Cassiobury Park Gates

The original entrance to the park was through archways in a set of brick park gates build in 1800 by Humphrey Repton and James Wyatt as part of wider work on the estate for the fifth Earl of Essex, George Capel Coningsby.  The attached building was marked on maps at the time as Watford Lodge.

Cassiobury Park Gates looking towards Rickmansworth Road in 1907

The Cassiobury Park gates were demolished in 1970 as part of the works widening Rickmansworth Road at the junction with Cassio Road.  A letter in a back issue of Hertfordshire Countryside magazine reported that the gates were in fact taken down brick by brick and suggested that the gates may have unofficially been sold on.  Sadly I do not have a copy of this letter or any further details.

The map below from the 1940s, taken from Maps-of-London.com (originally Collins Bartholomew), shows the approximate location of the page gates prior to their removal.  You can see that at this time both Cassio Road and Cassiobury Drive join onto the single carriageway Rickmansworth Road at T-junctions.

Public opinion was strongly against the removal of the gates which were a popular local landmark and had featured on many postcards at the start of the 20th century.  There are still occasional mentions of the loss of the gates in the Watford Observer newspaper today. Here are a couple of recent comments in the paper:

  • “The first real outcry in Watford was caused by the demolition of the Cassiobury Park Gates in 1974 and we haven‚Äôt stop crying – or should that be moaning!”
  • “… half a mile to the top entrance of Cassiobury Park, an outstanding feature being those gates, which are, sadly, no longer there.”
  • “I no longer visit the park I still think it sacrilege that the beautiful gates were removed, completely unnecessarily”

One of the latest photographs of the gate looking towards Rickmansworth Road in 1967

There was a campaign to apply for Millennium funding to construct a replica of the gates however obviously this has since passed.  A request under the Freedom of Information act revealed that by 1998 there had been 2 lottery funding application and one Heritage Fund bid but all were unsuccessful.

The centenary of the park in 2009 saw¬†further¬†action investigating reconstructing the gates with “get together some designs and costs and seek planning permission for the Cassiobury Park gates” appearing in the minutes of a Green Flag (park award) steering group meeting. ¬†A promise to look into the possible rebuilding of the gates appears in the manifesto of the Labour mayoral candidate.

The earliest illustration of the picturesque gates dates I was able to find dates back to 1902.

Cassiobury Park Gates in 1902, looking towards the park.

If you have any information about the history of the park that you are willing to share it would be much appreciated.

29 Responses

  1. DAVID HADDON - January 29, 2011

    My great uncle was the park keeper
    his name was Reg Collet
    for some time i worked with his daughter Pam
    his wife was my Gran’s sister
    his wifes name was Lil

  2. Sue Cross - April 19, 2011

    My great grandfather (William Cross) was a night watchman here at the turn of the 20c. He and his wife Annie had 7 sons and 7 daughters and as the family grew they moved from the gatehouse to a cottage in the grounds.Memories passed through the generations say that they all slept in one side of the gatehouse and lived in the other side during the day.

  3. Pat Dodge - June 19, 2011

    Good to hear of the name Reg Collet again. He was so passionate about Cassiobury Park and the need to maintain such a valuable open space for the community.
    Knowing Reg I was privileged to go into the lodge where he lived which, at my tender years, seemed like a doll’s house because of the odd shape of the rooms.
    Regarding the demolition, the responsibility for such lack of foresight and disregard for our heritage must lie with those individuals who made such a bad decision on behalf of the people of Watford.

  4. Lesli - August 4, 2011

    I believe my great-great grandfather worked at teh Cassiobury Estate in the mid 1800s. He is listed on a 1841 census as “servant” at High Street, “Cassio”, then in 1851 as “Labourer” Cassiobury Estate, then in 1861 as “Garden labourer” at Cassiobury Gardens Lodge, 1871 at Cassiobury Gardens as “gardner”.

