How did the Great Nast Hyde get its name?

An early 1600s house

By Derek Roft

A photograph of Nast Hyde thought to be taken about 1920
Supplied by Simon Earl

The Great Nast Hyde is one of those red brick houses that is part of the English countryside. It cannot be seen from the entrance to the drive. The house is located nearly two miles to the east of St Albans on the main Hatfield road. A very good view of the house can be seen from the rear from Wilkins Green Lane.

Built in the early 1600s

This charming old house, surrounded by pleasant lawns and gardens, dates back to the early 1600s. It is built on an H plan with the west wing being added in the 20th century. The space between the wings on the north side is occupied by an entrance hall.

The original hall, with its panelling, is preserved, as is the wide staircase with its solid balusters. The old fireplaces and woodwork gives the large and well proportioned rooms a certain character. Beams can be seen in the walls of the rooms on the second storey. There is a dovecote in the end of an old barn in the gardens. A pond, traditionally called ‘Monks Pond’, has been filled in.

On the gabled roof is a small signal tower which still contains a bell. It is said that the tower once had a revolving lamp to guide travellers across Colney Heath. This open area was once a very dangerous place to wander. 

Ownership history

It is thought that Great Nast Hyde has always been a farmhouse. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries around 1540 the land was vested in the farmers, among whom were the Kentish family. Later the house was occupied by the Hart-Dyke family. In around 1920 a London stockbroker acquired the house. The house was requisitioned by the nearby De Havillands aircraft manufacturers at the start of the Second World War. They used the house as a guest house for long term visitors to the company. In 1991 the house was repurchased by a decendant of the De Havilland family and reinstated as a manor house.

Clues in the brickwork

Not only is the date of the house supported by documentary evidence, its red brick construction helps us. What is now the back of the house has its brick laid English Bond style with alternate rows of bricks laid lengthways then widthways. In the reign of King William III the Flemish Bond was introduced which meant alternate lengthways and widthways bricks in the SAME ROW. The front of the house is laid in Flemish Bond.

How was it named?

Now to the origin of the name of the house. This is a bit of a mystery. A hide (Hyde) means ’as much land as would support a free family’. Nast is supposed to mean ‘a place for mooring ships’.

This page was added on 29/04/2010.

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  • Re Simon Earl’s post about Great Nast Hyde house:
    In 2019 l was in contact with, possibly, Simon’s sister or cousin Sue S and her son Nick S who l met and provided me some wonderful photos.
    Sue was granddaughter to Lionel and Margaret Janson who lived in GNH House until, l believe, the late 1920s. They then resided at the Peahen Hotel in St Alban’s whilst they had a substantial house built named Breaks, in Hatfield by 1930.
    The stock market crash in 1929 was mooted as an issue for the family. Lionel, Margaret and youngest daughter (of three girls) are buried in St Lukes’ cemetery in Hatfield.

    By Jon Brindle (07/02/2024)
  • Re the name Nast Hyde:
    I believe there’s been some confusion between the words hyde and hythe.
    A hyde was a rough measurement of farmland, but a hythe is a mooring place for boats.
    It seems unlikely that boats wended their way up the Ellen Brook.
    Allowing for spelling and pronunciation corruption over the centuries, the rarely found ‘nast’ term likely means ‘east’. A couple of miles away a West Hyde once existed which had three farms (source WEA research).
    Nast is also a term relating to ‘thick woodland’ and woodcutter.
    In 1221 the ex airfield site was heavily wooded, but by 1250 it had been cleared for farmland
    (source WEA research).
    Re Simon Earl’s post:

    By Jon Brindle (07/02/2024)
  • William Tarry was the gardner at the time my grandfather, Ashley Hart-Dyke, used to spend holidays there as a child. Years later he used to regularly tell my mother a soothing bedtime story of Tarry watering the garden at Nast Hyde: the sound of the water whooshing from the hosepipe, the twittering of the birds and insects enjoying a refreshing drink in the summer evenings. It was such a beautiful image. He loved the house and spoke of it often. Today I have a set of eight pen and ink drawings of the house and cottage done by a P.C. Phipps dated 1919. I have no knowledge of the artist, perhaps a friend of the family?

    By Bridgitte Le Du (21/09/2022)
  • My Grandmother, Mrs Watt, was cook at Nast Hyde, probably in the early 1920s. Lady Hart-Dyke was running the house at that time.

    By Michael Beale (08/01/2019)
  • Just to correct a small mistake I made Bill Tarrys wife was a Logan she probably died there in the 40

    By Seumas Ferguson (05/02/2013)
  • My mother had an uncle at the farm at this house his name was William Tarry or a similar surname, he died in a hotel in Torquay about 1956. I have a photo of him and I my mother and my sister at Torquay about 1950. Would guess he probably left the farm in around 1940. He was married to my mother’s aunt who’s maiden name was MacKenzie

    By Seumas Ferguson (04/02/2013)
  • The name of the stockbroker who bought Nast Hyde was Lionel Janson who was my grandfather. My mother, who was born in 1917, said they lived in the house for 5 years. She was 7, I believe, when they resold the house. That would be from 1919 – 1924. I have a very nice photograph of the house that I can send you for this article if you would like. Regards, Simon

    By Simon Earl (24/04/2012)