the death of Miss Ella McPheeters the trusties of the late Mrs. Florence
Cunard put The Grove Estate up for sale. Part of The Grove Estate, 41 acres,
including The Grove house, the two lodge cottages and the gardeners houses
were purchased by Mr. Walter Perkins, a surveyor. The Lakes were purchased
by Middlesex County Council.
Between 1947 and 1949 Walter Perkins sold off, freehold, the two lodge cottages and the land on which the gardeners cottages were standing. He had plans of turning The Grove house into two separate living accommodations (semi-detached) and had a dividing wall built through the center of the house.
For some unknown reason Mr.Perkins did not follow through his plans for converting The Grove House and in 1949 he put The Grove up for sale.
About the same time The General Electric Company (GEC) had been approached by the Ministry of Supply to develop a new fighter radar but, as there was no spare capacity at the Research Laboratories at Wembley, a new location had to be found.
The search for a site began with the Ministry of Supply referring the problem to the Board of Trade. Their first suggestion was in the Yarmouth area because " there is a lot of unemployment in the fishing industry". This was followed by a suggestion of Lancashire where " there are a lot of empty cotton mills". The Laboratory's own ideas has developed to include not only space for Laboratory, drawing office, and workshop buildings, some of them special purpose for mechanical and climatic testing, but also open space for work on aerials, and a radar view not pointing to continental Europe. In addition there had to be housing within reasonable distance in which new staff could live, also the new site should not be too far from Wembley. This was pronounced by the Board of Trade to be an insoluble problem because all the areas which met the specification, such as Watford, had a negative number of unemployed.
At this point the Estates Department of GEC took over and enlisted the help of Agents such as Knight, Frank and Ruttley. This lead to Dr Epsley and Robert Clayton to a series of remarkable expeditions following up the suggestions from the Agents brochures which included the following locations:-
Billington Manor, Leighton Buzzard. 17.5 acres 2 Reception Rooms, 10 Bedrooms £14,000.
Little Berkhampstead House, Little Berkhampstead. 40 acres 4 Reception Rooms, 10 Bedrooms £16,500.
Railside Factory, High Wycombe. 4.436 acres, floor space 45,600 sq ft £120,000.
Factory & Land, 452 Basingstoke Road Reading. 7.25 acres floor space 45,000 sq ft £100,000.
Barrow Hills, Long Cross, near Virginia Water, Surrey. 212 acres 3 Recep, Ballroom, 27 Bedrooms, secondary residence of 11 bedrooms, 10 cottages 3 flats, farm buildings £37,000.
The Hoo, Great Gaddesden, Herts. 97 acres 6 Recep, 24 Bedrooms £15,000.
Barwythe, Studham. 22.5 acres 5 Recep, 16 Bedrooms £16,500.
Coleshill House, Amersham. 13.5 acres, 5 Recep, Ballroom, 13 Bedrooms £19.500.
Little Hampden Manor, Great Missenden. 9 acres, 4 Recep, 15 Bedrooms £11,000.
Lady Mede, Little Kimble. 18.5 acres, 4 Recep, 11 Bedrooms £10,500.
Coombe Hill House, Ellesborough. 42 acres, 5 Recep, 11 Bedrooms £18.500.
Commonwood House, Chipperfield, Herts. 14 acres, 5 Recep, Ballroom, 32 Bedrooms £25,000.
Barnes Lodge, Kings Langley, Herts. 31 acres, 4 Recep, 10 Bedrooms £10,500.
One otherwise suitable site was on a hilltop from which one walked a mile in one direction on odd hours to the nearest public transport, and the return walk on even hours only. Another estate was being run by its occupant as a commune for his family and friends. From this estate they were warned off by a six year old who advised them not to enter a room on the first floor because "the bloody floor is bloody rotten". Another manor house appeared to be being run as a business by one man and a number of highly made up young women.
Every few days there was a fresh rumor going around 'Tele E' at Wembley, as to where they were moving - Aylesbury, Luton, definitely Hemel Hempstead, in fact someone bought a house in Hemel Hempstead on the strength of that rumor. Many of the new team fancied being country-fied out at Aylesbury.
Estates Department and their Agents were proving no more successful than
the Board of Trade. The real breakthrough, however, was made by Robert
Clayton who followed up on a advertisement his wife Joy had seen in The
Times newspaper. It described a house, standing in 23 acres of grounds,
situated about 12 miles north west of central London, suitable for a school
or other institution. Inquiries to the Agent established that this was
The Grove, Warren Lane, Stanmore.
STATIONS: Stanmore 1m. Watford
Situated about 500' above sea level, and enjoying fine views across open
country and standing in well timbered and beautifully laid out grounds,
extending to about 33.5 acres, including wood and park land. The property
is bounded on two sides by Stanmore Common and open fields on the remainder,
thus enjoying the seclusion of the country combined with easy access to
SALE FREEHOLD. A red brick with tiled roof Residence centrally situated
in the grounds and planned so that the principal bed and reception rooms
face South. There are three floors.
Outside the Domestic Quarters is a paved yard with brick built Boiler House, Coal and Coke Stoves and outside W.C. There is also a brick built garden room for tools, but suitable for a garage.
CENTRAL HEATING is installed throughout, radiators being placed in corridors and all Bed and Reception Rooms as well as the Domestic Quarters. MAIN ELECTRICITY, GAS and WATER. DRAINAGE to modern septic tank in park. HOT WATER throughout from Ideal 15D. Domestic Boiler.
GARAGES. There is a detached garage block with two large garages, spacious loft over, and a cottage attached at present in disrepair, but capable of forming a small house of character, especially if incororated with the lofts over the garages.
the North of the grounds is a field of about 3 acres, let to an adjoining
farmer and on the West, adjoining the Common is a beautiful wood containing
fine beeches and many other specimens.
