|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
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.
Thomas Willan's daughter
Isabella married John Kearsley Douglas. They changed their names to
"........(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
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
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
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
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
|Leases and Sales of Settled Estates Act.
THE LONDON GAZETTE, JULY 3, 1857
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.