Monday 7 July 2008

Born at Luton Hoo?

Recently I received a plea for help in tracking down information about Luton Hoo being used as a maternity home for London evacuees during World War II. The enquirer believed that she had been born there but could find no information about Luton Hoo as a maternity home other than a posting on the BBC's WW2 People's War site

With the help of the Luton hospital historian and other documentary sources, it became clear that Luton Hoo was never a maternity home. For most of the war, it was the HQ of Eastern Command, although the King Edward VII Hospital for Officers was evacuated there for a short time in 1939.

So where was this enquirer born, if not at Luton Hoo?

A bit of delving revealed that the place of birth was The Hoo and that The Hoo in question was Gaddesden Hoo in Hertfordshire. For someone not familiar with local placenames in the Beds/Herts area, the identification of The Hoo with Luton Hoo is understandable.

Hoo is not an uncommon place name and also occurs in Kempston, Pertenhall, Wootton, Meppershall and Clifton, although undoubtedly Luton Hoo is the best known. But Great Gaddesden, just north of Hemel Hempstead, also has a house called The Hoo, and Hoo Lodge, Hoo Cottages, and Hoo Wood - in fact, an estate with a large house, although not of the order of Luton Hoo.

The enquiry raises the whole question of maternity homes for Second World War evacuees. Were there any in Bedfordshire? If so, where were they?

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