The former Cannons, Middlesex

From: An Economic History of the English Garden (2019), by Roderick Floud:

“…For example, at Cannons, Middlesex, in 1722, the Duke of Chandos paid his gardener £200,000 (£100), while his chaplain received £150,000 (£75) and his chief steward £100,000 (£50); the duke also had a private orchestra of twenty-four players and had recently employed George Frideric Handel as his resident composer, so there was no shortage of money. The gardener was probably on a contract and the total sum included other garden wages and expenses. He was responsible for a garden of 83 acres (some of which survives in altered form as Canons Park) with grand avenues more than 1,000 yards long, a canal and lake or ‘great Bason’ and an aviary that contained tortoises as well as birds: storks, flamingoes, ostriches and a range of wildfowl. More difficult to deal with must have been Virginian deer, a Mexican muskrat and a ‘tiger’ from Ghana.”

From the Hidden London website:

“Canons Park’s name comes from the former landowners, the canons of the Priory of St Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield, who were granted six acres of land here in 1331.

James Brydges, afterwards the first Duke of Chandos, created the palatial mansion of Canons around 1718. To complete the ostentatious set-up, Brydges had an orchestra accompany his meals and hired Handel as resident composer. “Having such a composer was an instance of real magnificence … such as no prince or potentate on earth could at that time pretend to,” wrote John Mainwaring in his Life of Handel (1760).

The mansion survived for less than 30 years before a much smaller substitute took its place, built mainly with materials reclaimed from the demolition of its predecessor.

Other parts of the original mansion were sold as architectural salvage and the original colonnade now stands (see image) in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

Around 1898, Arthur du Cros, founder of the Dunlop Rubber Company, acquired the house and surrounding grounds and commissioned Charles E Mallows to redesign the gardens, which were considered to be amongst the finest of the Edwardian era.

The house was bought by the North London Collegiate School in 1929, while the Canons Park Estate Company built up the neighbouring land with a startling variety of properties, from modest semi-detached houses to extravagant so-called mansions. The arrival of the Metropolitan Railway in 1932 contributed to the success of the development, which is known as the Du Cros or DC estate.

Harrow council has restored some of the historic features of Canons Park open space with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. To its south, Barnet football club has relocated to a new stadium it calls the Hive.”

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