Hemel Hempstead

Cemmaes Court

and German Prisoners of War


I recently had an enquiry about the following paragraph in The London Gunners come to Town

Although fighting ended in November 1918 most of the German prisoners of war were not repatriated until 1920. In February 1919 the Hertfordshire War Agricultural Committee announced that there were a total of 959 prisoners working in the county. This included 70 at Hemel Hempstead, where the military had just taken over Cemmaes Court, the residence of the late Dr. Vaughan Hughes. This was to provide further accommodation for prisoners.

It seems very likely that at lease some of these prisoners had previously been held in "The Old House" in the centre of Hemel Hempstead, where they had been held from September 1917, as early in 1919 the Hemel Hempstead Institute decided to move into the Old House - presumably after it had been vacated.

Berkhamsted Gazette, 1st February, 1919

As I knew nothing about Cemmaes Court or Dr Vaughan Hughes I decided to see what I could find. It appears that Dr James Vaughan Hughes was a surgeon who worked with Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War and retired to Hemel Hempstead in about 1879 and it seems likely that the house was built at around this date. [Cemmaes is in Wales and James Vaughan Hughes was Welch.). While there he was the author of a book Seventy Years of Life in the Victorian Era. He died in the house in 1916.

The use of the house for German Prisoners of War in 1919 raises the question of what the house was used for during the war itself. During the period from August 1914 to March 1915 (and probably longer) virtually every house in Hemel Hempstead was used to billet officers and men from the Royal Field Artillery and I doubt that Cemmaes Court escaped. It may also have found a use during the war itself, particularly if it was otherwise empty after James Vaughn Hughes's death. Any ideas??







O S Map 1897


Provisional Time Line

1878 Trade Directory Cemmaes Court not listed as a private residence in Hemel Hempstead.
1879 Gazette Mrs Vaughan-Hughes listed as donating 20 to support the Boxmoor Soup Kitchen. [This is the earliest of very many mentions of the Vaughan-Hughes in Hemel Hempstead supporting the community in a charitable context.]
1881 Cenus James V Hughes, M D St Andrews M R C S London not practicing (69) and wife Elizabeth (50)  and four domestic servants.
1881 Gazette Vaughan-Hughes, Esq. was a member of a subcommittee of the West Herts Infirmary
1882-1912   James Vaughan-Hughes listed as a private resident at Cemmaes or later Cemmaes Court. (Not 1878
1891 Census James Vaughan Hughes  was a 69 year old retired physician (born Oswestry, Salop) living at Cemmaes with his wife Elizabeth Vaughan Hughes, 68  (born New SOuth Wales) and 4 domestic servants, There was also a coachman in Cemmaes Lodge. There was also a block of 10 houses called Cemmaes Terrace.
1893   Author of "Seventy Years of Life in the Victorian Era" embracing a travelling record in Australia, New Zealand and America.
1901 Census Two servants in residence at Cemmaes Court
1914 Trade Directory James Vaughan-Hughes listed as a private resident at Cemmaes Court.




James Vaughan-Hughes of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, died 25 October 1916, at Cemmaes Court, Hemel Hempstead. Aged 95

1916 Widely reprinted press obituary DEATH OF CRIMEAN DOCTOR. Link With Florence Nightingale. The death is announced at Hemel-Hempstead, at the age of 95, of Surgeon-Major James Vaughan Hughes, who served in the Crimean War, and was for a time in charge of Balaclava Hospital, where he attended Florence Nightingale when she was down with camp fever. Later Dr Vaughan Hughes contracted Asiatic cholera in the Crimea, and he attributed his recovery to the attention of Florence Nightingale and her staff. He records his reminiscences of the Crimea and his work with Florence Nightingale and Sir John Hall, Chief of the Medical Staff, in a work entitled " Seventy Years of Life in the Victorian Era."
I916 BMJ Obituary

1916 Find a Grave James Vaughan Hughes, M D, LRCP, Knight of the Italian Order of St Marice and St Lazarus, Staff Sgt Major, served in the Crimean War.
1919 London Gunners Used to house German POW during the First World War
1922, 1926 Trade Directory Cemmeas not listed as private residence [What happened to it when the POWs left?]
August 2017