DOC81/9884 – Grimsdyke, Harrow Weald

Richard Norman Shaw, 1872. Pl. 33 in: ROWE, Colin (1976). The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and Other Essays. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England. ISBN 0-262-18077-4

Grim’s Dyke (sometimes called Graeme’s Dyke until late 1891) is the name of a house and estate located in Harrow Weald, in northwest London, England, built from 1870 to 1872 by Richard Norman Shaw, and named after the nearby pre-historic earthwork known as Grim’s Ditch. The house is best known as the home of dramatist W.S. Gilbert, who lived there for the last two decades of his life. He died while attempting to save a girl from drowning in his lake. Lady Gilbert lived there until her death in 1936. The statue of Charles II now found in Soho Square stood on the property from about 1880 to 1938. The house was then used as a rehabilitation centre until 1963.
From 1963, the house was used mainly as a location for films and television including Futtocks End with Ronnie Barker. It was converted into Grim’s Dyke Hotel in 1970 but continues to be used as a film location. The hotel retains 30 of the original 110 acres of land that Gilbert purchased with the house.
The house was designed in 1870 by Richard Norman Shaw for the Victorian era painter Frederick Goodall, who had purchased 110 acres (0.45 km2) of land at Harrow Weald in 1856, but he did not begin to build until a lease on the property expired. Shaw’s design for the house included aspects of Gothic revivalism, added to a late-Elizabethan style, which included high red-tiled gables, tall clustered chimneys and leaded lights. To the north of the house, Shaw built a small lodge, a walled garden and various outhouses and a stable block, later converted into garages by W. S. Gilbert for his collection of motorcars. Over the dyke (now a duck pond) Shaw built two stone bridges, which incorporated flint from the ruined church at Stanmore. Construction on the house was completed in 1872. Goodall’s ground floor studio was built on a north-south axis in order to catch the light. Goodall sold the property in 1880 to Robert Herriot of Hambros Bank, who added a billiard room in 1883. Windsor Castle is visible from the house.
W. S. Gilbert purchased the property in August 1890 for £4,000. He made various additions and alterations to the property, including an elaborate fireplace of Cornish alabaster in Goodall’s studio, which became Gilbert’s drawing/music room. At the house, Gilbert wrote his last ten works from an armchair in his library overlooking the croquet lawn. Gilbert also had an observatory for stargazing. Arthur Sullivan visited Grim’s Dyke with his nephew, Herbert, on May 27, 1893. They stayed at the house for three days while Sullivan worked with Gilbert to finalise Utopia, Limited. At the house, Gilbert had a vinery, apiary, orchards and a farm, with Jersey cattle, horses, pigs and fowl. He also kept a variety of exotic animals including monkeys, lemurs, a lynx and many others. Lady Gilbert designed the 30 acres of ornamental gardens at the house, which remain part of the hotel grounds. After Gilbert’s death in 1911, Lady Gilbert and the Gilberts’ ward, Nancy McIntosh, continued to live there until Lady Gilbert’s own death in 1936.
After Lady Gilbert’s death, the contents of the house, apart from a few items kept by Nancy McIntosh, were sold at public auction on 17 and 18 March 1937, realising £4,600. The house was acquired jointly by the Middlesex County Council and the London County Council, who leased it to the North West Regional Hospital Board from 1937 to 1962, at first as a rehabilitation centre for women suffering from tuberculosis (the house was used by the services during the World War II). Following the war, both sexes were admitted, and from 1948 only male patients were admitted. From 1963, the house was used primarily as a location for films and television, including Futtock’s End with Ronnie Barker. It was converted into a hotel in 1970. It was featured in John Betjeman’s acclaimed television documentary Metro-land (1973). The hotel was seen in an off set episode of EastEnders in 2003.
The house and its gatehouse are both listed buildings. Harrow Council owns the building and the remaining 30 acres of grounds attached to the estate and has leased them to the hotel since 1970. The hotel and estate were refurbished in 1996 at a cost of £3 million. Presentations of Gilbert and Sullivan operas and other entertainments are regularly held. The remainder of the lands have been separated from the hotel and are being sold by Harrow Council as "Grimsdyke Farm".
The name Grim’s Dyke is sometimes used to refer to a nearby earthwork known as Grim’s Ditch which runs from Pinner Hill to Bentley Priory (Wikipedia).


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