Esher District Local History Society

Wolsey's Tower
Future Events
Past Events
Local Photos
Newsletter Extracts
Research Projects
How to Join
Meet the Committee
Society Objectives
News Item
Claygate War Memorial
Useful Links

Newsletter Extracts



Autumn 2016

“Basil’s Journey” a short précis of a book by Gillian Neale

In times of “Brexit means Brexit” and that we might be leaving the EU in a few years, serious decisions have to be made about the freedom of movement in Europe.  Let us not forget the sacrifices that were made by men who came to the United Kingdom from far-flung locations of the British Empire to fight for freedom in both World Wars.  There are reports of many discussions still to be held with regard to trade with Canada, New Zealand and Australia to name a few countries.

One young man came from New Zealand to fight in World War II.    

Basil Williams 27th April 1922 – 1st June 2016

Basil was born in Rameura, Auckland, New Zealand in 1922 the youngest of three children.  He left school at 15 and after a short period helping his father on a farm got a job packing margarine.  Later employment found him working as a picture framing apprentice.  Basil wanted to join the Territorials “to fight for King and Country” and did so at 17.  He would pass for overseas service when he turned 21.
He stood in the Guard of Honour at Auckland for the return of HMS Achilles from the Battle of the River Plate in February 1940 and served 14 months part time.  As he wouldn’t be allowed to go overseas until that 21st birthday he left the Territorials and applied to be an air gunner in the Air Force.  He joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force and in November 1941 went to Canada to train to be a navigator.  Ma wasn’t happy as her brother had been killed in the Great War but everyone was going to the big ‘adventure’.  The ship stopped at Honolulu on 16th November 1941 and they visited Pearl Harbour weeks before the Japanese attack.  They arrived at San Francisco on 1st December and by train afterwards reached their destination of Portage la Prairie, west of Winnipeg.  This was No 14 Elementary Flying Training School, part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and they trained on Ansons.  Basil struggled with his exams as a navigator and continued as an air gunner.

Returning to England further training took place at Swansea and then near Cambridge he worked on Wellingtons.  On the 17th September 1942 some crews went to Cologne as part of 1,000 planes on a bomber raid.  One crew were looking for a rear gunner, but Basil wasn’t chosen, the crew didn’t come back and it was a lucky escape.  He was then stationed at Marston Moor and changed aircraft to a Halifax which increased crew from 5 to 7.  They were transferred to 51 Squadron at York which acted as a night bomber squadron.  Their first trip was to Duisburg and as rear gunner facing backwards, Basil realised that his position was the main defence as German night-fighters attacked from the rear.  They were hit by flak and the plane was out of action for a couple of weeks.

Their second trip was to Essen and this was also the destination on his third trip, the night of 3rd April 1943 in T for Tommy, a Halifax bomber, DT 666.  They were carrying a load of 3,600 lbs. of explosives and there were 348 aircraft in the operation.  In the early hours of 4th April they were coming back in to land at Snaith when something went wrong.  They overshot the runway, clipped the top of an oak tree and crashed on farmland.  The pilot, wireless operator and mid-upper gunner were all killed.  The turret had come away from the plane and this had saved Basil’s life.  He was taken to York Military Hospital and after checks his injuries amounted to bad bruising.  He was back in a Halifax again before the end of the month, 27th April 1943, his 21st birthday.

On survivor’s leave he had applied for a transfer and went to 431 Squadron, a Canadian Squadron at Burn, North Yorkshire.  The Squadron flew Wellingtons and had a crew of five.  During a raid he felt they were just like a tip truck.  Basil’s last op, his 17th was on 22nd September 1943.  The target was Hanover and they got off in G for George (Wellington XLN547 QO-G).  After dropping the bombs and probably hit by flak they were running out of petrol and headed for the North Sea hoping to be picked up by air-sea rescue.  That was preferable to bailing out over enemy occupied territory.  They passed the coast of Holland and made a magnificent landing in the pitch black of the North Sea.  All five managed to get into a dinghy.  They were reported missing and it was 4 days before they were rescued by a German boat and ended up in Stalag Luft VI, Lithuania.  As the Russians advanced over 700 airmen were evacuated to Stalag Luft IV in Poland.  On 6th February 1945 Stalag Luft IV was left and a week’s march known as The Death March turned out to last 86 days.  They arrived south west of Hamburg and on 1st May 1945 the 6th Airborne Division of the British Army arrived.  The civilian Germans were pleased that it wasn’t the Russians.

Back in England Basil visited his Aunty Lillian in Esher who proudly sewed on a Warrant Officer’s badge on his Moss Bros. second hand uniform.  He heard from her that his sister had married.  He returned to New Zealand in October 1945.  He had first met his future wife, Irene in York in 1943.  He had kept in touch and in July 1950 she travelled to New Zealand.  They married next month and had two lovely daughters.

Basil’s Journey was written by daughter, Gillian, and Alison his eldest wrote the foreword.  In 1971 my wife Maureen worked at a stockbroker in London and Alison arrived to work in a different department.  A wonderful friendship began and has endured to this day.  Maureen visited Auckland in 1987 and met Basil, Irene and their family.  It is an important memory and link to this amazing story.
On 27th October 2015 Basil was one of a small number of New Zealand veterans, who received the French Legion d’Honneur medal for past services in World War II.  The ceremony took place in Auckland aboard a French warship, the frigate Prairial.  On 1st June 2016 I visited Brooklands Museum and saw again their Wellington bomber identical to one that Basil had flown in many times.  It is such a memorable sight with the turret standing alone at the back, manned by the rear gunner who is defending the aeroplane from attack, everyone on board a hero.

vickers wellington long-range twin-engined bomber

In 1938 Strathmore Cigarettes issued a set of 25 cards of British Aircraft.  No 24 was the Vickers Wellington Long-Range Twin-Engined Bomber.  The back of the card reads “In some respects the Vickers Wellington is a twin-engined version of the Wellesley, for the same geodetic method of construction is employed in both the wings and the fuselage.  (This method results in an extraordinary light air frame which in turn enables the machine to carry more load in the form of fuel or armament).  The Wellington is equipped with two Bristol Pegasus nine-cylinder radial air-cooled supercharged engines each of which develops 915 h.p. at 6,250 ft.  For protective purposes as a bomber, it is equipped with a gun turret in the nose of the fuselage and one in the tail.  All bombs are carried internally”. P.L. 

Autumn 2016   

Royal Elmbridge and Queen Victoria

The current BBC programme “Victoria” which is running for 8 episodes and looks at her early life caused me to read again the book by E. Royston Pike “Royal Elmbridge” which was published in 1977 by the EDLHS.

There in the text on page 24 was the name of one of the main characters of the early episodes, Lord Melbourne.

Dear Claremont!  So Queen Victoria was wont to call it, and she seems always to have looked back on her days with a kind of nostalgic delight.  In the early years of their marriage she and her husband Prince Albert made a point of celebrating her birthday there, and at all times of the year they often drove over from London or Windsor to enjoy (as one of the Queen’s biographers puts it) “such short intervals of quiet and refreshment as they could snatch from the fatigue and excitement of London life”.

…  In September 1841 Claremont was the scene of the meeting of the Privy Council at which Ministers of Lord Melbourne’s outgoing Cabinet returned their seals of office, and those in the succeeding ministry of Sir Robert Peel were handed them in turn.  Charles Greville as Clerk of the Council was of course present, and in his Diary we may read how the young Queen (she was only 22) conducted herself on this day of “severe trial” when Lord Melbourne, who had been Prime Minister since before her accession and for whom she had become to feel a regard as a sort of “Father figure”, was called upon to make way for Sir Robert Peel, a comparative stranger and a Conservative to boot.  She sent for Greville beforehand, so that he might explain the customary procedure. He found her in a room with Prince Albert, sitting at a table covered with bags and boxes containing the seals.  She looked very flushed (Greville reports) and her heart was evidently brim full, but through the whole of the proceedings she preserved complete self-possession, composure, and dignity.

