The Bothy

About Stephen’s House & Gardens

Henry ‘Inky’ Stephens was born on 2 February 1841, the son of Dr Henry Stephens and his second wife, Anne who was from Redbourn, Hertfordshire. Dr Henry Stephens (1796–1864) was the inventor in 1832 of an indelible “blue-black writing fluid” which was to become famous as Stephens Ink and which established the foundation of a successful worldwide company for over 130 years.

Inky grew up among his father’s work and learnt the business from a young age. Outbuildings at their family home were used by his father as a laboratory for the research and manufacture of ink and wood stains, nurturing Inky’s love for experimentation.

At the age of 23, in 1864, he took over the management of the company upon the sudden death of his father who collapsed and died at Farringdon station.

 The Stephens Ink company was innovative and profitable, and Inky was a very wealthy man. He was popular in Finchley as a businessman, lecturer and philanthropist and was known as the ‘uncrowned king of Finchley’. He was also a politician and sat in the House of Commons from 1887 to 1900 as the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Hornsey division of Middlesex, which included Finchley.

Aside from the family business and politics, he was also a chemist and had an interest in agriculture and water management. Inky purchased the land, where Stephens House & Gardens, (formerly known as the Avenue House Estate) now sits, in 1874 and started developing the house and grounds. With the death of Inky in 1918, Stephens House & Gardens was bequeathed to the ‘people’. The Estate had a variety of uses before opening as a public park in 1928.

History of The Bothy Building

The grounds were laid out by the renowned landscape architect Robert Marnock (1800 -1889) in the ‘Gardenesque’ style. They are of regional significance, containing several listed structures and a collection of unusual trees and shrubs. The grounds were significantly expanded in 1878 through the purchase of Great Tapes Field to the East, and adjoining land to allow Stephen’s to pursue his interest and research into farming and the breeding of livestock.

In 1884 H.C Stephens began to buy the Cholderton Estate in Wiltshire to continue the research into farming and livestock. By 1900, the Cholderton Estate was a leading ‘model’ farm. Cholderton today is the nation’s leading example of ecology and sustainability under the stewardship of Henry Edmunds (H.C Stephens’ great grandson).

The Bothy’ was constructed in 1879-81, to H.C Stephens’ design for agricultural ‘sheds’ designed as a walled garden and farm buildings. The Building also provided accommodation for key estate workers’ families. The site comprises a two-storey building with courtyards to the north and south (known as ‘The Bothy’) which forms the eastern wall of the Bothy garden. The building is a Grade II listed structure and is currently on Historic England’s ‘Buildings at Risk’ register.

The Bothy later functioned as a nursery to supply other parks within Finchley until 1964, when it became the private garden of the Park Keeper. The accommodation then served as a private lodging for the Parks Superintendent of Barnet, Mr. G.C. Fedrick and his family , when it became a true ‘bothy’. The Fedrick family  departed in 1984 after which the Bothy appears largely neglected.

The Bothy is located within a heavily landscaped setting to the eastern end of the existing grounds but it was originally the ‘middle’ of the Estate. The land to the East (Great Tapes Field) was subsequently given over to recreational use, The Wilf Slack Sports Ground (check name) now adjoins the Estate, separated by boundary trees and shrubs.

The walled garden was taken over by a group of dedicated volunteers who began to rescue it and return it to public use which continues to this day. The garden walls were repaired in 1999 with the assistance of a grant from the Rose Foundation.

The original uses of the Bothy

 

  • The Walled ‘Bothy’ Garden – for supply of plants, vegetables and fruit, and originally containing a symmetrical arrangement of large timber and glass glasshouses (now demolished) on the North wall.
  • The Main Building (2 storeys) – the ground floor contained seed/vegetable storage cells to the South, an office to the Southwest corner and a dairy to the North (notable for a lack of windows).
    The first floor comprised 2 domestic quarters to the West and a hay loft to the East.
  • The North Courtyard – contained several single storey buildings (now demolished) built into the walls, to face a central open yard, comprising a milking parlour, machine shed, garage and dairy access.
  • The South Courtyard – contained further outbuildings, a slaughterhouse, a farriers or veterinary room, and a large open-sided room to the East elevation for storage carts and equipment

 

 

Heritage importance

The significance of The Bothy arises from a combination of factors including the building, its contribution to Stephens House & Gardens and the role of its creator Henry Charles Stephens.

The Setting of the Bothy has local significance through its purposeful location by Robert Marnock as an integral part of his scheme for the Estate, to serve as a visual element within the landscape. The Bothy was designed to be viewed from the drive and from the upper floors of the house.

Architecturally, The Bothy is distinct from the House and Stables and resembles a small castle. The original use of the building of the Bothy derives local significance through its purpose as a model farm. This significance is enhanced through an association with the Cholderton Estate of which it is the precursor.

The construction material of the Bothy derives regional significance as an early surviving example of the use of concrete.

Association with HC Stephens’ creation of the Estate encapsulates his innovation whilst his bequest to the people of Finchley was an act of enormous philanthropy to the borough.

Social History of the Bothy derives some significance from what it reveals of Victorian society and changing attitudes under public ownership. Residential use of the Bothy by a Barnet Council Parks Superintendent  may have been unusual and could be a good example of the changing role and history of Estate Keepers in London.

Community Use of the Bothy derives significance from its continued aesthetic contribution to the Estate and to the wider society through its former productive use. The disrepair and restoration of the Bothy is an all too common circumstance for historic buildings across the UK, so mapping and documenting the Bothy journey can illustrate the importance of maintaining historic buildings before they fall into irreversible dilapidation.