History of the estate

Download a pdf of History of the Estate

Ownership of Hillingdon Court
1855-1872 Sir Charles Mills, 1st Baronet
1872-1898 Charles Henry Mills, 1st Baron Hillingdon
1898-1920 Charles William Mills, 2nd Baron Hillingdon
1920-1978 The Little Sisters of Mary
1978 Acquired by ACS International Schools

Hillingdon Court was formerly the home of several generations of the Mills family -distinguished noblemen who became the Barons Hillingdon. There were five Barons, successively, and they were powerful influences in banking, politics, commerce, and the construction of railroads right up to 1982 when the 5th Lord Hillingdon died without an heir and the title ceased to exist.

Under the ownership of the Roman Catholic Church, Hillingdon Court became a nursing home. It suffered bomb damage during the Second World War, destroying a well in the inner courtyard that had supplied the house with water for decades.

The main house
The handsome and substantially built mansion was originally constructed in white brick and stone in the classical style, between 1854 and 1858, by P.C. Hardwick for Sir Charles Mills, an international banker from one of the most affluent City families of the 19th century.

The house is approached by a drive terminating in front of the north entrance with what is known as a 'carriage sweep'. The principal front faces due north and, up until 1920, looked directly over magnificently wooded parkland.

Entry to the mansion is by double doors into the vestibule hall, which still has its original tiled floor. The main entrance hall, with its magnificent oak staircase, oak floor (now covered for protection) and attractive marble mantelpiece, leads to a suite of elegant and well proportioned reception rooms.

Red RoomThe original morning room is located through a door on the left of the main entrance hall and an ante-room to the rear of the hall connects the former drawing room and the dining room, and gives access to the colonnade and terraced gardens to the south front. The drawing room (now called the Red Room, pictured) has a lofty ceiling and decorations in red and white, with gilt plaster work. When Hillingdon Court was owned by the Little Sisters of Mary, the Red Room (see photo second from left) was used as their chapel, but it has since been restored as far as possible to its original décor, complete with guilded mirrors and frescoed ceilings.

The dining room (now called the Green Room), is decorated in green and white and features an ornamental moulded plaster work ceiling, inset with circular paintings. It too has been restored as far as possible to the way it looked during the 1800s. The decorations in the Green Room include fruit, grains and hunting symbols such as the dog and fox faces painted on the ceiling. The last Lord Hillingdon, who visited the school several years before his death, recalled visits to the mansion when he was a small boy. His most vivid memories included watching the hunting parties leave in the early morning and return many hours later for festivities in the mansion.

The richly decorated reception rooms are adorned with ornamental plaques containing the initials of Charles Henry Mills and his wife, Lady Louisa Isabella Lascelles. The initials are entwined for effect. Also incorporated in the decorations, and cleverly hidden, are the servants' bells.

Connected to the main entrance hall by a long corridor are three smaller reception rooms. The first was originally a smoking room with cedar panelled walls and bookshelves. Further along is a sitting room, and an oak-panelled study with an outstanding marble mantelpiece. The kitchen, scullery, butler's pantry, housemaid's sitting room and pantry and the larder, an the fruit larder were originally on the ground floor well away from the main reception rooms. During his visit to the school, the 5th Baron Hillingdon recollected a tunnel - now gone - which had been built up to the tradesmen's entrance to make certain that no one in the main house could see any tradesmen coming or going.

The middle floor of the house originally contained eight main rooms - some used as bedrooms and some as dressing rooms. Along the south corridor there were five additional bedrooms and along another corridor, called 'the bachelors' corridor', there were five more secondary bedrooms. Today, all these are fully equipped classrooms.

There were 14 servants' bedrooms, each with a fireplace, on the top floor of the house. These bedrooms were approached by two staircases and a service elevator from the basement. The basement, which once housed the 'still room', two men's bedrooms, coal cellar, wine cellar, lamp room, boiler house, flower room, gun room and valet's room, has now been restored for use by the school.

The grounds and former outbuildings
When Hillingdon Court was sold in 1920 to the Little Sisters of Mary, the sale particulars referred to the gardens as being 'laid out in excellent style with flower beds, lawns, ornamental ponds, terraced walks and herbaceous borders, all surrounded by a belt of fir and other ornamental trees'. Today the grounds present a carefully tended space of beauty, providing a rich and diverse environment for education.

Sadly an ornamental summer house, an aviary, a racquets court, and the original walled kitchen garden, are no longer in existence. Near the mansion, but hidden by the ornamental trees, once stood a laundry, with wash house and tubs, carpenter's shop, several bedrooms and living rooms. There were also large stables, a coach house, and - at a later date - a garage for four cars. Most of these buildings have been demolished over the years before Hillingdon Court was acquired by ACS, however the lodge and the gardener's cottage still remain.

In recent years that campus has undergone considerable enhancements including a new gymnasium and cafeteria in 1986, the construction of a new student West Wing in 1997, and the opening of a cutting-edge music centre, Harmony House, complete with digital recording studio and purpose-built music rooms. Since 2010 a hi-tech astro turf sports pitch has been laid in the grounds and an Early Childhood playground built. Looking ahead, further major enhancements to the campus are being planned.