Trustees of the Leverstock Green Village Association with whom Dennis had long been associated, together with many other members of the Leverstock Green community were saddened to hear of the death of Dennis Bell-Taylor, late of Westwick Row Farm Leverstock Green, on Thursday 5th June 2003, aged 83.
Born in Golders Green on May 12th 1920, Dennis had taken up farming as a young man; moving from a farm in Elstree on August 14th 1948 to take over the tenancy of the then 150 acre Westwick Row Farm, part of the Crown's Gorhambury Estate. Dennis and his wife then lovingly set about making the farm prosperous and restoring the wonderful half timbered 15th century farm-house, now a Grade II listed building. When they had moved into the farm there was no running water and no electircity. The farm had been without a tennant for 5 years, and about the only peice of equipment was an old pony cart used to carry water from the Gorehambury storeage reservoir off Blackwater Lane. By the time Dennis retired and handed over the lease of the farm to his son Robin in 1994, the farm had grown to 520 acres, and included much of what is now Bunkers Park Open Space. The house and other listed buildings were in a beautiful state of repair with handmade grain silos "hidden" inside the old threshing barn. (See pictures below)
When Dennis first moved to Westwick Row Farm, Leverstock Green was still very much an agricultural village community, and Dennis always took an active part in village life. With the growth of the New Town and the founding of Leverstock Green Village Association in 1962 to fight for a new Village Hall, Dennis took an active part helping the Association, finally joining the Committee as one of its Trustees in 1987. He later became a member of the LGVA's Hall Management Committee, eventually becoming Chairman in 1997, a post he retained until he resigned from the Association in November 1999 prior to his move to Lincoln. Dennis brought a great deal of energy to the task and could often be found at the Hall undertaking necessary minor repairs etc. and LGVA are very grateful for all the work he undertook on our behalf. A pewter hip-flask was presented to Dennis at the AGM in November 1999 in recognition of his work for the Village Association.
As well as his work for LGVA, Dennis was an active member of the National Farmer's Union, being county Chairman for Hertfordshire one year, and Chairman of the local Watford branch for two years.
A man of tremendous energy and vitality throughout his life, Dennis thoroughly enjoyed travelling the world, and from 1976 until recently took great pleasure in visiting and photographing most of the countries in the world, in particular its exotic and wild places including the Galapogas Islands, the African and South American jungles, and the North & South Poles, being one of the few to have visited both. At his funeral, Dennis's grandson-Robin recalled vivid memories fo Dennis recounting some of his adventures, including an occassion when he accidently broke some very fine and extremely expensive glass when visiting the Merino glass facory in Venice. He also recalled watching his grandfather, complete with bush hat, backpack, heavy stick and camera slung round his neck, practicing stalking Gorillas for a forthcoming trip to see the Mountain Gorillas in Africa. Dennis would have been about 70 at the time and his practice site was amonst the wheat on thefarm at Westwick Row!
Dennis also enjoyed Ballroom and Latin American dancing. He and his wife whilst still alive having taken part in many dancing competitions and winning a fair number of them. (They had met through their dancing) This also involved considerable travelling around the country and after his wife's death Dennis even taight Latin American dancing for a while in the evenings. At his funeral, according to his wishes) was that his coffin should be carried from the church to the strains of Latin American dance music.
He was also greatly interested in the history of the land he had farmed for so many years, and in the early years of my researches into our local hisotry we would spend hours pouriong over the old maps, comparing old field names to those in use during his time. He greatly encouraged my researches and was happy to co-operate with dendrochronological testing and geophysic scanning of his farm.
As well as his son Robin, Dennis had two daughters: Lesley Noar & Hilary Protheroe. A service of celebration of Dennis' life was held at Holy Trinity Church Leverstock Green on Tuesday 17th June 2003, at 2.20 pm. The service began with the Hymn "We Plough the fields & scatter" followed by a personal biography given by his grandson Robin, and followed by his daughter Hilary talking about her dad and thanking him for everything. The reading, taken from Luke 12 v 22-28 was read by his other daughter and followed by the congregation singing the 23rd Psalm. Then the following poem was read by his grandson Oliver. After the Lords' Prayer and other prayers the congregation sang "And did those feet in ancient times" - Jerusalem. After the Commendation, Farewell and commital for cremation by the Rev. David Lawson, and the final Blessing, Dennis was carried from the church to the stiring dance music of Latin America. Throughout the service the elements had joined in with terrific claps of thunder and very heaavy rain, but by the time the Flamenco started to play, the sun was shining once more.
This photograph was taken at Holy Trinity Church June 2002 on the occassion of Dennis's grandson's wedding. L-R: Dennis Bell-taylor, his son Robin, his new grandaughter-in-law, his grandson Robin James, his daughter-in-law Mary and his grandson Oliver Martin.
Westwick Row Farm
Blackened roof beams from where there had originally been on an open-harth hall house.
One of the major cruck beams.
Inside one of the barns
One of ther hidden grain silos
View of the old barn complex.
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The Farm house.
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