  5. chris bonnick - March 6, 2012

    i remember in the late 50s early 60s spending my school holidays in the park, the model railway, the river gade & the grand union canal where i would wait for the coal boats & the roses lime juice boats to come through the locks & i do believe that there used to be mussel beds there as well. oh happy days.

  6. Robert Keen - March 8, 2012

    I’m now 67 and remember as a lad my Grandmother walking me from Cross Mead,all the way up through lovely,characterful,Watford town centre, to see the gates and to walk in the park. Now I live in Cardiff and when I visit family,I grieve to see how the “heritage Philistines” have, over the years,butchered my home town.If there is a place of torment where the spoilers of History are kept,then generations of Watford Councillors and Town planners should be languishing there,for all Eternity!!!

  7. paul skinner - March 8, 2012

    I LIVED IN WATFORD, FROM 1969 TO 1990. AND FRQUENTLY USED THE PARK AS A CHILD, AND ADULT, I JUST MISSED THE GATES, BEING KNOCKED DOWN, AND LOOKING WHERE THE GATES ACTUALLY WERE, THERE WAS NO REASON, FOR THEM TO BE KNOCKED DOWN, RICKY ROAD COULD STILL, HAVE BEEN WIDENED, WITHOUT THAT HAPPENING, ALSO THE MAIN HOUSE, DID NOT NEED TO BE DEMOLISHED, WATFORD COUNCIL, SHOULD HAVE SAVED THAT AS WELL, THE WHOLE COUNCIL, SHOULD BE TAKEN TO COURT, TO ANSWER FOR THERE CRIMES

  8. Susan Raybold - March 17, 2012

    Shame on Watford Council for demolishing the gates, but I fear there is more to come – the current council appears intent on turning the park into some sort of holiday camp, adventure playground and entertainment venue. These people are still dangerous.

  9. Kevan Gray - May 4, 2012

    I was born in Watford in in 1951 and although I have lived in Kent since 1966. I have very fond memories of Cassiobury park and the beautifull gates. They should have left the gates and Watford town centre alone or was it just change for change sake. Why do they have to change things from the way they were

  10. Sally - May 13, 2012

    Lesli, My ancestor was a gardener here too in 1861. He was 18 at the time.

  11. Ian - September 27, 2012

    I believe the old manor house in Cassiobury Park was taken apart brick by brick, exported to the US and re-built in Bedford Hills NY in the 1920s.

    That house is currently for sale.
    http://realestock.com/Bedford-New-York-Cassiobury/property/26597

  12. carol knight - October 3, 2012

    to david Haddon,
    I think my mother was good friends with Pam, I can remember going to the gatehouse as a very small child, my mum was Margaret she has a twin sister Marion

  13. Paula Riddy - November 2, 2012

    There was a publication in 1837, of which I have a copy, titled: ‘The History and Description …of Cassiobury Park’ by John Britton. It is a large folio volume with many illustrations of the former property and gardens. Descriptions detail the history of the house, and give plans of the neo Gothic rebuild in the early 19th century. The author claims of the gardens ‘almost every variety of floral bloom is successively displayed in these gardens’.

  14. cathy stratford - March 25, 2013

    I was born in Watford in 1954 and remember often being taken to the park by my parents. I always thought the park gates were awsome, as they seemed so big to me being a small child. Their domolition was terrible, as was so much demolition in watford. To look back and see what we have lost is very sad. If they can rebuild Euston Arch, why not the park gates?

  15. Cassiobury, Hertfordshire | Patrick Baty – Historical paint consultant - April 1, 2013

    […] a residential estate with no sign of its former glory or grand associations. In 1967, the historic Cassiobury Gates were demolished to make way for the widening of Rickmansworth Road. Cassiobury Gates – 1902 […]

  16. Barry Cross - September 17, 2013

    My name is Barry Cross and my grandfather Sid Cross lived in garden cottage on the now Hempstead road, he was a gardener on the estate for all his life and I’m sure his parents lived there too.

    So loved that cottage and I understand it is still there today.

