Extract from the Leatherhead Advertiser September 1942

Royal hostess dies in London

mrsgreville2By the death of the Hon Mrs Ronald Greville which occurred in London on Tuesday, the district has lost a generous benefactor. It was early in 1908 that Mrs Greville and her husband, the Hon Capt Ronald Greville, came to reside at Polesden Lacey, the fine mansion at Great Bookham.  Her husband died shortly afterwards.

She was one of the most famous of all hostesses and a close friend of the King and Queen. For many years she was hostess to generations of the Royal Family and it will be recalled that His Majesty the King and Queen Elizabeth spent part of their honeymoon at Polesden.  They were frequent visitors to the house and always enjoyed a short holiday at Polesden where the Christmas parties were social events for many years.

Although she received the DBE in 1922, she was never known as Dame Margaret Greville.

Apart from members of the Royal Family, prominent figures in the political and diplomatic worlds were her guests.  Mr Winston Churchill, like many other statesmen in the last quarter of the century, had been a guest of Mrs Greville, who was one of the most vivid personalities of her day.  She was a brilliant conversationalist and spent part of every year before the war travelling.  She was also reputed to have one of the best chefs in the world.

Mrs Greville was closely associated with many local activities and many charities received her warm support and encouragement.  In 1923 she laid the foundation stone of the new vestry at Great Bookham Parish Church.

Her death at the age of 75 breaks a link in the chain of the last century and leaves a gap in the district that will not be easy to fill.  The funeral of Mrs Greville took place quietly at Great Bookham Parish Church on Friday.  HM The King was represented by Sir Eric Melville and chief mourners were Lord Blanesborough and Lord Greville.  Others present included the Belgian Ambassador, Viscount and Viscountess Simon, the Marchioness of Crewe, Mrs Roland Cubitt and Lord Beaverbrook.

Interment followed at Polesden Lacey.

Mrs Greville’s Boudoir

portrait2For years the visitors to Polesden Lacey have heard the story of the extra wing that Mrs Greville built on to the house in 1906 to provide the study downstairs as her ‘private apartment’ with its washroom off in one corner and the ‘mysterious lift’ in another going up to her bedroom – how she could cut herself off from her guests with her own outside door to the courtyard so she could slip unnoticed in and out of the house.  And upstairs was her bedroom……..  Even the door to her lift for so long remained closed.  For years the upstairs was not available to see, it was part of the romantic story of the house with its many bedrooms closed to the public even though kings and queens had occupied its rooms with tales never to be revealed locked within the walls.

corridorendopenliftBut now, at last, at the top of the majestic main staircase Mrs Greville’s own bedroom is open to the public, unfurnished, but left to the imagination how it would have looked, what furnishings it had and what went on inside its walls.  From the windows there is the delightful view over the North Downs and Ranmore.  En suite is the bathroom and toilet with its ‘thunderer’ unit just as it was in her day.

But – one moment – the bedroom isn’t above the study, it’s above the library.  What is it that visitors have been told over the years?  It never did quite make sense that in this large house Mrs Greville had only two private rooms, the study, quite a formal room and her bedroom.  The study itself isn’t so big.

ceiling2The solution is simple but introduces an important room so long closed off – upstairs past her bedroom at the end of the corridor is a handsome door just past the lift with its metal sliding doors. Behind the door is a revelation – the magnificent missing room!  It is officially Mrs Greville’s Boudoir – a room more or less the shape of the study below – no small size, brightly lit with a large bay window and another looking out over the entrance to the house.  It is slightly narrower than the study below as behind its south wall is the toilet and bathroom which is entered from her bedroom.

The ceiling is magnificent decorative plaster work and the walls are wood panelled just like the downstairs of the house.  But how could anybody have done that to the walls – the wonderful oak panelling has been painted over with a cream emulsion – what would Mrs Greville’s have said to that!  There is a large fireplace in the south wall with the hearth and surround taken away and again painted thoughtlessly with the same emulsion.  How could anybody paint over a room like that!  How sad that such a room could have been spoilt in this way.

corner00Perhaps the room had been hidden for so long to allow Mrs Greville’s ghost to walk noiselessly about but certainly Mrs Greville’s ghost it contains.  This was one of her main private rooms.  What is a boudoir?  It is sometimes referred to as a dressing room but the other main purpose of a boudoir is as a private drawing room.  This surely was the room in which she could relax.  Her house was forever full of kings, queens, princes, statesmen and great of the day but many were dull, boring and full of themselves.  Some were good company but many had little more than their dignity and title.  However Mrs Greville as the supreme hostess knew that dignitaries had their place – they were what the best hostess in the country had to have in the house to give her the standing she enjoyed in the social ladder.  She herself was still in her forties in 1910, now no husband but endless wealth and life before her.

