Excavations at Hendon School prompted research into this important house in the history of Hendon.
The blue plaque on the main Hendon School building proclaims that this is the site of the residence of John Morden (sic) (1548 – 1625) antiquary and topographer. It is wrong in a couple of aspects. The blue plaque should say John Norden (not Morden) a strange and inexplicable typographical error. Even though the Barnet Borough’s web site http://www.barnet.gov.uk/index/leisure-culture/local-history-heritage.htm accessed on 25th June 2007 at 21.15 states “Hendon School now occupies the site where the famous 16th-century mapmaker John Norden lived” the plaque is in the wrong place. As can be seen from old maps of Hendon, his house was between Golders Rise and Brent Street rather than on the other side of Golders Rise!! However, the school is in the grounds of the famous old house and, therefore, represents an opportunity to investigate if there are any remnants left of its former glory. According to Kitchen (1997) there is a local tradition that John Norden built Hendon House. He certainly lived at Hendon in 1607, as by then he was signing his works as “from Hendon”. He lived there until 1619 when he moved to St Giles-in-the-field (Kitchen, 1997). Norden prefaced, at least, two of his works, “Speculum Britanniae” and “Surveyor’s Dialogue” as being written from “his poore house in Hendone”. On Speeds map of Middlesex dated 1611 (http://faculty.oxy.edu/horowitz/home/johnspeed/Maps3-4.htm, accessed on 26th June 2007 at 0900), which he says was described by Norden, shows a “Hendon house” in approximately the right position. I believe it is one of few houses recorded on that map. Kitchen (1997) disagrees and suggests that it refers to Hendon Manor and not Hendon House. According to Baker( 1976): “John Norden (1548 – 1625), the topographer, who is believed to have lived at Hendon House, Brent Street”. The issue as to whether Hendon House was actually where he lived is not resolved. Kitchen (1997) constantly refers to Norden’s poverty pleas, which is not in keeping with buying or building a mansion with 16 hearths!!! However, by about 1607, his popularity was such that perhaps he could have afforded to have the house built. Until more evidence comes to light it should be treated as a strong probability rather than as a certainty that Norden lived in Hendon House or that he built it. In the Middlesex Session Records for 1614 Volume 2 there is a record of convictions for “assaulting and robbing John Norden and Josias Norden of Hendon on the highway, both gentlemen”. What we know with some certainty is that the house was a gabled building probably of the 16th century and had 16 hearths in 1664 according to Middlesex Record Office (now called The Greater London Record Office (Middlesex Records) reference MR/TH/5 (Hearth tax assessments). We don’t yet know who lived there between 1619 and 1660, but the next residents we know of are the Whichcotes. The Whichcotes family were a well-known family of 17th c in Hendon (Brett-James, undated, p76). Jeremy Whichcote, who lived at Hendon House from 1660 to 1677, was Solicitor General to the Elector Palatine, presumably after he had lost his Palatinate and his Kingdom of Bohemia. During the Commonwealth, Whichcote bought the post of Warden of Fleet Prison and was able to help shelter many of the exiled king’s friends and agents in this way. He was made a baronet after the Restoration as a reward for his devotion to the king. He died on 22nd June 1677 aged 63 and his memorial is in St Mary's Hendon (Somes, 2007). He is said to have spent in excess £10,000 on improving the house and its grounds. Sir Jeremy was Lord of the Manor of Totteridge which his son sold in 1720 (Somes, 2007). His heir and eldest son Sir Paul Whichcote also lived with his wife Jane and several children at Hendon House until 1691.
It then became the residence of Sir William Rawlinson (1640-1703), a Commissioner of the Great Seal, appointed on the 14th May 1690. There are also references to him in the House of Lords Journal; Volume 15 dated 19 November 1692. He is recorded as having purchased the house from the Whichcotes in 1691. He died of apoplexy in Hendon in 1703 and is buried in Hendon Church. He had two daughters, one of whom Elizabeth married, for the second time, Giles Earle (1678 – 1758), a politician and wit. They lived at Hendon House. They had two children, one of whom his son William Rawlinson Earle died in 1774 aged 72 and is buried with his sister in the vault of his grandfather at Hendon Church. It is unclear how long the house stayed in the possession of the Rawlinson/Earles, however, in 1785 it came into the ownership of John Cornwall (1713 -1800), According to Somes (2007) "the Articles of Agreement on the sale of the house from W R Earle to John Cornwall were dated the 15th January 1785 with a figure of £2100." He was a Director of the Bank of England (1761 -1775) in 3 year stints (Francis, 1850). From the Vestry minutes 5th October 1785 John Cornwall ask for a piece of land lying before his house and premises that he wants to enclose "Extended outside the inner row of large trees where the paling was placed and remained until the year 1702". Lysons (1795) says: “At Brent Street, about quarter of a mile from the church, stands an old mansion, now the property and residence of John Cornwall, Esq. which was formally a seat of the Whichcotes, whose arms are in the windows of the drawing room and afterwards of Sir William Rawlinson, one of the Keepers of the Great Seal.” There are a number of references to the house being rebuilt in the 19th century (Baker, 1976), (Petrie, 2005), however, a recent publication (Dean, 2006) refers to work Sir John Sloane did in 1791 and 1798 for John Cornwall. From Dean (2006, p149)) “1791 21st December ‘went to Hendon with own horse, survey’d house…” and again in 1792 23rd November ‘delivered his bills at Mr Thorntons Kings Arms Yard…”. The bills, which are in the Soane’s archives (Dean, 2006), show that the work was additions to stables and coach house, greenhouse and fruit room at a cost of £1323.0.5¾. Later in 1798 another bill is for a new chimneypiece in the drawing room. Perhaps the house had a make-over rather than a rebuild. There is a painting of the house in Petrie (2005) before John Cornwall’s additions. The house came into the possession of Stafford Price presumably on the death of John Cornwall in 1801 probably as a tenant at a peppercorn rent. By 1841, according to British Census, the house, with the address shown as BRAINT Street, as being occupied by Major General Christopher Fagan, a 55 year old retired soldier who had served in Bengal. Also in the household is his 30 year old wife, 5 children and 8 servants. The Major General left in 1843. He was renting it from Stafford Price and his descendants. The house remained in the possession of the Prices although let at various times including to to the Hon. Mr. Gore, M.P., "unfurnished Hendon is let for 3 or 7 years at the option of the tenant" according to the Shropshire Archives. The Prices let it to Miss Dence in1859 for her to run a private mental institution.
On January 1st 1859, according to the 1832 Madhouse Act, Miss Dence has 16 female patients, one found lunatic by inquisition. By the 1861 census the house is still private mental institution run by Charlotte Dence for ladies described as “lunatics”. Again, according to the application of the Madhouse Act 1832, in 1867 " Hendon House continues to be kept in the best order, only ladies are received and every attention appears to be given to them by Miss Dence and Mr Prance the medical attendant". It is still being recorded on the 1871 census after which it disappears!! There is a painting of the house when it was a mental institute in 1860 in Petrie (2005, p21). By 1871, the new owner was Mr Ardwick Burgess, eldest son of Henry Weech Burgess of the Temples. Ardwick Burgess had married in 1871, and it seems that he purchased Hendon House at this time. His first wife died, and he remarried in 1881. The Times of April 6th 1886 reports the birth of a daughter at Hendon House. In 1909 Burgess sold the house and 23 acres for £15,350 according to The Times dated 20th May 1909. Trevor Easterfield the Hendon School archivist kindly permitted us to include his history of the school. Planning, building etc took from 1909 to opening day in September 1914.
THE HISTORY OF HENDON SCHOOL by Trevor J Easterfield 2008