'A Modern History of Brookmans Park, 1700-1950', is the first in a series of four books by the late president of the North Mymms Local History Society, Peter Kingsford. His second is entitled, 'North Mymms People in Victorian Times'. Peter's third book is, 'North Mymms Schools and Their Children', and his fourth, 'Victorian Lives in North Mymms'. All have been reproduced in full on this site following permission from Peter Kingsford and the now disbanded North Mymms Local History Society.
Table Of Contents
- Chapter I - Lord Chancellor and Bank Governor
- Chapter II - The Squire's Domain
- Chapter III - Towards Dissolution
- Chapter IV - Developers' Delight
- Chapter V - People's War and People's Peace
- Historical notes
- Bibliography and references
LORD CHANCELLOR AND BANK GOVERNOR
The modern history of Brookmans Park really starts with the coming of the Gaussen family in 1786 for it was from their estate that the present place we live in was developed. As we shall see in the following pages successive members of that family were lords of the manor at Brookmans, living there for nearly 140 years. It was only in 1923 that they left and the new village of Brookmans Park began to appear and take the shape we know today.
Brookmans Park was and is, of course, only one part of the parish of North Mymms. The parish may, in fact, be seen as a group of settlements of people:- the old village of Welham Green, the street-like hamlets of Bell Bar and Water End, the outlying communities of Roestock and Little Heath which connect with Colney Heath and Potters Bar respectively, and later, Brookmans Park when the railway served it.
We should, however, go back a little earlier than the Gaussen family. We can then bring in the famous statesman who was lord of the manor of Brookmans and, perhaps more important for the common people, the enclosure of North Mymms common and the benefits it brought to the big landowners.
John, Lord Somers (1651 -1716) lived at Brookmans for the last fifteen years of his life. During those years he was, for two years, Lord President of the Council, one of the most influential men in Britain, and earlier he had been one of its most powerful as Lord Chancellor. One may suppose that much of the government of the realm was discussed at Brookmans and on the journeys along the Great North road to and from Westminster.
At the age of fifty he had had a long and distinguished career. The son of a Worcester attorney, he went to the cathedral school there, to Oxford at sixteen and then to the Middle Temple, being called to the Bar at twenty five. Born in the same year as Cromwell’s victory at Worcester which finally ended the Civil War, living his most formative years during the Protectorate, coming to manhood under Charles II, resisting James II, advising William III, he survived into the reign of Queen Anne. As the Whig and Tory parties began to form on the issue of the royal prerogative and the exclusion of Charles II’s roman catholic brother from the succession, Somers attached himself early and firmly to the Whigs by writing a number of political treatises.
John Somers, Baron Somers by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt
His appointment as Solicitor General, with a knighthood, in William’s first government, seems a natural step. A few days later he drafted the declaration of war on France. Immersed as he became in government business, he kept in touch with his Worcester constituents, and presented a petition from the city’s clothiers to require the East India Company to export a given quantity of woollen goods. After three years he moved up to the Attorney Generalship.
While the Whig junta remained in power and Somers had the full confidence of the King, his progress to Lord Keeper of the Seal and eventually to Lord Chancellor with a salary of £4,000, valuable perquisites and a peerage as Lord Somers of Evesham in 1697 was easy.
But his hold on this summit was brief for widespread resentment of the taxes to pay for the war led to a Tory House of Commons and the King dismissed Somers in 1700. Impeached by the Commons for his part in the peace treaty with France, he was acquitted by the Lords where the Whigs were strongly entrenched. However, although out of office, he was still influential. As England prepared for renewal of war with France, it was Somers who composed the speech from the throne:
"It is fit I should tell you the eyes of all Europe are upon this Parliament: all matters are at a stand till your resolutions are known, and therefore no time ought to be lost. You have an opportunity, by God’s blessing, to secure to you and your posterity the quiet enjoyment of your religion and liberties, if you are not wanting to yourselves, but will exert the ancient vigour of the English nation; but I will tell you plainly, my opinion is, if you do not lay hold of this occasion, you have no reason to hope for another."
William III died on 7 March, 1702. Somers bought the Manor of Brookmans in April 1702, perhaps intending to retire there. He knew that he was now out of favour. Queen Anne was determined to curb the power of the Whigs and Somers was immediately dropped from the Privy Council where he did not regain his seat until three years later. Since, however, the Queen was firmly for the war (Blenheim 1704, Ramillies 1706, Oudenarde 1707) and the Whigs, with Somers their leading man, gave it all their support, they gradually crept back into favour. Somers himself, while occupying Brookmans, was active in the problems of the Union with Scotland. The protracted negotiation, finalised in 1707, "was argued ... above all by the Lord Somers". This service, combined with Whig election victories led to Somers’s last great post as President of the Privy Council in 1708 at the age of fifty seven.
No doubt he did not spend much time at Brookmans while Lord President since he had his town quarters in Leicester Square, a fashionable residential district of London. He kept his post for only two years. For the country grew weary of war, heavy taxation and press gangs, while the Whigs failed to make peace on terms reasonable to Louis XIV. The election of 1710 gave the Tories a great victory, swept the Whigs out of office and Somers with them.
By now he was nearly worn out. He was frequently absent from Parliament on account of various illnesses — fever, jaundice, kidney stones, gout. In semi-retirement at Brookmans he suffered a stroke in 1712 from which he did not fully recover. The last four years of his life were marked by the Treaty of Utrecht with France which Somers and the Whigs opposed vigorously in as much as it left Britain’s allies in the lurch, and by the death of the Queen. At the accession of George I he was voted a pension of £2,000 a year and awarded a seat in the cabinet, but without portfolio. He was past work and died on 26 April, 1716.’
When Somers bought Brookmans from Andrew Fountaine in 1702 he paid £8,000, with another £54 for "Goods in the House". The house, "that new erected messuage", only about twenty years old, was a handsome four square mansion, commanding a delightful prospect, and close to the Great North Road. The price included the park of about 239 acres and about 180 acres of fields, meadows and woods, the names of which, such as Pepper Wood, Springfield, Shallowfield, have disappeared (or may still be remembered by some). A life long bachelor, he was looked after there by his niece and no doubt spent much of his time in his library of 9,000 books, enlivened by visits to meetings of the Kit Cat Club in London. His portrait, along with the other members of that famous club, may be seen at the National Portrait Gallery. As lord of the manor he probably presided at meetings of the manor court. In St. Mary’s church he altered his pew to suit his status, enlarging it to "12 feet long and 3 feet wide". His imposing monument in the church bears the inscription:
The Rt. Hon John Lord Somers
Baron of Evesham
Lord High Chancellor of England in the Reign of King William
To whose Memory this Monument was erected by Dame Elizabeth Jekyl
A wealthy man with landed property in Surrey and Worcestershire, he brought money into the parish, like many before and after him. A more particular benefit to the people were the 2½ acres of a field called Wants near Moffats which he conveyed to trustees for the use of the poor, in return for permission to stop up a right of way near his mansion.
The second major event before the coming of the Gaussen family was the enclosure of North Mymms common. This gave rise to the first in a series of increases in the area of the Brookmans estate. When George III ("farmer George") was king the enclosure movement swept England. The enclosure of the parish common under Private Act of 1778 (18 Geo III) was part of this. There was, in fact, a link between Somers and the owner of Brookmans, Sir Charles Cocks Bart, at the time of the enclosure, for the Cocks were related to Somers and Sir Charles eventually became the second Lord Somers.
|Brookmans in the 19th century
The common, an area covering then about one seventh of the parish, is occupied today by the BBC Station, Pine Grove, Queenswood School and Leggatts. It was divided up among the lords of the two manors, their freeholders and copyholders, large and small, and the vicar. Sixty one pieces of land were allotted to fifty two proprietors. As was usual, the large landowners gained the bulk of the land. Six big landowners were allotted 430 acre between them and in addition they bought many of the small allotments of the lesser owners who could not afford to enclose them. Another 151 acres were transferred to them in this way, giving them a total of 681 acres. Thus little was left for the small holders.
Sir Charles Cocks of Brookmans was one of the main beneficiaries, with the second largest allotment of 61 acres. This was in right of his estate and of his three cottages which had rights of common. To this must be added common land which he had bought before the Act, a piece of about 12 acres. In contrast, some of the old yeoman families sold out to the big landowners. For example, Thomas Marlborough disposed of his allotment of 2 acres and Joseph Marlborough his of 1 acre to the owner of Potterells, Charles de Laet Esq. By this time, therefore, Brookmans estate had probably grown by about 73 acres since the lordship of Somers earlier in the 18th century.
Very soon after the enclosure was effected by the awards of land in 1782 there was a series of changes in the ownership of Brookmans. Two years later Sir Charles Cocks, now created Lord Somers of Evesham, sold the manor and other property to Alexander Higginson, a lawyer of Bedford Square, London. The next year Higginson sold it to Humphrey Sibthorpe, "Doctor in Physic" of Skimpans who in turn sold it in 1786 to Peter Gaussen the Younger:
"Memorandum It is agreed this Twenty seventh day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand and seven hundred and eighty six between Humphrey Sibthorpe of the City of Oxford Doctor in Physic of the one part and Peter Gaussen of Saint Helen’s London Merchant of the other part as follows: The said Humphrey Sibthorpe for and in Consideration of the Sum of Sixteen thousand pounds of lawfull Money of Great Britain ... shall and will at his own expence make out a good Title to the said Peter Gaussen to the Manor of Brookmans with the Appurts and also the Capital Messuage called Brookmans with the Buildings Gardens Lands and Hereditaments thereunto belonging Together with the Household Goods Fixtures and Furniture now in upon and belonging to the Premises and also all other the Freehold and Leasehold Premises lately purchased by the said Humphrey Sibthorpe of Alexander Higginson Esq."
The newcomer, Peter Gaussen the Younger, thus started his family’s ownership of Brookmans which was to last over a hundred years and to exercise a wider and dominant influence over the whole parish of North Mymms. Like his predecessor, John Lord Somers, he brought the wealth of London into the parish. He could well afford £16,000 for Brookmans. Director of the Bank of England from 1761 until his death in 1788 and Governor for three of those years, he left in his will personal legacies alone of £57,340, and a gold mourning ring for each of his fellow directors. He had built on the wealth left him by his uncle Pierre Gaussen, or Peter the Elder who had in turn inherited from his brother Francois Gaussen, ‘marchant de Londres". This Huguenot forerunner had written his will with legacies of £7,130 in 1743:
"Au Nom de Dieu Amen, Je francois Gaussen de Londres Marchant etant malade de Corps mats par Ia Grace de Dieu sam d’esprit fais ma derniere volonte & Testament de La maniere suivants, ... pour ce regarde mon bten temporel Je veux & ordonne en premier lieu que tous Ies debtes que je devray justement au tems de ma mort sotent duement payees & dechargees aussy tot qu’tl sera possible. Je ordonne les Legs suivants Savoir:
Et pour ce qui est du Reste de mon bien Je donne en fidel commis a mes deux Executeurs que je nomme, savoir Mon Honore Oncle Mons. Jean Bosanquet & Mon frere Pierre pour l’usage & benifice de mon dit frere Pierre durant sa Vie Naturelle."
TRANSLATION OF WILL OF FRANCOIS GAUSSENOF LONDON MERCHANT, 1743.
