Living in Guessens Court

A minister for Christchurch

Guessens Court. A private hotel and group of flats.
George Weaver in Home Guard uniform. Lived at 4 Guessens Court
George Weaver in the trenches who lived at 4 Guessens Court

The excerpts below and the audio clip are from a longer interview with Nora recorded by the Welwyn Garden Heritage Trust in May 2011 as part of the Where Do You Think You Live? project.

Nora and her husband Kenneth came to WGC in 1947 when he was called to be minister of Christchurch Baptist in Parkway. The Baptist church didn’t have a Manse in which to house a minister but Nora and Kenneth found somebody who worked for British Glues, which was moving back to London, with “a tiny flat in Guessens Court and we had a nice flat in Queens Gate Terrace in London because we had moved into London when everybody was moving out during the War. So we exchanged and so my husband was able to begin his ministry in September and we had nearly two years – my husband, myself and our two little boys – in Guessens Court in a three room flat with a galley kitchen and bathroom and then we moved to Handside Lane.”

“We didn’t know at the time but apparently a lot of the residents in Guessens Court didn’t appreciate having children on the premises but we had asked permission from the Garden City Company, of course, because it was their property, to move in but in those days the main building was a hotel, of course, and it was very convenient if we had visitors coming as we did. We had a refugee who had been in a German concentration camp who was a Latvian and he came out to stay with us and we could put him up in the hotel for a few days and of course it had a nice green – grass – in the middle and in those days nobody had cars. There were no cars and it was very quiet. We all had bicycles of course.”

Nora’s two boys started school and, in the audio clip, she describes how dinners were provided for school children.

“One thing I have just remembered is the Council of Christian Congregations. WGC is fairly unique in that in the Churches got together. This was before there was a British Council of Churches or World Council of Churches. In 1933 they had a meeting of the churches to decide that they would like to co-operate as much as they could together.”

“…they called it a Council of Christian Congregations so as to accommodate the Quakers and the Salvation Army, who wouldn’t call themselves churches – wouldn’t use the word ‘church’ so much, so it became known locally as the CCC. And one of the first things they did together was to provide meals for the Jarrow Marchers who came down to petition Parliament in the 1930s.

There is a history of the Council of Christian Congregations and for the first 25 years Mr Page was the Secretary of it and he wrote some notes on the life of the church in WGC and then the secretary who took over from him was Hamish Jamieson and he served from 1960 to 1980. Sadly the WGC as a whole – perhaps it got too big and they felt that there wasn’t so much purpose in meeting together as a Council. I think the ministers still have a fraternal and meet together but it tends to be the local groups like the Parkway group of churches and the Woodhall group of churches nowadays that seem to do things together”.

This page was added on 15/09/2011.

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  • I was very interested to read your comments, Jane, about no 16. I now live there and often wonder about its past residents. I would love to hear any more stories you might have about your time there.

    By michele kay (31/01/2024)
  • My parents lived at 16 Guessens Court when I was born in 1953. I can remember it quite clearly, walking through the arch each morning to go to school and going in to the hotel sometimes and attending their fireworks party. Opposite us was an elderly couple Mr & Mrs Foster who got a television to watch the Coronation. I used to play with the Manager of the hotel’s daughter, he was Mr Levermore. I used to play in the centre green area, and once dug a hole to ‘hide treasure’. We left when I was about 6 or 7. It seems only yesterday and I often think of that place.

    By Jane (20/11/2022)
  • My grandparents and their son fled Nazi Germany and ended up living in 39a Guessens Court. It had just two rooms and a tiny kitchen. As a small child in the 1960s, I used to stay with my grandmother – I was unaware that the residents would not have appreciated my presence! I used to enjoy going through all the back gardens to make a complete tour of the perimeter of the site. My grandmother and I would often visit Frau S., another elderly refugee who lived in one of the other flats.

    By Steve P (29/03/2022)
  • I stayed at The Guessens Court Hotel with my father in the autumn of 1961. My father had just landed a job at Warren Spring in Stevenage and I was due to start in the 1st form of Sherrardswood School. But at this point we had nowhere to call our own and my father was house hunting.
    The annex rooms were arranged along a loggia opposite the main hotel building. Horribly drafty. There was a gas fire (much needed!) Gloss paint walls. All rather down at heel.
    The upside was the hotel restaurant in the main building. French windows facing the courtyard. Very Terrence Rattigan. It was here I discovered there were such things as grapefruit spoons and that poached smoked haddock was an absolutely wonderful way to start the day.
    Our stay lasted from september to november by which time we had found our home in Handside Lane. I walked to school every day from Handside Lane via Guessens Road. Glancing into the Court as I passed. A poigniant memory. Much has changed. Mostly demolished or changed out of recognition. Sherrardswood School (Sherrards Park Road) also demolished

    By Philip Cousins (02/03/2022)
  • Thanks for submitting the photos Anthea. I will forward these to Darren.
    Marion (site editor)

    By Marion Hill (02/06/2021)
  • My grandparents, George & Alice Weaver lived in flat 4,from just after the war until 1961. I only visited them once and so my memories are very vague – it was a 1st floor flat – did it have 1 or 2 bedrooms? Also my husband’s aunt and her friend ran the Guessens Court hotel for a while but I don’t know when – She was Miss Rowntree. Also I have some photos of George Weaver in his Home Guard Uniform and signs for an air raid shelter and the Trenches – if these are of interest I could forward copies via e-mail.

    By Anthea (08/05/2021)
  • Hi Anthea, Thank you for getting in contact. Those photographs would be great to see.

    By Darren Harte (23/05/2021)