Esher District Local History Society
Monograph No 32 December 2014
The Society's first Monograph for some years has been printed and accompanied the Winter 2014 newsletter.
It is entitled "Pound Farm Estate in the 1930s" by Patricia Worthy MA
Monograph No 23 November 1994
Sandown Racecourse by Mr Stephen Wallis, Racecourse Manager.
Sandown Racecourse was once farmland attached to Sandon Priory, whose entire bretheren died of the plague in 1338. We can only assume that it remained farmland until the 1860s, since there is no record of dramatic happenings in the intervening 500 years.
In 1870 the land came up for sale, and a battle royal ensued. Esher had a population of roughly 1800 people at the time, who were filled with horror when they were faced with the possibility of the construction of either a lunatic asylum, or a small town 'complete with a fine church', or, most radical of all, a racecourse to be run by a group of young London Society men who were friends of the Prince of Wales. Incredibly, quite a few people fought long and hard for an asylum in preference to a racecourse, because at the time the racecourse epitomised all that was worst about low-life: cheats, crooks and welshers mixing together to pursue both business and pleasure of any kind.
The idea of actually building a racecourse was considered preposterous - particularly on the basis that it would attract the Gentlemen and Ladies of London Society, when it was well-known that such venues were full of the roughest, foulest-mouthed, and coursest members of society, and certainly no place for a lady.
But Sir Wilfred Brett and his young partner Hwfa Williams had already thought their arguments through, and they won the day. How different Esher's history might have been had they lost.
Sandown Park Racecourse held its first meeting on 22nd April 1875, and immediately stunned press and public alike with social innovations that helped overcome previous scepticism about the whole racecourse plan. A boundary fence costing £2000 had been erected to enclose the whole estate so that everybody who came racing that day had to pay an admission fee - nobody had ever had to pay to go racing before; but it meant that the public now had a stand from which to both watch the races, and have a drink. At a single stroke the concept of giving 'more for more' was born. The equally badly behaved, but wealthier race-goers' excesses were reined in by building a separate French designed grandstand, and forming a club to which ladies would be admitted as guests - a radical innovation at that time. Brett and Williams wanted to attract society gentlemen to their club by allowing them to bring their wives and daughters with them. One hundred and twenty years later there are still gentlemen's clubs in London that refuse women entry at all.
Brett and Williams must have been remarkable personalities because they very quickly succeeded in establishing Sandown as 'the ladies racecourse, par excellence'. By 1879, the club had 1800 members - the same figure as the number of residents in Esher, ten years previously. They never lost their zeal for improving the appearance of their club, and when Kensington House in Kensington Gore was to be demolished, they acquired the ornamental gates that can still be seen from the Portsmouth Road.
The club concept alone was not enough to make Sandown Park the success that it became. Williams was a remarkable innovator in the variety of races that were run - he had Sandown laid out for both NH and flat racing. The Grand National Hunt meeting was moved from its previous venue in Rugby, which was far from universally approved by the hunting fraternity at first.
Royal patronage was obviously a great bonus to Sandown, and there was widespread delight when Hohenlinden, a horse owned by the Prince of Wales won the Grand Military Gold Cup of 1887. Unfortunately, the horse was disqualified following a successful objection on the grounds that as the Prince was not an officer on active service, his horse was ineligible to run.
As Sandown Park grew in social importance, so Brett and Williams became more involved in the local community. Brett was a churchwarden, whose brother became Lord Esher. Williams remained in charge of the racecourse for fifty years, until his death in 1926. Between them they began the process of integration with the people of Esher.
In 1887, 1500 people took part in the procession to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee. Led by the Rector, the Duchess of Albany and the young Duke and Princess Alice, a long procession snaked its way through the village, to be honoured with a Royal Salute in the Sandown Paddock. The Esher band, cricket team and volunteers from the fire brigade all took part. Tea was served for all 1500 people on the lawns. Medals were given to all the children; obstacle races, tugs of war and general sports competitions were held - the winners were presented with a Jubilee threepenny piece. The whole party ended with a torch-light procession to a bonfire on the green.
For some reason, Williams was not keen to encourage further sports days, but the community continued to have access to the course facilities, with flower shows being an annual event.
On 6th November 1909, Sandown Park was the stage for Paulhan, one of the early aviators, when he attempted to beat the altitude record. The event was well publicised in advance, and drew a huge crowd. Paulhan broke the official record of 601 feet, but failed to reach the unofficial one of 720 feet - not surprising, considering he was flying a machine that weighed half a ton, at a mere 30 miles an hour! A few years later Paulhan was to be the first man to fly from London to Manchester.
The mood of the country changed with the outbreak of the Great War, and much of the park area in the centre of the racecourse was ploughed up and sown with crops. The army came too, with both the Royal Engineers and the recently formed Welsh Guards being based there. The latter were to cement their links by returning with their training battalion for the whole of World War II. In fact, Sandown Park recently honoured the fact that the regiment went to the Normandy Beaches from Sandown Park, by naming a race the D-Day Reunion Handicap. One veteran located where he had been billeted during the war for over two years - in the Weighing Room!
Among the Regiment's officers were two well-known racing men, Peter Cazelet and Lord Mildmay, and a race is held in their memory every year. Peter Cazelet is also remembered as the man who brought a young French chef over to England to cook for him at home. The chef's name was Albert Roux.
Attitudes changed with the end of the war, and in order to survive, Sandown Park had to change too. The crops that had been produced to help the war effort were now produced for financial gain. The Post Office rented an old Nissen hut to sort the Christmas mail.
Sandown reasserted its self-appointed role as the leader of the racecourse pack with two innovations which were to transform the industry. In 1939 the Stewards had dismissed the approaches from the 'upstarts' at BBC Television, as unsuitable and not worth the 15/- facility fee on offer. On 24th January 1948, two steeplechases and a hurdle race were broadcast by the BBC - the first time that horse racing was televised live anywhere in the world. Just nine years later in 1957, Sandown Park staged the first ever sponsored race - the Whitbread Gold Cup, which continues to be one of the highlights of the racing year.
During the sixties when motorways, by-passes and urban expansion were considered to be the signs of social progress, Esher and Sandown Park could not avoid the trend with a long-running dispute as to the best route for the by-pass, together with an attempt to turn the racecourse into a housing estate for 5000 people having to be fought. At the same time, the grandstands which were nearly one hundred years old were in need of replacement as maintenance costs were soaring.
A three-day public enquiry was held at Sandown Park in March 1963 at which the local community and racing world combined to save the racecourse from the fate of development. The well-known breeder John Hislop told the enquiry that "Sandown Park was as much a part of English life as the Oval or Wembley Stadium".
The development plans were rejected, both locally and on appeal to the Minister of Housing. The Inspector reported that he did not believe that the proposals made planning sense, and that he felt Sandown Park was better used as a racecourse than as an area to ease the housing burden in the south east. Brett and Williams must have smiled in their graves - they had won the same battle ninety years previously. However, Sandown Park's viability remained precarious as the threat of the by-pass still hung overhead.
In 1965 plans to merge Sandown Park and Epsom racecourses were proposed. Initially the Sandown shareholders rejected such an idea, but eventually in 1966 the merger took place and United Racecourses was formed.
A £300,000 grant was given for a new grandstand, but this was suspended indefinitely when the Mole Route for the still unbuilt by-pass was proposed. However, this battle was won, and in 1969 the racecourse was effectively nationalised when the Levy Board acquired United Racecourses in order to preserve racing at both Sandown Park and Epsom, so ending the topsy-turvy future of the racecourse in the sixties.
The new grandstand was opened on 22nd September 1973. At a stroke, Sandown Park regained its reputation for innovation by having constructed a grandstand that was both a leader in comfort and had facilities for all racegoers, whichever enclosure they chose, and designed in such a way that it would be used for exhibitions, conferences and banqueting on non-race days. As had happened in the 1870s, not everyone approved at first, but as the racing public came to know the grandstand, so the awards tumbled in. Sandown Park has won the Racecourse of the Year title more times than all the other courses put together. Non-racing activities continue to develop - so much so, that Sandown is now the 5th biggest exhibition centre in the country.
Monograph No 4 February 1978
General Sir Thomas William Brotherton G.C.B. by Richard Haynes
One winter's day, towards the end of January 1868, a solemn funeral procession might have been seen wending its way along the Portsmouth Road from the direction of Esher, until it eventually came to a halt at St. Andrew's Church, Cobham. No doubt most of the mourners were suitably dressed in sombre tones, and probably the horses drawing the hearse were draped in black, as was the custom in Victorian times. But it is certain that this particular funeral was not all grey and drab. On this occasion there would have been seen, on foot, on horseback and in some of the carriages, a splash of colour, the reflected gleam from medals and decorations, and the bright reds and blues of army uniforms.
We know this because there was a witness, a young schoolboy who, together with his brother, had been hurriedly recalled from Eton by the family so that they could pay their last respects to their grandfather. Long afterwards that boy, when he had grown to manhood, recorded his memories of that eventful day. It was the sort of scene which would stand out in all its detail in the mind of a boy. For a blood relation, the patriarch of the family, and a public figure of the first magnitude, was being laid to rest. No less a person, indeed, than General Sir Thomas William Brotherton G.C.B., Aide-de-Camp to King William the IVth, veteran of the Napoleonic wars, and one of the most distinguished military men of his day. These facts have recently come to light by a fortunate chance, through which I was enabled to meet a direct descendant of the General, his great-great-grandson, Mr. Julian Brotherton, who was kind enough to let me have access to a fascinating collection of papers connected with the Brotherton family history.
The house from which the General set out on his last journey to Cobham churchyard was built in 1846 and was called "The Firs". He had purchased 16 acres of ground as a setting for the mansion, which was presented as a wedding gift to his son, John William Brotherton, on his marriage. It may still be seen today, almost bisected by the Esher By-Pass. It has appeared in the headlines of the press lately under the new name of "Upper Court", there having been a number of changes in ownership since the turn of the century, and in 1921/22 for some reason "The Firs - Spa Bottom", ceased to be used. It was known as Upper Court when David LLoyd George briefly leased the house for about a year in 1921.
A Hero of the Peninsula
General Sir Thomas W. Brotherton was born in 1785. His parents, William and Mary Brotherton (nee Scott), spent much of their lives abroad, especially in France, and little is known about them. In his old age the General used to tell the story of how, when he was a boy of 8 or 9, his father was arrested in Paris at the height of the French Revolution, and sentenced to the guillotine because he had been discovered harbouring a refugee. He said that his father's life had only been saved because Robespierre, who had ordered the arrest, was himself in 1794 a victim of the guillotine before anything could be done.
But it seems that the young Thomas Brotherton was attracted by the kind of life the army had to offer, and so it could not have come as a surprise to his family when, at the tender age of 15, he enlisted in the Coldstream Guards as an ensign. However, there may have been some parental misgiving when, within weeks, he was posted to active duty overseas.
It was to be the prelude to fifteen years packed with incident. There could not have been many days during this period without something of note occurring. In his old age he must frequently have been asked to recount his memories, and, it seems he was under constant pressure from his children and his grandchildren to put it all down in writing. In 1861 quite evidently they succeeded in cornering the old gentlemen - at last they had the satisfaction of seeing him sit down at his desk, dip his pen in the inkwell and proceed to dash off the reminiscences of his early life. However, this could not have been exactly what they had been expecting or hoping for. It is soldierly, terse, and to the point. He has no time for romantic stories. On four pages of ordinary notepaper he sums up all that he considers worth the telling, and he allows no digression to creep in, except for an expression of regret as what he sees as a change of heart in the young people of the 1860s in regard to the quest for military glory. He calls it an autobiography, but it surely must be one of the briefest ever written, and perhaps later, less distinguished men would have done well to have taken it as a model when they felt moved to give the world their personal histories.
