History

Local residents who have lived in the area more than 35 years – yes, there are some – will remember the imposing house, with huge copper dome, that used to stand with a commanding view over Highlands Gardens. It was built in 1897 by Mr Bevan Braithwaite,a Banker, Government Stockholder and amateur Astronomer, who it is believed was also instrumental in designing the gardens.

I have been in contact with Mrs Joan Cochrane whose father, Mr George P Howe,purchased part of The Highlands in 1930 from Mr Bevan Braithwaite the original owner. Mrs Cochrane gives a vivid description of many of its features;

“The windows were by Crittall, and some contained leaded lights; the staircase of oak; the ground floor parquet. Terrazzo flooring was in the foyer and on the terrace. The walls in the hall and on the upper two landings were panelled. This was a substantial house, with the roof fully lined with wood beneath the tiles and the lofts boarded. There were several immense cellars linked by hatches and one of them contained a huge boiler which provided hot air to the ground floor via brass gratings in the parquet flooring. Drains and sewers were lined with glazed white tiles”.

Within the copper dome

“Mr Braithwaite’s telescope was on a rail, enabling it to be turned 360 degrees. It had a sliding door in order to scan the heavens.”

Mr Howe converted the house into 8 flats for which he charged tenants rents of approximately 15/- to £1 per week including rates and repairs. During the war the copper dome was painted black as it was thought to be an aid to aerial navigation and the large lawn was dug up for vegetable plots. After 1951 the house again became a family home when Mr Howe, his married children and grandchildren gradually moved into vacated flats. However, by 1972 the house had deteriorated and was eventually demolished and rebuilt as we know it today.