Some of you may remember that back in December I posted about The Elms in Fitzroy Park because I had been contacted by Fiona Mather, great, great, great granddaughter of Otto Gossell who had lived at The Elms between 1874 and 1888 – and she had much to share. Well, now I have been contacted again – this time by Will, whose grandparents owned the house from 1947 to 1988 and whose mother, Valentine had lived there as a child.
I subsequently had a long conversation with Valentine who told me that The Elms was a truly magical place to be brought up. Her father had converted a wing of the house into flats that they rented out but that still left endless corridors for small children to explore, to say nothing of the garden. Valentine remembered in particular a grove of cedars and a tulip tree – which sent me off to Google maps satellite view to see what I coud find.
(Since Usmanov – with whom I share a garden wall – has been sanctioned I wondered whether it might now be abandonned and left to rewild. But it seems that, presciently, he unloaded ownership into a trust some time ago. So although there is no longer much activity to be seen, there appears to be at least a skeleton staff maintaining the place.)
The large house immediately below Beechwood on the map, with an adjoing garden, is The Elms. This makes total sense as the architect of both, George Basevi, built Beechwood for his solicitor brother in law and then The Elms for himself, with easy access between the two houses through their gardens. Sadly, it is really impossible to see from the image, even when enlarged, whether Valentine’s tulip tree or grove of cedars is still there.
For those who are interested, you can see that the gardens of Beechwood run right down to the heath while those of The Elms go as far as the Fitzroy Park allottments. Across Fitzroy Park from The Elms is the large and relatively recent Highfield Grove 1990s gated development of rather grand houses – all of which was, when Valentine lived there, just wooded ground. And beyond the Highfield development at the bottom right of the picture is the garden of Witanhurst – one of the other massive, Russian owned mansions in Highgate. It hides behind large and fearsomely guarded metal gates at the top of Highgate West HIll.
Valentine give me the name of someone who lived nearby in her parents time and who would be able to bring me much more up to date but so far I have been unable to contact him. Here’s hoping…….