The White House

St Peter's Street, St Albans

By Gerard McSweeney

    This Grade II listed house (Fig. 1), situated towards the northern end of St Peter’s St (No.103), was reputedly built in 1829 . The adjacent building is the Old Vicarage and, beyond that, Ivy House (q.v.).

Photo:Fig 1

Fig 1

G P McSweeney

         

   It is not the first building on the site; the first reference to any structure found so far is in a proof of title prepared for a Samuel Jones (see below). This included a schedule, dated 21st August 1787, referring to a marriage settlement of the property upon Charles Campbell & Mary Straton. In 1821, Charles surrendered it to a son, Robert Campbell, although the parish map of 1826 shows Rev Charles Campbell as owner with Jon Mather as tenant. Before the date of this map,  according to a “Rate levied for rebuilding the tower of the Parish Church & Chancel”, tenants included, successively, Mrs Margaret Carr, Mrs Wolfe & Mrs Jackson. By 1828, it was occupied by a Miss Wells, Principal of a girls’ school. Her establishment was one of a group of schools in the northern area of the town.

   An interesting anonymous drawing (Fig 2), made about this time, shows the area viewed from the west, with St Peter’s Church in the background. Between it and the foreground building is the property under discussion, having a steeply-pitched roof and panelled chimney stack, suggesting a date of the late 17th Century (J T Smith).

    The long building, apparently clad in weather-board, belonged to another school, together with the house on the right, which is still recognisable today.

Photo:Fig 2

Fig 2

St Albans City Library

    In 1827 Robert Campbell sold the property to Samuel Jones of Daltons, Catherine Lane, (a residence earlier called Folly House and later, Bleak House). In 1830 Jones also bought No. 101, the adjacent site, shown in the drawing. The indenture mentions that his first purchase was still occupied by Miss Wells, indicating that the old building still existed & suggesting that the dating of the later White House to 1829 is too early.

    Jones, described as a farmer & optician (1851 Census), Mayor in 1828, evidently demolished the old building, as indicated by a rise in rateable value of the site (£22.10s in 1829; £50 in 1834). He employed the architect George Smith to design the present White House, so-called from the overall painted stucco, incised with narrow lines simulating the joints in stonework. This has led to the description “stone-built” in the Listing. A similar erroneous description has been applied to the Town Hall (1832), also by Smith.

     The house then passed through a number of owners and tenants, the latter being largely of the professional class.  The most famous of these was the historian and antiquary, William Page, whose greatest achievement, among many, was establishing on a firm basis the series of Victoria County Histories. He was a leading light in the formation of the Hertfordshire County Museum (now The Museum of St Albans) in 1898 and presented papers to the St Albans Archaeological & Architectural Society. He retained an affectionate interest in St Albans after leaving for London as general editor of the V.C.H.

    For over twenty years from 1923 the house was owned and occupied by Robert Blair Kinloch,’Medical Officer‘ and several medical partners, including A.H. Boys, 'Physician & surgeon, Public Vaccinator  for St Albans'. With St Peter’s Vicarage and Ivy House (q.v.), it is evident that the northern end of St Peter’s St retained its long-standing relatively high-status residential character longer than the area south of Catherine St. 

   On the death of Kinloch’s widow, the building was sold to the Ministry of Works in 1955 and from then on it was occupied by a series of Government departments before its present (2011) commercial role.

This page was added by Gerard McSweeney on 19/01/2012.
Comments about this page

One of the post-1955 occupants for a good number of years was the Institute of Helminthology and as I recollect it was the sole occupant while there - theirs was the only nameplate in the porch, I am fairly sure. To save a visit to the dictionary or Wikipedia, helminths are parasitic worms. The director, or possibly secretary, had a piece in a local paper on one occasion, describing the science of helminthology and its value.

By Roger Miles
On 23/08/2012

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