In the name of God Amen. I, Francois Gaussen of London merchant being sick of body but by the grace of God sound in mind make my last will and Testament in the following manner, ... Concerning my temporal goods I wish arid order in the first place that all the debts which I rightly owe at the time of my death shall be duly paid and discharged as soon as possible. I give the following legacies, to wit: ...
And as regards the rest of my goods I give in fidei commission two executors whom I name as My Honoured Uncle M. Jean Bosanquet and my brother Pierre, for the use and advantage of my said brother Pierre during his natural life.
Peter Gaussen the Younger had married into another Huguenot family. His bride, Anne Maria Bosanquet, brought him the substantial dowry of some £6,000 while he provided for her and any children to the extent of £12,000. He did not live long to enjoy Brookmans, dying two years after the purchase. He left the property, £15,000 in Bank 3% Annuities and a third of his personal estate to his son Samuel Robert. Thereafter the Gaussens remained in possession of Brookmans for 135 years, until 1923. Their sarcophagus is prominent in St. Mary’s churchyard.
Samuel Robert Gaussen, The new owner, was himself wealthy before he inherited from his father. At the time of his marriage, five years earlier, to another Bosanquet girl, Elizabeth, he had £715 0 11¾ per annum in rents from dozens of manors and farms in Middlesex, Derbyshire and Warwickshire. This probably represented about £20,000 in capital, and the girl brought him £10,840. Two years after his marriage he received the great inheritance from his father, as mentioned above.
His "Freehold Estate called Brookmans Park situated near the High Road at Bell Bar in the parishes of North Mymms & Hatfield" was described in the previous sale from Higginson to Sibthorpe in 1785. The "Descriptive Particular" is worth giving:
Called Brookmans to which there are sundry Quit Rents paid Yearly to the Amount £5.3.6½ but after deducting Land Tax to which one of the Copyholders is subject, the net value per annum is £4.11.11. The Copyhold Estates within the Manor being about £32 yearly the proportion of fines of Heriots is £5.
Comprising the House which on the lower floor consists of Kitchen, Housekeepers room, Servants Hall, Cellars etc. On the Entrance floor a Vestibule Lobby two Stair Cases, two Closets, Break fast room & Drawing Room; on the next floor six Bed Chambers, & on the Attick six Rooms, all in complete Order & Repair having been newly fitted up last year at a considerable Expence with many Improvements £200. The Detached Offices which consist of Dairy ...
The description continued with details of The Park of 240 acres, Other Land in Hand of 72 acres most of which had growing crops, Clement’s Lease of 15 acres, the White Hart Inn with 20 acres, Ansell’s Tenement (a small new brick house) with 4 acres, the Smith’s Shop, Mrs. Stephenson’s House, Reeves Farm with 45 acres, and Lilly’s in Hatfield Parish with 45 acres and, of course, the timber estimated to be worth £2,500.
This description gives a total of about 440 acres. When Peter Gaussen bought the estate he paid "a further Sum of Three pounds for the purchase of the several Crops now growing upon the Ground" and another sum for the livestock at valuation. It would seem that not a great deal of farming was in hand.
Samuel Robert Gaussen took up residence in the handsome, late 17th century residence and engaged Humphrey Repton to landscape the park. He started to establish himself as a landed gentleman, prosecuting any labourers, such as John Williams who was sent to gaol for three months for poaching pheasants in Fox’s Wood. The Game Laws came into their own. After the enclosures landowners were more concerned to protect their property from dispossessed cottagers. The old rhyme was now out of date:
A sin it is in man or woman
To steal a goose from off the common
But he doth sin without excuse
Who steals the common from the goose.
Samuel Robert played his part in local affairs as Sheriff, as a trustee of the Galley Corner Turnpike Trust (the Great North Road ran close by Brookmans) until his death in 1812, and as churchwarden of St. Mary’s. He exercised his vote in the county elections of 1796, 1802 and 1806, during the French wars. Appropriately, as a monied man, still a nouveau riche among the county gentry, he voted for the Whigs; the Huguenot immigrants had always been anti-Tory. When Wiliam Baker of Bayfordbury, Whig MP for Hertfordshire, changed his allegiance to the Tory Party, Gaussen no longer voted for him. In politics Gaussen was of the same persuasion as his predecessor, John Lord Somers. His son, Samuel Robert II, survived him only four years, but his reign, though brief, was marked by another addition to the estate. In 1814 he bought 149 acres from Frederick Booth, thereby enlarging the estate to 589 acres. This land lay between the east end of Bradmore Lane and Moffats, including that house, and from Moffats southwards to Deep Bottom. It thus joined up the main part of his estate with Reeves Farm in the south.
For this property, the "Capital Messuage Lands and Hereditaments called Moffats", he paid £16,000 (£l08 per acre), nearly as much as Peter Gaussen had paid for the mansion and 440 acres twenty eight years earlier. But in the inflation and high agricultural profits of the Napoleonic war that was to be expected.
Some idea of the kind of farming during that war emerges from a sale of farming stock at Brookmans Park Farm. The rearing of cattle and pigs was combined with crops of wheat, oats and beans. Oxen pulled the Hertfordshire wheel plough: a pair, with harness, fetched £30. The vehicles, "a good 6 inch wheel cart, two narrow wheel dung carts, and a water cart, were pulled by two, 2 year old bay fillies of the cart kind". There were also many items of fuel for sale — 1,000 faggots. They fetched 18 shillings a hundred. The labourers bought faggots and they paid for them by "working it out with their masters". At the current basic wage of 12 shillings a week they gave ten days’ work for 100 faggots. Such was the heap at the bottom of the Gaussen pile.
Brookmans was already, and much more later, a significant part of North Mymms, the estate being nearly an eighth of the total area of the parish. The Gaussens were already one of the wealthiest families. They had great influence in the parish church since they had the living in their gift.
When Samuel Robert II died in 1816, his son Robert William became the new lord of the manor at the tender age of four.
THE SQUIRE'S DOMAIN
The new owner of Brookmans, Robert William Gaussen, was in possession for a long time, a period of sixty four years, stretching from the depression in agriculture after Waterloo until the second and greater depression in the age of free trade and imperialism of the 1880s. It must have been during his early life that a great expansion of the estate took place.
By 1844 the property had grown to no less than 2,068 acres, about two fifths of the whole parish, making Gaussen by far the biggest landowner. The only known part of this growth occurred when he bought the Gobions estate from the trustees of T. N. Kemble in 1838. It added 328 acres to Brookmans. For this he paid £23,000, or only £70 per acre. Thus if Samuel Robert II paid an inflated wartime price in 1814, Robert William benefited from the post war deflated price of land.
Included in this purchase was the mansion of Gobions. This eighteenth century house had replaced the mediaeval one known at one time as More Hall after the family of that name. The name of the great member of that family, the latter day saint, Sir Thomas More, is today perpetuated in Chancellor’s School and in the Roman Catholic Church in the parish. The estate agent’s description in 1838 gives some idea of a noble place:
"The mansion comprising on the ground floor dining room, drawing room, library, billiard room, gentleman’s or chapel room, sitting room & gentleman’s dressing room; on the first floor 4 principal bed chambers, 3 dressing rooms, water closet, 5 capital bedrooms, a dressing room & a water closet. The secondary apartments comprise 6 good bedrooms, store rooms, butler’s pantry, housekeeper’s room, kitchen, pantry & scullery, servants’ hall, bakehouse & larder. There are a laundry starching room, fruit chamber, washhouse, dairy, linen room, wine cellars & beer cellars capable of holding 120 barrels. Outside are the brewhouse, coal house, wood houses, knife and boot houses, water closet, coach house with granary and malt house above, stables & labourer’s cottage containing three rooms and a pantry; kitchen garden, greenhouse & hothouse and stabling for six horses."
The "Pleasure Grounds" with the lake, the "Lion’s Den", the temple "which is erected in the Woods fronting the Mansion, at the head of a Canal" and the bowling green, were celebrated for their beauty in their day. The "Triumphal Arch" also mentioned, perhaps designed by James Gibbs and dating from 1754, is the existing Folly Arch. According to a map of 1815 it led through an avenue of trees to the Pleasure Grounds.
All this, except the lake and the arch, has disappeared. Gaussen had the mansion demolished, for whatever motive, the contents scattered and the land amalgamated with Brookmans. The building materials of the mansion, including the 17th century staircase, were re-used to build The Hook, Northaw. The mansion was situated in the existing wood north of the east end of the lake.
Six years after the purchase of Gobions, the Gaussen property, totalling 2,068 acres in the parish extended broadly from Bell Bar on the Great North Road to Folly Arch and from Roestock in the north west to Swanley Bar in the south east, and into Hatfield parish. No other landowner in the parish approached this size. The next largest were Fulke Greville, Lord of the manor of North Mymms, (North Mymms Place 772 acres), W. Casamajor (Potterells 596 acres), W. J. Lyseley (Mymmwood 297 acres), Sir Davidge Gould (Hawkshead 249 acres) and T. & E. Kemble (Leggatts 227 acres).
Gaussen had profited by the times. The depression in agriculture after the French wars, lasting from 1815 to the mid 1830s meant low profits, low rents, low wages and low prices of land. Throughout the country small holders and yeomen sold up and landowners bought up cheaply. An example in North Mymms is Joseph Marlborough, formerly a yeoman, who sold his cottages and piece of land at Water End to Joseph Massey, a tenant farmer of Gaussen's. Land prices began to recover by 1840 by which date Gaussen seems to have completed his purchases.
Brookmans estate had now nearly reached its maximum. Gaussen, coming from a family of financiers, was an investor in land as well as a mere proprietor. The acquisition of Gobions had brought him about a hundred acres of cultivated farm field such as Dancers Hill Field and Mead, together with "the ploughings, half dressings, dressings, manure, seeds sown and labour done on the fallows at a fair valuation".
The estate in 1844 included, as well as three inns such as the Bell and the White Hart at Bell Bar, 15 farms such as those at Upper and Lower Bell Bar, Kentish Lane, Swanley Bar, Reeves’, Skimpans, Parsonage, Red Hall and Tollgate. All these, together perhaps about 1,400 acres, brought in rents to the amount of at least £2,123 a year. Other farms in Hatfield parish brought in another £458, a total of £2,581 per annum.
On his marriage in 1847 to Elizabeth Christian Casamajor he could, therefore, well afford the settlement on her of £1,000 per annum rent charge on the estate, or £35,000 of 3% Consols, together with portions for any children of £5,000 for one child, £10,000 for two and £15,000 for three or more.
From the mid 19th century onward the Brookmans estate was, therefore, a considerable economic and social organisation and Gaussen as a capitalist landowner no doubt calculated the return he could get from his investment in land in comparison with the return available from Government or railway stock. It was not uncommon for landowners to accept a lower return on land as the price for the status they gained in society. Gaussen’s position in the parish meant that hundreds of villagers were dependant on him for a living. He necessarily had working and personal relationships with a network of farmers and labourers, tenants and employees of different kinds. His rent books and account books give some idea of them.
|Robert William Gaussen 1812 – 1880
|Gobions, from a drawing by J.C. Buckler 1840.
