We have much more than a beautiful London park here. It wasn’t always a “park”. If you look at London guide books published shortly after WW2 you won’t find any mention of Holland Park. That comes later. War damage to Holland House (built in 1608) was too sad. It was yet another symbol of loss. On the 28th of September 1940, the gorgeous Jacobean structure (designed originally by John Thorpe but variously modified throughout the centuries) had been badly hit during a ten hour bombing raid. Apparently it was a Molotov ”breadbasket” of incendiary bombs that fell all over the whole structure.
There is a well-known photograph of the library in ruins. It’s a posed photograph of course, but most effective. Here we have a part of it for the cover of Philip Zeigler’s London at War. The full photograph includes another person on the left and more damaged shelving on the right. (The photograph is in the Hulton Deutsch Collection.)
But firemen were able to save parts of the east wing. And the south facing gateway. That is where we were headed on a midwinter day shortly after the turn of the New Year, 2011. We were on a mission. We were looking for a particular coat of arms on the gateway. A Bauldry coat of arms. Bruce Bauldry, a friend in the USA (Lincolnville, Maine) has family papers connecting with the gateway and indeed the old house.
We, Liz Hand, Callie Hand, Tristan Grant and I, cameras to the ready, closed in on each decorative coat of arms. Perhaps there were some others hidden in a different part and I may go back on my own and search because, in the event, we weren’t able to find exactly what Bruce was hoping for.
And so here we were in this amazingly beautiful environment. We strolled. Remembering that it was midwinter, it was nevertheless enchanting. Look at my photo of the bare trees over the ice house. These trees combined almost invisibly with a photo I took of Callie walking through the colonnade – and so with a little photoshopping on my part you have my background page for this London by Available Light.
The colonnade can be seen in its full extent, stretching behind the Iris garden (which is looking rather derelict because it is winter after all) and so I snapped a family pic. Liz, on the left, Callie Hand standing, and Tristan Grant sitting. And there’s another showing the special qualities of that arcaded walk: Callie is in the distance looking at her cell phone.
The colonnade dates from 1840 when the 4th Baron Holland tore down a 17th century stables and built the Garden Ballroom (now the Belvedere Restaurant). The colonnade connected this new ballroom to the west part of the old house. And so began a shift of emphasis. Now that the house is destroyed we are centrally focused on the site of the old stables. Here’s the present address:
The Stable Yard
The last owner of the place, the 6th Earl of Ilchester, sold the ruined house and its 22 hectares of landscaped park to the London County Council in 1952, opening up wonderful opportunities for exploration by scholars and visitors. The northern, naturalistic, parts of Holland Park were planned by the18th century garden designer, Charles Hamilton. Londoners love this stretch of greenery especially. I plan, another time, to set out with my camera and study more of the garden aspects of the whole of Holland Park.