The Clarendons left The Grove in the 1920's, to reside in Hampstead, London, but retained ownership for some time afterwards. During this period, The Grove, was used for other purposes.
According to Mr Jones, whose article 'The Manor Of The Grove', appeared in the 'Hertfordshire Countryside Magazine', "after the family moved in the 1920's, The Grove became a gardening school". This has been confirmed elsewhere and reference is made to Villier's former head gardener being placed in charge.
At some stage The Grove became a hotel/health centre. The records at The Grove include a publicity leaflet from the days when The Grove was the headquarters of The National Institute Of Nutrition and College Of Dietetics. The location is clearly marked, but throughout the leaflet, the building is not referred to as The Grove, but as London Spa! One amusing statement is "within twenty minutes by road from London"! This pamphlet obviously foresaw the building of the M1 Motorway, but not the Trades Description Act!
According to Mr Leslie Beebee (formerly of the LMS Estates Department), The Grove was also used as riding school for a short time. The Grove was also used, prior to sale as a high class girls boarding school. Mr. Jones' article, previously mentioned, tells us, "one of the pupils at that time was a Miss Kay Stammers, who later became a well known lawn tennis player, and represented Britain in the Wightman Cup against America".
In the mid 1920's The Grove was placed on the market. This stirred 'The Times' newspaper to publish a letter deploring the passing of;
"One of the great political houses of the 19th Century. In these degenerate days it may be necessary to call it The Grove, Watford, but, to our grandfathers, The Grove needed no suffixes. Thanks to its nearness to London, The Grove must have been one of the first houses where the practise of Saturday to Monday visiting (as the weekend habit was then called), was in force.
The Grove passed into the ownership of The Equity & Law Life Assurance Company, from whom it was purchased for railway use. Mr David Lawrence, Estate Surveyor (Management), for The British Rail Property Board's Eastern Region, undertook a search of papers relating to this transaction. The Grove was purchased by Lineside Estates, a subsidiary company of The London, Midland & Scottish Railway Company. Railway Companies were, at this time, not permitted by law to speculate on the property market, or to buy land for other than operational use. The setting up of Lineside Estates thus avoided this problem. According to Mr Lawrence, "the main portion of the estate, including the mansion, was purchased from The Equity & Law Life Assurance Company, on the 15th May 1939. The purchase was referred to as 'PROJECT X'. A smaller portion, to the South East, was purchased from the representatives of John Tryon on the 11th July 1941. The main portion, formerly owned by the Earl Of Clarendon, is subject to a right of way, to the Clarendon Family Vault (the grave referred to previously). Within a very short period The Grove was transformed from a country estate to become the headquarters of Britain's largest railway company. 'PROJECT X' was about to become operational.
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