The history of the Chorleywood House Estate dates back to the early 18th Century when it consisted of just two farms (Chorleywood Farm and Meeting House Farm). The land and property changed ownership several times over the years, but it wasn’t until John Barnes bought the estate in 1822 that a Regency mansion, called Chorleywood House, was built, replacing the existing farm house.
In 1892, the house was bought by Lady Ela Russell, a relative of the Duke of Bedford. She modified and enlarged the house, keeping some of the original features including the great fireplace in the hall. She developed the estate to be virtually self-sufficient, with her own farms and market garden, now the site of the tennis club courts. She created formal gardens and parkland near the house, and built cottages for her chauffeur and gardener behind the house. She installed electricity using her own generator housed in a building near the summerhouse. Water was pumped from the Chess by a waterwheel to a well (again, near the summerhouse) which was also supplied by a spring. She built a chapel, and a drill hall which was used by her Rifle Club. These buildings are still in use, and have recently been restored by Three Rivers.
After she died the house went to her sister, Lady Romola, who lived there for six months, and then sold it to three local businessmen, George and Jesse Darvell and James Batty. There were plans to make it into a golf club, using the mansion as the clubhouse, but this was during the depression of the 1930s, and nothing came of the proposal. In June 1940, the mansion and land were bought by the Chorleywood Urban District Council together with Hertfordshire County Council and London County Council and designated a public open space.
During the war, the mansion housed evacuees from London, under the care of a matron. Army troops and German prisoners of war were housed in Nissen huts in the grounds. Later, Chorleywood UDC adopted the house for their offices, and the Public Library was housed there. Tenants lived in flats in the upper storeys – one remarked that these were the best council flats in the country.
When Chorleywood UDC devolved to became Three Rivers DC with new buildings in Rickmansworth, the mansion was sold and converted into apartments which are now privately owned as is the garden at the rear enclosed by a hedge. The grounds remain as open space for the use of the people of Chorleywood, Hertfordshire and London.
The ornamental pond
In front of the main entrance to the house is a circular pond. This was not only ornamental, but was there to provide water in case of fire. Over the years it cracked and became a sludgy mess, so in 2011, the Friends volunteers – with more than a little help from the Parish and the house residents – emptied the pond, repaired the lining, re-filled and re-stocked the pool.