The plaque in Holywell Hill commemorating Holywell House, describes it as the “favourite home” of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. This is borne out by a letter the Duchess wrote in 1714.
It stated “However ordinary Holywell House may be, I would not part with it for any house I have seen on my travels”. And at this time Bleinheim Palace was being built!
The Duchess of Marlborough was Sarah Jennings, granddaughter of John Jennings, who represented St Albans throughout the Long Parliament. When Sarah married John Churchill her father gave Holywell House as part of her dowry. When the Duchess died, her property passed to her son, Earl Spencer.
His widow the Dowager Countess Spencer, lived at Holywell House for several years.
She is remembered in St Albans because in 1803 the cedar tree in Sumpter Yard was planted by her. Its strange umbrella shape was caused by hooligans breaking off the topmost branches when the tree was young.
And if they had hooligans in those days they also had improvement schemes – Holywell House was demolished in 1837 so that Holywell Hill could be widened.
Find out more about Holywell House at the Parks & Gardens website.