Grovelands, Southgate

This article by Stephen Gilburt was first published by The Enfield Society in newsletter 217, Spring 2020.

Until the late 18th century the area around what is now Grovelands House and Park was known as Lord’s Grove. Among the many owners of the estate were Sir William Cecil in the 16th century, Sir Robert Cecil in the early 17th century and the Duke of Chandos in the late 18th century. About 1796 230 acres were sold by the 3rd Duke of Chandos’s son-in-law to Walker Gray. He was the son of Abraham Gray, a Quaker brewer in Tottenham, and was related to the Walkers of Arnos Grove (see newsletter 177, Spring 2010). In 1797 Walker Gray commissioned John Nash to build what he called Southgate Grove, and Humphrey Repton to landscape the surrounding grounds. John Nash went on to become one of Britain’s leading architects and received commissions from Prince Regent for the Royal Pavilion Brighton, Regent Street and terraces around Regent’s Park. The house was described in Peacock’s Polite Repository of 1798 as being “situated in the midst of a grove of trees beautifully scattered over the lawn, the grounds falling gradually to a fine piece of water.” The house was originally surrounded by a walled kitchen garden, ornamental pleasure grounds, an orchard and various outbuildings which have since been replaced.

Southgate Grove, drawn from nature by G. Eyre Brooks, Surveyor.

The house is approached from The Bourne through a pair of gates flanked by a single storey lodge of 1800 which is Grade II Listed. The driveway, which passes an elevated octagonal grain store, leads up to the north front of the Grade I listed neo-classical house. The north and south facades have two pairs of two storey high white Portland stone columns with Ionic artificial Coade stone capitals supporting flat pediments.

North Front of Southgate Grove the seat of Walker Gray Esq. John Nash arch. Engraved and published by George Richardson in New Vitruvius Britannicas 1799.

The principal east garden front has four equally spaced Ionic columns supporting a flat pediment. The building is covered in unpainted stucco and has Ionic pilasters at the corners. The ground floor windows extend upwards from the floor and, except those behind the projecting central part of the east front, are divided into three parts with a shell and fan shaped typanum above. The first floor is lit by rectangular windows with horizontal oval windows on the attic second floor. Above there were originally Coade stones sphinxes.

View of Grovelands from the north-east in 1968.
The entrance vestibule, seen here in 1959, has a vaulted and radially fluted plaster ceiling and three grisaille (monochrome painted) panels with classical sacrificial scenes on the walls.
The central top-lit hall, seen here in 1959, has a short central single flight of stairs which divides into two to reach the landing on the first floor, where the bedrooms and dressing rooms were located.
Next to the entrance vestibule on the garden front is the Birdcage Room, see here in 1954. This octagonal breakfast room is painted Tromp l’Oeil to resemble the interior of a cage, with views through creeper-clad bamboo bars to a garden.

Also on the ground floor were the Eating Room, Drawing Room and Library which led through to the conservatory on the south front. On the west side of the house were the servants’ quarters including the Housekeeper’s Room, Butler’s Room and Servants’ Hall. In the semi-basement were storage rooms including an ice-house.

After Walker Gray’s death in 1834 the house and estate were bought by his nephew John Donnithorne Taylor or the Taylor Walker brewery. He renamed the house Grovelands, enlarged Repton’s lake and built a ha-ha (sunken wall) to prevent deer from coming too close to the house. He also constructed a second grander approach to the house from Alderman’s Hill and bought and then demolished Cullands Grove because he did not like to be able to see neighbouring houses from Grovelands. In 1881 he opposed the separation of Southgate from Edmonton. In 1885 the estate passed to his son Robert Kirkpatrick Taylor who lived in Grovelands until his death in 1901.

Robert Kirkpatrick Taylor and John Donnithorne Taylor are shown here with members of their family in the Birdcage Room.

In 1902 John Vickris Taylor put the family estates up for sale and most of the land was developed with housing. However, the lot containing Grovelands House failed to reach the reserve price. Some 91 acres of the grounds adjoining the house, including the lake, were sold to Southgate Urban District Council in 1910 and Grovelands Park was opened to the public in 1913.

During the First World War the house was converted for use as a military hospital and a group of staff and patients are shown here in 1916.

After the war the house was returned to the Taylor family. In 1921 the house and 6 acres were sold to what became the Royal Northern Hospital. A further 20 acres were added before the hospital opened in 1926. The hospital closed in 1976 and the house lay derelict until it was sold to the Priory Hospital Group. It was carefully restored and sympathetically extended to the west, winning a Civic Trust Award. In 1986 Grovelands Priory Hospital opened to care for patients suffering from mental and addictive problems. The house is usually open to the public for guided tours on the Open House London weekend in September.

It can be reached by bus W9 to The Bourne and other buses from Southgate Underground station.

For more information on Grovelands see:- The Story of Grovelands by Matthew Eccleston 1997; Southgate Grove (Grovelands) by Geoffrey Gillam; Grovelands. . . distinguished past, neglected present, what future by Southgate District Civic Trust c1980; The Architecture of John Nash by Terence Davis 1960; The Life and Work of John Nash, Architect by John Summerson 1980; The Buildings of England London 4 North by Bridget Cherry and Nikolous Pevsner 1998; Southgate: a glimpse into the past by Alan Dumayne 1987; The Old Borough of Southgate by Alan Dumayne 1998; Southgate and Edmonton Past by Graham Dalling 1996; Treasuers of Enfield, Discovering the Buildings of a London Borough edited by Valerie Carter 2000. Most of these publications may be consulted at Enfield Local Studies & Archive which supplied all the illustrations used in this article.

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