Category Archives: Capital Ring


Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Highgate was first recorded in 1354 as Le Heighgate, meaning, in Middle English, high (toll) gate.  The gate was originally set up on the Great North Road by the Bishop of London, who was also the Lord of the Manor of Hornsey.  The surrounding area remained essentially rural and sparsely populated until post-Medieval times, and after the Great Fire of London in 1666 was temporarily used to accommodate displaced persons, as noted by John Evelyn in his diary.  A number of aristocratic country houses were built here at this time, including Arundel, Cromwell, Fitzroy and Lauderdale Houses.  The area eventually became rather more developed in the nineteenth century,  although even to this day it still retains much open green space.

Lauderdale House



Lauderdale House was originally built by Richard Martin, Master of the Royal Mint and thrice Lord Mayor of London,  in 1582.  However, it was not known as such until the early seventeenth century, when it was bequeathed by the then-owner Mary, Dowager Countess of Home to her daughter  Anne, the wife of John Maitland, the Earl of Lauderdale.  In 1649, during the Civil War, Lauderdale, who was a Royalist, was forced to surrender the house to John Ireton, a leading Parliamentarian (General Henry Ireton’s brother and Cromwell’s son-in-law).  After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, it reverted to the Lauderdale family’s ownership, Lauderdale being a member of the CABAL advising the restored king, Charles II – and the king’s  mistress, Nell Gwynne, lived in it  for a while.   The house changed hands many times in the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, before undergoing radical alteration in the early nineteenth. Its last private owner was Sidney Waterlow, another Lord Mayor, who gave it and its surrounding grounds to the London County Council in 1883, “for the enjoyment of Londoners”. The recently restored house is now an  arts and education centre.


Kingsbury takes its name from the Old English cyning, meaning king, and burh, meaning manor.   It was first referred to, in a Saxon Charter of 1003/4, as Cyngesbyrig, at which time it was evidently  a royal possession.  The old  church of St Andrew  was founded at least as long ago as the thirteenth century (see below).  It is surrounded by the remains of an early Medieval ditch.  Settlement of the surrounding area is thought to have begun in the fourteenth century, after the Black Death of 1438-9.  The  new church,  which had stood in Marylebone  from 1845 to 1931, was relocated to Kingsbury in 1933, by which time Kingsbury was becoming  assimilated into suburbia.  Television pioneer John Logie Baird received the first combined sight and sound transmission here in 1930.  Earlier, Oliver Goldsmith wrote She Stoops to Conquer at Hyde House Farm here in 1773.

Old Church of St Andrew

General view of old church

Graveyard of old church

Detail of wall of old church highlighting flint and Roman tile used in construction

The old  church of St Andrew  was founded at least as long ago the thirteenth century, with surviving records indicating that it was administered by the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem between 1244-48.  Interestingly,  there are certain indications  that it is ultimately  of Saxon rather than Medieval origin, including the characteristically, although not diagnostically, Saxon “long-and-short” stone-work on  the quoins.  A significant amount of recycled Roman brick and tile was used in its construction.

The old church was extended and modified in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and restored after long neglect in the nineteenth and early twentieth, by which time it had become a chapel-of-ease to the newly built nearby Church of the Holy Innocents.  It was eventually closed down some years   after the new church of St Andrew was built directly adjacent to it in 1933.   In 2010, it   re-opened  for use as a Romanian Orthodox Church.

Inside the church are a thirteenth-century font, and a fourteenth-century bell  that  is the oldest still hanging anywhere in Middlesex.  Also inside are  memorials to John Shepard of Kingsbury (d. 1520), and to John Bul of Roe Green, Gentleman and Keeper of the King’s Poultry (d. 1621).





Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk  …

Harrow ultimately takes its name from the Old English hearg, meaning place of heathen worship.   It was first referred to, in a Saxon Charter of 767, as “Gumeninga hergae”, meaning Gumen’s such.   In the Charter,   Offa, King of Mercia, granted to Stidberht, Bishop of St Albans, some 16000 acres of land lying between “Gumeninga Hergae” and Lidding Brook (?Kenton).  In 801, Offa’s successor Cenwulf confirmed the grant, but he later reclaimed the land for himself.  On Cenwulf’s death, the land passed to his son Kenelm; and after he, Kenelm,  was murdered by his half-sister Cwoenthryth, it passed to her.   But  in 825, the  Council of Colvesho compelled Cwoenthryth to surrender the land to the church once more.   The  Domesday Book of 1086 records that before the Norman Conquest the land was held by Earl Leofwin, and afterwards by Archbishop Lanfranc.  The surviving church of St Mary was built on the land in 1087; Harrow School  in 1572.  The surrounding borough  remained largely rural until the coming of the Metropolitan Railway in the late Victorian period, after which  it rapidly became suburbanised.

