A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1982.
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In 1468 John Careley granted to John Roberts and others a house and land in Neasden which he had acquired in 1454 and 1465. In 1480 Roberts and the others, at Careley's request, enfeoffed William Page of Harlesden, who in 1495 conveyed that and other property to trustees for Margaret, countess of Richmond; in 1506 she was licensed to alienate it to WESTMINSTER ABBEY. (fn. 1) In 1651 the parliamentary commissioners sold the property to Sir William Roberts but Westminster recovered it after the Restoration and retained it until 8 a. were sold in 1853 (fn. 2) and the remaining 16 a. in 1864. (fn. 3)
Westminster abbey leased its estate to Thomas Roberts (c. 1516-1539), (fn. 4) John Roberts (c. 1553-1556), (fn. 5) Edmund Roberts (1566-9), (fn. 6) Sir William Roberts (temp. Chas. I, 1660-4), (fn. 7) and his son Sir William Roberts, who renewed the lease in 1676 and mortgaged it with other lands to William Hellier and Ann Carpenter, to whom a lease was made in 1685. His son repaid the mortgage and the lease assigned to him expired in 1706. It was purchased and renewed by William Hawkins, clerk. (fn. 8) Hawkins renewed the lease in 1721, 1728, and 1735, and in 1742 his brother and trustee George renewed the lease for William's son, a minor. The younger William renewed the lease in 1749 and 1762. (fn. 9) His widow and executrix Lydia renewed it in 1769 and 1776 and her executrix and devisee, Lydia Dawson (by 1784 wife of Thomas Moore) renewed it in 1778, 1784, and 1791. (fn. 10) In 1811 the estate was leased to James Hall and in 1818 it was divided, 8 a. south of the Grove being leased to Hall (fn. 11) (d. 1838) whose son Henry bought the freehold in 1853, (fn. 12) and 16 a. west of Neasden village to John Nicoll (d. 1819); Joseph Nicoll (d. 1853) devised the property to John William Prout, who bought the freehold in 1864. (fn. 13) The house conveyed in 1454 is to be identified with the one marked east of the junction of Dog Lane and Neasden Lane in 1599. (fn. 14) It was probably that with one hearth occupied in 1664 by Widow Moulder. (fn. 15) A second house had been built on the estate by 1566. (fn. 16) It was assessed for four hearths in 1670 and stood west of Neasden green. (fn. 17)
St. Bartholomew's Hospital owned a house at Church End which in 1547 was granted to the City of London; (fn. 18) the City administered the estate on behalf of the hospital, which was still in possession in 1823. The house was still there in 1599 but had gone by 1816. (fn. 19)
By will dated 1692 Francis Millington of London devised £500 to buy land out of which CHRIST'S HOSPITAL was to pay pensions to disabled watermen of Wandsworth parish; 64 a. in north Neasden, bordering the Brent, were bought from the coheirs of the Roberts estate in 1704. In 1835 and 1838 parts were sold for the Brent reservoir. W. Prout of Neasden purchased the remaining 47 a. in 1873. (fn. 20)
The large estate built up by the ROBERTS family (fn. 21) included land held at Sherrick and Sheeproad by William Roberts or Roberd (fl. 1295-1306) and in Neasden open fields by Thomas Roberts between c. 1307 and 1327. (fn. 22) Ralph Roberts (fl. 1365-94) held Taylors cottage in Neasden, was granted pavage on Edgware Road in 1389, and had a son Thomas (fl. 1406), whose son John alienated the Sherrick lands in 1449. (fn. 23) John was probably the same as the John Robert of Neasden who purchased John atte Wood's estate in 1403 and consolidated his lands at Sheeproad by exchange with Robert Curson in the 1420s. (fn. 24) It was presumably another John Roberts who had died by 1480 (fn. 25) and whose son Thomas in 1510 held five houses in Neasden village and numerous crofts and open-field land from Neasden prebend.
