A fine house and home of the Baker family

By Terry Askew

Bayfordbury as built in the 18th century
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
Bayfordbury as it now exists
Terry Askew
A fine Bayfordbury cedar
Terry Askew
Obelisk in the grounds, commemorating family members lost at sea
Terry Askew

Sir William Baker, a City merchant and one of the country’s wealthiest inhabitants during the 18th century, purchased 3,000 acres in Hertfordshire for £21,000. In 1759, the year of the capture of Quebec, the foundation stone for Bayfordbury was laid and the works completed in 1762.

Three years later, a number of great cedar trees were planted on the estate, and these were added to over the ensuing 100 years.

In 1809 work was commenced, under the direction of Richard Aldhous, for improvements to the house, resulting in the building now seen today. The extensive works included rendering the building exterior in ‘parker’s cement’ (the inventor of this was James Parker a clergyman of those times and the product still carries his name).

Bayfordbury, was occupied by the family until the death of Adml. Sir Lewis Clinton-Baker in 1939.

The house and adjoining buildings are now divided into private dwellings.

This page was added on 13/10/2012.

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  • I went to Bayfordbury in 1968 when it was part of Hatfield Polytechnic. I studied Business Studies and attained a degree specialising in finance and law. I have great memories of Bayfordbury. We used to hold social events in the basement including live music. The setting was amazing. During my time at Bayfordbury I lived in Roydon and Hertford Heath. I went on to be Group Finance Director of a number of large groups leading two stock exchange listings and a number of corporate transactions. I have since retired and live in Kent.

    By Alan Cox (07/01/2023)
  • My mum worked here as a receptionist in the early 1980s, operating the university’s rather antiquated telephone system. She enjoyed her time there especially her chats with Sir Patrick Moore who often phoned the lecturers working at the observatory. I remember there being one of the oldest flushing toilets (a Thomas Crapper!) in the main house.

    By Kathy (18/11/2022)
  • My mum worked there running the kitchen when it was part of the university, probably 1980s….. I loved the building and grounds. They had grass tennis courts I seem to remember, a rarity these days.

    By Catherine Willmore (17/01/2021)
  • I worked in this building in the late 1980s. At interview I was told that although venue was superb, “Rialto are a very difficult company to work for”. He was right – long hours in an autocratic setup with being routinely screamed at, I didn’t last long and was sacked for leaving work on time. Probably a good thing as it was the only time in my life I developed psoriasis.

    One other detail was Jim, the man in charge, was an avid Spurs supporter who had a box at White Hart Lane that long-serving employees had occasional access to. If – like me – you supported some other team then you were told to keep that quiet at least to begin with.

    Apart from that it was an awesome location and very reminiscent of a bygone era. The only place I know of that actually had uniformed tea ladies.

    By Peter Ward (27/02/2020)
  • The original mansion (1762) as in the top illustration has not been sub-divided, it remains as a single family home.

    By Harper Guardy (03/09/2017)
  • From about 1986/87 is was owned by Rialto Homes as I remember putting the telephone system in for them during this period (the work took about 18 months!)

    By Matt (16/07/2017)
  • The latest addition to heritage of Bayfordbury as a site is ownership by the University of Hertfordshire from 1967 as a campus from which to study Astrology. You will find pods behind the former John Innes’ greenhouses.

    The building that is now used as the main campus on the site was used by John Innes to conduct research.

    By Josh Draper (22/02/2017)
  • The John Innes Horticultural Institution, founded in 1910 at Merton in South London, removed to Bayfordbury just after WW2. The estate was thus the centre for the JI’s research for some two decades. However, as the focus of the JI’s research changed and the large grounds were no longer required, the now renamed John Innes Institute moved in 1967 to Norwich to become associated with the University of East Anglia.

    By Donald Brett (28/06/2016)