Broomfield House as it looked in around 1903
Broomfield House as it looked in around 1903
The former avenue of elms photographed in 1971 by Christine Matthews
© Copyright Christine Matthews and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
The former avenue of elms photographed in 1971
by Christine Matthews
  Broomfield Park today, looking South towards the City
© Copyright Christine Matthews and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Broomfield Park today, looking South towards the City

Broomfield Park: History

History

The name "Broomfield" has its origins in the old word "bromfield", which meant a field of long grass that provided hay and grazing. The owner of a "bromfield" could take his surname from the word, and some in 1566 John Bromefylde, a London currier (dealer in leather goods) sold what became the the Broomfield Estate to Geoffrey Walkeden, a skinner (dealer in furs). The estate amounted to around 500 acres and until the 1920s extended to the south far beyond what is now the North Circular Road. In 1599 the estable was bought by Sir John Spencer. At that time there was prorbably only a modest farmhouse (the oldest in the area?) where Broomfield House now stands, but Sir John built high brick walls to enclose an area of about six acres and started the major extensions, which by 1624 had made it into the largest house in the Ward. He called it "Brome Howse".

Sir John was a wealthy London merchant, knighted by Queen Elizabeth I (to whom he was well known) and at various times Lord Mayor, a Sheriff and an Alderman of the City of London. He may well have been the model for the pompous character Malvolio in Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night. His son-in-law, William, Lord Compton, was responsible for the hunting interests of Elizabeth's successor, James I, and it is quite possible that the King used Brome Howse as a hunting lodge when riding between Westminster and Theobalds, the King's new property at the northern end of his royal hunting ground, Enfield Chase.

After Sir John died in 1610 the Estate was acquired by his former apprentice Joseph Jackson. It remained in the Jackson family for the next 200 years. Many improvements and extensions were made to Broomfield House during this period, its finest features being the staircase completed in the 1720s, with magnificent mural paintings by the Flemish artist Gerald Lanscroon. Beyond the walled garden the area was entirely rural; visitors would approach the house from the west along a double row of elms, which unfortunately succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease and were replaced by silver lime trees in 1978.

In 1772 Mary Jackson married William Tash. They had no children, so in her will Mary left "Broomfield" to her husband for his lifetime, and then to her friend Mrs Louisa Powys. Mary died in 1812 and William in 1816, so the Powys family then took over the Estate. From 1838 they let Broomfield House to tenants, the last of whom was Sir Ralph Littler - an important figure in the history of Palmers Green and Southgate, as he was largely responsible for separating the local government of Southgate from that of Edmonton in 1881.

The New Public Park

Sir Ralph left Broomfield in 1901, and various parts of the Estate were sold by the Powys-Lybbe family over the next few years. Broomfield House and 54 acres of surrounding parkland were bought for £25,000 in 1903 by Southgate Urban District Council, and Broomfield Park was formally opened to the public, with great ceremony, on 25th April 1903 - the first park to be opened in the Southgate area.

From 1907 to 1910 the Southgate County School used Broomfield House, converting the kitchens into science laboratories. It was then used in various ways, including housing the first maternity centre in Southgate, which opened on the first floor in 1917. In 1929 two more rooms on the first floor opened as a dental clinic. In 1925 the House opened as Broomfield Museum and continued as such (apart from during WWII, when it was commandeered by the RAMC), with the health centre on the upper floor, and latterly a cafe on the ground floor, until 1984. In 1950 the House was listed as Grade II*. The historic walls are also listed and the grounds have been included as Grade II in the national Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

On 25th April 1984 the House was severely damaged by a fire, which probably originated from a spark igniting dust in an electrical cupboard. Further fires, caused by arsonists, followed in 1993 and 1994. Many ideas for restoring the House since then have proved unsuccessful, but it is hoped that new proposals currently being prepared will give the House a new lease of life.