The filming location for Arthur de Crecy's country cottage from But What A Sweet Little Room proved nearly impossible to track down and we now know why: it was completely demolished in 1970 (or very shortly after) and there are few visual clues remaining today to suggest that it had ever existed. Consequently, it was for many years one of the great undiscovered ITC filming locations, and one which most location spotters were convinced really was somewhere nestled deep in the English countryside. However, when it was located by Alan Hayes in March 2012, albeit many long years on from its destruction, it was pinpointed in environs of a rather more suburban nature - indeed it was only a short distance from the film studios in Borehamwood, and a stone's throw from the shops on Shenley Road!
 

ITC Productions filmed at 'Ewhurst Manor':
Gideon's Way
- 'Boy With Gun' (filmed May 1965)
The Baron - 'Portrait of Louisa' (September 1965)
The Champions - 'The Final Countdown' (early 1968)
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) - 'But What a Sweet Little Room' (Summer 1968)

 

As noted above, 'Ewhurst Manor', 37 Furzehill Road, Borehamwood was used in four ITC productions as a filming location, but it has been revealed to have had a sleazier side, being a favoured location for the photographing of young ladies in various states of undress and the filming of 'glamour' films by a variety of photographers and film makers, the most famous being George Harrison Marks. American glamour photographers including Earl Leaf and Irv Carsten also found their way to this haven of olde worlde English charm to focus their lenses on a parade of nubile young women.

The owner of the house, Mrs Doris Clifford was reputedly a great champion of Marks' endeavours and he filmed many 8mm movie shorts and staged numerous photographic glamour shoots at the manor house. The films included Nightmare at Elm Manor (1963), Photo Session (1963) and Visit from Venus (1964) and the glamour photography involved models such as Margaret Nolan (under the pseudonym Vicky Kennedy), June Palmer and Vivienne Warren. Mrs Clifford encouraged film makers to use her property and she would make a 'nominal charge' for filming and photographic sessions. She and her husband Alec were separated but he remained at the house for six months of the year and reputedly gave his wife a free hand to engage in her lucrative sideline. Apparently, the regular appearance of a series of attractive, naked young women in the house and grounds did not inconvenience him particularly!
 

George Harrison Marks' Nightmare at Elm Manor (aka Flesh and Fantasie) was filmed both in the grounds and in the house itself in 1963. It can be viewed below (erroneously marked as 1961) and contains material of an adult nature.

 
 
NSFW - Not Safe For Work - Please be warned
 
 

Desperately Seeking Doris

The information we have concerning 'Ewhurst Manor' and Doris and Alec Clifford has, until recently, been sourced from two 1960s articles in American adult glamour magazines Caper (reproduced here) and Hi Life (reproduced here both contain images of a mild adult nature and are not safe for work). Having read these articles it occurred to me that, considering the nature of such publications, the Clifford name may have been a pseudonym used in the piece.

However, pleasingly, we have now been able to confirm the Cliffords' identities from telephone directories of the era:  Alec Clifford and therefore Doris (pictured, left) were recorded as being resident at 37 Furzehill Road from 1958 to 1970 (and their telephone number was ELStree 1096, trivia fans).

The only thing that may be an invention for the articles is the Ewhurst Manor name itself, and until we are able to confirm this either way there must be at least some doubt that the building ever really went by this name. It is entirely possible that the name was concocted as a cover to shroud the property's actual location from prying eyes (both articles also suggest that Ewhurst was "an estate" in Elstree, a village some two miles from Borehamwood). Also the authorities took a dim view on such illicit, improper activities, so in many ways it really did pay not to advertise too boldly. Besides, the name 'Ewhurst Manor' affords significantly more mystique than '37 Furzehill Road'!

The magazine articles reveal how the Cliffords' odd enterprise came into being: "This all began quite by chance. Mrs Clifford's husband, a sweater manufacturer, was having some advertising photos made and invited the photographer taking them to use the house as a site. The lensman accepted and was so impressed, he asked to use the manor several times thereafter. It wasn't long before word of Ewhurst spread locally, and the Cliffords were flooded with calls from cameramen requesting location privileges. As a result, Mrs Clifford came up with the idea of charging a reasonable fee and opened the house to all cameramen." (Hi-Life, April 1964)

"[The Cliffords] soon became accustomed to the intent young lensmen who swarmed about the house and grounds, snapping hundreds of photographs of their pretty models who might be sitting on the lawn in a bikini, peeping from behind a stately oak tree or simply relaxing during a break, smoking a cigarette in the drawing room while the photographer puts fresh film in his trusted camera." (Caper, 1964)

"All the advantages of both outdoor settings and an indoor studio are combined at Ewhurst," Caper magazine goes on to say. "The lensmen have the unrestricted use of a beautiful 18th century manor house and three acres of landscaped gardens, with lawns, softly-shaded arbours, flower-bordered walks and quiet woodland. In addition to these undreamed of "working" conditions, Mrs Clifford serves lunch and afternoon tea to the photographer and his model... Mr and Mrs Cifford now operate the swingingest estate in all of Merry Old England. It should also be noted here that with the present high taxes in England, the leasing of one's estate or the raising of money through tours are common practice. It is the only manner in which the glorious manors can survive. Perhaps, the Cliffords have found the perfect combination of making money and art."