For the first ten years of her reign Queen Victoria made good use of the house that her uncle had placed at her disposal….

BLAST FROM THE PAST – November 1980

This article was chosen to appear again in the Spring 2014 newsletter

Esher in Books – 4 by Derek Brown

Mrs Vera Ryder, whose death and memorial service was recently reported in “The Times” wrote in her autobiography, “The Little Victims Play” (Hale, 1974, £2.50) of a formidable Esher figure in her youth, Mrs Despard, the suffragette, mentioned in awe as Vera and the other children were driven past her house, “Courtlands”, along the Portsmouth Road.

Mrs Despard was a name to conjure with in those days, a wealthy widow of Irish antecedents, who not only passionately identified herself with the poor but had a capacity for ruthless action to force complacent authorities to do their duty by them.  Now she has had a new biography devoted to her long life of achievement – “An Un-husbanded Life, Charlotte Despard: Suffragette, Socialist and Sinn Feiner”, by Andro Linklater, son of Eric, the Scots novelist, published by Hutchinson at £8.95.

She had come, a childless wife of 35, with her husband, Max, who made his fortune in business in Hong Kong, to “Courtlands” in 1879.  The house then had 15 acres of land sloping down towards the distant Mole from Esher’s ridge.  There was a large ornate formal garden and a wilderness with a small stream, where she loved to be solitary or think out the plots of the novels she wrote at this period in her life.  Lacking children of her own, she “took all children for her own” in Mr Linklater’s striking phrase and “Courtlands” was the scene of many parties for them.  Such large scale organisation and tremendous provision of food and drink earned her the family nickname of “the Quartermaster General” probably given by her brother, John French, later to be Britain’s Commander-in-Chief in 1914-1915.

The late Gerald French, her nephew, corresponded with me towards the end of his own life and described an occasion when a great group of poor people from Battersea were invited for the day.  Colonel French, as he was, living at the house still standing on the corner of New Road and Portsmouth Road, and his sons helped Mrs Despard, keeping her guests entertained.  The excursionists brought their own barrel organ and hauled it up from Esher Station through the village, playing loudly all the way.

Her husband died in 1890 and she threw herself into work for the poor, mainly in Nine Elms, Battersea, at the suggestion of another Esher widow, the Duchess of Albany.  Thereafter, her life was devoted to causes and was increasingly led among the poor whether in south London, Dublin or Belfast.  She kept “Courtlands” for some years allowing her brother’s family to occupy it or inviting her suffragette and socialist friends to rest there.  Margaret Bondfield the first woman Cabinet Minister, recalled her in 1898, weeding in her garden at sunrise, “like a saint at prayer”.  Converted to a highly orthodox Catholicism, strongly opposed to the Boer War in which her brother made his great reputation as a soldier, involved in suffragette demonstrations, several times imprisoned and finally embracing both Irish Nationalism and Communism, Charlotte Despard shocked conventional Tory Esher.  No wonder that she was a bogeywoman figure to little Vera Ryder’s nurses and governesses and their charges. 

She did not die until 95 years of age, bankrupt and in comparative poverty herself, all her money given away, at a bungalow on the shore of Belfast Lough.  Right to the end, her life was lived to the full.

Spring 2014 Editor’s note:  Charlotte Despard has two streets named after her in London.  One at Charlotte Despard Avenue, Battersea Park, SW11 and the other is Despard Road, Archway, London N19.  On the corner of the Archway Road where the roads meet is a Public House which in recent years has been renamed “The Charlotte Despard.”  A terraced house in Despard Road N19 sold for £835,000 in 2011 and  terraced houses are now valued at just under £1 million.

Charlotte’s younger brother John French was knighted and became a Field Marshal.  As described in the article he was the Commander-in-Chief in the early years of World War I.  His image was to appear on many postcards in that early war period.  He died in 1925.


Autumn 2012

Letter to the Editor: One of our members, Stephen Chater, saw the article in the previous edition of the News-sheet regarding the church and manor of Stoke D’Abernon and kindly supplied this information.

Stoke D’Abernon – St Mary’s Church and Manor by Stephen Chater

An article in the Spring 2012 edition of EDLHS Local History News referred to a booklet entitled “Stoke D’Abernon, its Church and Manor” published in 1892. The story of the historic buildings at Stoke D’Abernon can now be brought up to date, with the production of new guidebooks which take account of the most recent historical research.

The history of the manor and the church are intimately related as the church was originally built as an ecclesia propria, under the jurisdiction of the local lord, rather than the clergy. A useful guidebook written by Chris Hodgson of Parkside School (which now occupies the manor house) was produced in 2008 under the title “A History of The Manor, Stoke D’Abernon”. This tells the story of the site from pre-Roman times, but the documentary evidence only starts to become significant with the arrival of the D’Abernon family after the Norman Conquest. Although they also held manors in Molesey, Fetcham and Albury (where they embellished the fascinating old Saxon church which is now in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust), it was at Stoke that the D’Abernon family lived, hence the attaching of their name to the place name. Those interested in taking a look at this publication can find a copy readily available on the Internet.

St Mary’s Church itself is of particular interest, dating from the 7th century and being, therefore, the oldest church in Surrey. It was awarded 3 stars in “England’s Thousand Best Churches” by Simon Jenkins, the highest rating for any church in Surrey. Various guidebooks have been produced since the 1892 publication, some dealing with specific aspects, such as the stained glass windows and the sundial. In January 2012, a new composite guidebook was published, containing colour photographs for the first time. This records the latest thinking about, for example, the famous brasses in the chancel of the church. The older brass commemorating Sir John D’Abernon had been thought to be the oldest surviving monumental brass in England, dating from about 1277. Recent research has indicated that the brass commemorates Sir John D’Abernon II who died in 1327, rather than his father, so that it is around 50 years later than previously thought. The other monumental brass alongside in the chancel is now thought to be a memorial to Sir John D’Abernon III, the grandson of the first Sir John. They continue, however, to be widely regarded as the finest surviving military brasses in England.

The church is open to visitors between 2pm and 4pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from the beginning of March to the end of October. The church has a website where further information can be found.

The new guidebook is available at a price of £3.  As an initial promotion for its first season, each purchaser of a copy of the guidebook will be offered a free CD of Baroque organ music played on the church’s renowned Frobenius organ. Copies are available at the church during visiting hours.

Editor’s note: Sincere thanks to Stephen for this article.  It is hoped that a Society visit will be made to the church in 2013.


Spring 2012

The History of Esher Station by Christopher Reynolds

Esher Station opened on 21st May 1838 as part of the London and Southampton Railway which provided services between Nine Elms and Woking Common. 1Trains stopped at Wandsworth, Wimbledon, Kingston (later Surbiton), Walton and Weybridge and could reach Nine Elms from Woking in fifty seven minutes and from Esher in thirty.  2By 11th May 1840 this railway had been extended to Southampton and the company was known as the London and South Western Railway (LSWR).

The railway was first conceived as a way to make Southampton Docks more suitable for trade by providing a direct, safer route to London which avoided the French raiding ships that caused concern during the Napoleonic Wars.  Stations were constructed as areas for unloading goods which would be distributed to the local area, with regard to Esher’s this was for Hampton, Hampton Court, East and West Molesey, Thames Ditton and Long Ditton. As passenger numbers increased, the LSWR became more accustomed to their needs and built an extension to Vauxhall and Waterloo Bridge in 1848, thus easing travel into the centre of London.

Originally named Ditton Marsh, Esher station went through name changes becoming Esher & Hampton Court in 1840, Esher & Claremont in 1844, Esher in 1913, Esher for Sandown Park in 1934 and again Esher on 13th June 1955.  3The station was expanded by 1st April 1888 to include four tracks and royal waiting rooms on the local line platforms for Queen Victoria’s daughter-in-law who lived at Claremont.  From 4th July 1937 electric services ran towards Portsmouth, Alton, Aldershot, Farnham and Waterloo increasing speeds between stations.

