Memories of Kilfillan: A house with history

Kilfillan. Photo: Jonathan Hunn
Kilfillan. Photo: Jonathan Hunn

Kilfillan is a large house situated half a mile south-west of Berkhamsted near the junction of Cross Oak Road and Graemes Dyke Road.

The land, once part of the Kingshill Estate, was first sold to Charlotte Elizabeth Boyd in 1907 and a year later the house was started to be built by Harold de Haven Boyd.

Kilfillan. Photo: Jonathan Hunn

Kilfillan. Photo: Jonathan Hunn

Mr and Mrs Boyd had two sons and three daughters, but, sadly, Mr Boyd died trying to save one of his sons from drowning – the son survived.

In 1950, planning permission was granted for a change of use and the property became a small boarding school for boys and girls aged 8 – 12 years. Miss Edith Millen and Mr Paul Sonnenfeld leased the premises from 1950and purchased the freehold in 1958.

Classrooms and bedrooms were added in 1961 but, after 18 years, the school closed and converted into six flats.

Miss Millen lived there until her death in 1986.Kilfillan was bought by Dr Allen for use as a private nursing home, until BUPA became the new owners in 1997, offering caring and secure accommodation.

Many of the original features still exist, such as the gables and chimney stacks on the exterior and oak panelled rooms inside, although the Edwardian baths and toilets have all been replaced.

The gardens were a special addition to the house, initially designed by the renowned Edwardian landscape architect Thomas H. Mawson, who also laid out the gardens at The Kraal and Stagshurst in Berkhamsted.

According to Jonathan Hunn, a pupil from 1965-67, the gardens teemed with wildlife and many species of birds were recorded.

Shrubbery, trees including a Mulberry tree, wild primroses and perennials of all kinds flourished there. The garden was noted as “the delightful well-kept garden” in an early school prospectus, with many of the plants supplied by Lane’s Nurseries of Berkhamsted.

It was partly built on in recent times and a modern row of houses called Kilfillan Park now occupy the site.

Jonathan Hunn returned to Kilfillan and lived in one of the converted flats until September 1987. His memories of the property form the basis of the booklet produced by the Berkhamsted and District Local History Society’s Research Group in 1999.

Share your memories of Kilfillan by emailing www.dacorumheritage.org.uk or calling 01442 879525.