Albury Hall


Location   Albury
Year demolished   c.1950  
Reason   Dilapidations from WWII requisitioning  
See all images: Gallery

Text written by, and copyright of, Nicholas Kingsley - many thanks

The manor of Albury was divided among four sisters in 1594 and it was not until 1688 that the four parts were reunited in the ownership of the descendant of one of them, Sir John Brograve. He sold the estate about 1700 to Felix Calvert, who it is thought may have built the Hall which is shown on Dury & Andrews' map of Hertfordshire in 1766, and which stood at this time about 70 or 80 yards south of the later house. The plan shows a symmetrical building, which in the context of this estate, probably implies a rebuilding after 1688. Behind the house was what appear to be a series of terraces rising up to two large square plots, probably gardens or orchards.

In 1755 his Felix Calvert's grandson John inherited the estate. He was MP for Wendover in 1754 and later for Hertford, and Master of the Puckeridge foxhounds which, in 1780, were apparently kennelled at Albury. In 1781 he purchased the adjacent manor of Patmore Hall, which remained part of the estate until 1848, when the two manors split again. It was John Calvert (d. 1808), according to Cussans' History of Hertfordshire (1870-73), who rebuilt the house in about 1780. An early C19 drawing by Oldfield shows the large red-brick house of three storeys, with two full-height bays to the south which is recognisable in later photographs. It was, most unusually, a triple-pile house, i.e. it had three shallow-pitched roofs running east-west side by side, masked by a high parapet. The triple division was defined by the window groupings of 2-3-2, divided by flat pilasters, on the east and west fronts. There were projecting string-courses at first floor and eaves level. Oldfield's view shows the east elevation looking rather stark, with a pillared and pedimented central doorcase. There appears to have been a pediment on the north front. It is likely there was a service building behind the main house, as the Ordnance Survey map published in 1805 appears to show a secondary building to the north-west of the main block. The architect of the 1780s rebuilding is unknown.

John Calvert was succeeded by his son, another John Calvert (d. 1844), who was an MP and secretary to the Lord Chamberlain. During his time, a single storey service wing was added extending westward from the north front of the house.

In 1845 Albury Hall was offered for sale, apparently unsuccessfully, and when it was put on the market again in 1847 Calvert's executors admitted in an access of candour rare in sale particulars that "since the death of the late proprietor it has not been kept in suitable order". The sale particulars also recommended the removal of the projecting office wing. The purchaser in 1847 was Richard Dawson (d. 1868) of Withcall in Lincolnshire. The following year, he did indeed pull down the service wing, but rebuilt it on a larger scale, projecting both north and west of the house, two storeys high and with a three-storeyed Italianate tower at the angle of the house. After Dawson died in 1868, his widow and his daughter Fanny continued to live at Albury Hall for a while but in 1873, as Fanny was about to marry the Revd E J Rogers, it was offered for sale. The estate was purchased by William Stephen Shoobridge (d. 1905), who seems to have been attracted chiefly by 'the fine sporting opportunities' afforded by the estate. Shoobridge seems to have made no changes to the house, but planted many more ring-fenced clumps of trees in the park to the south of the house, and he realigned the carriage drive to the house in a more sinuous, sweeping curve.

On the death of William Shoobridge, was sold to Maurice George Carr Glyn JP (1872-c1921), a partner in the banking firm of Glyn Mills Currie and Co. Photographs taken in 1912 show the house with the distinctive full-height bays unchanged from the earliest illustrations. The west entrance front, however, had acquired a large projecting portico. The same photo also shows a central pediment high up on the parapet (perhaps the same as the original north front) and long round-headed windows above the portico, their sill heights indicating that they light the full-height entrance hall mentioned in the sale catalogues. In 'Hertfordshire Houses', J.T. Smith describes the west front as having been remodelled by Maurice Glyn in Queen Anne style, but it seems rather to have been the service wing and tower which were altered, probably in 1912-14. The photographs of this time also show a newly laid out formal garden. A photograph of the transformed the servants’ wing shows a pilastered brick front, to match the main house, and with a French-looking mansard roof and a clock tower. The Italianate tower has been remodelled and the link area below it has been enlarged, as has the portico entrance, which now has small wings each side.

By 1922, Maurice Glyn had died and after a period when it was unoccupied, his son Francis Glyn moved into the Hall. When the East Herts Archaeological Society visited the house in 1932 they particularly admired the handmade Chinese wallpaper in the drawing room.

In 1938, Francis Glyn planted a new block of woodland on the hill north-east of the house and named it Munich, to commemorate Neville Chamberlain’s visit. When, in spite of Munich, the Second World War broke out, Albury Hall was requisitioned by the Army. After the war, faced with the inevitable repair and maintenance bills of a large country house, the Glyns decided to remain at Hole Farm. Albury Hall was demolished in about 1950, but the family continued to own the estate until 1981. After that the estate was held by various institutional and industrial owners, who carried out some further woodland planting. Since 2000 it has been back in private ownership under the present owner, Mr. Robert Barclay. At the time, the estate agents indicated that from outline enquires with the local council the reconstruction of Albury Hall would be acceptable - so maybe one day a new Albury Hall could arise as the centrepiece of this intact estate.