There are about 17.5 acres held on lease until Michaelmas 1951, at a rent of £30 per annum with option to purchase about 11.5 acres. Included in the Leasehold parcel are two lakes affording some rough fishing.
FURTHER INFORMATION AS TO THE OUTGOINGS
There is a tithe redemption annuity of £2. 9s. 4d. On the freehold portion of the property.
With regard to the electricity supply, this was installed last year, and the Supply Company imposed an annual rent charge of £35 per annum on each portion of the house for a period of 7 years from 1948. Against this rent charge the consumer is credited each year with half the total consumption of electricity, including any fixed charges paid for reduced rates of electricity.
With regard to the assessment, the East Wing, including the Domestic Quarters and the garage, has a ratable value of £222, and the West Wing, that is the empty portion of the house, has a ratable value of £138. Previously the whole house was assessed at £259 ratable, and the garage at £8 ratable.
With regard to parts let off, the tenant of The Grove Farm pays £2 per annum for a small part of the freehold land at present under corn, and a rental of £16. 10s. 0d. p.a. for the leasehold portion, excluding the woods and lakes.
The remainder of the leasehold land on the Northern side, including the two lakes belongs to the Middlesex County Council, and there is no option to purchase but the Council would be prepared to renew the tenancy of this part at the end of the lease.
rent of £30 per annum payable for the leasehold land has been apportioned
at £20. 3s. 6d. Per annum for the part carrying the option and £9.
16s. 6d. Per annum for the part belonging to the County Council.
Traveling by a circuitous route on public transport (for they had no car at the time) Robert & Joy walked round the boundaries of The Grove on Stanmore Common which established the possibilities. This was followed by a formal approach to the Agents and a visit by O W Humphreys, Director of the GEC Research Laboratories, and Robert Clayton to The Grove and a meeting with the owner, Mr Perkins. The visit confirmed the suitability of the site subject to planning permission being granted, as the Estate appeared to be in the `Green Belt'. The Ministry of Supply brushed aside concerns regarding planning permission saying that in the case of a defence project no question of planning permission arose - a view which proved to be an over-simplification.
GEC proposed that it was a suitable site and that the Ministry of Supply should buy it, the Ministry said that they would take advice of the district valuer. He in turn said he had never agreed to the asking price and proposed a figure of £10,000. Mr Perkins, the owner of The Grove, got angry and complained that he thought he was dealing with GEC and now from `behind their skirts' had appeared the Government. The district valuer said that as this was a defence project the site could be compulsorily purchased. This made Mr Perkins even more angry and threatened to involve his local MP accusing GEC of deception. To save a fast deteriorating situation, GEC bought the freehold for £14,000 and leased it to the Ministry of Supply for £700 per annum and in due course leased it back from the Ministry as the site for a new Laboratory. GEC also took up the option to purchase the leasehold land, owned by The Viscountess Mountbatten, amounting to 12.148 acres, on the North of The Grove, for a price of £1,300.
Some of the terms and conditions of the sale make interesting reading. Mr Perkins requested he be allowed to remove fireplaces from the lounge, dining room, and south bedroom on the first floor in the occupied portion of the house and replace them with reasonable substitutes. Also the same with fire places in the drawing room and bedroom above in the unoccupied portion of the house. The bath, lavatory basin and other fittings in the first floor south bathroom in the occupied portion to be removed by Mr Perkins. The petrol driven electric plant, which was contained in the old coach house was to be excluded from the sale. There was also a request made to remove the picket fencing put up by Mr Perkins, as he understood that GEC would be erecting a security fence, this request was refused by GEC as the security fence was to be erected someway within the existing boundary fence.
It would seem that at least one fireplace survived, as this photograph shows the existance of a very ornate fireplace after GEC owned The Grove.
The attitude of the local authorities was to take the view that since the laboratory should not be there it did not exist. They refused to agree to anything which was referred to them. A trivial example was a rifle range requested by the sports club. A major one was the initial refusal of a wayleave for a drain across the adjacent common. The Grove house and its surrounding staff houses, the gardeners' cottages, lodges, bailiff's house etc were drained to a cesspool in a field at the back of the estate, the cesspool itself discharging, after so-called purification of course, into a lake at the bottom of the slope. This was quite inadequate for the needs of over 500 staff about to occupy The Grove and a more modern local sewage plant was installed in the early part of 1950, again however, discharging the purified effluent into the lake.
Mean while, back at Wembley, while the new premises were being found, the new team in 'Tele E' were told their new work was something to do with radar. Some of team only has vague ideas about radar, hence various books, in particular the M.I.T. Radar Series were acquired and being studied assiduously.
As a relief from study, they started to order test equipment: meters, scopes, signal generators etc. Then someone said "What about stores?", Hence the Wembley Stores Catalogue was obtained and one to ten of everything which seemed to have the slightest use was requisitioned and put in boxes. The scrounging of anything that looked as though it might be useful was another part-time activity.
It was in the middle of November 1949 that the team heard that they were going to a place called "The Grove" at Stanmore, this was thought of as a bit of a let down by some of the team, as Stanmore was just round the corner to Wembley.
On the 9th of December 1949 a letter was sent to GEC by The Ministry of Supply giving formal notification that the title and postal address should be:-
The board displayed at the entrance should read:-
G.E.C. Stanmore Laboratories.
A second board showing that the property is on Crown Lease should also be shown (this is in order to minimize possible objections to development taking place in the area).
headings should contain no mention of The Ministry of Supply, but could,
if desired, include the words:
Order forms should have no mention of The Ministry of Supply printed on them, but a rubber stamp should be used upon each form to indicate that this particular order is on behalf of The Ministry of Supply.
The Move To The Grove by GEC had begun.