Thomas Roberts, clerk of the peace and coroner of Middlesex, added to the estate, acquiring other property held from Neasden and Chambers prebends and holding leases of various estates. (fn. 26) He was succeeded in 1543 by his son Michael, who died young in 1544 leaving Fosters in Acton and some tenements in Harlesden to his brother John and the rest of his estate for life to his widow Ursula. She later married Benjamin Gonson. (fn. 27) Michael's brother Edmund Roberts (d. 1585) seems to have acquired all Michael's lands. In 1563 he greatly increased the Neasden estate by purchasing Middletons manor. (fn. 28) He held the lease of Harlesden prebend in 1576 and may have acquired other lands in Harlesden. (fn. 29) His son and heir Francis bought Oxgate manor in 1587 and the few remaining tenements in Neasden, (fn. 30) and held leases of the Westminster abbey estate and the prebends of Harlesden (1594), Oxgate (1608), Neasden (1624), and Chambers (1627). (fn. 31) When he died in 1632 he was said to be seised of 34 messuages and 1,654 a. in Willesden, a manor and land in Acton, a small estate in Kingsbury, and other estates in Lincolnshire. (fn. 32)
Francis was succeeded by his grandson William Roberts (d. 1662), knighted in 1624, who took the parliamentary side in the Civil War, in 1646 became one of the contractors to sell church lands, and in 1651 bought the prebends of Neasden, Oxgate, Harlesden, and Chambers and the estate of Westminster abbey. He was M.P. for Middlesex and a member of the committee to try Charles I although he did not sign the death warrant. He lost nothing at the Restoration, taking leases of the prebends when they reverted to the prebendaries. (fn. 33) He had also increased the estate by his marriage with Eleanor, daughter and heir of Robert Atye, with land in Hampstead and Kilburn. (fn. 34)
The Roberts estate began to contract after his death. (fn. 35) Eleanor sold c. 120 a. in Willesden and Hendon to Edward Nelthorpe in 1662. (fn. 36) Her right was apparently successfully challenged in the same year by her eldest son Sir William Roberts, Bt. (d. 1688) (fn. 37) who in 1664 was treating as his own land in Willesden, Kilburn, and Hampstead which Eleanor claimed should have gone to a younger son, Edward. (fn. 38) Sir William, described as a 'very careless man', inherited property already encumbered with mortgages and legacies, and fell deeper and deeper into debt. (fn. 39) He sold the Kilburn estate in 1664, (fn. 40) two estates in Harlesden, amounting to 248 a., in 1665-6 and 1671, (fn. 41) and smaller estates in the north in 1675 (fn. 42) and in Kilburn in 1679. (fn. 43) His complicated mortgage transactions resulted in award in 1682 to the current mortgagee, Prisca Colborne, of temporary possession of Neasden manor and other property to the value of £627 a year. (fn. 44) Sir William was preparing to pay his debts by selling Oxgate when he died in 1688. (fn. 45)
His son Sir William died in 1698 and the estate passed to his cousin William Roberts (d. 1700). (fn. 46) William paid off remaining mortgages in 1698 and 1699, and in 1700 sold over 100 a. at Oxgate, Neasden, and Church End. (fn. 47) His widow Elizabeth, whose second husband was William Hutchenson, continued to live at Neasden and still had interests in the estate in 1725. (fn. 48) His brother and heir Thomas died in 1702, and in 1704 further sales were made. (fn. 49) Thomas was succeeded by his five sisters, Eleanor wife of Thomas Knight, Elizabeth or Edith wife of Thomas Launder, Margaret wife of Richard Lawton, Mary wife of William Hawkins, and Sarah wife of Hollis and later of George Paterson. Sarah (d. 1708) was abroad in 1702 and her share was divided among her sisters. (fn. 50) John Wilson bought Eleanor's share in 1710, Edith's in 1717, and part of Mary's in 1720, and conveyed them in 1733 to John Nicoll (d. 1747). (fn. 51) Eleanor Knight's children inherited part of Margaret Lawton's share, including her portion of Sarah's share in Neasden. They sold it in 1739 to Thomas Nicoll. (fn. 52) In 1752 Thomas Nicoll bought the rest of Margaret Lawton's share, sold in 1705 to Thomas Smartfoot, left in 1707 to his 10 grandchildren, and sold in 1728 and 1730 to Edward Sibley (d. 1730) and his daughter Elizabeth. (fn. 53)
