South Road

In medieval times the monasteries had always tried to help the less fortunate among the population, but it was the Tudors, in particular Henry VIII (1509–1547), who made an attempt to deal with poverty. An Act of 1531 ruled that every parish had to keep its poor by means of charitable alms i.e. money given voluntarily by those most able to afford it.

Churchwardens’ accounts of 1547 show that William Norfolke paid 4d. (2p) rent ‘for Almshouse gardyn for half a yere’. The Almshouse mentioned was built for the poor of the town on the south side of the market place and is said to have later been replaced by five almshouses at Newtown in exchange for two tenements founded by Richard Pilston in 1572.

King’s Cottages

Almshouses were still being built for the benefit of the poor in the early 20th century and in Bishop’s Stortford, King’s Cottages fulfilled that role. Comprising of five blocks, the first two to be erected were funded by Sir Walter Gilbey in 1906 in memory of his wife, and named as such in recognition of his association with royalty.

A third block, a gift of Admiral F. Vander Meulen, was built in 1907. He was the son of Rev Frederick Vander Meulen who for many years was Rector of Thorley, and it was because of this connection that the Admiral specified residents of Thorley should take priority to be housed in this block when any of the dwellings became vacant. The Admiral was also instrumental in arranging for a further block of cottages to be built in the name of his brother, Col. J.H. Vander Meulen. This was occupied by 1911. The fifth block, erected in 1914, was paid for by the Admiral’s sister, Mrs Georgina Menet, widow of the first Vicar of Hockerill’s All Saints church.

Each block comprises of four cottages, two of which are single dwellings and the other two, double dwellings. When built, it was stipulated the single dwellings should be occupied by one female at a rent of 6d. (2 1/2p) per week, and that the double dwellings should house a man and his wife at a rent of 9d. (4p) per week.

Today the cottages serve much the same purpose, the only criteria for prospective tenants being that they should be aged over 55. Outwardly the buildings have changed very little since they were built, but the interiors have been totally refurbished and modernised to the highest standard.

Tenancy and upkeep is presided over by a Trust originally set up by Sir Walter Gilbey, who specified that only a direct descendant of his should always be one of the trustees to administer the cottages. His son, Tresham, served as Chairman of the Trustees from 1906 until his death in 1947, and Vincent Routeledge, the eldest son of Sir Walter Gilbey’s daughter, Mabe Kate, served until his death in 1967. The current family member associated with the Trust is Sir Walter’s grandson, Walter Anthony Gilbey.

The following full and detailed history of Bishop’s Stortford’s only Almshouses is taken directly from The Centenary (2006) booklet commissioned by the Trustees of King’s Cottages, and reproduced here courtesy of the Trustees.

It is a great pleasure and privilege to have been asked to write this short foreword to the publication marking the Centenary of the opening of King’s Cottages.

My grandfather and the other original founders of the cottages could never have dreamt that the very simple residences, which they built 100 years ago in accordance with the standards then expected for such buildings could have become the present totally modernised homes that now provide up-to-date standards of accommodation for the residents in them. There are many people to be thanked for them; firstly my grandfather, the first Sir Walter Gilbey Bart and the other founders of the cottages Admiral Vander-Meulen, Colonel Vander-Meulen and Mrs Minet who had the foresight to embark on a venture that has provided homes for many generations of residents of the Bishop’s Stortford area.

Sincere gratitude is due to all those who, over the years, have acted as Trustees completely unpaid. Particular thanks are due to the various Secretaries of the Trust and particularly the late Stanley Lee, who brought about the modernisation of the cottages in the 1960s and 70s.

We are also grateful to the various Wardens and all those who have helped the Trust in other ways, either with their time or with generous donations.

The Trustees and I are very grateful to Wally Wright, who has written so many worthwhile publications about the Bishop’s Stortford area and its history, for producing this excellent booklet to mark the Trust’s Centenary.

Thanks are also due to Sally Pribul for the editing and preparation of the booklet for publication.

It is the hope of my co-Trustees and I that the cottages will be providing up-to-date accommodation for senior citizens 100 years from now.