Church of St Mary

St Mary Harrow

The church of St Mary, atop the Hill, was originally founded by the aforementioned Archbishop of Canterbury, Lanfranc, in 1087, and consecrated by his successor Anselm in 1094 (it was also visited by Thomas Becket a matter of days before his murder in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170).  The church was extended through the twelfth to fourteenth centuries; substantially rebuilt in the mid-fifteenth; and restored, by George Gilbert Scott, in 1847.

Tower with Norman doorway


Essentially only the lower part of the tower survives from the eleventh century.

General view of interior

Brass memorial to John Lyon (d. 1592) and his wife Joan

Inside the church, the fine Purbeck Marble font probably dates to the twelfth or thirteenth; the memorial to Edmund Flambard, one-time Lord of the Manor, to 1370; and that to John Lyon, the founder of neighbouring Harrow School, to 1592.

Memorial to Allegra Byron

Lord Byron, an old boy of Harrow School, penned  his poem “Lines written beneath an elm in the churchyard of Harrow” here, in 1807.  His illegitimate daughter Allegra was buried here, in 1822.

Harrow School

General view (Old Schools in centre, part of Chapel on right)

Harrow School was originally founded, by the aforementioned John Lyon, in 1572.  The oldest surviving part, the “Old Schools”, was built in 1615, and altered externally and extended, by Charles Robert Cockerell, in 1820 (one original classroom, the “Fourth Room”, still survives, its oak-panelled walls inscribed with the names of numerous famous old boys – among them not only Byron, but also Peel, Sheridan, Trollope and Churchill).  The Headmaster’s House, by Decimus Burton, was built in 1845; the Chapel, by George Gilbert Scott, in 1855;  the Library of 1863, also by George Gilbert Scott, in 1863; “Druries”, by C.F. Hayward, in 1865; and the  new Speech Room, by William Burges, in  1877 (the old Speech Room was converted into an art gallery and museum in 1976, at the same time the new dining hall was built).  The Physics Schools were built in 1971; and the Churchill Schools (Design Technology) in 1988. 

The surrounding 360-acre  grounds include a lake laid out by Lancelot “Capability” Brown in 1767, playing fields and a nine-hole golf course!


Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Greenford was first recorded, as Grenan forda, in the ninth century, in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 845.  It takes its name from the Old English grene, and ford, referring to a vegetated area around a  ford over the River Brent.  The manor was in the hands of Westminster Abbey from the time of the Norman Conquest in the eleventh century until that of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the sixteenth.  It remained essentially rural until the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the arrival of the railway.

Church of Holy Cross

General view - Holy Cross Greenford

Weatherboarded tower

Old gravestone with skull and crossbones motif

The old church of Holy Cross on Oldfield Lane is thought to have been founded in  the twelfth century, around 1157.  The oldest surviving parts of the present church, though, are thirteenth- to fourteenth- century, and the main body of it  is late fifteenth- to early sixteenth- century, with some nineteenth-century  modifications.  There are a number of surviving fifteenth- to early seventeenth- century memorials and monuments in the church, alongside a font dating to 1637.  There are also some interesting stained-glass windows acquired from King’s College, Cambridge, and inserted in the nineteenth century, although dating to the fourteenth to sixteenth.

The neighbouring new church was built in 1943, to cater for the then rapidly growing population of local factory workers and commuters.


Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring”walk  …

Osterley was first recorded in 1274 as Osterle, from the Old English eowestre, meaning sheep-fold, and leah, meaning woodland clearing. It is now a leafy suburb of Outer London.

