A History of Preston

in Hertfordshire

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Hill End

Much of Hill End was considered to be part of Preston. It was included with the village in the counts of 1821 and 1886 and its children attended Preston School as did the present owner of the modern Hill End Farm.

 

Although the main access to Hill End is from the present B656 (which runs from Langley to Hitchin), there are footpaths that connect with the roads which lead to Preston and Whitwell. The census enumerators went from Hitchwood cottages to Hill End cottages and thence to the Farm.

 

At the end of the seventeenth century, Mrs Foster was farming at Hill End. It was taken over by the Cook family. James Cook (who married Mrs Foster’s daughter, Elizabeth) was farming there in 1821. He was followed by his son, John Cook and then Thomas Cook. From 1886 until at least 1901 William Jackson farmed there.

 

In 1851 it consisted of 470 acres and was worked by 21 labourers. On 23 June 1910, Hill End Farm was offered for sale together with Little Almshoe and Langley Farms. It was advertised as being 396 acres of rich grass and arable land with “good partridge shooting”.

 

The farm house was described as ‘comfortable”. It was brick-built with stuccoed elevation and a slated and tiled roof. On the ground floor were a large dining room, drawing room, office and tiled entrance hall. There was also a dairy, brew house and cellar. On the first floor were six bedrooms and a box room. The Farm was surrounded by outbuildings and had a lawn, flower beds, gravelled walks and shrubberies and an enclosed kitchen garden and orchard.

 

Near the main farm was a four-roomed cottage built of brick and timber with a tiled roof. There was a smaller farm - ‘Lower Farm’ - which was part of the estate. Close by were the two Minsden Cottages which had four rooms and were built of timber with tiled roofs. Two more cottages were at Lower Hill End. They had three rooms and were of brick and stuccoed construction with tiled roofs. These cottages were considered to be part of Langley rather than Preston. Finally, there were two cottages at Poynders End which were included in the Hill End Farm estate. Thus, there were seven cottages on the estate where some of its labourers lived.

 

As well as rearing cattle, Hill End was  a sheep farm. My great x3 grandfather, Robert Currell (a shepherd) lived in one of the Minsden cottages from 1781 until his death in 1832. In 1828, his married son, Samuel was also living there. My great grandfather, Charles Wray (a hurdlemaker) had moved from Tewin in Hertfordshire to Hill End by the time of his marriage in 1852.

 

The following are others who lived in the cottages at Hill End:

Hill End, which is now known as Langley End, is approached by a lane from the B651 between St Pauls Walden and Ippollitts. It is on the brow of a hill which rises above woodland (shown right).

 

In 1911/12, Lutyens was commissioned by  Mr H G Fenwick of Temple Dinsley to design several houses and buildings at Hill End, now Langley End (for more details, see Fenwick):

                              Hill End (now Langley End House, Bathgate House and Clifton House).

                              Cottage at Hill end (now, Langley End Cottage).

                              1 and 2 Hill End Farm Cottages and dairy.

                              A generator house ( now a house, Bridle Ways) and wall.

                              A barn at Hill End Farm and possible alterations to two other barns.

 

The houses are of similar unifying construction using narrow red bricks with a dressing of lighter red bricks in English bond, alternate rows of ‘headers’ and ‘stretchers’.

Hill End  aka Langley End (now,  three properties: Langley End, Bathgate and Clifton Houses) is a Georgian revival-style H-shaped house of two stories with flanking cross-wings. There is an adjoining two-storey service wing which is now Clifton House. The steep roof is made of red handmade tiles and there is a large rectangular central chimney stack and balancing slabs of chimneys atop the two cross-wings.

 

At the front elevation, the roof sweeps down to a single storey at the entrance - ‘the low eaves of the entrance front are intimate in scale’. There are central double doors which are flanked by small-paned four-lights casement windows. On the roof slope are three hipped, lead-glazed, dormer windows which are set in oak frames.

 

The rear garden elevation is symmetrical with seven french casements at ground level and above them seven casement windows at the first floor - ‘they make for a distinctive appearance’. An echo of Temple Dinsley are the tall piers capped by stone and urns - these are linked by a panelled parapet.

