The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/10/2010
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Site on English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, for Register Entry see http://list.english-heritage.org.uk
There appears to have been a substantial property on the site by the mid C17th as Richard Slaney paid Hearth Tax on a building with 16 hearths. There were various owners until 1711, when it became the property of wealthy merchant Jonathan Gurnell, who married Grizell Wilmer whose family then owned the house, later passing to their son Thomas. Thomas commissioned George Dance the Younger to improve the house in 1768, and it later passed to his son Jonathan in 1785. After his death in 1791 the house probably stood empty as his son was not yet of age and the Trustees decided to sell the property. In 1800 the manor house and c.28 acres of land were sold to architect John Soane (1753-1837) for £4,500. Soane was architect of the Bank of England and later of Dulwich Picture Gallery (q.v.), and he had also been an apprentice of Dance when he was working for Gurnell. Soane redesigned Pitzhanger Manor as his ‘country’ residence. Here he entertained and displayed his art collection, retaining what is now Sir John Soane's Museum in Lincoln's Inn as the family residence. He demolished most of Dance's building apart from the southern extension and redesigned the main block. He also added the entrance archway on Mattock Lane, replacing an earlier one to the east, and he also built an adjacent small single-storey lodge.
In June 1809 Soane decided to sell Pitzhanger Manor and it again passed through a number of owners until it was purchased in 1843 by Spencer Horatio Walpole MP (1806-1898). Walpole lived next door in a house called The Hall and Pitzhanger Manor became the home of Walpole's four unmarried sisters-in-law, the daughters of the former Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Spencer Perceval who was assassinated in 1812. The setting of the house had remained largely rural until the mid C19th set amongst other detached villas built along Ealing Green. The last Miss Perceval died age 95 in May 1900 and the estate was sold to Ealing UDC by her nephew Sir Spencer Walpole, negotiations having commenced earlier in the year. The cost was £40,000, with Middlesex County Council contributing £10,000. Alterations were then carried out by Ealing Borough Surveyor Charles Jones, who demolished outbuildings and the servants' wing to the east, building an extension to the west of Dance's wing and a new lending library, itself replaced by a larger structure in 1940. Jones also redesigned elements of the grounds for the municipal park.
Formal gardens are reached from the main entrance via a path lined with shrubs to the north, which continues to a small circular stone-lined fishpond dating from the early municipal layout. North of the small fishpond is an early C19th Portland stone seat with a grotesque carved mask in the backrest. The path then divides, one branch leading between the mansion's west front and rectangular west lawn set with beds that date from the 1940s onwards, including a circular bed with silver birch commemorating HRH Princess Diana that was laid out in 1998. One of the existing Cedar trees on the west lawn dates back to the C18th. The main branch of the path leads over a low rustic classically-styled bridge with 3 arches, which Soane appears to have resurfaced with rubble, flint and dressed stone to suggest greater antiquity. At one time Coade stone vases decorated the parapet, but have since been removed. The bridge crossed a small stream that was once a small serpentine lake made for Soane in 1800. The path then passes a bronze portrait bust of Charles Jones, created by Frank Bowcher, which provides a monument to Jones who died in 1913. Soane's rustic bridge forms the northern end of a sunken garden created in the 1920s, to the east of which an evergreen hedge was planted to separate the rock garden from the rectangular lawn. A number of animal enclosures and children's play area have been provided, with an early C20th wooden shelter to the west of the enclosures. The kitchen garden was to the south of the mansion, and remains a partially enclosed walled garden entered from the north through a classical doorway. It is marked on John Rocque's map of 1746 and by 1832 had a hothouse and grapery, but by the early C20th it was abandoned. It was laid out as a rose garden in 1920s and now has a late C20th wooden pergola.
The main area of the parkland is south-west of the mansion and in the main consists of grass crossed by tree-lined axial avenues dating from the early C20th. Smaller paths are laid out around the perimeter. In the central area are a number of fine old trees that may be remnants of C18th field boundaries. Halfway across the park a long elongated oval stone-edged lake was constructed in 1904/5, the work carried out as a scheme to help the long-term unemployed. It had two small islands planted with shrubs and small trees, with a fountain between them. Waterfowl were donated and in the summer it was used as a model boating lake. The site corresponded with an old field boundary and it may have been an earlier drainage ditch. The OS of 1865 shows a fishpond here, which had probably dried up by the time it was laid out as a public park. To the east of lake an open-air theatre and café were added in the late C20th. Another path leading to the Lammas Park Road entrance is lined by trees that were planted to commemorate past mayors of the borough, and other trees along the path from this entrance also has commemorative trees planted in the latter part of the C20th. By this path is a wooden shelter built c.1920 to service the tennis courts that were once here near the western boundary of the park.
The grounds were opened as a public park on 1 May 1901 by Ealing's MP, the Rt Hon Lord George Hamilton, and in April 1902 the house opened as a public library. The name Walpole Park appears to have been adopted in late 1900. Two new entrances to the park were made in the early C20th and another new entrance from Ealing Green dates from c.1921 when the War Memorial was built, designed by Leonard A Shuffrey, taking the form of two curved walls either side of the entrance inscribed with the names of those who died in WWI; another tier of names was added following WWII. The library continued to operate here until 1984 after which restoration works began to be carried out to both mansion and grounds, the house re-opening as a museum in the late 1990s.
EH Register: Middlesex County Times 6 January 1900, 5 May 1900, 12 May 1900, 19 May 1900, 26 May 1900, 2 June 1900, 27 July 1900; Charles Jones, 'A Decade of Progress' (1910); Dorothy Stroud, 'Sir John Soane and the Rebuilding of Pitzhanger Manor' in 'In Search of Modern Architecture: a Tribute to Henry Russell Hitchcock (Architectural Foundation of New York, 1982), pp38-51; Dorothy Stroud 'Sir John Soane Architect' (1984); Pitzhanger Manor An Introduction, guidebook revised edition, post 1987; Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England: London 3: North-West' (Penguin, 1999 ed). LB Ealing Conservation Area Appraisal (April 1999); Peter Hounsell 'Ealing and Hanwell Past' (Historical Publications, 1999); Peter Hounsell 'The Ealing Book' (Historical Publications, 2005)