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Mayflower Place

A Short History of Mayflower Place

The East Hertfordshire Lodge meets at Mayflower Place in Hertingfordbury, near Hertford. An imposing building, it was built in 1910 on the instructions of Countess Cowper (pronounced Cuper) as a memorial to her husband Francis Thomas de Grey, the seventh and last Earl Cowper who died in 1905, by the skilled workmen from the Cole Green Estate Works. It was originally known as both the Village Hall, Panshanger and the Cowper Memorial Hall.

The hall was built to provide a meeting and recreation place for the families of her estate workers. However, Countess Cowper died on 23rd March 1913, whilst on holiday in the south of France and before the final completion of the building. She never actually saw the grand village hall, which had been built on her orders and at her expense. Her body was brought home and buried alongside her husband.

The Earl and Countess Cowper had several estates around the Home Counties and on their deaths, as they had no children themselves, their properties were distributed to various related families. Panshanger, the largest and the Home estate, was left to the Earl’s niece, Lady Desborough. It is not known whether any legal documents conceding the upkeep etc. had been drawn up by Countess Cowper, or were even awaiting signature on her return. However, Lord and Lady Desborough honoured her intentions, in regard to the Memorial Hall, in paying not only for a resident Caretaker but also for its maintenance and running cost.

During the Great War two of their sons were killed in action and the other in a motor accident in 1922. The estate passed to their two daughters but as death duties had increased astronomically during the following years, many parts of the Panshanger Estate were sold. These included all the tenant farms, Cole Green Estate Works, the large kitchen gardens, and areas of land on which part of Welwyn Garden City was built. Mr Julian Salmond, grandson of Lady Desborough, inherited the remainder which included the Village Hall in Panshanger.

On 3rd March 1954, the building, now sporting the name "Mayflower Place", was purchased from Mr Salmond by the East Hertfordshire Lodge. This was thanks mainly to the efforts of of W Bro Frank Wentworth Lawrence; a Past Master of the Lodge. The first meeting of the Lodge at Hertingfordbury was on Thursday 8th November 1956. It had previously met at Shire Hall, Hertford.

High in the front gable end of the building, there is a carved stone plaque featuring the Cowper arms on a double-headed eagle with the motto “TUUM EST” and the date 1910. These Latin words are believed to signify “IT IS FOR YOU” or “IT IS YOURS”.

The first floor billiard room has panelling with a vine scroll frieze which was hand carved by Countess Cowper. Sadly, she did not finish it before her death and it is possible to view a small plaque referring to this.

Today the centre provides facilities for various Masonic orders in addition to the Craft. Additionally, the building is also used for many non-Masonic functions, including the Women's Institute, U3A, weddings, engagements, birthday parties etc.
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