Courtesy of Hertfordshire County Records Office (HCRO)
The most numerous of the tenants were the labourers who lived in the cottages scattered over his land. There were about fifty of them from whom Gaussen collected rents of £3 - £5 a year. His income from this source was about £200 per annum. About a dozen were rent free, tied cottages mostly for his own workers. These included Sam Dimmock, age 43, cowman with his wife, a straw plaiter, and five children; William Longstaff age 60, labourer with his wife and four children; John Burgess age 33, farm carter with his wife, a charwoman, and five children; Henry Viner, coachman with his wife and four children; all these at Bell Bar. Also with them were James Rands age 31, garden labourer with his wife, three children and widowed mother, a pauper, at Deep Bottom; Thomas Rands of the same address; Jesse Harris age 50, haybinder but an invalid with his wife and nine children five of whom were working including one aged ten, at Reeves Lane; Joseph Redington, gardener at Bell Bar; and the widow Messer age 44 with two children, formerly baker at Bell Bar, then removed to Pancake Hall, Welham Green, who was probably a special case for charity.
Higher up in the social scale were Gaussen’s farmer tenants. Among them were Joseph Tingay age 44 with his sister as housekeeper and two farm servants, ages 15 and 16, employing six boys and 12 men at Tollgate Farm; William Littlechild age 62 and his wife at Skimpans and 7 men; Francis Hart age 30 at Welham Green Farm with his wife, little son and fifty acres; and half a dozen others such as William Giddins, the farmer at Moffats.
Other tenants, of a different kind and lesser degree who contributed to his rent roll were the village craftsmen. At Bell Bar there were John Jackson age 39, journeyman smith from Devon with his wife and five children and Joseph Holton age 27, wheelwright and his wife, child and apprentice. At Welham Green Alexander Arnold age 32, cordwainer occupied, with his wife who was his bootbinder, four children and an apprentice, a house for which he had paid the considerable rent of £15 a year. Two bakehouses made up the total.
Another extension of Gaussen’s influence in the parish was in direct employment of labour. The maintenance of all his properties, and probably their improvement in the coming era of high farming, kept the local craftsmen busy. The blacksmiths, bricklayers and carpenters were paid considerable sums. For the half year ended June 1852 blacksmiths had £88, bricklayers £173, carpenters £113. As there were three blacksmiths, seven bricklayers and fourteen carpenters in the parish a substantial section of the villagers were effected.
His own employees complete the list of people dependant on him in one way or another. His bailiff, John Elliott, a north countryman of 33 living at Bell Bar with his wife and child, had sufficient standing to have a servant, a girl of 16 from Hatfield. The farm he kept in hand, also probably at Bell Bar, was not large, perhaps about 70 acres to judge by the number of workers who lived in rent-free cottages. This would be in line with the amount spent on farm labour for "ploughing, sowing, hoeing, hedging & ditching, etc." — £80 for the first half of 1852. The home farm seems to have been run at a small profit, averaging about £125 per annum. Such an amount was not significant for a man of Gaussen’s wealth and it may be that he kept the farm as a hobby or an example, or simply for the produce.
Dependant on him also was the large retinue of servants at Brookmans, though few of them were local people: butler, housekeeper, two house-maids, kitchen maid, page, groom and coachman. Faithful service was rewarded: he gave a pension of £20 a year for life to Charles Flint who had served the family for thirty years, first as a gamekeeper then as a bailiff.
Flint, described as a yeoman, had been appointed as gamekeeper in the manor of Brookmans in 1823:
"To take and kill any Hare, Pheasant, Partridge, and to seize and take all such guns, bows, greyhounds, setting dogs, lurchers and other dogs to kill Hares and conies, Ferrets, Trammells, Lowbells, Hays, or other Nets, Hare Pipes, Snares or other Engines for the taking and killing of Conies, Hares, Pheasants, Partridges and other game".
Now settled as one of the landed gentry Gaussen ran true to type in trying to stop the projected railway from running through his land. As chairman of the vestry he organised a petition to Parliament against the line which the Great Northern Railway was to take. When this failed the parish paid the costs. As the railway came it passed through four of his farms, Reeves, Moffats, Skimpans and Parsonage, cutting up his land but in other ways effecting improvement. The loads of London dung would soon be brought by rail to Marshmoor and Hawkshead. Rebuffed by the railway interest he succeeded in diverting the Great North Road from its route past his mansion and along the present Bell Lane to its modern line. This could hardly have improved the prosperity of Bell Bar though its coach traffic must, in any case, have been reduced by the railway. Out of at least three inns at Bell Bar only one remained thirty years later.
Gaussen’s power in the parish rested not only on control of livelihoods and dwellings but also on influence in the vestry which governed the parish, subject to the county magistracy and the Hatfield Board of Guardians in respect of the poor law. Even so, he also sat on both of these bodies. The number of votes he could muster at election time increased his political influence in the county. By 1850 the Gaussens had four parliamentary votes, all based on Brookmans. This was out of a total of thirty five voters in the parish. They were acquired by Gaussen granting a freehold rent charge of £200 to each of three relations, two of whom had an address in the Temple and the other was an army officer. The four votes remained with the family until 1866 but reduced to two after the Reform Act of 1884. In addition there were the votes of eight tenant farmers open to influence before, if not after, the secret ballot.
Brookmans figured prominently in social control. Churchwarden for many years, Gaussen gave regularly to the parochial institutions, the schools and the thrift clubs some of the money required to keep them going, e.g. £25 in 1865 rising to £37.10.0 in 1880. A major contribution was the Iron Room at Bell Bar, a mission room holding sixty to seventy persons, which he had built in 1877. In this rather remote hamlet, no longer on the route of coach traffic, the church held Bible classes in the summer and cottage lectures during the winter for many years. The Iron Room still stands in Bell Lane, though now in the service of mammon instead of God.
Gaussen helped the flourishing temperance movement and Brookmans often provided hospitality for the Band of Hope. The youthful abstainers walked in procession from church to the mansion where they had tea in the marquees. The gentry valued temperance and piety in the parish. Education had not, perhaps, quite as much priority, if this is judged by the absence of boys from school so that they could beat for the Gaussens’ shooting parties.
Gaussen also played the part expected of him in local government. He was a member of the North Mymms Sanitary Committee of 1866 which acted to remove the many nuisances and to reduce disease in the insanitary parish; deputy lieutenant of the county in 1870; chairman of the county constabulory committee at quarter sessions in 1872.
Gaussen died in 1880 and handed on the estate to his son Robert George. In January that year he wrote in his account book: "NB. In spite of the bad year all my rents were paid up to the day and there is not one shilling owing to me from anyone". That was the year of the worst harvest of the century. It was a happy situation for a landowner receiving about £3,000 a year from farmers in the parish. Such a one was George Sirett of Moffats Farm who paid £370 a year from 226 acres. All Gaussen’s tenants were willing and able to pay their rents. This says something for their prosperity and their relationship with their landlord.
Owner of Brookmans for sixty four years he had been the permanent element in a changing world and a changing parish. Of his farmer tenants thirty years before only two, Joseph Hart of Redhall farm and David Littlechild of Little Tollgate, were still there. All the rest were comparative newcomers.
The thirty years of high farming, improvement, greater profitability and higher rents were now coming to an end in Britain under competition from overseas. But while those years lasted Gaussen’s rents from his tenants and profit from his home farm rose, though perhaps not as much as prices. On the other hand, in common with other landowners, he probably invested a good deal of capital in buildings and equipment. One item in his accounts may illustrate this. His payments to Groom, the bricklayer of Bell Bar, averaged £100 per annum in the sixties and seventies.
Profits from the home farm went to pay for the expenses of the estate. Any deficit of the two combined was amply covered by the farmers’ rents. The following statement from his account book illustrates his domestic economy.
Probable receipts for the 6 months - 24 June to 25 December 1880 in £s
House account = 70
35 Loads of Hay @ 4 = 140
2 Bulls = 45
6 Beasts = 124
Cottage Rents = 80
Tithe = 34
Bark = 37
Sundries = 20
Total = 700
Probable expenditure from 24 June to 25 December 1880 in £s
Cottages = 35
Rates & Taxes = 100
Labour Estate = 80
Farm including Hay & Corn Harvest = 250
Beer for Hay Making = 35
Horse corn, Pigs food, oil cake, etc. = 85
Saddler, Wheelwrights, Blacksmiths, etc. = 45
Plumbers, Painters, Bricklayers, etc. = 80
Straw for Thatching, etc. = 30
Sundry unforseen Expenses? = 100
Salary = 85
Total = 925
The above also gives an idea of the kind of farming. It consisted chiefly of cattle rearing and hay crops: the sale of beasts and hay in 1880 brought in £800. Forty loads of hay went up to London; the return journeys, of which there were sixty three during the year, brought manure at 7s a load. The significance of the cottage rents and of the sale of timber may be noted. Bark was for the tanners.
Over the years it is a picture of prosperity. Even the wages of the farm labourers had risen, especially after the Agricultural Workers Union was formed in 1872. But hard times and the great depression on the land had already appeared. A pointer in that direction may perhaps be seen in the fact that Tollgate Farm of 180 acres was occupied by a railway clerk instead of a farmer and Skimpans Farm, 200 acres, was apparently tenantless. Both were Gaussen's.
The next period in the history of Brookmans was one of greater change though much remained as before. The situation and the personal background of Robert George Gaussen, the new owner, were very different from those of his father. A month after his accession in 1880 the depression on the land was already so general that Gladstone appointed a Royal Commission on Agriculture. Now began the years of falling prices and falling rents. Fortunately for North Mymms landowners and farmers the prices of beef and hay did not fall as much as for corn. Moreover they were, to some extent protected by their nearness to the ever growing London market.
One may wonder whether the new lord of Brookmans was as well qualified as his father to deal with such an unpromising situation. The experience of a captain in the Grenadier Guards was not likely to be ideal for the problems of adjustment to changing conditions. Some of the old traditions in the use of the land were maintained. For example, when Gaussen let one of his farms, Parsonage Farm, to Alfred Walker in 1888, the agreement described in detail how the land was still to be "managed according to the rules of good husbandry". The new tenant had the right to destroy rabbits "by ferreting, but not by trapping, shooting or by dogs". This farm had become slightly bigger than when R.W. Gaussen had let it to James Littlechild in 1844. Thirty four acres had been added from the Potterells estate of the Casamajor family, perhaps part of a dowry. The rent was £224 per annum, or about £1 per acre.
If, as seems likely, Gaussen’s farm lands at that time were not less than his father’s had been in 1844, his income from farm rents in the parish was probably about £1,500 a year. This was clearly much less than that of his father in 1850s. It was still, however, about forty times the wage of a farm worker. In fact, wages had risen noticeably especially since 1872 when the vicar warned his flock against joining the newly formed Agricultural Workers’ Union. Landowners and farmers were indeed caught between the falling prices of agricultural products and increased wages.
For many landowners in the home counties Scotland provided an answer to the depression. Scottish farmers came south to take over farms, which their English tenants had not been able to make profitable. This happened in North Mymms and to Captain Gaussen. The two farms of his which were untenanted in 1881 were taken in due course by two Scots, Tollgate Farm by Sinclair and Skimpans by Crawford who had already brought his own kith and kin with him and settled at Potterells Farm.
Even in the years of depression the captain was able to maintain an expansive style of life. At Brookmans his staff included the butler Joseph Warner, footman Job Burr, upper housemaid Emily Gatland, under housemaid Fanny Starsmore, laundry maid Margaret Lambert, under laundry maid Emma Tyrrell, scullery maid Annie Swan, coachman James Cheeseman, grooms Ernest Arnold and William Brown, head gardener Andrew Grant, and gardeners Charles Knight and William Brown, not to mention his agent, Archibald Gorrie who had served his father before him. Hardly any of these were local people, only Job Burr was a native of the parish.
