Manor's journey to modern times

From neolithic ritual sites and Roman roads, Shendish Manor, Kings Langley, has a history stretching back thousands of years.

For the second instalment of Shendish Manor's colourful past taken from A Short History of the Manor of Shendish by Alan Penwarden of the Kings Langley Local History and Museum booklet about the manor, The Gazette's Heritage page takes a closer look at the manor from 1853 when the famous publishing family, the Longmans, bought it and almost quadrupled it in size.

Charles Longman inherited a large fortune from his father which he used to buy Shendish.

He employed London architect, John Griffith to design the great house so he could out-do his business partner, John Dickinson, with whom he owned a highly successful paper-making business.

Shendish Manor was built on the site where the farm originally stood.

This was knocked down and when the build was finished Charles and his wife, Anna Maria Surman moved in with their 13-year-old son Arthur Hampton.

To make Shendish really stand out Charles employed Lord Birkenhead's landscape gardener, Edward Kemp to create magnificent gardens.

However, just four year's after the completion of the house Anna died on New Year's Eve at the age of 48.

In her memory Charles wanted to erect a church, but John Dickinson was against the idea. So after John's death in 1869 Charles set about building the church of St Mary in Apsley End which opened in 1871.

Ten years earlier in the 1861 Census their son Arthur was listed as a farmer on the estate in charge of 18 labourers who worked 360 acres of land.

Over the next 10 years the land owned by the family increased to 500 acres. Arthur and his wife, Alicia, lived in the manor with his 62-year-old father until Charles' sudden death in 1873.

Charles was laid to rest next to his wife at St Mary's Church and the Manor passed to Arthur.

Having little interest in the Dickinson paper-making business, Arthur became a master of the Old Berkeley fox hunt and a benefactor to All Saints Church. He also began to build enough cottages on the estate to accommodate 11 households for his workers.

He continued to develop the estate until his death in 1908 at the age of 65.

As a popular figure in the town many attended his funeral and his remains were buried with his mother and father's.

The Rev. Haythornthwaite said of the family: "This type of 'Squire' and 'Lady', with their personal devotion to the communal interests of the neighbourhood, has largely passed away, but the inhabitants of Kings Langley during the past century owed much of their happiness and well-being to this benevolent and public-spirited system of parochial government, in which 'Squire' and 'Parson' worked so happily together for the common good."

In Arthur's memory his wife built a village room designed for prayer, reading and recreation. This later became known as Rucklers Lane Hall.

As the couple had no children after Alicia's death in 1914 the estate passed to their cousin, Thomas Norton Longman.

Thomas, who was in the family publishing business, began extending the north end of the property.

During World War I the property was used as an army camp through which 20,000 soldiers passed and the 21st Battery 8th London Brigade RFA made it its headquarters.

By 1931 Shendish encompassed almost 1,309 acres but the Longman's control of the land began to break down when the next family member, Thomas' nephew Henry, inherited it.

Henry sold 409 acres to a retired captain and Farmers tending the land were given the opportunity to buy their farms.

This left the main house standing on 90 acres which was bought by John Dickinson and Co in 1936.

This became the headquarters for the Dickinson Guild of Sport which was opened by the England cricketer Jack Hobbs.

The guild allowed people to indulge in tennis, bowls and other recreational pastimes.

When World War II began Shendish was once again utilised by the military and evacuee families from the Dickinson factories in London, were given refuge there.

One family who had a baby their during their stay named their new daughter Shenda after the manor.

After the war the Dickinson company merged with Robinsons in 1967. The company was then bought out for 700m by Pembridge Investments.

Today the great manor stands on 150 acres and has been sympathetically refurbished and extended to boast a 70-bedroom hotel with function and conference facilities, a golf course and health club.

In Mr Penwarden's conclusion he wrote: "So many notable estates in this country have disappeared. At Shendish it is still possible today to appreciate the vision of Charles Longman, his architect and his landscape designer 150 years ago."

To read Mr Penwarden's full, illustrated account of the history of Shendish, copies of the booklet can be obtained from Montagues Newsagents, High Street, Kings Langley, price 4.50.

For more information call Frank Davies on 01923 264109.