Category Archives: HERTFORDSHIRE

RICKMANSWORTH PARK HOUSE

In February 1918 the  entire contents of Rickmansworth Park mansion were advertised for auction by the Public Trustees in the Estate of the late Mrs Julia Birch.

Rickmansworth Park 1 c1920 (Matthew Beckett)
Rickmansworth Park House, Hertfordshire. It was altered between 1864 and 1880. Sadly the house was demolished in 1927-28 to make way for a new school. (Lost Heritage)

The long list of furniture and fine arts provided a clue as to the wealth associated with the house. However, her death cast a shadow on Rickmansworth Park and it is questionable as to whether it was fully occupied again.

The Scotsman 9 Feb 1918
Taken from From The Scotsman. 9 February 1918. (The British Newspaper Archive).

Rickmansworth Park dated back to about 1805, built by Henry Fotherley Whitfield (d.1813) and built in the middle of Bury Park. It was described as a two-storey building with a five-bay front and dominated by a giant Ionic portico. After his death it passed to his widow, Mary, later wife of Thomas Deacon, who sold it in 1831 to Mrs Temperance Arden (1763-1843). It passed to her son Joseph Arden (1799-1879) and was sold, on his death, to his son-in-law, John William Birch (1825-1897). He had married Julia Arden (now Birch) (c.1830-1916), daughter of Joseph Arden and Mary Ann Munro, and was a partner of Messrs. Mildred, Gozenseche and Co, merchants, of St Helen’s Place, London. He was one of the directors at the Bank of England and became its Governor in 1878-90. ¹

Rickmansworth Park 2 (Matthew Beckett)
Rickmansworth Park House. Built about 1805 for Henry Fotherley Whitfield. Its Ionic portico at the front of the house gave it a grand appearance. (Lost Heritage)

Following his death in 1897 he left personal estate worth £65,330. Julia Birch received £1,000 as well as pictures, engravings, plate silver, jewellery, horses and carriages as well as live and dead stock on the estate. She was also left Rickmansworth Park for her ‘use and enjoyment’, and which, subject to her occupation of the house, was left in trust for sale, and the proceeds after her death split amongst his sons. ²

The oldest of these was John Arden Birch (1853-1896) but, seeing as he had died a year earlier, the house wasn’t sold after Julia Birch’s death in 1916. Instead, it appears to have passed to his wife, Charlotte Mary Leycester Arden (1858-1935).

Charlotte married a second time in 1905. Her new husband was Walter Bulkeley Barrington (1848-1933), 9th Viscount Barrington of Ardglass. His home was at Beckett, Shrivenham, in Berkshire, and the couple appear to have spent most of their time in residence here. As late as 1924 it was said that Rickmansworth Park was going to be their permanent home, as Lord Barrington had decided to give up Beckett, his fine Berkshire seat. It is not without reason that Rickmansworth was ‘entirely renovated and modernised’ in readiness for the move, but it appears that Beckett wasn’t given up after all. In 1925 Lady Barrington was said to be ‘desirous’ of letting Rickmansworth Park for the summer but they had already decided about the property. ³

Rickmansworth Park 3 (Nicholas Kingsley)
Rickmansworth Park House from an old postcard. The architect of the house was never determined. (Nicholas Kingsley/Landed Families)

In May 1927 a concert was held at the Albert Hall, London. It was chaired by the Prince of Wales and over £200,000 was contributed by masonic orders. Its purpose was to raise funds for the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls whose Clapham school was no longer large enough for its requirements. After the concert they had the funds necessary to buy the Rickmansworth Park estate and its 204 acres of land. (The mansion was said to be in a poor state of repair but, as we have seen, this probably wasn’t the case). ⁴

The Sphere 28 May 1927
Masons building an empire with human bricks. The Prince of Wales, Provincial Grand Master for Surrey, and President of the festival at the Albert Hall. Over £200,000 was raised which would see the demise of Rickmansworth Park. From The Sphere. 28 May 1927. (The British Newspaper Archive)

The first job at Rickmansworth was to demolish the grand old mansion, but it wasn’t until 1930 that the Duke of Connaught laid the foundation stone for the replacement building. Bizarrely, the ceremony involved the ‘scattering of corn, pouring wine and oil, and sprinkling salt on the stone’. The school still exists.  ⁵

The Sphere 7 July 1934
Making a round of inspection. Queen Mary at the new senior school of the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls which she opened at Rickmansworth Park. It had accommodation for 400 students and staff and took the place of the old school at Clapham which had been in use for 82 years. From The Sphere. 7 July 1934. (The British Newspaper Archive)

The Viscountess Barrington died at Beckett in October 1935 and was celebrated for being a member of the Shrivenham Settlement and Welfare Scheme, in which houses were built for ex-servicemen. Ironically, she died while her book ‘Through Eighty Years (1855-1935): The Reminiscences of Charlotte, Viscountess Barrington’ had just been sent to the printers. It was published by John Murray in 1936.

