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 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.