Twyford Abbey

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Twyford Abbey Twyford Abbey  

Twyford Abbey started life in the middle ages as the West Twyford manor house. It belonged to the lords of the manor of West Twyford who owned the surrounding land. In 1593 it was the only inhabited house in West Twyford, with a small private chapel.

West Twyford manor house was partially demolished around 1715 and the chapel rebuilt around that time.

In 1806 the manor house was sold to Thomas Willan, a stagecoach proprietor. He wanted to turn the house into a 'Gothic' mansion. Architect William Atkinson designed an extension around the original house in a Gothic style, filled the genuine medieval moat and altered the chapel.

In keeping with the spirit of the age Willan gave his house a romantic pseudo-monastic association, calling it 'Twyford Abbey'. In 1816 Twyford Abbey was described as 'striking and extremely fine'.

This was the only building in the area, and soon the name Twyford Abbey was applied to the whole of the area of West Twyford.

In 1902 the Abbey was bought by the Alexian Brothers, a Roman Catholic order who set up a nursing home there. St. Mary's Church, disused at the time, was re-opened for weekly services in 1907.

The Alexian Brothers enlarged and changed the house several times.

The nursing home closed in 1988; since then the Abbey has lain derelict.

The vacant Abbey and its walled garden are statutory listed grade II and the Abbey itself is on English Heritage’s Register of Buildings at Risk; in terms of condition the building is graded as ‘very bad’ and in terms of priority it is graded category C (defined as “Slow decay; no solution agreed”).

The existing building on the site dates back to 1807-1809; the original two storey dwelling (south west part) built on the site of a former medieval manor house was designed by William Atkinson as an early 19th century Gothic revival building. In the mid- 19th century the dwelling was extended to the north and east. The Abbey was occupied as a single family house until the beginning of the 20th century when the house was converted into a home for the infirm. The building was considerably extended in 1904-5 by the provision of the northern western wing reflecting the Gothic appearance of the earlier building as well as extensions to the north and east of the building. More recent additions include a three storey infill between the original early 19th Century building and the Alexian Gothic extension on the north western side of the building replacing a former single storey conservatory and a three storey wing to the east built in the 1960’s. In addition to this, a Tree Preservation Order covers all trees on the site.

The 5.4 hectare site is bounded by the North Circular to the north, Twyford Abbey Road and West Twyford Primary School to the south, by residential properties along Iveagh Avenue to the east and residential properties along Brentmead Gardens to the west.

The Abbey is centrally placed within the site with landscaped gardens to the west, a landscaped former pasture area to the south, a listed walled garden to the north and an overgrown meadow is located in the north-eastern portion of the site. The main vehicular and pedestrian entrance to the site is from Twyford Abbey Road through a gated access with a lodge. There is a second entrance to the east also off Twyford Abbey Road, adjacent to the primary school.

The site is bounded by the A406 North Circular Road, part of the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN), to the north, Iveagh Avenue to the west, Twyford Abbey to the south and finally Brentmead Gardens to the west. The nearest Strategic Road Network (SRN) is the A404 Harrow Road, located 1.4km to the north east of the site.

In 2017, planning permission was granted for the conversion of the building into a private school for 1150 pupils.

Thomas Willan's daughter Isabella married John Kearsley Douglas. They changed their names to Douglas-Willan.

Research note:
"........(Mrs) Margaret A. Douglas-Willan, at the old church in Twyford Abbey grounds, the family vault was illuminated by the electric light. The vault extends 30 ft. under the church, and by the aid of incandescent lamps..."  probably Ann Margaret Fleming, b. 12 Feb 1821, Bermuda, West Indies d. 1 May 1891, the wife of James Sholto Curwen Douglas-Willan, b. 3 Aug 1818, Twyford Abbey, d. Jun 1893. An article in the Electrical Engineer of 15 May 1891 reporting on the use of electricity (possible the first funeral so lit) states that there were 14 coffins in the vault.

There is an interesting letter describing a July 29, 1800. " Mr. Malcolm," who is Sonnets and other Small Poems, by T. Park entered by a stile at the south-east corner. referred to, there are sketches inserted into exception of about twelve acres belonging Thomas Willan of Marylebone Park. He house to take the place of the old manorfilled up the moat, destroyed the draw-bridge, from the design of Atkinson, and under the superintendence of that architect." It was (and it still stands)

Thomas Willan called the new house Twyford Abbey, a name that has led to the supposition that a conventual establishment of some kind used to exist there. But there is absolutely no reliable record of anything of the kind, and what I have already written is sufficient, I trust, to show the error of this idea. The parish itself has, for some generations, been called Twyford Abbey, and the two new railway stations continue the name; but the Middlesex County Council and the Local Government Board are to be asked to drop this modern appellation and when, in 1905, Mr. Allhusen sold the house, twenty acres, and the advowson of the church to the Alexian Brothers, a Roman Catholic nursing order, who turned Twyford Abbey into a home of rest for invalids. As they were not able to present to the living, the presentation lapsed successively to the University of Oxford and to the Crown. After much labour on the part of the Rural Dean and others, and some years of patient waiting, the claims of the parishioners of Twyford were recognized, and an appointment was call the parish again West Twyford.

