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Radlett House Aspley Guise

The entrance hall at Radlett House about 1945
The entrance hall at Radlett House about 1945

Radlett House was originally called The Hoo. It does not appear on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey 25 inches to the mile map of 1882 but was in existence by 1891 because the census of that year places Ann Marie Carter Smith, an authoress and Elizabeth Harriett Carter Smith as heads of household with two female servants - Elizabeth Crowsley, a widowed cook from Kempston and a young parlourmaid from Kempston called Elizabeth Maria Huckle. Ann Marie was an antiquarian as well as an author, and contributed pieces to publications including Bedfordshire Notes and Queries.

By the 1901 census the residents were Ann Marie Carter Smith (Elizabeth Harriett is last listed at The Hoo in Kelly's Directory for Bedfordshire of 1898) and her cousin Helen C. Collett. Elizabeth Crowsley was still cook but the parlourmaid was now Margaret E. Wilson, who had been born in Woburn. The Hoo is not listed in the Kelly's Directory for Bedfordshire of either 1910 or 1914 and the National Probate Calendar indicates that Ann Marie died on 15th October 1909 at Chiselhurst [Kent] leaving the large sum of £40,997/15/3.

Directories from 1920 to 1928 place the Misses Collett as residents. The register of Electors for 1921 showed three Misses Collett at the address - Catherine Hester, Frances Mary and Helen Clara. The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed as to its rateable value. Aspley Guise was assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting the property discovered that it was then called The Hoo and was owned and occupied by the Misses H. C. and C. H. Collett.

The brick and tiled property stood in 2.439 acres and downstairs accommodation comprised: a hall measuring 15 feet 6 inches by 17 feet 6 inches; a servants' hall measuring 14 feet by 13 feet; a kitchen measuring 14 feet by 14 feet 6 inches; a larder; a store room; a scullery; a pantry with a cellar beneath; a dining room measuring 21 feet 9 inches by 14 feet 6 inches with a 12 feet by 2 feet 6 inches bay; a library measuring 17 feet 6 inches by 18 feet with a 2 feet by 9 feet 6 inches bay; and a drawing room measuring 24 feet 6 inches by 18 feet with a 10 feet 6 inches by 7 feet bay.

Upstairs lay four bedrooms measuring, respectively, 18 feet square, 17 ftx6 inches by 18 feet with a 2 feet by 9 feet 6 inches alcove, 15 feet 6 inches by 13 feet and 21 feet 9 inches by 14 feet 6 inches. There were also: a bathroom; a w. c.; a housemaid's cupboard and two dressing rooms.

Outside lay: a brick and tiled coal house; a brick and tiled wood shed; a brick and tiled boot hole; a timber and felt garage; a brick and tiled tool shed; a green house measuring 10 feet by 14 feet 6 inches and a tennis court. Mains water and drainage were laid on but "no light or heating". A field of nearly an acre adjoined the property and its grounds. Kelly's for 1931, 1936 and 1940 lists just one Miss Collett living at the property, unfortunately no initials are given.

Two sets of twins at Radlett House about 1945
Two sets of twins at Radlett House about 1945

The Furnishing Trades Benevolent Association (founded 1903)  purchased the property for £2,271 in 1940 "probably only a third of its true value" and alterations costing £5,390 were carried out. The association cared for the orphaned children of members and The Hoo was turned into a children's home with accommodation for 25 to 30 children of three age groups. The staff comprised a matron, assistant matron and cook.

The F. T. B. A. renamed The Hoo as Radlett House. This was because the original children's home had been Radlett House in Highgate, purchased in 1921. The home moved to Saint-Leonard's-on-Sea [Sussex] in July 1939 to escape bombing. It moved to Aspley Guise in December 1940 due to the imminent threat of German invasion.

A booklet of 1945 describes the home as follows: "Children of both sexes are received in the Children's Home from the age of 5 years and remain until they reach the age of 15 years 6 months or longer, should special circumstances render this desirable, and they are then placed in suitable employment. The younger children attend school at Aspley Heath, three-quarters of a mile from the Home, whilst the elder ones attend the Harpur Trust Central School at Bedford, where an excellent commercial education is given".

"Apprentices' allowances are granted in certain cases to former residents of the Home to assist them to maintain themselves during the commencement of their careers".

"On leaving the Home to take up employment each boy and girl is provided with a complete leaving outfit".

By 1959 only eighteen children remained at Radlett House. In 1962 The F. T. B. A. sold part of the grounds to build a police house and two bungalows along Woodside. The number of children in residence had fallen to just six by 31st July 1963 and the home was closed, the children being transferred to the Royal Alexandra and Albert School at Reigate [Surrey].

At the time of writing [2010] Radlett House is owned by AXA ICAS. This organisation is designed to improve health and wellbeing in organisations and so increase productivity. Staff are reported to talk of a "Grey Lady" walking the top floor and rumours have arisen that she is a mother searching for her child. A more likely character to play the part of any imagined ghost might be one of the Carter Smith or Collett ladies perhaps Ann Marie Carter Smith looking for her research notes!

Radlett House July 2010
Radlett House July 2010