The final known set of glamour photographs to be shot at Ewhurst appear to date from 1970, near to the Cliffords' sale of the property to developers, so it would seem that the taxman was ultimately victorious, and Borehamwood lost what was arguably one of its most distinctive and attractive buildings.

Ewhurst Manor 

The house itself was south-east facing and was built on the former Whitehouse Farm. Ewhurst Manor sat behind another property which was known as White House and this building was also sat back from Furzehill Road. It is thought to have been demolished at around the same time as Ewhurst. The entrance to Ewhurst Manor was via a narrow track road that went past White House.

As had been guessed by the presence of the willow tree seen in some shots in ITC programmes filmed there, the garden on the Ewhurst estate sloped down to a small pond, one of two in the grounds according to staff at the Elstree and Borehamwood Museum. This is borne out by glamour photographs that exist which show two distinct pond areas, the second being a small fishpond edged by a low brick wall.

The house was divided into two distinct properties which were adjoining: the three storey main house and the cottage. This was a two-storey building which can be seen to the extreme left of the top picture on this page and in close-up in the photograph below which has been kindly supplied by Derek Allen to Randall and Hopkirk (Declassified). Derek's friend Jimmy Lovegrove lived in the cottage in the 1950s and together as children, Jimmy and Derek used to play in the garden. Today, he remembers Mrs Clifford as being a very fastidious housekeeper the main house was always spotlessly clean.
 

1958 Photograph of the Ewhurst Cottage
Derek Allen, Elstree and Borehamwood Museum. Used with permission.
 

The Whitehouse Farm estate was originally spread over 200 acres. However, this land was gradually sold off to cover death duties and declining wealth and by the time Alec Clifford inherited the houses and land, it was necessary to sell off most of the remaining land for similar reasons. By the time that Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), the other ITC series and the likes of George Harrison Marks were filming at the house, the estate is believed to have been shrunk down to between three and four acres only.
 
 

The manor house, along with White House, is said to date back to the 18th century and, when they were reputedly built as farm dwellings. This, however, is questionable considering the grand style of Ewhurst Manor. It seems likely to those of us at Randall and Hopkirk (Declassified) that White House was indeed constructed as a farm dwelling, but that Ewhurst was actually built sometime around 1868, when the railway came to Borehamwood. This development caused a major change in land use in the area, with farmland sold off due to increasing demand and an in-flux of the affluent. It seems highly likely that the supposed manor house was built at this time, and that the Ewhurst Manor name was not afforded it due to it being owned by a member of the British nobility as the lands in the area were owned by Baron Aldenham (whose family seat was Aldenham House) and the Earl of Stafford (Wrotham Park). The Ewhurst Manor name was likely a latter-day invention, by the Cliffords or previous owners.

Today, there is nothing surviving of the Ewhurst Manor or White House estates, bar perhaps a tree or two. A modern housing estate now stands on the Ewhurst Estate and the Ewhurst name has not survived, not even down to a local road name. White House is commemorated by Whitehouse Avenue, and part of this road runs parallel with where the front of Ewhurst Manor once stood and cuts through the former location of the Ewhurst pond). The houses on Mildred Avenue which can be seen on the maps above - Widbrook, Beaulieu, Grey Cot and Furze Lodge - still remain today and these properties now mark the north-western perimeter of the housing estate built on the site of Elstree Manor. It would appear that the current buildings on the Ewhurst site are not those that directly replaced it. These appear also to have been demolished; the current buildings are believed to date from the mid- to late-1990s.

 

 

Following my discovery of this location in March 2012, fans of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and other ITC series finally know where DeCrecy's stood, something of its history (maybe too much!) and thanks to modern technology, we can even overlay old maps on satellite views to see precisely where it was situated. Of course, that's not the same as seeing the building up close, a pleasure that history has denied us. So near and yet so far!

Feature and Research by Alan Hayes Mapwork by Anthony McKay
Additional Research
by Rita Hayes and Joan Street
Thanks to
Derek Allen, The Elstree and Borehamwood Museum,
Geoff Dodd, Yahoo 60sGlam-Ewhurst Group, Gavcrimson Blog and The Kamera Club

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