Nevertheless we can share the sense of exasperation it must have aroused in the breasts of those for whom it was produced. This is bare bones without any flesh. How much more satisfying it would have been if he had permitted himself a little padding on the human side of life - about the people he had met and how they lived when he was young, and if he had clothed the stark outlines with comments on things observed. Still, even if he chooses to remain in his full dress military uniform while he writes this little sketch, one feels, somehow, that it is typical of the man. The last page completed it is almost possible to hear him growl, with a sigh of relief, "There you are, that's what you wanted, now will you leave me in peace!".
On the cover, in a broad, sloping hand, the document is prefaced:
The Autobiography of General Sir. T. Wm. Brotherton G.C.B.
Dedicated To His Children & Grandchildren. Written at their particular request, July 16th 1861.
The three pages which follow appear to have flowed off his pen without any great effort; it must have been a condensed form of a familiar chronicle which, perhaps, by the time these words were written he had become slightly weary of telling:
"I commenced my military career in very early life in the Coldstream Guards, having entered that corps as an Ensign on the 24th of January 1800. Almost immediately after I accompanied the regiment to Egypt in the expedition under Sir Ralph Abercrombie to expel the French army from that country. This army was the "elite" of the French troops, and was the same with which Bonaparte had gained his brilliant victories over the Austrians in Italy.
England perhaps never performed a more brilliant feat of arms than this campaign. The landing in Aboukir Bay, in the face of the enemy prepared on the water's edge to resist the disembarkation - our advance opposed in three successive battles, viz. on the 8th, 13th & 21st of March, and the susequent surrender & capture of the whole French army are facts which speak for themselves.
I had left England in a very weak and sickly state consequent upon a bad fever, and the medical advice was to the effect that I was not fit at the time to join my regiment; but, of course, I was eager to go, and in those days, somehow or other, there was a stronger feeling and impulse for military glory and Duty than seems to exist in these times. I was an only son of fond parents - yet they both joined in approving of my departure, though much depended on my reaching the age of twenty one, as the family estates were entailed on the male line & my cousin Bro. Browne would, in case of my dying before that age, have inherited them, to the exclusion of my sisters.
I was, however, so weak that I was taken down to Gravesend & carried on board in a blanket in my father's arms. I recovered rapidly at sea - though suffered much from rough weather in the Bay of Biscay. Stopped at Gibraltar, Minorca, Malta & the Isle of Crete/Candia on the voyage. The landing in Egypt is a matter of history."
If, as we can infer from his own account, it was as a boy that Thomas Brotherton first felt called to face the hazards and hardships of army life, and had dreams of winning martial renown, then certainly the fates were in a co-operative mood. He did not have to wait long. Europe was going through one of its periodic blood baths in the wake of the French Revolution of 1789, and indeed by 1800 almost the entire continent had become embroiled in the conflict, including Spain and Portugal, and it was in the Peninsula that he served for six years between 1808 and 1814. They were bitter and terrible years for the civilian population who suffered the concomitants of war, slaughter, famine and the destruction of their homes as the armies moved through the country - the scenes which we can still see today so vividly depicted in the paintings of Goya. Thomas Bretherton must have seen all this at first hand. He himself was twice wounded in these campaigns, the second time seriously, and he was with Sir John Moore in his famous retreat from Corunna in 1809.
After the War
With the final overthrow of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, the British army resumed its peacetime role. By that time Thomas W. Brotherton had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and in 1830 he was appointed A.D.C. to the King; he rose to Major General in 1844, and the confidence of the government of the day in his abilities was shown by his being appointed Commander of the troops in London in 1848 when the Chartist demonstrations were expected to develop into bloodshed and rioting. By 1860 he had become a full General.
This cryptic summary of his career does not, however, reveal much about the man himself, and luckily one of his grandsons, Thomas de la Haye Brotherton took the trouble to record some personal anecdotes about the General, many of which deal with life at "The Firs" at Esher. These show an individual of strong character, kindly, sometimes a little eccentric, and with surprising talents quite outside his military pre-occupations. I quote a passage which well illustrates this:
"A somewhat peppery man, he had various little quarrels, and ended, when nearly 80, by challenging Lord Lucan to a duel. This never came off, as his adversary failed to put in an appearance at the rendezvous near Paris. Whatever his temper, he was evidently held in genuine affection by his friends, as testified by their letters to him, notably by those from Sir. W. Napier, the well known historian of the Peninsula war, and that he was beloved by his subordinates is also shown by other letters. He evidently was so straight himself that he hated the crooked ways of others. One of his betes noires was Lord Cardigan. He was kindness itself to his grandchildren, and gave his two grandsons the free run of a sweetshop, near his house at 11, Upper Brook Street, when we went to visit him as small boys. He had been a well known figure in town, and at the United Services Club, and being a bit of dandy, it was rather sporting of him on one occasion to wager that he would carry a butcher's tray of meat down Bond Street in full town dress, and ask all the friends that he met to dinner that night. It is said that 18 guests sat down to table.
He was also a famous violinist, and has left two good instruments. An incident relating to one of these violins is worth recording. My brother used to play a little, and was one day travelling north, with the violin in the rack overhead. An elderly man in the compartment, observing the case, said "I only heard a violin really well played in a drawing room, and that was by General Brotherton". My brother replied "I am his grandson, and that is the violin you heard".
The domestic life of the General was not entirely untroubled. He was left early a widower, and in his last years there was a surprising denouement: "He married, in 1819, the beautiful, though frail, Louisa Straton, daughter of General and Lady Straton, and granddaughter of the 1st Earl of Roden. She died in 1847, at the age of 44, having been married at 16. When almost in his dotage, the old General was captured by a designing woman, Thomasina, daughter of the Rev. Walter Hare, who married him for his position, and then treated him so abominably that he fled to his son's house at Esher, to end his days in peace. It was there that I chiefly recollect him, being wheeled about by his faithful man, Barnes. I well recollect being summoned one day, from Eton, to attend the dear old veteran's funeral, and how impressed we boys were by half a troop of Dragoons, sent to represent his old regiment. His monument over the family vault is at Cobham Church, near the south door."
It is this reference to a "monument" and to a "family vault" which present a puzzle. It would not be unreasonable to assume that a person of the General's eminence would have a final resting place which could be easily found. But a search, carried out with the help of the verger, Mr. Cunningham, in the vicinity of the south door, both inside and outside the church, failed to find any trace of a monument or a family vault; nor, indeed did there seem to be any mention of the General's name amongst the various memorial tablets on the walls, and the vicar, the Rev. S.E.B. Barrington, confirmed that, as far as he was aware, there were no family vaults of any kind inside the church.
Perhaps the solution to this problem may lie in a survey, caried out nearly 40 years ago by Mr. T.E. Conway Walker of all the gravestones in St. Andrew's churchyard. Mr. Walker, who is the recognised authority on Cobham history, listed in 1938 among his findings, a white stone cross not far from the south door bearing the inscription only of the General's son, John William Brotherton, who died in September 1878. Could a family vault have existed at one time on this site? And what has happened to the monument?
John William Brotherton was born in 1821. "The Firs" was given to him and his bride as a wedding present in 1846 by the General. Rather sadly, he was never able to enjoy the house and grounds to the full because of ill health. Following in what was by then a great tradition, he joined the army but had to resign his commission in 1842 after an accident in a riding school in which he sustained brain damage which left him a semi-invalid for the rest of his life. He married Georgina Palmer, a remarkable woman who was born in Ayr but received most of her education in Geneva. She was a fluent French speaker, and travelled widely on the continent. It so happened that she reached Paris on the very day that the Revolution of 1830 broke out, and she remembered the muzzles of the soldiers' muskets being pushed through the windows of the coach on their arrival at the city gates. It was then turned over to form part of a barricade. She brought up six children at The Firs, and her son recollected her as being a "wonderfully strong woman all her life - I have known her, when my father's health was beginning to fail, to lift him up and carry him upstairs...". She lived on to the age of 93, having died on November 16th 1916. It is interesting to note that, in an age when the average expectation of life was less than it is now, the lives of the General and his daughter-in-law added up to 177 years, spanning three centuries, and stretching from the reign of George III to that of George V.
By that time the Brothertons had moved elsewhere, and "The Firs" had passed into other hands. The funeral cortege which had set out for Cobham in 1868 was a distant and half-forgotten event. And even at the time, there could not have been many of the General's army colleagues surviving. He had outlived nearly all his contemporaries. His old friend and late Commander in Chief, the Duke of Wellington, had died 16 years before, in 1852, and more than half a century had elapsed since the guns fell silent on the field of Waterloo. He had not been present at this battle, his regiment having been partly in America at the time; this, together with his never having been in India, were sore points with him. But to the end of his life he kept a marble bust of the Iron Duke at "The Firs" - one which he had exchanged with Wellington for a statuette of Napoleon. I am indebted to another descendant of the General's, Mrs. I.J. Pullin, now in her 81st year, and living in Dartmouth, for information on the whereabouts of this bust which came into her possession. It is now to be found in the museum at Basingstoke - a suitable resting place, near Stratfield Saye, the Wellington country seat.
As these words are written there is much speculation regarding the future of Upper Court. There is talk of a Casino, an Arabian Palace, and who knows what else....enough, one might think, to make the old General turn in his grave - wherever he may be resting!
Sources and authorities consulted, Notes and an 1895 sketch of "The Firs" can be seen on the original Monograph.
Monograph No 29 undated
The Royal Kent School, Oxshott by E.A. Crossland
It is often said that the school gets its name from having been opened by the Duchess of Kent on 16th October 1820. The date is right but, although the Duchess was present at the ceremony, it was conducted by her brother, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and she took no active part in it. In his speech he made it clear that the name commemorated the support the late Duke had given to the work of the British & Foreign School Society, of which the Duke's father, King George III was patron.
Towards the end of the 17th century people were becoming concerned that the working classes were illiterate. The King wished that all his subjects could read the Bible. Joseph Lancaster, himself of lowly origin, devised a system of education by which one person, by teaching the basics of reading, writing and sums (the 3 Rs) to a group of older children could conduct a school of more than 100 pupils. This was done by the older children passing on to the younger ones what they had learnt. A group of Lancaster's friends formed a Society to promulgate his idea. Having gained the support of the King it was called the Royal Lancastrian Society but in 1812 changed its name to the British & Foreign School Society. It was very successful and many "British" schools were started.
As one of the criteria of the Society was that it should be non-sectarian and was strongly supported by Non-conformists, the Established Church was stung into creating (in 1811) the National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Church of England. Nevertheless the Duke of Kent, who was a vice-patron of the B & FSS undertook missions abroad to publicise its work. He died in January 1820, six days before his father. His place as vice-patron was taken by his brother-in-law, Prince Leopold and the new King, George IV, became the patron.
Another keen supporter of the Society was the Revd. Thomas Lewis, the minister of the Union Chapel in Islington. He had been a lay preacher in the Wesleyan Church but studied at Homerton College to become a Congregational Minister. His son had been at a school in Witney run by John Burrell. When Burrell considered moving it nearer to London Lewis persuaded him to choose Leatherhead. There, the two friends set about organising a Congregational church, at first in a barn in the centre of the town. By 1816 there was also a "British" school joined to it, which later continued in a room at the back of the building in North Street (now a florist's and a carpet shop) until 1912. The church is now the United Reformed Church (Christchurch) in Epsom Road.
