Chesham Rd, Berkhamsted
The country estate of Haresfoot was located to the south of Berkhamsted, adjoining the estate of of Ashlyns Hall. For 150 years, Haresfoot was associated with the Dorrien family — later the Smith-Dorrien family — who played a prominent role in Berkhamsted’s history. Haresfoot was demolished in the 1960s.
A medieval farmstead called Harefordshende existed on this site. In 1787 a mansion was built here. Towards the end of the 18th century, Haresfoot was purchased by John Dorrien as the family home. His son George later became Governor of the Bank of England (1818-1819).
John Dorrien’s grand-daughter, Mary Anne Drever, married Robert Algernon Smith, member of the Nottinghamshire banking family and the younger brother of Augustus Smith of Ashlyns Hall. Robert changed his surname to Smith-Dorrien. Together they had a total of fifteen children. Their eldest son, Thomas Algernon Smith-Dorrien, served as Lord Proprietor of the Scilly Isles (1872–1918). His brother Horace, the eleventh child, later became a distinguished army officer who served in both the Boer War and the First World War. The Smith-Dorriens left Haresfoot after WWI, and the family is now based in the Isles of Scilly.
After the Smith-Dorriens, Harefoot was home to the Blackwell family. During World War Two, Haresfoot was used to store valuable artworks from London art galleries to protect them from enemy bombing.
Haresfoot was given a brief mention by the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, who in 1953 described a “Late Georgian five-bay two-storey house with stuccoed frontages. Haresfoot suffered a series of fires, and in 1962 it was demolished and a new house built on the site. In 1985 the house was converted into the Haresfoot School.
Although the original house has gone, the Haresfoot name persists today; the Haresfoot site now belongs to the Berkhamsted School; the neighbouring Haresfoot Farm continues as a working farm; and Haresfoot has given its name to a brand of local ale.
In Rectory Lane Cemetery, three members of the large Smith-Dorrien family are buried – military and naval men – whose names are known well beyond the town of Berkhamsted. Many members of the family (along with the related Pechell family) are commemorated by memorials in St Peter’s Church.