Inventory Site Record

Holly Lodge Estate Gardens (Camden)

Brief Description

Holly Lodge Estate was built on the sloping site of the grounds of Holly Lodge, a late C18th villa that had stood near Robin Grove. In 1808 it was leased to actress Harriet Mellon who married banker Thomas Coutts and later the Duke of St Albans. After the latter's death in 1849 Holly Lodge was inherited by Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts. The estate was expanded considerably between 1809 and 1864. In 1922 the estate was sold for housing and Holly Lodge Estate laid out in 1923. Part of the original gardens survive between the former carriage drive and Holly Lodge Gardens, maintained for private use of estate residents. Two garden areas are separated by a wooded avenue, the larger laid out around evergreen oaks and originally a Glade of Cedars of Lebanon, of which only one now remains, and a small flower garden to the east of the carriage drive.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Holly Lodge
Site location:
Highgate West Hill/Swain's Lane
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Housing/Estate Landscaping, Private Garden
Open to public?
Opening times:
private, access to gardens for residents only. Estate has several entrances each with barrier/gate.
Special conditions:
Gardens: no ball games, bicycles, shooting.
Public transport:
Tube: Kentish Town (Northern) then bus. London Overground: Gospel Oak then bus. Bus: C11.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.hle.org.uk

Full Site Description

Holly Lodge Estate was built on the sloping site of the grounds of Holly Lodge, a villa built for Sir Henry Tempest in 1798 that was leased to actress Harriet Mellon in 1808, which she then acquired in 1809. In 1815 she married banker Thomas Coutts and what had been a relatively modest house in not very extensive grounds was thenceforth expanded. Parcels of land were acquired in 1815, 1856-7 and 1862-4, by which time it was some 60 acres and one of the last of the big estates in London. Thomas Coutts died in 1822 and in June 1827 Harriet married the Duke of St Albans. Following the Duke's death in 1849 the estate was inherited by Thomas Coutts' granddaughter Angela Burdett-Coutts, Harriet herself having died in 1837. One of the richest women in Europe at the time, she dedicated much of her life to charitable causes and Holly Lodge became the venue for many events and visits connected with her good works, notably a spectacular grand fete held in 1867 for 2000 Belgian Volunteers. Her love of animals led to the creation of a Model Farm. Among regular visitors were Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens who was apparently very attached to her garden. In 1881 she married an American, William Ashmead Bartlett, who took the name Burdett-Coutts. As a result of this marriage, under the will of the Duchess of St Albans, Angela lost much of her income although she acquired Holly Lodge for her husband.

Angela Burdett-Coutts died in 1906 and the 1907 sale catalogue for Holly Lodge shows a garden that was eclectic and informal in style and design. The estate failed to sell and was finally sold for housing development after the death of her husband in 1922. At first only outlying parts of the estate such as South Grove House and Holly Terrace were sold, and in 1923 the remainder was sold for £45,000 but immediately resold to London Garden Suburbs Ltd who began to develop a 'select garden suburb' on the site, keeping the name Holly Lodge Estate. Holly Lodge had stood near Robin Grove and the original garden was effectively divided by a high wall into a western and eastern section as a result of an ancient right of way, Bromwich Walk, which was not extinguished until 1904. The pleasure gardens were on the western side and the orchards, hothouses and kitchen garden were on the eastern side. The layout of the original garden effectively followed the different stages of land acquisition, shown in a plan annexed to the 1922 auction catalogue.

Part of the original gardens survive between Robin Grove and Holly Lodge Gardens and are maintained for the residents on the large estate. This consists of two areas separated by a wooded avenue, the larger laid out around evergreen Oaks and what was formerly known as the Glade of Cedars although only one large Cedar now remains; two of the Cedars of the former Glade are shown on the OS map of 1869/70. A small flower garden is to the east of the former carriage drive, which has more recent planting although several older features remain, such as a stone urn that once stood in front of the original house and two brick piers and gates with stone plaques that were removed from the north wall of the Estate orchard, placed here in 1925 by the Central London Building Company. A commemorative plaque is set into the stone pier on top of the steps leading down to the urn and one of the original lamps of the carriage drive remains in the garden. Some of the original planting remains along Robin Grove. A number of benches on the estate and among the Cedars, as well as a small memorial wall in the north-west corner, commemorate people connected with the estate. Rhododendrons that were a feature of the original garden also remain, considerably grown up, and other trees listed in the auction catalogue of 1907 remain. These include several Hornbeams, Beeches, Spanish Chestnut, Hollies, Holm Oaks and a Dawn Redwood. Two young Cedar trees have been planted in the Lower Garden in recent years.