John Nicoll (d. 1747) was said to be in possession of the whole of Neasden House and farm and three fifths of Oxgate and Dollis Hill. (fn. 54) He also brought a small estate at Church End in 1738 and a moiety of Fishes, 100 a. at Willesden Green and Sherrick green and in the open fields, from the Paynter family. (fn. 55) In 1753 his daughter and heir Margaret (d. 1768) married James Brydges, who later succeeded as duke of Chandos. (fn. 56) The Brydges estate was enlarged by the purchase of Margaret Lawton's share in 1754 (fn. 57) and of part of Mary Hawkins's, from Lydia Hawkins, in 1771. (fn. 58) In 1787 the duke, who did not live in Willesden, had an estate there of c. 700 a. (fn. 59) On his death in 1789 it passed to his only child Anna Eliza, who in 1796 married Richard Temple-NugentBrydges-Chandos-Grenville (d. 1839), created duke of Buckingham and Chandos in 1822. Their son Richard Plantagenet (d. 1861) was succeeded by his son Richard Plantagenet Campbell (d. 1889) and by his nephew William Stephen Gore-Langton, Earl Temple (d. 1902) and his son Algernon W. S. Temple-Gore-Langton, Earl Temple (d. 1940). (fn. 60)
Parts of the estate were sold in 1803 to John Read, William M. Sellon, and Lady (Sarah) Salusbury, (fn. 61) and by 1816 the estate had shrunk to 550 a. In 1817 Buckingham sold the remaining one fifth of Dollis Hill to the tenant, Joseph Finch, who had bought the other four fifths from the Nicolls in 1784 and 1795, and in 1818 he sold his shares of Neasden House and two farms to John Nicoll, the tenant who owned the rest of them. (fn. 62) In 1823 Buckingham's lands amounted to c. 450 a. (fn. 63) The estate was offered for sale in lots in 1837, (fn. 64) and between 1838 and 1844 Edmund Tattersall bought 96 a. of Upper Oxgate, including the farmhouse, S. H. Bigg 39 a. at Sherrick green, and Joseph Nicoll the 153 a. of Neasden farm. (fn. 65) Lower Oxgate and the remaining eastern part of Upper Oxgate were put up for sale in lots in 1847 but not sold, and the duke of Buckingham still had 136 a. in 1887. (fn. 66) Building began on the estate in the late 1890s and was completed in the 1930s. (fn. 67)
The Nicoll family, lessees of Neasden lands from c. 1720, (fn. 68) owned the remaining fractions and after 1818 wholly owned Neasden House and the heart of the Roberts estates. John Nicoll (d. 1819), the owner in 1787 and 1816, was succeeded by his brother Joseph (d. 1823) and nephew Joseph (d. 1853) who devised the property to trustees for his cousin Catherine Nicoll Lewis Prout. (fn. 69) In 1873 Catherine married William Edward Nicol, a Scot not related to the Nicolls of Neasden. (fn. 70) Their descendants retained some of the estate in 1980. (fn. 71)
The Nicolls' estate, 149 a. in 1823, was increased by the purchases of Neasden farm from the duke of Buckingham, the Grove estate in 1856 from the Hall brothers, part of the Westminster abbey estate in 1864, and the Christ's Hospital estate (47 a.) in 1873, (fn. 72) to comprise c. 500 a. (fn. 73) In the late 1870s land at Willesden Green was sold for building and a large portion of the Neasden lands to the Metropolitan Railway Co. (fn. 74) By 1887 the estate had shrunk to 191 a. (fn. 75) All that land, including Neasden House, was used for building, mostly in the 1930s, although the Grange (part of the Grove estate) was not sold until 1962.
Thomas Roberts (d. 1543), whose predecessors had lived in a house on the east side of Neasden Lane, called Little's or Barnhaw, rebuilt or much enlarged another house, also on the east side of the lane, previously called Catewood's and afterwards Neasden House. (fn. 76) His son Michael (d. 1544) continued the building, (fn. 77) and Francis Roberts (d. 1632) and his grandson Sir William (d. 1662) added to the house and transformed its surroundings. (fn. 78) By 1664 Neasden House was assessed on 21 hearths, the largest house in Willesden. (fn. 79) It was depicted in 1749 as a large L-shaped building with a three-gabled front and a three-bay side wing. (fn. 80) It was occupied from 1735 by Thomas Nicoll, who rebuilt it c. 1755. (fn. 81) By the 19th century it was a three-storeyed stuccoed building with two large rounded bays. (fn. 82) After a period during the early 20th century as a golf clubhouse, it was demolished to make way for building in the early 1930s. (fn. 83)
The land at Kilburn which Sir William Roberts sold in 1664 was bought by William Morgan, who also seems to have acquired part of Roberts's land in Harlesden. Richard Morgan (fl. 1723) left his estate to Morgan Graves, whose son Walwyn sold the Kilburn estate in 1807 to Daniel Stuart and the Harlesden estate to James Denew. (fn. 84) Stuart sold Kilburn House, called the Great House in 1728, with 17 a. to Sir Samuel Auchmuty in 1815, and the Revd. Edward Stuart sold nearly 100 a. between 1850 and 1857. (fn. 85) Denew sold the Harlesden land between 1827 and 1843, including 3 a. in 1834 to the architect Charles Ayers who built Roundwood House there and sold it in 1838 to John Horsley-Beresford, Baron Decies. (fn. 86)
