Ware Park

A thousand years of history

By S Williams

Ware Park c1800
Hals (Oldfield)
Ware Park in 1812
Hals
A map from the 1820s
Hals
A view in the 1820s
Hals (Clutterbuck)
Ware Park in 1861
Hals
Ware Park in the 1880s
Hals
Ware Park c1905
Hals
The fire of 1911
Hals (Elsden)
The house being rebuilt
Hertford Museum
Sale particulars of 1919
Hals
1919 sales particulars
Hals
Ware Park Lodge from the sale particulars in 1919
Ware Park Sanatorium in the early 1920s
HALS (cv)
Another view from the 1920s
Hals
The Sanatorium grounds showing the huts, 1930s
An article from The Mercury in the 1960s
Matron by the fire place, The Mercury, 1966
Hals
Sales particulars from 1980
Hals
Map of the estate, 1980
Hals
The Mercury, 1980
Hals
Ware Park in 2010

From the Norman Conquest to the 16th century, Ware Park was connected with some of the greatest feudal families of the day.  In the Domesday book, it is recorded as being the property of Hugh de Grentmasnil from whose family it passed by marriage to the Earls of Leicester, then to the De Quinceys and then to the Wakes.  

In the mid 16th century it was sold to the Fanshawe family and Thomas Fanshawe built himself a new mansion.  His son, Henry, was a great gardener and Ware Park became famous for its peaches – so much that King James I ordered grapes and peaches to be sent to him twice a week.  The Fanshawes are buried in a vault in St Mary’s Church.    

Ware Park today

The Tudor mansion was demolished and rebuilt on or near the same spot in the late 18th century by Thomas Byde, an MP. Unfortunately, we don’t know what the Tudor house looked like.    The house standing today is the third incarnation: it was rebuilt again around 1875 in the style of an Italian villa by William Parker, whose family acquired the estate in the 1820s.  

“Great crimson waves” – the fire of 1911  

In 1911 a fire was discovered in the servants’ quarters and despite the combined efforts of Hertford and Ware fire brigades, the house was completely gutted.  A breeze fanned the flames and the roof collapsed as volunteers frantically passed (and threw) clothes, furniture, bedsteads, ornaments and paintings from the windows. A local photographer, Mr Elsden captured the event.  At the time it was leased to a Dr Cumberbatch and his family. The damage was estimated to be £10,000, the equivalent of nearly £4m today. The interior was rebuilt not long afterwards in the same style by Mr Parker, a wealthy man whose main seat was in Cumbria.    

In 1919, the whole estate was put up for sale.  This included Revells Hall in Bengeo, Ware Park Mill and Westmill Farms, brickfields in Ware, cottages, sand and gravel pits, and the 20 bedroomed  mansion, totalling 1,130 acres.    

The Sanatorium and a new chapter  

Hertfordshire County Council was looking for somewhere to build a new TB Sanatorium and Ware Park looked the best option. A site in Willian was earmarked but was deemed too expensive.  Until then, Canons in Ware was being used for local sufferers. (Canons is now the Roebuck Hotel).  On 20th June 1920, the council were asked to approve the purchase Ware Park mansion and 112 acres to be used as a sanatorium for 132 patients and the necessary staff for the sum of £25,000.  A further sum of £39,000 was required for adapting the buildings and in purchasing some huts for rebuilding at Ware.    

Economy, emergency and humanity

There were arguments over the cost of Ware Park but in the end, it was decided that there was no doubt for the necessity of the sanatorium.  It was opened in a ceremony by the marchioness of Salisbury on Monday 7th May 1923.  The first Matron was Miss M Sutton who was previously employed at Canons, on a salary starting on £140 a year.  £4,000 was spent furnishing the building, including: £193 on bedsteads £317 on bedding £500 on x-ray equipment £169 on cooking utensils          

TB – a killer disease  

The advancement of scientific understanding of tuberculosis, and its contagious nature created the need for institutions to house sufferers.  At the time, there were 400 people in the county suffering from TB.  Until antibiotics were discovered, patients were given the “fresh air cure” and lots of rest.  This included patients sleeping on outdoor verandas and some can just about be seen in postcards of the time.  