The original stables were in the south, now St Albans Road, and the long carriage drive through the grounds from the south remains as Hillway, a long tree-lined street running up the hill through the estate, predominantly having pollarded Lime trees. The avenues that cross this have a wide variety of trees such as rows of Whitebeams, Catalpa, Liquidambar and Betula pendula.

The proposed plan for the new Holly Lodge Estate was published in the Hampstead and Highgate Express on 22 December 1923. It provided family houses and although the original plan had been to build houses over the entire estate the land east of the new central road was acquired by Lady Workers' Homes Ltd to build blocks of rooms for single women working in London. These comprised a number of substantial half-timbered mansion blocks between Hillway and Swain's Lane, which were erected in 1924. The first built was Langbourne Mansions, followed by mansion blocks on Makepeace and Oakshott Avenues. The residents were originally provided with a restaurant and social centre including a small theatre at 30 Makepeace Avenue, but these communal facilities were turned into flats by Camden Council in 1975-77. Three lawn tennis courts were provided behind the social centre, with a further 2 below Langbourne Avenue where annual tournaments were held.

The original community centre had fallen into decline by the late 1950s and was derelict by 1964 when the mansion blocks, hitherto in private ownership, were acquired by the Metropolitan Borough of St Pancras on a 150-year lease. In 1965 this devolved to LB Camden, which continues to have responsibility for the mansion blocks and garden areas between them. Residents of the flats are no longer only women. Sheltered housing provision was proposed by Camden Council in 1972 and in the ground floor of this facility there is now a thriving Community Centre.

The remainder of the private estate is maintained and managed by the Holly Lodge Estate Committee. Each household pays an agreed amount per year into the EMF Estate Maintenance Fund, matched by LB Camden on behalf of tenants and leaseholders of the flats. The fund is used for maintenance and improvement of the common parts and includes mowing grass, managing trees, collecting litter, maintaining the ornamental gardens, repairing roads, paths, steps and gates. The estate is laid out in rows running west/east with the main axial road, Hillway, running north/south. Just south of the estate is the church of St Anne Brookfield, built 1852-3 by George Plunkett, a partner of the Cubitts builders. The church was founded by Anne Barnett of Brookfield Court (d.1859), and in front has a lawn with a war memorial.

A number of features from the original garden of Angela Burdett-Coutts that survived when Holly Lodge Estate was built have since disappeared although they probably existed into the 1960s, such as a star-shaped rose garden and 'crumbling summer house', both in or near the Glade of Cedars and both described by Edna Healey who lived on the estate. The design of the original gardens in 1825 has been ascribed by some to J B Papworth (1775-1847) but investigation at the RIBA (by Sheena Ginnings) does not support this, although the Drawings Collection has a drawing of 'Holly Grove, Highgate' by Papworth. Other than the help of a notable nurseryman who had his business adjacent to the estate for most of its history, it is possible that there was no specific garden designer or overall plan for the garden.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); Andrew Saint (introduction), 'London Suburbs', Merrell Holberton Publishers 1999; 'Streets of Highgate' ed. Steven Denford and David A Hayes (Camden History Society Publications, 2007); TFT Baker, 'A History of Middlesex vol 6 of the Victorian Histories of the Counties of England' ed ECR Elrington, Oxford, OUP, 1980; Sir George Gater and Walter H Godfrey, 'Survey of London vol XVII The Village of Highgate', LCC, 1936; Patrick Goode et al, 'The Oxford Companion to Gardens,' Oxford, OUP, 1987; Edna Healey, 'Lady Unknown, the life of Angela Burdett-Coutts', Sidgwick & Jackson, 1978; Holly Lodge Estate Committee and Edna Healey, 'Holly Village Estate', 1973; J Richardson, 'Highgate, Its History since the Fifteenth Century', New Barnet, Herts Historical Publications, 1983; Catalogue for the Sale by Auction of Holly Lodge Estate, Highgate held on 24 October 1907; Catalogue for the Sale by Auction of Holly Lodge Estate, Highgate held on 4 July 1922. Also see Holly Lodge Estate website.

LPGT Volunteer Research by Sheena Ginnings, 2006

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ281869 (528581,186518)
Size in hectares:
1.3911 (estate 24.3)
Site ownership:
Holly Lodge Estate Committee
Site management:
Holly Lodge Estate Committee and LB Camden
1809-1864; 1923
Listed structures:
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Holly Lodge Estate
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Private Open Space

Holly Lodge Estate Gardens

Holly Lodge Gardens, August 2002. Photo S Williams.

Holly Lodge Gardens, August 2002. Photo S Williams.
Holly Lodge Estate, August 2002. Photo S Williams.
Holly Lodge Gardens, photograph c.1920s.  Courtesy of Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre.
Holly Lodge Gardens, photograph, c.1920s.  Courtesy of Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre.
Robin Grove, Highgate, photograph, n.d.  Courtesy of Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre.

Click a photo to enlarge.

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