A colourful building with a colourful past, the Red House has to be one of the most elegant buildings in our town and is grade II listed. Nikolaus Pevsner describes it as “the most ambitious c18 house in town: seven bays with fine porch with Ionic columns and pediment; big Venetian window above”.
Rev George Nugent is remembered for leaving £1000 in his will to build a house for the poor of the town at Kitsbury Parade, replacing a number of dilapidated cottages known as “Ragged Row”. The Rev George Nugent was living in a smaller property in Berkhamsted before he moved into the Red House in 1794.
Much has been written about John Tawell, the apparently respectable Quaker gentleman who involved himself in local worthy causes but whose arrest by means of electric telegraph led to his hanging for the murder of his former mistress.
Joseph Robinson owned and lived in the property from the late 1840 to the mid-1870s. As well as extending the property to incorporate the White House next door, Joseph made other improvements. He was supposed to have been the first person in Berkhamsted to have an internal piped water supply. Rainwater was collected from the roof and stored in wells under each house. He is said to have had a bath of cold water left ready each night and if he could not sleep, he took a cold bath.
In June 1945 John Henry Robinson, the son of Joseph died. It is assumed that this is when the Red House was sold as part of his estate. In 1946 it was converted into a private hotel and a few years later it became offices and flats. In more recent years the access between the Red and White house has been re-opened and is now office space.
Although internally the property has been greatly altered it still retains an impressive external appearance on a prominent High Street location. There are a few questions left unanswered. Was there an original Tudor house on the site which has been adapted over time? Who created the elegant 18th century red brick building? What was the original use of the building with the ecclesiastical appearance in the garden and what happened to the photographs Percy Birtchnell took of it? Why was it subject to Fee Farm Rent and who was Charles Moore Esq?
Janice Boakes, Chronicle v.XVII (Mar 2020).