Seeing the room, the private apartments of Mrs Greville make sense as never before.  She was no longer contained to a formal study and bedroom – she now had a private drawing room to relax and be the personality she was.  The room now is bare of furniture but this has the advantage that imagination can create the furnishings.  Was it richly carpeted with luxurious furnishings and comfortable seating?  The imagination can place the chairs, tables, cabinets and pictures on the walls. We can only hope that one day Mrs Greville’s ghost will appear to show us exactly how she lived and what friends she entertained in the room.  Robert Horne, the politician, was one of her regular guests to her parties.  Was he a frequent visitor to her boudoir?  Mrs Greville would have delighted in putting right the finances of the country with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and he always had an eye for the women.  Perhaps she enjoyed the entertaining conversation with Osbert Sitwell in this room.  Did the Queen Mother come here to drink tea with Mrs Greville.  We shall never know – but this gives intrigue to the room and to the character of Mrs Greville.

It is one of the most important rooms in the house – a room in which the spirit of Mrs Greville lives and it tells so much more of the fascinating story of Mrs Greville.

Martin Warwick

Eastwick Park – Life at the Hall

william_keswickThe story of William Keswick begins with Jardine Matheson Holdings which still exists today, a company founded by William Jardine and James Matheson in 1832 in Hong Kong trading in opium, cotton, tea, silk and a variety of other goods.  William Keswick was born into the William Jardine family in 1834, went on to work in the company and by 1874 he was its Head and a senior Director.

During his time in Hong Kong he was on the Legislative and Executive Councils and had many other interests.  He was a director of the Hudson’s Bay Company and also had oil interests in Peru through the Matheson Company and also with railway companies and banks.  He was a very rich and influential man.

In 1870 William married Amelie Sophie Dubeux in Hong Kong and they had five children, Henry, Amy, Margaret David and Muriel who were all born in the Far East.  When he returned home to England he settled in Bookham and in July 1882 bought Eastwick Park House and Estate and became known as Lord of the Manor of Bookham.  A year later he lost his wife Amelie from cancer aged only 36.

After some fifteen years he married again.  His new wife was Alice Henrietta Barrington who was 40 years his junior and they had three children, Ivy, Nancy who only lived a month and Helen Kathleen known as Kate.  Kate was born in 1903.  William seems to have settled into life as a country squire.  He loved walking and would often walk to Clandon where another of his daughters lived or from the local railway stations at Bookham or Leatherhead.

He was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Epsom at a by-election in 1899 and held the seat until his resignation in 1912.  In his thirteen years as MP he was a back bencher and sat on many committees but rarely spoke in the House.  With his background he was an authority on China and although unable to speak chinese could apparently enter into the their way of thinking. He was one of the first Englishmen to do business with the Chinese.  He had a flat in London where he would often stay or in a suite of rooms at St Ermyns Hotel.

He was offered a title but on asking his wife if she’d like to become known as Lady Keswick and after much discussion decided not to accept the honour.

katekeswick2Kate Keswick, his daughter who lived to the age of 94 fortunately left us with many interesting stories and details on her father and family life at Eastwick Park in its heyday as a Manor.

She described how he used to sit in his study, a big room with a large desk – he loved sitting there cutting his own quills.  His wife had to cope with a household of cook, kitchen maid, scullery maid, head housemaid, second and third housemaid, ladies maid, butler, footman, buttons, the coachman and all the gardeners.

By the time he remarried many changes were needed following such a long time of the Eastwick estate not being closely managed. Meals had got out of hand with separate sittings being served in the dining room, another in the nursery cooked by the scullery maid, another for the cook and another for the head housemaid, butler and the ladies.

There was such a large division between the status of the servants that it caused much feeling when the meals were reorganised to just three, in the dining room, the nursery and the servants hall – for example th cook was forced to eat with the kitchen maid. The senior servants ate their first course in the servants’ hall which was carried out as an operation of pomp and ceremony with a procession of the cook followed by the head housemaid, ladies maid and butler to sit down in state and to be waited on by the footman. It was not restricted to meals, there was a strict division between all the household chores – buttons cleaned to the top of the stairs and the scullery maid cleaned to the bottom but nobody was allotted to clean the foot of the stairs which was consequently not done.  The new wife soon changed all this initially to the despair of the staff.
The farm costs were found to be very high and this led to the discovery that cream and butter were given as free hand-outs from the dairy staff to villagers almost as a recognised thing.

staffThe kitchen range was lit at the crack of dawn and produced an almost unbearable heat for the young scullery and kitchen maids.  An everyday chore was boiling bones and meat remains to make beef tea from which to be given free to any pregnant women or nursing mothers from the village.  Children called at the back door bringing jugs to be filled.

The housemaids did a certain amount of sewing and repaired the linen.  The ladies maid mended clothes, changed collars and cuffs and made clothes for William Keswick’s wife using a Sukie, a dressmaker’s dummy. It was a wire figure made to her measurements to fit a dress to size and shape.  She was also responsible for polishing the silver on his wife’s dressing table.  She was well read and also spent much time writing in very good English.  Both she and the head housemaid would sit for hours on end reading the classics and the Bible.

The butler lived locally and would cycle through the allotments.  He was always dead on time even if it meant sometimes throwing his bike into the shrubbery and dashing across the lawn and through the large Georgian windows before being standing in position a few moments later behind William Keswick’s chair.

