Property Secrets: Harpenden Conservative Cllr Mary Maynard

Cllr Mary Maynard.

Cllr Mary Maynard. - Credit: Archant

From a tiny Glasgow tenement to her current home in Harpenden, via Surrey, California and NYC, Conservative Cllr Mary Maynard has many property secrets to share... 

Where are you from originally?

The Calton in the East End of Glasgow. It is well known for the Barras, a huge market where I worked in the famous Oyster Bar every Sunday when I was 12, mainly cleaning mussels and clearing tables.

I grew up with my sister in a two-room second floor tenement, with the traditional bed alcoves in each room, no bathroom, gas lighting until the early 60s and only one water source in the living room/kitchen you used for everything.

Mary and her younger sister pictured in the back yard of their Glasgow tenement in 1965. 

Mary and her younger sister pictured in the back yard of their Glasgow tenement in 1965. - Credit: Mary Maynard

The defining characteristic of the area was the Victorian architecture (mainly pulled down now), the high-density housing and the total lack of anything green. Even the back yards were concrete, and you had to walk to a park to see a tree.

When did you buy your first property?

After years of moving every year, some truly terrible student flats and a basement flat in Wimbledon that was so damp, I had to keep shoes in sealed plastic bags, I bought a tiny house in 1979.

Mary bought this property, left, in Worcester Park, Surrey, in 1979.

Mary bought this property, left, in Worcester Park, Surrey, in 1979. - Credit: Mary Maynard

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Where was it? What was it like?

Worcester Park in Surrey. It was a two bedroom part terrace (one room wide) with a massive roof extension giving a third bedroom. The front door was to the side of the house and there were two small reception rooms and a galley kitchen.

What did you like most about it?

I mainly liked that it was mine and I could do what I liked with it. I was the first person in my family to own a house. I also like that it was only a five minute walk to the railway station with trains into Waterloo. I disliked the back garden which had been concreted over and was surrounded by other tiny gardens.

How long did you live there?

Around two years.

Why did you decide to move?

I got a job in New Southgate and the commute took two hours each way. We needed to live within one hour commuting distance of both central London and New Southgate so decided to live in or near St Albans. This was before the railway was electrified so Harpenden was cheaper than St Albans. We found a semi in Piggottshill Lane, right next to the shops, which being a city girl, I liked. It had a small front garden with a lawn and a tree and a proper back garden. The house is still there, but the front garden has been paved over.

Mary's former home in Piggottshill Lane, Harpenden, pictured in the winter of 1981. 

Mary's former home in Piggottshill Lane, Harpenden, pictured in the winter of 1981. - Credit: Mary Maynard

Have you ever lived overseas?

I worked as a management consultant, project managing and directing multiple projects, so spent years travelling between clients in different countries and living in hotels. I could spend months when I was only home at weekends. In the mid-80s, I lived for several months in the Lower East Side, New York, in a luxury flat that Olivia Goldsmith (author of The First Wives Club) kindly lent me for free. In the early 90s, I lived part of the time in Greenwich, Connecticut for a year, then in Long Beach, California for another year. Long Beach was wonderful. We had a condo in a marina, a large communal pool and it was a five minute walk along the beach to the pier.

Where do you live now?

In a four bedroom house off Station Road in Harpenden, with my husband, a border terrier, a cat and about 40 fish.

Mary describes this spot in her Harpenden garden as "our dog drinking fountain".

Mary describes this spot in her garden as "our dog drinking fountain (also used by local cats, birds, newts, frogs, hedgehogs, foxes, deer and the odd rodent)". - Credit: Mary Maynard

How long have you lived there?

Since 1987.

Have you changed much about it?

We added a porch, a kitchen extension and created a patio with a large pond. The extension took months, but it was worth it in the end as it gave us a sunny space and a separate utility.

Is there anything you’d still like to change?

I have planning permission for changes to the porch and a small side extension. It gives a bit more space and should make the house look prettier from the street.

Where do you shop for interiors items?

John Lewis, market stalls and charity shops and until Kindle, book shops. I’ve bought art from all over the world. Nothing expensive, but always typical of the country. I’ve got everything: South American molas, Navajo sand paintings, Indian elephant pictures, even traditional 19th century Chinese drawings. I have around 2,000 books, too many bookcases and sometimes feel like a librarian.

What’s the best thing about your home? And the worst?

The best is the location (it's a 10 minute walk to the station) and the back garden, with a lot of trees, bushes and wildlife. The worst is the small front garden, even though we have a small lawn.

What do you like and dislike about the area?

I like that it’s a friendly street, with lovely neighbours and that we have a decent sized garden. I don’t like Station Road – too steep.

What are your favourite local places? 

I like the high street in Harpenden. The shops completely change every few years, but somehow it retains the same feel. To be honest, I like the library most, especially now it’s moved to the high street. I’m a big fan of libraries as I think they offer poorer kids a helping hand to extend their horizons. I love Batford Springs Nature Reserve and am delighted about the £250k-plus investment that has gone into it.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

California, by the sea, in the early 1990s. 

Do you see yourself moving on in the near future?

My husband has refused to move for many years, so I can’t see it happening now. We have established roots.

What would your dream home be like?

A house modelled on a Roman villa, with three wings around a garden space with a carp pond and every room opening out onto it. This sort of house is common around the Med and I’ve even seen one in the centre of Innsbruck. I would have to build it though and obtaining planning permission would be a nightmare. If I win £100 million on the lottery, I’ll do it.