Mack-Brooks Group

Part of Reed Exhibitions

Romeland House

Romeland House was constructed in the early 1700s (circa 1710) by Sir Christopher Wren’s stone mason, Edward Strong, who was also responsible for Blenheim Palace, the Royal Naval College at Greenwich and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Edward Strong became Master of the Masons Company and built for himself Ivy House in St. Peter’s Street, St. Albans, opposite the Church of St. Peter (where he is buried).

Romeland House was built as the residence for Dutchman Frederick Vandermeulen. Records show that in 1726 Frederick was living in the newly built Romeland House; his garden covered a whole block and his estate included land off Dagnall Lane and in St. Michael’s village, as well as the King Harry pub. In the 1750s Frederick employed leading architect, Sir Robert Taylor, to design and oversee major work on Romeland House. Sir Robert Taylor worked on many notable residences of his day including the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street. Taylor was responsible for the entire Athenian frontage at Romeland House. Much of the interior design and plasterwork was also Taylor’s.

In 1739 Frederick Vandermeulen had been made a naturalised British subject by Royal Assent and later that year he had married Elizabeth Pomfret. Frederick was a popular man by all accounts; having served as Alderman in 1760 he was elected Mayor of St. Albans in 1762, but declined on the grounds that he was not English by birth.

In 1770 Frederick died and was buried in the family vault in St. Albans Abbey. His property passed to his only son, Joseph Pomfret Vandermeulen, who remained at Romeland House and in 1775 married Susannah Hitch of Cambridgeshire. Joseph and Susannah had twelve children. Joseph served as Mayor of St. Albans in 1793 and 1794.

Joseph’s daughter Elizabeth eloped with Thomas Fowler, the musician son of local builder George Fowler. George Fowler and Sons had carried out alterations on Romeland House in the early 1800s, however, Thomas and Elizabeth’s love for one another met with the disapproval of Elizabeth’s father. One night in 1812, Elizabeth and Thomas let themselves out through the side wooden gate in the garden wall at Romeland House to elope together. Soon after the elopement Joseph Pomfret Vandermeulen moved his family away to Cambridgeshire. Thomas and Elizabeth Fowler later returned to set-up home in a cottage in Blue Row opposite Romeland House and Thomas was appointed organist to the Abbey in 1820.

Published in 1908, the book 'A History of the County of Hertford; the City of St Albans', states that "On the north side of Romeland stands Romeland House, a large red brick house with excellent masonry details…the house contains some good specimens of plaster work and is now the property and residence of Canon G.H.P Glossop". Sadly, the St Albans High Street War Memorial records that on 4th May 1915, aged just 19, Second Lieutenant Ernest Glossop of Romeland House, the son of the Rev. Canon Glossop and Frances Mary Glossop, died of his wounds during the First World War and is buried at Bailleul in Northern France. Moreover, it is recorded that the following year on 4th September 1916, aged 21, Ernest’s brother Lieutenant Bertram Glossop of Romeland House, was killed in action and, with no known grave, his death is commemorated at the Thieval Memorial, Sommes, in Northern France.

In the 1950’s Romeland House was extended for use as offices; the rear 1950s extension was rebuilt in 1987. The Mack-Brooks Group acquired the offices in 2004 and, after extensive refurbishment, moved into the building on 25th April 2005.