Sunday, 07 February 2021 14:12

Architectural gem in New Barnet faces threat of demolition

Written by Dr Susan Skedd
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33 Lyonsdown Road 33 Lyonsdown Road
One of New Barnet’s earliest buildings is facing the threat of demolition despite having been placed on Barnet Council’s Local Heritage List only last year. We urge the Council to reject the planning application and protect it for future generations.

33 Lyonsdown Road is a familiar local landmark and a rare survival of the high-quality homes built when the suburb was first developed. A planning meeting this Tuesday will decide its fate when councillors consider a planning application to demolish the house and replace it with a large block of flats, locally dubbed ‘the battleship’. All 133 of the responses to the planning consultation object to the plans for demolition and redevelopment. The Barnet Society strongly opposes the proposal on the grounds of: (1) demolition of a building listed in the Council's Local List for its Aesthetic Merits, Social & Communal Value, Intactness & Architectural Interest; (2) inappropriate housing mix of the new flats; and (3) design out of character with its neighbourhood.

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Locally listed for its architectural significance, 33 Lyonsdown Road was built c.1866-67 in the Italianate style made popular by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Originally named Oakdene, the house was marketed together with its neighbouring property Lawnhill (since demolished), as can be seen in this promotional engraving from the archives of Barnet Museum. It was advertised for sale in the Evening Standard in February 1868 as a 'superior freehold family residence … six minutes’ walk from the station …[and] commands delightful views'; at least one of its early occupants was a merchant based in the City of London.

Its design cleverly takes advantage of the sloping site and its striking appearance is enhanced by the long conservatory added in 1912 to cover the bridge linking the main entrance to street level. The original layout - consisting of ‘four reception rooms, seven bed and dressing rooms and very ample domestic offices’ - has survived and part of the original grounds still exists as the garden, which features some fine specimen trees.

What makes this building even more special is quickly revealed once inside. The magnificent glazed conservatory leads into a large entrance hall with richly detailed panelling and carved swags in the style of Sir Christopher Wren.33 lyonsdown3

All the reception rooms retain a wealth of delightful period detail, including fine fireplaces and Tudor-inspired plasterwork.
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A grand oak staircase leads to the bedrooms upstairs and to the servants’ room downstairs. The warren of domestic offices are remarkably intact and include an underfloor heating system, a deliveries door and original fittings in the pantry and kitchen. Taking pride of place in the kitchen is the cooking range manufactured by Maple & Co.

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So who lived in this grand villa? From the 1860s to the 1940s, it was occupied by a succession of private residents, including Paul Henwood, South Africa merchant, and Constantine Honeywill, agent and merchant, who added the large conservatory at the front of the property in 1912. Only a few years earlier Honeywill had commissioned the same firm, Messenger and Co. of Loughborough, to add a conservatory to his previous home, Cedardale, in neighbouring Richmond Road.

In 1948 33 Lyonsdown Road became the Crossroads Club for mothers and babies, which was run as a branch of the Foundling Hospital established by Thomas Coram in 1739. In 1958 it was bought by the Society of African Missions (the SMA Fathers) and served as a foundation house until the early 2000s. During this period, one of the reception rooms was converted into a chapel.

Built during the first phase of New Barnet’s development, 33 Lyonsdown Road offers invaluable evidence of Victorian house construction and domestic life. It is a rare survival with a rich and resonant history and is much cherished locally. It is sadly now endangered by the current planning application. At no point have the applicants engaged with the architectural and historical significance of this building, which could easily be preserved by a sensitive conversion into flats.

We call on the planning committee to respect the protection offered in the Barnet Local Plan to locally listed buildings and to ensure its protection for future generations by turning down the current planning application.

18 comments

  • Comment Link Sunday, 07 February 2021 17:42 posted by Josephine Kelly

    I object to this application. This is part of the boroughs heritage . Also we do not need another block of flats .

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  • Comment Link Sunday, 07 February 2021 17:56 posted by Tricia Griffin

    Completely support your endeavours to keep as much of this building as possible. We have lost so many valuable buildings in Barnet now and the character of the area is getting lost, along with its historical importance. Please consider carefully!

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  • Comment Link Sunday, 07 February 2021 20:10 posted by Helen Leake

    It would be absolutely criminal to destroy such a beautiful and historic building. Please think again!

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  • Comment Link Sunday, 07 February 2021 20:11 posted by Penelope Igoe

    I urge the planning committee to listen to the Barnet Society and reject the application. We need to preserve this beautiful building!

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  • Comment Link Sunday, 07 February 2021 21:04 posted by Pauline Wishart

    Disgrace if this is allowed. I have only lived in Barnet since January 1968 and am dismayed at the demise of the heritage so far.

