So, to continue our survey of Fitzroy Park….
The Elms is a bit of a mystery. According to the trusty Highgate Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Proposals it was on English Heritage’s building at risk register for some years – when we were cycling past back in the late 1990s. It was then bought, by, we assume, another Russian billionaire, and massive amounts of work have been done, as you can see. However, having chatted today to a young man who lives in Highfield Grove, my suspicion that the buildings works had come to a virtual grinding halt a couple of years ago was confirmed. No one knows why or what is to happen next…. Has this billionaire fallen out of favour and into a labour camp?….
My young friend who lived in Highfields Grove said that if you had a house on the right bit of the hill (the development was built on the hillside orchards that used to belong to Witanhurst – yet another massive mansion of which more another time) the view was great but some of the houses could be, as I suspected, quite tree shadowed.
Anyhow, let us move on down the hill….
If you want to know more about June Park – check in here. If not, move on to Emmanuel Vincent Harris at number 10…..
So, Mr Harris lived from 1876 to 1971 (architects do seem to be very long lived) during which time he built a number of fine civic buildings in the classical style: Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, Leeds Civic Hall, Manchester Central Library, Kensington Central Library and many more. He seems to have been a slightly dour Scot who married but had no children. According to the Scottisharchitects.org, his ‘office regime was strict and austere but not unkind: no smoking, tea or coffee, not out of any meanness but a distaste for any form of untidiness or any hazard to drawings which might upset workflo’. Harris himself was ‘small in stature and had absolutely no small talk.’ ……. He designed everything that mattered himself. ‘The purely classical proportions were printed indelibly on his mind, and he would take a roll of detail paper, pin it to the top of his board and proceed to detail from cornice to skirting rolling the paper from his feet in the process.’
Opposite number 10 the allotments are indeed in the most magnificent position overlooking the heath. They were carved out of land belonging to the Mansfields at Kenwood in 1924 and then enlarged in 1947 and again in 1953. They now take up 3.5 acres. If you are interested in a more detailed history (and it is fascinating) have a look at fitzroyparkallotments.org.uk where you can also read about the allotments holders who not only manage their plots but the allotments themselves. And if you are getting ideas about applying for one, let me warn you that there is a 15 year waiting list….
Tomorrow we head on down past the allotments but I had promised you a post box – and here it is.
It is very slim and dinky and situated across the road from the allotments but, bizarrely, it has its back to the road. So if you want to post a letter, you have to go round into the hedge at the back. I can only assume that when the post box was installed there was a nice path down the far side of it that has become totally overgrown.
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