The history of the Cedars estate can be dated back to 1692 when it was the property of a Thomas Marriott. It remained in the same family until 1738. Some years later, around 1747, it was purchased by the Rt. Hon. William Finch and, on his death in 1774, it passed to Lady Charlotte Finch, and soon afterwards to Lord Winchelsea.
The property then changed hands several times until in 1801 it was bought by William Morris. This gentleman bought as much local property as he could, including Appletree Farm and Wyatts Farm, eventually leaving it to his son Edmond. On Edmond's death the property was again put up for sale and was purchased by John Saunders Gilliatt in 1861 following his marriage to Louisa Babbington. He then pulled down the old house to build another to his own design which included two conservatories, a ballroom and a swimming pool.
Although the estate was recorded as being 637 acres at the time of its sale in 1861, it would seem that Gilliatt did not purchase all of it since his Cedars Estate was later said to be approximately 250 acres. It ranged from Bury Park to Dog Kennel Lane along the south of the turnpike road but including two fields to the north of the turnpike which were part of Wyatt's Farm. In modern terms the southern border of the estate was approximately Cedars Avenue on the Uxbridge Road, then along Shepherds Way to Arnett School, then across the M25 to Shepherds Lane and to Chorleywood Bottom, then up Dog Kennel Lane and Solesbridge Lane to Chess Way, then back to the Chorleywood Road, down to Rectory Road and the Ebury roundabout.
John Saunders Gilliatt was Lord of the Manor of Rickmansworth, Chairman of the Council, president of the golf club and almost every other association in the district, and a major benefactor to many local causes. He was also an important figure in the City of London and became Governor of the Bank of England for two years in the 1880s. When, in the late 1880s, the Metropolitan Railway sought to purchase land from the Cedars Estate for the railway line on from Rickmansworth to Chesham and Aylesbury, Gilliatt insisted as part of the transaction that the Metropolitan Railway provide a station on the line for his own private use when travelling up to London. The steps to the platform can still be seen today, just under the bridge at the bottom of Berry Lane.
On his death, in 1912, the estate passed to his son, Colonel Babbington Gilliatt, who decided he did not want to keep up the great estate and duly sold it in 1913 to Henry Darvell, a local builder, and James Henley Batty. As his part of the bargain, Batty kept the title of Lord of the Manor and also retained The Cedars mansion. In 1917 he presented the mansion and grounds to the National Institute for the Blind for use as a school.
In 1987 the school was moved to Worcester and the site developed as The Cedars Retirement Village.
- Ian Haigh 2001
The architect Charles Voysey lived in Chorleywood during the first years of the 20th century, having designed a house for himself, The Orchard, which he had built in Shire Lane. According to Pevsner (Hertfordshire (1953, 2nd edn. 1977) in the Penguin The Buildings of England series): "The garden front is especially characteristic, with two identical gables (with Voysey's typical tiny ventilation slits), but a gentle, carefully balanced asymmetry in the centre."