This month, Pitzhanger Manor will reopen to the public after an extensive renovation project. A large manor house has stood on this site for over 300 years, although it is most famous for the ten-year period during which it was owned by the famous architect John Soane. The current site is now a Grade-I Listed building.
The site was originally known as Pitshanger Place, as a smaller manor house bearing the name Pits Hanger Manor (sometimes Pitts Hanger Manor) stood at the centre of Meadvale Road a mile to the north. This building stood at the heart of Pits Hanger Farm and was far less grand than its counterpart on Mattock Lane.
Pitshanger Place passed into the hands of Jonathan Gurnell after he married Grizell Wilmer, the eldest daughter of the manor’s occupants, in 1711. Gurnell became wealthy as a merchant and banker – and would later give his name to Gurnell Leisure Centre on Ruislip Road East – and his son Thomas added Pits Hanger Manor to the family’s portfolio.
The house remained in the Gurnell family until 1800, when the family decided to sell. The famous architect John Soane heard the property was available and bought the whole estate of 28 acres for £4,500. Soane referred to his new home as Pitzhanger Manor-house.
Soane planned extensive works to his new property, and over 100 designs still exist in the Sir John Soane’s Museum in Holborn. The final design of the central section, completed in 1804, is typical of many of his works, featuring curved ceilings, false doors, wooden panelling and inset mirrors.
Although Soane expanded the building to the east, he left the south wing, designed by George Dance, intact – possibly because Dance had been his first employer.
Soane sold the house in 1810, and it changed hands several times before being acquired by the daughters of Spencer Perceval – the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated.
Over this period, the property’s name changed almost as frequently as its ownership. It was variously known as Pitshanger Manor or just The Manor, but has now been formally returned to the name given to it by Soane: Pitzhanger Manor. It is perhaps fitting that the man who left the greatest mark on the building’s appearance is also responsible for its name.
Ealing Council bought the property from the Percevals for £40,000 in 1900. The Council intended to use Pitzhanger Manor as a library, and made adaptations particularly to the Breakfast Room in the south wing order to create a new reading room. A new building was also constructed on the site to serve as a lending library.
The library moved out in 1984 – to be housed in the Broadway Centre – and restoration of Pitzhanger Manor began almost immediately, with the house opening to the public in 1987.
The manor closed again in March 2015 for a second renovation project, and is due to reopen on 16 March – you can read more about the opening here.
Together with the adjacent Walpole Park, Pitzhanger Manor is likely to be one of Ealing’s most popular destinations for a family day out this summer.