Cedars Open Space Gates
Restoration of the gates
Cedars Estate was the home of Thomas Francis Blackwell (1804 – 1879). As a young apprentice, Blackwell had joined a sauce and pickles business in 1819, along with Edmund Crosse (1804 – 1862). In 1830 they borrowed £600 to buy the business, which became known as Crosse & Blackwell (later famous for their Branston pickle). The company was one of the first to secure a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria, in 1837. By 1839 the company had expanded and moved its offices and shop to 20-21 Soho Square. Soho had become overcrowded and poor by this time and there was plenty of labour for business. They opened a vinegar brewery in Caledonian Road and in Soho Square manufactured and packed fruit preserves, pickles and other commodities. The buildings included kitchens, pickling vaults, offices, bottling and labelling rooms and warehouses. A brick cistern for storing fresh water was excavated recently during Crossrail tunnelling and contained over 13,000 ceramic vessels, the largest group of ceramics found archaeologically in London. By 1921 the firm had moved production from London to Branston in Staffordshire, where they began manufacture of their most famous product.
In 1834 Thomas Blackwell had married June Ann Bernasconi from Harrow and moved into her house with its large surrounding gardens and parkland, including a designed rabbit warren. Blackwell enlarged the house and renamed it The Cedars. His son Thomas Jr continued to be a local benefactor in Harrow, giving parties in the grounds for local children and donating Harrow Weald Recreation Ground to the parish. In 1907, the LCC bought and redeveloped the estate, pulling down the house. Blackwell’s original park and garden is now Cedars Open Space, containing many fine trees: lime, many Lebanon cedars and Sequoias, several large oaks and yews. The late Victorian gates are the only built survivors. A (now lost) sundial commemorated a visit to the house by Sir Walter Scott in 1806.
The gates have stone gate piers, wrought ironwork and curved flanking railings. The ironwork is highly decorative with folded finials, vine leaves and scrolls and the remains of a bell pull mechanism. The limestone piers are carved in a loose perpendicular style and have castellated capitals. In 1969, the gates were nearly removed. The Observer reported that ‘these rare iron gates, thought to be the work of the Bromsgrove Guild’ were due to be sold to Worcestershire County Council as Harrow Council did not consider them ‘of sufficient historical value to be worth retaining in the borough.’
The gates and railings are in poor condition. Three of the four surviving stone piers show signs of movement and some bricks are misaligned. The fourth pier was knocked down in a vehicle collision and is being stored off-site in nearby Harefield, dismantled. The blocks are being stored outside and have suffered loss of carving detail over large areas and missing indents. The base remains in situ. There is widespread corrosion on all the ironwork, exposing a dormer coat of green paint and bare metal. In other areas decorative detail has been lost due to overpainting. A few of the spindles on both gates are missing or bent while the leaf on the left of the entrance is dropping. The locking mechanism stays are missing.
Restoration will include reinstating the missing cusped pier top, carved panel and bell pull to match the existing. The damaged stone pier will be reassembled onto the existing stone base.