His expenditure provided for a yacht. While the family were cruising off the Dutch coast in 1891 the mansion was totally destroyed by fire. Fire engines galloped up in due course from Hatfield, Hertford and Barnet, but only when the third arrived was there a sufficient length of hose to bring water on to the flames, and by then it was too late. Melting lead from the roof poured down the walls and the whole building became a glowing furnace.
The loss of the 17th century mansion and its contents must have been severe. According to the Hertfordshire Mercury some valuables were saved: oil paintings from the drawing room, library, billiard room, dining room and sitting room, wine from the cellars, plate and documents from the strong rooms, fine books from the library, guns from the study and the smoking room, but "curios and articles of vertu of immense value" perished. The origin of the disaster was believed to be a painter’s spirit lamp. There was some compensation when the vestry reduced the rate assessment from £225 to £75.
The domestic servants also lost; they had moved into the mansion while the family were away and their belongings went up in the flames. There may well have been insurance but the mansion was never rebuilt and it was the stable block which was converted into the family residence, later into flats, and eventually in 1929 into the present golf club house.
Following in his father’s footsteps in parish affairs, the captain was a pillar of the church as churchwarden for ten years during the remaining existence of the vestry, and host to the Band of Hope. In 1890 a great crowd of 277 members in contingents from Welham Green, Water End, Bell Bar and Little Heath converged in procession on Brookmans for recreation and refreshment.
Times were changing, however, and there was a new spirit abroad after the landless labourers received the vote in 1884. In the vestry, soon to be replaced by the democratic parish council, it was considered that the tithe owners were avoiding payment of the full rates due. When the captain’s agent refused to pay the full rate on his master’s tithe the vestry threatened him with a summons and only after much heat eventually reached a compromise in the matter.
Also like his father before him, the captain tried to resist encroachment by the Great Northern Railway but, like him, without success. In his petition in 1902 against the railway company acquiring twenty acres of his he alleged that they were close enough to Brookmans Park and "the Mansion" to injure his property if, as seemed to be the intention, a station, goods yard and depot were built there. He offered, however, to sell land at Marshmoor which was, in his opinion, the right place for a station. With this view the parish and the district councils did agree, but the station was eventually built in Brookmans Park.
The financial difficulties of the captain’s successor to Brookmans, which were to appear a few years later, may have originated during the period of agricultural depression. A sale of Gaussen land seems to have taken place in 1898. "Bell Bar Farm No. 2", Colney Heath farm and Round House farm, a total of 213 acres, were apparently sold to Francis Rickards. That sale had, however, little effect on the total property.
|Moffats Farm in the early 1900s
One of the farms shown is Moffats, where the tenant was Charles Honour. While Rider Haggard, the novelist, was preparing his book on Rural England (Vol. I, 1906) he interviewed Honour and wrote about him as follows:
"A very interesting farmer whom I saw on a subsequent day was Mr. Charles Honour, of Moffat’s Farm, North Mymms. Mr. Honour told me that he had worked his own way, and that what he possessed he had made, for he did not start with a penny Since the Russian war he had been climbing up till he took his present farm of 350 acres, of which only twenty two were pasture. He had a family of sons, all of them teetotallers like himself, of whom one was a baker. Three of them stayed at home and helped him, and he said of these three that they got through as much work as five hired men, — the old story of men labouring for their own house — and that he paid them according to what they did. Labour, he told me, was very expensive and inferior, and the young men, many of whom were ‘neither use nor ornament to themselves or anyone else’ kept going away. Rents in that district he put at from 15s to 25s the acre, according to the quality of the land.
Farmers, he thought, were not doing ‘so very well’. The business required great perseverance and practical men to make it succeed. There was very little margin for profit, He had managed to get along, but if he were asked, he could scarcely say how, perhaps because they all worked together, daughters as well as sons, but many only ‘scratched along’ and were not able to do their land as it ought to be done. He kept pigs and cows, retailing the pork and milk himself, which, he said, paid better than sending them to London; also he did a great deal of carting, and were it not for the money earned thus would, he declared, be sometimes hard pressed Mr. Honour said that there were no small-holdings in that neighbourhood; indeed, if he could do so he should like to find a little farm of from fifty to 100 acres in which to put one of his sons ‘When starting lads’, he added, ‘let them have a pinch to begin with’."
Thus at the beginning of this century the captain was, as his father had been, by far the biggest landowner in the parish. After him came Mrs. W. H. Burns at North Mymms Park, J. Thompson at Mymwood, S. G. Sheppard at Leggatts, the Marquis of Salisbury, and the executors of C. Field at Hawkshead, in that order. The total area of 4,423 acres owned by these six landowners was no less than 86% of the whole area of the parish. Between them the half dozen largest landowners had increased their hold on the land, though in fact the Gaussens were the only family to have survived that period. On the other hand, the very small landowners, those having less than an acre, had shot up from fifteen to fifty one, a change largely due to housebuilding in Little Heath. The middle sized owners had been squeezed.
When the captain died in 1906 the Gaussens had run out of male heirs and there began the regime of his daughter Emilia and her husband, Hubert Ponsonby Loftus Tottenham, who assumed by royal licence the name and arms of Gaussen. It was to last only seventeen years. The new squire spent about £1,000 on improvements. For whatever reason it soon became necessary to raise money on the estate and there began a series of loans or mortgages secured on it. Why this happened at a time when landowners and farmers had recovered some of their former prosperity, can only be conjectured. The first loan in 1911 of £6,500 at 4% was followed rapidly by loans of £5,000 in 1912, £3,000 in 1913, £1,500 in 1917, £6,500 in 1919 (in three separate payments) and £6,500 in 1920 (in two payments). The total sum raised came to £29,000. The interest payable amounted to £1,474 per annum, or about half the income from rents a few years earlier. In the meantime the Gaussens had found it necessary to sell part of the estate in 1914. This sale covered 596 acres which included the outlying farms of Redhall, Parsonage and Tollgate. Little now remains of the first two. What events, whether of misfortune, mismanagement or extravagance, led to these financial changes remain unknown.
The financial difficulties suggested here may have had a bearing on the family’s relations with the parish council on the question of allotments. The council, since its inception in 1894, had seriously tried to meet the heavy demand for allotments from the villagers. The problem was how to acquire the land. Mrs. Burns, of North Mymms Park, having provided the first piece of land in Welham Green, thought that other landowners should supply the second. Negotiations with Brookmans over this were so long drawn out that finally in 1912 the county council intervened to award land on the Gaussens’ Skimpans Farm. The same problem arose at Little Heath. Mrs. Gaussen was asked by the parish council if she would sell a piece on Swanley Bar Farm but the price asked was too high and the search continued until eventually again it was the county council which offered five acres which it had acquired by compulsory purchase.
During the 1914-18 war the financial decline of Brookmans seems to have continued. There was a fourth loan on the estate in 1917. While inflation grew, farmers were protected by guaranteed prices and labourers’ wages maintained by minimum rates of pay. The Gaussens still received their rents. Daniel Crawford was paying them some £500 a year for Skimpans Farm alone. This may not have been so, however, in every case. When it became compulsory to notify any "land improperly farmed", the Gaussens’ Swanley Bar Farm was duly reported to the War Agricultural Committee.
Socially, the family continued the tradition of good works and contributed to the war effort. By December 1914 the Brookmans stewards house was in use as a small hospital holding eight wounded soldiers. Mrs. Tottenham Gaussen supplied flannel and wool for the Water End schoolgirls to make vests and mufflers for the Red Cross, and gave a site for the Scout hut. She organised the Registration of Women Workers in Agriculture in respect of North Mymms parish. Her mother presented new doors for the church. With the end of the war the whole situation of Brookmans changed drastically.
In the same year as the last loan of £6,500 in 1920, the Gaussens sold another part of the estate by auction at the Red Lion Hotel, Hatfield on 23 September. It was a good slice of 558 acres. S. C. Titmuss, the tenant at Lower Bell Bar farm bought it for £3,500, James Crawford of Potterells Farm had Skimpans Farm of which he was already the tenant, and Kentish Lane Farm went to Imperial Hotels. There were sixteen other smaller lots in the sale on the Great North Road, Bell Lane, Woodside Lane and at Hawkshead, including thirteen cottages and the White Swan. The Rural District Council was interested in some of the land for a sewage outfall works for Welham Green. These sales were merely a stop gap.
Meanwhile Mr. and Mrs. Tottenham Gaussen continued at Brookmans. The stable block had been converted into a residence with servants’ quarters. The scale of living was a good deal lower than the glory of former days. Now there were a mere six servants, cook, kitchen maid, house parlourmaid (instead of manservant and housemaids), nursery governess and two nurses. These latter may be explained by the number of children in the family, no less than six. The accommodation was greatly reduced; on the ground floor, dining room, sitting room, school room, kitchen and pantry; on the first floor, main bedroom and dressing room, childrens’ rooms and servants’ bedrooms.
|The farm at Skimpans
Mrs. Isabella Money (nee Logie) was cook at Brookmans at £1 a week from 1912 to 1914 and from 1918 until her marriage in 1920. She remembered the daily routine. She herself rose at 6.30 by which time the kitchen maid had lit the range, there being no scullery maid or under housemaid to do it. The servants’ breakfast of bacon and eggs at 8 was followed by the childrens’ breakfast at 8.30 at which time the parlour maid called the gentleman and lady and then served them their breakfast of bacon, eggs, kedgeree, kidneys etc. at 9.30. At 10 o’clock Mrs. Tottenham Gaussen visited the kitchen to order the menu for the day, which was invariably in French. Lunch, sardines on toast, meat and vegetables, and pudding, was at 1. Tea and toast was served at 4 o’clock. Then at 8 it was time for dinner, sometimes with the company of local gentry, soup, fish, meat and vegetables, sweet, cheese and finally coffee. After clearing up the servants could go to bed.
|Reeve's Cottages, Hawkshead Lane (inscription RCC 1882)
This regime lasted only a few more years. The end came in 1923 when a syndicate of John White, a Birmingham contractor, J. J. Calder of Allsop brewery, Burton on Trent, solicitor J. A. Hattrell and ex army officer Major Burton bought the rest of the Gaussen land, an area of 969 acres, for the sum of £43,000, enough to cover the mortgages and leave something over. The Gaussen era of 130 years was over. The land was now available to develop a new commuter village at Brookmans Park. The syndicate then formed Brookmans Park (Hatfield) Ltd. to do the job.
Land, capital and labour had to be available for development and construction. There had to be a market for houses and buyers ready to part with their money and take up mortgages. Legislation, or the lack of it, influenced the situation. Overriding all these was the climate of the British economy in general and of the building industry in particular.
The national scene was an encouraging one for the enterprise. The immediate post war boom and slump were over. Rates of interest were still high but wages had fallen. When the Conservatives had won the general election of 1922 a new principle of housing policy was introduced by the Chamberlain Housing Act of 1923. Under this Act a fixed subsidy for each house was payable to private builders as well as to local authorities. The subsidy was too low to permit rents which working class families could afford and in the event private builders used the Act for houses for the middle class.
The company’s first scheme, which might have benefitted from the Housing Act, followed the current fashion for garden cities. Letchworth had already grown to some ten thousand residents, Ebenezer Howard had recently formed the New Towns Group, and Welwyn Garden City had begun to show promise. The plan for Brookmans Park as a garden city shows a dense network of streets, with public buildings and town square, a plan for a wholly urban community.