Esher was also equipped with its own special platforms for the race days at Sandown Park.  The Park, which was the first enclosed racecourse in Britain, opened in 1875 and caused a considerable increase in passenger numbers on race days.  Two platforms were built West of the up platform (the side towards Waterloo) allowing space for the three trains. Simultaneously sidings were also built to the West to help store these trains which awaited the return of their passengers.  Engines often blocked the local line between Walton and Esher during the race days until 1936 and a second signal box known as ‘Esher East’ had to be installed to deal with the extra traffic.  The subway under the embankment towards the Western end of platforms One and Two was financed by the Racing Club as a quicker way to get to the racecourse from the station.  These platforms were no longer used from 1965 and were demolished in 1972.4

The station’s ticket office was situated underneath the down platform with a set of stairs that led up to the platform and another passageway that led to a forecourt used as a taxi rank and car park.  On the opposite side of the embankment another set of stairs led up towards the London bound platform. The freight yard, which was originally situated in the present day car park, was closed in December 1962 whilst the buildings on the disused middle platforms were taken down in 1966.  The station was rebuilt in between 1987 and 1988 with the erection of a new timber footbridge and the present day station building.  The old station buildings, including the royal waiting rooms, were demolished to make way for the new structure as well as easy access to the car park and waiting area.

1 Rupert Matthews, How the Steam Railways came to Surrey, (Epsom, Bretwalda Books, 2010), pp. 24-27.

2 Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith, Waterloo to Woking: Southern Main Lines, (Middleton Press, Midhurst, 1986), p.4.

Railway Times 1838 (from Elmbridge Library).

3 Alan Jackson, The Railway in Surrey, (Atlantic Transport Publishers, Penryn, 1999), p.224.

4 Jackson, The Railway in Surrey, p.178.

5 Matthews, How the Steam Railways came to Surrey, p.48.

Editor’s note:  Many thanks to Christopher who is a new member for writing this excellent article.


September 1974 by Dr Denys Poole. This article appeared as a 'Blast from the Past' in the Spring 2012 newsletter

In and Around the Weston Greens

In view of the great interest shown in the Walk round Weston Green organised and led by Mr. F.E. Manning on July 7th, some further notes on the topography of the district may be helpful.  To follow my description a good map will be found useful.  I recommend O.S. 2.5 inches to mile - sheet TQ 16.  On this map it is quite easy to locate the original village and the present-day parish.  There are actually two “Greens” (1) the Green between the row of cottages and shops and the Hampton Court Way and (2) Harrow Green on either side of Weston Green Road.  There is also an extensive Common – Ditton Common part of which is sometimes referred to as Ditton Marsh.  Part of Littleworth Common is also in the parish.  In the middle of the last century the village was a cluster of cottages facing the Green (No 1 above), three Inns, Ye Old Harrow and the Lamb and Star and a little later the

Alma Arms and a few large houses such as Weston House, Weston Grange, Newlands, The Elms and the Old Red House.  
The whole area was originally very marshy until controlled by ditches and drains.  Many “Drains” are marked on Ordnance Maps.  There is still abundant evidence of these ditches and drains on the commons.  In 1843 there were 16 ponds in Weston Green – now only two or three.  The chief industry was farming – Manor Farm, Home Farm and Pound Farm.  The village supported most of the usual craftsmen and tradesmen.  In Edwardian times considerable development took place chiefly in and around the Ember Lane – the old road from Molesey to Claygate and Esher.  There are many pleasant Edwardian houses in Ember Lane, Imber Park Road and Elmtree Avenue, and at the corner of Ember Lane and Imber Park Road is an Edward VII letter box.

Between the wars there was further development particularly of the Pound Farm Estate (Grove Way and The Drive, etc.) and in 1932 the village was split in two by the construction of the Hampton Court Way.  The old road from Claygate came across the Portsmouth Road under the railway and was known as Arch Cottage Road (1895  The road continued along the Green and crossed Weston Green Road to end at a T junction outside the old Lamb and Star – Alma Road to left and a link toWeston Green Road to right as at present.  Weston Green as a peaceful little village ceased to exist. It is significant that the first Weston Green Church was built in the centre of the old village in 1901.  The new Church was built on a very beautiful site adjoining the old village but much nearer the new development area.

Again referring to the map you may trace the boundary of the present parish which has been carved out of the old parish of Thames Ditton which was originally very large, extending from the Thames to Prince’s Coverts, Oxshott.  Starting at Thames Ditton Station, follow along the Embercourt Road to the Police H.Q. at Imber Court, across the sports ground, round the end of Pound Farm and Grove estates to Lower Green Road, across the race-course and the Portsmouth Road to Littleworth Common Road, over the common to the Kingston By-Pass and on to the Portsmouth Road, taking in Couchmore Avenue, and finally along the railway back to Thames Ditton Station.


Winter 2011

Molesey Bronze Age Shield by Paul Gossage and Steven Baker
Rare Bronze Age shield from the Thames near Hampton Court ‘comes home’

A three thousand year old shield, first found in 1864 on the bed of the River Thames but which became lost after some years, has just been rediscovered.  The circular bronze shield was 64 cm in diameter. Its centre featured a dome shaped ‘boss’, to allow space for the warrior’s hand,  around which were eleven circular rings of ornate punched dimples.  It was a superb example of the height of expertise in Bronze Age craftsmanship in Britain.
It had last been known of in the ownership of a local resident, Mr. James Milner of Palace Road, Molesey.  He had kept it safely until at the very least 1868, but more likely until 1882, and during those years he proudly displayed it at prestigious national locations.  However, after it left Molesey it became untraceable.  The shield was to all intents and purposes lost, despite efforts by various organizations and specialists to find it.
Seven years ago, two Molesey historians, Paul Gossage and Steven Baker, resolved to track it down.  At that stage, the little they knew about it was from the ‘Book of Molesey’ (by the late Rowland Baker who was Steven’s father) in which there is an illustration and some text saying that the shield was found in the river at Molesey.  Intrigued as to its whereabouts they made enquiries with the authorities which showed only two known documentary references to it.  The first was a feature article in a prestigious antiquarian magazine of the era, and the second was when it was displayed at the London premises of the eminent Society of Antiquaries in 1867.
So they embarked on a fresh search which included researching the entire family tree of the Milners who lived in Molesey until 1910, obtaining wills of the Milners, internet links across the world with relatives of the Milners, searching old newspaper records and contacting owners of obscure private collections of antiquarians who had connections with the shield.  Two years ago the British Museum put Paul and Steven in contact with Bronze Age archaeologist Marion Uckelmann.  She had just finished a five year doctorate on all the European Bronze Age shields and is probably the leading expert in this speciality.  She had been aware of the shield’s existence from the documentary evidence already known, and was also intrigued as to its whereabouts or whether or not it was still anywhere to be found.

Steven then unearthed a previously unknown record of the shield being displayed in 1868 at the Leeds National Exhibition of Works of Art.  This later led to the discovery (by researcher Janice Phelps) of documentary proof of the shield returning back home to Molesey.  But there the search came to another standstill for a year.  Then Paul and Steven decided to ask Surrey Archaeological Society to do an in depth search of their extensive archives.  Their librarian, Hannah Jeffery, combed through all their records and pieced together three clues in an obscure document.  Hannah realized that she had discovered a similar sounding shield found near to where the missing shield had been found (this is described in the earliest documentary records as “between Hampton and Walton”).  This shield had then gone on to a private collection in Dorset belonging to a man called Pitt Rivers.  Hannah’s vital information was passed on to Marion and it all “clicked”.  With her extensive knowledge of all the European Bronze age shields, Marion realized that the missing shield is one which is now currently in the Hunt Museum in Ireland.  That shield had been bought from the Pitt Rivers private collection in Dorset around 1970 with two other items - items which had provenances linking them to separate places in north-east Ireland.  Simply because the shield had been bought with these two other items, it had been assumed it came from the same area – and had been labelled the ‘Antrim Shield’, mistakenly. So at last, the mystery was unravelled and the shield had been found.
Paul Gossage says: “The shield was found two miles up the river from Molesey.  It was proudly displayed nationally by a Molesey man who understood its importance and kept it safe for many years.  But when it left Molesey its provenance became lost for over a hundred years.  It was finally rediscovered by two people from Molesey who were crucial links in a chain of just four people.  So that its true provenance is recognized, I think we should now do it justice and call it the ‘Molesey Shield’.”

