The whole of the St Catharine’s estate lying between the London Road and the New River was built by Alfred John Hunt and his partner, Thomas Hunt, on land leased from the New River Company in 1882 and known as ‘Spital Brook’.
All the buildings were to be approved by the Company’s architects and leases were to be for 99 years. Many eminent architects of the day were employed to design the houses and it was essential that they should be of a very high standard. In 1898, the Hunts decided to dissolve their partnership and sell off their properties. The estate was advertised as ‘comprising very picturesque houses, villas and lodges, all carefully designed by eminent architects’. At the time of the auction, every house which had not been sold was let and ‘occupied by tenants of good position’.
The estate was well planned, only 16 miles from London and 6 minutes walk to the train station. All houses were originally lit by gas and constant water was supplied by the Hoddesdon Water Company. St Catharine’s is one of the best speculative estates of the period. Sadly, several houses were later demolished to make way for denser development that is out of scale with the original conception.
The residents 100 years ago
On the 1911 census, the 25 or so households are fairly well-off with all of them having two or three servants. Occupations of the heads include accountants, bank clerks, stockbrokers, insurance brokers, solicitors, a tobacco manufacturer, motor engineer, colonial produce broker and a company director in the diamond trade.
At Kingsmead were Lina Stradling, 49, a widow, born in South America; her son Kenny, 25, a law student born in Watford; three visitors (students under 15) and two servants who were born in Hoddesdon. At West Lodge was John Gamble, 72, a builder’s foreman born in Salop, his wife Ellen, 77 and their daughter Theresa, 35.