Rawdon House

A seventeenth-century house

By Nicholas Blatchley

Rawdon House west front
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies
Rawdon House before 1919
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies
Rawdon House today
Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies

Rawdon House is possibly the most magnificent of the great houses surviving at the south end of Hoddesdon.  Threatened with demolition as recently as 1969, it’s now securely listed at grade 2* level.

Marmaduke Rawdon

What is now the east wing was built as Hoddesdon House by Marmaduke and Elizabeth Rawdon in the early 17th century.  The exact date is uncertain: a plaque bearing the date 1622 may or may not record the original construction.  The house was built of red brick, with a transverse hall and a stairway projecting from the rear; it may have been influenced by the recent construction of Hatfield House, since the Rawdons were acquainted with the 2nd Earl of Salisbury.

Marmaduke  Rawdon  built a water supply for the house, piped in from a site north of Lord Street,  also running a pipe to the town centre.  He also had a statue erected called the Samaritan Woman (also known as The Good Samaritan, Diana or a nymph with an urn).  The water was piped through the urn she held into a pool below, which was generally an improvement on the existing water supplies.

Friend of kings

Rawdon was a master of the Clothworkers’ Company in London, but appears to have enjoyed the friendship and confidence of King James I, who visited Rawdon House on a number of occasions.  A summer house in the gardens was said to have been built at this time as a “smoking room”, to remove smokers from the presence of the King, who was vehemently anti-smoking.

The Rawdons fought for the Royalist cause during the Civil War, but kept the house through the Commonwealth period and appear to have still retained some of their wealth by the Restoration.  The house passed to the brewing Plomer family when, in 1734, Robert Plomer married Hester Rawdon, great-great granddaughter of Marmaduke and Elizabeth, and in 1751 came to their niece, who had the unusual name Thermuthis.

Later history

From 1740, however, Rawdon House was occupied by a series of tenants, one of whom was John Dymoke, hereditary Champion of England.  It was bought in 1840 by John Warner, the Quaker and educational reformer, who rented it out to Sarah Stickney Ellis to run a girls’ school there, although the school moved to Finchley in 1865.

After 1875, the new owner, Henry Ricardo, commissioned a north wing to the house, built by Ernest George and Harold Peto, and from 1898 to 1969, it functioned as St Monica’s Priory, run by the nuns of the Order of St Augustine.  When the priory moved to a new building close by, the house was threatened with demolition, but it’s used now as offices.

Rawdon House isn’t open to the public, but it’s easy to see the west face, at least, as you pass on the High Street.  Take a moment to stop and look at a fine building that’s played its part in both local and national history.

This page was added on 14/02/2012.

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  • A relation Mabel Molyneux ( b.1869-1924) was a nun here, her brother Ernest Molyneux (1865-1940) was the last 10th Baronet Molyneux of Castle Dillon, Armagh, Ireland.

    By G.S. Molyneux (27/03/2024)
  • Many thanks for the information and the picture, Frances. I’ve updated the article with the correct family relationship.

    By Nicholas Blatchley (04/11/2022)
  • Thermuthis was my 5th x great grandmother. She was actually the daughter of Hannah Smith, née Plomer, sister of Robert Plomer; ie. Robert Plomer’s niece. In his will, Robert leaves his manor house etc to Thermuthis. I have a drawing of Rawdon House as it perhaps was before it was built on, probably by Thermuthis’ granddaughter Emma Chamberlayne.

    By Frances Preins (22/10/2022)
  • That’s fascinating that you’re descended from the Rawdons. At what stage did your ancestors move to America?

    I hope you get to see the house soon.

    By Nicholas Blatchley (10/06/2022)
  • Thanks for this history. Marmaduke and Elizabeth Rawden were my great x 11 grandparents. I found it interesting that Marmaduke and two others funded Capt. Smith’s voyage to America in 1614, which is when Smith drew his map of ‘New England’, renaming the area that was previously called North Virginia or Norembega. Unfortunately, Smith also carried European diseases to America. The plaque that killed as many as 90% of American natives broke out soon after his trip. I live and grew up in California. I am glad to know that the house has been saved and that I will be able to see it when I next visit England.

    By Mary Ames Mitchell (06/06/2022)
  • The first property I purchased was a one bedroom flat on a development to the rear of Rawdon House on what would have been its former grounds. The area was believed to be haunted by the spirit of a nun. A carpenter who once came to fit a door for me spoke of how his dog refused to enter one of the passageways as it is sensed something threatening. It is widely believed that animals, particularly cats and dogs, have extra-sensory perception and are able to sense things that humans cannot. Interestingly, after many years teaching theatre studies I began running ghostly shows and ghost walks, first in York and now ‘The Ghost Walk of the Lanes’ in Brighton. Both cities, incidentally, have tales of ghostly monks and nuns.

    By Rob Marks (04/02/2021)
  • That’s interesting. I don’t know anything about the workings of the priory, but I’ll see if I can find anything out.

    By Nicholas Blatchley (05/07/2017)
  • In 1939 when I was six years old I was billeted at Hoddesdon Priory as an evacuee with my brother who was ten. There were about 10 or so boys of mixed ages up to 11yo. The Priory seemed to be a training school for young monks all bearing the title Dom. Is there any further information about this group and what became of them?

    By Thomas David Soulsby (01/07/2017)