Walter Gilbey

Many surviving almshouses are of seventeenth century foundation, often started by private benefaction or by a craft guild for its retired members or their widows. Although Hertfordshire had many such almshouses, none were formed under the terms of a Trust as was the case in the prosperous market town of Bishop’s Stortford. The list of Hertfordshire Almshouses published by W O Wittering in Hertfordshire Countryside in 1974 indicated eighty existing foundations, of which King’s Cottages, in 1906, was one of the last to be built.

The oldest recorded almshouses in the county were the ‘Hellard’s’ in Stevenage, whereby under the terms of a bequest some cottages were transferred to the Reverend S Hellard in 1483 which he then founded as almshouses. Each occupant was required daily to repeat the prayer: “In the name of the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Trinitie Father and Sonne and Holy Ghost have mercy and pity upon the soul of Master Steven Hellard and upon all Christian souls”, which would appear to bring the benefaction very close to being a chantry for the Reverend gentleman. Completely destroyed by fire in 1807, they were rebuilt and are still used.

The reasons for persons of means wanting to raise almshouses are many and varied, and whilst in earlier times it may have been to ease a conscience worried about previous shortcomings, and/or the opportunity to gain a better score in the eyes of Saint Peter when the Day of Judgement came; in later times others might just be looking for an advance in their social status.

Sir Walter Gilbey, however, did not appear to be motivated by these needs and was a benefactor in many ways to the advantage of the local populace, having donated land for a new hospital and a branch line for the railway, and certainly did not request that he be prayed for every day. In a letter to the Hon. Secretary of the King’s Cottage Trust, Mr A G Gwynne, Sir Walter explains his “ideas for meeting a want for cheap homes for the unfortunates in lieu of being obliged to live in the Union (the workhouse)”.

The site chosen for the almshouses was a field owned by Charles Hawkes of the brewing family, adjacent to the main road leading from the south into the town of Bishop’s Stortford. Sir Walter had been contemplating the project for some time before he made the decision to begin. He then engaged the architect J S Cooper to design the cottages and a Mr C Martin to build them. They are single storied, of yellow stock bricks, with a gabled frontage.

An extract from the Agreement to build the second group of four cottages, dated 17 April 1906 between Mr Walter Gilbey and Mr C Martin, states: “The Employer agrees to pay the Contractor £409 for the said work to be phased to 50% on completion …. the remaining 50% to be paid three months after completion if satisfactory …. the Contractor further agrees to …. complete the same on or before the 8 July 1906 or forfeit the sum of £1 10s for every week or part thereof until completion”.

The dates of opening of the cottages were:
Blocks 1 & 2 – 27 September 1906 donated by Sir Walter Gilbey
Block 3 – 17 August 1907 donated by Admiral F S Vander-Meulen
Block 4 – 7 November 1910 donated by Colonel J H Vander-Meulen
Block 5 – 5 January 1914 donated by Mrs G Menet

The opening ceremony for Blocks 1 and 2 was a grand occasion presided over by Sir Walter Gilbey, who called upon Sir John Barker, Mrs Abel-Smith and Mr Abel-Smith MP to make speeches. Sir Walter made the closing speech before handing a golden key to Mrs Abel-Smith to open each of the cottages. Also present were Mr and Mrs Henry Walter Gilbey, Mr and Mrs Tresham Gilbey, Canon Proctor, The Trustees, the Hon. Secretary and the architect Mr J Cooper.

The reason for Sir Walter Gilbey to date the memorial tablet on the first cottages 31 October 1905 is not known.

Conscious of the fact that an on-going service requires a supporting fund of money, Sir Walter made a donation of £100 on the completion of the first block of cottages to the ‘endowment’ fund of the trust. Subsequently Admiral Vander-Meulen and Mrs Minet made contributions of £100 and £50 respectively. With a steady income from the rents it was anticipated that a viable cash system existed to start the project on its way.

Under the terms of the agreement the rents were set at a constant level, but wear and tear and fluctuations of the number of occupants showed the income to be marginal in its ability to maintain solvency. There was no slack that could be used in the event of a call on capital and demands on the capital eventually reduced the bank balance to nil in March 1930. An appeal to W&A Gilbey Wine Company produced a cheque for £25 to save the situation and allowed the delayed repairs and decorating to be completed. At this date the fire insurance was £3 9s 9d per annum and the Urban District Council rates were £15 4s 0d per annum, with income from the rents being £31 5s 0d per annum maximum.

