Beechwood Park (mansion)

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Beechwood Park was a mansion, near Markyate, Hertfordshire, England. It now houses Beechwood Park School.

Beechwood Park today

History[edit]

Ralph de Tony held this site, in the manor of Flamstead, as recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086.[1] As King of England, William the Conqueror would have expected this new Lord of the Manor to protect St Albans Abbey and its pilgrims. Ralph de Tony's grandson Roger IV de Toesny then founded a Benedictine nunnery, St Giles in the Wood Priory, Flamstead, in the middle of the 12th century.[2] The Dissolution of the Monasteries resulted in the destruction of the nunnery of St Giles in 1537.

The Manor House on the site was used frequently by Henry VIII and later by Edward VI. In 1537, the site was let to Sir John Tregonwell by Henry VIII. Shortly afterwards, however, the king granted it by Letters Patent dated 30 September 1539, to Richard Page and Dame Elizabeth.[3]

The property subsequently passed first to George Ferrers, and then in 1628 to Thomas Saunders of Long Marston. In 1698 his great grand-daughter Anne Saunders married Sir Edward Sebright, who belonged to a wealthy Worcestershire family, establishing a family connection for the next two and a half centuries.[4] One of six children, only Anne herself survived childhood. A monument in St Leonard's Church, Flamstead, is a memorial attributed to William Stanton (c.1690) to the early death of her brothers and sisters. Edward Sebright moved from Worcestershire to his bride’s home in Hertfordshire, and set about transforming the Tudor building that he found there.

Beechwood Park in the early 18th century shortly after the completion of the new facade

Further changes (e.g. the addition of much of the façade and of the two wings) were made in the 18th century; a Library was added at the start of the 19th century, and the courtyard covered over in 1854 (it is now the Great Hall). In 1880 the tenant was Mr W.B. Greenfield, who established there in that year one of the three leading herds of pedigree Aberdeen Angus Cattle in England.[5] In 1908 he was the tenant of Haynes Park, Bedfordshire.[6]

The Sebrights fell on hard times after World War I, and eventually relinquished the estate. The Second World War brought changes to Beechwood. Firstly the Sebright family, with the requisitioning of the house by the government, moved into a smaller house that they owned, nearby. The main house became the headquarters for Spillers Foods, which had evacuated from London. An airfield was built in the grounds to land damaged or obsolete planes. Specially constructed hangars were used to house these planes and care was taken to camouflage the strip and the hangars. At the end of the war the house first became a girls' school, which eventually closed in 1961 due to lack of funds.[7] A new coeducational preparatory school was opened in 1964 which continues to this day.[8]

Beechwood Park School[edit]

Beechwood Park School
Address
Markyate

St Albans
,
Hertfordshire
,
AL3 8AW

United Kingdom
Coordinates51°49′09″N 0°29′05″W / 51.81917°N 0.48477°W / 51.81917; -0.48477Coordinates: 51°49′09″N 0°29′05″W / 51.81917°N 0.48477°W / 51.81917; -0.48477
Information
TypePreparatory day and boarding
Religious affiliation(s)Church of England
Established1964
Local authorityHertfordshire
Department for Education URN117620 Tables
HeadmasterEdward Balfour
GenderCoeducational
Age3 to 13
Enrolmentc.500 pupils
Houses4
Colour(s)Green Maroon          
Website

Beechwood Park School, also familiarly referred to as "Beechwood", is a co-educational independent day and flexi boarding school in Hertfordshire in England, UK for children from nursery age to year 8. It is set on the site of an old mansion house with extensions put in over the last 50 years including the junior school, middle school, sports hall and performance hall. Most recent developments include the new onsite Woodlands Nursery, which opened in September 2015 and also the covered swimming pool complex, officially opened by Karen Pickering MBE in July 2015.

School history[edit]

Beechwood Park School was formed in 1964 by the amalgamation of two much older prep schools, Shirley House (in Watford) and Heath Brow School (in Hemel Hempstead).[9] By 1961 the buildings and estate of Beechwood Park were in a terrible state of neglect and disrepair. The former family seat of the aristocratic Sebright family had become a somewhat anarchic girls’ boarding school, and then an uninhabited ruin (reputed, then as now, to be haunted). It was apparently close to demolition when it went on the market in 1961. The Stewart family who owned Shirley House put in a successful bid and decided to restore it. Shortly after Group Captain Peter Stewart OBE (the brother of a former Head of Shirley House) became Estates Manager of Beechwood and he is regarded as the present school's true founder.[8] The school's first head master was Alan Mould.[10] The school roll has since increased to about 530 pupils.[10] Pupils at the school are divided into four houses, named Tudor, Saunders, Sebright and Stewart in homage to the history of the school and its buildings.[10]

Popular culture[edit]

The school was used as a location for the film The Dirty Dozen in 1967.[11]

The school was the subject of the 1967 song "Beechwood Park" by St. Albans band the Zombies on their Odessey and Oracle album. The song's writer and Zombies' guitarist, Chris White lived at nearby Markyate .

On the school speech days a famous figure makes a speech. Previous readers being Martin Bayfield and MBE Karen Pickering.

Alumni[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "British History Online - The core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles". www.british-history.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 1 November 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  2. ^ British History Online Archived 8 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine..
  3. ^ "Cottage Hire - Beechwood Park, Hertfordshire". Sebrightcottage.co.uk. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  4. ^ Eric Edwards (6 July 2011). "People | Heritage Pages | The Sebrights of Beechwood Park". Our Dacorum. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  5. ^ "Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England". London. 1881. p. 377. Archived from the original on 23 December 2016. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  6. ^ Victoria County History, Bedfordshire, Volume 2, William Page (editor), 1908, pp.338-344, Parishes: Hawnes or Haynes [1] Archived 7 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Beechwood Park Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ a b Thatcher, Chris (2014). "Beechwood Park School, Markyate, Hertfordshire". Oxford Archaeological Unit. Archived from the original on 29 January 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  9. ^ "Beechwood Park School". Archived from the original on 30 September 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  10. ^ a b c "Information Booklet 2012 /13". Beechwood Park. Archived from the original on 19 July 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  11. ^ "Dirty Dozen film at Beechwood - Local History Questions". Hemel Hempstead Gazette. Retrieved 27 July 2010.[dead link]

External links[edit]