Eastcote House Gardens
- Original design
- Unknown, 1600
- Rees Bolter, 2015
The first recorded mention of a house on the site is a cottage at Well Green Eastcote called Hopkyttes which was surrendered by John Amery when ‘lying in extremis’ in 1494. In 1507 the house came into the possession of the Walleston family and in about 1525 it entered the Hawtrey family when Ralph Hawtrey married Winifred Walleston and it became their main residence. This commenced a continuous association of the family and their descendants the Deanes with the house for over 400 years until the1930s.
The family lived in the house until 1878 but after that it was occupied by a succession of tenants, including Sir Samuel Morton Peto a famous 19th century engineer. Over the centuries the house was considerably altered and enlarged and probably changed its name to Eastcote House in the early 19th century.
The original Hopkyttes was a timbered framed building which was enlarged by Ralph Hawtrey in the period 1525-1574. During the following centuries the house was further greatly extended and given a brick façade in the early 18th century. At the beginning of the 19th century this brick façade received its fashionable stucco, which the house retained until its demolition in 1964. It is described as being ‘recently modernised’ in Norris Brewer’s book Beauties of England and Wales published in1816. Also the ground floor windows were lengthened at this time.
We can gain some impression of the interior of the house from the field notes of the 1936 inspection by the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England. This details the considerable amount of moulded wooden panelling and the fine main early 18th century staircase with its twisted ‘barley-stick’ moulded balusters. One of the ground floor rooms with extensive panelling was known as the Cromwell Room because of an unsubstantiated story that Oliver Cromwell had stayed at the house. In fact a 1936 plan of the house by the Borough Surveyor of the Ruislip Northwood UDC describes the doctor’s examination room of the child welfare clinic as the ‘Cromwell Room’.
During the 18th century the grounds were replanted with over 50 varieties of shrubs and trees. Until the 20th century the house was set in extensive parkland and farmland with open views in all directions. A few of the oak trees still exist on the Eastcote Park Estate. In addition the yew trees remain still which were planted to screen the working quarters of the house from people walking in the grounds. The original driveway entrance to the house was from the High Road Eastcote, the present vehicle entrance, but in the 19th century when the entrance to the house was re-sited to the south side, a new driveway was created along the current pedestrian path from Field End Road.
No doubt because of their long association with Eastcote the family was seen as one of the leaders of the local community. Successive members served as magistrates, which enabled them to influence law and order in the area, oversee the election of parish officers and view parish accounts. They acquired the status of Lord of the Manor when in fact King’s College Cambridge held that position. But because the college was an absentee lord of the manor the family tended to assume that role by default, especially as they often acted as stewards or bailiffs of the manor for King’s College. In the 19th century Ralph Deane and his son Francis were known as Squire Deane.
Over the centuries the family became extensive landowners creating a large estate based on Eastcote House. By the end of the 19th century they were the largest landowners in the parish of Ruislip after King’s College. But in the 20th century the returns on agricultural land were falling whereas the opening of Ruislip station in 1904 and Eastcote station in 1906 stimulated the demand for building land and all the estate was gradually sold off. Eastcote House and its grounds were sold in 1930 to Comben & Wakeling for the development of the Eastcote Park Estate. However the proposed demolition of Eastcote House as part of the development caused such a public outcry that the Ruislip-Northwood Urban District Council was forced to purchase it along with 9.1 acres of the grounds for £10,500 in 1931.
For the next 30 years the house acted as a community centre providing accommodation for many local groups and services like the Scouts, Guides, Eastcote Women’s Institute and child welfare clinic. During World War Two the Food Control Office, which was responsible for the issue of ration books was sited there. The caretakers Mr and Mrs Hunter lived in the adjoining cottage. But in 1962, after a long period of neglect, it was declared unsafe for public use and finally demolished in 1964. Only then on demolition was the original Tudor farmhouse Hopkyttes with its ancient timbers revealed. A beam taken from the house during its demolition was incorporated into the Great Barn at Ruislip during repairs. This beam was dated to before1510 by an expert on medieval carpentry which suggests the original Hopkyttes remaining at the heart of the later house.
Today only the stables, the dovecot and the walled garden remain as reminders of the house and are currently under restoration with the assistance of a £1.3 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant (although it has been suggested that some of the stones in the rockery are the tops of the Tuscan columns from the portico of the house).
Susan Toms, Ruislip Northwood & Eastcote Local History Society
The Friends of Eastcote House Gardens Management Advisory Group was formed in June 2008, with the specific purpose of enhancing the gardens and buildings, in conjunction with the London Borough of Hillingdon. The ‘Friends Gardening Group’ came into being around the same time. The compass of the Friends’ work has expanded and there is now a Countryside Conservation Group, with responsibility for Long Meadow and the River Pinn.
FEHG have raised funding to restore and improve the Gardens, starting in 2009 with a successful application to the Big Lottery Fund for replanting the Walled garden, including revitalizing the four Herb Beds originally planted to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. This project was successfully carried out, with full community involvement. The day of the ‘Big Plant’ saw 47 volunteers plant 1083 plants. Local schools also helped. All returned in the autumn to plant several thousand bulbs in the Walled garden and the Rockery. The Garden was formally opened by the Mayor of Hillingdon as part of a Celebration Picnic in July 2010.
In April 2010 the Rock Garden was re-planted, with a donation from TaylorWimpey. Bluebells were planted in the woods near the Pinn, funds coming from an anonymous donor.
A wild flower meadow was started in 2010 and was extended in 2011, as part of the Olympic/RHS project ‘Mad about Meadows’.
December 2011 saw the planting of an orchard to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the funding and labour all came from FEHG and local people. The orchard was dedicated by the Mayor of Hillingdon at the Jubilee Picnic June 2nd 2012.
The Friends’ works in the gardens have not gone unrewarded. The Friends were awarded the highest award in the ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ section of the London in Bloom 2010, 2011,2012; receiving the highest accolade of all in 2013 ‘Champion of Champions’.
London in Bloom, Community Garden Category 2011,2013 2nd place; London in Bloom Park of the Year 2012 & 2013 Gold Award. 2014 Gold Award and Category Winner.
For the first time in 2014 Long Meadow was entered into London in Bloom Conservation Area category receiving Silver Gilt and Category Winner.
2015 results of London in Bloom:
Eastcote House Gardens recieved a Gold award for Park of the Year
Long Meadow received Silver Gilt for a Conservation Area
Friends of Eastcote House Gardens entry into Its Your Neighbourhood, gained a mark of 97/100 Outstanding at Level 5.
The Gardens were awarded Green Flag status in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015.