Occasions of great sadness accompanied the deaths of well-known and respected people in the town, but it sometimes brought very welcome financial relief, as occasioned by the bequest of £500 upon the death of Mr Herbert Sworder in June 1933, and again in 1947 upon the death of Mr Tresham Gilbey, who left a bequest of £100.

The struggle continued, but in June 1948 a rescue was achieved by persuading the Urban District Council to waive the rates for the year. Unfortunately this was not sufficient to permit work to be started on several urgent repairs. At this stage a bizarre source of grants came to the rescue in the guise of the Sunday Entertainment Act 1932, when places of entertainment were required to pay a levy for Sunday performances. This was collected by Hertfordshire County Council and a grant of £100 was made to the trustees towards the cost of the repairs and replacement of some of the ovens in the cottages.

The ability of the Trust to survive was remarkable and largely due to careful management and the stoicism of the occupants. However, by 1955 changes in the requirements of grant-making bodies to bring about better housing conditions, and the need to show a sound and long term financial basis, meant that the Trustees had to concentrate particularly on these requirements. In 1954 the Urban District Council refused to waive the rates and immediately the rent was increased by sixpence a week. After an application to Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) in 1955 for £400, the Trustees were referred to the National Almshouses Association which recommended that a grant be applied for under the Housing Act 1949 to install internal bathrooms and toilets. HCC subsequently granted £400, the Gilfrere Trust granted £100, and a bequest from Mrs Cowell of £100 was received at this time. The struggle remained however, causing the bank to issue warnings in both 1962 and 1963 that the account was overdrawn and a permanent solution was required.

Pressure now came from two directions; the first was the Local Government Inspectors’ report of unsuitable accommodation at the cottages, and the second, the needs of the grant-making bodies as above. These requirements raised major difficulties under the existing terms of the Trust, but it was here that fate took a hand. In October 1965 the current Chairman, Vincent Routledge, sadly died and at the same time Walter Anthony Gilbey became available to take his place as Chairman, and Stanley Lee became the Secretary.

The changes brought new and clearer thinking to the financial policy and the difficulties were tackled and overcome, enabling grants to be invited.

In correspondence from the Charity Commissioners it was emphasised that a long term solution to the problems was required and suggested that the Urban District Council (UDC) should offer improvement grants and rent rises could be covered by National Almshouses Association improvement grants. Rent rises could be covered by the National Assistance Board as supplementary pensions (1962). In 1964 the plans for improving the cottages had been agreed and assurances had been received from HCC and the UDC to support the upgrading. To cover this scheme in March 1965 a loan of £15,000 was obtained from the East Herts District Council towards the cost of £22,250, plus the Sir Walter Gilbey Memorial Trust was willing to guarantee any defaulting of loan repayments. There was also an interest-free loan of £1,000 from the Gilfrere Trust.

Work was started and the first block of cottages to benefit from the upgrading project were completed by May 1966 with each cottage being fitted with a tiled fireplace, a separate bedroom, an improved kitchen with hot and cold water and an added bathroom. This major increase in appointment justified a rise in rents to the level now advised by the Fair Rents Officer. The cost of borrowing for the project was partly offset by the National Assistance Board agreeing to contribute thirty-seven shillings and six pence for doubles and thirty shillings for singles, per cottage, per week. The rents in 1962 were still only one shilling and three pence for a double, and one shilling for the single cottages, but ten shillings and five shillings respectively was considered the necessary amount to meet the running costs. This would require the Charity Commissioners agreement. Assistance also came from sympathetic suppliers, such as Messrs H E Handscomb Ltd’s bill for carrying out repairs of £287 was finally settled after being a bookkeeping debt for three years.

Some additional land to the rear of cottages 9 to 18 was necessary to provide for a safety exit and this was purchased in 1969 for £200. Also an earlier project to build a house for a warden and a community centre was in abeyance. The unused tennis courts at the rear of numbers 1-8 was purchased for £600 in 1964 by Walter A Gilbey and donated to the King’s Cottages Trust with this purpose in mind and not used, but it was due to be a very valuable asset at a later date.

