Standing on the west side of Waltham Cross High Street is a fine brown-brick Georgian building called Harold House. The front bears a cartouche stating that it was built in 1757, and the door is approached from the street by three steps up to a wrought-iron gate in a fence of iron railings, followed by a further four steps up to the door, which is flanked by ionic columns and surmounted by a pediment.
The building itself has two storeys, plus basement and attic, the latter with a parapet in front of its dormer windows. The interior is largely original, including a dog-leg staircase and rococo-carved wooden fireplace surrounds. A gate at the side leads to a rear walled garden.
The building bears the fire mark of the Royal Union Fire Insurance Company, a crown surmounting joined hands. Fire marks were used before municipal fire services were formed. Instead, each insurance company had its own fire brigade, and could identify by the fire mark which properties they should protect – although they did frequently extinguish fires at other properties, for a fee.
Occupancy details are sketchy before the late 19th century, but by the 1881 census the house was occupied by William Gardener, a builder employing “25 men and 1 boy”. William and his wife had nine children and several servants, but by 1901 he was a 70-year-old widower living with his three youngest daughters, Florence, Marguerite and May, and a 1906 trade directory shows the house occupied by the Misses Gardener. None of them appear to have married, but they’re strangely absent from the 1911 census. Florence is recorded as having travelled to Canada in 1920, perhaps permanently, while May lived till 1974.
By 1911, Harold House was the home of “grocer, baker, producer and shop keeper” Oliver Sidney Clark, his wife, three children and one servant. Clark is recorded as living there till at least 1926, but by 1933 by resident was one J. J. Cornelius de Haan. He’s also recorded there in 1937, and a J. de Haan (either him or his son, perhaps) is recorded there in 1970.
Protected by its grade II* status, Harold House is one of the few survivors of modernisation at the southern end of the High Street, and is now occupied as offices by several companies.