History of the site of Copthall School, Mill Hill
The buildings of Copthall school are on a site which has history as the following excerpts show.
The Manor House of Copt Hall
The old manor house of Copt Hall in the early 1800s
Page Street is the name bestowed on a small hamlet which lies in a valley between Mill Hill and the church of Hendon. The most conspicuous object here is Copt Hall, the residence of Thomas Nicoll, Esq. the representative of an ancient family which has possessed considerable landed property in this parish from a very early period.
This house was built by Randall Nicoll, an ancestor of its present possessor, in 1637. The front, which remains unaltered, and which looks upon an extensive lawn, skirted by ornamental plantations, and shaded with venerable trees, is a fine specimen of the domestic architecture of that age.
An historical, commercial, and descriptive survey of the metropolis of Great-Britain, Volume 4, Edward Wedlake Brayley, James Norris Brewer, Joseph Nightingale, printed by W. Wilson, for Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe, 1816
Copt Hall, the residence of Thomas Nicholl, Esq. stands conspicuous. It is an old mansion, and the front looks upon an extensive lawn, skirted by plantations and shaded by venerable trees.
The new British traveller, James Dugdale, 1819
Copt Hall house in Page Street, which was added
to the Nicholls' lands in 1603 and had been rebuilt between 1624 and 1637,
[was] greatly altered in the mid 19th century and later converted into flats.
[It]was demolished in 1959.
Hampstead & District Ramblers (undated)
Whether or not Copthall School was built in the grounds of the old 17th Century manor house of Copt Hall, I can't confirm although it is more than likely. The house was certainly close, and must have given the school its name.
The old house was at the top of the hill on the left of the aerial photograph on the buildings page. It was still there in my time in the 1950s, as I vaguely remember a dark and somewhat eerie edifice behind large dark trees. However, it was not on my route home, so I never investigated, which I now very much regret.
The house was demolished in 1959, shortly after I left Copthall, and flats were built on its site.
The next house to Edmundo Ross further up Page Street was Featherstone House, which is thought to have been the Dower House of the Nicoll family. Featherstone House was (and is) on the corner of Page Street and Wise Lane and was at one time owned by Claude Grahame-White, the famous aviator who had his works hangers at Hendon Aerodrome.
Jon Marsh, February 2012
The crest of the Nicoll family
The school badge was almost certainly based on the crest of the Nicoll family who lived in the manor of Copt Hall. Yet internet searches on the Nicoll crest return crests for several Nicoll families which bear no relationship to the badge of the school. It would seem that these sites - which are money-making ones - do not show the full story.
Staffing at the manor of Copt Hall
My great grandparents lived in Ivy Cottage on the corner of Page Street and Bunns Lane and they worked at Copthall. Great grandfather was a coachman and later head gardener at the Copt Hall house. At least one of their six children also worked at the House for a while. Ivy Cottage was knocked down and replaced by an office block of John Laing's [there in my time in the 1950s - Pat Cryer] which in turn was demolished for a housing estate.
Was Copt Hall haunted?
When I roamed around there in the 1950s, the old house was said to be haunted, but I guess it was really homeless men who frequently inhabited such buildings and frightened children off.
At one stage, Edmundo Ross OBE (the bandleader who died in October 2011 aged 101) lived in Wise Lane, practically opposite the entrance to Copthall, and he would often stop and talk to a group of girls. He always showed a great interest in what we were doing at school, and told us, "Do value your education. It's something nobody can every take away from you". How very true.
Sally Lawson (formerly Sally Porte)
Edmundo Ross lived in Edritt House in Page Street (not in Wise Lane). The next house to Edmundo Ross further up Page Street was Featherstone House, which is thought to have been the Dower House of the Nicoll family. Featherstone House was (and is) on the corner of Page Street and Wise Lane and was at one time owned by Claude Grahame-White, the famous aviator who had his works hangers at Hendon Aerodrome. Two cottages below Featherstone House were demolished in 1935 when Copthall Grammar School was built.
(I went to Hendon County School, but frequently cycled to Copthall to meet various girls to walk them home along Bunns Lane and Flower Lane to Mill Hill Broadway.)
Jon Marsh, February 2012