This rare and unique shield was created from a single block of bronze, forged in a fire at temperatures of 600 degrees Centigrade and then beaten ever thinner in gradual stages.  It has been estimated that this process of ‘heating and beating’ had to be repeated at least 200 times in order to create the shield.  It would have been physically demanding, but it was also painstaking and delicate craftsmanship.  Such expertise was amongst the heights of the technology of the day.  The creation of such an exceptional artifact shows that there would have been quite a sizeable community of people in the tribe who made it over 3,000 years ago.
From the wide range of accumulated knowledge available today, the experts believe that the shield was created for a variety of purposes.  Firstly as a precious, beautiful and charismatic artifact in its own right.  It would have been carried as a symbol of power, prestige and status by a leader of the community.  It is also likely to have been used on various ceremonial occasions.  Additionally, its robust design means that it was intended for battle and probably to be used only by a warrior leader.  Indeed it has some damage, which may possibly have been inflicted in combat.  However, the experts believe that the final purpose of the shield was fulfilled when it was deliberately and ceremonially laid to rest in the river as a votive offering to the gods, never to be seen by the tribe again.

Paul says: “It’s been a long journey for Steven and me, but worth it to metaphorically ‘bring home’ our lost shield.  Its physical home is definitely in Ireland, where it is magnificently displayed in pride of place in the Hunt Museum.  But its spiritual home is in Molesey, as the ‘Molesey Shield’.”

Molesey Shield

Photo courtesy of the Hunt Museum, Limerick


Winter 2011

Claygate Indentures from the Derek Brown collection by Jo Richards

Amongst items coming into possession of the Society were several indentures. Jo Richards has researched two of them and her article follows.

The sales recorded in these deeds are of two small pieces of land (on which cottages were built), previously part of Claygate Common.  Hundreds of plots, or allotments, were created under the Kingston Manor enclosure act, instigated around 1808 and finally enacted in 1832.   In Claygate most of Claygate Common, Claygate Green, Claygate Hurst (where the Church now stands) and a piece of Hare Lane Green were enclosed and divided up.  From these documents we can see the allotments were changing hands from at least 1812 but according to the 1843 Tithe Map there appears to have been no building on any of the newly enclosed land until the 1840s.

George Feachen, carpenter, had bought one of these plots in 1818 but did not build on it until shortly before 1847.  He built 8 cottages or tenements on the 2 roods and 26 perches (about 2/3rds of an acre) which can be identified as number 1007 on the Tithe Map.  This is on the east side of Coverts Road opposite Vale Road where the present houses are numbered 27, 29 and 31.

The indenture dated 20th February 1847 relates to a sale by public auction at the Bear Inn in Esher in the previous month of one of these cottages to Jasper Still for £76.  It had a yard, garden, outbuildings, appurtenances, and a well of water which was shared with other owners and occupiers and maintained at their joint expense.  It was occupied by Widow Smith.  In a further indenture of 1854 Jasper Still, describing himself as a Whitesmith, sells the same for £80 to John Tilly of Esher, leather seller.

The second plot in the indentures is across the road, still on former Claygate Common, amounting to 1 rood and 24 perches (a little over a quarter acre) and number 1011 on the Tithe Map.  George Feachen had built four cottages or tenements here at about the same time and they are still standing: numbers 44, 46, 48 and 50 Coverts Road.  The 13th March 1847 sale to Sarah Batchelor of Esher was of all four cottages with their yards, gardens and buildings, all occupied with names given.  The sale included two cottages across the road in the first plot and the sum changing hands was £420.

George Feachen was no humble carpenter, in fact he seems to be providing a good deal of the 'social' housing of the time.  The Esher Tithe Map of 1846 records him as landlord of no fewer than 14 tenements, four cottages and three houses at Hare Lane.  Hare Lane then was the now Arbrook Lane and Littleworth Road whilst today's Hare Lane was known as Claygate Lane.*  Occupation here was very dense; the census shows the population of Hare Lane, Esher (west side of Arbrook Lane) rising from 103 in 1841 to 182 in 1851.

The censuses, in Esher Library, give a fascinating account of family make-up, occupations and origins of these inhabitants.

* Statement of Boundaries of Kingston Borough - Claygate - dated 1835 at Surrey History Centre item ref: 2568/3/2

Claygate Coverts Road

44,46, 48 and 50 Coverts Road appear on a postcard which though unused is probably late Edwardian. The four cottages are to the left of centre with the lower roof line.

Claygate Coverts Road 13/04/1908

Another postcard of Coverts Road, Claygate with the cottages on the extreme right. Posted 13/04/1908 to Mrs Callingham, 1 Park View, Thames Ditton, Surrey with no message.


September 1972

Princess Charlotte - Some Commemorative Medals by Ann E. Thompson

Ann did several articles for the newsletter when also performing the role of Honorary Secretary, and this one has been chosen as a tribute to her efforts for the Society.


The purpose of these notes is to correlate the various medals struck to commemorate Princess Charlotte, and to recall some of her own thoughts surrounding these events. The details regarding the medals have been extracted from sale catalogues issued by two of the leading numismatic dealers.

(a) PRINCESS CHARLOTTE - Laudatory medal. AE 2", 1814.

(b) BETROTHAL OF PRINCESS CHARLOTTE, 1814. AE 54mm. by Webb. Ob.: CAROLETTA AVGVSTA, bare head (facing) right. Reverse: Hope standing left.

(c) BETROTHAL OF PRINCESS CHARLOTTE, 1814. White metal, 54mm. by Webb. Ob.: bare head of the Princess (facing right). Reverse Fortuna standing (facing left).

In a letter addressed to the Prince Regent, from Warwick House, dated 15th April, 1814, Princess Charlotte wrote to her father, saying that "... I cannot longer defer writing to you on a subject most important to myself, and on which I can only look to you for support, assistance and comfort. I hear from the H(ereditary) P. of O(range) that our marriage contract has been sent for his inspection, and that the terms are most liberal...." "....When the marriage was proposed, I had not the slightest suspicion that my residence was not to be in England. I feel a decided repugnance to a removal from this country, and had I entertained any doubts on the subject, my consent would never have been given to the marriage."

Although Princess Charlotte twice wrote to the Prince of Orange expressing her fervent desire and need - the interests of her mother came into the picture - to reside in England, he felt he could not concede to her wishes, as he in turn found it necessary to remain in Holland, and consequently her final word on the matter, in a letter dated 16th June 1814, was "... I must consider our engagement from this moment to be totally and for ever at an end. I leave the explanation of this affair to be made by you to the Prince, in whatever manner is most agreeable to you ...." Although the Hereditary Prince of Orange acquainted his own family of this decision, he did not agree to inform the Prince Regent, and consequently the Princess felt it her duty to notify her father without further delay.

Many of the letters to survive were addressed to a Miss Mercer Elphinstone, who became a close friend and confidant of the Princess, from the time she was about 11 years of age.

About six months after the terminatioin of the engagement between the Prince of Orange and Princess Charlotte, she wrote Mercer Elphinstone, on 23rd January 1815, saying that ".... I have perfectly decided & made up my own mind to marry, and the person I have as decidedly fixed on is Prince Leopold .... I do it all with my eyes open, & being told & being fully aware that this engagement will be much more binding than the other, for I cannot break it off, & I may therefore as well at once regard myself as married.....& after all if I end by marrying Prince L. I marry the best of all those I have seen, & that is some satisfaction.

