XX—THE FLASK TAVERN (NO. 26, SOUTH GROVE)
Ground Landlord And Leaseholder.
This house was originally copyhold of the Manor of Cantlowes but
has been enfranchised.
General Description And Date of Structure.
The Flask Tavern, which was the scene of many sittings of the
Manor Court, appears by name in the court rolls as early as 1716. The
present buildings consist of a house of three storeys facing south-west of
18th-century date, and a smaller structure shown in the parish plan of 1804
as an outbuilding and since refronted to form a two-storey extension to the
tavern. Above the window that lights the bar in this smaller building is an
oval tablet with the initials W. C. for William Carpenter, and the date 1767.
The bar window forms an attractive feature. It is three sash lights
wide and flanked by a pair of long narrow reeded pilasters with diagonal
panels in place of the ordinary capitals. Over the window runs a small
architrave mould and above it a deep frieze or fascia. Above this again is
a bold projecting cornice, of which the soffit is decorated with reed ornament.
Condition of Repair.
The Flask Inn is not referred to by that name on the court rolls before the year 1716,
but it is safe to assume that it stood there at least as early as 1663 when William Royles was granted
two pieces of the waste which, by the description and measurements given, seem to fit the area now
occupied by the inn and adjacent property. After the death of William Royles, his widow and three
sons and two daughters, in 1682, conveyed to William Blake, citizen and vintner of London, a
messuage, garden and several pieces of land on the Green, together with the bowling green, the whole
of which comprised the area now bounded on two sides by South Grove, and by Pond Square on
the other side. The area of the bowling green was three-quarters of an acre, covering all the site
mentioned, except the Flask with Nos. 23 to 32 at the south-west end, and Nos. 37 to 44, South
Grove at the north-west.
The bowling green appears on the rolls in 1672 when the lord of the manor, with the
consent of the homage, granted to ten local property-owners "a parcel of the waste on Highgate
Hill called the Bowling Green, lying on the south and west of the Great Pond there, which has
been used for a Bowling Green beyond the memory of man, containing three roods and now enclosed
with hedges and ditches and planted with trees." No doubt the landlord of the Flask acted as
"groundman" of the bowling green, and this interesting record shows the intention to protect this
part of the Green for the use of the public, much as a cricket field might be provided at the present
time. In a lease dated 6th May, 1736, (ref. 114) of the land on which now stand Nos. 37 to 44, is mentioned
ground enclosed on the west side of a piece of ground lately a bowling green and "the place where
the stairs lately went up out of it into the said bowling green." From this we learn that the bowling
green was raised above the level of the roads and that its use as such had ceased in 1736.
That the trustees ever met as a body is not probable and what control they exercised is
not known, but their names are noteworthy and imposing, viz. John, Duke of Lauderdale, Henry,
Marquis of Dorchester, George Pryor, esquire (who lived in "Andrew Marvell's Cottage"), Elisha
Coysh, M.D. (of Swain's Lane), Francis Blake, esquire, William Blake his son, Richard Gower,
gentleman (of Bisham House), Simon Baxter, gentleman (who lived on the site of Witanhurst),
Peter Sambrook, gentleman (who lived on the site of Holly Village), and William Cholmeley. Fresh
trustees were never appointed although the conditions attaching to the grant of 1672 are consistently
recited until as late of 1807. After the death of the surviving trustee, Simon Baxter, in 1714, the
lord granted it in 1718 to Edmund Rolfe of King's Lynn, who died in 1725, bequeathing to his
daughter Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Phillips, vintner, the Flask and the bowling green adjoining.
In 1730 she was granted licence to dig there and carry away gravel, sand, clay and soil for seven
years, "provided that in two years' time she level it and reconvert to a Bowling Green so that she
permit the inhabitants of Highgate to walk there and play bowls." Only eight years afterwards occurs
the casual reference to "ground lately a bowling green" mentioned before, so that the restriction
was not taken very seriously.
It must be recognised that the legal record of ownership on the court rolls does not always
disclose all we should like to know about property and its owners. The steps by which the ownership
of the Flask went from William Blake in 1682 to Edmund Rolfe in 1716 are given below, but the
transactions underlying the record are obscure. In 1682 William Blake surrendered conditionally to
Susanna Carpenter of Abbots Langley, and she foreclosed in the following year. In 1684 she
conveyed the property to James Hooper of the Middle Temple, and he, in 1685, to Mary Blake,
spinster, of London. A few months later Mary Blake and Daniel Blake of St. Paul's, Covent Garden,
woollen draper, conveyed it to John Brooke of London, esquire. Brooke's sons were admitted
in 1689, after his death, and surrendered in 1692 to Mary Hooper, spinster, of London. She had
two married sisters and a brother, Edward Hooper of Hurn Court, Christchurch, Hants. Mary
Hooper bequeathed this estate to her sisters, Phillipa, the wife of John Martyn, and Mrs. Amy
Nutley. They kept the portion now occupied by the houses in South Grove numbered 37 to 44,
and sold the Flask and Bowling Green in 1716 to Edmund Rolfe of Thavies Inn, gentleman.