The company soon abandoned this scheme which seems to have been too ambitious. By 1924 its declared intention was to build 2,500 houses. It realised that as well as "residential type houses", other houses for workmen to serve them would also be required, at least a hundred it thought. These, however, would have to be placed where they would not affect the company’s property. Sixty would be at Little Heath and forty north east of the estate near Welham Green. This created a problem. The company, therefore, proposed a deal to take advantage of the Housing Act. It would provide the workmen’s cottages if there were a ninety per cent loan from the district council. The council responded that it would convey the land and arrange a fixed subsidy but it would require immediate erection of thirty two cottages (there was a waiting list of thirty in the parish) to let at rents of ten shillings and others to follow at fifteen shillings per week. However, neither the subsidy nor the loan available were enough for the company and the deal fell through. Another attempt was made two years later but by that time the council had built its own houses at Little Heath.
|Moffats, formerly one residence, showing the mansard roof
The first real step towards the business of building was taken late in 1924 when the company stated it was about to build "a new road near the station site" of about eighty houses, allowing seven per acre. It therefore enquired from the district council about the construction of a sewer via a piece of James Crawford’s land and railway territory. The council’s response was that it would lay a sewer and enlarge the Welham sewage works only if there was no cost to the rates. After the company entered into a bond for the required amount, the piece of land had been bought for £100 and the railway company’s agreement had been secured, in 1926 the council issued a loan of £6,350 for thirty years to be borrowed on the special expenses of North Mymms parish and accepted a tender for the work in November that year.
By this time there was a railway station. From the beginning the company must have understood that if there was to be a market for its houses there would have to be convenient railway travel to the City. It had the example before it of Little Heath where, in the rapid development at the turn of the century, commuters could use Potters Bar station. By 1924 the company informed the district council that it had "arranged for a railway station". At that time the newly amalgamated railway companies were not flourishing and the London & North Eastern Railway was the least profitable of all. It therefore required some inducement, beyond the promise of new commuter traffic, to build a new station. The result was that an agreement of May 1925 provided for the company to pay the railway £500 per annum until five hundred houses were built. That, however, was a long way ahead. In due course the station was opened for traffic on 19 July, 1926.
Currently other financial problems arose. The cost of bringing water, gas and electricity was high. Electricity had to come in via Folly Arch; water and gas by the Great North Road. There was heavy expenditure on road making in, for instance, Mymms Drive and Bradmore Way. Income, on the other hand, was still very low, small amounts like £30 for fishing rights from the Southgate Angling Club. The company, like the Gaussens before it, borrowed heavily. But in the late 1920s rates of interest were high as a result of Britain’s return to the gold standard at pre war parity, contrived by Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1925.
During that decade the company succeeded in selling some plots and some houses were built. Early in 1927 a dozen new houses on the estate were occupied. In the same year the district council approved plans for thirty houses; in 1928 for twenty houses; and in 1929 for forty houses. These were in Brookmans Avenue, Moffats Lane, Mymms Drive, Bradmore Way, the Great North Road, Kentish Lane and Swanley Bar Lane, and the builders concerned were Phillips Brothers, D. C. Pearce & Sons, Brookmans Builders and others. The private status of Brookmans Avenue and Mymms Drive dates from this time when the company’s request to the district council that it should take over these roads was rejected.
The only subsidised houses on the estate appeared about 1928. The district council agreed to a proposal from the National Cottage Society for twelve houses at Swanley Bar Lane. The Society received a lump sum grant under the 1923 act towards the cost of £555 for each house. In the same year there was a suggestion of building another batch but nothing came of it. The society had succeeded where the company had failed. In 1929, however, the company successfully persuaded the district council to accept some unwanted responsibility for Bell Bar. "This village", it said, "forms no part of the Scheme". It claimed that "it had tried to provide houses for the working class but had not been able to build the cheaper type to let at rents which the cottagers could afford". The problem was five cottages, one of which was empty, which were "really slums".
Accordingly the council agreed to accept the land in question, about 1 acre, demolish the cottages and build six in pairs. There was to be nothing fancy, the cottages would have earth closets, though "of an improved type"; the cost altogether £2,048. The cottages were not in fact dealt with until the slum clearance scheme of the 1930 Housing Act.
By the end of the 1920s, therefore, the Company had made a start. The vicar counted 117 houses on the estate in 1929. He warned the readers of the parish magazine that before long Brookmans Park would need a new church, but he was able to announce that the owners of the estate had promised a site.
At the same time, while the problem of drainage had been sorted out, other problems remained notably the important one of scavenging. Who was to empty the dustbins and when? Although the parish council was opposed to the district council taking on the task for the estate, the district council did agree 10 do the job, but only when there was "further development", a reasonable proviso since then, in 1927, only twelve houses were occupied. Gobions Cottages, built by the National Cottage Society, also had to wait for it. Only when a petition signed by G. Lynch at number 5 and nine others alleged that since they had first occupied the cottages six months earlier they had had to bury all their refuse, did the council send its open cart. "Covered conveyances" were still in the future. Queenswood School, with 260 persons, was not so fortunate. Its request for regular scavenging met with "No Action".
Meanwhile Brookmans Park entered the national scene when the BBC came into the estate. The newly formed corporation, looking for a site for a new transmitting station, selected an area on the north east side of the Great North Road. This was the property of the estate company from whom the corporation bought 36 acres in 1928 and took an option for a further 24 acres adjoining. The company thus had a welcome addition to its coffers. There were few problems in the transaction.
There were no planning restrictions but each party had certain reservations. The company was concerned at the height of the masts and the style of roofing. For its part the corporation insisted that there would be no use of electricity or industrial activity on the estate which might interfere with radio transmissions. The station was built quickly and completed in 1929. The great masts were a seven day wonder for local residents.
|Drawn from map in the Estate Brochure 1930 and ....
|... showing from top to bottom, Brookmans Ave., the old Moffats Lane, the track to Folly Arch and the first houses in Mymms Drive. The red arrow (top right) indicates the approximate line of the Old Great North Road.
The next decade got off to a good start with forty six house plans approved in 1930. They extended to George’s Wood Road. Progress had been made at the golf course, with expenditure of some £5,000, to attract the right sort of resident. But all this was not to last. The years of deepest depression were imminent. Building plots became more difficult to sell though considerable sums were spent on advertising.
Both the company and the builders had felt that good publicity was necessary for success. Brochures, showing all the attractions, had been issued to draw customers. "How Brookmans Park is unique", "Brookmans Park, a real country home within 35 minutes of Town", one such read. And, "These photographs give some impression of the beauty and charm of Brookmans Park". These showed milking time at the Home Farm, "an old world house" recently built, the tennis courts with a lady in cardigan and cloche hat at the net, "Brookmans House (sic) which now forms five delightful residence", and a view of the lake, "which has been used for bathing and will make an ideal open air swimming pool". The description was equally seductive:
"The opportunity of living in a house with all modern conveniences, on one of the great ancestral estates of England, absolutely unchanged and undisturbed in its essential character, that is what Brookmans Park offers you. The plan of the estate is absolutely to avoid crowding any portion of it with brickwork. Every house will be built well back from the roadway, giving dignity and seclusion, and leaving the original spaciousness of the avenues unspoilt. You will be able — not merely this year but always — to glance our of your windows at some of the loveliest scenery in England, at hills and valleys, rugged old trees and wide meadows. A few minutes walk will take you to one of the three delightful lakes, to Gobions wood, the Italian sunk garden with its lavender and water lilies surrounded with lawns and giant cedars, while you can draw your Grade ‘A’ milk, eggs and other supplies from the Home Farm."
The hand of the advertising agent may be detected here. Transport, it was alleged, was excellent, especially the trains during the "rush hours". ‘‘The latest Theatre Train leaves Kings Cross at 12.15 a.m.". It was also cheap; a season ticket for three months to Kings Cross cost £4 8s. And there were always the buses; "a fleet of single decker pneumatic tyred buses run through the estate". As for the houses, they were quite superior:
"There are several notable innovations in most of the houses central heating is installed in the hall and on the first floor landing, to take away any chilliness without making the house stuffy. This installation is so arranged that it can easily be extended, if desired, through to the rest of the house. The site of each house has been carefully considered in regard both to its situation and the points of the compass, so that protection from inclement weather is combined with a maximum of sunshine on a maximum of windows. The difference that this careful planning makes to the cheerfulness of a house needs to be seen to be appreciated. A Cloakroom with Lavatory Basin and WC is installed on the ground floor, in many cases Lavatory Basins with hot and cold water are fitted in the bedrooms. The domestic parts of the house are conveniently placed, and planned so as to save unnecessary labour and moving about. The bathrooms are of the most modern type, and are easily kept clean. The tiled sides of the bath for example, extend to the floor, so that there can be no accumulation of inaccessible dirt underneath All garages are sufficiently large to take a big car comfortably."
Phillips Brothers, builders of 41 Bradmore Way, issued their own brochure. Their detached house cost £1,095 with no road charges and rates of £33 per annum (9s 4d in £); the semi-detached, but highly desirable, house — £885 and rates of £29. Their description also showed the advertising hand:
"Houses erected on the Brookmans Park Estate are attractive and arresting. To the wife because their appearance is pleasing and they are planned to save as much time and trouble as possible; to the husband because the call on his pocket is so reasonable for houses of this type. Close attention is paid by Messrs. Phillips who, by the way, have both lived on the estate for the past nine years, to the seen and unseen details of each individual house. The Roof is close boarded The Walls are of Fletton bricks on a solid concrete foundation 9" x 27". The damp course is of two courses of slate bedded to breakjoint. Windows are Crittails all metal in wood surrounds with oak sills which can be cleaned from inside and have gunmetal fittings. All wood work, if stained, is of pine except the floors; oak flooring being layed in the hall. The Kitchen, a joy to the housewife, is tiled and in addition to two large modern Lloyd loom cabinet cupboards has also a large airy pantry and a store cupboard such as is seldom seen in the usual modern house. An Ideal Boiler is fitted. The Bathroom also is tiled and the fittings in both these rooms are, of course, chromium. One Bedroom has gas fire installed and there is a gas point in one other Bedroom and also the two rooms downstairs Electric power points are also installed."
What more could any one wish for, especially as by this time some of the basic needs could be met locally by the Moffats Farm Dairy with its "noted herd for rich cream", by the greengrocer at the Orchard in Bradmore Green, by "Irene" the permanent waving specialist at moderate charges, and by the 18 hole golf course?
In the whole of 1931 builders submitted only eleven plans to the district council (in Brookmans Avenue, Bradmore Way and the Great North Road). This was the year of financial and political crisis, which led to the National Government of Ramsay Macdonald. The squeeze on house building came from cuts in pay all round, on one side, and the higher bank rate of 6%, high for those times, on the other. The return to financial stability after the pound was driven off gold, and at a cost of three million unemployed, resulted in a fall in the bank rate to 2%. This may have had some effect on the increase in house plans to nineteen in 1932, including now the north side of Moffats Lane. Even so, the number was so far below what it had been and the improvement so slight that it was not enough to save the financial situation on the estate.
The company went into voluntary liquidation in 1933. With the builders, it had tried to adjust to its financial condition by increasing somewhat the density of houses. The district council would not approve plans for two houses in Moffats Lane because the frontages of 35 feet conflicted with the density required in the town planning scheme which had been made under the Town Planning Act of 1932. The council required frontages of 45 feet and although these for the houses in question were agreed at 40 feet, the rest were to be 45. Pursuing the same line, the company proposed that the houses to be built "between the railway and Bradmore Way" would be a smaller type.
