A photograph published on the Nostalgia page on Friday, January 13, prompted Betty Fox, of Bushey, to write in: "This is a photograph of Otterspool House on the banks of the River Colne to the East of Watford.

"As your reader, Lesley Stubbs, said, the building can be seen from the drive leading to the Munden estate off Western Avenue (A41) and also near Junction 5 of the M1 motorway heading South. The pigeon house / large, rather ornate brick dovecote was still standing until about five years ago.

"The tennis court does still exist but, judging by the old chairs heaped on the overgrown asphalt, has not heard ball on racket for rather a long time.

"Originally the whole building was called Otterspool House, sited within the tiny settlement of Otterspool. In 1996 property developers created several separate residences out of the existing buildings, thus more than doubling the number of dwellings in the hamlet.

"The name Otterspool House still remains for one home. The other houses have been given names that reflect their history or location, eg Milne, Colne, Brew. The four terraced cottages were created out of the long passageway and side rooms that led from the main house to the kitchen.

"Originally Coach House would have been used for horse carriages or motor cars. During the hard winters of the late 1980's we kept our car in there, sharing the garage with three or four other vehicles, such was the size of the available space. I still have vivid memories of daily hauling on the heavy chains which pulled the enormous metal rolling garage door.

"In earlier times the flat above this garage would have been home to the groom or chauffeur; more recently the gardener lived there. The separate building on the left in the photograph is now called Clock House' due to the wall mounted replica stable clock. This was indeed the stable block and one of the original hayracks can still be seen, now enjoying its reincarnation as a wall basket for flowers.

"Maybe all this talk of carriages and horses has hinted at the long history attached to Otterspool House. The following details are taken mainly from the publication Wall Hall in Times Past: reflections on a nineteenth century country estate; 1981. Incidentally, the Watford Observer printed an article in reply to a similar query over the history of Otterspool on its Nostalgia pages for August 22 and 29, 1997.

"The Aldenham parish record for 1578 refers to Otter pool milne and to Atterspoole Mill in 1638. The Great Survey listed Otterspoole Milne as the mill where all corn has to be ground', according to the Church's ruling.

"The County Record Office holds a certificate of recognisance showing that John Higgs of Aldenham was licenced to keep a common ale-house or victualling house at Great Otterspool for one year from September 29, 1754.

"In 1766 a newspaper advertised Otterspool Cold Bath near Watford, in Hertfordshire, for immediate letting, together with the house, coach-house, brew house and stable, as well as the gardens, orchard and meadows. The whole in very good condition being chiefly new built'. Enquiries were to be made to Mr Twynihoe in Essex Court in the Temple or of Thomas Nicholl, attorney at Watford.

"An inland health spa was said to have flourished at Otterspool in the 18th Century. Prints from 1797 and 1802 depict the house as an inn, with the road running between the house and the River Colne.

"There were powerful springs nearby and it became a fashionable place to stay in order to drink the pure waters, even though they held no particular medicinal qualities.

"It was especially convenient for well-to-do society wishing to enjoy a brief respite from overcrowded London. At that time, "an age of watering places", many spas were in the countryside beside a lake or pool, convenient for bathing or taking the waters combined with the pleasures of riding, fishing and walking. Similar activities still flourish around Otterspool to this day.

"At the end of the 18th Century Otterspool House became a private residence. In 1798, George Woodford Thellusson leased the property from a Henry Wood Esq.

"Thellusson bought Wall Hall just over half a mile further East from Otterspool in 1799, proceeding to convert it into an elegant residence and engaging the landscape designer, Humphrey Repton, to transform the grounds. Repton also made new roads but had plans to cut Otterspool down to size, describing it as a very ugly house'.

"Had he had his way, Otterspool House would have been changed into a single-storey pavilion. Thellusson died in 1811 at the age of 47. Wall Hall was sold the following year and his widow, Mary Anne, moved to Otterspool where she stayed until her death in 1844. His eldest daughter, Marianne, never married and remained at Otterspool until she died in 1852.

"The younger daughter, Georgina, wife of the Hon. Augustus Phipps, had married in 1813 and they probably lived at Otterspool until 1873.

"There is some discrepancy over the exact dates in the literature to hand, but around this time the house was occupied by Mr Justice Mellor and later by Mr Justice Willis.

"When he first went to reside at Otterspool, Judge Willis found the bed of the river silted with mud, and no trout in it.

"He arranged for the dirt and broken crockery, ginger beer, soda water and champagne bottles presumably left over from the heady days of being an inn to be removed.

"After this clearance, fine trout were found in the river, some of which were very tame and were fed by the judge. Sadly he committed suicide by shooting himself with a revolver whilst living at the house.