Royal Masonic School for Girls (jacqueline Harvey)
The Royal Masonic School for Girls. To ensure that the site would be suitable for many years to come, a lot of thought was put into the design of the new school buildings. It was designed by John Leopold Denman, an architect from Brighton. (Jacqueline Harvey)

References:-
¹ Nicholas Kingsley (Landed Families)
² Morning Post (5 June 1897)
³ Dundee Courier (14 August 1925)
⁴ The Sphere (28 May 1927)
⁵ Gloucester Citizen (17 July 1930)

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WROTHAM PARK

Wrotham Park (High Living Barnet)
Wrotham Park, built by Admiral John Byng, in 1754, from the designs of Isaac Ware, the architect. (High Living Barnet)

The Neo-Palladian country house, near Potters Bar and Barnet, was built in 1754 by Isaac Ware for Admiral John Byng. Unfortunately, he was court martialled and executed during the ‘Seven Year’s War’ and never got to live at Wrotham, named after the original family home, near Sevenoaks, in Kent. He’d never married, and the estate passed to the eldest son of his brother, Robert, who’d already died in Barbados. It was through him that the house descended to its present owner.

Admiral John Byng
Admiral John Byng, born in 1704, who, in 1757, fell a victim to an unjust sentence. (Wrotham Park)

The house, which was in the Classical Italian Style was described in James Thorne’s Handbook to the Environs of London (1876) as “a spacious semi-classic structure, of the style which prevailed towards the middle of the last century; it consists of a centre and wings, with recessed tetrastyle portico, and a pediment, level with the second story, in the tympanum of which are the Byng arms.” The third storey was erected by the 2nd Earl of Strafford in the 19th century. It bore a strong resemblance to Southill in Bedfordshire, another seat of the Byngs during the 18th century. The principal front of the mansion looked to the west, commanding views across the park, towards Elstree and Watford.

Wrotham Park The Illustrated London News March 17 1883
Wrotham Park, Barnet (south-west front), seat of the Earl of Strafford, destroyed by fire in 1883. (British Newspaper Archive)

It was during the tenure of George Stevens Byng, 2nd Earl of Strafford, that the house was nearly lost. In the early hours on 6th March 1883, a fire broke out in a box room over the central hall causing much alarm to the servants. The fire brigade from Barnet arrived at 2am, an hour after the fire started, and were soon joined by crews from New Barnet, Hendon and Finchley. However, strong winds and ‘massive woodwork’ caused the fire to take hold of the top floors. It did allow enough time for household staff to remove family deeds and plates to the stables, while valuable paintings were stored in adjoining buildings. A quantity of furniture and the contents of the library also managed to be saved. While the fire destroyed the bedrooms above, the Earl stayed in his library until 3am until he was reluctantly forced to leave. The greater part of the hall and the main ceiling collapsed soon afterwards. The interiors were rebuilt exactly as they were but using ‘new’ Victorian building practices. ¹

It may have been these building methods that saved Wrotham Park from a second blaze in 1938. A servant discovered that plush curtains in the first-floor bedroom of the 6th Earl and Countess had caught alight. She quickly raised the alarm and a ‘chain of buckets’ prevented the fire spreading before the fire brigade arrived. Nonetheless it was enough to destroy tapestries and wall panelling, as well as causing windows to break due to the intense heat. As one newspaper pointed out, “the mansion contained many priceless heirlooms saved from the fire 55 years ago.” ²

These days Wrotham Park is the property of William Robert Byng, 9th Earl of Strafford (b.1964) and is used as an events and wedding venue. Its distinguishing exterior has been used over 60 times as a filming location including Gosford Park, Vanity Fair, Great Expectations, Inspector Morse, The Line of Beauty, Jeeves and Wooster and Sense and Sensibility.

