Whitehouse History

From the middle of the 13th century the enclosures at the top of Great Paxton Hill were a windswept, tree-less area which to the west overlooked the river Great Ouse, Little Paxton and the high ground towards Great Staughton. The track from Great Paxton which was named Stone Path Lane ended at the Mill, for a post mill had been there long before the Wars of the Roses. This lane also led to Beacon Field adjacent to the Mill where Windyridge now stands. In place of the Toseland Road stood a solitary pub named the Fox along with the Mill House.
After the enclosures Toseland road was constructed as a turnpike road and a Toll house - a Public House was built. In the late 1820‘s Paxton Hill House was built. The lands around it, had been little plots of land let out for copyholders and cottagers of the village in lieu of their common rights. As many could not afford to fence and drain these odd acres for themselves, they were sold off piecemeal and became Paxton Hill House Estate, including the demolished Mill and Public House. During or just after the 1914-18 war it was bought by J.B. Priestley. During his stay there a small lodge house was built to the entrance of the estate and the Mill House rebuilt to be named The White House.
It was bought in late 1938 by Maldon C. Harley of Blackfriars, London - C. Evan and Sons were contracted to repair and renovate the house which being white outside was coloured a dark grey so as not be to so conspicuous to aircraft and in due course when completed along with an annex. Mr and Mrs M.C. Harley moved in along with Lady Muskerry, widow of Lord Muskerry of some Irish estate. If you look on the outside of the sash windows - there is still evidence of fittings for blackout boards which were used during the war.
Maldon C. Harley invented the landing lights that were used on runways during wartime - they were made in buildings that sat behind the Whitehouse.

Memories from former employee

Mr and Mrs Harley lived in the White House - lady Musketry (who was a relative) lived in the Key House. There was also Home Farm run by a farm manager.
There was an underground room known as the planning room beneath the factory. This room was lavishly furnished (in good taste) and had a huge table and lots of chairs and a thick carpet. I think that during the second world war it was used for meetings with influential people in the government. Even after the war, when I worked there as a very junior office girl aged 16, one had to obtain permission from reception (which was adjacent to the entrance) to go down there (in my case to file plans).
Alongside the factory to the north was a hangar which housed a private aeroplane (coloured red).
One of my jobs was to make a note of car readings (mileage) and in the vicinity of the White House was a garage which housed a Bentley (Mr Harley‘s) a Lagonda sports (Mrs Harley‘s).
One rarely saw Mr Harley - I only met him about twice but though he and his wife must have been pretty wealthy he wasn't an ostentatious man but a perfect gentleman and obviously very intelligent. I knew is wife more because she handled the admin side of the canteen and presumably other things because she had her own secretary. One of my jobs was to keep a register of who was in for meals each day, through this I came in contact with her. She was a nice lady with a bit of a speech impediment (which made it difficult to understand her properly) but I liked her.
Lady Muskerry was very old and like an Edwardian lady. I used to see her working in her garden (where neighbouring properties on Paxton Hill now stand) when I was going to Home Farm to collect sheets. I think she was French.
Mr and Mrs Harley bought Toseland Manor and when I worked at Harleys they were in the process of renovating it, as I presume they went to live there.


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