At this point an estimate of the number of houses on the estate is about two hundred. There were two shops at the then junction of Bluebridge Road and Brookmans Avenue; dairy produce, poultry and eggs were still available at the Home Farm. This was nowhere near the five hundred stipulated in the agreement with the L.N.E.R. and no great achievement for ten years’ effort.
In the financial reorganisation of 1933 two of the chief shareholders, John White and J. J. Calder, each formed a private company and between them divided the estate. White took the area approximately northward from Brookmans Avenue and George’s Wood Road, while Calder had the southern half. The end of the subsidy to the railway company as a result of the company liquidation must have been a bonus.
Fortunately for the new owners the climate for house building became much more favourable. The building boom of the 1930s, the main bright spot in the gloom of general depression, got under way, Moreover it was one of private building. The elements of the boom were various. On the supply side, in an era of cheap money, the bank rate remained at 2%; bricklayers’ time rates were low at first and recovered only slowly; materials fell in price; overall the cost of building also fell until the late thirties; the abolition of all subsidies for council building (except for slum clearance) by the national government drove resources into private building. On the demand side, the existing housing backlog, growth of the professional and salaried class (notably in banking and insurance), fall in mortgage rates charged by the ever expanding building societies, low income tax, all combined to favour new development on the Brookmans Park estate.
The effect of this situation and of the new management was slowly apparent on the estate. Builders gradually became encouraged. The number of houses and plots approved by the district council rose steadily from 24 in 1933 and 41 in 1934 to 55 in 1935, which was slightly higher than the pre-slump level. They were in Brookmans Avenue, Brookmans Cul de Sac (timbering to be in oak not less than 1 1/2 in. thick and the eaves to project at least 9 in.), Moffats Lane, the Great North Road, Bradmore Way, Mymms Drive, Peplins Way, George’s Wood Road and one in Uplands Drive. New roads had to be made — Peplins Way, and others on the land west of Bluebridge Road, and others extended — Moffats Lane. A proposed new road from Bradmore Way to Bell Bar was not approved; though approved later, in 1936, it was not made. The builders, D. C. Pearce & Sons gained approval for four shops and flats at Bradmore Green, subject to "the triangular open space in front is kept open. Others got in on the act. The Ratepayers’ Association was concerned about density, among other matters. The Association had been started in 1929 because, in the words of the then chairman:
"the need was urgent to ensure that development took place along well ordered lines and that amenities should be jealously guarded and maintained. The area would be occupied by people used to town amenities, not content with the almost feudal atmosphere which existed in the parish of North Mymms. There was a need to reconcile our outlook and aspirations with that of the rural population among whom we had come to live. There were many matters which required attention…"
It now wanted a density of eight per acre in Bradmore Way; the council agreed to ten. The Bolton’s Farm Estate submitted an ambitious development in which there were to be 817 houses on 130 acres, together with shops, school, tennis courts and open space. The Moffats Farm Estate obtained approval of its layout, which, however, stipulated reservation of a strip of land 100 feet wide "along the stream banks". The owners, Hall and Martyn had paid John White £2,000 for 1.8 acres. R. D. Storey applied for a veranda and a dance hall for the "Brookmans Park cafe". Things were looking up.
During the late 1930s the private building boom continued and the estate was developed at a better rate. Now, however, rather more regulations had to be observed under the Town Planning Act of 1932. The district plan laid down different zones of land use, particular densities of houses being specified for each. In addition there was an ineffective Ribbon Restriction Act of 1935. As well as building plots and individual houses, layouts of land and new roads had to be approved by the district council. Thus in 1936 there was approval of the layout of land between Swanley Bar Lane and George’s Wood Road which showed four roads in that area, and in 1937 the layout of Bluebridge Estate.
The latter is remarkable for what might have been; the land "between Bluebridge Road and the L.N.E.R. immediately south of Hawkshead Lane" was to have four roads, garage and petrol pump, fourteen shops and "a site for public assembly or open air sports", while a strip along the stream was a private open space. After some delay all this was approved with the garage on Bluebridge Road near to Station Road. New roads appeared: The Grove, and another "from George’s Wood Road to The Drive, parallel with the Great North Road", presumably the future Pine Grove."
Builders, such as Phillips and Hicks became increasingly active. The council approved plans for about 55 houses in 1936 and about 60 in 1937. Business was improving. John White, one of the developers, sold a record amount of land in those three years, 5.32 acres for £19,014. This included three quarters of an acre to Hadley Brewery for the future Brookmans Park Hotel. As well as in the previously mentioned roads, there were to be new houses in Uplands Drive, The Grove (12 there), Kentish Lane and Westland Drive. Construction continued apace also in Brookmans Avenue, Bradmore Way, George’s Wood Road and in Moffats Lane where the lodge was given a water closet at the rear.
In George’s Wood Road a dispute arose. The value of property was at stake. The owners of the eight properties already there in 1936, valued at about £1,075 each, expressed their alarm at the prospect of bungalows. The council therefore deferred its approval for consideration of the likely effects and only later sanctioned two bungalows and four semi-bungalows, provided that the larger ones were built opposite existing houses. It continued to be concerned about the "better class of bungalow" and rejected one bungalow on the south side near the Great North Road as being unsuitable. A new word — Bungalette — appeared for an even lower class of dwelling. Bungalows were, however, all right for Westland Drive where thirteen were approved in 1937.
Building materials also came under the council’s eye. In Brookmans Avenue, the Great North Road and elsewhere it insisted that "all half timbering is to be constructed and not just planted on the face of the brickwork". It was not only a matter of keeping up appearances. A complaint from the Ratepayers’ Association that there was not the proper space between houses in Brookmans Avenue was duly taken up, only to reveal that one space was seven inches short. The builder was admonished and property values were safe on that score.
Amenities for the good life appeared. The rebuilding of Titmuss’s coffee stall on the Great North Road at Bell Bar and the extension of Storey’s cafe were probably for the cyclists and hikers of the 1930s but the coming of two public houses no doubt appealed to some residents. Plans for the Cock of the North gained approval in 1936 and the Hadley Brewery’s licensed premises at Bradmore Green in the following year. Shops, however, meant civilisation for everyone. In 1936 the shopping area was increased by "land close to the railway siding" and the council agreed to eight shops and flats in Bradmore Way. Estate offices were naturally busy. Taylor & Meluish opened one on the Great North Road and John White moved his from Bluebridge to Bradmore Green.
In the last two years of the decade, 1938 and 1939, development came to a peak. A record number of 106 houses received planning permission in 1938 and fifty two in the first half of 1939. The counterpart to this activity was John White’s sales of land: in 1938 2.4 acres for £2,230; in 1939 3 acres for £3,091, plus £6,776 for 18 acres sold to the BBC, giving him a comfortable total of £12,097 in two years. The greater part of the new plans were in Westland Drive, the home of the bungalow. Although there were projects elsewhere, particularly in Bluebridge Road and George’s Wood Road where bungalows and bungalettes, of the right kind, were now more acceptable, in Westland Drive no less than thirty five plans for bungalows received approval.
The doubtful status of the bungalow was, however, again an issue elsewhere. This time it was the people of Uplands Drive who were up in arms. Seven residents protested against a plan for nine bungalows, not in their own road, but in Pine Grove, "as it would seriously depreciate the value of their properties". The Ratepayers’ Association, now in 1939 well represented on the district council, took the pragmatic view that if there had to be bungalows they should be an appropriate type. In the event property was protected if one may judge from the number of bungalows there now. In George’s Wood Road, too, the number of small bungalows was strictly rationed.
Pine Grove was also the scene of another problem, a conflict between public planning and private profit, in the days when planning was still in its infancy. John White, the Birmingham contractor, wanted to continue the road north to the main road but the county council would not agree to Pine Grove having direct access to the Great North Road. Other projected roads had a mixed reception by the council. J. J. Calder, the Burton on Trent brewer received permission for a new road off Mymms Drive and promptly named it after himself. A golf club service road was disapproved of because it was too narrow.
As war drew closer people could look forward to more amenities. In July 1938 C. F. Day put forward a project for sixteen more shops and flats on Bradmore Green; these were to be "facing Brookmans Avenue and Bradmore Way". The children who went to be privately educated at Moffats School could use a gymnasium there. Nuisance was held at bay; permission to have kennels at Bell Bar and at Swanley Bar Farm was refused.
Other schemes for improvement were also much in the air. The London County Council came onto the scene with a proposal to buy 106 acres bounded by Bradmore Lane, Wise’s Lane and Station Road, to be used probably as playing fields, which was eventually accepted. Thus the fields of the former Bradmore farm of which Arthur Young, the agricultural expert, complained so bitterly in the 18th century, were to be transformed, but nothing came of it. The district council, for its part, was urgently considering open space, for which it had been pressured by the Ratepayers’ Association. There were two possible areas. One was Gobions, for which the owner was prepared to negotiate. The other was at Folly Arch. There were discussions as to whether the avenue of trees from the Arch was to be included or not. Eventually, however, the council did resolve to buy eleven acres of meadow and twenty two acres of woodland, together with the Folly and the lodge for £1,830, and to apply to the Ministry of Health for a loan of £2,215. War in September put an end to such ideas for the time being. In October the Ministry refused to sanction the loan and the council told the estate’s agents that the deal was off.
PEOPLE'S WAR AND PEOPLE'S PEACE
Like everywhere else, the flourishing, new village of Brookmans Park, did not escape the effects of war. It was both a reception area for evacuees from London and a place where some bombs fell.
It is not known how many evacuees came there. In the whole parish there were 278 evacuee children in February 1940. Some of these, probably a minority, were in Brookmans Park. They came early. Five days after the outbreak of war on 3 September, 1939, they were in the Brookmans Park Hotel, courtesy of Fremlins. A week later they were occupying rooms at the golf club-house, but soon moved to Moffats School. Moffats House, part of which was taken by the Roman Catholic Servite School, was approved by the Ministry of Health as a hostel for one sex, preferably girls, in August 1941. The house was apparently used partly as a school, partly as an evacuees hostel and partly as a children’s canteen, until late in the war. Improbably, Folly Lodge was also considered. The council, in fact, requisitioned it for evacuees, a limited number presumably, but gave it up when it was found to require expenditure of £100 to make fit to live in.
Brookmans Park does not seem to have been overburdened by evacuation. In general, during the war, "the poor housed the poor", according to A. J. P. Taylor. A billeting survey by the council in July 1942 revealed that 65% of the houses in North Mymms had surplus accommodation, and concluded that "a very substantial number of people can still be accommodated".
Considered safe enough from bombs to receive evacuees, though nearness to De Havillands might suggest the opposite, the estate was not unscathed. The London blitz of 1940 left marks. On the night of 7 November, 1940, a bomb fell six feet from a pair of semi detached houses in Swanley Bar Lane. One house was in a dangerous condition; it must also have been crowded for it housed five evacuee children as well as its resident family of husband, wife and four children. They were all put into a house which had been requisitioned. Nine days later unexploded bombs fell in Georges Wood Road and Moffats Lane. The residents were evacuated to the golf Club-house Numbers 6 and 8 in Georges Wood Road were damaged beyond repair and were officially demolished in 1941. Young Ted Marlborough and his grandfather, members of a family which had lived in the parish since the 17th century, had a miraculous escape. One of a stick of dud bombs fell just outside the door of Bradmore Cottage, which they occupied, the grandfather being a ganger on the line between Hawkshead and Marshmoor. Another fell on what is now Gobions Open Space, then a field of Moffats Farm. That was all for the time being but there was a renewal towards the end of the war. Flying bombs hit Bell Bar in June 1944 and the farm buildings of what had now become the Al Dairies and cottages there suffered damage, as did a house in Bradmore Way.