Most of the informationof the early days of the Royal Kent School comes from letters printed in the "Evangelical Magazine" the Journal of the B&FSS. They were written from Leatherhead by two supporters of the Society who signed themselves with just their initials - "A.J." and "J..B." The latter was obviously John Burrell and the other was possibly Alexander Jardine. There was a family of that name living in a house at the High Street end of Church Street, Leatherhead in 1841 probably the building now occupied by the electrical shop of Clear & Sons Ltd.
The letters to Thomas Lewis give detailed accounts of the conditions of the people of Oxshott and the efforts made by a group of wealthy people to improve their lot, at first by setting up a Sunday School and then a "British" day-school in a barn of Birds Hill Farm, Oxshott belonging to Prince Leopold. It was opened on the birthday of the King, 7th June 1818, and quickly grew to having 100 pupils.
It was obvious that a permanent building was necessary and a committee was formed to raise money for one. The President, the Lord of the Manor, Hugh Smith, gave a lease of 199 years to Alexander Jardine (presumably the "A.J." of the letters) and Robert Bateman Wilkins of Jessop's Well, who may have been the churchwarden mentioned in the letter. By the time of the second anniversary of the start of the Sunday School it was possible for Thomas Page, the Lord of the Manor of Cobham, acting as proxy for Prince Leopold, to lay the foundation stone of the Royal Kent School the name being borne on one of the several flags carried in the procession from the meeting in Birds Hill Farmhouse to the site on the opposite side of Oxshott Green (where is now the QB petrol station).
Four months later the new building was ready to be opened. Although the opening ceremony does not appear to have been quite as colourful as when the foundation stone was laid it was attended by many prominent people such as the officials of the B&FSS, the clergy who had taken part in the proceedings on the three previous occasions as described in the letters to the Revd. Thomas Lewis, and also the Revd. Dr. W.B. Collyer (1782-1854) the minister at the Hanover Chapel in Peckham where the Dukes of Kent and Sussex were worshippers and the Revd. Dr. J.H. Rudge a protege successively chaplain to Prince Leopold, the Duke of York and the Duke of Sussex and the Revd. Dr. Waugh a protege of the Duke of Kent. The Committee ordered a report of the Proceedings to be printed.
The school continued to grow after it had opened in the new building. "British" schools were required to make reports every year and that of the Oxshott school for 1821 shows that it had 80 boys and 40 girls. Those for the following years up to 1829 give similar figures but after that Oxshott disappears from the Society's reports and by the mid 1830s the authoress, Mary Howitt, reported that the building was derelict and being used by the farmer as a store. There was at this time a great deal of unrest in the countryside; prices were rising, there was growing opposition to paying tithes and men were being put out of work by the introduction of machinery on farms. On 6th December 1860 a barn at Oxshott belonging to Prince Leopold was burnt down in the so called "Captain Swing" riots. This was probably at Birds Hill Farm the Prince's largest property in the area.
Hugh Smith had died in 1831 and the Manor and advowson of Stoke d'Abernon had been acquired by a Mrs. Phillips, obviously with the intention that her son Frederick Par Phillips should become the Rector but the Benefice was held by Smith's son, another Hugh, who had another in the West country. As a result Phillips looked after Stoke as a curate and had to wait until Smith died in 1862 before he could install himself as Rector and so become a "squarson". Phillips was the wealthy grandson of the Duc d'Orleans and so related to the exiled King of France and therefore to Prince Leopold who, after becoming King of the Belgians in 1834, married the King's daughter Louisa. He had been the curate at St. Lawrence, Hougham near Dover, from 1841 to 1851 and it was there that his son Frederick Abiss Phillips was born. Smith had neglected St. Mary's and Phillips set about "restoring" the church in a pretty ruthless manner destroying much that we would like to have seen retained.
He also repaired Royal Kent School, added to it and built a house for the master. There is a story that he had to pay £50 to get rid of a squatter. Seeing that a labourer's wage at this time was 6/- a week (less in winter) this hardly seems credible. Moreover the census returns for the years 1841,1851 and 1861 show the school building as occupied by a family named Iles and there is no mention of the squatter said to be named Joseph even though people living in tents in Steer Lane (Fair Oak Lane) and in barns at Little Heath Farm are identified.
The first schoolmaster of the re-opened school was George Copland the enumerator of the 1871 census which gives his age as 30, born in Buxton in Norfolk. His wife was born in Scotland and their first child, also George, born in 1864. By the time of the next census George Stoton was the schoolmaster and enumerator. His son William was just 2 months old, born in Stoke and another son, Archibald was 2 and had been born in Buxton, Norfolk so the family must have arrived quite recently, probably in 1869.
The school was licensed for church services and Mr. Stoton played a harmonium there on Sunday evenings. He played at Stoke d'Abernon in the mornings and in the census he describes himself as "schoolmaster and organist" and his wife, Agnes, as "sewing mistress". Later, he had his daughter, Alice as a monitress and then Kate Ayling as a pupil teacher. She went as a teacher in the "Iron School" when John Early Cook provided a corrugated iron hut in his brickfield at Little Heath Lane for the children in that area of the village. It was also used as a kind of community centre. Another hut in front of Royal Kent School (originally built by Edward Copsom Peake, curate in charge of Oxshott in the garden of his house, Oxshott Villa) was also used in that way and Miss Verrey of The Warren taught woodwork there to the boys of the village. When she and her sisters persuaded Frank Steadman to form a troop of Boy Scouts in 1912 they used the hut as their Headquarters.
George Stoton retired in 1907 and moved across the road to live with his twin daughters, Violet and Mary in their draper's shop in the parade newly built by Albert Hartshorn, the butcher next door to the "Victoria". He had his main shop at No. 1 North Street, Leatherhead.
The 1820s building continued in use until well after the second war but it was increasingly inadequate with poor heating and lacking any modern facilities. A Parent/Teacher Association formed in March 1950, put pressure on the authorities to improve matters until it was decided to build a modern school on a site in Oakshade Road (part of it known as Plum Pudding Meadow). Sadly the Surrey County Council failed to list the building as one of Historic interest and the only reminders of the illustrious past are a plaque from over the door of the old building saying "Royal Kent School Founded 1820" and the bell from the turret on its roof which had cost £3.6s.6d. and which are mounted on a block outside of the door of the new school. Even these would have been lost but for the vigilance of a local man who rescued them from the builder's skip and presented them to the school.
Appendices, Sources and Thanks can be seen on the original Monograph.
Monograph No 25 : November 1995
Arbrook, The Rythe and its Meadows by Jo Richards
Deeds for Arbrook Farm of 1722 mention a Lot Mead and the Tithe Award for Thames Dtiton, 1843, has two Lot Meads alongside the Rythe between Arbrook and Harelane Green. One of these was owned jointly by HM King of the Belgians (Claremont Estate) and others (not named) and occupied by 'several persons' which was an unusual situation for enclosed land, and would seem to indicate pre-existing common rights.
Though those meadows were enclosed long ago and are now part of Loseberry Farm and Bedser's Yard, many survived unenclosed as commons and greens. It is fortunate, for us, that they were prone to flooding and of little agricultural worth, and therefore regarded in the early 19th century as 'waste land'.
Such 'waste lands' survived all along the Rythe: Giggs Hill Green, Ditton Marsh, Littleworth Common, Harelane Green, Arbrook and Esher Commons. But evidence of their former value can be seen in the positioning of many older farmsteads and small-holdings - on the edge of, and facing onto the commons, with their private fields behind them.
On the commons of the Rythe were St. Leonard's at Giggs Hill, Manor and Heart Farm at Ditton Marsh; Couchmore, Beazleys, Thistly Croft and Littleworth Farm at Littleworth; Pitts Farm (The Orchard) at Harelane Green and Waterville, and Arbrook and Copsem Farms at Arbrook. Horringdon Farm is on the smaller Rythe at what used to be Claygate Common. Additionally there were a number of farm cottages and tenements around the commons without land of their own, but their occupants undoubtedly eked out or supplemented a meagre living from the 'waste lands' reinforcing the familiar pattern of common edge settlement.
Fortunately Arbrook common and most of Harelane Green were just outside the grasp of Kingston Corporation. In 1832 the authority procured a General Act of Inclosure which enabled and indeed enforced the enlosure of vast areas of common. It was "An Act for inclosing lands in the several Manors of Kingston and Imworth... and for selling part of such lands for the purpose of providing a Court House and Market House in the said town." Thames Ditton Parish lost around 100 acres of common land including most of Claygate Common, all Claygate Green and a small section of Harelane Green. Further downstream common land was lost at Ditton Marsh and Giggs Hill. This was the last Act of Inclosure to affect the commons of the Rythe and what was left then is what we have as open space today.
Ancient roads and tracks are a feature of most common lands giving a typical straggly shape as the common funnels out where roads enter and leave. Eighteenth century maps show routes across Arbrook from Ditton via Harelane Green and from Esher via Copsem Lane to Epsom and Leatherhead using Birchwood Lane. The entrance to Arbrook Farm was from Birchwood Lane rather than from the common as now. A link across the southern side led into a track to Claygate which was stopped short when the railway and Foley Estate were laid out in the 1880's, but a footpath remains along part of the route.
The Swan Inn at Harelane Green was almost certainly established to serve travellers as well as the considerable local community - by 1843 there were some 15 tenements, a farm house and cottages. Harelane, as it was known in the 19th century, formerly Chadsworth, was first recorded in 1223 as Cadeswurthe ('Ceadd's farm') and is quite separate from Claygate. Most of the dwellings were within Esher Parish.
The cottages were occupied up to the 1940s by a family called Francis - probably the same. Mr Francis kept pigs on the common - perhaps the last person with common rights of pasture in Arbrook. Mrs Francis did housework in Esher for the Codd family and their son Robert attended Claygate School, and then worked as a farm hand.
The cottages were never connected to gas, electricity or mains drainage, and water was drawn from a well in the garden. They stood in the centre of a half-acre plot; single storey, red brick with a clay pantile roof and a verandah at the front. The gardens were full of fruit and vegetables - some apple trees are still there. The Francis family was moved to one of the new Council houses in Arbrook Lane during the war and the cottages used by the Home Guard before being demolished.
At the north point of the common in Arbrook Lane is the manor house of Waterville and a pair of cottages which date from the late 18th century. These and associated buildings have a rich history of their own, but in relation to Arbrook it is worth recording local memories of a herd of some 30 dairy cows being kept here up to the 1940s and grazing on the common.
Twentieth Century Arbrook
In 1922 the Claremont Estate was broken up and Esher UDC acquired the manors of Esher and Milbourn (Waterville), which brought Arbrook and Esher Commons into public ownership. Arbrook Common was registered under the 1965 Commons Act but no individual commoners rights were confirmed.
Just 50 years ago the common was mostly open grassland; near Arbrook Lane there were benches set out and much picnicking. Since then it has reverted entirely to woodland. There are young oaks and some hazel on the farmland perimeters, with hawthorn and elm - probably from old hedges. The central area which was last to be kept open (partially by fire in 1959) now has a dense cover of species which are often first to colonise abandoned land; birch, willow and aspen. There is also some rowan, wild cherry and pine; holly and yew have moved in from garden hedges, and the alders along the stream now compete with vigorous undergrowth.