The coachman’s wife had only one arm – it was said that a carriage turned over while she was in it. Some nights he would take the horse drawn brake to fetch William Keswick from Leatherhead station.  Everyone knew the coachman drank and when he was sitting on the box of the carriage in the bitter cold he’d take the horses to the local inn.  Knowing that he was an MP’s coachman the landlord was only too happy to give him a drink.  After the coachman lost his job Kate’s sister took out a carriage but with little control of a horse found that the horse had taken her into the yard of the inn as it was so used to going there!

During Christmas time the Servants’ Ball was held at Eastwick Park. The local trade’s people, the farm hands, the staff and their spouses were all invited.  There’d be a separate party for the children of the staff and a tall Christmas tree would stand in the hall decorated with small lighted candles and each child would be given a present before going home.

organgrinderOnce a fortnight the organ grinder would call coming to the front door and playing until it was opened.  A monkey sat up by the side of the organ and when the tune was finished it expected a biscuit and leant its head forward for some money to be placed on it.  It then went on to The Crown to play for the villagers, collect more money and to get people to dance to the music.

Alan Lewer was the gamekeeper for Eastwick Park.  His cottage was by the pond in Eastwick Drive.  One story is that one of the Lewer brothers actually sat on the end of the branch of an apple tree while he was sawing it and promptly fell and killed himself.  William Keswick never took part in a shoot but regular parties were arranged. The men from the village would act as cover beaters driving pheasants out of the woods. The beaters were provided with a free lunch, the men being given beer and the younger ones soft drinks.

William Keswick died in March 1912 aged 78 while the children of his second marriage were still young and was buried in St Nicolas churchyard.  He left personal effects of £500,000 a vast sum in 1912 worth perhaps £50 million today.

He was well regarded by all as a local newspaper obituary describes.

“In Mr Keswick there passes away a fine, old political type. Strong in his own convictions, nevertheless he studiously avoided discourtesy to his opponents, either in word or deed, and on many occasions he has gone out of his way to pay a compliment to one or other Minister of the present administration when he thought it was deserved. His chief political successes lay in committee work, where his sound common sense, especially when applied to the subtle ramifications of commerce, was of inestimable value. In such work he was persona grata. In the broader arena of the House in debate he seldom figured, other than as a close follower of every argument. His temperament in all probability would not have been attuned to the hurly-burly of the floor of the House of Commons, the cut and thrust of a Parliamentary discussion.

He was a lovable character, upon which a steady devotion to duty and an old-world courtesy had set their seal. All shades of political opinion conceded to him transparent honesty of purpose, and however much some might have disagreed with his views none could deny that in him burnt the sacred fire of patriotism. His speeches were always pitched in a patriotic key and although he was perhaps one of the oldest members in the House of Commons he was in the forefront of the modern Imperialist school. As a speaker he was solid rather than brilliant and by his own supporters would undoubtedly be regarded as eminently safe.”

wkeswicksgravestoneThe estate passed on to his eldest son Henry who had no interest in it and was subsequently sold the following year.  His wife Alice who was only 38 married again in 1915 and lived in Dorking until her death in 1966.

Following the death of William Keswick, Eastwick Park House was no longer the majestic Manor House it had once been and it began its gradual decline to its eventual demolition and its loss to the housing estate we know today.

Martin Warwick

Southey Hall Boys Preparatory School

hallEastwick Manor had been the seat of the Howards, one of the premier families of England but many local people will remember it as Southey Hall Boys Preparatory School.  It had become a school in 1924 and remained such until 1954.  But what do we know of it?  There are a diminishing few who have active memories of their schooldays there.

The school was originally established far away from Bookham in about 1885 in a building in Southey Road, Worthing (hence its name) by three ‘Wood sisters’, Sarah, Mary and Anne aged 42, 39 and 37 all unmarried.  Because Sarah was the oldest she was the Head of the school.  It was a boarding school for boys.  It was taught just by the three sisters with a matron and three domestic servants one of which was the cook.  It started with just twenty four boarders aged between 7 and 12.

dormBy 1901 the school had changed ownership into the hands of a Mr Newton Hinxman and his wife Edith with Newton as Head.  Ten years later the school had enlarged to 30 boarders aged 6 to 14 and a domestic staff of a Matron, a cook and 5 servants.

We have no record of the school during WWI but afterwards Newton Hinxman was of retiring age and sold the school to a 42 year old Henry Reginald Fussell from the Wirral, Cheshire who took over as Headmaster.

washroomBy this time the school was presumably limited by the size of the building and the number of boarders it could take and Henry in 1924 looked for a far larger suitable property.  Eastwick Manor was available and ideal and Henry purchased the lease and changed the name to Southey Hall Boys Preparatory School.  The size of Eastwick Manor meant that the school could be built up to be a major preparatory school.

Both Henry Fussell and his son Dennis were good tennis players to the extent that they both played at Wimbledon. Henry played in the 1919, 1920, 1922, 1923 and 1924 Championships. In 1922 he reached the fourth round.  Denis got into the second round in 1929 but was knocked out in three sets. This established a good tradition for tennis at Southey Hall School.

