Oxhey Grange, Oxhey Lane, Watford.


By Virginia Barber

Fierce Feathers
J. D Penrose

These are the memories of Elsie Wilson (nee Baker).  Elsie gave me the book for safe keeping as she knew I was interested in the history of the area around Watford Heath.

She complied a record of her memories of Oxhey Grange where her Father, Nelson Baker, was Cowman and Keeper of the boilers. This includes photos.

He and his family later ran the shop and tea room on Watford Heath.

Elsie writes:

James Doyle Penrose and his wife Elizabeth (Lady Peckover) bought the estate from the Eleys.

They were active Quakers who were instrumental in building up a Friends’ Meeting and Adult Schoool in Watford and he was happy to loan them a field at Oxhey Grange for a cricket club. At one time J.D.P. was a deputy Lieutenant for Cambridgeshire and for years a magistrate for the counties of Cambridge and Herts.

J. D. Penrose was an artist and made his art an expression of that deep sense of the all-pervading presence and love of God. His many pictures include “Iduna and the Apples of Youth”  “Christian at the Cross” etc, etc. The climax of his work was reached in two Quaker subjects “The Presence in the Midst” and “None shall make the Afraid” (otherwise known as “Fierce Feathers) The latter tells the story of a little Quaker Community in New York State in 1775, quietly sitting in worship despite the intrusion of threatening Indians.   ( Elsie has included a leaflet by L. V. Hodgkin in her book telling how it came to be painted. )

J.D.P. was a kindly gentleman with strong convictions about temperance and pacifism.

Elsie was a model for the child in the picture ”The Presence in the Midst”  

She writes:                          

 ’I well remember running along the rose walk always afraid of meeting the Head Gardener!! I arrived at Oxhey Grange and was met by a maid who helped me change into a long plain grey dress and white cotton bonnet. I was then ready to sit as the artist’s model of a young  Quaker girl in a Meeting house sitting next to an adult in her typical Quaker dress. I sat very still and once fell asleep. During a break a maid brought in a tray holding a glass of milk and two biscuits. I felt very important as the maid helped me on with my coat. I hurried along the rose walk, through the chicken run as fast as my five year old legs could carry me, to my own home.’


This page was added on 30/07/2012.

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  • I’m Nelson Baker’s granddaughter.  (Hello Virginia!)  

    I would love to see this book; and especially the photographs but I’m not close by, living in Norfolk.

    Perhaps some kind person could let me have more details about the library.  Is it the one on the South Oxhey estate?

    My grandfather seems to have had various roles at the Grange; keeper of the boilers is a new one to me.

    Elsie once offered me a pair of his gloves that were knitted for the Boer War.  I think they were destined for Watford Museum if I declined the offer.  I couldn’t think what to do with them so took the matter no further.  However, I never did learn what happened to them.

    Nelson apparently met his second wife, Milly Wink, at the Grange, where she also was employed.  I’m intrigued to know if her uncle (whose name escapes me just now) was a butler at Peckover House in Wisbech, the family home of J. D. Penrose’s wife.  In 1911, Milly lived in his home, virtually next door to Peckover House; and was a companion to his wife, her aunt.  He was a butler but no place of work is given…

    By Margaret Brook (nee Baker) (25/01/2016)
  • The book that Elsie complied is now at Oxhey Library. It includes several photos of the Staff working there in the 1920 and 30’s Very Downton Abbey!!

    By Virginia Barber (09/11/2012)
  • I met Elsie Wilson a few times up at North Watford, really nice lady and very interesting with her memories of the Grange and Watford Heath. Her mum was careful with the pennies and when the Oxhey Grange Estate was put up for sale she was able to buy cottages on the Heath at auction

    By Neil Hamilton (30/07/2012)