During the winters of 1993-4 and 1994-5, Elmbridge Borough Council began a programme of traditional woodland management by coppicing with standards (cutting sections of underwood on a 15-year cycle, leaving a scatter of timber trees, usually oak, to mature) which will benefit wildlife and ground flora.
Arbrook was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1955.
Principle Sources, Photographs and Maps appear on the original Monograph.
Monograph No 3 : January 1977
The Elmbridge Story by E. Royston Pike
"Elmbridge" comes into history in the pages of Domesday Book. That was in 1086, just twenty years after the Battle of Hastings that placed the Duke of Normandy on the throne of the Anglo-Saxon kings. But it was in existence long before that. For it was one of the "hundreds" into which the Saxons divided their occupied territory, and that takes us back to the seventh century and perhaps the sixth.
The hundred was the basic unit of local administration adopted by the Saxons when they were able to settle down and consolidate their conquests. But the term is not capable of exact definition. The hundreds were of very varying size and shape, reflecting the rough and rude circumstances in which they originated. According to one theory a hundred consisted of a hundred hides; but as far as we do not know for sure just how much land a hide covered this does not take us very far. A second theory is that the hundred was the territory from which a hundred fighting-men might be recruited for the fyrd or militia in time of war. A third theory (and what perhaps would appear to be the most reasonable) is that it was the extent of country originally settled by a group of a hundred families and their dependants.
When Domesday Book was compiled Surrey had long been divided into 14 hundreds. They may be conveniently pictured as lying in three rows across the shire or county from west to east. The top row consisted of four hundreds fronting the Thames, of which Elmbridge (to use its later and generally accepted name) was No. 2, with Godley (in which Chertsey was the principal vill or place)on its left, and on the right Kingston hundred with Brixton still farther eastward up to and including Southwark, just across the river from the City. South of these and forming the middle row were Woking, Effingham, and Copthorne hundreds (with all of which Elmbridge had some physical connection) and Wallington. Then in the bottom row were six hundreds - Farnham, Godalming, Blackheath, Wotton, Reigate and Tandridge - which reached up to and in some places over the North Downs, where the Surrey-Sussex border meandered uncertainly in the Weald.
Elmbridge was middling in extent. From Weybridge it ran along the Thames to the north of the little river Mole, at East Molesey, and it extended southwards some seven or eight miles to Stoke d'Abernon and beyond across the Mole almost to the Bookhams, which were in Effingham hundred. On the west its border followed pretty closely the river Wey, but in the east it was highly irregular, and the northern part of Thames Ditton with Long Ditton and Claygate were in Kingston hundred. With these exceptions, the area of the present Borough of Elmbridge practically coincides with that of the ancient hundred of Elmbridge.
Running more or less down the middle of Elmbridge was the valley of the river Mole, and it seems probable that this was the area of original settlement by the Saxon invaders when at length they were able to exchange the sword for ploughshare and cattle-pen.
In the beginning, Amelebridge
In Domesday Book Elmbridge is called Amelebridge, in which Amele is the original name of the river Mole and brige is the Old English word for a bridge. In course of time Amele became modified into Emlyn or Emley, and for hundreds of years up to at least the beginning of this century Emley Bridge was the generally employed name of the Hundred. "Elmbridge" is a further modification or corruption of the ancient name.
From this it should be clear that "Elmbridge" has nothing whatever to do with elm trees. The inclusion in the new Borough's armorial bearings of a lusty elm tree growing out of a two-arched bridge is just a piece of heraldic nonsense.
But were was Amelebridge? Was there ever a vill, a village or township, a hamlet even, bearing this name? Historical evidence there would appear to be none, but the consensus of opinion is that the name of the Hundred derives from the bridge by which the road from London to Chertsey crosses the Mole (Emlyn, Emley) on its way to the west. At the foot of Lammas Lane, then, on the lower slopes of Esher, we should be most likely to find some trace (if any trace at all exists) of the Amele bridge.
Beyond any doubt, there has been a bridge hereabouts, on and off if not continuously, for a very long time. The first Amele bridge, we may suppose, was a rough structure of tree trunks and brushwood, and doubtless the design and make of its successors improved with time. The name Albany Bridge dates from the latter part of the last century, when the Albany branch of the Royal Family had their home at Claremont House and, as lords of the manor, were responsible for the bridge's upkeep. In those days the bridge was a modest affair of stone and timber, but a few years ago the present fine structure of steel and concrete took its place, and to it the old name was transferred.
Another reason for holding that Albany Bridge occupies the site of Amelebridge is that it is almost exactly in the middle of the Hundred, which would make it very convenient for access from all parts.
But we cannot be sure. When we have weighted most carefully the possibilities and probabilities, it must be confessed that it is only in imagination that we catch a glimpse of the founding fathers of Elmbridge Hundred assembling in their moot-hall beside their bridge, or perhaps in the open air beneath some spreading oak tree, ready and eager to discuss and decide the public business of the community. If our ear of fancy is specially sensitive we may listen in to the proceedings of those first "council meetings" ever to be held in Elmbridge.. But to repeat, we cannot be sure, and the "sullen Mole", as Milton calls it, keeps its secrets.
E. Royston Pike then goes on to describe in detail "Elmbridge" in "Domesday" as well as notes on Population in 1086 and Coming of Christianity
He continues with "Elmbridge in eclipse"
If we are right in saying that the history of Elmbridge begins in the pages of Domesday Book we may say with almost equal truth that it ends there. Even Domesday Book, while making frequent mention of Amelebridge, tells us nothing about the way in which the hundred was organized, what its business was composed of, how that business was conducted, by whom and when and where. We are left with the uncomfortable feeling that even at that early date Amelebridge was nothing much more than a name.
The silence is oppressive, and becomes ever more so as the centuries unfold. "Looking for Elmbridge" becomes a wearisome business as we turn over the pages of a history-book that are almost blank. Only very occasionally does one come across a page on which there is writing, and even then how distressingly meagre what is written turns out to be! One of the most intriguing scraps is the simple record that at the beginning of King John's reign in 1200 the hundred of Elmbridge came into possession of the "men of Kingston", but we are kept quite in the dark as to what the "men of Kingston" obtained, what they gave for it and to whom, and what they did with it when they had got it. But at least we have learnt something, and this gives us a clue to a development which seems to have become ever more marked as the centuries have passed - the development of a very special relationship between the hundreds of Elmbridge and Kingston that became hardly distinguishable from a complete merger.
So the Middle Ages spent their course, and the manorial system had to make way for the thrusting private enterprise of Tudor times. Squires supplanted feudal lords. The old manorial Courts Baron and Leet continued to exist (some few even into the present century), but they were only ghostly relics. Local government passed into other and more vigorous hands. In the counties law and order were enforced by the local magistrates, sitting on the bench in Petty and Quarter Sessions, while in the villages the rector of the parish together with his church-wardens maintained a watchful eye on the moral and material aspects of parish life.
Elmbridge, together with its fellow hundreds, had long since practically faded out of the picture as far as local government was concerned. If there was still some body of persons who called themselves a hundred-court or moot in Elmbridge, its meetings were combined with Kingston hundred.......
Meanwhile the townships which were still regarded as part of the Elmbridge complex went their own individual ways, giving small attention to what was happening to their fellows...... The only water supply was provided by wells and the village pump, and sanitary coveniences comprised shanties at the bottom of the garden or back yard, a midden in front of the house door, and an open channel running along the street. In the more select parts of Esher and Weybridge and Walton there was a sprinkling of houses of a better class, and the turnpikeing of the Portsmouth Road in the middle of the 18th century brought Esher and its neighbourhood within the range of coaching services. There was also considerable development along the Thames, and Weybridge and Walton provided desirable residences for moneyed City folk.
At the time of the first census to be taken in England, in 1801, the population of Elmbridge hundred was returned as 6,630; by 1851 it had grown to 11,169, by 1871 to 17,808, and at the turn of the century, in 1901, the figure was 34,600. The principal factor in the rapid growth of population in the second half of the last century was the the coming of the railway through Esher and Walton and Weybridge in 1838 and the line to Hampton Court (East Molesey) ten years later. In the present century what the railway had begun the motor-car immensely furthered, with the result that when Elmbridge became a borough in 1974 the population of its area was estimated at 116,480.
What happened in 1974
When this twentieth century opened the local government map of Elmbridge showed urban districts of Esher and the Dittons, Molesey, Walton, and Weybridge, and parish councils in Cobham and Stoke d'Abernon. In 1933 these figures were reduced by the amalgamation of Esher with Molesey, Cobham, and Stoke, and of Walton with Weybridge. After the Second World War further amalgamations were proposed, and in 1960 the two surviving urban districts narrowly escaped being joined to form one of the Greater London boroughs. Their staunch resistance won them only breathing space, however, for in 1972 the Local Government Act enforced the union of Esher with Walton and Weybridge to form one of the new boroughs in Surrey County Council's set-up.
But what should its name be? As was only to be expected, local rivalries were soon given expression, resulting in the exclusion of such names as Albany, Claremont and Walton. Ideas were running out when someone recalled that there was a rural deanery of Emly, and another commented that there was a telephone-exchange at Surbiton that was called Elmbridge. This led to a run on the reference-books, and it was discovered that they had all been living in Elmbridge without knowing it, while the fact that Elmbridge had a past of impenetrable obscurity might be seen as a positive advantage. In a mood of wearied relief the name was decided upon. And so it came about that on April 1, 1974 ELMBRIDGE made a triumphant come-back.
This monograph is based on a Lecture that E. Royston Pike delivered at King George's Hall, Esher on October 7, 1976.
Monograph No 26 : August 1998
How Esher changed between 1850 - 1918 by Pamela Reading
Esher in the nineteenth century was not perhaps one's idea of a typical rural village. There was some farming interest in the area but very few farm workers or agricultural labourers lived in the High Street or in the cottages around the Green. Whatever had gone before, by 1850 Esher was still a convenient staging post on the main road from London to Portsmouth, 14 miles from the capital, comprising about 1400 people most of whose homes were clustered along the Portsmouth Road and the Green. The Ordnance Survey map of 1869/71 shows the linear shape of the village.
It has been said about the county of Surrey that "its historical events are those concerning people or armies traversing its roads with the aim of reaching something beyond the county, not moving upon something in the county itself". The residents of Esher in 1850, had they been acquainted with this thought, would have related to the concept of people travelling through their village, but perhaps would have taken offence at any attempt to belittle its place in history given that Esher was probably next to Windsor in the number of royal residents and visitors; there was a tradition of royalty, the mansion and estate at Claremont having been bought as a home for Princess Charlotte, the heir to the British throne, in 1816. Although she died only a year later the house remained a royal residence until 1914 and Charlotte's successor as heir to the throne, Victoria, spent much time there both as Princess and Queen. In the year before Victoria succeeded to the throne, Mary Howitt a local writer wrote "Esher was only a village. You could walk for hours among pine woods and heaths without meeting a soul: you might be 100 miles from a city. It was all divided into great estates. The landowners, many of them rich London merchants, inhabited the enormous mansions hidden away in wooded parks". The landowners were not all rich merchants. Mr Martineau of Littleworth was a barrister and Justice of the Peace, Mr J.P. Currie of Sandown House was Governor of the Bank of England and John Spicer had inherited Esher Place from his father. Of John Spicer, senior, Ian Stevens writes "John Spicer has set the pattern when he bought Esher Place, for he was by Claremont's standards a 'commoner' being a stock broker from George Street, Hanover Square, who made his fortune after Waterloo and invested it in land". Esher's role as a staging post was starting to become redundant as the London and Southampton Railway line station (known as 'Esher and Claremont' on maps up until 1933) had opened in 1837 about a mile from The Bear, the posting inn in the centre of the village. By 1850 Esher's position relative to the capital was thus closer than before and together with the cachet of royal residents and so many men of substance the ordinary people of the village must have had a confident air about them. The artisans, tradesmen and craftsmen and women who lived in more humble dwellings in the High Street and around the Green, such as the organist, the blacksmith, the dressmaker, the schoolmaster and the carpenter who lived in cottages on Cato's Hill facing the Green in 1851 were possibly no less susceptible to current fashions and ideas than their successors might be today, but in 1850 this was because of the style of living and entertainment in the numerous great houses which they could observe if not emulate. Even the farm workers and agricultural labourers who lived more on the outskirts of the village may have benefited from the fact that local farmers had to pay slightly higher rates of pay because of the effect of London on prices and wages. It is difficult to know if the gypsies on Arbrook Common derived any benefit from their wealthy neighbours.