Osterley House


Osterley House was originally built here in 1576  for the wealthy City of London financier and philanthropist Sir Thomas Gresham, who had bought the manor of Osterley in 1562 (*).  It was described as a “faire and stately brick house”, and is known to have been visited by the Queen, Elizabeth I, in 1576.  The house was subsequently rebuilt in the eighteenth century for  Francis and Robert Child, the grandsons of Sir Francis Child, the founder of Child’s Bank (the architect being Robert Adam).  It is now owned by the National Trust.


Only the brick stable-block survives from the original house.  It now houses a cafe and shop.

(*)  Gresham also bought the neighbouring Boston Manor in 1572/3.


Church of St Lawrence

St Lawrence Brentford

The church of St Lawrence was first founded at least as long ago as the twelfth century, although the present stone tower dates only to the fifteenth, and the brick nave to the eighteenth, to 1764.  The church was closed down in 1961, when the monuments were removed.  It is currently for sale.

Boston Manor House

Boston Manor was first recorded in the eleventh century, and later, as being owned by the Priory of St Helen Bishopsgate in the City of London, in the twelfth.  The manor  was confiscated by the Crown during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538.  It was later given by Edward I to Edward Seymour, the First Duke of Somerset, and  Lord Protector of England – and taken back again after his execution in 1552.  It  was then given by  Elizabeth I to Robert, Earl of Leicester in 1572, and sold by him to Sir Thomas Gresham, who already owned adjoining Osterley Park,  in 1573.  After Gresham’s death in 1579, the manor  passed to his step-son Sir William Reade, and later  to Sir William’s widow, Lady Mary, in 1621.

Side and front from garden


It was Lady Mary Reade who built the core of the present house here in 1622-3.  After her death in 1658, it passed to her relative John Goldsmith, and after his death in 1670 it was bought – and considerably extended – by James Clitherow, a wealthy City merchant with interests in the East India Company.   The house then remained in the Clitherow family until it was sold by Colonel John Bourchier Stracey Clitherow to Brentford  Urban District Council in 1923 (the contents, including paintings by Rubens, van Dyck, Kneller, Hogarth and Romney, having been auctioned off the previous year).   It is currently  owned by Hounslow Cultural and Community Services, and open to the public at weekends throughout the spring and summer.

The Drawing Room

Settee and tea trolley, Drawing Room

The Drawing Room retains many original Jacobean features …

Detail of one of elements ceiling panels, Drawing Room

… including an ornate  moulded plaster ceiling and overmantel, probably by Edward Stanyon, and possibly, in part,  to designs by the Flemish painter Marcus Gheeraerts.


Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” Walk …

Isleworth takes its name from the Old English personal name Gislhere’ and worth, meaning enclosed settlement.  It was first referred to, in a Saxon Charter of 677, as Gislheresuuyrth (although it had evidently been occupied as long ago as the Neolithic).  By the time of the Norman Domesday Survey of 1086, there was a  manor house here, together with two mills and a fishing weir, making the most  of the  riverside position.The manor house was rebuilt in the thirteenth century by the then owner, the Earl of Cornwall, although it no longer exists (the site now being occupied by the Duke of Northumberland public house).   The church of all Saints was founded in the fourteenth century (see below).  The nearby nunnery of St Saviour and St Bridget of Syon, also known as Syon Abbey, in the fifteenth; Syon House,   on the site of the by then dissolved nunnery, in the sixteenth (although it was subsequently substantially  rebuilt in the eighteenth).  A number of other riverside estates and stately homes sprang up in the vicinity in the  eighteenth century.  Isleworth was  finally overtaken by the spread of the suburbs in the late nineteenth century.

Church of All Saints

General view


The church of All Saints was originally built  in 1398, probably on the site of an  older church referred to in a Saxon charter of 695.  It was rebuilt in 1705, to a modified version of a design submitted by Christopher Wren two years earlier (the original plan having been rejected on the grounds of  expense).  It was then substantially destroyed in 1943, not by wartime bombing, as one might have surmised, but by an act of arson (those responsible  also burning down the church of Holy Trinity in Hounslow).  It was subsequently rebuilt in 1967-70, with the surviving old stone tower incorporated into the new brick structure.

Yew tree marking site of plague pit

Plaque at foot of yew tree marking site of plague pit

The churchyard was the site of the burial of  a total of 149 parishioners who died in the “Great   Plague”  in  1665.  A yew tree and plaque mark the site of the so-called “plague pit”.