Chorleywood House, in the form that it stands now, was built in 1822 and taken over by Lady Ela, daughter of the 9th Duke of Bedford, in 1892. She was 38 and single so the House and grounds soon became her main focus in life. Ela (pronounced Eela), built cottages for her chauffeur and gardener, gave allotments to workers and made the Estate available for public events. The main house was adapted into flats in 1996, and in 1998 the Stables and Clockhouse were converted to terraced homes, Clockhouse Mews and Heritage Walk. (Main photo: Purpix Photography)
We talk to two Chorleywood Estate residents
Jacqui, The Gardener’s Cottage
Jacqui Barker lives with husband Jason and daughter Sadie in the original Gardener’s Cottage on Chorleywood House Estate
” We moved in six years ago.” says Jacqui, “ We love it, the cottage is tucked away behind the Mews and has a ‘secret’ garden hidden behind a high brick wall. Most of the interior downstairs walls have been knocked through to make one space so the kitchen and living area are open plan but it still has a great atmosphere. There is no hall – you walk straight into the original quirky octagonal shaped room and the stairs lead off this. There are hardly any original features left although the windows are in the same sash style and one back window has been replaced by French doors. The garden isn’t anywhere near as long as it was, some of the land is now used by the Tennis Club. The finial on the roof pinnacle has recently fallen off and we need to replace it…we are on the look out for a craftsman to engineer it out of oak or beech. The summer house on the Estate was made by parkland building designers Boulton & Paul of Norwich so we wonder if it came from the same company.”
Current photos: Purpix Photography
Lynda, The Chauffeur’s Cottage
Whilst organising an exhibition about Lady Ela and Chorleywood House Estate she discovered a lot of unrecorded history.
“ Lady Ela had the house built for her chauffeur Mr Molesworth.”He really was her right hand man and as well as running her round he would do errands like taking the maid with the silver service in the Rolls to WI meetings at the Memorial Hall so Ela could have decent tea. He even drove the houseman’s son William Cattle to hospital in the Rolls when Bill broke his leg!”
The Council owned and occupied Chorleywood House from 1939 to 1996. They rented out the ancillary buildings and stables for some of that time but they were eventually allowed to deteriorate.
“None of the original character of the house remains.” says Lynda. “ It got to a point when they couldn’t rescue anything. The layout is much the same though. Sisters Rosemary Westwood and Valerie Hale lived here with their father, Stanley Simons in the 50s and said it was the same except for the kitchen extension. I loved the house as soon as I moved in 14 years ago. We have some photographs that show the old dairy and saddlery that are now part of Heritage Walk. There is also a photo of the laundry that was on land beside heritage Walk and Clockhouse Mews. The stables and loose boxes were turned into Clockhouse Mews. The arched windows are the same shape as some in the original building.
I just love living here, there’s so much history. It’s not haunted although Lady Ela is said to walk around the main house in a white dress. She never visits her chauffeur!”
Front house pic : Purpix Photography