Barham Park was once grounds of the C18th Crab's House, which was acquired in 1801 by John Copland who built Sudbury Lodge (later called Barham Mansion) in c1850. By 1895 the estate was owned by Sir George Barham; it was inherited in 1913 by his son Titus, who spent much on its improvement. When he died in 1937 he left house and grounds to the citizens of Wembley, together with his private museum. The park today has formal gardens and more open parkland. There are remnants of earlier features such as garden balustrades of Barham Mansion, walls and ornamental gates, and part of Crab's House is now the library. Wembley and Brent Parks Nursery was here from 1950-1960s, its site now the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Garden, with the old nursery glasshouse as its focal point.
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Barham Park, Approach to the Library from the park, October 2008. Photo: S Williams
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Barham Park was formed from the grounds of the C18th Crab's House, which was named after the family who had it in the 1790s, but later called Old Court or Old Barham Court. John Copland purchased it in 1801 and in c.1850 built Sudbury Lodge, later called Barham Mansion. The Copland family were local benefactors. Anne (d.1872) and her sister Frances (d.1870) who inherited the estate on their father's death, founded a village hospital and supported much of the development of Wembley. From c.1880 Crab's House was the home of Sir George Barham, pioneer dairy industrialist and founder of the Express Dairy, who acquired the remainder of Sudbury Park in 1895 after the death of General Copland-Crawford. Barham's son, Titus, inherited the estate when his father died in 1913, and spent much on its improvement but died in 1937, leaving Barham Mansion (formerly Sudbury Lodge), his private museum and its grounds to the citizens of Wembley.
During WWII the property was used by the Civil Defence. Although the house was initially converted to a museum and library by Middlesex County Council, which opened in May 1952 with the hopes that 'the Barham Collection of British Antiquities would be made available for display', the building was left to deteriorate. Titus Barham's collection was dispersed piecemeal in 1952/4 some going to the Museum of Rural Life in Reading and some to the Grange Museum in Neasden (q.v.). The house was vandalised and after a long delay was demolished by the Council 1956-57; only the garden balustrades now survive from the C19th house, although there are brick garden walls and gates that date from its C18th predecessor. There are fine horse chestnuts along the park's south boundary. The gardens are terraced east-west with an elaborate and richly planted rockery garden to the north; the central walled garden north of the library is now a well-planted flower garden, an axial path crosses a bridge over a water feature, with a view through to flower gardens to the west; further west still is a play area. There are 3 notable plane trees to the north.
The Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Garden was once the site of the Wembley and Brent Parks Nursery established in 1950, 'one of the best local authority nurseries in the country'. Nursery staff developed 'automatic capillary sub-irrigation' for pot plants, which became known as the Wembley Method; it eliminated much labour and was adopted by Kew Gardens and won medals in Royal Horticultural Society exhibitions. The nursery closed in the 1960s when the new Central Park Nursery was established at Birchen Grove. The vacated land was turned into commemorative gardens, with the old nursery glasshouse as its focal point, stabilised and converted into a garden. The layout is closely allied to the original nursery with formal hedges and trees kept and additional planting of Queen Elizabeth II roses and birch trees. The work was carried out under a Manpower Services Commission Job Creation Scheme employing '12 youths'.
To the east the axis ascends steps across a lawn with horse chestnuts to a rose garden terminated by a hedge to the east and with fragments of balustrading to the south. The parkland to the east is dotted with horse chestnut, willow, cedar, but undistinguished. Part of Old Court (Crabs House) is now Barham Park Library and has delightful grounds with a walled garden having mid C19th pergola, C19th sundial, courtyard and a fine mulberry outside; the garden walls have two C18th wrought-iron gates.
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 ed); Geoffrey Hewlett, 'A History of Wembley' 1979 pp 99-103; Len Snow 'Brent, Wembley, Willesden and Kingsbury' (Phillimore, 1990)