After these major adjustments the King’s Cottages Trust was now on an even keel and clear of all accusations of not being able to provide the required level of comfort and facility for its tenants in the nineteen-seventies and for those of the future.

In 1964 the Trust became registered as a charity and having realised all its investments, it was left with a balance of £93 8s 7d. The Trustees recorded in the minutes that they now felt that the Trust was suitably self-supporting and this belief proved to be well-founded, right up to the end of the twentieth century and beyond. They also minuted that, in the quest for suitable Trustees, it was desirable to “recruit such persons as would be able to help bring King’s Cottages into the life of the town – socially and politically – but without involving the Trust in any apparent political affiliation”.

The appointment of a resident warden had been recognised earlier but was not made until 1966. She was based in one of the cottages and this removed the need to retain the land at the rear of numbers 1 to 8 and negotiations for its sale as building land were begun. To meet the planning requirements a strip of land was needed to provide better road access and the concluding of this arrangement with the neighbouring properties delayed the project considerably. A deal was finally made in 1973, thanks to the efforts of the Trustees and Messrs Mullucks and Seeley, allowing the building of six dwellings. Although the final figure was much reduced, after costs were settled the Trust received £39,000. The £15,000 loan from EHDC to the Trust was, at this time, 50% discharged and the outstanding amount of the debt was repaid.

A bequest of £27,683 was received from the estate of Miss Pallas in 1989 and fortuitously was used to meet the costs of delayed major repairs.

A rolling scheme of improvements was kept moving and included central heating and roof insulation at a cost of £3,000 in 1980 and 1986; double-glazing at a cost of £43,700 in 1999; the introduction of ‘Expelair’ anti-condensation units in 1993; and the modernising of kitchens and bathrooms in 1990 and 1992 as cottages became vacant. The double-glazing received a grant of £1,500 from Stansted Airports Consultative Committee Community Fund, a fund derived from fines imposed on aircraft exceeding the noise limits, £2,000 from the Brazier Trust and £500 from the United Charities Trust. The outlay plus repairs resulted in a deficit of £11,425 in 2000, but steady income produced a surplus of £25,496 by 2003.

It is said “the mills of government grind slow but exceeding small”, a comment that might be applied to the progress of improvements for the occupants of King’s Cottages.

An article which appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer reported: “’The King’s Cottages’ is the name of the eight tiny residences which have recently been in course of erection on the South-road. They have been built to the order of Sir Walter Gilbey, from the plans of Mr J S Cooper, by Mr C Martin; and will be vested [in Trustees] for the benefit of the aged and deserving poor.” Commencing at the time of the King’s passage through Bishop’s Stortford, it was an instinct of loyalty on the part of Sir Walter Gilbey to call them The King’s Cottages, and that name adorns each of them, below the head of His Majesty in low relief on the front walls.

It was also reported that: “On first inspection the cottages strike one as being the smallest dwellings ever built, but they have been most exactly adapted to their purpose, without the slightest excess in any direction …. They are brick and tile single-storey structures in sets of four, each set containing two double and two single cottages, alternately placed. The double cottage has a sitting-room 12ft by 10ft 6ins, a bedroom 10ft by 7ft 9ins, and a small scullery in which room is found for the larder and coal cellar. Each cottage is entered by a neat porch. The single tenements have a sitting-room 12ft by 9ft, with a bed-recess, 9ft by 6ft, partially divided from the main room by folding doors. The cottage will be suitably furnished, and at a final inspection which Sir Walter made on Thursday, they were fitted with oak chairs and bedsteads, red Brussels carpets, and casement window curtains.”

The Trustees were not unaware of the need to take advantage of the services available, but financially were not in a position to take on major improvements. In July 1914 a request to install gas to replace oil lamps was declined and not reconsidered until 1937, and again declined, but succeeded in electric lighting being installed at an extra cost of four pence a week on the basis that this was the saving on oil and candles. This improvement was very welcome and in 1952 required a further rent increase of seven pence and nine pence a week, plus an additional four pence a week to use a wireless set.

A cast-iron combined oven/grate known as a ‘Kitchener’ for heating and cooking was fitted in all the cottages and in some cases was used satisfactorily, but the letters of complaint indicate that many of them were a lot less than satisfactory and not capable of roasting, but very good at filling the place with smoke. The users would manage by placing their saucepans directly onto the fire in the grate. This was a situation that was emphasised in a report by the representative of the News Chronicle dated 11th April 1945, following a visit, as: “It is meant as no disparagement when it is said that the two tiny rooms are not sufficient to swing the proverbial cat around …. and that the living-room is wholly inadequate …. and that it is scarcely possible to boil food, and roasting is out of the question. To have to live on boiled food year in year out is nothing short of idiotic. Further, there are no coppers for washing clothes.”

After the upgrades the occupants must have felt that they were moving towards modern living with the type of improvements being introduced into many homes.

The first warden was installed in 1968 when Mrs Marsh was engaged and paid £3 1s per week, plus accommodation. The plan had been to build a warden’s house on the disused tennis courts, but the capital required was not available, and the warden was housed in one of the cottages.

The wardens have always proved to be very conscientious and kindly, but on occasions a mistake happens, as in the case of one divorced lady with a young child. She had remarried and taken the post at King’s Cottages and her husband had then left her after a short time, and she now wanted to take in a local male partner. This was not acceptable as tenants were not allowed under the terms of her contract, and also her relationship with the other tenants had become stressed. To dismiss the lady on the grounds of her personal affairs could not be done, and some very delicate diplomacy was required. This was no doubt achieved as the lady does not appear again in the records.

In all communities there will be an independent type of person who is reluctant to live an easy life. One lady in the early days of the cottages thought she was being persecuted and wrote to say that her garden had been spoilt on three different occasions, having had her plants pulled up, rubbish thrown down and stones put in her coal box. The Secretary in his reply said he was surprised as the person accused he understood was blind. Another lady of a disruptive and troublesome nature who would try to create discontent among the other tenants was investigated as owning other properties. It was found that by leaving the space blank on the application form she had created a false declaration, and she was also a very reluctant payer of the rent. She was given notice to quit which caused her much distress, and as she was frail and not in good health she was allowed to stay. The Secretary reported that there were no more complaints from her, or the neighbours.

The well-being and peace of mind of the occupiers is maintained by their confidence in the security of the properties and in 1949 the Bishop’s Stortford and District Trades Council, with this in mind, met with the Trustees to offer a method of attracting the attention of the warden to help any person who was in difficulties.

The suggestion was for each cottage to have an outside red light together with a bell, but in consultation with medical advisors it was pointed out that a bell might cause panic and alarm amongst the other tenants. As an alternative a buzzer installed in the neighbouring cottage might be more suitable. The Trustees were not keen on either of these schemes and a survey of the tenants showed that only one person was in favour and fifteen were against. It was the duty of the warden to visit each cottage on a daily basis.

More suitably it was considered that a means of linking the cottages to the warden’s house would be more appropriate, and in 1968 the General Post Office was persuaded to install a cable link across Havers Lane. The method to be used would be a two-way telephone and Hertfordshire County Council would make a grant towards the rental and warden’s time. The warden would ring each cottage at 9am daily to ensure their well-being and this would also give the users practice in using the system. The daily calls could then be discontinued.

The quote offered by the Telephone Rental Company to repair and upgrade the existing system in 1980 was considered too expensive and only a bell call method was retained, and this would be discontinued and removed at the end of the existing contract. The warden would be issued with a master key for all the locks and daily visits would be reinstated. This duty was confirmed following the 1985 review.

The review of the cottages in 1987 brought comments from some residents with regard to security, and it was decided to fit door viewers to the front doors and the assistance of Rotoract would be requested to carry out the work. In 1990 the Piper Lifeline Emergency System was installed in two of the cottages for evaluation purposes by the EHDC, but daily visits were to continue and were included as part of the list of duties in the warden’s terms of employment raised in 1998.

For posterity the trustees agreed in 1999 to place the minutes of the Trust in the keeping of the Bishop’s Stortford Local History Museum and commission Mr W J Wright to write a history of the King’s Cottages to mark the Centenary of the cottages in 2006.


Sir Walter Gilbey (Bart.)

