Hertfordshire Genealogy

Guide to Old Hertfordshire


Gilston Park





From the Illustrated London News, April 26, 1851


The fine old mansion, situated within twenty minutes' walk of the Burnt Mill Station of the Eastern Counties Railway, will next week be dismantled of its olden furniture; pictures, armour, &c., to be disposed of by the fiat of the auctioneer; the sale commencing on Monday next.

Gilston formed part of the estate of the Magnavilles, and afterwards of William D'Albini, whose daughter and heiress, Isabel, married Lord de Roos, Lord of Helmesley, in Holderness, by whom the manor was divided into Great and Little Gilston, and also Overhall and Nether hall. These descended, by purchase' and otherwise, through the families of the Giffords,  Chaunceys, Gores, and others, to the Plumers, who came from Old Windsor, about the year 1660, upon acquiring Gilston and Blakesware, in the same' county. Traditionally, they derive from a Saxon knight; but the pedigree in the Heralds' College dates only from the time of Elizabeth, at which period they were a family of great opulence. In 1680, Waiter Plumer was created a baronet, but the title is now extinct. Colonel John Plumer, of Blakesware, married, in 1680, Mary Hale, of the Hertfordshire family of King's Waldeu; and his eldest daughter, Anne Plumer, married James Hamilton, seventh, Earl of Abercorn, by whom she had, with other children, Jane Hamilton, who married, first, William Plumer, Esq. of Gilston Park, forty years member of Parliament for the county of Hertford. This gentleman, no male Plumer being then left, named his wife sole heiress to his estates, which she inherited accordingly at his decease. Mrs. Plumer married, secondly, Robert Ward, Esq., who thereupon assumed the additional surname and arms of Plumer.

Mr. Plumer Ward served as High Sheriff for Herts in 1832. He is distinguished in literature as the author of "The History of the Law of Nations," and of the very popular novels of "Tremaine," "De Vere," &c. Mrs. Ward, it appeared, had entertained high admiration of his writings, which she extended to their author; and at her beautiful seat at Gilston, says the Hon. E. Phipps, "he was enabled to enjoy that sort of rural life which_ from the days when he was young, imagination had dwelt on Sir Roger de Coverley, formed the great of object of his ambition. At a period when worldly prosperity seemed showered upon him, his happiness was much dashed by the deplorable state of the health of his three daughters. The fatal complaint which had caused their mother's death settled successively and irrevocably on each. He lost first the two eldest, who fell victims to the same insidious disease within two days of each other. Within a few months after, he that wife, whose kindness and generosity had been unfailing during the short period of their union, died also at Gilston Park, which she had bestowed upon him - a gift, however, which the grievous afflictions of which it had been the scene robbed of half its value."

Mr. Ward subsequently married Mrs. Okeover, the widowed daughter of of the late gallant Lieutenant-General Sir George Anson; but Gilston seems ever after to have been shunned by him, for we find him, writing is from Wiesbaden, offering the place, and its plate and jewels, for 2000 a year. Again, at Okeover Hall, he says, I feel more comfortably off in this delightful, as well as respectable, old abode than ever I was in my life, and far happier than at Gilston." (Memoirs, by the Hon E. Phipps.)

The fine old place is of somewhat fantastic design; but has withal, in its armorial shield. and battlemented gables, an ancestral air. Among the more interesting contents are several portraits of the Plumers, by Lely, Kneller, Stone, Hudson, Reynolds, and Lawrence. A few of the paintings, however, are "heirlooms," and are not to be sold. The collection, altogether, numbers nearly 100, mostly portraits. There are also twelve colossal marble busts of the Caesars; and an assemblage of armour, some of a very early period. One of the lots, not for sale, is four ancient standards, two ditto, armorial bearings of Plumer Ward's family, and the flag-staff of the Royal standard of Scotland, taken by Sir Ralph Sadleir, at the battle of Musselburgh (1547); also various pedigrees, &c."


The above house was demolished in 1851 and replaced by a new house. (Lost Heritage)