The Frythe – A Brief History

During the preparation of the article posted about the Re-development of The Frythe, we uncovered many interesting details about its history, some of which we hadn’t known before. We feel you might enjoy reading this very brief extract, but for a more rewarding and detailed study, whether your interest is in archaeology, or genealogy, we recommend you do as we did, which is to pay a brief visit to Wikipedia as a first step, and then spend the next few hours surfing other related sites on the internet!

The Frythe comprises a Victorian House or Mansion, sitting within green belt parkland of 47 acres, south west of Welwyn village, P1050050 with access to the Great North Road (now B197). It has boundaries with Homers Wood to the East and South, with the Ayots and Whitehill to the South and West, and the Whitehill road which leads North West down past the Whitehill Car Park and The Acorn Nursery, before joining Welwyn Village via School Lane

The House was originally built for William Wilshere in 1846. It was sited centrally with a long drive, P1050032providing views over the Mimram valley, and surrounded by well laid out lawns and gardens, which were landscaped with many selected specimen shrubs and trees. The House is not listed, and neither are any of the original ancillary structures, greenhouses, stables, brew house, cottages etc. Many of the trees are protected.P1050058

The Frythe became home to successive generations of the Wilshere family, each of whom were benefactors of St Mary’s Church in Welwyn.  Various census returns show that sometimes the house was occupied by the principal family member alone, with up to 9 staff in attendance.

Following the death of the last surviving Wilshere in 1934, the Frythe became a Residential and Private Hotel, before being requisitioned at the start of World War II by the military authorities, and used by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) for the design and manufacture of secret specialist equipment for military purposes. Items such as the ‘Welpen’ – an explosive weapon disguised as a fountain pen – was designed here, and then manufactured in quantity up the road at Aston House, which was SOE’s Secret Weapons Centre STATION 12 . The Frythe itself was code-named Station IX.

Post World War II, ownership subsequently passed to ICI, to Unilever and then to GlaxoSmithKline, and the Frythe was used for commercial research and development P1050039P1050034purposes. Many outbuildings, laboratories and offices were constructed over the years,

The site was closed in 2010 and subsequently developed for housing by Linden Waites Homes. The original Frythe Mansion has been retained and converted into apartments, and sales of a total of 196 ancillary dwellings commenced at the start of 2015. The site has been appropriately re-named Wilshere Park.