Walden House in Huntingdon an attractive prospect full of history
Adjacent to the lovely All Saints Church, the house dates back to the 17th century and is one of the town’s historic gems
Originally the residence of the Walden family – one of the area’s preeminent families of the time whose leading member, Lionel Walden, was a mayor of Huntingdon and a contemporary of Oliver Cromwell – the property also played a key role in the First World War when it was used by the Red Cross.
The charity transported patients to Walden House and records show that some 4,000 injured troops passed through its doors during the Great War.
These days, this splendid home is divided into apartments and one of them, the Garden Apartment – which takes up the bulk of the ground floor – is the home of Andrew Bish, a former Royal Marine. His spacious accommodation retains a host of period features and boasts high ceilings and vast windows.
On the market with Carter Jonas, it is very well-priced at £395,000.
Andrew, who actually grew up in Huntingdon, leaving in 1979, has lived there for nearly nine years.
He told the Cambridge Independent: “The main house is essentially two apartments but in total there are six, that includes the former stable range and the annexe. It was built between 1664 and 1674 and it probably took a couple of years to complete the works, looking at the size of it.”
Andrew is leaving his beloved bachelor pad to set up home with his fiancée.
He continued: “There were four successive generations [of the Walden family] where the eldest son was named Lionel, and variously they were Huntingdon’s first mayor and Huntingdon’s first MP – so they were quite a prominent family.
“They were a staunch Royalist family and were here in Huntingdon, and in the area, before this house was built.
“And I’ve read that, I guess it would be Lionel number one, he would have been a contemporary of Cromwell and that was quite instrumental in his decision to leave Huntingdon and move to St Ives.”
After the Walden family’s ownership came to an end, the house passed through very few different hands as a residential property. “The last residential owners died out in 1912,” explained Andrew, “and the property stood empty for a couple of years, and then it was brought into service during the First World War.
“After a few months of being used as the officers’ mess for the Highland Brigade, who were billeted in Huntingdon, it was then taken over by what was called the VAD – the Voluntary Aid Detachment – and that essentially was the Red Cross and St John Ambulance combined, and on the outbreak of war they came under Territorial Army control.”
Andrew notes that the property became a VAD hospital in December 1914 and remained one throughout the war, before being decommissioned in 1919.
He says the house then defaulted to the local authority, which was then Huntingdonshire County Council, and subsequently served as council offices until the early part of this century.
“I think the council vacated in about 2004,” said Andrew, who has won awards for what he’s done with the front garden, “and the property was then converted back to residential and divided into apartments – and the first property was occupied in November 2008. I think I was the second person to move in and I moved in in June 2009.”
It wasn’t just the immediate grandiosity of the house that first attracted Andrew to it.
“Its town centre location, and it’s just such a spectacular home,” he enthused. “The history, the heritage, the location, they all sing to me in a way. It’s just a lovely place to live.”