"From 1874 until 1923 Stephen Taprell-Holland, a local railway magnate and JP, lived at Otterspool, although the property was owned by William Dugald Stuart who also owned Aldenham Abbey (Wall Hall).

"A man of influence, Taprell-Holland had the Callowland Halt at North Watford on the St Albans line built for his own convenience, driving there in his imposing coach and four, where a special train would convey him to London.

"He was also a Catholic and had Watford's Holy Rood church in Market Street built, to the architectural designs of J F Bentley who designed Westminster Cathedral.

"Although Taprell-Holland was said to have a keen sense of his own dignity and importance, he was always interested in Holy Rood School next to the church and gave the schoolchildren their annual treat. The children were always welcome at Otterspool and were generally too overawed to get into mischief.

"After standing vacant for some years, Captain Jacques Pusinelli moved into the house. He stayed until Henry P Harland, a director of the Belfast shipbuilders Harland and Wolff, took up residence. In 1944 the Harlands moved to Radlett where Mr Harland subsequently died of a stroke; his wife returned to Belfast.

"Planning ahead, before the creation of the Green Belt and prior to the outbreak of World War Two, Hertfordshire County Council had taken out an option on the whole 1,000 acres of Wall Hall estate which included Otterspool with the aim of preserving an open space on that side of Watford.

"When the owner, John Pierpont Morgan, died in 1942, the Council took up its option and purchased the entire estate.

"In 1945 Wall Hall became the first Emergency Training College for Women Teachers. Later it became a normal teachers' training college, initially called Wall Hall and then Hertfordshire College of Higher Education after the amalgamation with Balls Park and the closure of Hockerill College.

"After further changes in higher education, Wall Hall became the School of Education and Humanities of Hatfield Polytechnic and then the Watford Campus of the University of Hertfordshire. In 2003 the University vacated the site completely, transferring courses and resources to its new de Havilland campus at Hatfield.

"During the education years', Otterspool House was used as a student hostel. It must have been viewed as quite a privilege to live there, away from the bustle of the main campus and based in such beautiful surroundings, and also for the devoted care of staff like Mr and Mrs Weeks who looked after the gardens and fabric of the house and who are still remembered by former residents for their kindness, sense of humour and constant care.

"When asked of her memories (recorded in: Wall Hall: from farmhouse to university; 2003), Mrs Weeks almost 100 years old and living in a Home in Watford recalled that of course, she was accustomed to working with "gentry"'.

"In the 1980's, I remember Miss Jean Kershaw who, on becoming college librarian at Wall Hall, needed a new home after the closure of Balls Park at Hertford. Not only was she delighted to be installed as the hostel warden at Otterspool House and able to view what she referred to as Constable countryside' from the huge bay window of her flat, but it also gave her the opportunity to enjoy walking the local lanes with her little companion, Penny, a Yorkshire terrier that had been found abandoned nearby.

"Otterspool House played other roles apart from being purely a residential hostel during those times. It was the perfect setting for an art studio for some years. When the conservatory was still standing, three or four students could work there, with two camellia trees for company. The garden provided a wealth of material and inspiration for painting and pattern making, during all the seasons.

"At another time, in the mid-1980's, Trevor May, lecturer in the history department, arranged for local schoolchildren to experience the type of lifestyle and daily activities carried out by earlier inhabitants of Otterspool. For several days there were shire horses pulling cartloads of children along Otterspool Lane, youngsters swarming around the stables, courtyards and old buildings obviously greatly enjoying their chance to learn about the various tools and implements while interacting with the adults dressed in historical costumes. Perhaps some Watford Observer readers can recall that particular week?

"So Otterspool House has had a long and varied history. Much more could, and has been, written about the possible meanings that lie behind the name itself. For the pool' part, today only a wide, deep, dried-out grassy hollow remains in the Munden meadows of the original Otterspool, once said to be bottomless and too cold for fish to live within. Some like to think that the pond in the garden of the Clock House may have been responsible for the name, which at least saved it from being filled in, when the stables were changed into a house. I like to think that the large pond that has evolved and become permanent in the meadows over the past 20 years is certainly beautiful enough to be regarded as the current pool' of Otterspool.

"As for the otters' of Otterspool, well, by all accounts there possibly never were any. There are references to one or two sightings in the historical literature, but in my 27 years of living at Otterspool, I have seen almost every animal from water voles and stoats to badgers and muntjac, but never an otter. Maybe one day."

Mrs L Whitney, of Garston, also recognised Otterspool House and wrote in: "The picture shows the back view of Otterspool House. More than 30 years ago I worked there looking after students training to be teachers at Wall Hall College. It was sold off to property dealers to make way for luxury apartments, although it had a preservation order on it because of its age.

"I spent 16 happy years there looking after the students with lots of good memories."

Do any other readers have recollections or pictures of Otterspool House in days gone by?