Another estate sold by Sir William Roberts was 128 a. mostly in Harlesden, which Richard Taylor bought in 1665 and 1671. (fn. 87) Until 1835 it descended with the leasehold of Harlesden prebend, (fn. 88) being owned in 1823 by Richard Taylor (fn. 89) whose daughter Emily sold part in 1878 and 1879 and retained 76 a. in 1887. (fn. 90) The last part of the estate was sold in 1925 by Capt. Frederick Gibbons, apparently a maternal relation of Emily. (fn. 91)
A third estate sold by Sir William Roberts was c. 120 a., which Richard Wingfield bought in 1666. In 1727 Wingfield sold 69 a. mostly in Harlesden to Robert Glynn, and in 1730 Thomas Wingfield sold 53 a. in Stonebridge to Edward Sibley. (fn. 92)
At UPPER OXGATE Sir William Roberts sold 53 a. in 1675 to Ezechiel Tanner, from whom it passed to John Tanner (d. 1744), John's wife Anne (d. 1748), and Anne's niece Sarah, wife of Thomas Howard. It was sold in 1759 to John Haley, who sold it in 1785 to Thomas Byron; Edmund Byron was in possession in 1887. (fn. 93) The house, called Old Oxgate or Oxgate Farm, was presumably one of the three recorded in 1587 and was assessed on five hearths in 1670. (fn. 94) It survived in 1980 as the oldest secular building in Willesden, timber-framed, of the 16th and 17th centuries. The northern range was thought to be part of a larger 16th-century building, a fact which, together with the moat still visible in 1823, suggests that it was the principal house of Oxgate, possibly on the site of that owned by Bartholomew Willesden in 1472. (fn. 95)
A second holding at UPPER OXGATE was c. 100 a. sold from the Roberts estate in 1700 to Richard Hawe. Hawe's nieces sold it in 1734 to Jenkin Thomas Phillips, whose heir John Williams sold it in 1768 to John Saxon. (fn. 96) Saxon apparently divided the estate into moieties, of which one passed through the Heming family to Henry Richard Phillips, who owned 164 a. in 1887. (fn. 97) The third and largest holding at Oxgate, leased by the Robertses and their successors to the Franklins from 1669 to 1819, included the 96 a. of Upper Oxgate sold by the duke of Buckingham to Edmund Tattersall in 1838. Tattersall's devisees sold that land to H. R. and J. R. Phillips in 1852. (fn. 98) Tattersall carried out extensive building, converting both the house with four hearths occupied in 1670 by John Franklin and that with two hearths occupied in 1670 by Thomas Etheridge (fn. 99) into the model stud-farm known as Willesden Paddocks. (fn. 100)
The land of the Roberts family at DOLLIS HILL, previously leased as two farms, was leased as one holding in 1773 to Joseph Finch, who between 1784 and 1818 acquired the fragmented freehold. (fn. 101) The Finches sold the land south of Dollis Hill Lane for a public park in 1901, retaining the northern farm until 1939. (fn. 102) The principal house, perhaps that occupied by Richard Franklin (d. 1615) (fn. 103) and assessed on seven hearths in 1664, (fn. 104) lay north of the lane and was called Dollis Hill House in 1734 and Dollis Hill Farmhouse in 1787. (fn. 105) It was rebuilt in brick c. 1800 as a small farmhouse with a front of three bays and featured in Harrison Ainsworth's Jack Sheppard. (fn. 106) It became a veterinary hospital in the early 20th century and was demolished in the 1940s. A smaller house south of the lane was replaced in 1825 by the Finches, who lived at Dollis Hill until 1861. (fn. 107) The new house was afterwards occupied by Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, later Lord Tweedmouth, until 1881, by his daughter and her husband, the earl of Aberdeen, until 1897, and by the newspaper proprietor Hugh Gilzean Reed until 1906, being used thereafter as a restaurant for Gladstone Park and later by Kilburn Polytechnic for students on catering courses. (fn. 108) George Eliot is said to have placed a scene in Daniel Deronda (1876) in the drawing room, Lord Aberdeen received visits from Rosebery, Balfour, and especially Gladstone, whose name was used for the park, (fn. 109) Mark Twain lived there briefly in 1900, calling it 'divinely beautiful and peaceful'. (fn. 110) It was adapted for use as an emergency hospital in 1915 and the cabinet met in the 'Dollis Hill war room' in 1941. (fn. 111) The house is square, of two storeys, in yellow stock brick with a stuccoed porch and formerly had a verandah on the south side. (fn. 112)