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HOLLAND HOUSE THEN AND NOW

Pictures of Holland House in West London before and after WW2

HOLLAND HOUSE in Holland Park (west London) was built in the early 17th century (about 1604) in the Jacobean style. It was designed by the architect John Thorpe (dates uncertain: c1555-c1655), who is thought to be the creator of Audley End House in Essex. In 1939, King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) attended a debutante ball at Holland House. Little did they know that this was to be the last great ball to be held at the house. After the German Luftwaffe began devastating London, Holland House was hit by twenty-two incendiary bombs during a ten-hour raid on the night of the 27th of September 1940. Much of the old house was destroyed apart from the east wing. Fortunately, the library and its valuable contents remained undamaged. A video (www.britishpathe.com/video/holland-house-damaged) made by Pathé News shows the house shortly after it was bombed.

The house remained as a ruin until 1952 when its then owner, Giles Fox-Strangways, 6th Earl of Ilchester (1874-1959), a Member of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England from 1939–1959, sold the remains of the house and its extensive grounds (now Holland Park) to the London County Council. Eventually in 1986, what was left of the building was transferred to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. In normal, non covid19, summers, the now well-preserved remains of the house become the home of a temporary theatre where opera is performed. For many years, but no longer, the relatively intact part of the house was used as a youth hostel by the YHA.

Recently, I have acquired a facsimile edition of “History and Antiquities of Kensington” by Thomas Faulkner, which was published originally in 1820. I have also my own copy of an original edition of Volume 5 of “Old and New London” by Edward Walford, published in 1878. Both books were published when Holland House was still intact, and both contain engravings showing how the house looked both outside and inside. Faulkner’s book contains a lengthy detailed listing of all the artworks and books that the house contained. These items included several paintings by artists as famous as Teniers, Canaletto, Joshua Reynolds, and Hogarth, to name but a few. Luckily, most of the art treasures in the house were removed for safety before the outbreak of WW2. The illustrations, some of which I have reproduced, demonstrate how great a tragedy it was that Holland House no longer remains intact.

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Posted by ADAMYAMEY 04:33 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london park britain kensington ww2 holland_park luftwaffe jacobean Comments (0)

ANYONE FOR PYMMES?

A park in Edmonton, near the North Circular Road, is both pleasant and historical.

Many people know that the drink Pimms is a popular thirst-quenching, fruit-filled alcoholic cocktail. It is usually drunk during the British summer. Fewer people know about ‘Pymmes’, which sounds just like the cocktail’s name, but is not remotely related to it.

Cygnet on Pymme Park lake

Cygnet on Pymme Park lake

In 1327, William Pymme built a mansion close to Upper Edmonton (http://friendsofpymmespark.wixsite.com/fopp/history). It stood in its own extensive grounds, its estate, a few yards east of where Silver Street Station stands today, and just north of the present North Circular Road, where it runs close to Silver Street.

Plaque

Plaque

The original house, which was occupied by various Elizabethan worthies, namely Thomas Wilson (1524-1581), William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (1520-1598) - a close confidante of Queen Elizabeth I, and Sir Robert Cecil (c.1563-1612), was entirely demolished before the beginning of the 19th century (see: “The history and antiquities of the parish of Edmonton” by W Robinson, published 1819). William Cecil bought the Pymmes Estate in 1582, and it remained in his family until 1801. In 1593, the house was either modified or re-built. Then it was re-built in the early 18th century. This was modified by the addition of a new south front with a classical portico later in that century (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol5/pp154-161).

Pymmes walled garden

Pymmes walled garden

In 1808, the Ray family bought the estate and the house on it, and kept it until 1899. Next, the estate was bought by the local council, and in 1906 the grounds were opened as a public park (see: http://friendsofpymmespark.wixsite.com/fopp/history). In 1940, the house was completely destroyed by aerial bombardment (see: http://lower-edmonton.co.uk/leisure/pymmes.html). All that remains of it today is its walled Victorian garden.

view into Pymmes walled garden

view into Pymmes walled garden

Pymme not only ‘gave’ his name to a park (the grounds of the former Pymmes House), but also to Pymmes Brook, a tributary of the River Lea. This stream rises near Hadley Wood where several small streams (e.g. Shirebourne and Green Brook) merge, and then flows mainly in a south-eastern direction until it merges with the Lea. It flows from the south side if Pymmes Park, where it is mainly underground, eastwards, but above-ground, under the Silver Street railway station before disappearing underground on the western side of Fore Street.

Statues inside Pymmes walled garden

Statues inside Pymmes walled garden

The park is lovely. A weed-covered ornamental pond with reed beds is located at the park’s south-western corner, close to the North Circular Road. I watched a moorhen swimming through the waterweeds, parting them like an ice-breaker as it proceeded in a straight line. The Pymme Brook runs under this almost stagnant body of water.

Ornamental Pond in Pymmes Park

Ornamental Pond in Pymmes Park

The walled-garden is rectangular in plan, but was not open to the public when I visited it. This was not a great problem because there are several iron gates and one window through which I could see most of the garden, which is well-maintained. I spotted two antique statues and one bas-relief at the southern end of the garden. A series of paths radiate star-like from the middle of the garden, separating beds planted out with a variety of different species of both flowering plants and shrubs.

Visitors Centre

Visitors Centre

Close to the walled-garden, there is a run-down inelegant building, which bears the sign ‘Visitors Centre’. With broken windows, and locked doors, I doubt that this building has received many visitors in recent times. This presently unwelcoming building started life as a WW2 civil defence centre. It was established as a decontamination centre to be used in the event of a gas attack on the local population (see: https://www.tracesofwar.com/sights/11392/Waar-ligt-Gebouw-Ontsmettingscentrum-Edmonton.htm). Just before, and during, WW2, trenches for military use were dug in Pymmes Park. Also, a searchlight was set-up there (see: https://enfieldatwar.wordpress.com/tag/civil-defence/).

Bridge across lake at Pymmes Park

Bridge across lake at Pymmes Park

North of the Visitors Centre, there is a lovely curving, serpentine lake that runs from east to west. A concrete footbridge crosses this via a small tree-covered island. Surrounded by reeds, trees, and other plants, this picturesque body of water welcomes waterfowl: geese, ducks, moorhens, swans, to name but a few.

Swans on Pymmes Park lake

Swans on Pymmes Park lake

Reeds on Pymmes Park lake

Reeds on Pymmes Park lake

Moorhen family on Pymmes Park lake

Moorhen family on Pymmes Park lake

Flanking the pond, there is a playground for children equipped with up-to-date climbing frames and other equipment. There is a circular area, which might have once served as an open-air performance space, but there is no sign of the bandstand that can be seen in old photographs taken in the park (see: http://lower-edmonton.co.uk/leisure/pymmes.html).

Pymme Brook and Silver Street Railway Station

Pymme Brook and Silver Street Railway Station

From the south-east corner of the park near where Silver Street meets Victoria Road, there is a bridge across Pymmes Brook from which the narrow stream may be seen flowing towards, and then under a railway arch.

Pymmes Park lake looking east

Pymmes Park lake looking east

Pymmes Park is one of London’s lesser-known open-spaces, and deserves both more visitors and also a decent visitors’ centre, with a café.

Geese and a pigeon at Pymmes Park

Geese and a pigeon at Pymmes Park

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 10:40 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london water park lake garden pond edmonton ww2 elizabethans pymme_park pymmes_brook tudors walled_garden Comments (1)

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