TB is an infectious disease which usually attacks the lungs and has been around since antiquity.  Over the years it was also called consumption, wasting disease, scrofula, the White Plague, King’s Disease and many other names.  It was not until the 1940s with the development of the antibiotic streptomycin that effective treatment and cure became possible. Although widely eradicated in Britain, there are still a few thousand people with the disease but hundreds of thousands more around the world, mainly in poorer countries.  

World War II  

On 24th September 1942, a parachute mine fell just over 100 metres from the sanatorium.  It became entangled in a tree and failed to explode.  The patients were evacuated while the mine was made safe by the Royal navy.  Someone suggested that if the mine was displayed in the Priory grounds, it could be used as a showpiece to raise money for the “Ware Boys at The Front” fund so it was taken there by council workmen.  

Ticking bomb…

It remained there for 5 days until a passing serviceman said it had not been fully diffused.  This caused a panic and it was quickly moved to Brazier’s gravel pit in nearby Watton Road (where the Vicarage estate now stands).  Despite its proximity to houses, the mine was exploded on 30th September and a large crowd gathered on Widbury Hill to watch.   The explosion caused considerable damage; one house was totally destroyed and three more had to be demolished.  Several houses in Watton Road lost their roofs and 300 more had varying degrees of damage.  It turned out that the mine had been part of a raid which had killed three people in Hertford.  

Sanatorium to hospital

By the 1960s, the hospital catered for all chest and respiratory complaints and had around 150 patients and 50 staff.  The mansion was used for staff quarters and offices which included kitchens for the hospital, dining and recreation rooms and other facilities.  Essentially, it was much the same as when it was a private house.  

Faded grandeur and closure  

Age and neglect began to take its toll and the building was beginning to crumble.  Parts of masonry had to be removed as they were in a dangerous condition and the hospital was no longer self-sufficient.  It struggled on until the early 1970s when, against much criticism, it closed by the Regional Health Authority.  Unfortunately, the records have not survived.  

A new lease of life

In 1980, the estate was sold for £280,000 at an auction at the Canons Hotel in Ware.  The buyer was not a local man who (according to the auctioneers) had no firm plans for the park.  The lot included the mansion house itself and surrounding buildings (including the hospital wards) office, walled gardens, 94 acres of parkland and extensive woodlands.  Later on, the house was divided into luxury apartments.

This page was added on 04/03/2011.

Comments about this page

  • My husband and I moved to a house behind Ware Park Manor House in 1995. On digging out a border in the garden I came across large pieces of broken sanitary ware, blue asbestos etc. I now realise, having seen the photograph of the sanatorium huts, that they were built in what is now my garden.

    By Patricia Diez (03/03/2017)
  • I worked at ware park in the mid 1970’s using some of the villa wards as stores for district nurses and health visitors furniture for their houses. At that stage a roman stone coffin  was also found and removed to hertford museum. The tops of the conifer trees were taken to be used for Christmas trees at East herts hospital on gallows hill.

    By paulpaulmosley@hotmail.co.uk (01/08/2016)
  • My father was a patient here in 1955, when Mum was pregnant with my older brother, David. He did not see the baby until David was 18 months old.

    By Angela White (20/09/2015)
  • Hi Kaye, you could try Ware Town Council who look after the cemetery

    By serena williams (20/06/2014)
  • This was very interesting for me as I think my grand-father was a T.B. patient there in 1927…..or he may have been at Canons. I wondered if you know or could suggest where patients who died there might have been buried, or maybe they were cremated. A grim question, I know, but one that might help me find my grand-father’s grave for Family History purposes.

    By Kay (01/04/2014)
  • There was a children’s home on Bengeo Street in Bengeo House in the 1960’s and 1970’s maybe that was the one you remember?

    By Marilyn (04/06/2013)
  • As far as we know, it was not used as a children’s home – Herts Archives have some records of homes in Hertfordshire, see http://www.hertsdirect.org/hals for more information

    By Serena (21/12/2012)
  • Hi I have a question rather than a comment, I wondered if in 1976 aprox was this used as a childrens home ? I was in a childrens home in this area & can’t seem to find anything else

    By Jane Forsyth (29/11/2012)
  • It was very interesting to see to see Ware Park over the years, my mother was a patient in 1943 and died 1945, three children were made motherless aged 2yrs 4yrs and 5yrs. Our ran off so childrens homes were the next step thankyou for enlighten me to its history

    By Mrs Janet Woolner (25/07/2011)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *