The name Le Grove is on a map showing medieval place names in 1269, possibly on Piccotts End Lane somewhere in the area of where Grovehill House was.
Was Le Grove the site of the first Grovehill House?
The word grove is from an Old English word 'graf' used before AD900 for trees such as Hazel, Lime or Poplar planted close together to form a plantation with two or three acres attached. The origin of the word before this is unknown. It remains in use and is mentioned in a survey of 1523 often carrying the name of the medieval owner. We see it preserved in the name of the piece of very old woodland, Howe Grove, that borders the Link Road and was recognises as of sufficient importance to have the Link Road curved to avoid it.
Around 1747 a mortgage on a farm of 60 acres called New House, situated above Piccotts End and near Two Beeches was acquired by a Quaker, Thomas Squires. This appears on two maps, one dated 1820. Perhaps this was later called Grovehill House or was it demolished and a new house built on the site?
I assume that Grovehill House, a mile up Piccotts End Lane, is the house that gave the area its name but it remains at present a bit of a mystery.
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In 1890 a sale took place of the Grove Hill Estate, including Grove Hill, Two Beeches House, eight cottages in High Street Green, Lovetts End Farm, The Haywood in Eastbrook Hay and Yew Tree Farm.
It is recorded in 1873 that 'Squire' Shadrach Godwin owned Grove Hill (not Grovehill!) House and 641 acres of land, second only to Astley Cooper who owned 1747 acres. It seems that he was a fair employer as it is recorded that he held a supper for his employees at the Kings Arms.
When the railway company building the line from Hemel Hempstead to Harpenden wanted to buy land from Shadrach Godwin he asked a very high price. He might just have been an astute negotiator but it seems he rated the loss of productive land much higher than the price offered. The company suggested a station for his use but he replied that he would be expected to pay a toll for use of it; all this even there might have been considerable advantages to access the railway for the transport of his produce.
It was agreed that a significant cutting should be made to reduce the noise and annoyance of the trains, with an iron bridge supported by brick piers for access; also substantial fences to keep the animals from straying on the
line, and compensation for loss of timber and crops. Even at this stage Godwin asked for time to gather his crops, holding up the work even further.
If you walk the Nickey line behind Sky Ford you come to a path that crosses the line, this is the bridge over the cutting. Poke about in the ivy in the 'ditch' and you can see the blue grey bricks that were always used on this type of railway building.
It has been found that new buildings are sometimes built on the site of old buildings, hiding their origin. Is this possibly the case with Grovehill House?
Or did the owner just keep building on as can be seen by compaing the roofline of St Agnells farmhouses with the roofline in Peter Wagon's drawing of Grovehill House?
GROVEHILL HOUSE IN 1960 ST AGNELL'S FARMHOUSE
GROVE FARM - THE GROVEHILL HOUSE STABLES
'Images reproduced by kind permission of Peter Wagon Fine Arts (c)'
I have found its footprint on several maps and at last have been given some sketches of the house by Peter Wagon dated before the 60s.
This footprint seems to resemble farm buildings around a courtyard. The stables up Piccotts End Lane from the house were in use as a riding school after the house was demolished. Someone recalled going to a RSPCA event there. With the building of the New Town the riding school moved to St Agnells Farm until that was turned into houses.
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Grovehill House grounds and gardens were taken into Margaret Lloyd Park