24 September 2014

Grim's Dyke

Standing high on the Harrow Weald is a hotel that was once home to Sir W.S. Gilbert. Its name, Grim's Dyke, comes from the remains of the nearby ancient defensive earthwork, Grime's Dyke, which defined part of the boundary of the lands of the Catuvellauni, and which as it passes the house now forms a partial moat.

The house was built, between 1870 and 1872, for the painter Frederick Goodall RA. The architect was Norman Shaw, who had been a pupil of George Edmund Street (architect of the Royal Courts of Justice). Shaw designed Old Scotland Yard and Vauxhall Bridge, and his domestic work was a precursor to that of Sir Edwin Lutyens. His tile-hung gables, tall chimneys, mullioned windows with leaded lights, and timber framing served to give the impression of great age.

Goodall sold in 1880 to the banker Robert Heriot, who added in 1883 a billiard room (now the restaurant) designed by Arthur Cawston. W.S. Gilbert bought the house in 1890, for £4,000, and added further bedrooms, using the architects Ernest George and Harold Peto. He converted the drawing room into a library, now the hotel bar; and Goodall's studio, complete with minstrel's gallery, into a drawing room, now a conference and reception room.

Grim's Dyke was jointly acquired by the Middlesex and London county councils in 1937, and leased for use as a tuberculosis recuperation centre. During WWII the house was home to an engineering unit that investigated captured German equipment, including the Nazis' first jet engine. The hospital closed in 1963, and the steadily dilapidating house was used as a film set. It was Grade II*-listed in 1970, and opened as a hotel in 1971.

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