Ashwell House

History of Ashwell House St Albans

On 18th July 1622, when James 1st was on the throne, Sir William Wendy and his wife, Dame Blanche, leased an area called “Great Downfields” with a term of nine hundred and ninety-nine years to a certain Robert Seale . The rent was fixed at four shillings per annum, payable at “the two most usual feasts in the year, being the feast of St. Michael the Archangel and the Annunciation of Our Lady, Mary the Virgin”.  This lease covered thirteen acres of land and probably was the whole of the area known as “Kingsbury Knoll”. However, in 1622 it did not occur to the Lessors to include a provision to cover inflation, so probably the rent was not collected for very long.

George Ashwell was a Solicitor, born in Newark, Notts. in 1810. He came to St. Albans with his wife Ann and built Ashwell House, probably in about the year 1840. The 1871 Census shows that living at the house then were, George Ashwell, his wife Ann, sons Stephen and Henry (both in their twenties) and also two grandchildren, Ann Gibson, and Edward Gibson . Ten years later, in 1881, George Ashwell was not listed (he died in 1878). His wife was also not mentioned, and the occupiers were: Robert Gibson (George Ashwell’s son-in-law) aged 54; Ann his wife (George’s daughter) aged 43, his sons George, Henry and Edward, and his daughters Ann and baby Helen Mary. In addition, the household comprised Miss Purser, the Governess, two Housemaids, and a Porter.

George Ashwell was not the first Solicitor to make a mess of his own Will. His biggest mistake was to appoint a crooked Solicitor as his Executor. The Solicitor was a Frederick Seale Parker of London. The fact that the Will was made the day he died might afford him some excuse. The other Executor was a Dr. Drage of Hatfield. The crooked Solicitor F.S. Parker, later absconded with a substantial part of the estate. On George’s death on the 18th May 1878, he was found to be an extremely wealthy man. He not only owned Ashwell House, but other properties in Kingsbury, houses in Verulam Road, The Abbey Gate House (now the home of the Lord Bishop of St. Albans), Bleak House (a former Government office), 24 cottages in Abbey Mill Lane and lands in Gustard Wood, Wheathampstead and Sandridge.