The earliest known references to Clare Park (or Clere as it was then known) date back to 1215, when grain was sent to Waverley Abbey, and 1246, when timbers were selected for building work in London. The origins of the name ‘Clere’ (also variably known as ‘Cleere’ and ‘Cleare’) almost certainly lie with the De Clere family who owned or rented the land from the 13th to 16th century. The use of the area as farmland seems to have continued since then and the current house is on the site of a 15th-century farm residence called Cleere Place.
In 1697 the farmhouse and estate passed into the hands of a William Harding, and on his death in 1707, the estate passed to his younger son, John Harding, whose widow, Elizabeth, commissioned the current mansion house in the early 1700s, built circa 1725.
In 1827, it was purchased by Major George Birch, who eventually changed the name to Clare Park. The earliest description discovered is in an 1858 lease, when ‘The Mansion’ was said to have had “verandas on the South and East sides, with six good bedrooms, spacious landings and closets and sitting rooms”. A well-established property indeed. The house was then enjoyed by three generations of the Birch family before Clare Park Ladies school was established in 1923.
A Mr & Mrs Scutt (and daughters) had moved their existing school from Bramley, Surrey, into Clare Park, converting the main buildings to suit the new school, that took day and boarding pupils – beginning with a nucleus of 20 girls, with several of the pupils being daughters of parents working overseas. When Mr & Mrs Scutt passed away, the daughters, Ida, Mabel, and Ethel took over the running of the school with well-defined roles according to their talents. Ethel became the Headmistress, Mable the Matron and Ida ran the catering. The three sisters ran the school until 1962 – by now there were 200 pupils – and then retired to their holiday home in Worthing, Sussex. As a school, Clare Park held its last assembly in 1969.
More recently, it has been our pleasure to host some former pupils who have visited and provided us with many personal, poignant, and humorous anecdotes, including reminiscences about playing in the fields by the trees along the driveway, hockey during the winter, rounders and athletics in the summer. Walks were taken on Sundays, walking in ‘crocodile file’ along the roads around Dippenhall and Porter’s Farm, and to Crondall Church, dressed in Sunday uniform and hats. There are many more delightful stories such as these.
October 21st 2021 marks our 50 year anniversary
We are very proud of the fact that this is our 50th year of operating as a retirement residence for the active elderly… 50 years! Originally, in October 1971, the business operated as the Active Elderly Housing Association and our history books inform us that, in readiness for opening, “by July 8th 1971, 33 registrations for places had been received and 13 were looking forward to moving in on the October 21st, just hours before the launch day cocktail party.
Since 1971 Clare Park has functioned as a not-for-profit organisation, offering the comfort and facilities of a country house hotel for an all-inclusive monthly rental fee within an environment where our residents can enjoy life at their own pace, with support available when needed. Our name was changed to Clare Park Private Retirement Residences in 2005, but our strong, caring community ethos continues.
Impact of Pandemic
This has never been better demonstrated than over the last nineteen months, when our community ethos has allowed us to deal with all concerns relating to the threat of COVID-19. Despite all that has been thrown at us, no residents at Clare Park have had reason to feel isolated or alone. Indeed, the establishing and maintaining of our ‘safe Clare Park bubble’ has proved to be an excellent tonic to all that is happening beyond our boundaries.
We were hoping to host a celebratory 50th Anniversary Cocktail party, on the day, exactly fifty years since the launch day cocktail party! However, given the current level of risk, and recognising the impact to our residents if we were to breach our ‘safe bubble’ through the gathering of guests at Clare Park, we have erred on the side of caution and decided to delay the cocktail party.
When the time is right, we will ‘raise a glass’ and ‘doff our caps’ in honour of all who have gone before us, residents, members of the Management Committee and of course, our excellent members of staff.
Here’s to the next 50 years…
With best wishes from all at Clare Park.