Walk along the High Street in Redbourn, four miles north of St Albans, and you’ll see a variety of different architectural styles. This is not surprising, since the village has been occupied since Saxon times and was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. The Roman road of Watling Street ran along the High Street on its way north from London, and it later became the A5 trunk road before the village was by-passed in the mid-1980s.
One of the most imposing properties on Redbourn High Street is the three-storey Georgian building at number 35, known as The Red House. The Grade II-listed property was originally built in 1786, although numerous changes and additions have been made to the building since. In the mid-19th century the property was bought by Lady Glamis, a member of the aristocratic Bowes-Lyon family, who as Earls of Strathmore have direct links to the Royal House of Scotland going back many hundreds of years.
At the time the Bowes-Lyons also owned Redbourn House, a large property a few doors further down the High Street from The Red House. Redbourn House was an imposing Georgian building erected in the early 18th century, and featured a lake in its extensive grounds. It came into the possession of Thomas Bowes-Lyon, later the 11th Earl of Strathmore, when he married Mary Carpenter, a member of the local landed gentry. The Earl’s family owned numerous properties around the country, including Glamis Castle, the setting for Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, as well as St Paul’s Walden Bury, the stately home near Hitchin which is still in their possession today.
Redbourn House was later occupied by the 11th Earl’s son, Thomas, and his wife Charlotte, Lady Glamis. The widowed Charlotte then moved up the road to The Red House, and much of the former Carpenter family land was sold off by their son Claude after he succeeded to the title of 13th Earl of Strathmore.
In 1824, the 13th Earl’s son was born, most likely at Redbourn House, and also given the name Claude. As Claude Bowes-Lyon, Lord Glamis and 14th Earl of Strathmore, he was to become father to the late Queen Mother and so grandfather to our long-reigning Queen, Elizabeth II. Prior to her marriage to the future King George VI, the Queen Mother was known by her birth name, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and spent much of her early years at the family home at St Paul’s Walden Bury.
Redbourn House was knocked down in the 1960s and is now the site of the retirement home at Gertrude Peake Place. By the 1970s The Red House had also fallen into disrepair and would have decayed further had it not been bought in 1975 by local building firm Currie and Brown for use as company offices. The property was later taken over by another local builder, William Verry Construction, at the time one of the oldest building firms in the country with a history going back to the 1830s. Verry Construction was owner of St Albans City football club and had twice had building projects nominated for the Stirling Prize, a prestigious award given by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
The Verry Construction Group went into liquidation in 2009 amid allegations of large-scale financial irregularities. The Red House has now reverted to its original purpose, that of a family home, and looks likely to continue its imposing presence on Redbourn High Street for many years to come. Few people are lucky enough to live in a house with such tangible royal connections.