For the rest of the century Claremont was at the apex of the Esher social structure and this was reflected in the patronage and donations to the village. Even temporary residents usually royal or ex-royal, followed the custom of contributing to village life. In 1850 the occupants were the former King Louis-Phillipe of France and his Queen, refugees from the aggressive reformism of 1848. Louis-Phillipe died in August 1850 but his widow continued to live at Claremont until her death in 1866. Also housed in Esher at this time was the couple's sixteen year old grandson, the Compte de Paris, staying at Moore Place with his mother by invitation of Lady Byron, widow of the poet. In 1864 when he married Princess Isabella of Spain he spent part of his honeymoon at Claremont and to commemorate the occasion presented the village with a water pump, sited in Esher High Street. This pump was an essential source of water supply in the days before the installation of a public mains water supply. By 1874 the original public water pump on Cato's Hill near the Green had been cut off and in 1876 the water from the Compte de Paris' pump was found to be unsafe. Fortunately another royal benefactor was at hand; a granite drinking fountain was presented to the village the following year to commemorate the fortieth year of Queen Victoria's reign and is still there today. The safe water supply which it provided was, however, funded by local subscribers amongst whom were Sir Wilfred Brett and Mr. James Few, Mr Currie (the Bank of England Governor from Sandown House), who by coincidence was also the Superintendent of the volunteer fire brigade, and Mr Eastwood of Esher Lodge. After the death of the former Queen of France, Claremont was lived in by the youngest son of Victoria, the Duke of Albany, and continued to be so by his widow and family until 1914. Queen Victoria often visited the Duchess of Albany at Claremont and the old bridge across the River Mole at the foot of Lammas Hill (now Lammas Lane) which was improved in order to allow a safer passage for the Queen's carriage was known locally as Albany Bridge but no doubt it was a generally appreciated improvement. The village benefited in other ways from the royal presence and interest. In 1879 a school and a temporary church were built at West End on the southern edge of the community. Both of these were sited on a piece of Crown land made available by permission of Queen Victoria. The school was funded by Mrs Bailey of Stoneyhills in memory of her husband and the 'iron church', as it was known locally, by a loan from Robert Few of Wolsey Grange. As there was already a substantial church facing Esher Green and opposite it a school it may be wondered why these additional buildings were promoted. The reason was to save the elderly and infirm churchgoers of West End and those infants, who likewise were not very strong, from the mile walk into the village proper. Christchurch, on the Green, was built in 1853 to replace the old St George's Church which was by then considered too small. Amongst the prime movers and subscribers for this new church were Mr. Robert Few of Wolsey Grange, Mr. Spicer of Esher Place and Mr. Eastwood of Wolsey Lodge, not forgetting Prince Leopold. When Mr. Wigram bought Esher Place from Mr. Spicer he donated the church clock in 1868. It is not surprising to find that the National School, also on the Green had first King (formerly Prince) Leopold as a patron and then Queen Victoria, and that Mr. Robert Few was the Treasurer.
This was happening at about the same time of which George Sturt was writing of his village near Farnham. It seems that life for the majority of people in Esher was very different from the somewhat bleak existence of the cottages in the rural community he observed. To quote Mary Howitt again, "poverty in its squalid sense, as we knew it in the manufacturing districts, we have never seen here. People are ignorant and improvident, but the cottagers are seldom without a pig, and they all have a garden, and a right of common upon which they raise large flocks of geese, keep a cow and often a pony. They appear always employed, and whatever they have to sell, as fruit, geese, mushrooms, and such things, they ask a great price for". Admittedly this was written in the late 1830's but unlike many other rural communities Esher was not much affected by the enclosure movement which caused distress for cottagers in other areas.
George Sturt's village may have had what he calls 'villa people' who employed some of the villagers but in the 1870s and 1880s Esher still had a goodly number of what can be called gentry who actively contributed to village life. Mr Few and his wife were "among the gentry present" on a summer day in August 1873 when the pupils of Esher School celebrated their annual feast by being "marshalled by the Beadle in his gorgeous apparel and marched to Esher Lodge where the procession was welcomed by Mr. and Mrs. Eastwood". The newspaper report also records the presence of Lady Brett. The Beadle was employed to impound stray cattle on the Green and to get rid of vagrants as well as leading any local ceremonial. A photograph of the last Esher Beadle, James Bowler, in his uniform, is in the possession of Elmbridge Museum. He died at the age of 80 in 1930 so he could just have been the Beadle in August 1873. Later that year when the school cricket team had played the last match of the season, the team with their headmaster "adjourned to Esher Place where a substantial supper was provided for them by Mr. Wigram". Mrs Wigram also played her part as she was the President of the flower arrangers for Christ Church. From contemporary newspaper reports of village activities and from the local organisations and societies listed in Trade Directories of the period one gets the impression of a largely selfmotivated community with leisure time, the facilities to enjoy and make use of that time with the support and patronage of the wealthier of their neighbours. The Kelly's Directory of 1887 lists the Esher Lawn Tennis Club (this was instigated by Mr. Martineau of Littleworth), Esher Village Cricket Club (founded in 1863 with Sir Wilford Brett as President), Esher Royal Brass Band, the Cottage Garden Society, a branch of the Primrose League and a Village Hall (it was under the guidance of Mr. Eastwood that the Village Hall Ltd. was launched) for the Societies to meet in when the school room was not available. Although the annual fair had petered out (did it get a bit too rowdy?) there was an annual flower show.
All this involvement of the wealthy people of Esher leads one to consider the possibility that Esher was a 'closed' village at this time. Although the existence of Claremont was dominant, it is not at first sight obvious whether Esher was a closed village at this time or not. Most of the staff at Claremont, judging by the Census returns of 1851 and 1861 were not of local origin, very few properties were provided for workers outside the estate and as for the inhabitants and visitors to Claremont being generous to the village they could have been acting simply in the manner expected of people in their position towards those less fortunate; as G. Kitson Clark has written "Victorian England was no doubt to a large extent the creation of the political and industrial revolutions of the nineteenth century, but the order of society, which had existed for centuries before those revolutions, lasted robustly into, and in some matters after, the third quarter of the century".
Not only were the wealthy inhabitants generous with their money and time as in the examples quoted but there was the Beadle to keep away any undesirable element. Judged by the criteria used to differentiate closed and open villages Esher does score highly in the closed categories. For instance there was a cricket team but not a football team (not organised anyway), there is a village green, a village hall, not much waste land, certainly an Anglican emphasis as far as church attendance was concerned not withstanding a Quaker and Baptist presence and a Methodist Chapel in 1889. Control was present if not oppresive.
By 1880 a picture emerges of Esher as a well ordered community basking in the shadow of its royal connection, spiritual welfare provided for by a variety of churches, a National School to provide basic education for the children of the poorer inhabitants and a new county-brigade fire engine to deal with conflagrations. Not all of these came into being without some local misgivings but the development which seems to have united the population, now grown to about 1800, happened a few years earlier when a scheme was promoted to develop part of the farmland attached to Sandown House into a racecourse. It was inevitable that the land was to be sold and when the choices were shown to be a large residential development, a lunatic asylum or a racecourse, pragmatism won and the Sandown Park Racecourse Company was born. The Chairman of the Sandown Park Racecourse Company was one of the band of local residents mentioned earlier, Sir Wilford Brett.
The Esher residents' fears about a race course were understandable given the nature of race courses at that time and the kind of unsavoury visitors they attracted. The grounds were not fenced, there was no fee and if ladies attended at all they remained in their carriages on the edge of the proceedings. What the promoters of Sandown did was to create a wholly enclosed area with admission by fee only and what proved to be the key to making Sandown a new and socially acceptable venue for entertainment - the forming of a club to which ladies could be invited as guests.
Sandown Park was a success from the beginning and in 1883 Edward Walford included a colourful picture of the atmosphere in his book, Village London "As there is considerable difficulty in being elected a member of the Sandown Club, and as members cannot admit male friends under any pretext whatever, the gatherings become altogether unique. Ladies are admitted by members on payment of ten shillings for the day, or they may become members themselves...There is a very pretty royal box in the members enclosure and the Prince and Princess of Wales are generally there... One particular feature of these gatherings is that the 'correct cards of the races' are sold by pretty little girls verging on their teens, in fancy costume, sometimes as Vivandieres, or fish-wives, or the Directoire dress, which is very becoming". Although the coming of the racecourse brought trade into the village and was of much benefit to the local economy one can only speculate as to whether the "pretty little girls" came on the train from Waterloo or were recruited locally.
Nevertheless Sandown racing was a society event and the royal connection continued after the death of Victoria. A few years ago an elderly lady recorded her memories of race days for the Esher District Local History Society: "Sandown racecourse was of course much a feature of Esher life; and when King Edward attended the races...accompanied by a large suite of ladies and equerries, all very much dressed up for the racing, Esher was in a state of excitement and badges for the members' and other stands were at a premium... Esher Green was crowded with spectators when the King drove past on his way to Esher Place, where on race days he always lunched with Sir Edgar Vincent (later Lord d'Abernon)". Very much as people had done in his Mother's day.
The sale of land at Sandown House was an early indication of the changes which really were to affect Esher both in size and character by the end of the century. The Sandown estate was only one of several which were sold in lots in the 1880's and developed with sizeable houses with two to three acres of ground. Up until now the "prosperity of the village was largely dependent on the great houses, although it was fast becoming a dormitory for city gentlemen, retired stockbrokers and elderly Empire builders". Suburbia was certainly starting to take over by 1899 for by then there was electric street lighting, mains water supply, a main drainage supply throughout the parish and local government in the form of an Urban District Council which was convened in 1895. A certain Mr. Martineau was one of the Councillors, to become Mayor in 1913.
One of the first matters raised by Mr. Martineau in the Council shines a little light on a sector of the community which has not been mentioned, mainly because there is not much evidence, namely the poor and needy of whom there must have been some. At around the same time that the new local government came into being, three families were found living in squalid conditions in cow sheds at Manor Farm. Councillor Martineau raised "the question of the desirability and best means of promoting the building of labourers' cottages by the Council. The Council did have 20 houses built in Lower Green Road but they were for the use of the Sewage Plant workers and Council employees only. Some other properties were acquired but by the mid 1920s there were still only 28 houses owned by the Council. Private residential property was being built, however, and not just the large houses with grounds. The Ordnance Survey Map published in 1913 shows the new roads filling the land between Lammas Lane and the High Street and development beginning to creep along Claremont Lane towards Arbrook Common, and of course the Sandown Racecourse.
