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.
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.
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?