it replaced a house dating from the reign of Philip and Mary. The first mansion (called Daneland) was the residence of Lady Fanshawe, the widow of Sir Robert Fanshawe, the Cavalier, whose heroic rescue of her husband from prison made her famous. It didn’t take long for John Cotton to change its name back to Little Grove.
After passing into the hands of Fane William Sharpe it was sold in 1767 to Sir Edward Willes (1723-1787), a barrister, politician and judge, who became Solicitor General for England and Wales. The following year he was reputed to have paid £700 to Capability Brown for work on its extensive parkland.
In the later years of the 18th century it was owned by David Murray (1727-1796), 7th Viscount Stormont, later 2nd Earl Mansfield. After his death it appears to have been occupied by John Tempest, a landowner, Tory Politician and MP of Wynyard in County Durham. His widow remained until 1817 and Little Grove was bought by Captain Colman Hickman.
By the 1830s the estate was home to Frederick Cass (1787-1861), Magistrate, Deputy Lieutenant of Hertfordshire and High-Sheriff in 1844-45. It is likely that Little Grove had been bought by his father, William Cass, and Frederick later moved here from Beaulieu Lodge. He died at the house in 1861.
It was occupied by Alexander Henry Campbell (1822-1918), JP for Hertfordshire, Deputy Lieutenant of Cornwall and elected MP for Launceston until 1868. His departure from politics also led to him leaving Little Grove. The estate failed to sell at auction and remained unoccupied until 1871.
It is possible that Campbell had rented Little Grove from Martha, the widow of Frederick Cass, as there is evidence to suggest that the family had links to the estate up until the 1890s. Their son, Frederick Charles Cass (1824-1896), Rector of Monken Hadley in North London, was often associated by name with Little Grove.
Sigismund James Stern (1807-1885) moved into the house in 1871. He was a German-born Manchester cotton merchant who later turned his hands to banking in London. William Cass had described him as a ‘merchant and banker of London’.
At the turn of the 20th century the house and its 112-acre estate was put on the market but once again struggled to sell. In 1910 Messrs. Trollope and Sons wrote to East Barnet Valley Urban District Council drawing their attention to the Little Grove estate for a public park or recreation ground. ‘The price we are now in a position to accept is likely to be more favourable to your Council than it would later on, when the neighbourhood will have developed to a still larger extent, with the consequent appreciable rise in the value of the land’. The council wasn’t convinced and rejected the idea.
From 1907 the house remained untenanted, save for the billeting of 500 soldiers during World War One. It was in a dilapidated condition with dry rot setting in. However, in 1919 it was bought by the well-known Miss Shirley Kellogg, an American actress and singer, who had found fame in the West End, most notably at the London Hippodrome. She was, in fact, married to Albert Pierre de Courville, a theatrical producer and later film director. She immediately proposed changing its name to Shirley’s Grove and set about restoring and renovating the house.
The newspapers reported that Shirley Kellogg had spent almost £10,000 on the house but whilst the work had been completed it appears that the de Courville’s hadn’t parted with much money. In November 1920, Messrs. Maple and Co sought to recover £8,000 it was owed for repairs and decoration of Shirley’s Grove. In a High Court hearing, in front of Mr Scott, the official referee, the defendants alleged defective workmanship and excessive charges. Judgement was given to the plaintiffs for £6,966 of which £3,000 had already been paid, and a further £3,000 was awarded to the plaintiff’s solicitors.
As you might expect there were cheery weekend parties at Shirley’s Grove and on one occasion there was a fire, during which Shirley appeared in a dressing-gown encouraging the efforts of those attempting to put the fire out.
It might not be theatrical coincidence that stories about Little Grove started to appear around this time. There were tales of a ghost, a moat and buried treasure. Column inches were filled with the ancient story of Geoffrey de Mandeville, who owed his power and wealth from being the Constable of the Tower, who levied war upon the King and was attained for treason. According to most historians, he was killed at Mildenhall in Suffolk in 1444, but others said he was concealed in the grounds of Little Grove and fell into a moat, where he was drowned. His ghost was said to walk the parkland, being apparently disturbed by the fact that in the deepest part of the old moat, there was a great chest of gold and gems, which no one could carry away because it was bound to the bottom by iron chains.
To add further mystery there were tales of a hidden chamber and secret passages in which a coat of arms of Oliver Cromwell, elaborately engraved in oak, was discovered. Other valuable works of art were said to have been found, and then the infamous moat was said to have figured in Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Fortune of Nigel’.
With such fanciful stories, we might be forgiven for questioning the integrity of Winston Churchill’s interest in Shirley’s Grove. The story emerged in 1922 when Shirley Kellogg was living the high-life at her restored mansion. However, the estate did adjoin Trent Park, Sir Philip Sassoon’s estate, so the attraction might have been there after all.
Shirley Kellogg’s eventful stay at Shirley’s Grove lasted just five years. In 1924 she was divorced from Albert and she travelled to Hollywood to try to break into pictures. The house remained unoccupied and was sold at auction in 1927. Its pleasure grounds had been reduced to 3-acres, the remaining grounds probably sold off to developers in the preceding years. Whilst the house may not have been an attractive proposition the auction notice made specific detail of ‘three exceptionally fine building sites’.
In 1931 it was sold on behalf of the executors of Mr J.J. O’Brian and, the following year, the mansion was demolished to make way for a housing estate. Its setting has been ‘swallowed by suburbia’ but those residents living at the top of Daneland, just off Cat Hill, in East Barnet, might want to look out for the wandering ghost of Geoffrey de Mandeville.
Note: East Barnet was in Hertfordshire until 1965 when it became part of the London Borough of Barnet.