For several days the smell of burning
pervaded the house although no one could
find the source. But early on the morning of
the 1st February 1905 a fire broke out near
the main heating boiler, and quickly engulfed
the whole house. Luckily the household was
A scan of a local postcard from the time,
depicting the fire.
This was in the earliest days of the Fire
Brigade, and before the telephone of course.
One of the estate workers had to gallop on
horseback 3 miles to nearby Hemel
Hempstead to raise the alarm. A horse-
drawn manual water pump was dispatched,
which arrived an hour and a half later, at
5am. By this time the estate workers were
trying to save the contents of the house, the
library contents, antiques and paintings.
Things were made worse by the fact the
house is on top of a hill, a long way from any
water source. Attempts were made to pump
water up the hill from the River Gade, but the
distance proved too great and the hose pipes
were not able to contain the water pressure.
During the next day hundreds of sightseers
came from the surrounding area to view the
spectacle. After the fire had been
extinguished when it looked safe, the butler
and footman, worried about looting, started
to return the wine to the cellar which was still
intact. Unfortunately just at that moment an
interior wall collapsed, crashing through the
cellar, instantly killing the butler. The local
newspaper gives a very graphic description of
the footman, pinned down by the red-hot
bricks crying for help. He was eventually
extracted, but his burns were so bad that he
died the next day in hospital.
The fire and deaths were a spur to the local
council, with help from private individuals, to
build a new fire station in Hemel, and acquire
their first steam-powered water pump.
Crowds in front of the burnt-out house 1905
Another local postcard from the time. The tree
shown is a Black Walnut tree that survives and
fruits to this day.