One of the results of the evacuation and bombing was homeless persons. Half way through 1944 there was still some long standing cases in the parish for whom the council had requisitioned property in Bell Bar and the north lodge; some of the rooms in Moffats which were not used for education may have been filled in this way.
Defence against the danger from the sky occupied the energy and leisure of the residents as air raid precaution wardens, first aiders and auxiliary firemen. The estate was not wholly unprepared. Even before Munich volunteers had attended classes in A.R.P. at Moffats school and had passed their examinations. By the end of 1939 a wardens’ and a first aid post, with Dr. J. J. Dwyer in charge, had been set up, first at the Brookmans Park hotel and then in a shop on Bradmore Green where an A.F.S. station was also situated. There were ambulances at the golf club where Mrs. Burton, wife of the club secretary, and Miss Moore of Mymms Drive were the drivers. Next year there were wardens posts in Mymms Drive and Georges Wood Road, a first aid group at the golf club, provided with garages for three vehicles by the district council. The council also built a public shelter on Bradmore Green.
Changes took place in 1941. The considerable number of people engaged during the blitz was slimmed down. The first aid post at the golf club was replaced by a mobile unit where ambulance drivers were on duty each night. A volunteer fire guard party was assembled. How busy everyone was kept is not on record but the air raid wardens, at least, were in need of diversion for they put in a request for a shove halfpenny board, a skittle board and some new darts. Last, but not least, the Home Guard based on the North Lodge, Bell Bar, mustered with its medical officer, Dr. Dwyer, ready to defend the BBC station to the last man and to keep Brookmans Park free from Nazi intruders, and in Britain’s hour of danger the parish invasion committee made its preparations.
The war brought about social change, perhaps more than ever before. Social life often expanded under the stresses of wartime; people had fresh thoughts and began new activities, and old organisations became more lively. On the estate Frank and Evelyn Aldridge in The Grove started a branch of the Workers’ Educational Association which has continued ever since. At the same time a feeling of isolation arising from difficulties of transport prompted Evelyn to cycle to county hall and the county librarian agreed to a branch library in Brookmans Park provided the Aldridges would have the books in their home. They and others continued to run it as volunteers until after the library moved to Bradmore Green in 1947.
During those uncertain years religious spirit grew stronger and more united. Before the war the growth of the estate had brought some change in the congregation at St. Mary’s church. An estate resident filled the influential position of vicar’s churchwarden. The church had had its Sunday schools on the estate and at Bell Bar. In May 1944 co-operation between the established church and the Congregational church brought about an open air service in Brookmans Park to mark Salute the Soldier Week. The vicar regarded this as a good augury for the future and he organised subsequent services "with our nonconformist friends". His successor shortly afterwards, who came from the army, was anxious to draw the incomers to St. Mary’s church. After he had tried, and failed, to run a coach to the church, residents in The Close and Mymms Drive organised car transport which became well used. A new organist and choirmaster also came from the estate, as did a manager of the church schools. An attempt was made to "reopen a Church Sunday School in Brookmans Park", though without success for the time being.
"Our nonconformist friends" had come to the fore, after over one hundred years’ quiescence in the parish. In March 1941 the first step was taken when George Hey and his wife started a Congregational Sunday school, initially in a hut at Moffats and later in the old squash court, which had been a barn of Moffats Farm, and which subsequently became the Church of England’s chapel of ease. Thirty children were on the books. Help and advice came from the Potters Bar church. As the children increased the next step was to convert a shop on Bradmore Green as both Sunday school and church where services began to be held in 1942. Next year the efforts of a handful of people, the twenty one founder members, were rewarded by the foundation of the Brookmans Park Congregational Church. By the end of the war the church had grown to thirty six members and the children at Sunday school to eighty four. Another new wartime activity for youngsters was the Scouts who formed the 1st Brookmans Park Troup in 1943. Long established bodies such as the Red Cross became popular among the women of the estate; "competitions" at the hotel brought in funds to the Red Cross Society.
Such were some of the social benefits of war time. There was another one, of importance for all and particularly perhaps for women. In 1938 the North Mymms Nursing Association had made an appeal:
"The committee understand that many friends in the parish wish that Nurse Sadler could have a small car to enable her to encompass the work of her large and growing area more expeditiously ... Will all friends, particularly those in outlying district, such as Brookmans Park, and who would like to see Nurse relieved of her long bicycle rides, please send donations to the hon. treasurer."
Perhaps because war conditions made it necessary and possible the nurse did at last have a car and petrol for it soon after the outbreak of war. She continued her invaluable service as many in Brookmans Park can testify. In contrast, the spread of bricks and mortar came to a halt. During the whole period of the war only one plan for a house was submitted to the district council What was left of the building industry took on smaller jobs.
There were numerous projects for garages. Folly Arch lodge was to have a kitchen and bathroom, 35 Bradmore Green was allowed an additional lavatory, the garage at Bell Bar could be extended, that was about all. On the other hand John White continued to sell land to many optimists, 12½ acres for £12,643.16.3 during those war years.
If the fields were spared a little longer, the trees were not. In 1941 the Bluebridge Estate had permission to fell five oak trees, provided it replanted. Timber was scarce. Folly Avenue, as it was called in 1943, disappeared. The council’s intention to schedule the lime trees for preservation was frustrated when it found that they were being felled. It therefore accepted the owner’s explanation "that he had bought the land for ploughing but found it impossible with dead and useless trees scattered all over the place", and accepted also, unwisely as it turned out, his expression of sympathy for the idea of replanting. Meantime nearby Boltons Park Farm went ahead with increasing accommodation for cows and workers. Government policy encouraged cattle keeping as well as subsidising the ploughing up of land.
Government planning was not only the means of increasing production but also the harbinger of new attitudes to the use of land. In 1943 the new Ministry of Town and Country Planning appeared and in the same year a new Planning Act. Professor Abercrombie was working on the Greater London Plan, which embraced Hertfordshire. In its submission to the Plan the district council put the existing population of Brookmans Park at 2,300, but its ultimate one at 7,500. This was ambitious, and even more so was its recommendation that "a substantial part" of North Mymms Park should eventually be acquired as a public open space.
When the Plan appeared it not only limited the population to 2,500 but condemned the whole place outright:
"The development here consists of an entirely unfinished dormitory estate based upon the railway station, with a small shopping centre at the station. Development is confined to the east side of the line. That any growth whatsoever should have occurred here is to be most strongly deplored. What has begun to occur is the establishment of yet one more residential unit in the centre of the Green Belt between the two old established and fast growing communities of Hatfield and Potters Bar. The houses that have been erected should have been built at Potters Bar itself where they could have been welded and blended into the existing town life. Further expansion at Brookmans Park should be most rigidly controlled."
It was clear that the estate should never have been. The district council’s reaction to this view was predictably hostile; the Plan’s proposed increase in population was quite arbitrary, it declared. It was quite possible to expand further, with the existing facilities, while at the same time "preserving the golf course and the other open spaces which had been negotiated before the war". At that time, 1945, there were three different views of the ultimate population: 2,500, 4,000 and 7,500. Thirty six years later, in the 1981 census, there would be about 5,000 souls. So much for planning.
|Bradmore Green in the 1930’s
The problems of clearing up after the upheaval of war were not serious. Damaged property had to be repaired — Elm Tree Cottages, the bailiff’s house and the farmhouse at Bell Bar; homeless families persisted and property was still under requisition for them; the future of Moffats had to be decided. This ancient house "with 20 rooms, 4 bathrooms and a large kitchen requiring much structural repair and redecoration" now had a purchaser who would make alterations to accommodate "English families returning from Hong Kong". The district council was not prepared to contribute anything to that change but it would pay £10 to the golf club for redecoration and a new carpet made necessary by civil defence use. And it would demolish the A.R.P. shelter on Bradmore Green.
With peace, people took fresh bearings. The general election of 1945 showed that they wanted a radical change of direction. In the North Mymms election of 1946 only two members of the old parish council were re-elected. The new councillors, particularly the two from Brookmans Park, revived the old concern to preserve and improve amenities. One of these was Great Wood. During the war the army had used it for training dogs, under protest from the parish council. Now it had to be restored. On the estate, shops on Bradmore Green which had been taken for light workshops and offices were to revert to their original use, one of them to become a photographic studio. Westland Drive was much inconvenienced by not yet having its houses numbered.
Rather more ambitious was a request for playing fields. Various suggestions were debated; land near the top of Brookmans Avenue, but this was to be used for a school; two acres backing onto the railway near Bradmore bridge, but the price of £3,500 was too high and in any case it was zoned for business purposes. Opinion on the subject was not unanimous. The Ratepayers’ Association considered that a playground was unnecessary, and the matter was dropped.
More important was the question of education. In October 1946 one of the new councillors urged the parish council to press for adequate provision particularly on the estate. The encouraging response from the county council was that a site for "a Junior and Infants School" was being negotiated and that temporary buildings would be erected until the school building programme could start in January 1947. Again, however, the residents were not all of one mind since some were enjoying private education for their children.
In the meantime the controversial expansion of the village got under way. In spite of the depletion of the building industry and the Government’s emphasis on council housing builders saw profitable openings on the estate. In the same month as V. J. Day on 2 September, 1945, they submitted plans for eight pairs of houses on the Bluebridge estate, five chalets in Westland Drive, two pairs of semis in The Grove, a bungalow in Bell Lane and two agricultural cottages in Swanley Bar Lane, a total of twenty eight in one month. This was not all in that month. Under a new Government scheme of building licences for small dwellings costing not more than £1,200, the council approved four in The Gardens, two in Westland Drive and one in Bell Lane. These were only a third of the number applied for but the council was under constraints from the Ministry. The flow continued, though its advance was somewhat stemmed by Ministry control. During the rest of that year plans for seven more larger houses and twenty three "smaller dwellings" were approved. Next year, 1946, the flow became a flood. The numbers rose to over 150 and over 50 respectively, most of the smaller dwellings being destined for Westland Drive and Peplins Way.
All this occurred in spite of the Government’s policy of strict control of building arising from the enormous building and repair work required and the scarcity of labour and materials to carry it out. The administration of that policy was hampered by the time honoured dispute between the advocates of council and of private enterprise housing which was sometimes expressed in conflict between Ministry and local authority. That may have been the case in the district council. In 1946 regulations under the ‘Control of Civil Building’ appeared and the Minister (Aneurin Bevan already preoccupied with starting the National Health Service) stated that in view of the shortages he would not issue licences for houses for sale except in special circumstances. On the estate twenty nine applicants for licences in Oaklands and Westland Drives were told that they would have to make a case for special treatment; a few cases were sent to the Ministry. On the other hand a proposed conversion of Moffats into three houses and an extension to the garage at Bell Bar met with no difficulty.