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  • Comment Link Monday, 08 February 2021 12:40 posted by N Halle

    Would be a real travesty if they were allowed to pull this down, and I have objected on the council's planning portal. I would suggest that this page and the link to make an objection is shared on the nextdoor app and the various Barnet Facebook pages to gather as many objections as possible.

    Also, for anybody interested the previous owner (Paul Henwood) founded a department store in Durban, South Africa which ran up until the 1970's. For further info please see the below:

    https://www.fad.co.za/2012/09/01/henwoods/

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  • Comment Link Monday, 08 February 2021 15:01 posted by Rabbi Jeffrey Newman

    Oh, do let’s keep this beautiful building for the benefit of us all. Surely between us we can find a sustainable use for it.

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  • Comment Link Monday, 08 February 2021 15:19 posted by Rosemary Sharp

    THis is a stunning building that should not be replaced by yet another faceless block of flats.How can you put something on the heritage list and then approve a planning application for demolition ???

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  • Comment Link Monday, 08 February 2021 16:36 posted by BRYAN SOLOMONS

    I object to this application for yet another block of flats....

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  • Comment Link Monday, 08 February 2021 20:09 posted by Eleni Antoniou

    This is history ans should be cherished niot knocked down to build yet more flats this is ridiculous.

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  • Comment Link Tuesday, 09 February 2021 01:39 posted by Patricia Lucas

    This is such a lovely building and an historical gem, the likes of which will never be built again. It would be nothing short of vandalism to knock it down. It is on the Heritage list! What is Barnet Council playing at, it seems as though they want to destroy the area. Barnet is being filled with ugly new flats and houses of no architectural merit whatsoever, all of which are very ugly. Developers are only interested in the money and think nothing of the aesthetics. It is all rather depressing when you look at the wholesale destruction going on. Surely the house itself could be saved and, as suggested, sympathetically converted into grand flats rather than yet more ugly new flats.

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  • Comment Link Tuesday, 09 February 2021 08:59 posted by Angela Filby

    I object to this heritage building being demolished.

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  • Comment Link Tuesday, 09 February 2021 12:33 posted by Sharon Cooney

    I am lending my support to any attempt to save this historic Barnet building. If it’s been listed then it should have a degree of protection which the council should be upholding. They should also be listening to Barnet residents to whom they are accountable. Too often beautiful historic buildings in Barnet are being left to rot (on purpose) and then demolished to make way for yet another bland, glass and concrete structure which is totally out of keeping with the local area. We should be trying to preserve our history and this house could be sympathetically adapted to suit modern living instead of demolition. I object to its demolition.

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  • Comment Link Tuesday, 09 February 2021 12:59 posted by Daniel Morgan

    Heritage is an important Community Asset. Heritage sites and buildings can have a very positive influence on many aspects of the way a community develops. Regeneration, housing, education, economic growth and community engagement are examples of the ways in which built heritage can make a very positive contribution to community life.

    Please reconsider!

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  • Comment Link Tuesday, 09 February 2021 21:14 posted by Diesel Estate

    At some point, this building will be demolished. There will have to be an active watch over this building to prevent that from happening. Even if it is currently a White Elephant, there are some people out there who would prefer to see a White Elephant looking like a block of flats, rather than a masterpiece of Victorian architecture.
    By the look of the photos, the house is livable. Who owns it? If its being lived in, it is safe. Find tbe owner. As the rabbi said, surely between all of you, a sustainable survival plan can be found....

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  • Comment Link Tuesday, 09 February 2021 21:40 posted by Diesel Estate

    Also, shouldn't all these 'I object' comments be posted to Barnet Council? That is where they could make a difference.
    Pity the lockdown is preventing a physical petition from being circulated and signed. Still, an online petition is better than nothing. I no longer live in the South, and my connection with Barnet died with my mother in law, G-d Bless her, in 2016.
    I wish you all the best of luck in saving this beautiful building. I often think that developers are the handmaidens of Satan, I really do.

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  • Comment Link Wednesday, 10 February 2021 09:25 posted by rita tait

    What a fabulous building for the town to have. Once these places are gone you can't get them back. Singapore authorities bitterly regret demolishing a lot of their heritage buildings decades ago.If money could bring them back Singapore has it!

    My son a Gold Medal awarded architect who has worked with Richard Rogers and Norman Foster is ALSO passionate about heritage buildings - he is in Sydney. I do hope that the authorities see sense. They will not regret it! Rita Tait
    , Abergavenny

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  • Comment Link Saturday, 13 February 2021 13:37 posted by Yvonne

    This building has fascinated me since I moved to Barnet in 1983. I have longed to see inside and admire the skilled crafts required to produce such a house.

    As a researcher of the Barnet Foundling Hospital (1762-1768), a branch of Thomas Coram's amazing institution, this building's history now makes it even more interesting to me.

    I am hoping for a reprieve of demolition and a loving re-purposing of this fascinating building.

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