My Time at Netherfield House,

Stanstead Abbotts.

The Eventide Home.

By Marlene Harris

I moved to Stanstead Abbots shortly after my sixteenth birthday. My parents, both ministers in the Salvation Army, had travelled all round the country. We had lived in Liverpool for some years, my parents running a very large and busy hostel for transport drivers coming to the docks, and I was at school.

The policy of the Salvation Army then, was to move its ministers every two to three years, and we were told that we would be moving to Stanstead Abbotts in Hertfordshire. Dad and Mum would be taking charge of a residential home for elderly gentlemen, called Netherfield House. My Mum was not in good health and it was decided that I should work with my Dad caring for the 29 residents.

We drove down from Liverpool with some apprehension, we were city folk, would we cope with country life? We drove through the village, up Cats Hill, and turned into the gates of a stately home - we had arrived at Netherfield House. Our gasps at the outside of the house quickly turned to even more excitement when we went in - the entrance hall itself was quite beautiful, and waiting for us were our “family” anxious to see who was going to be looking after them.

The entrance of Netherfield House

I believe that the house had been donated to the Salvation Army by Sir Charles Booth, of Booths Distilleries, in or around 1860, (see foot notes), & is a grade 11 listed building. Quite ironic that the making of gin was involved, as the Salvation Army is totally opposed to any alcohol. Eventually it was sold by the Army and converted into apartments, probably the need for a residential home so far from anywhere became less, who knows. From what I can see on the web, the house was sold around 1980, so the home probably closed a couple or so years before that.

The rooms of Netherfield were enormous. On the ground floor were two huge sitting rooms with French windows overlooking the side garden, then the entrance hall which was big enough to house a full size snooker table. This lead into the dining room with windows overlooking the back of the house and the huge garden. Also on the ground floor was the kitchen, the office and a bedroom for some of the residents who didn't do stairs.

Leading off the entrance hall was a beautiful sweeping staircase with a wooden rail, it was my job to dust and polish the rail, do you know that the easiest way to do that is to sit on a polish laden duster and slide down!! Upstairs were several more bedrooms, some quite grand, some a little smaller and I would think, had at one time been the servants quarters.

John Bunyon, Andy and my Mum, Brigadier Lily Finney playing snooker.

The garden was huge and tended by Mr Barnes, who was a village man, and Mr Skenfield who was a resident and loved the outside. He was almost bent double from years of working the soil but was at his happiest digging something up. Mrs Barnes was the cook, she ruled the kitchen and because her food was probably the best I have ever tasted, we were quite happy to follow instructions. Most of the produce was grown in the garden. We had a local baker who delivered daily, and good neighbours who always delivered a turkey at Christmas.

Mr Barnes and our dog