The lamentable clearing away of a row of buildings on the north side of Swain's Lane in Highgate - including the site of the near legendary Cavour's hardware store, a fixture for forty years until it closed a decade back - has delivered an unexpected dividend. Peeping over the hoardings, looking out on Swain's Lane for the first time in close on a century, is a stylish early Victorian villa which had been concealed behind the later, less distinguished, commercial buildings.
This is Brookfield House and Brookfield Lodge (it's now divided into two properties), with its frontage facing out on Swain's Lane as the architect intended, and the spire of St Anne's, Highgate, looming behind. The rear of the property - the only part publicly visible until now - is about as ordinary as can be. The villa was built to face south, and I imagine the premises just demolished were constructed in what was once its front garden.
This was originally the site of the Cow and Hare inn - yet another cattle-linked pub name along the route livestock would have taken towards Smithfield market. A brewery director. Richard Barnett, bought the land and built this imposing house shortly before his death in 1851. His sister Anne inherited the property, and in memory of her brother, built St Anne's next door (nice to name a church after yourself!).
The church was completed in 1853. It's the one whose peal is memorialised in the title of John Betjeman's verse memoir, Summoned by Bells. When Anne died a few years later, she bequeathed Brookfield Lodge as the vicarage.
I fear that when the new flats come up on this site, Brookfield Lodge and House will again be hidden from view, and by far the finest aspect of this impressive villa will once more be lost to us.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
Welcome - read - comment - throw stones - pick up threads - and tell me how to do this better!