The original school in Worthing was purchased and became ‘Southey Hall Hotel’ and in 1953 was converted to flats and was called ‘Southey Hall Flatlets’. It is still a block of flats but it is now known as ‘Dolphin Court’.

In Southey Hall the school continued to grow in the period up to WWII and there were about 60-70 boarders (no day boys). At the beginning of the war the school at first stayed in the house as the bombs started to fall. In October 1940 the lodge of Southey Hall School was bombed and shortly afterwards a land mine fell in the grounds and it was decided that the school should be evacuated.  The school evacuated to the magnificent Great Fulford House at Dunsford near Exeter for the duration of the war.  At this time the Headmaster was about 60 and it was a good time for him to retire and hand over the headship to his son Denis Fussell.  Denis was then 33 and a confirmed bachelor.  His father did not have a long retirement and died in 1941 aged only 63.

School uniform was grey corduroy shorts, black and white striped ties, a jersey with the black and white school colours around the neck, long socks with the colours around the tops and school caps. On Sundays it was a grey flannel suit to go to St Nicolas church.  The boys always referred to the Headmaster as ‘Sir’ but behind his back as Denis.  He was a large burly man, fairly shambly in attire with somewhat whitish or auburn  hair and rather a reddish face. He was approachable and well liked by the boys and a good teacher.  The senior master was Mr Locke called Dumbo by the boys for the obvious reason.

While they were evacuated Southey Hall was taken over by the Canadian troops stationed locally.  They didn’t have the same respect for the property with military exercises in the grounds and a casual approach to the house.  By the time the war ended and the troops had departed the house was in a very poor condition with banisters pulled down, decorations dirty and depleted and furniture devastated.  Even with the best attempts the house was in a poor state.

This was the house to which Southey Hall School returned in 1945. The period after 1945 was not an easy time.  The war had finished but rationing and shortages continued through to the late 1950s.  It would have taken a fortune to restore the house to its former state, far outside the finances of a school’s budget.  It was a matter of living with the state it was in.

The school continued until 1954 when suddenly, overnight, the headmaster Denis Fussell vanished from the scene – he no longer appeared at the school.  It was an unfortunate and amazing incident.  The explanation was recorded by one of the boys at the school.
‘One evening early in the summer term, soon after the rest of us had gone to bed in our dormitories, there was a terrific commotion in the house – a boy was clearly being chased and was trying to get away from Denis’s clutches, and there was shouting and swearing – I remember this very distinctly because nobody ever swore at Southey Hall, even among ourselves. The very next day the headmaster disappeared from the school, and so did the boy in question.’

The rumour that the headmaster had been interfering with one or more of the boys appears to be substantiated but the degree of truth in this will never now be established.  It would however account for the extraordinary departure of the person who was the owner of the school and previously had been highly spoken of and well thought of by the boys.  A further rumour amongst the boys to explain the sudden departure was that he had been killed by a train door hitting him but that was not true as he lived until 1977 (age 70) and died in the Southampton area.

The school was taken over by the deputy headmaster Mr Locke and continued under Mr Locke for a short time but presumably it was still owned by Denis Fussell and was closed down.  It is hard to see that the school was financially viable and nobody would have taken it on with an income from fees of  just 70 boys.  The remaining pupils were either taken away from the school or transferred to the Little Abbey Prep School, Burghclere, Newbury.

It was sad to see what had once been a majestic house stand empty and abandoned and fast going into decay. Modern development has lead to the whole area becoming the Eastwick housing estate. The sole sorry remains of the once majestic house are gateposts from its original entrance still standing in Lower Road.

The appendices record four recollections of the school, one in the prewar period, one when evauated to Great Fulford during the Second World War, one in the immediate post-war period and one in its final years.

Martin Warwick

(For a far fuller article see the article in full but with a number of Appendices giving the memories of Old Boys – because of its length it is in Adobe PDF format)

Polesden Lacey – how it has changed….

pla1900It is not always realised how the house at Polesden Lacey is only just over a hundred years old.  At the turn of the 19th century a very different house stood there owned by Sir Walter Farquhar but he died in 1900 and in 1902 the estate was sold by his son to Sir Clinton Dawkins.  Sir Clinton described his new house as ‘ugly and inconvenient’ and appointed Ambrose Poynter to redesign and rebuild it.

pl1900houseThe building that stood there at that time had been designed by Thomas Cubitt and built some 80 years previously.  The illustration shows the house with its colonnade of 10 pillars and on either side of the colonnade just two recessed windows.  The ordinance survey maps of that era show the ground plan of the house as a ‘square’ building with an extension at the back.  There was no courtyard in the middle, just a conventional square shape.

pl1906webThe redesign, demolition and rebuilding of the new house took place between 1903 to 1905 but Sir Clinton Dawkins was fated never to enjoy it with his death in the year of its completion.  In 1906 the estate was bought by Mr and Mrs Greville and between 1906 and 1908 the house was extensively prepared for their use.  By that time Mrs Greville was already established as a leading hostess of the day and had been using Reigate Priory as an out of town venue to which Edward VII had often been the principal guest.

