Lost Houses: Brick Place

This month we are starting a 2021 series of articles on Lost Houses of the Hornsey area. We begin with Brick Place, the oldest known substantial house we know of, north-east of Hornsey village. It’s appropriate to start with Brick Place because the position of the moat which surrounded it can be clearly identified on the Hornsey Enclosure Map, 1815. David Frith’s book, The Hornsey Enclosure Act 1813, is a new HHS publication, and the moat can clearly be seen on the map on the front cover!

Hornsey Enclosure Map, 1813, Brick Place and moat are in plots 107 and 108, owned by Mr George Wright'
Hornsey Enclosure Map, 1813, Brick Place and moat are in plots 107 and 108, owned by Mr George Wright’

The origin of Brick (or Tower) Place is mysterious but its end is clear. It was destroyed by a storm in 1703 and its moat and one acre+ of land within was covered by the embankment of the Great Northern Railway in 1847-50. Unfortunately, little is known of Brick Place itself but the names of the owners of the house and their lives are well documented.

At first sight, a moated site near the ancient Hornsey parish church would suggest a manor house. The successive lords of the manor of Hornsey were the bishops of London who are not known to have resided in the parish after their deer park hunting lodge at Highgate was abandoned pre-1500 (a site which is now Highgate Golf Course).

The name Brick Place provides a clue to its date, suggesting that it was built when brick was not widely used. Sutton House in Hackney (National Trust) was called The Bryk Place in 1525. The moated Hampton Court Palace was an outstanding brick building completed by 1529, with later additions and alterations. Bricks were used locally in Hornsey church tower c.1500. The alternative name, Tower Place, implies that the structure was tall and calls to mind Canonbury Tower (early 16th century) in neighbouring Islington parish.

Moats continued to be excavated even after the introduction of gunpowder made them less effective as defence against soldiers. They provided large houses with an open aspect to the surrounding countryside, security against intruders, a supply of water for the fish stock and drainage from the house. In the 16th century, Highgate was becoming fashionable for out-of-town houses for City merchants and professional men of fortune, but its attractive lofty position did not provide the advantages of a moated house set apart in a landscape of fields such as existed in Hornsey.

Here is some information about two of the families who owned Brick Place:

The Cholmeley Family (spelt a variety of ways)

Brick Place was owned from 1556, in the reign of Mary Tudor, by Randle (or Ranulph) Cholmeley, who may have built it. He was the third son of Sir Richard Cholmondeley, of Cholmondeley in Cheshire, and his wife Elizabeth Brereton. Her relatives, John and William Brereton, were associated in 1536 with Duckett’s manor, located in modern Wood Green. Randle’s career in the law was similar to that of Sir Roger Cholmeley, a relative, but about ten to fifteen years later. Sir Roger founded Highgate School within Hornsey parish. Like his kinsman, Randle had a distinguished legal career, becoming reader at Lincoln’s Inn, serjeant at law, Recorder of London, and a Member of Parliament, though he was never knighted or became Lord Chief Justice, as did Sir Roger.

When Randle died in 1563, his land in Hornsey passed to his elder brother, Sir Hugh Cholmeley (1513-1596) who had been knighted by King Henry VIII. He does not seem to have had his brother’s close connection with the City; probably he found the house convenient for visiting London. His grandson and eventual heir, Robert, was born ‘at Crouch End near Highgate’ in 1584; probably not at Brick Place as Sir Hugh had “surrended it with ten house and 58 acres” (Elizabethan expression) to Thomas Aglionby of Hornsey, the named occupant in 1572.

Sir Hugh Cholmeley's Tomb, Malpas Church
Sir Hugh Cholmeley’s Tomb, Malpas Church

Sir Hugh was very active in his native Cheshire where he was a justice of the peace, five times high sheriff and deputy lieutenant of that county. He died in 1596, aged eighty-three. His fine alabaster altar tomb, depicting him with his second wife Mary and his kneeling children is the centre piece of the Cholmondeley private chapel in Malpas church.

The Musters Family

From 1668 the Musters family were to live at Brick Place for nearly forty years. Sir John was elected a governor of Highgate School in 1675. Lady Musters, his wife, gifted two silver flagons to Hornsey church. The family’s most notable contribution to the church was a memorial to Francis Musters, Sir John’s only child by his third wife Jane, who died on 16th April 1680, aged sixteen. His grieving parents commissioned a monument attributed to the renowned Danish
sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber. The quality of this is such that, having had a chequered history after the demolition of the last St Mary’s parish church in 1969, it is now displayed in the Victoria & Albert Museum. Fine ledgers (floor slabs) of other family members – Francis’s grandmother, Lady Basset of Tehidy, Cornwall, (d. 1682) and her daughter, Lady Jane Musters, Sir John’s third wife (d.1691), which were originally in the church are in the Garden of Remembrance next to the church tower.

The end of the moat

After the opening of the first public railway between Stockton and Darlington in 1825, railway mania swept the land. The Hornsey Vestry met on 9 January 1845 to discuss a proposition of the London and York Railway to carry a line through the parish field. They disapproved, feeling that it would benefit only railway speculators and that it would destroy the tranquility of the parish. The scheme went ahead nevertheless and Mr George Prickett, Highgate surveyor, was
asked to estimate the amount compensation to demand from the newly created Great Northern Railway Company. On August 8th 1850, the first public train on the line left Maiden Lane (later extended to King’s Cross) on its way to Peterborough. Hornsey was the first stop on the line. Brick Place had disappeared after the 1703 storm and the railway line obliterated any remains of the moat.

Website editor’s note

This account uses the text in two HHS publications, both of which are on sale through the HHS website.

‘A moated site c. 1556-1850: Brick or Tower Place and its owners’, by Malcolm Stokes, People and Places, editor Joan Schwitzer, HHS, 1996

‘Brick or Tower Place’, Malcolm Stokes, HHS Bulletin 57, 2016

Image credits

Hornsey Enclosure Map, 1813 – David Frith; Sir Hugh Cholmeley’s Tomb – Malcolm Stokes.

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