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Norwood Hall, Norwood Green, Middlesex: new house for John Robins, 1801-2 (12)

When and how Norwood Lodge came into the hands of John Robins is not clear, although he was a cousin of its previous owner, Elisha Biscoe. Robins was an auctioneer, estate agent and furniture maker who produced several pieces for Soane. In 1801 he commissioned Soane to build a new house on the site of Norwood Lodge. The design of the new residence owed a great deal to Soane's own country house, Pitzhanger Manor, nearby in Ealing, especially with regards to the 'triumphal arch' form of the façade (P. Guillery, op. cit., pp. 185-88). The site was surveyed on 6 June 1801. Designs were made in July and the foundations of the new house were laid on 8 August. The house was sufficiently finished by 11 July 1802 that Soane could dine there with his wife, and again on 8 August as a guest of Robins. The total cost of the house was £440 1s 8d - expenditure had been minimised through the reuse of some of the old ashlar dressings and the original Portland stone steps to the entrance.

The 12 drawings catalogued here consist of six plans, three elevations, one section, one design for a verandah and one working drawing for a chimneypiece. All but the first three are copies. These are dated 'July 1801', but the date in each case is a later addition, and it is possible that the drawings were made in June. Either way, they precede the three alternative designs (drawings [4]-[6]) that correspond to the three elevations (drawings [7]-[9]) and the section (drawing [10]). Another related drawing is in the possession of the Canadian Centre for Architecture (DR1983:0859) - see drawing [2].

Norwood Hall survives and retains several original details both inside and out, although heavily altered in the late nineteenth century. By the early 2000s the house was very dilapidated, but it has since been restored and is currently owned by Sri Guru Singh Sabha which runs adult education and community engagement programmes from the house. In the neighbouring churchyard of St Mary's, Norwood, is the Robins family tomb, also possibly designed by Soane.

Literature:
P. Guillery, 'Norwood Hall and Micklefield Hall: Works by Sir John Soane', Architectural History, 30, 1987, pp. 181-200; N. Pevsner and B. Cherry, The Buildings of England: London 3: North West, 1991, pp. 188-89; P. Dean, Sir John Soane and the Country Estate, 1999, pp. 189-90.

Tom Drysdale, March 2015
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