A historic manor house and school has a new name and a fresh coat of paint after a makeover to help reverse its ailing fortunes.
Garston Manor House, in High Elms Lane, will now be known as High Elms Manor, following a grand launch party held at the venue on Friday.
St Andrew's Montessori School, which is based at the house, will also be known as High Elms Manor School.
Watford Mayor Dorothy Thornhill and Councillor Ron Spellen, chairman of Three Rivers District Council, visited the estate and officially opened the refurbished venue during the afternoon, before special guests and businesses were invited to tour the grounds later that evening.
Liadain O'Neill, who runs the estate with her family, said: “We have St Andrew's Montessori School and Garston Manor for functions. The problem is people get very confused because we're running a school and a venue. There's also a Garston Manor School in Horseshoe Lane and people get us confused with them.
“Then we found out originally it was called High Elms Manor but in 1895 changed to Garston Manor. We thought that was a pretty name and wanted to develop a new brand.”
The manor house was built in 1813 and sits in more than 21 acres of woodland.
It was sold to Benskins brewery in 1931 before being sold on to the health authority in 1949 when it was turned into a rehabilitation centre. This closed in 1986 and the Grade II listed building fell into disrepair.
However, in 1997, Sheila O'Neill bought the house for £500,000 to run her Montessori school.
And together with her daughters – Roisin, Liadain, Ailise and Catrine – she has restored the manor through letting it as a venue for wedding receptions or corporate events.
Plans to rename and refurbish the venue began about 12 months ago to help boost revenue and visitor numbers.
The garden now features a long terrace and fountain, while inside the house, every room has received a fresh coat of paint and a ceremonial room to be used for weddings has received a makeover.
The work also took place under the watchful eye of television cameras from Channel Four, which will feature the restoration in a forthcoming series of Country House Rescue, to be shown next spring.
Presenter Ruth Watson has been a regular visitor to the manor, assisting the family's efforts to revitalise their business and develop ideas such as hosting a treasure hunt for children.
Liadain said: “It's a new life. It's like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
“We were feeling despondent because the place wasn't looking as good as we wanted it to. But taking the risk, it's suddenly given us a new zest.
“We're trusting the money we have put in we will get back because now it's so beautiful. It's a bit of a risk but hopefully it's not too much of a risk.
“Hopefully more people will enjoy it because they will know about it.”