Walter was the son of Henry Gilbey of the ‘Links’, Bishop’s Stortford, where he was born in 1831. Following service in the Crimea War he joined his brother Alfred in founding, in 1857, the W &A Gilbey Wine Company. The Company was very successful under Sir Walter’s guidance. He retired from the business in 1905. He married Ellen Parish in 1858 and they lived in Stansted Mountfitchet and later, in about 1877, they moved to Elsenham Hall where he kept Shire and Hackney horses and bred cattle and sheep. His greatest interest was in horses and especially in the welfare of the working horse, and it was the breeding of thoroughbred horses that brought the award of a baronetcy in 1893. Both Sir Walter and other members of his family contributed to philanthropic works for the benefit of the people of Stansted Mountfitchet, Elsenham and Bishop’s Stortford.

Admiral Frederick S Vander-Meulen RN

The son of the Reverend F Vander-Meulen, rector of Thorley, Frederick entered the Navy in 1853 as a naval cadet. Within a year and a month he was on the steam frigate ‘Furious’ in the Mediterranean Sea. Russia being at war with Britain, the ship was sent to the Black Sea and he joined the attack on the forts of Sebastapol. As a midshipman he was on the China station at the time of the capture of Canton and the attack on Nanchow. He held the rank of Captain in 1878 and commanded several ships before being raised to flag rank in 1893. Upon the death of Vice Admiral Sir George Tryon he was promoted to Rear Admiral and then Vice Admiral in 1899. Following retirement he was further raised to Admiral in June 1904. He was a regular magistrate for both Hertfordshire and Essex. He died on 13 February 1913, aged 73, and is buried at Thorley Church.

Colonel John Harrison Vander-Meulen APD

Second son of the Reverend Frederick Vander-Meulen, Rector of Thorley, John joined the army in 1859 and served 20 years in the 50th and 35th Regiments, and served during the Ashanti war of 1865. In 1879 he joined the Army Pay Department as a Captain with the rank of Major and with the 50th went through the Egyptian campaign of 1882. In 1883 he was District Paymaster while attached to the Seaforth Highlanders and finally, in 1885, with the Royal Lancashire Regiment. He retired with the rank of Lt Colonel in 1894. He died on 28 June 1910, aged 69, and is also buried at Thorley Church.

Georgina Menet (nee Vander-Meulen)

Georgina was the daughter of the Reverend Frederick Vander-Meulen, and wife of the Reverend John Menet, Chaplain of the Diocesan training College for Schoolmistresses, and vicar of All Saints Church, Hockerill, Bishop’s Stortford.

Appendix 1

Memorandum of Agreement

Made this Seventeenth day of April 1906 Between Sir Walter Gilbey of the Hall Elsenham and called the employer of the one part and Charles Martin of South Street, Bishop’s Stortford, Builder, and called the contractor of the other part:- Whereas the employer has determined to erect a Building similar to one just erected on the adjoining site consisting of four cottage homes in South Street Bishop’s Stortford in accordance with plans specifications and particulars prepared by James S Cooper architects of 14 Sergeants Inn, Fleet Street, London and supplied to the contractor. The contractor Agrees to carry out and completely finish ………………………….. the employer agrees to pay £409 for the said work as it proceeds at the rate of 80% upon the work actually executed and fixed, one moiety of the balance upon the completion of the work, the other moiety three months after the completion complete on or before 8 July 1906, or forfeit £1 10s per week for every week or part of.

Signed Charles Martin (no witnesses)

Appendix 2 King’s Cottages Trust

Deed of Trust:- Between Sir Walter Gilbey and Trustees

Trustees: Tresham Gilbey, George Speechly, Arthur Boardman, William Johnstone Gee, Walter John Harris

A synopsis of the contents of the Trust Deed

The Donor is desirous of vesting the dwelling houses and land in the Trustees to be held by them for the benefit of poor aged persons resident in Bishop’s Stortford. Whereas His Most Excellent Majesty, Kind Edward III has graciously permitted the Donor to call the said dwelling houses ‘King’s Cottages’ in commemoration of His Majesty having passed through South Street on the day the foundation stone was laid.


