Sunday, April 07, 2013

The desecration of the Hanstead Estate, Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire

Hanstead House

I don't know where to start really, however, I guess it was yesterday when I learned of the plans to develop Hanstead the former home of Sir David and Lady Henrietta Yule located in rural Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire into a housing estate.

I know nothing stays the same for ever, but I could not believe what I was reading, it is a travesty, it is planning gone nuts to even think of such a thing in an area of precious green belt land.

I grew up in that area and well remember Hanstead's 1200 acres which was given over to farming and the breeding of pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle and the World renowned Hanstead arabian horses which had such an impact on the modern arabian of today and the influence on today's show ponies through the little grey Hanstead arabian stallion Naseel. After Lady Henrietta died in 1950 her daughter Gladys took over the estate and kept it running until her untimely death through a heart attack in 1957 at the young age of fifty three.

I had my first riding lesson on Hanstead land and used to ride around Smug Oak Lane and Drop Lane and across the Water Meadows wading through the river Ver in the winter with the river up to my pony's belly and my legs out of the stirrups up around his neck. I remember this little skewbald pony well, his name was Peter Pipikins, Pip for short.

I knew well the farm buildings where the Yule's Aberdeen Angus herd was located on land just off  Colney Street and the prize certificates from shows were still pinned around the walls of the big barn where the cattle pens stood.

After the death of Miss Gladys Yule the estate lay dormant for a number of years until it was sold to an American religious sect World Church of God who turned it into an educational campus and renamed it Ambassador College. We still rode through the estate past the main buildings and regularly saw fresh faced american students going about their lives but the rural nature of the estate still remained despite the development of some of the original buildings, including the wonderful clock house stables which I remember having the name plates of their famous arabian inhabitants such as Grey Owl, General Grant, Count Dorsaz.

Much of the area around the main buildings was excavated, sports facilities added including a running track, a lake dug out. Ambassador College was eventually closed in 1974 and the site was bought by the Central Electricity Generating Board in 1978 as a staff training centre. The sports part of the site was taken over by the city council as a leisure centre but they closed it due to lack of patronage.

HSBC (Hong Kong Shanghai Bank) bought the site as a management training centre in 1994 and closed it in 2011 and moved the facility abroad.

Now the site has been purchased for housing redevelopment by St. Conger Land Limited who are now trying to justify why it is necessary to desecrate this green belt area of historical beauty. If ever there was a place that is not right for a housing estate, this is it. It is indeed a dreadful, dreadful travesty, a blight on the rural landscape.  There are riding / livery stables in the immediate vicinity so imagine what it will be like for them to negotiate the increase in traffic alone not only once the development is finished but during the building stage as well. Absolutely frightening.

Fortunately, I do not live in the area anymore and much prefer the more rural idyll of Somerset and Devon. I guess the building of the M25 across part of Bricket Wood saw me off. However, it has been in my mind for a couple of years now to revisit Bricket Wood to see how much it has changed since I left and perhaps relive a few childhood memories. Google Earth does give you some idea but I feel that treading the "real earth" is a better experience.

I guess I had better do that sooner rather than later or else I may be just too late to recognise anything.