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Although certainly not the oldest house in the village, Bowyer House has a long and fascinating history as do the people who have owned it and lived there over the centuries. Bowyer House’s current residents have lived there since 1977, the longest residents in the old part of the village on what is now Village Road.
Interviewed for this project on 23rd September 2019, they described how when they were looking to move from the Hemel Hempstead area, they noticed an advertisement for Bowyer House in the window of an estate agent. The property was said to be held in trust for Lady Frances Denman, the wife of the Hon. Harold Denman (1) and herself a descendant of the Dukes of Marlborough, Sir Winston Churchill’s family.
A Grade II listed building (2), Bowyer House is a two-story, red and grey brick structure, constructed with hipped old tile roof. The window range includes three two-light casements in flush surrounds with leaded lights. The ground floor includes a Venetian-type window with brick arches either side of a central door.
It is known when the house was built. An inscription over the door of the property reads “In the year of Our Lord 1721, This Charity School was Erected by Subscription of ye Inhabitants of this Parish, and Other well-disposed Persons, and is perpetually Endowed by Sir William Bowyer, Bart. of Denham Court, with Thirty Pounds Pr. Annum. Go and Do Likewise.”
According to the Reverend R.H. Lathbury’s 1904 History of Denham Village (3), provision was made for the purpose of building a schoolhouse for 30 boys and girls and a place for the master and mistresses to live who would be the teachers. That small school was the chief means of education for the village until 1877. The building still stands bearing witness by the inscription over its doorway to the zeal and earnestness of Sir William Bowyer and others in the matter of education.
The school outgrew the original schoolhouse building and it became necessary rehouse the schoolmaster and schoolmistress, husband and wife. Their new dwelling would be in the Orchard. Unfortunately there appears to be no record of exactly where the Orchard was located. However, at the end of the Bowyer House garden, the foundation of a house has been uncovered complete with main drainage to the now defunct cesspool. This could have been the location of the schoolmaster’s house.
“We do know that the main building was extended in 1872 when a larger classroom was added to the rear of the property and is now the drawing room. Since we have lived here, we have made several upgrades to the house, but always maintaining its original character and garden” write today’s owners.
There are also stories today’s owners recall about their neighbouring properties: “Living next to St. Mary’s church had benefits, for example our nursery was in one of the front bedrooms adjacent to the church. During bell ringing practice on a Monday evening we could guarantee that both our children would fall asleep within minutes after the bells started. They clearly found them comforting.”
And as to their famous next door neighbours: “Our original neighbours were Sir John and Lady Mary Mills at Hills House. We both remember that Sir John was always ‘acting.’ He would change his voice when he answered the telephone or when bidding his guests goodnight. After their annual Christmas party, although then nearly blind, Sir John would pick at random one of the hats displayed on their refectory table in the hall, all of which he had worn at one time or another during his career, then assuming the character of the chosen hat, he would say his farewell.”
“We have special memories of living in Bowyer House. Nine months almost to the day after we moved into Bowyer House, in November 1977 our eldest son was born, and subsequently our second son was born here as well. Both of our sons attended the Jack and Jill Nursery School in the Village Hall, then on to the Denham School in Cheapside Lane. They both sang in the choir at St. Mary’s, both were married in St. Mary’s and our grandchildren were christened there.”
“Neither of us ever imagined that we would be living here for more than half our lives, but we love our family home and the village where we have made so many mfriends over the years, a very special place to live.”
1 For more about Harold Denman see https://peeragenews.blogspot.com/2013/05/harold-denman-1922-2013.html
2 For details of the significance of “listed buildings see https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/what-is-designation/listed-buildings/ and “An acknowledgement of listed buildings in Denham“ compiled by Peter Temple in 2001 and supplied by Terry Skelton 2019
3 Reverend R.H.Lathbury, M.A., The History of Denham, Bucks (Lucy & Birch, mUxbridge, 1904), 486 pp.