The Baas isn’t one of the better-known listed buildings in the borough, but it has an interesting history, ancient and modern. Just off Baas Hill to the west of Broxbourne, the current building dates in part to the 15th century, but as a manor it goes back further.
Formed out of land from the manors of Broxbourne and Cheshunt, Baas is first mentioned in the early 13th century, when it was granted to Henry de Baa (or Ba), the source of its name. In about 1274, it was described as consisting of a messuage (a plot of land for a house), 120 acres of arable land, 3½ acres of meadow, 10 acres of pasture, 8 acres of wood, 19s 4d rent of assize, and a fishpond.
From de Baa, it descended through various hands during the next few centuries, including the Chertsey and Say families. This included Elizabeth Cheney (1422-1473), whose second marriage was to Sir John Say. Through the children produced by her two marriages, Elizabeth was grandmother to three of Henry VIII’s wives and great-grandmother to both Edward VI and Elizabeth I.
During the 16th century, the manor was held successively by the Earl of Essex, the Marquess of Northampton and the Earl of Arundel, until in 1569 it came into the hands of Sir William Cecil, later Lord Burleigh. It remained a possession of the Cecil family, eventually being merged with the manor of Hoddesdonbury.
In 1912, the Victoria History of Hertfordshire referred to “…Baas manor-house, an early 17th-century brick and plastered timber building now divided into two tenements, Cold Hall and Cold Hall Green”.
The current house is described in its listing as “Late C15, altered late C17 and C19.” The red-brick eastern half is two-storeyed, featuring 15th century windows and a 17th century oak-panelled door, while the western half is weatherboarded and has three storeys. There’s a modern conservatory, but it incorporates 18th century elements such as fluted columns.
The estate has achieved a measure of fame since the Second World War. It was acquired by the stage and screen actor David Tree, grandson of the great actor-manager Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who turned it into a farm specialising particularly in rearing pigs and growing lilies. His biography, Pig in the Middle, was the inspiration for the 1970s sitcom The Good Life. In 1973, The Baas provided one of the locations for the film Don’t Look Now, with Tree appearing in a small role.
David Tree died in 2009, and The Baas has remained with his family.