The photo shows the house as it was bought by Mr and Mrs Greville in 1906.  Notice in particular the two wings either side of the main entrance.  On the left there is a flat wall and on the right the wing has only a small bay window.  Here the two main structural alterations to the house were made by Mrs Greville to bring it to the house as of today.  On the left was built a wing to provide a ‘private apartment’ for Mrs Greville with its own door to the outside and a room downstairs (know called the ‘Study’) with its own cloakroom and a lift to a private bedroom for Mrs Greville upstairs.  The right wing was extended to match the shape of the new wing.

southcomparisonThe interior of what had been a fairly plain house was transformed by wood panelling and ornamentation to the ceilings, an extravagant ‘Gold Room’ fit for maharajahs, panels from an Italian Palace, a Reredos from a Wren London Church in the Hall and much in addition making up the present house.  Completing the house was again not good for the new owner – Ronald Greville himself died in 1908.

It is interesting to compare the overall architectural design of the current house with the house designed by Cubitt  and to do this a comparison needs to be made between the picture of the house as it was and one of the present day.  The same colonnade and two recessed windows either side of it remain but there are vast extensions either side.  In addition above the colonnade at roof level there is a balustrade and pediment.

When we take a view from the east side the extent of the differences can be seen.  In the old house there is a portico and above it just three windows form the upper floor.  On either side of the portico are two dummy windows.  Servants’ quarters can be seen at the rear of the house.  The present day view is very considerably different with a long east side with entrance hall and two wings dominated by a clock tower.  There is no similarity between the two views, the east side is a completely new structure.  In fact the columns of the portico now stand at the end of the long terrace in the grounds.

plcomparisonWhat is the commonality between the old house and the present day house?  Certainly the colonnade to the south remains and the two recessed windows either side.  But the house was smaller by a major amount.  The current house is built round a courtyard with a massive increase in depth.

The floor plan of the current house shows a superimposed outline of the original house demonstrating the extent of the demolition and reconstruction of the two houses. It would seem that the whole house apart from the south facing colonnade and its immediate wall is a total redesign and reconstruction.  Presumably the colonnade and its immediate south wall were absorbed into the redesign.  We therefore have a Cubitt colonnade but very much a Poynter designed house.  Every room is different.  The most likely room to survive from the old house is the saloon or ‘gold room’ but the surviving photo of that room shows a totally different arrangement of the windows.  The only perhaps sign of the old house is in the Billiards Room where there are slightly jutting out supporting walls for a ceiling beam.  Could this mark the original north wall of the old house?

The house of today in reality dates only to just after the turn of the twentieth century.  It was reconstructed to be a far larger and grander house but still to retain something of the charming Cubitt design with its fine colonnade overlooking Ranmore and the magnificent North Downs.

Eastwick Park Estate

eastwickparkgreatbookham1841The original Eastwick Estate was vast stretching from Lower Road to the south and the extent of Bookham Commons to the north.  In 1662 it was conveyed to Lord William Howard a descendent of the Duke of Norfolk and it remained in their line until 1809.  After several sales of the estate it was bought in 1882 by William Keswick whose family lived in the manor house until 1918 – he was MP for Epsom for thirteen years and was offered a title and could have become a Lord but turned down the honour to remain Mr Keswick.

eastwickhouse1904After Keswick’s death in 1912 his wife decided to sell the house which she did in 1918 to Hippolyte Louis Souchon (later knighted in 1927) who only kept the estate for about four years. In 1922 the whole estate was sold.  Part was bought by a property developer who began selling off plots for house building.  Another part of the sale was Bookham Commons to the alarm of the villagers.  With the prospect of loosing it, deforestation and housing development an ad hoc committee was formed from the village and they only had three weeks to raise the purchase price of £1,650 for the land itself and the three cottages on it.  Twenty three villages managed to raise this money in a short time or the Commons would have been lost for ever.  Later in the year, August 1923, the Commons were conveyed to the National Trust.

Eastwick Park House is said to have been designed by Nicholas Dubois in 1726.  Dubois was a French Huguenot architect who built several London houses and also designed and built in the Palladium style Stanmer Park near Brighton which can be visited to this day.  It is said that there were many similarities between Stanmer and Eastwick Park House. The original house was of red brick but was resurfaced in stucco in 1801.  In 1833 it was largely rebuilt to be the majestic house as it remained until 1918.

After 1923 the house no longer retained its status and was sold to become Southey Hall Preparatory School which had previously moved from Worthing.  The new owner was its headmaster Henry Fussell.  No longer was the interior richly furnished but rooms became utilitarian classrooms and bedrooms – unless houses of this nature are taken over by the wealthy or maintained by the National Trust there was little future to ever see them again in their original state.  A separate chapter of the book tells the story of Southey Hall and the preparatory school.

