Harmonia Court in Watford has a fascinating history. The Victorian house fronting Nascot Wood Road known as Baynards was built around 1897 for William Hurst Flint, partner of Humbert Son & Flint estate agents and chartered surveyors; a business established by Charles Francis Humbert of Little Nascot in 1842.

William Flint lived at Baynards with his wife, two sons and two daughters, Gwendoline and Kathleen, in accommodation that included music and billiards rooms, a library and a conservatory. Later additions were a large air raid shelter; an annexe for the gardener, Mr Denning, who had two assistants, and stabling for the horses which, over time, became garaging for two cars, a Vauxhall and a Wolseley. In 1927 a bungalow, Baynards Lodge, was built for the chauffeur, Mr Seymore. William Flint worked until his mid-70s and died at Baynards in 1937, at the age of 87. He is buried at Langleybury Church.

Watford Observer:

Charles F. Humbert's Little Nascot book plate

During the early part of the Second World War, Baynards became the head office of Humbert, Son & Flint when the firm’s London staff were evacuated to Watford. The grounds on which Nascot Wood Junior School now stands were requisitioned by American troops as billets and Nissen huts with concrete bases were erected there. It wasn’t until a few years after the war that the Americans bulldozed the area.

In 1948 Baynards was purchased by Gartlet School, whose motto, ‘Lex, Lux, Pax’, meant good discipline, progress in studies and an easy conscience. The school was established c1855 at the Manor House and Fairfield House, Loates Lane, Watford, before moving in 1895 to the corner of Clarendon Road and Gartlet Road, to which it gave its name. At Baynards, the school was under the headship of the Misses Margaret Howe and Ethel Hancock who lived on site, as did the Matron, Miss Howe’s aunt. Although primarily a girls’ day school, several boys were educated up to seven years of age. Older readers will remember raconteur Cyril Fletcher and broadcaster Pete Murray; both ‘old boys’.

Watford Observer:

Gartlet School, Nascot Wood Road c1955. Credit: Kenneth A. Bromley www.artsupplies.co.uk

The school employed five full-time and several part-time teachers for subjects such as art and woodcraft, and class numbers were limited to 20 pupils. Sports facilities included a gym with adjacent laboratory built in 1955 and two tennis courts. Ann Alderson, then PE Mistress, was given the task of clearing stones and rubble from the site of the Nissen huts in order to create a flat surface for a hockey pitch. She was assisted by staff members and girls who were instructed to collect 20 stones each after every games session. The pitch was eventually used for hockey matches and competitions, sports days and annual Fathers v Girls cricket competitions.

Gartlet’s centenary celebrations in 1955 commenced on March 26 with a grand concert at Watford Technical College in Hempstead Road. On July 16 there was an open day and on October 28 a dinner dance at Watford Town Hall, at which the then-well known Scottish politician Baroness Florence Horsbrugh was guest of honour. The centenary year events ended on October 29 with a service at St Andrew’s Church in Watford, followed by an old girls’ reception and AGM. Gartlet School closed in 1965 when the Misses Hancock and Howe retired, and the house and grounds were the subject of a compulsory purchase by Watford Borough Council.

Watford Observer:

Gartlet School's Centenary Programme cover

When I met Ann Alderson in 1996, Gartlet Old Girls’ Association (GOGA) was still producing magazines and holding well-attended annual reunions at the YWCA in Langley Road. Its 88-page 1994-95 magazine was full to the brim with news of ‘old girls’. With 200 life members and 40 annual members, GOGA was still recruiting 30 years after the school had closed.

Herts County Council took over Watford School of Music (WSM) in 1964 and, in 1967, opened its doors at Baynards. Founded in 1880, it was based for many years in the old public library at 7 Queens Road where Principal Leslie Regan offered a full education in music, singing, speech training, theory and harmony. In the early 1960s, WSM relocated from Queens Road to Red Lion Yard, at the rear of the old market.

Watford Observer:

Gartlet School's 'Centenary Block' Christmas card

At Baynards, every room on the house’s three levels was occupied by WSM teachers, pupils and a variety of instruments. Gartlet’s gym and laboratory were merged to form the recital hall.

On April 20, 1971, Nascot Wood Infant and Junior Schools opened, the latter on the site of Gartlet’s hockey pitch. During the 1990s, when my three children attended Nascot Wood School and were learning a total of seven instruments at Watford School of Music, I recall the friendly administrative staff who worked in the office directly across the hall from the front door, formerly Baynards’ billiards room, and the nostalgic Gartlet School named coat pegs, still in the corridor after 30 years.

The atmospheric old house and recital hall became a haven for music lovers and a place of focused learning for aspiring musicians and singers, young and old. By the mid-1990s, WSM boasted a dozen orchestras and bands, music theatre groups and choirs, under the leadership of Philip Ellis, whose office was in Baynard’s lounge.

When the Harmonia Court development came into fruition around ten years ago, WSM moved to Clarendon Muse at Watford Grammar School for Boys. Thankfully Baynards lives on, though its interior now comprises flats that no longer ring with the dulcet sounds of music.

Lesley Dunlop is the daughter of the late Ted Parrish, a well-known local historian and documentary filmmaker. He wrote 96 nostalgic articles for the Evening Post-Echo in 1982-83 which have since been published in Echoes of Old Watford, Bushey & Oxhey, available at www.pastdayspublishing.com and Bushey Museum. Lesley is currently working on ‘Two Lives, Two World Wars’, a companion volume that explores her father’s and grandfather’s lives and war experiences, in which Watford, Bushey and Oxhey’s history will take to the stage once again.