Beechwood Park

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Beechwood Park
Beechwood Park
Grid reference: TL04541448
Location: 51°49’9"N, 0°29’5"W
For: Edward Sebright
Country house
Condition: Converted to school

Beechwood Park is a mansion, near Markyate in Hertfordshire, close to the borders of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. It now houses Beechwood Park School.


Ralph de Tony held this site, in the manor of Flamstead, as recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086.[1] Ralph de Tony's grandson Roger IV de Toesny then founded a Benedictine nunnery, St Giles in the Wood Priory, Flamstead, in the middle of the 12th century.[2] The Dissolution of the Monasteries resulted in the destruction of the nunnery of St Giles in 1537.

The Manor House on the site was used frequently by Henry VIII and later by Edward VI. In 1537, the site was let to Sir John Tregonwell by Henry VIII. Shortly afterwards, however, the king granted it by Letters Patent dated 30 September 1539, to his courtier Richard Page and Dame Elizabeth.

The property subsequently passed first to George Ferrers, and then in 1628 to Thomas Saunders of Long Marston. In 1698, Colonel Saunders’s great-granddaughter, Anne Saunders, married Sir Edward Sebright, who belonged to a wealthy Worcestershire family, establishing a family connection for the next two and a half centuries. One of six children, only Anne herself survived childhood. A monument in St Leonard's Church, Flamstead, is a memorial attributed to William Stanton (c.1690) to the early death of her brothers and sisters. Edward Sebright moved from Worcestershire to his bride's home in Hertfordshire, and set about transforming the Tudor building that he found there.

Beechwood Park in the early 18th century

Further changes (e.g. the addition of much of the façade and of the two wings) were made in the 18th century; a library was added at the start of the 19th century, and the courtyard covered over in 1854 (it is now the Great Hall). In 1880 the tenant was Mr W.B. Greenfield, who established there in that year one of the three leading herds of pedigree Aberdeen Angus Cattle in England.[3] In 1908 he was the tenant of Haynes Park, Bedfordshire.[4]

The Second World War brought changes to Beechwood. Firstly the Sebright family, with the requisitioning of the house by the government, moved into a smaller house that they owned, nearby. The main house became the headquarters for Spillers Foods, which had evacuated from London. An airfield was built in the grounds to land damaged or obsolete aeroplanes. Specially constructed hangars were used to house these planes and care was taken to camouflage the strip and the hangars.

At the end of the war, the Sebrights fell on hard times and eventually relinquished the estate. The house first became a girls' school, which eventually closed in 1961 due to lack of funds.

Beechwood Park School

By 1961 the buildings and estate of Beechwood Park were in a terrible state of neglect and disrepair. It had become a somewhat anarchic girls’ boarding school, and then an uninhabited ruin. It was apparently close to demolition when it went on the market in 1961, and was bought by the Stewart family who owned Shirley House, an independent school in Watford. Group Captain Peter Stewart OBE took on the task, as Estates Manager of Beechwood, and founded the present school in 1964 as an amalgamation of Shirley House with Heath Brow School (a school then in Hemel Hempstead).

Beechwood Park School continues today as in Beechwood Park Mansion. It is a co-educational independent day and flexi boarding school for children from nursery age to year 8. The school has extended the mansion and added buildings over the last 50 years including the junior school, middle school, sports hall and performance hall.

On film and in popular culture

The school was used as a location for the film The Dirty Dozen in 1967.[5] The school was the subject of the 1967 song "Beechwood Park" by St Albans band the Zombies on their Odessey and Oracle album: the song's writer, the band’s guitarist, Chris White, lived at nearby Markyate .

Outside links