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December 2005

Memories of Friars Lawn

In 1935, Friars Lawn, a handsome four-story brick house overlooking Norwood Green in Southall, Middlesex County, England, was purchased for his family by H. Gordon Selfridge, Jr. He was a senior manager reporting to his father, H. Gordon Selfridge, Sr., the American of Scottish ancestry who founded and headed Selfridges, the department store on Oxford Street, London, England.

According to the history compiled for John and Jane Boyer (the owners of the house starting in 1980) by Peter Bushell, the name of John Parkes appears on the record. Since H. Gordon Selfridge Jr. had a close, life-long friend with that name, it seems likely that Mr. Parkes served as a surrogate in the purchase.

The family, with four young children, Oliver Gordon, age 9, Ralph Gordon, 8, Jennifer Ann (author of this paper), nearly 5, and Martin Gordon, 3, moved into Friars Lawn in the autumn of 1935. They lived there until the spring of 1940, shortly after which the family moved permanently to Mr. Selfridge’s native land, the United States. The children’s mother was born Charlotte Dennis, the daughter of a London solicitor whose father and grandfather had been vice admirals in the Royal Navy.  

When the family was at Friars Lawn, Norwood Green was beautiful - grass-covered and bordered by rows of magnificent elm trees. The little post office with its red postbox stood just down the road.

In front of the house were handsome iron railings, with a brass sign identifying the house as Friars Lawn. Gates opened to the short driveway to the attached garage to the right of the house, and to a flagstone walk to the house’s front steps. There was a small lawn on each side of the walk. The children recall that there had originally been a small fish pond in the lawn, which was filled in for safety reasons when they moved in. Flowers and shrubs filled the beds on each side of the front garden, and a large stand of fragrant lavender was next to the front steps.

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