Thomas Willan appointed ministers to officiate at the church every Sunday, he restored the fabric, carefully preserved the monuments, and was particular as to the W. S. Tupholme, B.D., was inducted, and since then services have been held every Sunday. There is no stipend and no vicarage, and the vicar has the Bishop's proper keeping of the registers. He continued to reside at Marylebone Park until the lease of the Park Farm fell in and the St. Stephen's, Ealing. The church has been restored and refurnished. The interior is land reverted to the Crown, when it was, together with the two other farms forming the property, converted into Regent's Park. size, and when the parish becomes more populated it will be quite inadequate for the Twyford Abbey was occupied at first by needs of the parishioners.

John Kearsley Douglas and his wife, Isabella Maria, Thomas Willan's eldest daughter, and between 1810 and 1833 fourteen of their children were baptized in the church. In the family vault under the church Thomas Willan, Lord of the Manor of West Twyford, and his widow, John Kearsley Douglas [afterwards called Douglas-Willan] and his widow, and several of their sons and daughters, were laid to rest, the last in 1893. There are mural tablets to their memory, is little else of interest in the parish. The Grand Junction Canal divides it into two portions; there is no public thoroughfare through it, the one road being still in private hands; there is no school, no post-office, no public-house, and no shop. An orchard and some meadows are used as a mushroom farm; a factory is being erected in another part of the parish \ and yet another part is and four hatchments.

It is not necessary for me to add much more with reference to the owners andford Abbey there are two farm-houses, nine cottages, a small Baptist mission-room, and a tenants of Twyford Abbey during the nine- teenth century, or the various clergymen who officiated at the church. The tenant of the house was bound to supply at least six by the London and North Western Railway. And this is a parish the centre of which is little more than six miles from the Marble

Church of England services in the year. Some carried this out to the letter, some appointed " ministers " who came regularly, and some neglected to carry out this pro By 1893, when the manor was owned and the house was occupied by Mr. W. H. Allhusen, the services ceased alto The church became dilapidated inside and out, the walls cracked, the windows were broken, and the whole place was falling into decay. Such was its condition vision.

Leases and Sales of Settled Estates Act.
In Chancery

In the Matter of an Act of Parliament, passed in the 19th and 20th years of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, intituled " An Act to facilitate Leases and Sales of Settled Estates," and in the Matter of the Twyford Abbey Estate, situate in the several parishes or places of Twyford, Baling, Harrow, Perivale, Hanwell, and Willesden, in the county of Middlesex, settled by the will of Thomas Willan, Esq., of Twyford Abbey, in the said county of Middlesex, deceased.

NOTICE is hereby given, that Isabella Maria Douglas Willan, Widow, Thomas Willan, Douglas WLllan, Esq., Robert Douglas Willan, Esq., and John Douglas Willan, Esq., all of Twyford Abbey, in the county of Middlesex, William Moffatt Douglas Willan, Esq., a Captain on half-pay, in the Royal Artillery, James Sholto Curwen Douglas Willan, Esq., a Deputy Commissary General in Her Majesty's Service, the Reverend Charles Bisset Douglas, Clerk, Vicar of Pembroke, in the county of Pembroke, Percy Douglas Willan, of Twyford Abbey aforesaid, Esq., and Stanhope Leonard Douglas Willan, Esq., a Captain in Her Majesty's 2nd or Queen's Regiment of Infantry, have presented a petition to the Right Honourable the Master of the Rolls, praying that powers of sale and of leasing the Twyford Abbey estate for building purposes, for any term not exceeding 99 years, may be given to the trustees for the time being, of the will of Thomas Willan, Esq., deceased, by way of addition to the powers given by the will of the said Thomas Willan, such powers to be exercised with the consent of the tenant for life for the time being, under the same will, if of full age, but if not then by the trustees of their own proper authority, the form of such powers and of all requisite provisions, incidental thereto, to be settled by the Right Honourable the Master of the Rolls in chambers; and that the costs of and relating to such petition, may be raised and paid out of the fund in such petition mentioned.

And notice is hereby given, that the said petitioners may be served with any Order of the Court, or notice relating to the subject of the said petition, at the chambers of Messrs. Law, Hussey, and Hulbert, Lincoln's-inn, in the county of Middlesex.

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Last modified: Tuesday, 01 February 2022