  1. Every tenant shall pay a weekly rent of the use of the Cottages ……… at the rate of ninepence per week for each double cottage, and sixpence per week for each single cottage.
  2. No person shall be eligible to become a tenant of a cottage unless he or she has continuously resided in Bishop’s Stortford for twenty years prior to the date of application and has attained the age of sixty years and to be a respectable and deserving poor person.
  3. The single cottage shall have one female person; a double cottage shall have two persons, one of whom shall be female. A male person shall be admitted if he has a wife or an approved female relative to reside with him.
  4. In the event of the death of the tenant of a double cottage the other shall delivery up possession of the cottage within twenty-eight days. The remaining person to be allowed to stay at a rent of ninepence per week until a single cottage becomes available.
  5. Each tenant to sign an agreement to pay the rent punctually, to be of good conduct and behaviour, to keep the inside of the cottage clean and orderly, and not to sublet or part with the possession of the premises.
  6. The Trustees may determine any tenancy on giving twenty-eight days notice in writing.
  7. All applications for permission to become a tenant shall be approved by the Trustees and should the number of applicants exceed the number of cottages available the names of the eligible tenants shall be placed in a receptacle ‘the applicants ballot box’, and tickets equal in number to cottages available plus a number of blank tickets placed in another receptacle ‘the King’s Cottages ballot box’. A ticket shall be drawn from the applicants box and the name noted, then a ticket from the cottages box shall be drawn and read to determine if is a blank or the applicant shall be granted a cottage.
  8. The trustees shall hold the rents and profits or any other moneys they receive to meet outgoings, maintenance and pay a manager of the property. Any surplus may be used to provide comforts for the inmates or erect or purchase further cottages in Bishop’s Stortford for the same purposes. The Trustees shall have the power to alter the terms of the trust deed to become effective after three months public notice has been given. If the number of Trustees falls to three they may appoint suitable persons to fill the vacancies and in the event of death or retirement of Tresham Gilbey the Trustees shall appoint a direct descendant of Sir Walter Gilbey.

IN WITNESS whereof the said parties to these Presents have hereunto set their hands and seals the day and year first above written.

Signed sealed and delivered by the within named Sir Walter Gilbey in the presence of: Walter Gilbey ……………………

James S Cooper, Architect …………………………… H Burrell, Estate Agent ……………………………

Signed sealed and delivered by the within named Tresham Gilbey in the presence of: Tresham Gilbey ……………………………

Alfred S Guyan ……………………………. Hon Sec to the Trustees Bishop’s Stortford

Signed sealed and delivered by the within named George Speechly, Arthur Boardman, William Johnstone Gee, Walter John Harris in the presence of:

G Speechly …………………………….
A Boardman …………………………..
W J Gee ………………………………….
W J Harris ………………………………

W Muirby ………………………………….. Clerk to Messrs Wm Gee and Sons

Havers Park Bowls Club

This club has been resident here since it was first formed in 1907. The land was initially rented from Sir Walter Gilbey, who became the club’s first president, but when he died in November 1914 plans were put forward to acquire the freehold on behalf of the town. On Christmas Day that same year, the club signed a seven-year lease at a rent of £10 per annum.

First called The Havers Park Bowling and Tennis Club, provision was made for two grass tennis courts shortly after the green was laid, though these were later converted to hard courts. The green was relaid with Cumberland turf in 1931. To begin with the annual subscription was fixed at 12 shillings (60p) a year for bowlers and ten shillings (50p) for tennis players, and in its early days the club’s membership was limited and exclusive, with only doctors, solicitors and the ‘well-to-do’ permitted to play. Women were excluded until 1935, and even then they could only play on certain days. Incredibly, they weren’t allowed to even eat in the clubhouse until the 1990s!

The clubhouse has since been extended and modernised but the grounds remain much as they were when first laid out.

The Gilbey family always remained prominent at the club and it was their links with royalty that led to a visit, in May 1933, by HRH the Duchess of York (1901-2002), later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. She came to the town to open a new wing of Rye Street Hospital, beforehand lunching with Tresham Gilbey and his wife at their home, Whitehall, then visited the bowls club where she watched a match between the London and Scottish Bowling Association and the Hertfordshire County Bowling Association. The Band of the Royal Caledonian School played Scottish airs while the match was in progress.

The club wrote to her when it celebrated its 90th anniversary, and she replied by saying she remembered the visit and sent a large photograph of herself at the club. This now takes pride of place on the clubhouse wall. Continuing their links with royalty, celebrations for the club’s centenary in 2007 include a trip to Windsor Castle to play the royal household.