Cannons (house)

Cannons middlesex.jpg
James Gibb's design for the South Front (from
General information
Architectural styleEnglish Baroque
Town or cityLittle Stanmore[1]
Construction started1713
ClientJames Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos
Technical details
Structural systemstone
Design and construction
ArchitectWilliam Talman, John James, James Gibbs, John Price and Edward Shepard

Cannons was a stately home in Little Stanmore, Middlesex, England. It was built by James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos, between 1713 and 1724 at a cost of £200,000[2] (equivalent to £30,640,000 today[3]). The house was razed in 1747 and its contents dispersed.

The name "Cannons" is an obsolete spelling of "canons" and refers to the Augustinian canons of St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, which owned the estate before the English Reformation.

Cannons was the focus of the first Duke's artistic patronage – patronage which led to his nickname "The Apollo of the Arts". Brydges filled Cannons with Old Masters and Grand Tour acquisitions,[4] and also appointed Handel as resident house composer from 1717 to 1718. Such was the fame of Cannons that members of the public flocked to visit the estate in great numbers and Alexander Pope was unjustly accused of having represented the house as "Timon's Villa" in his Epistle Of Taste (1731).[5]

The Cannons estate was acquired by Chandos in 1713 from the uncle of his first wife, Mary Lake. Mary's great-grandfather Sir Thomas Lake had acquired the manor of Great Stanmore in 1604. Following the first Duke's death in 1744, Cannons passed to his son Henry Brydges, 2nd Duke of Chandos. Due to the cost of building Cannons and significant losses to the family fortune in the South Sea Bubble there was little liquid capital in Henry's inheritance, so in 1747 he held a twelve-day demolition sale at Cannons which saw both the contents and the very structure of the house itself sold piecemeal leaving little more than a ruin barely thirty years after its inception. The subsequent villa built by William Hallett is now occupied by North London Collegiate School.


There is archaeological evidence the site was used in Roman times for brick and tile making.[6]

In mediaeval times the site was a part of the endowment of the Priory of St Bartholomew's which operated St Bartholomew's Hospital in London. This gave it the name Cannons, canon was an archaic term for certain orders of monks including the Augustinians of St Bartholomew's Priory. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the land was sold into private hands in 1543. A large house was built during the 16th and 17th centuries at one point owned by Thomas Lake, James I's Chancellor of the Exchequer.

James Brydges was an MP for Hereford who achieved the post of Paymaster General to the Forces. He retired in 1713 with a fortune of £600,000, worth £58,000,000 today, he had gained by speculation with the money in his care. Brydges had inherited Cannons from his first wife Mary who died in 1712. In 1713 he married his cousin Cassandra Willoughby and began to enlarge the house. Brydges took personal control of the project and it was the work of a string of architects and landscape gardeners, who changed as they fell into and out of favour. He used the house as a setting for his patronage of the arts stocking it with paintings, sculpture and holding opera performances. It was completed by 1720.

The grand staircase of Cannons, seen here after its removal to Chesterfield House, London in 1747, itself demolished in 1937

Brydges was made Earl of Caernavon in 1714 and later became duke of Chandos. His fortunes were damaged by financial losses in the South Sea Bubble of 1720. However, when his wife died in 1735, he remarried a wealthy 43 year-old widow, Lady Lydia Davall, who had £40,000 to her name.

Chandos died in 1744 and his debts were by then so great that his heirs had no choice but to sell the house and contents in a demolition auction of 1747. The architectural building adornments were sold off to other grand projects. The Palladian columns form the portico of the National Gallery in London.

A more modest house was built on the site in 1760 by William Hallett who had acquired wealth through his skill at cabinet making. This was itself enlarged by a succession of owners, notably Dennis O’Kelly owner of the outstanding racehorse Eclipse. By 1896 the parkland had begun to be sold off as building plots. Sir Arthur du Cros of Dunlop Rubber became tenant in 1902 and bought it in 1911. He engaged the celebrated Arts and Crafts architect Charles Mallows to remodel and enlarge the building between 1905-1908. The exterior of the current building is largely his work.

In 1929 the house was bought by the North London Collegiate School who still occupy it today. Part of the gardens remain as Canons Park in the care of the London Borough of Harrow.[7][8][9]

The house gives its name to the modern local district, Canon's Park , which is largely built upon its parkland and is a wealthy north London suburb. This in turn gave its name to the Underground station of Canons Park on the Jubilee line.

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