Hill End - (above) side and front elevation; (below) rear views circa 1912 and 2010

Daphne du Maurier at Hill End

Between 1940 and 1942, the novelist Daphne du Maurier (1907 - 1989) (right) lived at Hill End. Daphne’s husband, Tommy, was stationed in Hertfordshire so she, her three young children and a nanny decamped to Hill End as a paying guest of Henry ‘Christopher’ Puxley and his wife ‘Paddy’. Here, she wrote Frenchman’s Creek in 1941.

 

Here, Daphne would ‘breakfast in bed and wander in the garden and go for walks to my heart’s content. While at Hill End, it was reported that, ‘protected by the champagne and roses of life at Langley's End, Daphne could still watch a formation of 20 German bombers on their way to bomb Luton … and see the beauty of them rather than the deadly menace they embodied. She wrote,’ It really was rather an

Langley End Cottage (formerly Cottage at Hill End, below) is a T-shaped asymmetrical house with a long single storey wing and a short 1 ½ -storey wing. It has white, small-paned wooden casement windows with heavy glazing bars. Some windows have a tile lintel and drip

 

The steep roof is constructed with red hand-made tiles. There are two large internal square chimneys, each with clasping corner pilasters and waisted top. Within the grounds of the cottage is a dovecote.

Langley End Cottage (formerly, Cottage at Hill End)

1 and 2 Hill End Farm Cottages (below), originally with an adjoining dairy, are a in a single 1 ½ storey block with gable windows. In the recessed centre, which gives a two-storey elevation between the lower wings, there are red tiles hung to the first floor.

 

The steep roofs are made of red tiles with a continuous tiled eaves corbel and there is a huge central chimney stack with clasping corner pilasters and waisted top. The front doors are made of planked wood and there are small-paned, wooden flush white windows.

1 and 2 Hill End Farm Cottages

In addition to the building mentioned above, Lutyens also designed two other buildings at Langley End. Firstly, a barn at Hill End Farm; it is a long 1½ storey building with a steep red-tiled roof. He also designed a generator house, which has now been converted into a house, and an adjoining wall.

To the south of Langley End Cottage is an 17/18th century weather boarded barn. The white-painted boards on the gable tops which represent a V-shaped roof truss may have been added by Lutyens around 1911.

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exquisite sight, so remote and unreal, those silvery creatures like humming birds above us at about twenty thousand feet, while above them circled their own protective fighters’.

 

After the birth of her son, Christian, at Cloud’s Hill, Offley, Daphne returned to Hill End where she shared the mansion with a number of refugees. Her stay came to an end when Paddy Puxley found her in Christopher’s arms.

Hill End Farm, Langley End

Addendum: Hill End c1913 from L Weaver’s Small Country Houses of Today

Weaver writes:Hill End makes no parade of classical forms and the nature of the site and the relation of the house to the road indicated a ground plan not even purely symmetrical. But even in plan, the service block to the north-east, the house is perfectly balanced on both of its main elevations - and the garden side is a very just example of the spirit of classical repose in a composition possessing no definite classical features. It is Sir Edwin’s happy gift to combine with such a decorous conception elements of variousness such as the flanking walls to the little terrace on the entrance front with their attractive niches. His very difficulties are the occasion of new successes. To secure a proper disposition of the servants’ quarters and to arrange the northeast front so that it took up a proper alignment with the road involved making the kitchen block and yard of an irregular shape. So admirably, however, is this part modelled that from no point of view is there any suggestion of distortion. The complete picture gives the impression that just so and no otherwise could Hill End have been built. The best art in any medium must always give the idea of being inevitable.

 

In the scheming of the rooms generally Sir Edwin has provided that every room in the house, with the exception of the school room and the servants’ quarters shall have the sunny south-east aspect. It is impossible to give Hill End Higher praise than to say it is a little Temple Dinsley of which it is a near neighbour. For all its modesty in actual size and accommodation it is informed with that quality of breadth and dignity which is the essence of the classic spirit

Front entrance

From the road

The entrance from the south-west

The garden from the south

The garden from the south-east

On the south terrace

A garden path

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