Worse came later with World War II bombs falling in the grounds and the decision by the school to evacuate and the empty building being taken over by Canadian troops.  One bomb devastated the entrance lodge.  After the war the school returned but eventually closed in 1954 leaving the house empty.  In 1958 it was demolished to make way for the housing development of today.  On the site of the old house the Eastwick schools were built.  The only remaining remnants of the house are some wooden entrance gates still standing at 182a Lower Road.  These are not the original gates of Keswick’s day.  His daughter (1903 -1997) Kate related that at the entrance were ‘a pair of lovely wrought iron gates’ as would be expected for an estate of this nature.  These gates must have taken down and the present wooden gates erected and this presumably occurred around 1920.

We can have a glimpse at the majestic house that stood there in the middle of the 19th century from the sale details of the whole estate in 1833.


2,280 Acres of Cultivated Land and 785 acres together with most fertile and picturesque Bookham Commons of 349 acres

The Mansion

Hall used as billiards room 27 feet square and in the hall the principal stairway of oak.  The main bedchambers lead from the landing

Library or Morning Room on left of hall – 26 by 20 feet with mahogany door.  Chimney Piece of dove coloured marble

Small library with coved ceiling, chimney piece of statuary marble, semicircular bow and windows that open to stone steps to the pleasure grounds

Saloon or drawing room on the right of the hall 71 feet by 20, extending the entire depth of the mansion with marble chimney piece, mahogany doors and centre windows to pleasure grounds.  This truly elegant room has two beautiful Ionic columns appearing as red breccia

Dining room 81 feet by 21 feet, chimney piece of marble in a semicircular recess with a niche for statues on each side

Principal bed chamber 26 feet by 20 feet communicating with a lady’s morning or dressing room with semicircular bow end, chimney piece of black marble and folding doors panelled with looking glasses.  Five other best bed chambers four of which with dressing rooms large enough for beds and having fireplaces in each

The attic floor with ten bachelor and servant’s sleeping rooms

Water Closets on both floors

A separate wing provided a housekeeper’s room, sleeping room, store room, and still room and beyond a fruit chamber.  On the ground floor of the wing a spacious kitchen, a scullery, cool larders and beyond a brew house

The basement providing a servants’ hall, arched wine cellar, butler’s pantry

Dairy, wash house and laundry, a brick and tiled building

Four stall and a three stall stables with loose box

Double and a single coach house and harness room

Kitchen garden of more than two acres enclosed by a fruit wall

A small pleasure ground surrounds the house leading to and partly concealed offices

dairyremainsOutside the Main House

Ornamental dairy and separate scalding house not too distant from the dwelling which are octagonal buildings, brick built and thatched

Ice House

Until recently (2012) the remains of the Ornamental Dairy stood in a dell in Eastwick Drive close to the Lower Road junction.  Brick by brick and tile by tile the building was taken to be rebuilt at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum near Chichester where it is planned to restore it to its original condition.

katekeswickWilliam Keswick’s daughter Kate Keswick (b 1903) gave an interview reminiscing about her childhood memories in the house which is recorded in a separate chapter but an excerpt is given here.

keswickThe wrought iron entrance gates opened up to a forked driveway which led to the grand house, surrounded by 387 acres of land. In the walled kitchen garden there was a vinery, and peach and nectarine houses. The male employees lived above the stables which were located in the main garden. In those days children were not encouraged to read and so they explored the outdoors. Miss Keswick owned a pony and frequently went riding on the estate, which had a radius of 10 miles! In addition to pony riding another one of Miss Keswick’s favourite past times was to go to the bluebell woods and go bird nesting. The estate also had a farm and farmhouse that supplied the village with cream, butter and milk. Beef tea was made everyday and given free to pregnant women and nursing mothers of the village.

At Christmas a ball was held at the house for the servants, trades people, farm hands and the family to unite in celebration. The Keswick family were fortunate not to have to participate in household chores due to the numerous staff employed in the house.  In1901 there were 17 servants which included a cook, kitchen maids, housemaids, buttons and a butler.  A coachman looked after the carriages and horses.  Keswick himself often walked to and from Clandon as he would never take the horses out on a Sunday.
In 1910 when Miss Keswick was living in Eastwick Park House electricity was installed. She was fascinated and thrilled by this new development!

Eastwick Park House was an imposing property set in magnificent grounds. Now all that is left is a vast housing estate occupying the old grounds.

Martin Warwick

Slyfield House

slyfieldsouthThe northern-most region of Great Bookham is bounded by the River Mole and just inside this boundary is the Manor House of Slyfield. It is one of the most historic houses of Bookham going back to the early days of the fourteenth century and is one of the three great manor houses of Bookham. It would be easy to think of it as part of Stoke d’Abernon whose post code it now shares but its position is very much in the parish of Great Bookham.