(d) MARRIAGE OF PRINCESS CHARLOTTE, 1816. White metal, 54mm., by Halliday. Ob.: Conjoined draped bust of Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Charlotte, (facing right). Reverse: winged figure standing, holding wreath and torch.

Again writing to Mercer Elphinstone, this time from Oatlands, on 4th May, 1816, the Princess tells her closest friend "....about Leo. He is very amiable & very affte & kind to me, the perfection of a lover (wh. I still view him as) & a very agreeable & comfortable companion. I cannot say I feel much at my ease or quite comfortable yet in his society, but it will wear away I dare say, this sort of awkwardness ... if you should still soon marry, I wish you may have as amiable a person to deal with as I have ..."

(e) DEATH OF PRINCESS CHARLOTTE THE HEIRESS TO THE THRONE , 1817. AR. 50mm., by Mudie and Mills. Ob.: Her bust facing. Reverse: Brittania mourning.

(f) DEATH OF CHARLOTTE, 1817. AE 2 1/8", by T. Webb.

(g) DEATH OF CHARLOTTE, 1817. AR 2", by Webb.

(h) DEATH OF PRINCESS CHARLOTTE, 1817. AE 39mm., by Halliday. Ob.: Bust of Princess Charlotte, facing right. Reverse: Willow tree draped over a funerary urn on plinth. GREAT BRITAIN MOURNS! HER PRINCES WEEP.

(i) DEATH OF PRINCESS CHARLOTTE, 1817. AR. 50mm., by Webb and Mills. Draped bust of Charlotte wearing chaplet of roses, three quarter facing. Reverse: Brittania standing left, mourning before a funerary urn. In ex. WEEP BRITAIN THOU HAS LOST / THE EXPECTANCY AND ROSE / OF THE FAIR STATE.

Among the nine medals commemorating Princess Charlotte are examples of work created by some of Britain's leading engravers and medallists, who were active during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. George Mills (1792-1824), was described by his first patron, Benjamin West, P.R.A., as the first medallist in England. Medals by Mills were usually signed Mills, or G. Mills. He died in Birmingham on 20th January, 1824, at the early age of 31. James Mudie, on the other hand, started his adult life as a second Lieutenant in the Royal Marines in 1799, and, probably inspired by his military service, created medals portraying principal persons engaged in the Peninsular and Waterloo Campaigns. He is probably best known for his Series of 40 National Medals, which were engraved by George Mills. An almost complete set (39 out of the 40) were sold at Christie's on 15th June, 1971, Lot 27. Thomas Webb worked in Birmingham from 1800 to 1830. He engraved struck medals with the effigies of people, or scenes commemorating contemporary events.

Notes and references are listed on Page 119 of the Newsletter.

Numismatic abbreviations used: AR = silver; AE = copper or bronze; Ob: = Obverse; ex = exergue.

In her letters Princess Charlotte frequently used abbreviations and underlined words.


October 1971

When 'Telegraph' was more than a Name by E. Royston Pike

One of the most prominent of local landmarks is the sturdy white tower on the hill at Hinchley Wood. Semaphore House it is called, and the lane leading up to it is Telegraph Lane. As for the hill itself, although this appears on the Ordnance map as Cooper's Hill, in common speech it is Telegraph Hill. Which is as it should be, for whereas the original Mr. Cooper has left only his name behind, the tower is a very solid piece of local, even national, history.

Shortly put, it is one of a chain of telegraph stations built soon after the close of the Napoleonic wars, that extended from London to Portsmouth. The method of operation was by semaphores, after the design of Sir Home Popham (1762-1820), a rear-admiral who saw much active service in the wars with the American colonists and the France of the Republic and Napoleon. The machine consisted of a hollow mast, 30 feet high, erected on the flat roof. Two arms, 8 ft long and 16 in. wide were pivoted to the mast, into which they could be folded back when not in use. Each arm had six positions, and it was possible to spell out 48 movements (letters, numbers, etc.). The whole contrivance was pivoted, so that it could be turned all round the horizon. A really good operator was said to be able to send messages at the rate of two or three words a minute to the next station in the chain.

Starting at the Admiralty in Whitehall, where the semaphore was placed on the roof above the pediment, the chain of stations ran as follows: Duke of York's School, Chelsea; Putney heath, where there is still a Telegraph Inn; Combe Warren, Kingston Hill; Telegraph Hill, at Hinchley Wood; Chatley Heath, also in the Esher district, between Cobham and Ripley; Pewley Hill, Guildford, where the station is incorporated in a dwelling; Bannicle hill, Godalming; Haste-hill, Haslemere; Holder-hill, Midhurst; Beacon-hill, Harting; Compton Down, Petersfield; Portsdown hill, Bedhampton; Lumps Fort, Southsea; and High Street, Portsmouth.

Each station was manned by a Royal Navy lieutenant and two or three A.Bs., one at least of whom was required to be a 'good glass man' since the stations were about eight miles apart. On the average the weather conditions allowed sufficient visibility fior signals to be made on about two hundred days in the year.

As regards the two stations in our district, the one at Hinchley Wood is in the ownership of Esher Council and kept in good repair; but the one at Chatley - much bigger than its Hinchley Wood fellow, six storeys to the other's three, and with some of its original machinery still in place - is in a sad state of disrepair, reflecting small credit on its custodians, the Surrey County Council.

The stations were built between 1818 and 1829, and remained in use until December 31,1847, when the electric telegraph took over.


October 1971

Visit to Claremont by Richard Haynes

By kind permission of the headmistress of the school, some fifty members of the Society, under the leadership of the Chairman, spent a most enjoyable afternoon at Claremont on September 5th.

The party heard two talks, the first from Miss P.M. Cooper, the author of "The Story of Claremont", who gave a fascinating account of the events which had taken place since the original house was put up by Sir JohnVanbrugh in 1708. This was demolished by Lord Clive, who commissioned "Capability" Brown to build him a new house, larger and finer and in a situatiion commanding a view of the surrounding country. There is some doubt as to whether Clive ever lived in the house, as he died soon after its completion, but Miss Cooper has recently discovered evidence that suggests he may have done so. Bills have come to light for the supply of asses milk for his daughters, delivered to the estate. Incredibly enough, the cost of erecting this beautiful building amounted, in 1768, to only £15,584, although the eventual figure, including the landscaping and decoration, rose to about £100,000.

The second talk, by Mr. Lindus Forge, A.R.I.B.A., was concerned with the architecture of Claremont. He spoke of the contrast of styles between the Vanbrugh building and the one we see today. He mentioned the strange link, several times repeated, between Claremont and Oatlands at Weybridge, and pointed out that the Palladian character of the present building called for the use of white brick, modelled on the Romans, who were hardly ever known to use a red colour.

Afterwards, members were taken on guided tours of the house and gardens, seeing the room where Princess Charlotte so tragically died, and the apartments used by Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort and by the French Royal Family during their period of exile between 1848-1866, and the sunken marble bath which has apparently no means of being either filled or emptied. One of the most impressive rooms is the Great Hall. Here the original ceiling and wall decoration are to be seen.

The afternoon ended with a walk in the grounds to see the Belvedere, the Stables and Coach House, all in the warm September sunshine. The Society's President, thanking the two speakers, said that this had proved one of the most interesting and rewarding visits the Society had arranged, and would be remembered with pleasure by everyone for a long time to come.


R C Sherriff and Journey's End by Robert Gore-Langton (Part I)

Editor's note: The Russian Revolution started in 1917 and removed Russia from World War I. That freed up many troops for Germany who had been fighting on two fronts and now it meant that Germany could send additional men to the Western Front for one final push to win the war. (Charles, son of the Duchess of Albany, had not wanted to fight against the British and had asked to be in post on the Eastern Front). Journey's End is set in a dugout near St. Quentin in March 1918 and the conclusion is towards dawn on Thursday 21st March 1918.

