Digswell House

Arts and Conference Centre that attracted George Bernard Shaw.

By Roger Filler

Digswell House (undated)
Welwyn Garden City Library

This grand house, off Digswell Rise, was for many years during the 1960s to 1980s an arts centre, and was turned into luxury private residences around 10 years or so. 

It was part of the original Desborough purchase in 1920 and for many years was used as a conference centre, attracting many notables of the day, such as Hugh Gaitskell, Lord Beaverbrook and George Bernard Shaw. It was the Development Corporation that decided, in 1959, to turn Digswell House into an arts centre, as a place where groups of artists could work together without having to worry too much about the bills.

This page was added on 29/07/2009.

Comments about this page

  • I lived here in one of the flats with my father who had an artists studio downstairs for a couple of years (@ 1972). I have many happy memories of returning home from boarding school with friends and playing in the grounds. As a single child I enjoyed the community spirit of the place.

    By Amanda Sealy (12/06/2018)
  • I was a junior boarder there when I was about 8 or 9 which was 1948 1949 and remember we would ride our bikes through the woods into Welwyn garden city to the sherrards wood main school I left the school when I was about 11 to go to senior school in London .i don’t remember a swimming pool so maybe it was installed later my name was June jesky now (Field)

    By June field (12/11/2017)
  • I was one of the children of the artists who first came to Digswell House in the late 50s. (58-64) I don’t remember a swimming pool, but the pig farm was still there, though disused when we first arrived. There was also a ‘real tennis’ court in a purpose built barn adjascent to the pig farm, although this too was soon demolished. I also remember the houses of Monks Rise being built and surrounding the house that had hitherto been surrounded by fields.

    By Hugh Fairs (16/01/2013)
  • In the early 1950’s, I with my brother and sister used to spend our summer holidays in the caretakers house which was just past the church. For young children to have all that open space to play in was wonderous. Many times did I climb the cedar tree in the photograph. At the end of the lawn was a forest of blackcurrant bushes taller than our childish height. We used to make a maze tunnels in the bushes as we progressively picked the blackcurrants. A pig farm was also located on the estate further along the pathway towards Digswell and I recall a large friendly shire horse named Duke being in the field opposite the main house. On the edge of the estate going towards the Digswell Viaduct was a small stream where we used to find baby frogs.

    By Michael Gilbey (26/06/2012)
  • Between 1955 and 1960 Digswell House was the Boarding House for Sherrardswood School. I spent many happy hours there. We had a lake, a swimming pool, games pitches and a wooded area. In fact this was a child’s paradise. I was sorry to see that this was not mentioned in your write up and hope it will be soon included!

    By Magie Carter-Ebbels (10/12/2011)
  • I forgot to mention in my last comment that, whilst at school there, I was told that Digswell House was a Georgian Mansion and that it had the only Japanese Mapel staircase in the country. I spent many hours polishing both the ballroom floor and staircase after roller skating and sliding down them both respectively! It would be interesting to know if they both still exist and if there is any chance that I could make a visit whilst in the area on 28 December 2011?

    By Magie Carter-Ebbels (10/12/2011)

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