The present house was rebuilt in the Jacobean period in 1615 in the reign of James I and just after the reign of Elizabeth I. The history of Slyfield goes back even further, probably fourteenth century. Edmund Slyfield of the sixteenth century was Sheriff of Surrey in charge of maintaining the law in the region. It was in 1614 that the Manor was sold by the Slyfield family and came into the possession of George Shiers, the apothecary to James I, dispensing the medicines of the day. It was under his ownership that the Manor house was rebuilt and exists to this day, some 400 years later. The memory of the Slyfields is preserved in the fifteenth century Slyfield Chapel of St Nicolas church where members of the family lie buried.

slyfieldgardenWhat remains is the house itself together with farmhouse and barns. In its original form there was a large Great Hall attached to the side of the house which linked to what is now known as the farmhouse. It is likely that much of this large farmhouse provided the living quarters for the many servants of the house. Nothing remains of the Great Hall.

When entering the house there is no sense of grandeur and size. It is relatively narrow as houses of that date did not have corridors leading to rooms – rooms took up the width of the house and a door from each leads into the next room. The ceilings, though magnificent, are not particularly high.

The overall impression is of being surrounded by oak panelling and magnificent wood beams, all produced with extraordinary skill and carving. There are deep plastered ceilings executed with great craftsmanship and the downstairs main room sports a marvellous ceiling with symbols of ‘plenty’. The arms of the Shiers’ family appear in the ceilings and on the walls.

At the base of the staircase are two magnificent carved gates standing some five foot high. Much of the carving gives the appearance of brickwork. The gates were there to contain the fierce guard dogs allowed to roam downstairs to mind the house. The staircase is beautifully carved in oak.

The bedrooms upstairs are in the same panelled style with plastered ceilings. The ceiling of the main bedroom is arched or vaulted but plastered similarly to the downstairs room. Another bedroom ceiling has a plaster figure symbolising ‘peace’.

slyfieldwindowsSome of the original windows remain with their oak surrounds and sills including the large windows in the hallway and stairs and a small window still in place with wide oak frame and small glass panes. Some have been replaced with larger eighteenth century windows and in some cases original glasswork can still be seen. Most of the original windows would have been relatively small. In places some of the old windows have been bricked up on account of the window tax – a tax introduced at the end of the seventeenth century according to the number of windows in a house. Six windows represented one level, nine another and so on, an early form of council tax.

And of course a house of this age must have its ghosts. A picture of a donkey surrounded by a blue haze hangs downstairs next to the staircase. On November 14th at midnight the blue donkey is supposedly seen leaping over the gateway barring the stairs and vanishing at the top. Sleepless nights could well have been spent awaiting the event but certainly, recently, it has not been seen. It is suggested that a sighting may require a good previous visit to the local alehouse! An even longer visit may produce donkeys of even more extraordinary colours!

And then there is the haunted bedroom. Lying silently in bed the sound of hooves can be heard outside the window. Guests have remarked on hearing the sound of horses in the courtyard only to be told that no such thing occurred. It was in this room in the 1690’s that Sir John Fenwick is said to have taken refuge. He had taken part in a plot against king William III and had hoped to remain hidden in Slyfield as a safe house. He was pursued by the king’s men and found at the house and it is believed that the sound of their horses arriving in the yard still echoes through the house. He was tried for treason at the Tower and beheaded.

The southern aspect overlooks fields and to the side is a formal garden. The peace, tranquillity and grandeur is now unfortunately broken by the sound of the nearby motorway – how unsympathetic to history can planners be? It is sometimes suggested that Queen Elizabeth I visited the manor but this seems unlikely as she is far more likely to have chosen a far larger and grandiose palace such as Hampton Court and of course, it would have not been the house as it is today. Great Bookham is privileged to have such a piece of history in its bounds.

Martin Warwick

A Centenary to Remember

cake keithtalk3judygeorgebird2

Empire day it used to be – but it is now another day to remember as the Old Barn Hall celebrated a hundred years since the hall was given to the community. It was May 24th 1906 when Arthur Bird gave the village hall to Great Bookham after conversion from the old barn that stood in Sole Farm, and it was 2006 when the Old Barn Hall, bedecked with Union Jacks, was filled to capacity with clubs and societies commemorating the day with stalls and exhibits and a display of the history of the Old Barn Hall. Two of Arthur Bird’s descendants (in picture at top) were welcomed to see the appreciation of the village for his gift. Nobody could have foreseen one hundred years ago the development of the village as it is today or the birth of some hundred clubs and societies covering nearly every possible activity. Very few other villages can equal what we have today.

In the evening an invited audience of some 150 filled the hall for drinks and extras to complete the celebrations led by our chairman, Keith Slark, and the cutting of a celebratory cake by the president, Beryl Warne. Entertainment was provided by the Barbershop chorus, the Downsmen, to enthusiastic appreciation by the audience. Their selection of songs by both the chorus and a solo guitar was aided by audience participation in at least one number.

It was altogether a day to remember.

Martin Warwick


crosswordDuring World War II the daily newspapers only consisted of a few pages but they were very popular. They gave the everyday news of what was happening in the fight against Hitler and the Nazis. But there was much more than just news to see – there were crossword puzzles to fill in the hours spent in air raid shelters.