With thanks to Robert Gore-Langton who has given permission for this article of his and any extracts to be published by the Society. It appears in the programme notes of the latest West End performance. The play Journey's End ran for 55 performances and ended on Saturday 3rd September 2011. It is now on an Autumn Tour following the West End season.

Robert Cedric Sherriff was a humble, rather bored young employee of the Sun Insurance. When war broke out he wanted to join up and do his bit, but he was rejected for an officer's commission because he had not been to public school. The wastage of young officers at the front soon lowered the bar. He did his officer training with the Artists Rifles and was commissioned in 1916 as a second Lieutenant into the 9th (Service) Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, whose depot was near his beloved parents' home in Kingston upon Thames.

The 9th - known as the Gallants - had arrived in France in September 1915 as part of the New Army. It was immediately hurled into the inferno of the Battle of Loos. Long lines of novice troops advanced towards the unbroken wire of the Gereman line and and into a hail of fire, with devastating results. By the time Sherriff arrived in France the battalion had been topped up and then massacred again, this time in Delville Wood, a vicious battle in the Somme campaign of 1916. Sherriff was very lucky to have missed both these bloodbaths.

His active service in France lasted ten months, from September 1916 to July 1917 and included a nerve-shredding stint in the Vimy Ridge sector. Although this war experience was by some standards relatively quiet, he went through his share of hell. The front line was for him a place of constant dread. The shelling was a particular torture and he seems to have suffered a major crisis of nerve. He realised early on that in the trenches the concealment of one's fears was the hardest task of all.

Although he loathed the business of war, young Sherriff worshipped the men he served with and took a lifelong pride in his regiment. C company, his unit within the battalion, was the great love affair of his life. He finally got his 'Blighty one' at the opening of the infamous Third Battle of Ypres, known as Passchendaele. He was hit in the face by a shower of concrete fragments when a shell burst on a pillbox nearby. He was sent back to England to recuperate and never returned to France. In 1919 he was demobbed with the rank of captain. (To be continued)

This article will be appearing in the Autumn 2011 newsletter


Our President's Book "A Box of Paints"

Technology moves on apace and self-publishing is now taking huge leaps forward. One example of a quality production using this idea is a book that Christine Whittle-Dall has had published "A Box of Paints." It is a stunning example of what can be achieved and contains many paintings by Christine as well as autobiographical material. Go online and purchase the book for delivery in 5-7 business days. The service is provided by Go to the buy page, enter in the search box "Christine Whittle-Dall" or "Christine Dall" or "A Box of Paints" and you are taken to the book. Add the book to your basket, pay £21 and the book will be yours. No need for long print runs and advice online as to how to publish your own book. Have a go and read about our President!

This article will be appearing in the Autumn Newsletter which will be published on 10th September 2011.


June 1972

"Putting Esher on the Map"

On April 19th the Society's map exhibition, arranged in old St. George's Church, Esher, was formally opened by Dr. D.M.A. Leggett, Vice Chancellor of Surrey University. Continuing until May 6th it attracted some 1,200 visitors and completely justified the Committee's belief that an exhibition of this kind would be of interest to residents and visitors to Esher. The Committee wish to thank everyone who contributed towards the exhibition, and especially the Rector of Esher for allowing the use of old St. George's Church, Mr. Rowland G.M. Baker, who chaired the exhibition sub-committee, and Mr. Derek Brown, the Esher Librarian.

(Please see Past Events and Research Projects for a recent display of maps at St. George's Church)


January 1981

Princess Alice: by Derek Brown

While I doubt if many, or indeed any, members of the Society have set eyes on Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, who died at the beginning of the year, her death ought not to go unremarked by anyone concerned with the history of Esher. Because, of course, she spent her early life at Claremont and, as President of the Kensington and Chelsea Society, revisited her old home as recently as the summer before last.

Something of those days is recalled in her autobiography, "For my Grandchildren", written during her eighties but it is an open secret that the Princess regretted the suburban development at Esher and in particular, the building of the Claremont and Blackhills estates. Like most of us, she loved the woods and fields where she grew up.

In those days, Esher thought of itself as a Royal village, proud of the association with the Duchess of Albany, widow of Prince Leopold, Queen Victoria's youngest son, and her children, Alice and Charles. A few octogenarians may still survive who remember the children's parties and fetes at Claremont with the portly and kindly Duchess presiding. More people will remember Princess Alice as a beautiful young lady, inaugurating a new fire engine on Esher Green or opening the fire station at Thames Ditton. Her wedding, in 1904, to the then Prince Alexander of Teck, Queen Mary's cousin, was agreat occasion for Esher people. After that, she came here less often, leading as she did, a busy official life. Her connection with Esher faded even more after her mother died in 1922 and Claremont was sold up.

There were sad occasions, of course, as when her brother, Charles, at the age of fifteen, was sent to Germany for dynastic reasons. There were joyful occasions as when she brought her children to spend holidays at Claremont. There were spectacular occasions such as the famous Royal Fete of July, 1907, when Princess Alexander of Teck, as Princess Alice was then known, headed the General Committee that organised the Masque of Life to raise money for her mother's Deptford Fund. A charming photograph included in the souvenir handbook, shows Princess Alice with her daughter, Princess May, now Lady Abel-Smith, aged about 18 months, with her sister-in-law and her infant, already rejoicing in the title of Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

Her long and varied life of 97 years has ended. She was the last grandchild of Queen Victoria - a link with all our pasts has been broken. It is hard to realise that here was a person who was present both at Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1887 and at Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee Commemorationin 1977 - ninety years apart. She was avery happy person who had seemed likely to reach her century and we must feel some regret that she did not quite succeed. But her cheerful outlookm on life must have begun with her happy childhood in Esher.


April 1981

Esher in Books: by Derek Brown

The following passage comes from the late Sir Shane Leslie's novel of Eton life, published in 1922, "The Oppidan". Sir Shane, a cousin of Winston Churchill was an Eton schoolboy at the turn of the century and witnessed the scene when Queen Victoria's coffin was brought back to Windsor Castle. The school lined the route.

..."For two hours the loyal cohort of Etonians waited until the first boom of the eighty-one guns announced the arrival of the dead Queen. Minute by minute the guns marked the sands of her life, while the raucous bells of Windsor tolled in medley. The time still delayed and delayed. The Dead March broke with relief on their ears, and from the gates the Life Guards advanced in ironic guardianship of the dead. The tiny coffin weighted with Crown and Sceptre toiled slowly up the hill, drawn on a gun-carriage by sailors with improvised ropes and wearing their straw hats. Immediately behind the coffin stode the new, weary-faced King, the Duke of Connaught, and the Duke of Albany, recently an Eton boy, and all the male members of the Royal House, for whose spiritual welfare Eton doth ever pray. Many vari-fated Kings had come to pay their last tribute to the Queen - Kings like George of Greece and Carlos of Portugal, whose assassins waited the hour, Kings like the shabbily satanic Leopold of Belgium and the dapper Kaiser, for both of whom was reserved the world's loathing hate. Nearer and nearer the coffin approached, and the last lap home commenced. With short hoarse cries the officers of the Eton Volunteers ordereed arms to be presented, but not hearing the word 'reversed' many presented arms as for an ordinary salute. With some stage whispering from behind, and some prompting from Generals in the procession, rifles were turnedto the proper angle. Five minutes later the coffin had disappeared into the Castle. Doubtless, had she seen the confusion that befell the Etonian ranks, the old Queen would only have smiled. It would have sufficed her that Eton's love closed her public life. Fuit Regina! ...."

The Duke of Albany was sixteen years old at the time and had been enjoying his life at Eton when, by arrangement of the royal families concerned, he was made heir to his uncle, Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg, who was also Duke of Edinburgh. The boy was sent at 15 to become a German, a fate he bitterly resented. He was taken to Cologne by the father of our member, Richard Burr, who was the Duchess of Albany's coachman at Claremont and a few years ago there were still old people alive in the village who had seen the lad sobbing as they waited for their train at Esher station.

