Heritage: The lost mansion of Harrow Lodge Park

Harrow Lodge Park was created in the 1930s for the new Elm Park suburb. Picture: John Hercock

Harrow Lodge Park was created in the 1930s for the new Elm Park suburb. Picture: John Hercock - Credit: Archant

A 16th century family called Pennant owned a long-gone estate in Hornchurch, as Prof Ged Martin explains

A large Hornchurch mansion, Maylards, once stood in Harrow Lodge Park. A farm track led to Upper Rainham Road, at the junction of modern Shelley Avenue.

The name probably comes from Geoffrey le Mailour, a Havering resident around 1240. He was perhaps an expert in making chain mail armour.

In the 16th century a fake D was inserted: Maylors became Maylards.

A memorial in St Andrew's parish church describes Pierce Pennant, who owned Maylards in 1590. He was "servant" to Edward VI and Queen Mary, "and also one of the gentlemen ushers the space of two & thirtie years to our Soveraigne Ladie Queen Elizabeth".

A Welshman, Pierce was a junior court official, who probably steered clear of politics.

That's how he could work for Protestant monarchs like the boy King Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth I, and their half-sister, the Catholic Mary.

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Tudor courtiers traded in heiresses. In a forty-year career, Pierce surely had the connections to find himself a wealthy bride. But it seems he never married. Perhaps he was gay.

Pierce did well in life, amassing property in several counties, as well as a London house, near Smithfield Market.

Locally, he owned the Greyhound, a Romford inn, and Celys Place, later called Havering Grange, and now an independent primary school.

He wanted Maylards to go to his nephew and godson, another Pierce. But the younger Pierce wasn't old enough to inherit, so his uncle left Maylards to the boy's father, his own brother William. More distant properties went to another brother, John.

Pierce's brothers did not get on. John was actually living at Maylards. William was instructed to allow John to remove his "bedsteads, linen, pewter and other household stuff".

Appointing a friend to act as referee between William and John, Pierce ordered them "not to go to law or contend for anything that I have left".

Pierce wanted to be buried at St Andrew's Church. He made a large bequest to Hornchurch parish, and gifted expensive cloth to his friend John Legatt, of Hornchurch Hall, so he could make himself a luxury gown.

Legatt used the parish legacy to establish Pennants Almshouses. Their site, on the corner of High Street and Billet Lane, is now Sainsbury's.

In 1595, William Pennant made his Will, and died soon after. Noting that his son Pierce was already well "provided for", he left "Elizabeth my loving wife" all his "goods, plate, corn, cattle, household stuff and leases".

Young Pierce would get the mansion, as his uncle had wished, but he needed his mother to have the place furnished and farmed!

William noted that a marriage was "intended" for his daughter Mary. Mary could rely upon Elizabeth's "motherly care and affection". I wonder who'd chosen her husband!

William's short time at Maylards had been dominated by the problem of flooding on Hornchurch marshes, where land attached to the farm had been "overflowen with water". The cost of reclaiming ("winning and inning") the flooded land had been high, but it was "likely to grow to great benefit to my son".

William also left £2 to "the most godly and aged" poor people of Hornchurch.

Maylards was a sizeable mansion. The 1670 Hearth Tax charged properties by the number of fireplaces they contained: Maylards had 17.

But by the 19th century, Maylards was just a farmhouse. Its name was mangled again, to Maylands.

Its buildings stood just north of a tiny stream, the Ravensbourne. It was probably demolished in the 1930s to make way for Harrow Lodge Park, an amenity for the new Elm Park suburb.

In the 1950s, Hornchurch Council (now part of Havering) created a large boating lake. Maylards stood close to the north bank, just west of the bridge. So much earth was shifted to dig the lake that it's unlikely any trace remains.