References:-
¹The Globe (7 March 1883)
²Gloucester Citizen (15 Dec 1938)

GOLDINGS

goldings-1-herts-memories
Goldings was architect George Devey’s biggest country house (Herts Memories)

Built: 1871-1877
Architect: George Devey
Private apartments
Grade II* listed

“Red brick, English bond, with diaper patterns in blue headers, above a coursed rubble stone base, and with ashlar dressings and stone mullioned windows; Welsh slated roofs with multiple stone-coped parapeted gables, numerous multiple shafted moulded brick chimneystacks with moulded bands and oversailing caps.” (Historic England)

goldings-2-savills
“I used to go on top of the roof for a smoke, climbing up the tiny staircase, passing thousands of dead bees and spider webs everywhere.”  – Jurgen Bergmann-Syren

Goldings is a large country house built Elizabethan-style by architect George Devey between 1871 and 1877.

Devey (1820-86) was one of the major Victorian country house architects, designing in a picturesque style, with Elizabethan and Jacobean details, which merged with the evolution of the Arts and Crafts Movement in the late 19th century. A skilled water colourist, Devey’s picturesque massing was based on pictorial composition, but his plans were often rambling and haphazard as at Goldings.

One critic is Mark Girouard who said of Goldings:-

“Devey’s weakness is especially apparent in larger buildings; and his big country houses are very big indeed. However fascinating the plan of a house like Goldings may be as an example of capable planning combined with apparent haphazardness on an enormous scale, the actual house is depressingly shapeless: it seems to dribble on for ever.”¹

waterford-goldings-munnings-small
Goldings, a family home until 1920, before becoming an orphanage. It has now been converted back to period housing

The earliest known Goldings mansion was built about 1700 for Thomas Hall, Squire of Bengeo. In 1813 the estate was sold to Samuel Smith and inherited by his grandson, the merchant banker Robert Smith, son of Abel Smith.

Robert Smith (1833-1894) took over the Goldings estate in 1861, and was Sheriff of Hertfordshire in 1869. He was the head partner in the old-established banking firm of Smith, Payne and Smith, of Lombard Street, and a partner in Samuel Smith and Co, Nottingham, Smith Ellison and Co in Lincoln. He married a daughter of Henry John Adeane, of Babraham Hall, Cambridgeshire.

The old Goldings Hall of 1650-60 was demolished around 1875, by which time the new house by George Devey, his biggest country house, was nearing completion.

ground-floor-plan
Goldings. The ground floor plan as designed for Robert Smith by architect George Devey
goldings-6-rightmove
“I always thought that the house looked rather sad. It was owned by the County Council and had fallen into a state of disrepair.” – Carol Fluters

Following Robert Smith’s death the house passed to his son, Reginald Abel Smith, who died in 1902. His wife, Margaret Alice Smith, remained at Goldings and allowed it to be used as a Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital during World War One.

The estate came to market in 1920 and attracted the interest of the Council of Doctor Barnardo who were looking for premises in countryside surroundings with open fields for recreation.

“One day, sometime around 1920, Mr Ernie Walker was working in the engine room when three well-dressed men came along to see him. They wanted to know whether the house, which at that time was only occupied by an handful of people, was capable of supplying water and handling sewage etc. for up to 260 people. This was the beginning of the negotiations, which led to a very dramatic change for Goldings.”²

In 1921 the house was sold to Dr Barnado’s Homes for use as an orphanage and renamed the William Baker Technical School.

“A great change occurred in April 1922 when the first Barnardo’s boys arrived. Two hundred and sixty from Stepney, led by their own band, marched along the road from the railway station at Hertford and took up residence. Later that year the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) came for the official opening of the William Baker Technical School as it was called. The large stables of the mansion were ideal for workshops and in the fifty acres of grounds there was plenty of space for a swimming pool and other sports facilities.”³

goldings-5-childrenshomes-org-uk
The William Baker Technical School at Goldings (childrenshome.org.uk)

In 1923 Goldings was modified and enlarged and a chapel added. A new wing was added north of the arched entry to the forecourt in 1960. In 1967 the orphanage closed and Goldings was purchased by Hertfordshire County Council for use by the County Surveyor’s Department.

In 1997 the council sold the property to London-based Harinbrook Properties to be converted into apartments.

goldings-7-rightmove
Goldings was used in the filming of the popular TV series ‘Band of Brothers’ (Rightmove)

References:-
¹The Victorian Country House (Mark Girouard) 1979
²www.goldings.org
³www.hertfordshire-genealogy.co.uk

Quotes courtesy of ‘Memories of Goldings in the 1990s’ (Herts Memories)

Goldings, Goldens Way, Hertford, Hertfordshire, SG14 2WH