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Canons Drive Gate Piers

Restoration of the piers

Since Roman times there had been occupation at this site in Middlesex, and during the Middle Ages the Augustinian canons of St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, owned the estate – hence its name ‘Canons’. By the 18th century the estate was called ‘Cannons’ and these two massive gate piers formed the grandest of the four carriage entrances to Cannons House, the grand house built in 1713 by James Brydges, the first Duke of Chandos (1673 – 1744). Large iron gates between the piers led to Cannons House through an avenue of trees.

Daniel Defoe wrote: “This palace is so beautiful in its situation, so lofty, so majestick the appearance of it, that a pen can but ill describe it... 'tis only fit to be talk'd of upon the very spot... The whole structure is built with such a Profusion of Expense and finished with such a Brightness of Fancy and Delicacy of Judgment.” Alexander Pope, in his poem Of Taste (1731), was alleged to have satirised the grandeur of the house.

The house was famous for art and music and Handel was Cannons' resident composer from 1717 to 1718. In the bursting of the South Sea Bubble in 1720 the family lost a significant part of their fortune and the house’s spectacular contents, including many Old Masters, were auctioned off in 1747. Much of the interior was bought by other great house owners, whose own houses have since been demolished. After the destruction of the house, another house was built on the site in 1760, now occupied by North London Collegiate School.

The lodge houses on each side of the piers were demolished in the 20th century and the gate piers were restored in 1998 with funding from the Georgian Group, English Heritage (as it was), Harrow Heritage Trust, and HOLT. In 2022 one of the piers was crushed by a falling tree. The pieces have been collected and can mostly be reinstated, including the stone urn on top.

Most of the pieces of the original pier have been saved. The fallen pier is to be reconstructed using as much of the original material as possible, plus reclaimed bricks. The stone capping is to be repaired with natural stone to match the existing surviving pier, with the profiles to be made up with stucco/rendering to match original profiles, as best as practically possible. The brickwork will be lime rendered to match the existing pier and then lime washed.

The surviving pier is in need of some maintenance attention and repainting as there is vegetation growing out of it.

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