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So that's who would live in a house like this...

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: April 25, 2014

Mr Smedley standing on the steps at The Laurels, in Belle Vue Road.

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AN Ashbourne couple who lived in a house we featured in last week's Memory Lane have contacted the News Telegraph with their story.

Philip and Rhona Hunt lived at The Laurels, in Belle Vue Road, from 1976 until 1986 and have confirmed that it was, at one stage in its history, occupied by the manager of the town's Nestle factory.

It is also thought, as Mr Hunt explains, that it is one of the first houses in Ashbourne to have been supplied with electricity.

Mr Hunt said: "The Laurels was built in 1903 by FP Birch and Sons and took the best part of three years to complete.

"It was built for local merchants Smedleys of Ashbourne. Smedleys had a greengrocer's shop where the dry cleaners is situated in the Market Place.

"Either side of the front door you will see the initials of Mr and Mrs Smedley stamped into the red brickwork.

"You can see from the photograph that all the windows to the front of the building had built-in blinds to shield from the sun with the south facing elevation."

Mr Hunt said he believes the house was sold soon after being built, and it was sold to Nestle for the factory manager.

He added: "I believe the Laurels was probably one of the first houses in Ashbourne to have electrical power. This was originally connected by an electrical supply cable from the Nestle factory which was on Clifton Road.

"The wrought iron gates to the house which no longer seem to be there are listed and it would be good to see them put back in place.

"The deeds for the house were transferred to Nestle's head office in Croydon and only partially remain today, as they were fire damaged during a Zeppelin attack in the First World War."

Mr Hunt said that, in 1914, plans were produced to extend the house to include a servant's wing but this was a time when resources were scarce and the plans were shelved.

He said: "In 1917, plans were again produced to a less grand scale but did include a basement this time.

"This involved deep excavations and the whole of the north wall of the existing house had to be shored and underpinned to enable the extension work.

"I believe one of the early steam excavators was used to carry out the excavation work. A large underground water tank, approximately four metres square and two metres deep, was constructed under the extension to store roof water.

"The original flag pole that you can see on the rear of the building was moved to the left hand side of the building and a conservatory was added.

"To the right hand corner of the site was a coach house to house the horse-drawn coach used at that time. The coach house no longer exists.

"I think the man in the picture was William Smedley, who the house was originally built for.

"We lived in the Laurels from 1976 till 1986 with our children and feel privileged that we were custodians of this very lovely family home."

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