The Daily Telegraph has always been popular for its crossword puzzle. One of the people who contributed crosswords during that time was Leonard S Dawe, the 54 year old headmaster of Strand School which had been evacuated to Bookham at the beginning of the second world war. He was known by the boys as ‘moneybags’ because of his initials, LSD (for those post-decimalisation – pounds shillings and pence).

From early 1943 the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill and American President, Franklin Roosevelt met to plan the invasion of the continent overrun by Germany. It was decided that the sheltered Normandy coastline with its wide sandy beaches presented the best option for the surprise attack that was to be the D-Day landings. The assault was code-named Operation Overlord by Churchill himself. It was in early May 1944 that Eisenhower decided that D-Day would fall on 6th June 1944.

A huge security blanket had been thrown over all aspects of the operation, including the place and exact date of the landings, in order to maximise the element of surprise and to minimise casualties. But whilst some members of MI5, Britain’s counter-espionage service, were whiling away their spare time in the month before the planned invasion by doing the Telegraph crossword, they noticed that vital code-names that had been adopted to hide the mightiest sea-borne assault of all time, appeared in the crossword.

The answer to one clue, ‘One of the USA’, turned out to be ‘Utah’, and another answer was ‘Omaha’. But these were the very names, given by the Allies, to the beaches in Normandy where the American forces were to land on D-Day.

Another answer that appeared in that month’s crosswords was ‘Mulberry’. It was the name of the floating harbour that was to be towed across the channel to accommodate the supply ships of the invasion force. Then again another answer was ‘Neptune’, the code-name for the naval support for the operation. Most astonishing of all was the clue ‘Big-Wig’ to which the answer was ‘Overlord’, the code-name given for the entire operation!

The MI5 sprang into action – surely the crossword was being used to tip-off the Germans? Leonard Dawe was soon pulled in for the most intense questioning. Why, the officers demanded to know, without giving away the exact reason, had he chosen these five words within his crossword solutions?

“Why not?” was Dawe’s indignant reply. He could choose whatever words he wanted.

He obviously eventually convinced them of his innocence and no more came of the matter but you must agree it was an amazing coincidence, not just in the words themselves, but in their timing.

Martin Warwick


Interestly further light was shone on the matter by Roy Pitcher who was at the evacuated Strand Grammar School in the 1940’s. Apparently Dr Dawes, the headmaster, was very soon released after his arrest when the D-Day codewords appeared in the Daily Telegraph crossword.

It is far from obvious that security was tight in those days and it is likely that the codewords were not a very highly controlled secret. As mentioned in an excellent talk to the U3A a few years ago by an ex pupil, Dr Dawes was assisted in compiling the crossword by sixth formers. They were very friendly with the Canadian troops who were in the area (the ones that constructed Young Street) and it is most likely they picked up the codewords from them. Nobody at that time really suspected the headmaster of being a spy.

Strand School was not actually evacuated to Bookham but to Browns Farm in Browns Lane in Effingham also using the barn which has long since been converted. However, most of the boys were probably billeted in Bookham and school dinners were provided in the Old Barn Hall – quite a walk!

Roy Pitcher

Samuel Wilberforce

monumentIf you go for a walk through the woods at Abinger Roughs along one of the many bridleways you will find a monument. It is a memorial to Samuel Wilberforce who at that place was thrown from his horse and killed. You may wonder what caused his horse to rear and to throw him to the ground.

plaquewebWilberforce is a famous name with William famous for his work against slavery, as an MP and for social reform. Samuel, his son, was born in 1805, educated at Oxford and later entered the priesthood to become eventually the Bishop of Oxford and later Lord Bishop of Oxford . He was known as an exceptional speaker in lectures and public debate and a prolific letter writer. He published collections of hymns, sermons and short stories – always with a moral message. In public debate, mainly over conflicts in religious issues he maintained a diplomatic middle approach that earned him the nickname ‘Soapy Sam’.

A famous incident followed the publication by Charles Darwin of ‘The Origin of Species’ and the challenge the church saw it made to the Bible account in the book of Genesis of Creation. At an Oxford conference in 1860 Wilberforce was to speak in a debate with Thomas Huxley, the eminent biologist. It was a crowded meeting and Wilberforce opened the debate and presented his case – ‘The principle of natural selection is absolutely incompatible with the word of God’. In a scoffing tone Samuel assured the audience that there was nothing in the idea of evolution; rock-pigeons were what rock-pigeons had always been.

portraitHe then went on to ask a question that became famous – ‘Was Huxley descended from an ape on his grandfather’s or grandmother’s side of the family?’

Huxley rose to deliver his speech and replied that he was not ashamed of his ancestry, but that he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used great gifts to obscure the truth. Huxley’s suggestion that ‘he would rather have an ape for an ancestor than a bishop’ caused an uproar. People in the audience even fainted and others waved Bibles at the speaker. It was an historic encounter and had the effect of allowing others to challenge accepted religious doctrine.

Samuel Wilberforce was killed by his fall in 1873 and it was reported that Thomas Huxley very unkindly commented that Wilberforce’s brains had at last come into contact with reality, and the result had been fatal.