History

36 Langley Hill was built in 1904, it backs onto The Drifte, an ancient pathway which linked the Palace of the Plantagenet Kings with the Monastery in Abbots Langley. By 1913 the house was owned by William and Frances Archer and it was from this time that healing work began being practiced here.

 

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Frances Mary Archer had a nervous breakdown at the turn of the century, and, travelling to the United States, had encountered an innovative system to restore health and balance in her well-being. She was so impressed and affected by these methods she trained with the originators and brought them to England. The "Archer Nerve Colony", originally in Westerham, Kent was established to provide a residential setting to help those with "nervous diseases," as they were known at the time. Many residents were treated using group work, singing and movement, including 'Eurythmics'.

William Archer (1856-1924) was a renowned Theatre critic and with his wife was responsible, along with his friend George Bernard Shaw, for bringing the work of the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen to the attention of the English speaking world. Both William and Frances Mary Archer became fluent Norwegian speakers in this endeavour, mostly completed before their move from Fitzrovia in London out to Kings Langley.

Shaw and Archer often sat in the garden of the house, discussing, amongst other things, the establishment of a National Theatre. At Shaw Corner there is a photo of Archer and Shaw together.

The house passed in 1951 to London doctor Joshua Bierer and was used as a convalescent home for his patients for ten years

In 1960 a young couple, John and Jean Nuttall, moved to Kings Langley with the intention of sending their daughter Ruth to the Rudolf Steiner School, established on the site of the Palace. They looked at the house, but circumstances were such that it went to another couple for a year before they returned and purchased it.

John and Jean built a large room on the side of the house with an unexpected bequest from a distant relative in 1980, and the room has been in use for therapies and meetings ever since. After 36 happy years in the house John & Jean retired in 1998 and the house has passed to us. The Meeting Room has been completely rebuilt and refurbished, along with the rest of the house, since 1998

We would like to hear from people who remember anything about the history of 36 Langley Hill, please contact us with any photo's, stories etc.

I am indebted to Paul Mothersdill who has contacted me from Norway in 2016 with the following fascinating information

...."I found your page while googling for information on behalf of an elderly (96) step-aunt, Hjørdis (known as Bibi) Jørgensen, of my wife, whom we visit weekly and with whom we have long, detailed conversations about everything under the sun. She's frail but completely clear in the head.

The last few weeks she's turned the conversation to family history -- among other things Kings Langley. She's the niece of Valborg and Kate Jørgensen, who together ran the home in the period between Frances Archer's death (or retirement?) and the sale in 1951. Bibi herself spent one and a half years in Kings Langley as unofficial helper around 1938 and visited regularly thereafter. Valborg Jørgensen was William Archer's cousin (daughter of his aunt, if I've got the generations right) -- she lived in Kings Langley for almost twenty years after the sale (my wife visited her there during the sixties).

William Archer died 1924 and Frances presumably within the next 10 years. My guess is that the home was thereafter run by a trust. Solicitor Ralph Anderson (married to Karen Archer, presumably a cousin of William) was involved, either from the beginning or at some later stage.
Kate Jørgensen (daughter of William Archer's cousin and Bibi's aunt) after a period in the USA (learning the therapy techniques??) began working at Kings Langley +/- 1925. Her sister Valborg followed at some stage, after having looked after their dement father in Oslo until he died.
Around 1935 Kate returned to Norway and died shortly afterwards.
Valborg stayed at Kings Langley. From Bibis description of the setup there seem to have been three residential properties, with three wardens, of whom Valborg was one (ie. not the overall leader -- that was apparently a Mrs/Miss Watson).
Bibi was resident June 1937 - September 1938.
1951 -- sale of the home. Valborg moved to Barnsway with one of the employees (Helen, a nurse) and a patient (Joan), where she lived until around 1970. She was supported by a trust administered by Ralph Anderson. After her death Joan was looked after by the trust (a small flat in London, just behind the Albert Hall!) until she died around 2000.
Her description gives me the impression it was at that time more or less a residential home for assorted reasonably well-off oddbods with varying needs in the therapy department -- some seem to have been nervy colonial widows (there must have been an enormous need for accommodation for such), others, such as Joan, who was artistic, with more serious problems. The regime included arranged entertainment such as charades, music and lectures, but I guess that was pretty standard in pre-TV days, rather than something Archer-inspired.
The house you now have was known to Bibi as Hillmead. Was what she knew as the main house next door (picture to follow)? There were extensive grounds with tennis courts and a large vegetable garden on what is now Archer close (land sold off during the 1950s or 1960s? Valborg was apparently devastated by the garden being split up). There were a number of rather strange rotating wooden cabins in the grounds -- patients would be installed in these and they would be rotated to follow the sun.
Bibi herself lived in a wooden building a short distance down the road (about where Archer close goes in now?)".