Government control operated in other ways. Development plans, which had been sanctioned earlier on, could be cancelled since planning legislation had now been given some teeth. The layout of the Bluebridge Estate approved in 1938 was revoked in 1946 because of infringement on the Green Belt. The council considered that the latest forecast of a population of 7,460 on 373 acres could well be achieved without it. As though to confirm this view, a layout for Calder Avenue met with rejection because the proposed density of 12 houses per acre was double what it should be. Another conflict arose when the council authorised a factory on the estate, true a small specialist one. A factory for scientific instruments, with a few skilled workers, was to go on land zoned for business purposes between the railway and the hotel. The Ratepayers’ Association objected strongly and the council obtained Ministry approval to revoke its permission; cost to the council £157. The Association also made itself felt on less contentious issues; demanding a minimum frontage to houses, expressing its support for the Abercrombie Plan, approving of a development in Peplins Way with sixty houses on seven acres, a density considered suitable for that place, though not for the site up the hill in Calder Avenue. Proper distinctions were maintained.
As the first year of peace closed, the vicar could express his pleasure at the building of both permanent and pre-fabricated homes, and the parochial church council decided it was time to acquire a site for a church in Brookmans Park. It was soon found. A plan to convert Moffats squash court into a dwelling having fallen through, the church bought the building early in 1948 for conversion into a chapel of ease, and got planning permission. Thus at last the intention of the pre-war years came to fruition. Eleven years earlier a site had been available at a reasonable price, but when, after a meeting at the golf club the residents were circularised for their views only ninety were in favour, and the matter was dropped. The nonconformists, for their part, received permission in January 1948 to build a temporary Congregational church in Oaklands Avenue. Their shop premises had had its drawbacks; the mice downstairs and the humans upstairs had disturbed the services. The change in both churches by 1948 is a measure of the growth of the estate.
The residents at this time numbered, in fact, approximately 2,260, according to the District Council’s Development Plan of 1947. There was some way to go to reach the latest official figure of 4,000 for maximum population, a figure which the council accepted "at this stage", i.e. provisionally. The increase was to be accommodated in Bradmore Way, Pine Grove, Brookmans Avenue, Calder Avenue, Mymms Drive, Moffats Lane, Bluebridge Avenue and Bluebridge estate, at a density of six houses per acre in the Bluebridge area but only four in the other places. To accompany this expansion, schemes for schools went ahead; the preliminary plan for the J.M.I. school in Peplins Way appeared in February 1950.
At first the site for the primary school was to be where Chancellor’s School now stands but on second thoughts the more central one in Bradmore Way was chosen and bought from Messrs. Dearmans and from John White, the latter by compulsory purchase. Construction was delayed for a year because of shortage of labour in the area. A house to house survey had shown that of the 316 children in Brookmans Park 150 would attend the school in 1951. Construction started in 1950 and in the autumn of 1951 the first children, 110 of them, began their education there. For a secondary school, which was to come later, the designated site at this stage was not the present one, but in Bluebridge Road.
In the late 1940s permission to build went ahead and with it refusal of undesirable development. Planning and control were the watchwords for the place that according to the Abercrombie Report should never have been. During the two years ending May 1950 well over 100 house projects were approved. By far the largest number was in Peplins Way, Westland Drive, Oaklands Avenue and the Bluebridge area. A few were, indeed, rejected, two in Brookmans Avenue because the elevations were unsuitable. That was all according to plan. Other projects outside the plan, or infringing on the Green Belt, met a dusty answer. John White’s ideas for development were repeatedly rejected in 1948 and 1949; schemes to continue Uplands Drive, to provide a new access to it from the Great North Road, to develop a road from Brookmans Avenue to the golf club. Frustrated in this way, he appealed against the district council’s figure of 4,000 for projected population, only to be defeated again.
At that time, 1949, while the county council was drawing up its own development plan, population figures of 2,500, 3,000, 4,000 and 4,500 for the estate were still being quoted. Whichever was agreed the district council was clear that more shops were wanted; the block at Bradmore Green should be completed and also "a few shops at the east end of the Estate should be considered".
By the early 1950s as the estate filled up rapidly, so grew the influence of the churches in it. The temporary Congregational church had been completed, dedicated and opened for worship in April 1949, and its membership was growing. A few years later a manse would be built and a minister would be living there. The Church of England also advanced. From St. Mary’s church a new vicar’s warden, a new transport secretary and the treasurer all lived on the estate. "Bishop’s Messengers" covered the drives and avenues where the young wives met. In Moffats Lane a place of worship began at last to materialise. After an appeal for £1,500 in 1949 to convert the Moffats squash court to a chapel, to be called St. Michael and All Angels, money came in from, among many sources, the North Mymms Dramatic Society and a fete in the Park. The licence was received from the St. Albans Diocesan Board of Finance, conversion began in 1950, and the chapel was consecrated in the following year. St. Mary’s now embraced Brookmans Park. The church which, fifty years earlier, maintained missions to the labourers of Bell Bar and Roestock, now had its outpost for the commuters and their families.
Times had changed, and with them the ownership of Brookmans Park from one person to several thousands. The two great houses, Brookmans and Gobions, the one destroyed by accident, the other by design, with their parklands, meadows and fields, their society of landowners, farmers, labourers and servants, had given way to a pleasant, residential village.
|St Michaels and All Angels, converted squash court
A history of Brookmans Park must include its 18th century landmark, Folly Arch,
erected by Sir Jeremy Sambrooke, owner of Gobions.
From a drawing by J.C. Buckler, 1840.
Courtesy of Hertfordshire County Records Office (HCRO)
The development of Brookmans Park cannot be properly understood without some knowledge of the social organisation in the area in the 18th century when this story begins. The following brief survey is therefore given to assist the reader.
The parish of North Mymms had an area of just over 4,900 acres and consisted of two manors; North Mymms Manor — by far the larger — and the Manor of Brookmans, the name probably originating with the late 14th century family of Brokeman. All the land in the parish, with the exception of Gobions estate, was part of one or other of these two manors. By the 18th century, the local government functions of the Manor Courts had been taken over by the vestry, the elected body which appointed the parish officers such as the Churchwardens, Overseers of the Poor and Surveyors of the Highways. However, the Manor Courts still controlled and recorded the changes in land holdings, and the ‘rights of common
The land of a manor was not necessarily contiguous and separate from the land of other manors, but was often scattered, and we do not know where all the land of each manor in North Mymms was. The land could be divided into four main categories; domain, freehold, copyhold and common or waste.
Land in the hands of the Lord of the Manor, which he either occupied and used for his own purposes such as his house and park, farm, warren, and coppice, or leased to someone else. By a survey made in 1691 we know that the domain land of North Mymms Manor was 1,160 acres in extent, and much of it was leased to other people.
Land held freely’ ‘of the manor’, usually by payment of a quit-rent which could be a token or nominal one, and subject to a fine upon transfer of the holding by sale or inheritance.
The holding of land in any of these categories was not exclusive. A person could, and often did, hold both ‘freehold’ and ‘copyhold’ land, in more than one manor, and also lease further land of the Lord’s domain’. Furthermore, the Lord of a Manor could hold freehold and copyhold land of another manor. In fact at the end of the 17th century Andrew Fountaine, Lord of the Manor of Brookmans, held some such land of the Manor of North Mymms. Thus, when in the following text you read that Lord John Somers purchased a certain number of acres with the Manor of Brookmans from Andrew Fountaine, the area mentioned includes not only the ‘domain’ of the Manor, but also the freehold and copyhold lands he held of the North Mymms and any other manors. It did not include the freehold and copyhold lands of the Manor of Brookmans; these were held by the ‘tenants’ of that manor. When the Gaussen family enlarged their estate they did not enlarge the Manor of Brookmans, but took into their own hands land previously held by tenants of the manor and, by purchase, increased their holdings in other manors, mainly North Mymms.
COMMON OR WASTE:
The uncultivated and unenclosed land of the manor, which included large ‘commons’, small ‘greens’, and the highway verges. The soil of all this was the property of the Lord of the Manor, but most of the inhabitants and tenants of the manor held some rights of use, known as ‘rights of common’. These could vary by custom from one manor to another, but usually included the grazing of animals, the gathering of wood for fuel and/ or small building repairs, and the cutting of turf and furze for fuel and bedding. In the 18th century the largest piece of common in the parish was North Mymms Common or Wood, which belonged to the Manor of North Mymms and extended, some 700 acres or more from Bell Bar to Swanley Bar, and from just west of the Great North Road (on its old route), to the eastern boundary of the parish, where it adjoins the parish of Northaw. The tenants of both manors had rights of common on this, and although we do not know what those rights were, its enclosure in 1780 must have adversely affected the economies of the small farmers and cottagers in the parish.
By the end of the 18th century the population of the parish numbered about 1,000, and it had retained its hierarchical structure. The lords of the two manors, through their officers, exerted the greatest influence by reason of their positions as principal landlords, but there was also a small group of residential gentry who must have directed much of the day to day activity of the community. Following the displacement of the More family at the end of the 17th century, Jeremy Sambrooke, later a baronet, purchased Gobions in 1708. He reconstructed the medieval house of the Mores to create an 18th century mansion and employed Bridgeman, the famous gardener, to lay out the pleasure ground and garden. After Sir Jeremy’s death in 1754, the estate passed through the hands of three further gentle families, until, in about 1840, the house was demolished and the land taken into the Brookmans estate. The other main residences, North Mymms Place, Potterells, Skimpans and Moffats, also changed hands during this period, but always remained in the occupation of gentlemen who took an active part in local and county affairs.
Below this social level of the six top gentry came an important group of about thirty residents, upon whom much of the responsibility of local government must have devolved. These were the vicar, the estate stewards, the larger farmers and the innkeepers. They formed the Vestry and occupied the parish offices of Churchwarden, Overseer of the Poor and Surveyor of the Highways.
The whole social structure stood upon the great majority, the manual workers, who within their own ranks contained a whole range of levels of status. There were the domestic servants, both indoor and out, from the butlers to the kitchen maids, the gardeners, grooms and coachmen; the artisans: — smiths, wheelwrights, carpenters, bricklayers, bootmakers and cordwainers. Then there were the great number of agricultural workers, including the small farmers (usually little better off than the higher ranking farm workers), bailiffs, carters, haycutters and general labourers. With them were all their wives and children, many of whom supplemented the family income by part-time work in the fields, or by home industry such as straw-plaiting. And finally, at the bottom of the pyramid, were the paupers, regulated under the poor law by the vestry, which was effectively led by Joseph Sabine, brother in law to the lord of North Mymms manor and churchwarden. Sabine saw to it that the poor were dealt with strictly in accordance with the new spirit of public economy.
This then was the parish and community in which the Gaussen family built up their estate, which formed the basis for the development of Brookmans Park, our village.
Peter Kingsford - 1983
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND REFERENCES
The following three pages have been scanned from the original book. At some point I will get round to adding all the numerical references chapter by chapter, but for now they are included to illustrate the research Peter Kingsford put into this work.
Online editor’s note
All the books on this site have been scanned and uploaded retaining, as close as possible, the layout and character of the original publication. However, typeface and formatting has been changed for most because of the fonts used in the originals and the equivalents now used in the digital age. For the longer books, a table of contents has been added to help readers navigate to specific chapters. We have also improved the quality of the images, graphics and maps used in the books by sourcing the original material from the former North Mymms Local History Society archive. Those assets have been digitised and enhanced by local photographer and historian Mike Allen as part of the Images Of North Mymms project, so that what we now have on this site, The North Mymms History Project is a clearer representation of the original work.