The population which rose by about 150 a year over the first half of the century was now rising on a steeper curve. Many of the newcomers were commuters working in London or retired from professional life. Esher was still a pleasant and civilised place to live, away from the dust and noise of the city but near enough to feel connected. The changes had been slow and almost imperceptible as authority moved from private patronage to public accountability. Perhaps it was gentler because often the face of authority had the same name.
The first garage in the village would open in 1915, marking a quickening of the pace of change, but more disruptive events were taking place by now, events which would prove a watershed for the whole country. During the Great War, Claremont became a convalescent home for wounded officers, the racecourse was dug up to grow food and more than 378 men from the village area went to war. Among them there must have been some who had practised at the rifle range at West End a few years earlier, under the command of one whose name is now included on the village war memorial on the Green, Captain F.B. Eastwood of Esher Lodge.
In the half century between 1850 and 1900 the pace of change had been slow and regulated by the people in big houses, like the Bretts, the Eastwoods, the Fews, the Talbots, Wigrams, Martineaus and Spicers. From 1900 to 1914 life in the village was marking time; after the war Esher would begin a new chapter but the names of the men and women who exercised benevolent power which controlled its growth are still alive in the village. As Ian Anderson wrote in 1948 "they sold their estates to financiers and syndicates" but "gave their sons to the casualty lists, left their names on the gateposts of the new villas and on the new avenues and roads... and on the war memorial"
Editors note. A full list of References and a Bibliography are available on the original Monograph.
Monograph No. 8 : August 1980
An Account of Royal Mills Esher by G.B. Greenwood
An extract from the Monograph
The recent complex of Mill buildings lay immediately north of the point where the London to Southampton railway line crosses the River Mole between Esher and Hersham stations. The buildings formed part of a former island of some 2 and one half acres formed by two branches of the river. The eastern branch, which originally worked the water wheels, has long since silted up. The late buildings appear to date from the mid 19th century with many later additions. They have now been cleared for industrial re-development. The Mill's present name dates from about 1852, possibly an allusion to Esher's royal associations. The Mills have a long history and were an important manufactory in the 17th and 18th centuries for brass wire and associated merchandise.
The present Mill stands on the river Mole a few hundred yards downstream from what was once the Manor House of Esher. Its precursor was part of the manorial property. Domesday (1086) lists no Mill at Esher, but the Rotuli Curiae Regis records that in the first year of King John (1199/1200) the monks of Croix St. Leufrey, to whom the Manor of Esher had been given by William 1st, came into the King's Court and entered into a recognisance to pay for their Mill at Ashal (Esher) 12 broches of eels yearly to Henry de Bohun and Reginald Cruce, by the hands of Roger the Miller (F. Palgrave edition, Vol. II, p.118). Where this Mill was situated is not clear but the evidence of early 16th century field names (Millgrove, Millcroft) suggests that it was near its present situation.
In the 13th century the manor passed to the See of Winchester. The Mill was taken into the Manor park when it was enlarged in 1510/12. A rental of 1525 calls it 'Wrexford Mill' (Hardy and Page papers app.40 held at the Surrey Record Office). 'Wrexford evidently refers to a place here called King's Ford in an Inquisition of 1595, the land adjoining being occupied by one Edmund Moore (Hardy and Page papers).
In 1539 the Manor was acquired by the Crown and incorporated into the Kings's Chase of Hampton Court. It seems likely that the Mill went out of use about this time to keep strangers out of the Chase, since a measured survey of the manorial lands made in or about 1606 (Public Record Office M.P.E.E. 213) makes no mention of a Mill.
In 1549 the Chase was disparked and in 1553 Queen Mary returned the Manor to the See of Winchester. In the 1580s the Crown resecured possession and granted the Manor to the Drake family. The Drakes appear to have used the property as profitably as they could. Although the survey of 1606 makes no mention of a Mill, it does show a tiny islet in the Mole where the later Mill was erected, and close by a 'warehouse' and house occupied by Edmund Moore. In 1593/4 Moore was taxed on 'goods' - as opposed to 'land' - which suggests that he was a merchant. (Surrey Archaeological Society's Collections 18). His 'warehouse' was clearly some sort of commercial enterprise, and it features in the development of the Mill until well into the 18th century.
The First Brass Wire Factory
According to John Houghton, F.R.S., writing in 1697 ('Husbandry and Trade Improved') in about 1649 Jacob Momma and Daniel Demetrius began manufacturing brass wire here, using rose copper from Sweden. Exactly when they took over is not clear, for the 17th century Esher Manorial Court Rolls are missing. However, two 'Particulars of the Manor of Esher' dating from 1670 show that Momma had a lease of the Mill at £40 p.a., with 16 years to run, and that the Mill having cost £3,000, would be worth £100 p.a. when the lease had expired. There is an implication that the Mill was new built by Momma on the river bank. The property included 14 acres of land. Later evidence shows that the 'warehouse' was included.
In 1652 war broke out with Holland and the following year Momma was arrested, presumably as an enemy alien. He was questioned by an officer of the Council of State, who discharged him from restraint and returned his papers to him (State Papers Domestic).
It seems clear that Momma's Esher Mill still continued to grind corn as occasion required. William Lilly, writing from his house at Hersham nearby, to Elias Ashmole, on October 16th 1671 says 'Water so high we cannot get to the Mill with our corn or the Mill work'. He can only have been referring to the Esher Mill. ('Elias Ashmole' by C.H. Jostin, 5 Vols. Clarendon press 1966).
Whatever trade difficulties Momma may have had, he did very well out of his brass wire and other milling activities. In 1664, he was taxed on a house of 20 hearths; another of five hearths and a third of twenty hearths for his workmen. He lived in the second largest house in Esher, exceeded only by the former Bishops' Palace with 34 hearths; was held in high esteem as a gentleman, and held all the better parish offices.
Momma's house would appear to have stood at the northern end of the former Bishops' 'Pond Garden'. Eighteenth and early nineteenth century estate plans show a large house here, which was demolished when the railway embankment was built in the early 1830s. The house and Mill can just be descried in Knyff and Kip's engraving of Esher Place done in 1709.
Jacob Momma died in February 1680 and was buried in Esher churchyard where his wife joined him in 1715. His lease of the Mill expired in 1687 and in that year his son James surrendered some adjoining copyholds - including the 'warehouse' - to Anthony Parker, citizen and Haberdasher of London (Kingston Borough Records 4/3/2).
The Dockwra Company
In 1691 the Esher Mill was leased by a new joint stock Company headed by William Dockwra. Dockwra, who finds a place in the Dictionary of National Biography, was an ingenious and adventurous entrepreneur. In 1691 Dockwra floated a joint stock company to exploit the benefits of a patent granted to Thomas Meale, for the sole making and vending of brass and brass wire by a particular process. £12,000 public stock was raised. The Company secured the Esher premises, erected proper buildings, hired foreign workmen and carried on the undertaking at great expense, but with so little profit that in a few years the greater part of their stock was exhausted. So says Josiah Brown in his 'Cases in Parliament' (1779).
The Company smelted English copper at Esher, which was an innovation, and initially at any rate, made about 80 tons of brass annually, which was about half the total English production. It produced vast quantities of brass wire and pins, and the pin-making part of the factory was organised on mass production lines. Top pin-makers claimed to be able to make 24,000 pins a day!
The Company evidently began with a flourish and high hopes of success, nor was it troubled by the Company of Mineral and Battery Works, whose powers had been curtailed by legislation. As the only factory of its kind in England experienced workers had to be brought in from abroad. Dutch brass workers and their families were invited to Esher and there is plenty of evidence of them in the Esher parish registers.
However, after a resounding start things began to go wrong for the Dockwra Company. By 1696 it was in such a bad way that the proprietors sought for somebody capable of managing it better and increasing its profitability. A certain George Ball was appointed agent, manager, director and overseer of the Mill at Esher for life at a salary of £78 p.a., with a house free of rent, rates and taxes, and was to be given annually free of charge five chaldrons of coal (about 6 tons) and ten barrels of small beer. In addition he was to receive a commission of 3s. 6d. for every hundredweight of brass wire made at Esher or elsewhere by the Company whether or not the Company was under his management, provided it was up to a standard set by an agreed sample.
These terms look over-generous but he seems to have been a good manager. One of his first acts in 1696 was to secure permission to import four pairs of 'grist-stones' - grind-stones - from St. Malo in France. England was then at war with France and the importation appears to have been arranged through returning prisoners of war. But matters soon turned sour. In 1698, Ball was dismissed by John Coggs the banker and Ball sued the Company for re-instatement or compensation. The law suits lasted for fifteen years!
Ball versus Coggs and the Bristol Brass Company
In 1706 the House of Lords allowed Ball's various claims less his 3s. 6d commission on the brass wire produced after he left the company and he was awarded a total of £1,066. 0s. 4d. In 1709 he appealed to the House of Lords for payment of his 3s. 6d. royalty on the brass being produced at Esher. The Lords eventually agreed that his claim was just and lawful and computed that up to January 12th 1712, he was entitled to £5,108.
Coggs was running into financial difficulties of his own and on 30th September 1709, a merger was concluded between the Esher and a Bristol enterprise, the new Company to be known as the Societies of Bristol and Esher for making Brass, Battery and Brass Wire. Coggs died in 1710 and in 1712 another Act was required to settle his affairs.
The Esher Mill evidently thrived under the new arrangement and the union with the Bristol Company lasted until the 1740s. A certain William Hughes mortgaged the Esher mill in 1743 and in 1750 leased it to a Joseph Biddle. Biddle was a substantial corn merchant and miller in Esher and also a Quaker. Thereafter until 1784 he and his partners used the Mill for corngrinding. The Mill passed through several hands and Saville & Co corn millers remained until the 1840's.
In or shortly before 1847 William McMurray, an enterprising Edinburgh business man, secured an interest in the property, cleared the site and erected a substantial paper mill. He installed thirteen pulp beating machines and machinery for tearing rags. He enlarged the water head by converting the former 'Pond Garden' into a reservoir. The enterprise became one of the largest paper mills in surrey, employing some 200 men and women. But not for long. On December 23rd 1853 the premises were destroyed by fire to the loss of some £100,000. The present name, 'Royal Mills' dates from McMurray's time. McMurray salvaged what he could and about 1860 the premises were leased for the manufacture of linoleum. This was terminated by another fire. In 1872, the patent Cotton Gunpowder Company applied to the Esher magistrates for a licence to manufacture gun-cotton in the Mill. The local residents objected and the application was dropped. The premises weree then taken by Messrs. Wells & La Motte of Camberwell for a new attempt to manufacture linoleum. This was more successful than the first venture. It survived a fire in 1877 but not another in the late 1890s.
James Burn & Co.
In 1902, the premises were bought for £5,000 by the bookbinding firm of James Burn. They comprised a factory, a row of eight workmen's cottages, a gate-keepers lodge, a manager's house and 12 acres of land. The factory was equipped with a steam engine, boiler and shafting as well as an undershot water wheel. The Company survived a fire in 1908 only to face severe industrial troubles in 1913. A strike broke out at the Company's London premises which was embittered by the transfer of work to the Esher Mill. It was only brought to an end by the outbreak of the war in 1914.
In 1940, after the bombing of the Vickers Aircraft factory at Brooklands, James Burn made over part of the factory for the manufacture of aircraft parts. This continued until 1946.
James Burn subsequently amalgamated with another firm, and the old Mill premises are now subject to re-development. The 'Pond Garden' reservoir was infilled after the floods in 1968. It lay immediately south of the railway bridge over the river Mole.
