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WELWYN & DISTRICT HISTORY SOCIETY

Big Houses.....

The areas around many of our large cities were favourite spots for the good, great and not so good to set up home as they sought to escape the less desirable aspects of inner city life  and join the established county families who already held estates.


Hertfordshire was long seen as a desirable area to set up home for the wealthy and important who needed to be near London, starting perhaps when the Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth I was sent to live at Hatfield House by her father Henry VIII.


Welwyn could boast a number of these fine houses and fortunately most still exist, although are of course now put to much different uses.


Danesbury House, to the north, was for many years the home to the Blake family, being originally leased by William Blake in 1819 and purchased by him 1824. His son, also William, was a Whig MP for Newport, Isle of Wight from 1837 to 1842.


Ownership of the house passed through the Dewar (of whisky fame) family until WW2 when it was used as a military hospital. After the war the house continued to be used as a civilian hospital, until 1993 when it’s patients were moved to a new facility at the QVM and the old houses was developed as luxury apartments


Now also being developed for housing, the Frythe estate to the south of Welwyn was home to the Wilshere family since 1535. The present Gothic house was built in 1846 for William Wilshere. It passed through the family until 1934 when the last of three unmarried nieces of William died. For some time it was run by a great-nephew as a residential hotel. In 1939 the estate was commandeered by Military Intelligence and used for the duration as a secret SOE station.


After 1945 the estate became home to a number of companies for use as a commercial research centre, including ICI, Unilever and GlaxoSmithKline.

This last organisation closed in 2010 and the site was sold for development. The house will be developed as apartments, available in 2017.


A number of other grand houses could be mentioned, such as the Gothic Welwyn Hall, originally the Dowager house for Danesbury, and also used for a number of years as a research centre. The house was empty for a number of years and lost in a fire in 1995.


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Danesbury House

The Frythe

Welwyn Hall