Tag Archives: Middlesex

HAREFIELD PARK

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. 

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The 18th and 19th centuries saw the growth of several estates on which country houses were built, including Belhammonds, also known as Harefield Park, a three-storey, seven-bay mansion dating from the 1710s. Two centuries later it became the orginal home of Harefield Hospital.

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.

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In November 1914 Mr and Mrs Charles Billyard-Leake, Australians resident in the UK, offered their home, Harefield Park House and its grounds, to the Minister of Defence in Melbourne for use as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers of the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF).
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The offer was accepted by the Commonwealth Defence Department and the property became the No. 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital in December 1914. It was the only purely Australian hospital in England.
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The Hospital consisted of Harefield Park House, a 3-storey plain brick building, some out-buildings and grounds of some 250 acres.

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!

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At first, the medical and nursing staff comprised one Captain from the Australian Army Medical Corps, one Sergeant, one Corporal, four Privates (as wardsmen and orderlies), one Matron and five Nursing Sisters. The Medical Superintendent was to be under the supervision of the High Commissioner.
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The first 8 patients arrived on 2nd June 1915. By 22nd June the Hospital had 170 patients and extra huts were built. The first operation was performed in July. In August, when the Hospital had 362 patients, King George V and Queen Mary visited for two hours, speaking to every patient confined to bed.
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As the war progressed the Hospital became a general hospital. At the height of its use it accommodated over 1000 patients and the nursing staff had expanded to 74 members.

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.

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Work started on a more permanent structure in 1935 and the new building was opened on 8 October 1937 by the Duke of Gloucester, with many of the wards featuring large open areas to give patients access to the fresh air. The hospital joined the National Health Service in 1948.

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.

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The eastern elevation with the main entrance of the old Harefield Park mansion house, is now sadly all boarded-up. The building, with its stables and coach house, is Grade II*-listed.
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Bleak times. It is hard to imagine the splendour once associated with the house. The western side, overlooking the lake, not seen here, is supported by scaffolding, presumably to prop-up the house.

HILL HOUSE

A house with a retail history. This house was bought twice from the fortunes of shopping empires

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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.

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The auction notice from the Henley & Finchley Times, 5 June 1918. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

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.

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Charles Drury Edward Fortnum, art collector and art historian, was born in 1820 in Holloway, London, the son of Charles Fortnum, merchant.

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’.

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Princess Louise of Schleswig-Holstein, the King’s niece, opening the bazaar at Hill House. From The Sphere. 23 July 1904. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

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.

Hill House 1 (Google)

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.

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Frank Bearman opened his shop in the north end of Leytonstone High Road in 1898 as ‘the store with the personal touch’. Image: East London & West Essex Guardian.

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.

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Air Chief Marshal Sir John Nelson Boothman. When he left the RAF in 1956 he joined the board of Kelbin and Hughes, makers of technical instruments, as technical director.

The house and stables have now been converted into flats.

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Hill House. Once standing in a rural idyll, but now ‘swallowed by suburbia’. Repair works in the building revealed original elements of the house. In the roof void, intricate gold embossed carvings were found and the removal of dry rot in the entrance uncovered a series of elegant 18th century arches.