The sudden transformation of his life was followed by the deaths of Uncle Alfred and his grandmother, the old Queen. So he was already a German as well as a British duke. However, he settled down as a German prince, married and had a family of his own. 1914 was a terrible time for all Anglo-Germans but Duke Charles got the Kaiser to agree that he always fought on the Russian front and never against the British.

A happier memory of him as an Etonian is of the occasion when he wrote to Queen Victoria to ask for more pocket money. Her Majesty reproved him for going over his mother's head and for not being content with what the Duchess gave him. But Charlie wasn't worried - he simply auctioned off his grandmother's letter among his schoolmates and wrote back that he had thus raised more money than he had asked for in the first place!

December 1975

Film Making at Esher by Irene Codd

At the back of the "City Arms", only recently demolished, there once stood an interesting building. At the beginning of the century a Mr. Grant, of Grant's Cottages, built a glass topped dance hall here called the "Pavilion" - an attractive domed building, rather like a miniature Crystal Palace, gaily decorated inside with coloured streamers. For several years the "Pavilion" prospered, dancing was taught, dances were held regularly, and people came from miles away to attend. Later, however, the "Orleans Arms" opened a hall and several other halls were opened and the attendance fell away. So, in 1914, a film company called M.L.B. took over the premises. The initials were those of the proprietors, R. Mitcheson, T.W. Lloyd and Warwick Buckland. The glass topped building was excellent for a studio as the lighting in the very early days of film production was not so highly developed as it became later. This small company produced a number of silent films, one of which was called "A Park Lane Scandal" and written by the popular novelist "Rita".

In 1914 Broadwest Films took over the studio. Broadwest was a really large and important group of film pioneers and producers, among whom were William Barker, Cecil Hepworth and Walter West, all of whom had been in the film business from its earliest days. Hepworth had worked for Robert W. Paul, the pioneer at his first British film studio at Southgate in 1896.

Broadwest built on to the studio dressing rooms for the stars and converted an adjacent cottage into a dark room for film processing. These dressing rooms have only recently been demolished. Between 1914 and 1918 a number of popular films were made here at Esher, adaptations from "daring" popular novels of the day. These included films of Nat Gould's Racing Life, and society novels with titles such as "The Woman who Did", "Burnt Wings", and part of "Coming through the Rye" - made by Hepworth, shot on Littleworth Common with Alma Taylor and Stuart Rome in the star parts, as also was "A Peep Behind the Scenes". Some of the Esher people were "extras" and the latter film was shown at the Esher Village Hall - now the County Library" - which was used as a Cinema on Saturdays until about 1929, showing Tom Mix and Chaplin films to children, of whom I was one, and naturally there was great excitement in Esher.

Popular stage stars were regularly coming to Esher to star in the films, Alma Taylor, Henry Ainley, Matheson Lang, Stewart Rome, Lilian Braithwaite, Ronald Colman, Gerald Amis, Maggie Albanesi, Violet Hopson and Ivy Close - Broadwest's two stars - and Chrissie White - Hepworth's star - are only a few. Many of them used to visit the "City Arms", kept by Mr. and Mrs. Scott, and kept in the Scott family for 100 years, and mentioned by Lord Macauley as the ale house at Ditton Marsh into which he sheltered when a terrible storm overtook him on his return to his house at Ditton Marsh after visiting friends at Esher.

Sometimes shots for films were made in the bar of the "City Arms" and they were always borrowing china and pictures and plants as props. Broadwest continued until 1919 to make films such as "A Munition Girl's Romance", "A Turf Conspiracy", "A Gamble for Love", with stars such as Ronald Colman and Violet Hopson, but in 1919 the "Pavilion" was taken over by Master Films Ltd. This Company continued with films such as "A Peep Behind the Scenes", "Footprints in the Snow", "Darby and Joan", until eventually they built other premises and left the studio to gradually decay. Mr and Mrs Scott had it pulled down, leaving only the dressing rooms.

A decade later the population of Esher were not as interested in films. During the early thirties a film company submitted plans to Esher Council to buy Esher Place and build there a studio and homes for the stars which would, they said "be a Hollywood within a few miles of London" and which they proposed to call "Esherwood". A contemporary newspaper said "Dear little Esher, that very quiet and very select little village is shocked today". An old resident aged 85, a butcher, whose family had served meat to Queen Marie Amelie at Claremont when the Orleans were exiled from France, took quite a different view. He said, "I remember when in 1859 a number of very bright French people came to Esher and brightened the village up considerably, and if the Council would allow the studio to be built, it would be a good thing for the young men of the village". He added, "I remember when Marie Lloyd came to Esher as she often did - how she livened us all up and made all feel younger, and how we welcomed her."

However, the residents and most of the Council were not in in favour of the idea. A number of petitions of protest were drawn up, and the proposal which ran into six sheets of paper, was refused, and the hopes of the local girls who saw themselves as Esher Greta Garbos, faded away.


A centenary publication by F.E. Manning in 1982 celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Albany in 1882.

Esher District Local History Society was the heading and the booklet was priced at 25 pence.

April 27th 1882 The Marriage of The Duke and Duchess of Albany at Windsor and The Drive to Claremont

ESHER 1882 'The modest little village of Esher, embosomed in the Surrey Hills, was naturally in a most unusual state of commotion', wrote The Standard. Modest in numbers perhaps, the 1881 census found only 1687 inhabitants clustered by the Green, but many large houses, and since 1875 the first enclosed race course in England, where members could safely bring their wifes. In addition, as Royston Pike has shown in Royal Elmbridge, Esher was accustomed to royalty, since Claremont had been the home of poor Charlotte and Leopold, beloved by Queen Victoria, and for years the refuge of the exiled House of Orleans until in 1865 it came back to the crown, and had now been bought by Victoria for her youngest son, another Leopold, in 1882 starting a connection with the house of Albany which lasted until 1922.

Prince Leopold, 1853 - 1884

'The Scholar Prince' was the only son to inherit the intellectual tastes of Prince Albert. He enjoyed a spell at Christchurch, Oxford guided by his tutor Robert Collins, where he enjoyed meeting men like Dr. Jowett, and C.L. Dodgson, (Lewis Carroll). John Ruskin was a close friend also. He had musical tastes, he composed a little and sang; he met musicians like Gounod and Sullivan. He spoke well in public on serious subjects, on behalf of the Royal College of Music; when he spoke on university education, Gladstone heard 'the father in the man'. Sadly he was the first member of the royal family to be a haemophiliac, which meant that the slightest knock could cause internal bleeding and a long stay in bed. The Queen was naturally concerned and perhaps over-protective, which made him restive as he grew older. Disraeli sympathised with him and persuaded the Queen to employ him as her unofficial secretary and this did help a little. But when he could he got away from Windsor to his house in Wiltshire, Boyton Manor, or to Europe and once to Canada. From 1879 he is seen at Claremont, attending local functions and being patron of the new Esher Brass Band. In 1881 the rector congatulates him on becoming Duke of Albany and in November the rector is told the great news of his engagement to Princess Helen of Waldeck, 'this is a piece of news that will interest you and his many Esher friends'. It did.