Monograph No. 16
Memories of Esher - Esher Place 1930 - 1936
by Mrs Ripley
There were two Shaftesbury Girls' homes - one in Ealing and the other in Sudbury in Middlesex.
Sudbury Hall was very old, so we girls were at first going to Claremont, but it was found to be too small, so Ealing and Sudbury were amalgamated and both went to Esher Place after the Summer holidays in 1930.
As far as I can remember, there were no houses down the long drive leading from Esher Green to the house, or down the path to Wolsey's Tower.
We had a big playing field behind the right side of the building and there was a field on the other side of the path leading to Wolsey's Tower, where sheep were kept. We used to watch the sheep being sheared.
There were four round rooms - the Head's private sitting room off the main hall, the junior dining room and two bedrooms above. Leading off the hall from the right was a long room with gold tapestry on all the walls which was called the picture gallery. This room faced the terrace at the back , and next to it was the theatre with a stage which you could enter from the picture gallery. The room to the right of the entrance was the staff dining room and sitting room.
Up the main entrance to the right were dormitories for middle school girls, and three staff bedrooms. At one time I slept in the room where Edward VII slept, above the staff dining room. At the end of the corridor were two bathrooms with sunken baths.
To the left of the front entrance downstairs were the girls' dining rooms and the juniors' dining room and kitchen, and the cook and laundry mistress's quarters. The senior girls' bedrooms and bathrooms were above the kitchen end.
On the terrace at the back was a mark where you could stand on a clear day and see Windsor Castle. I remember seeing the airship dipping over the castle in salute.
From the theatre's other door there was a long glass passage which led to a big hall which we called the assembly hall, where we had prize giving, Christmas shows and any other big do's. It was also used as a common room for middle school girls. I believe it had been an indoor tennis court. Above the end of the passage was another dormitory and two staff bedrooms.
We were never allowed on the lawns at the back - only on rare state occasions. We played on the front driveway. There was a lovely outdoor theatre where we used to do dancing on state visits and prize giving days.
There was a lovely rose garden to the left of the tulip tree.
The gardener's cottage was separate off the kitchen end, and there was also a laundry where we used to do all the washing, except sheets. We ironed with flat irons heated on the stove.
We all had jobs to do, from about 12 years of age. In the morning we had to tidy the dormitories and sweep the landings and stairs.
We schooled at Esher Village School, but as there was not enough room for all of us, we had a classroom near the laundry and and one down the passage from the kitchen: but no children from the village came to Esher Place to school.
When we left school at 14 years of age, we had two years working in the home - either in the kitchen, laundry, housework, parlour work or waiting on the staff. We had our routine changed every six weeks, and we used to do sewing and mending in the afternoons. I cannot remember our fee - something like 6d a week in the first year and a shilling in the second year.
Before I left in 1936 a lot of houses were built in the drive and some in the field leading to Wolsey's Tower. Some of the playing field was built on too.
Inscription on the main entrance:
A haven I have found.
Written by Judge Dodson
Music by Mr. Montague Phillips - Organist of Esher Church
1. When Pelham built the mansion great,
That gathers us within,
He saw the stones were truly laid,
He watched the work begin.
So we with daily efforts make
Our small foundations rise,
And may the arches as they grow,
Point upwards to the skys.
There shall we be in heart and mind
Through all the coming days,
With those who taught us how to love,
And taught our lips to praise.
Oh happy day that led our feet
Where joy and love abound
INVENI PORTUM runs the words,
A haven I have found.
2. If Wolsey strode with harassed mind
The paths we race along,
And murmured thoughts of anxious care,
We raise a happy song.
If Howard, Lord of Effingham
Accords his chants to fame,
By faithfulness in little things,
May we not do the same.
How slow to rise on winters morn
When six o'clock doth sound.
But lazy legs move fast enough
When dinner time comes round.
The glorious games on gravel sweep,
So hard on hands and knees,
Who can be poor who are so rich,
In memories like these.
Munby's Day in the Country
by D. C. Taylor our President June 1993
A. J. Munby, poet, barrister and social worker, was born in Yorkshire in 1828. Half of his life was spent in cultivated society - he included among his friends Browning, Millais, Ruskin, Rossetti and Swinburne - while the other half was devoted to "colliery women, fishergirls, milkwomen, female acrobats and the whole sub-world of women manual workers". His marriage to his maid would have scandalised Victorian society, had it not been kept secret to all but a few until after his death.
Munby visited Cobham, Surrey, in 1861 on Saurday 10th August. The railway line did not come there until 1885, and so Munby travelled by train to Leatherhead and walked to Stoke D'Abernon. Street Cobham was on the old Portsmouth Road, and Church Cobham, the older settlement, by the parish church. Munby confused the two, and throughout the text the names should be transposed. "I walked on a mile or more along the flat high road to Cobham Tilt - a few houses on a common - and then just beyond, through Street Cobham, where the village road comes down to the Mole and runs beside it.
At the junction stands an old-fashioned mill, with a large undershot wheel in full play, and then comes the mill race, a long quiet strip of water broadening out beyond the weir into a pretty view, with old red houses on one side, and willows on the other, and the church spire in the midst".
The "old red houses" are now Cedar House, a National Trust property and Ham Manor, a fine Queen Anne house. The view towards the church, however, has been spoilt by redevelopment, and the mill was partly demolished in 1953.
Munby continues: "Few people were about in the village, which is thoroughly rural, and picturesque though not antique. Seeing 'Cobham Reading Rooms' over the door of a little house, I spoke to the old man who was weeding in the bit of garden in front. The reading rooms flourish, he said, but chiefly through the support of the neighbouring gentry, who established them five years ago. There are three classes of subscribers; the tradespeople and folk of the better sort are of the first, and these are numerous and take out books to read at home: the second, for working men, not so numerous; the labourers don't come much and don't take books out. Class 3 is for young men and even boys." These reading rooms were in an 18th century cottage demolished in the 1960s.
Munby's diary then records his meeting with a Cobham "working woman": "I walked on....and in the way I met a tall woman, who did not seem to belong to any of the ordinary classes of the village girls. Her face and hands were sunburnt and weatherstained: but her dress was not that of a labouring woman, though it was poor and worn. She had on a battered green velveteen bonnet, a shabby black cloak, and a brown stiff gown of milliner's design. Guided by this inconsistency to my question, I asked her 'Are you the postman?' 'Yes Sir,' she replied readily; 'I'm going to Stoke now for the letters.' Whereon I turned back and walked with her. 'Your name' I said 'is Eliza Harris, and you are the rural messenger from Cobham to Stoke?' 'Yes Sir,' she said with a smile of surprise: and taking me perhaps for an emissary of Sir Rowland Hill, she answered my questions with most cheerful eagerness. In fact Eliza's success in the Civil Service examinations list had caught Munby's eye the previous year.
"She is not yet one and twenty, though an outdoor life has made her look five years older... she is a regular postman, and earns 15/- a week. 'I walk eighteen miles every day Sir' says she 'except Sundays, and then I only walk four or five miles.' She starts at six in the morning, often without breakfast; and her first walk is six miles. 'I like the work, and can do it very well: I'm never unwell at all: I go all weathers, of course when it's wet I have an umbrella, but I often get wet through: I wear out a pair of strong boots every three months. It's rather lonesome, that's all: I should like to be a postman in London streets, it's more company like.' "
The establishment book of a former Cobham postmaster confirms Eliza's appointment in July 1860. A later entry reveals her dismissal in 1879 for 'detention of letters'.
The diary continues: "It was a beautiful barmy evening, with a tender sunset coming on: I walked back thither and ordered tea at the White Lion. Meanwhile I went by a meadow path across to see the church. Very good externally: tower and south door Norman, rest perpendicular and Tudor. Interior apparently hideous and protestant. Two modern staircases outside, leading up through an ancient window to the private pews of a London alderman, whose execrable monument darkened the north aisle without. The churchyard smoothshaven, well kept, and pretty situate. Ancient timbered house at one corner, by a knot of yews. Quiet old red brick grange hard by, with shed in yard converted into meeting place of some kind. Howling match going on within, tombs in churchyard and all, I think under a century: slabbed and bricked and 'respectable'."
The London alderman was Harvey Christian Combe, Lord Mayor of London. Combe made his fortune in porter-brewing and moved to Cobham Park in 1807.
The "ancient timbered house" is Church Stile House, which dates from the 17th century, while the "quiet old red brick grange" is Pyports, formerly The Cedars. Here Samuel Wesley Bradnack kept a boarding school for young gentlemen. A pupil at another school was F. Anstey, who parodied Bradnack and the school in his novel Vice Versa. An ardent Methodist, Bradnack opened his home for revival meetings, and Munby must have passed while a meeting was in progress, the description "howling match" indicating his strong disapproval of evangelicalism.
After his walk, Munby tells us: "I came back to the White Lion at dusk: had an excellent meal, served by a pretty sister of the landlady, in an upper room looking down the broad village street, where groups were lounging in the pleasant idleness that ends the week's work".
"After tea, I came down into the bar, where a little group of gossips soon formed. There was a shoemaker, and the builder, and one or two young farmers, and a twinkling old party who had means of his own: and we all sat and talked of the harvest, and cricketing, and volunteers and of the old coaching days, when the White Lion, then twice as big, kept 40 horses, and 27 coaches passed to Portsmouth every day, and the shoemaker, who was then an ostler, saved £30 in his first year".
"There was talk too of one Richard Daw living near, a jovial man who gives his friends to drink of strong cider and ale and then chuckles to see them stagger. And of tramps and paupers too: what a number of tickets for food and lodging the Cobham peeler has to give away per night. And of course among other things I spoke of female employment: as to which they agreed with me, and said that the women work well hereabouts".
"Meanwhile the landlady, a pleasant nice looking woman of 30, and her sister aforesaid, were bustling about, serving many casual customers without, and waiting upon us men with oriental deference. Now and then at quiet moments they would sit down for a few minutes and join the talk or listen. The sister said the Cobham people were stuck up and divided: the tradesmen's daughters thought they were something, and looked down upon you, quite. She applauded my ideal portrait of a farmer's daughter ... So we chatted and smoked till 10.30, when I went up to bed, thinking of that admirable inn scene in Silas Marner."
The White Lion still stands on the Portsmouth Road, its mellow red brick facade concealing an older building. In 1861 the landlord was Joshua Rose. Munby's shoemaker and builder may have beenWilliam Matthews of World's End, a "bootmaker", and the local builder, Abraham Newland. Richard Daw may have been Eli Daws, a brewer who lived on Tartar Hill and was probably employed at Cobham Brewery, which adjoined the White Lion. The local peeler was William Perfect.
The next day, Sunday, Munby moved on: "A brilliant hot morning. I set off about 9.30, after breakfast, to walk from Cobham to Teddington. The road, after leaving the village and passing a short and shady ascent (Tartar Hill) comes out on the lofty broken common (Fairmile) that stretches all the way to Esher.
"...the views were charming: behind, the woods of Pains Hill Park beyond Cobham; to the left, the pale blue hills across the vale of the Thames; and in the middle distance, the heather, which was all in bloom, made broad bands of most soothing purple. There was the gorse too in flower: and all the wild broken beauties of such a scene in Surrey: and I was alone in the sultry silence."
Munby returned to Cobham in later years to the home of his friend Judge Vernon Lushington of Pyports. He later lodged at Wheelers Farm, Pyrford, Surrey, where he had "an innocent but devastating" romance with a local girl. The property was later rented by the Lushingtons and then by Munby who lived there until his death in 1910.
