The story of Albert Frederick Simmons, the house he built for his bride The Gables, his grandson John Peace and another of their illustrious relatives Thomas Allom.
A large number of the houses in Palmers Green were built at the beginning of the twentieth century, between 1900 and the outbreak of the First world war in 1914.
Fox Lane Fields, the area looks very different today.
Land, when it was sold for house building, often had caveats attached saying that the houses to be built should be of a certain standard, which is why we are surrounded by houses with lovely stained glass windows, large rooms and beautiful fireplaces
Albert Frederick Simmons, built a lot of the houses on the Hazelwood Park Estate, he was a young builder who had been brought up in the East End and after he had qualified as a surveyor began building in Palmers Green, his first planning application was agreed in 1899 and his first houses completed in 1900, when he was 26.
Albert Frederick Simmons
The Plans for the estate.
An advert for the Hazelwood park Estate houses.
It is interesting to see that the houses were built to be sold, leased or rented. We currently see many more people renting their homes rather than buying them, which is returning to a way of life which was common before the 1950s.
I was recently privileged to interview John Peace, Albert’s grandson, who still lives in the house, Alfred, built for his new bride in 1906.
John pictured here as a baby with his elder brother Michael
Michael as a baby with his paternal grandparents in Palmers Green.
It is rumoured that Albert built the house but didn’t let his bride to be, see either the plans or the house until they moved in on their wedding day.
The plans for the Gables
He had completed the house, the gardens and the tennis court by the time they moved in and added a motor house, or garage in 1907. The Plans of the Gables show how beautifully and carefully the house was designed. Its’ address was plot 1 Osborne road but it is now in New River Crescent. The original house had a very large garden bits of which were later used to build more houses, Askew Villas.
Although Albert didn’t play tennis his bride, Maud Askew Whitridge, did and their tennis court which at first, hosted tennis matches for a few friends later became the Hazelwood Lawn Tennis Club, which was so popular it was moved firstly to some land off new River Crescent and then to Winchmore Hill.
Rolling the tennis court and painting white lines
Maud always had a live in maid until the First world war when her maid became a Clippy on the trams, ( Tram conductor). This is a story which was replicated across the UK, when domestic servants realised they could earn a salary elsewhere, they left their positions, leaving housewives to pick up the pieces. Maud painted some of the brass work on her fireplaces black to save housework and it took John’s brother Michael, a long time to return the brass work to its pristine condition. Unfortunately Albert died in 1920 when he was only 46, leaving Maud to look after both the Gables and their young daughter. Sadly Maud and Albert had lost 4 other babies who had died in infancy. Unfortunately this was a fairly common occurrence at the time, as it was before inoculations against diseases were available and the advent of antibiotics. We only have to remember the large numbers who died in the flu pandemic after the first world war which especially affected the young.
Some of John’s earliest memories are of playing cards with relatives and friends during the Christmas holidays. He has been actively involved with St John’s church and the choir for most of his life. Seen here in 1955.
A Camercraft picture of a fancy dress party at St John’s
A victory party in Osborne Road
John has another illustrious ancestor, Thomas Allom who is the son of his 4 times great grandfather.
Thomas was a famous architect, artist and designer and a founding member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He designed the Saloon and staircase at Highclere Castle, which is famous today on our screens as Downton Abbey. He worked quite closely with Charles Barry, the architect of the Houses of parliament who asked him to paint a picture of how the H of P would look when they were finished. This picture was so admired by the Russian Tsar during his visit to London, that he was given it as a present and it is on display at the Hermitage. During another more recent state visit by Gorbachev, the picture was loaned to the Palace of Westminster for a special display to commemorate friendship between the two countries. Copies were made during the visit and they were signed by the then Prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the Russian President, Gorbachev to represent the beginning of better relations with Russia. Allom also designed and built 3 churches, including St Peter’s Notting Hill and several houses of note in London. John rescued the bust of Thomas from the garden of a relative’s last house.
We are very lucky to benefit from the hard work of builders and architects such as Albert F Simmons and Thomas Allom who have ensured that their legacy is enjoyed by future generations. Other connections in John’s family are Thomas Garrick miniaturist and early photographer and Sir Henry Wolford Davis, composer.
Jenny Bourke 29.3.15