  17. Hazel - November 14, 2013

    Pleasant memories of Cassiobury Park which we frequently visited when visiting our daughter and grandchildren. The paddling pool was wonderful for the children who enjoyed it immensely. The walks through the park, up to the wood and eventually the golf course. Plenty to see and do, lovely tea rooms for Mums and tots. A ride on the train at Christmas followed by mince pies. The grandchildren and parents moved from Watford in 2005 and although the children were only aged 3years and 2 years they go back and visit this park every year. It still holds the magic for them.

  18. alison - December 7, 2013

    i lived backing onto the park in the 70s and loved playing in it- left to my own devices we lit fires and enjoyed ourselves in a way no longer allowed.
    i now know that an ancestor- Charles Beer- worked at cassiobury house as a butler in the 1870s. His direct descendants are grimsdells who lived in and around watford for a long time. i would love to find a picture of servants at cassiobury house…

  19. Mark - January 16, 2014

    I think that maybe the people of watford could maybe raise some funds towards the building of replica gates. I’m Watford born and bred however i never saw the gates only in pictures. but they looked lovely and i think they deserve a return. i just don’t think watford council are particulary bothered and spend funding elsewhere.

  20. Amanda Cerasale - August 14, 2014

    I have got happy memories of the park gates from my childhood, I think the council should make some replica of the park gates,

  21. Linda Kerr - September 28, 2014

    While doing my family tree I have found many of my ancestors worked at the estate. Two of them as game keepers.(a father and son with the family name of Forsdick)

  22. Nick Ashby - November 6, 2014

    Possible relation Alice Ashby,born 1864 Rickmansworth,married Edward James Bachelor and were living 1891 Census,entrance lodge,Edward labourer.

  23. Vivien Halpin - December 28, 2014

    Agree with all that has been said about the gates but realistically think they no longer exist. Have discovered ancestors working on the estate and one of them living in one of the lodge entrances, Sparrowpot Lodge which has also been demolished.

  24. Ed Costelloe - February 27, 2015

    I was born in Watford in 1946 and my mother had lived there since the 1920’s. Everyone loved the park and the working boats on the canal and the gates. My mother attended the auction where the great house was auctioned off. The Staircase was so important that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York bought it and you can see it there today.

  25. Ronnie Quick - March 8, 2015

    Today, Saturday 7/03/15 I walked through the park and was telling my wife about the gates and how much they were a memory of my early years through to my teens. It was criminal that they were demolished with no regard to the heritage of the people of Watford.

  26. Veronica Hazelton - March 10, 2015

    I lived in the left hand side of the gatehouse until the age of four (1943-47). It was a splendid spot for a child (a mini castle?) but a bit primitive as regards amenities.There was electricity but the gaslights still functioned and one was left glimmering as a nightlight when I later went to stay with my grandparents, who lived on the right-hand side, during school holidays.
    I think the staircases were purchased intact at demolition time.

  27. Pat Hatton - March 10, 2015

    My friend and I visited the Park many times to fish in the shallow river gade with our jamjar and net. The gates seemed to tower over us and we thought it looked like a castle. We had nothing but we where happy childern.

  28. Penny Gower - March 21, 2015

    I was born in Watford and have vivid memories of how splendid Cassiobury Park was in those days just after WW11 ended. The impressive gates and castellated lodge covered in Virginia Creeper, a sight to behold in autumn in glowing shades of red. The park in those days was so well maintained with beautiful flower beds, mown grass, a drinking fountain, toilets and the stately trees. After church on Sundays we walked in the park in our best clothes with white socks and sandals in the summer. Years later spending many happy hours in Whippendell Woods and by the paddling pool, rivers and canal with family and dogs. The park went downhill rapidly when the lodge was demolished.

  29. Tim Gravestock - November 16, 2015

    It has been suggested on this thread that a replica of the gatehouse should be built. I am part of a dedicated group who have spent hundreds of hours researching the gatehouse with view to rebuilding it. We have plans, elevations, and even architects building plans – it could be done. We are also looking at ways to fund the rebuild and on going running costs without burdening the tax payer. So far the council’s response has been sadly negative.

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