The diary extracts of Mr. A. J. Munby are by courtesy of the Master and Fellows, Trinity College, Cambridge.
Clive of India (1725-1774)
Tiger of Bengal
by David G. Evans February 1994
When Lord Clive, Baron of Plassey, bought the Claremont Estate from the recently widowed Lady Newcastle in 1768 he had reached a pinnacle of achievement, power and wealth and was still only in his early forties.
His first journey to India, just 250 years ago in 1744, landed Robert Clive at Madras after a voyage of fifteen months. There he took up the menial position of 'writer' with the East India Company. His family from Shropshire was not wealthy and his career at Merchant Taylors School had been distinguished only by his unruly behaviour and contempt for authority. An impetuous misfit, he was sent away to grow up. However, his natural daring and pugnacity did not fit easily with the sedentary life as a clerk.
At that time the British hold on Madras and Bengal was tenuous. French and Dutch expansion plans threatened and trade links were poor. Clive without military training or administrative experience of any kind, in twenty short years secured his reputation as an outstanding general, founded an Empire and established British domination over the sub-continent which was to last for two hundred years.
Four years of his career to that date had been expended on the long sea trips to and from Bengal. He had married Margaret (Maskelyne) in 1753 and of their seven children only three had survived the rigours of smallpox and enteric. It is understandable that the exertions of those years abroad took great toll of his physical and mental well-being. Ill health caused him great suffering for much of his life and laudanum became his only relief. He had acquired enormous wealth but with it an army of enemies envious of his achievements.
Claremont which he chose as his Surrey family home, was ideally located for his growing political commitment. Sixteen miles from Westminster, the impressive house by Vanbrugh with gardens by John Rocque and William Kent was already well-known to visiting aristocracy. The new estate added to the four he already owned in Ireland and Shropshire and his London home in Berkeley Square.
With his usual vitality and exuberance Clive set quickly to work, employing Lancelot 'Capability' Brown and his son-in-law, Henry Holland, to create a triumph of architectural and landscape design on the grand scale. The existing house was soon demolished and 'Home Farm' converted for the use of Clive and his family. Massive earthworks included a major realignment of the Portsmouth Road, bringing 'The Mound' within the estate, and the gardens were extensively deformalized under Brown's direction.
The new house, set on the highest point of the hill, is a supreme example of elegant Palladian style and enjoys magnificent views to the south-east. Constructed of cream brick embellished in stone, the front twenty-one steps lead up to a portico supported on Corinthian columns, the pediment above bearing his personal arms.
Around the four-mile perimeter of the estate Clive built a high wall to provide secure enclosure for the many species of exotic animals he had brought back from overseas, including zebra, antelopes and deer.
The following year Clive set off on an eight month European tour scouring France and Italy for paintings and statues, tapestries, silks and carpets with which to decorate the house. Its features included Adam fireplaces and an indoor marble swimming pool.
A plan of the estate dated 1750 shows a menagerie, ice-house and melon ground, together with a brewhouse, laundry and stables. 'Home Farm' is shown as a large grouping of three-storey buildings set around a courtyard. There was a nine-pin alley behind the amphitheatre as well as a bowling green, temples and an impressive obelisk.
As construction work proceeded at Claremont, political storm clouds gathered. In 1769 a market crash impoverished many of the most important families in England. Rumours began to circulate of gross incompetence and corruption within the East India Company. The following year a catastrophic famine struck Bengal causing the death of almost half the native population. In 1772 the Company's credit failed and Clive faced vitriolic attack and personal vendetta.
His parliamentary defence of his conduct during his Governorship is held to be one of the greatest speeches ever given in the House of Commons. He left Westminster to return to his Berkeley Square home aware that his title and vast fortune might be forfeit. Whilst the Select Committee's report presented that year exonerated him, this did not bring an end to attacks from Burgoyne and others.
In May 1773, a further resolution laid before the House stated: "The Rt Hon Robert, Lord Clive, Baron of Plassey, illegally acquired his wealth to the dishonour of the State". Debate went on until four o'clock in the morning.
Even the Prime Minister, Lord North, voted against him, but eventually the clause was rejected. The House then moved without division that "Lord Clive did render great and meritorious service to his country". His ordeal was finally over or so it seemed.
The immense strain of those last two years had brought on attacks of severe depression and nervous exhaustion, joined by the agony of gallstones and recurring liver problems. He became restless and disillusioned. Laudanum, his only ally, further exacerbated his mental condition.
Claremont itself was still not finished. The exquisite carpeting, furniture and paintings had yet to be installed, although one section of the first floor had been made habitable for his use. Clive's dependence on opium increased. The family moved constantly between the South and his other homes and estates in Wales, Ludlow, and Walcot.
Back at his Berkeley Square home in November 1774, Clive was preparing to leave for Bath where he owned a house in the Circus.He took a purgative and left the room. Shortly afterwards he was found in a pool of blood dying from a self-inflicted stab wound to the throat. The exact details are unclear and for some years it was believed that the cause of death was accidental drug overdose. It is known, however, that his body was moved overnight to Shropshire where he was buried without trace in the little church at Moreton Say. A brass plate inside the church has the following inscription.
"Sacred to the Memory of Robert, Lord Clive KB.
Born 29 September 1725 Died 22 November 1774.
Primus in Indis"
In Esher, Claremont House stands tribute to the man. The main building retains much of the magnificent interior fittings. 'Home Farm', converted to residential use, remains largely intact in a close off Claremont Lane. Curiously, a descendant of Lord Clive occupies the original bakehouse building of the old farm complex. Alongside is the ancient obelisk, surmounted by its bronze peacock.
Beyond the northern edge of the estate the 13th century church where Clive worshipped lies almost out of view behind the Bear Hotel. It still contains the pew cleaned and polished for him by Tabatha Woodman. Estate ledgers housed within the University of Wales record that she was provided with mops and cloths for that purpose.
Frank Worsley and Claygate
by Pat Bamford July 1999
The history of this welcome Monograph makes interesting reading:
In April 1999 the County Archivist received a request from Washington USA for information about Frank Worsley's grave, which the inquirer thought was in Claygate. The young lady had chosen a book by Frank Worsley as part of her Grade 10 English course and wished to know more about him.
All the archive databases were searched at the Surrey History Centre at Woking, with no result and the request was passed to our Chairman, Colin Dall who also was initially unable to find any information. However, Jo Buckley one of our Committee members knew just the person to ask - Pat Bamford.
Frank Worsley and Claygate
On 1st February 1943 Commander Frank Worsley DSO and Bar, OBE died at Linksfield, Red Lane, Claygate just a few weeks short of his 71st Birthday. 33 years later in 1976 his wife Jean Worsley died in the same room at Linksfield as her husband all those years before. How did this come about? What was the connection that caused me , Pat Bamford, to travel to New Zealand to seek out his birthplace high on the hillside above the tiny village of Akaroa in the Banks Peninsular?
My first recollection of Frank Worsley, perhaps one of the greatest navigators in the world of the old school, was as Uncle Wuz and Aunty Jean who came to stay at my home during the depression years of the 30's. He would announce his impending arrival with stentorian shouts of "Yoiks Tally Ho" starting at the Green in Claygate and continuing until he passed Crease's Farm at the bottom of Red Lane, shortly to arrive at our gate with an uproarious welcome. He used to call Linksfield his country mansion, but I later found out that they mostly visited when they were penniless or between jobs. They were, of course, neither Uncle nor Aunt: the visits were as a result of a lifelong friendship formed first in the early 1900's with my Mother when Worsley lodged at the West London boarding house run by my Grandmother. I still retain a picture of Commander Worsley waving farewell to my Mother and Father on their wedding day as they left for their honeymoon on my Father's Matchless motor cycle and sidecar in 1921.
Frank was born in Akoroa New Zealand in 1872 to Henrietta and Henry Worsley who had emigrated from Derbyshire in 1850. At age 16 he enlisted as a junior midshipman on a New Zealand Clipper ship the "Wairoa" bound for London with a cargo of wool. After sailing in the Pacific for the New Zealand Government he got his master's certificate in 1900, and in 1906 back in England he trained in the Royal Naval Reserve rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. In 1914 he joined Ernest Shackleton as captain of the ship "Endurance" for the British Trans-Antarctic expedition. The story of the "Endurance" is now part of epic history: how the ship was beset by the Antarctic ice and was eventually crushed - how the party lived for four months on the ice floes before taking to three tiny boats when the ice broke up - how they made their way to the tiny rock of Elephant Island. How Shackleton, Worsley and four others sailed the "James Caird" the 800 miles to South Georgia through some of the worst seas in the world navigating with only a sextant and four short sightings of the sun - how they landed on the wrong side of South Georgia and three of them crossed unmapped mountains to reach the Whaling station at Grytviken. All this is told in Commander Worsley's book 'Shackleton's Boat Journey', which is once again on sale in its fourth reprint. After rescuing the Elephant Island party, Worsley returned to Britain, where as a Royal Naval Reserve officer he was given command of a "Q" Ship in which he rammed and sank a German U-boat as it attacked a British Tanker in the Irish sea. For this he was awarded the DSO. Later he joined the British expedition to Archangel in Russia, where he fought on the side of the White Russians against the revolutionary Reds.
In 1925 he led an Artic expedition described in his book "Under Sail in the Frozen North." Between the wars he scratched a living in any way he could. He ferried boats around the world, delivering them to their owners, and often he took his wife Jean with him.Out of a job he would visit his old friends amongst whom were the Bamfords in Claygate. This friendship continued to grow and lasted for the rest of his life. When the Second World War came, and their home in London was bombed, his wife Jean lived in Linksfield when she was not with her mother in Aberdeen. Worsley had to be in the fray, and he soon signed up with a shipping company (lying about his age - he was 68 ) engaged in salvage and blowing up wrecks off Sheerness in the Thames Estuary. He would take his leaves in Linksfield, joining his beloved Jean. Eventually his age was discovered, and he then went to Greenwich to teach Naval Cadets. It was there that he contracted cancer, and when the hospital discharged him as inoperable he came back to the Bamford family at Linksfield to die.
My father and his wife Jean attended the memorial service at Greenwich and saw his ashes scattered in the Thames Estuary where he first saw land as a sixteen year old Midshipman. When my father died in 1957, my mother no longer wanted to live in Linksfield so I purchased "Waverley Cottage" in St. Leonards Road for her to live in, and my wife Beryl and I occupied Linksfield. Jean Worsley went to live with her at Waverley Cottage as a companion until my mother died in 1976. My wife and I then invited her to live with us, rather than go into a home. So it came about that on her death in 1978 I was appointed her Executor. After fulfilling those duties and passing her estate on to rather distant relatives, for she had no close family of her own, I was left with Jean's personal letters and photographs, and it is these items that are now proving to have such historic significance that they need to be preserved in an appropriate Museum. A good part have already been gifted to the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge in accordance with Jean's wishes - but many of the other letters and pictures seem more appropriately to be left to his country of origin New Zealand. It is a New Zealander John Thomson who has written the first Biography of Frank Worsley called "Shackleton's Captain", so it was that last February I went to stay with John Thomson in New Zealand where we jointly visited Museums in Wellington, Christchurch and Akaroa where Worsley was born. All are greatly pleased to receive and preserve the historic record of this great navigator.
For further reading : Shackleton's Captain by John Thomson ; a biography of Frank Worsley.