“Keep me good that secret gate!”*

Pictured: Devonshire House gates to Green Park

*From Wilfred Owen‘s The Fates, written at Craiglockhart Hospital on 30 June-1 July 1917.

Juliet Nicolson writes in Chapter Four: Early June of The Perfect Summer, 1911 (2006): “The Devonshires’ Derby Night Ball on 31 May had been (as it was each year) hugely “jolly”…The house (Devonshire House) was hidden from the street (Piccadilly) by the high brick wall built as protection from a potentially threatening mob whose homes were destroyed after the Great Fire in 1666. The casual passer-by could have no idea of the size of the eighteenth-century yellow brick Venetian-style house and huge forecourt by William Kent that lay behind it, large enough to entertain seven hundred Royal persons, aristocrats, politicians, writers, artists and self-made millionaires…”

The story of the gates within the wall, told below by Gill Clegg, begins in Turnham Green:

This stood on the corner of Sutton Lane and Heathfield Terrace, where Chiswick Fire Station is today. There appears to have been a house on this site from 1659 which had a string of distinguished owners, including Viscount Dunkerman, the Earl of Kerry, Lord Egremont and the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. The house took its name from Lord Heathfield (1718-1790), famous as General George Augustus Eliott for defending Gibraltar against a near four-year siege by the Spaniards during his stint as Governor of Gibraltar. The house Heathfield purchased in 1789 was an Italianate two-storey building which had replaced the original 17th-century house and Lord Heathfield commissioned the botanist William Aiton, later George III’s gardener at Kew, to lay out the gardens. The house was demolished in 1837 and the vicarage for Christ Church built on the site. Heathfield House also boasted beautiful wrought iron gates and these can still be seen – they are the gates at the Piccadilly entrance to Green Park. When Heathfield House was demolished, the Duke of Devonshire bought the gates for Chiswick House but, in 1897, had them moved to his London property, Devonshire House in Piccadilly, and in 1921 they were bought for the nation and set up outside Green Park.

From Case 23: Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA):

“Relatively little is known of the work of Jean Montigny, a French Catholic immigrant smith who specialised in wrought iron who is first recorded in London in 1705. He was a younger associate of Jean Tijou, the distinguished designer and gatesmith from St Germain, France, who is recorded in London by 1687 and worked for the royal palaces, courtier houses and new ecclesiastical buildings. Montigny was associated with Tijou from 1708, when they jointly supplied a gate for Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk. Like Tijou, Montigny was abreast of the latest French engraved designs for ornament and master of the most sophisticated metalworking techniques which set new standards.

Besides the documented patronage of Lord Chandos and Lord Chesterfield, Montigny is credited with gates associated with Devonshire House, London, which were acquired second-hand from Lord Heathfield’s house in Turnham Green after it was demolished in 1837. Now situated on the North side of Green Park, their bronze masks and swirling foliage provide a good comparison with the Chesterfield House railings, although the Devonshire coat-of-arms are a later addition.”

J. Starkie Gardner describes the gates in detail in English Ironwork of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1911).