A Gothic Delight: Holly Village, Highgate

Holly Village, Highgate

Holly Village, Highgate

After an afternoon visit to Highgate Cemetery, wander down Swains Lane towards Parliament Hill and you’ll come across a small estate of gorgeous Gothic houses that look as if they’ve been inspired by Gormenghast castle. This is Holly Village, Highgate.

Erected in 1865 for philanthropist Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts. She was the grand-daughter of Thomas Coutts – founder of the celebrities’ favourite bank, Coutts, which will only accept customers with a deposit of at least £500000). It was designed by Gothic-loving architect Henry Astley Darbishire.

Columbia Market (miyalee.wordpress.com)

As an aside, these two were also involved in the building of the now disappeared Gothic Columbia Market in Bethnal Green in 1869: it was disgracefully pulled down in 1958. The market was a charitable venture, intended to provide an open food market in the East End but closed in 1885 due to the power of a local monopoly in the food business.

Back to Holly village

Back to Holly Village – there’s debate about whether the houses were built for Burdett-Coutts’ servants as another attempt at charity, or for purely economic reasons.

Whichever the reason, it consists of a group eight buildings gathered around a green. There isn’t an awful lot of privacy for the residents, but I suspect that there is a nice community vibe.

Holly Village interior

The houses are built of the highest quality materials – teak wood, Portland stone, and Italian carvers were employed to carve the wood. There are small animals in the stonework (Burdett-Coutts later founded the RSPCA) as well as gargoyles, there are spires, turrets and gables. Everything you could want for in a family home.

In the picture at the top of this page you’ll see two ladies on either side of the arch. These are representations of Baroness Burdett-Coutts and her companion and governess Hannah Brown. The former holds a dog, and the latter a dove.

I’ve found this great article from 2004 about a “Teletubbies-style cellar” – I wonder what happened?


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6 thoughts on “A Gothic Delight: Holly Village, Highgate

  1. True there will not be much in the way of privacy for those living in Holly Village if you keep directing tourists down the hill and into Holly Village.
    Please advise those reading this blog that it is private, that we need that to be respected. We have incidents where people start picnic-ing in our garden and resent being asked to leave, claiming they ‘saw it on TV’ or it’s ‘in the guide’ or it’s listed in London walks.
    Holly Village is PRIVATE, we don’t walk about in your garden so likewise, please leave ours out of your exercise schedule.

    1. Hi Colin – thanks for posting. I would never encourage anyone to go inside the grounds – please admire these gorgeous buildings from the outside.

  2. The “tellitubbies” cellar.
    “Our reason for building under the house is to give us more space – as our daughter grows up – and to allow us to entertain guests more easily.”
    What a reason! the second one sounds like a joke to me.

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