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Gardens worth a visit

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By Bystander

If you happen to find yourself in the Enfield area in London with time to spare, you could do worse than to drop in for a stroll round Myddelton House Gardens, one of a diverse range of attractions in the care of the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.

The gardens surround a large mansion used by the park authority as its headquarters. The house was built in 1818 for the New River Company, replacing an earlier Elizabethan manor.

The house was named after Sir Hugh Myddelton (1560–1631), architect of the New River, which was constructed to carry fresh drinking water into London from Ware, Hertfordshire, nearly 40 miles north of the capital.

The best known occupant of Myddelton House was the renowned botanist and horticulturist Edward Augustus Bowles (1865–1954), who was largely responsible for creating its magnificent gardens. Bowles has been described as “the greatest amateur gardener of this country, and the most distinguished botanist and horticulturist serving the Royal Horticultural Society”. He served as a council member and vice-president of the RHS.

The house and gardens have a pharmacy connection in that, after Bowles’s death, the University of London bought them to provide sports facilities for the School of Pharmacy and the Royal Free Hospital medical school (both now merged with University College London). A medicinal plant garden was constructed for the use of the pharmacy school. The university sold the site to the regional park authority in 1968 but retained the use of parts of the estate until 1999.

I remember going to Myddelton House in the late 1960s for the pharmacy school’s annual hustings ceremony, at which candidates for the presidency of the students’ union were ignominiously pelted with rotten tomatoes while attempting to declaim their policies. Sadly, this tradition died soon after.

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