56: More of London Bridge, and much more, at Myddelton House, Enfield

Just north of London and north of Enfield stands the late Georgian Myddelton House,  built between 1812 and 1818 from apparently Suffolk bricks [1] The yellow bricks of the 1870 extension are probably local. [2]

It was named after the great Welshman Hugh Myddleton [3] who had had the extraordinary New River [4] built in the early 17thC, still a key part of London’s water supply 400 years later, which ran through the grounds of  the house. Two early 19thC iron work bridges still stand. [1]

Myddelton House later became famous as the home of the celebrated botanist, plant collector and plant breeder E.A. Bowles, [5] born there in 1865 and living his whole life there, and developed the extraordinary garden there, while living, it is said, till his death in 1954 in the house without electricity, gas or water.

And Bowles was not just a collector of plants but a rescuer of building stones. He rescued the Enfield Market Cross of 1826 in 1901 from destruction [1] [14]

And brought unwanted York flags, possibly 18thC, from Canonbury [6]

And there is what appears to be some remnants of one of the incarnations of London Bridge, by the look of it most probably the 1762 rebuilding that was demolished in the 1830s. But. That doesn’t fit with EA Bowles life so it’s a mystery how he came to own these pieces. Historic England is pretty non-committal stating that the balustrade is “Said to include some balustrading from Old London Bridge.” [7]  

But, unlike the Gilwell Park balustrade, previously covered by Building London, https://buildinglondon.blog/2022/08/24/47-london-bridge-balustrade-in-gilwell-park/ , they do have the same profile as those of the surviving 1762 shelters e.g. at Guys Hospital – see https://buildinglondon.blog/2022/05/06/38-the-alcoves-of-old-london-bridge/, and the Portland Limestone is a match!

And there are also some broken pieces lying around, though again at what point they got there is a mystery.

And, as Laura Reynolds at The Londonist notes, there is a much older stone, a 360 million year old fossilised tree dug out of the Lea Valley during the construction of the King George Reservoir in the 1930s. [8]

There are other balustrades of unknown origin!

And headless statues!

And there are lots of other pieces of stone gloriously lying around!

Apparently Flemish and 19thC

The piper is not original, and was re-created in 2008 after the original was stolen

Another interesting feature of the garden is the fantastic kitchen garden and plant collections and if you are lucky you will see one of the escaped medical plants growing in the gardens from when the gardens were run by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Royal Free Medical School growing various opiates. [8] Myddelton House has been the HQ of the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority since 1972.


Myddelton House is a great place to visit not just for what is there but for the area it is in, all within a relatively short distance from Forty  Hall [9] and Capel Manor [10] and down to Enfield on the old route of the New River [11]. Sadly the footpath between Myddelton House and Forty Hall has been closed inexplicably for the last couple of years so check to see if it is open.  The Myddelton House gardens are free to visit and there is a café, toilets and, pay, car park. [12] [13]
There are a number of sites showing the route of the New River path e.g. https://shelford.org/walks/newriver.pdf
and http://www.luphen.org.uk/walks/new_river/newriver.pdf

Getting there

The closest station is Turkey Street (Zone 6 ) on the Liverpool Street London Overground via Seven Sisters. It’s a 15 minute walk to Myddelton House west along Turkey Street and past St Ignatius School, crossing the ‘new’ route of the New River.

There are also routes up from Enfield Town station, accessible from Liverpool Street, or Enfield Chase from the Great Northern line from Moorgate/Highbury & Islington/Finsbury Park, both taking only around 30 mins ( Zone 5 ) and following parts of the old course of the New River through Whitewebbs Park. Strangely the line from Moorgate is not part of London Overground though it’s all on Oyster.

[1] https://enfieldsociety.org.uk/2020/02/09/myddelton-house/   
[2] https://hidden-london.com/the-guide/myddelton-house-gardens/
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Myddelton
[3a] https://www.myddeltonsquare.co.uk/documents/Sir%20Hugh%20Myddelton%20-%20Practical%20idealist,%20by%20Patricia%20Braun.pdf
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_River_(London)
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Augustus_Bowles
[6] https://londongardenstrust.org/features/myddelton.htm
[7] https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1358715
[8] https://londonist.com/london/history/myddelton-house-gardens-history-visit
[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forty_Hall
[10] https://www.capelmanorgardens.co.uk/
[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_River_Path
[12] https://www.parksandgardens.org/places/myddelton-house
[13] https://www.visitleevalley.org.uk/myddelton-house-gardens
[14] https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1079478

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