Part 1. The Victorian Country House
It's a warm summer evening in 1892, it's been a very hot sunny day and it's pleasant to feel the air getting cooler as the
sun sets. Outside on the terrace and in the gardens of the floodlit house the servants are busily adding the final touches to
the days work. All day long workmen have been erecting marquees, the insides draped with silk, tables and chairs have
been set up, a dance floor has been laid, a band stand erected and bunches of freshly cut flowers are everywhere. Plates,
knives and forks and glasses have been cleaned and polished. Bottles of wine and Champagne, hundreds of them, have
been brought up from the cellars and are now poised ready for consumption. The kitchens have been busy for days and
now the food, tons of it, perfectly cooked and presented is all beautifully laid out. The band is beginning to play and the
horse drawn carriages can be heard galloping along Goldings Lane as the guests arrive. Such distinguished people as the
Archbishop of York, Lord Lavine and the King's daughter herself will be here within the hour.
Walking into the temporary huts after having driven over the bumps in the drive and past the reflective direction signs
into the car park, it's difficult to imagine that Goldings was originally someone's country house where lavish summer balls
like the one above regularly took place, but it was.
The building was designed and built by a well-known Victorian architect named George Devey. Most of his buildings were
large country houses which he usually built for wealthy bankers and Goldings was no exception, being built between 1871
and 1877 for Robert Abel Smith, who was such a banker. Devey was famous for his haphazardness of design on an
enormous scale and though Goldings was one of his largest houses it is also considered to be one of his most depressing,
being described as ‘depressingly shapeless, it seems to dribble on for ever'. The latter could well describe the work which is
now carried out here, and perhaps the depressingness of the house has something to do with the decline in morale which has
taken place over the past few years.
When the house was built no expense was spared, as many of us know Goldings canal was made so that a lake could be seen
from the drawing room but apparently the Hertford to Waterford Road was also diverted to take it further away from the
house; this involved building five bridges, the ones on the A602 and the ones along the drive. The horse drawn carriages,
must have caused considerable pollution, of one form or another and there was no Land Compensation Act in those days.
The Abel Smith family occupied Goldings until. it was sold in 1920. Mr Ernie Walker "of Queens Road, Hertford was the
maintenance engineer before Mr Hooper; he was here for 43 years and can remember the place during the time of the
Abel Smiths. When he arrived in 1910, Mr Robert Abel Smith had died and his wife was in charge of the house. She lived
here with two daughters and a son but the son, Captain Reginald Abel Smith-was away in the Army most of the time.
Nevertheless, the house wasn’t empty because Mrs Smith and her two daughters employed one or two staff to look after
them, in fact,, the follow tog were employed: a butler, three footmen, a housekeeper, a stillroom maid, three ladies maids,
"two cooks, two kitchen maids, two scullery maids, an odd job man, a head gardener, six gardeners, a. Maintenance
engineer and a brick layer. Twenty five in all. After" all they didn’t have such time saving luxuries as coffee machines in
At that time Room 2 was the Drawing Room and the filing room, appropriately the Library. Room 3 was the Morning Room,
Room 8 The Boudoir, Room 6 the Billiard Room and Room 5 the Dining Room. The rooms around the County Surveyor
And Deputy County Surveyor's rooms were-the Gentry's bedrooms, with the servants rooms along the Mezzanine floor.
During the 1914 -18 war Mrs Smith apparently did her bit by turning the house into a hospital/ nursing home for wounded
soldiers. There were between 20 and 25 here at any one tine, and no doubt this made a pleasant change for the two beautiful
daughters. Between the war and 1920 it would seen that the family began to break up. Mrs Smith died and Captain Reginald
was in charge, though he was hardly ever here. Perhaps the daughters got married and left but eventually the place was
empty most of the time, apart from one or two staff who were left and in July 1920 the house was put up for auction along
with most of Waterford and the surrounding area, with Messrs Knight, Frank and Rutley as the agents.
Part 2. The William Baker Technical School
One day, sometime around 1920, Mr Ernie Walker was working in the engine room, situated in the building near the ECU
offices where Mr Hooper's office is now located, when three well-dressed men came along to see him. They wanted to know
whether the house, which at that time was only occupied by a handful of people, as previously described in The Highwayman,
was capable of supplying water and handling sewage etc. for up to 300 people. This was the beginning of negotiations which
led to a very dramatic change for Goldings. In 1921 the estate was sold to Dr Barnardos Homes and on the 15 November
1922, Goldings was opened by the then Prince of Wales as the William Baker Technical School and became the home for 350
boys plus staff. William Baker was a Honorary Director of Dr Barnardos Homes from 1905 to 1920, as can be seen from the
commemoration plaque over the original front door.
Goldings remained as the William Baker School right through the War up until 1967.
Up until the War, there were around 300 boys resident at the school and this increased to 300 during the War, due to the
evacuation of the Stepney Home. After the War, the Home Office became involved in Dr Barnardo Homes and it laid down
standards which involved a reduction in the number of places at the school.
Originally, rooms 1, 2 and 8 were classrooms with the boys working at various places around the grounds, such as the
Stable ,Block which is now Ware College Annexe. The rest of the house was devoted to residential quarters and in fact was
split up into four houses, one on each floor with two on the top floor. The school could now only accommodate about 200
boys, and they could learn one of the: following trades: Printing, Carpentry, Painting and Decorating,-Boot Making
and Shoe repairs, sheet metal working or Gardening, if they stayed to the age of 21 or else they could leave at 15-
The RC U. buildings were erected around 1950 as classroom and the above of the house then became residential; the.
Canteen was the Bakerys Hooper took over from Mr Walker in 1953 and has been in charge of maintaining the place ever
since. McAndrew Wing was added during 1959/60 and was opened by Princess Margaret on Tuesday 18 October 1960 with
a silver key. Apparently Mrs Fyfe's room was converted into a Drawing Room, for the Princess and a special toilet was
built but when the big day arrived, she did not use either of them. The school remained full, with around 200 resident boys
until the shock announcement in 1966 that it was to close down.
Apparently plans had been prepared to make the school more viable by building separate houses, etc. but this was costed
out at £lm and must have been considered too expensive. Also there were not the number of Orphans that there used to be
and this may have influenced the decision.