Henley’s Heritage – Friar Park

In 1889, a wealthy London solicitor Frank (later Sir Frank) Crisp bought Friar Park from Revd John Collard, who had run a small school there. Crisp substantially rebuilt the house on a similar ground plan, and began landscaping the grounds, taking in the site of the demolished Friar’s Field. By 1897 the enclosed park (c. 32 acres) had assumed its later form, with additional lodges fronting the Badgemore Road at its south-west and south-east edges.

Following Crisp’s death in 1919 both house and land were sold to the financier and Chinese art connoisseur Percival (later Sir Percival) David (d. 1964), who moved away following his divorce in 1953. His former wife stayed on at Upper Lodge, which was remodelled (as Friar Park End) with the coach house and stable courtyard; the main house, however, was acquired by a Catholic teaching order, the Salesian Sisters of St John Bosco, which ran a school there.

On the west side, behind one of the brick walls, stands the two-storey, brick and stone-banded Lower Lodge (late C19, listed grade II), built in Flamboyant Gothic style, with a polygonal watch tower supporting a pyramidal roof.

Friar Park was purchased by The Beatles’ George Harrison in January 1970 and is still owned by his widow, Olivia Harrison.

The house is a colourful and eccentric melange of French Flamboyant Gothic in brick, stone and terracotta, incorporating towers, pinnacles, and large tracery windows. The architect was Robert Clarke Edwards, working probably from Crisp’s designs, and the builder was Charles Clements of Henley. The grounds, landscaped over 20 years, were equally eclectic, featuring a variety of gardens based on exotic, historical, or literary models, including an Alpine rock garden complete with miniature Swiss mountains, caves, and underground lakes. Like the house, they include references to friars in terracotta figures and other decorative motifs. Parts of the early garden design were probably by Henry Ernest Milner (d. 1906), working perhaps with Crisp’s gardener Philip Knowles.



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