Charles Lacey of Hornsey, citizen and cordwainer of London, acquired the property in 1737 from
the four daughters of Mrs. Elizabeth Phillips, the daughter of Mr. Rolfe. Mr. Lacey lived in
Colney Hatch Lane, and as he took out a licence to lease his Hornsey property in this year, being
thereafter described as of Highgate, he evidently migrated there from Muswell Hill when he
bought the Flask. When he died in 1747 his grandson, Charles, son of his son, John Lacey, took it
under his grandfather's will. (ref. 115) In 1762 he appears as Charles Lacey of Turnstile, Holborn,
cordwainer, when, with Elizabeth his wife, he sold it to William Carpenter, brewer, of Shoreditch.
There is a plate on the smaller existing building adjoining the inn which reads W.C., 1767 for which
William Carpenter was doubtless responsible. He may have made some alterations in the buildings
at that date. From the fact disclosed in his will (ref. 116) that he had two brothers, Richard of Devizes
and Thynn of Clack, near Frome, it may be supposed that he came from the West Country.
His widow, Ann, succeeded him in 1783 and seems to have remained at Highgate until about 1803,
in which year she was at South Lambeth, and in 1804 at Southampton Court, Queen's
Square. (ref. 117) Their granddaughter, Maria, then Maria Fowle of Mitcham, widow, came into possession
in 1807. In that year or the next she married the Rev. Thomas Aubrey Grantham and sold the
Flask (and three cottages adjoining) to Thomas Marlborough Pryor and Robert Pryor, brewers, of
Shoreditch, in 1812. They sold it in 1819 to John Tanner. He was succeeded by his son, George
Tanner, in 1855, who died on 10th November, 1856. Thereafter it was in the hands of trustees
under the will of John Tanner until 1917, when it was sold. The property then consisted of Nos.
24, 25, South Grove, No. 26, the Flask, and Nos. 27–32, South Grove.
The remaining portion of Carpenter's estate was sold in 1812 by the Rev. Thomas
Aubrey Grantham, then of Rampisham otherwise Ransom, Dorset, to Thomas Brocksopp of Hornsey
Lane, esquire. This land was the one-time Bowling Green. In 1840 the Brocksopp trustees sold
it to Mark Beauchamp Peacock of the General Post Office, who lived at Southwood Lawn,
Southwood Lane, and owned a great amount of property in Highgate. It consisted of a house on
the site of the present Burlington Mansions, formerly in the occupation of Thomas Brocksopp,
since of Ann Brocksopp, deceased, and late of Captain Ingram. Later occupants were Henry Charles
Cowie, H. Longman and Miss Emma Hanbury (circa 1871). Between the garden of this house and
the Flask was another garden extending from road to road, covering about a quarter of an acre,
rented by William Bosher McPherson, nurseryman, who was also landlord of the Woodman Tavern.
When the sisters of Mary Hooper sold the Flask in 1716 they still possessed some land at
the north-west corner of the "island site" with which we are dealing, on which stand to-day Nos.
37 to 44, South Grove. The Hoopers were a well-to-do family living at Hurn Court, Christchurch,
Hampshire, and these ladies were daughters of Mrs. Dorothy Hooper, sister of Anthony Ashley,
3rd Earl of Shaftesbury. Their mother's sister, Elizabeth, was grandmother of James, 1st Earl of
Malmesbury, who became heir of their nephew, Edward Hooper, when he died unmarried. In
1733 Edward Hooper of Hurn Court succeeded after the death of his sisters, and there were then
eight cottages on the land, three of them occupying approximately the site of Nos. 37, 38 and 39,
while five others stood on the sites of Nos. 40–4. Edward Hooper was succeeded by his son, Edward
Hooper, in 1751, and he died a bachelor in 1795, bequeathing this property to his "godson and
friend," formerly his ward, Nathaniel Gundry, esquire, by whom it was sold in 1797 to John Hale,
coachmaster, who gave the three cottages mentioned above to his son John, and pulled down the
other five, erecting a house at the corner on the site of No. 44, and another house on the site of No.
40. Hale's stabling stood next to No. 40, beyond which was the entrance to his coachyard, in which
stood other stabling, etc., backing on Mr. Brocksopp's house and garden. John Hale died in 1808
and was succeeded in the business by his younger son, Abraham Hale. Abraham Hale was one of the
"homage" at the manor court held at the Angel on 18th April, 1843, and in the following
September was dead, when trustees were admitted under his will. Mark Beauchamp Peacock
bought the property in the same year, and, as he already owned the Brocksopp land (including the
three houses sold in 1812 to Thomas Brocksopp by John Hale, junior), thus became possessed of the
whole site, except the Flask.
The manor courts were often held at the Flask, but on 22nd April, 1740, the court was
held at Kentish Town (doubtless at the Assembly House), when the jury imposed a fine of £5 on
Nicholas Jefferies, esquire, "the lessee under the lord of the manor, for not allowing this jury
sufficient wine according to the ancient and laudable custom." This was the court leet held once a
year, and there was little business transacted beyond the election of officers and occasional
presentments of nuisances and encroachments on the waste lands. The jury numbered twelve men,
the main inducement to serve being the customary dinner given by the lord to his "tenants."