Princess Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont 1861 - 1922

In 1880 Victoria was already matchmaking; 'It suddenly struck me that Prince Leopold should go and look at Princess Helen of Waldeck'. So Leopold goes to visit her sister Alice and her husband, the Grand Duke of Hesse, and meets and likes Helen. A year later he proposes and is accepted. 'She is rather like a princess in a fairy tale', wrote The Graphic, 'who has hitherto lived in a simple style in the tiny capital of her father's principality, the total population which is that of one of the subdivisions of a tiny London parish'. George of Waldeck's was a small kingdom, overshadowed by Prussia, its largest castle was at Arolsen; his wife, a friend of Carlyle, enjoyed poor health but was a great schemer. One daughter was to be Queen of Wurtemburg, Emma, aged twenty, was the bride of the old king of the Netherlands, and now Helen was to marry a son of Queen Victoria. Like her mother, Helen was far from being a nonentity, the Surrey Comet quoted a Paris source which said she was 'quite a scholar, although simple and lady-like. Her greatest pleasure at Arolsen was found in study. She is very spontaneous and open, recites with taste and is very musical.' The Queen wrote in her Journal in April 1882, 'Though the idea of Leopold marrying makes me anxious, still, he has found a girl, so charming, ready to accept him and love him, inspite of his ailments, I hope he will be happy and carefully looked after.'


When it was announced that the wedding would take place at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, Thursday, April 27th, and that the honeymoon would start at Claremont, Esher began to plan for the great day. The Rector, Rev. Samuel Warren, took the chair at the Vestry, on March 9th, which set up a Reception Committee, to 'determine what measures should be taken to give a loyal and hearty welcome to the Duchess and Duke of Albany on their arrival in the village after their wedding at Windsor Castle.' The Rector was chairman, he was supported by his churchwardens, Sir Wilford Brett, and Mr. McCrosty, as well as Capt. Verney, the Cedars, Mr. R.F. Eastwood, J.P. Esher Lodge, Mr. G. Martineau, Littleworth, Mr. A. Wigram, Esher Place, Mr. R.F. Currie, Sandown House, Mr. W.S. Hodson, Holly Cottage, Mr. F.J. Williamson, Fairholme, Dr. C. Izod, The Lammas, and Messrs. Cooper, Garrod and Limbrick, with Mr. W. Rooke as secretary. It was decided to present the happy couple with an illuminated address, to ask Mr. Williamson to make a bust of the Duchess as a wedding present, and to decorate the village. The final sum raised was £328.15.6, Mr. and Mrs. Williamson undertook to design the decorations 'without fee', Messrs. Garrod and Pratt put them up and the ladies of Esher made 60,000 white and red roses for the arcades and arches.

The results were outstanding. On Esher Green a crimsoned covered stand was erected for subscribers, by it was a floral bandstand in the shape of a gothic temple where Mr. Henniker conducted the Esher Brass Band. There was a triumphal arch at the beginning of Church Street with 'welcome to the Bride and Bridegroom' in German. Beyond the rest of Church Street was a floral arcade 120 yards long, evergreen festoons, red and white roses and japanese lanterns. Portsmouth Road was straddled by a 'skeleton arch' 45 feet high; more stands were erected on either side of Bear Green, the entrance to Claremont Lane had another 45 feet arch with medallion portraits of the happy pair. Not to be outdone Mr. Eastwood had his own arch with 'Willkommen Hohes Paar' on one side and 'Treu und Fest'' the Duke's motto on the other. Finally there was an arch at the Claremont Lodge Gates, 'oriental gothic' in structure, with the roses and the foliage interlaced with white staves. Esher had done its best.

Claremont PREPARES

The Graphic talks of a suite prepared for the Duke 'under direction of Mr. Henry of the Royal Tapestry Works ...... decorated and furnished in the Adam style of white and gold, with delicately tinted ornamentation.' The Surrey Comet is more interested in Claremont drains 'Much has been done to make it fit for Prince Leopold .... all old drains have been carefully removed, as has every particle of tainted earth about them .... old closet apparatus has been removed to be replaced by the newest and the best.'


They included a Broadwood grand from his brother the Prince of Wales, a silver mirror from Sir Wilford and Lady Brett; 'The Works of Samuel Warren' from the rector, a silver claret jug from Claremont staff, and an armchair covered with fine Windsor tapestry, from the Tapestry Works. The bust of the Duchess, the gift of Esher was presented on Nov. 4th and well received. The presenting members all stayed to lunch.


10 a.m. The day began at Paddington, when the special train left with Mr. Gladstone, Lord Salisbury, ambassadors and members of both houses of Parliament. Carriages met them at Windsor Station.

11 a.m. The South Door of St.George's opened to admit the above and other special guests, a crimson carpet had been laid guarded by Beefeaters.

12 a.m. Trumpets heralded the arrival of the Royal Family and their guests, the Duke and Duchess of Teck began it, the Waldeck family and Queen Emma were at the end. A pause and more trumpets, Queen Victoria entered with Princess Beatrice and her entourage, 'the Koh i nor sparkling at her bosom', as she takes her place, more trumpets and the bridegroom enters, in the uniform of a colonel of infantry, on one side, the Prince of Wales, dressed as a Field Marshal, on the other side, the Grand Duke of Hesse in scarlet. All eyes now strain, eager to see the bride. She enters on her father's arm with the King of the Netherlands on her other side, eight bridesmaids follow. The Times says 'the bride wins all hearts as she walks slowly towards the altar, where the most important event of her life is about to be accomplished'; M. Gounod's special nuptial march is played on the organ as she advances. The Archbishop takes the service, both bride and bridegroom, respond clearly and distinctly, the Queen kisses them as Beethoven is played, and the various processions, leave to Mendelsohn's Wedding March. The Wedding Breakfast follows ending with pudding 'a la diplomate'.

4 p.m. The newly-weds prepare to leave, Helen in 'a travelling dress of ivory white velvets trimmed with satin and point d'Alencon'. Their suite follows and the 2nd Life Guards provide the escort; as they enter Windsor, the Graphic says the bands played the two anthems amid 'a heavy shower of slippers and rice .... eagerly scrambled for as soon as the carriages had gone by.'

4.15 p.m. They were ready to leave for Claremont and the younger princessess 'without their hats' waved goodbye from the top of the Long Walk. A telegram told Esher they had left.

Old Windsor There was an arch erected by the Royal Tapestry Works, which Leopold had done so much to encourage. The youngest daughter of the oldest workman, Antoinette, was lifted up by Mr. Henry, its manager, to present a bouquet.

Beaumont College The Rector received them and 'one of the lads' presented yet another bouquet, and others strewed roses over the carriages.

Chertsey Here the horses were changed, and by another truimphal arch, there was a guard of honour, Volunteers and Oddfellows and Foresters in their regalias. The Rev. C. Scott read an address and the Duke replied, Miss Wetton, of Abbey House presented a bouquet. It was now 5.20 and a second telegram warned Esher.

Weybridge No less then three arches had been erected, as the party entered Church Street, where it joined High Street, and opposite the Congregational Church in Queen's Road. The Surrey Fire Brigades provided the guard of honour.

Esher As the royal party crossed the Mole from Hersham, Christchurch bells rang out to show they were now in Esher parish. They came up Lammas Lane to Esher Green through cheering crowds, passed under the decorations in Church Street, and stopped on Bear Green where the Rector read the illuminated address and the Duke replied, saying 'We congratulate ourselves on possessing Claremont as a residence .... we hopefully anticipate spending the greater portion of our lives here.' Lady Brett then presented a bouquet and the procession passed under the Claremont Lane arches and entered Claremont to begin their honeymoon.

CELEBRATIONS At Windsor the Queen gave a banquet in St. George's Hall for the visiting royalty; Windsor was illuminated, in particular 'an electric light shone on the Round Tower as was visible for miles around'. In Esher , Church Street was lit up by lanterns and there was a firework display on Esher Green, while at the Marquis of Granby, there was a special garden party in a marquee, with dancing from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. tickets were 1/- each and F. Hodson's Quadrille Band and efficient M.C.s.

ADDENDUM On Sunday, Feb. 25th 1883, the Duchess of Albany gave birth to a daughter at Windsor Castle, later to be christened Alice, Mary, Victoria, Augusta, Pauline, later still to be Countess of Athlone, and the last surviving grand-daughter of Queen Victoria until her death, Jan. 3rd, 1981. Copyright - Esher District Local History Society 1982.



March 1974

Newsletter 24 page 165 Recent Events

On March 21st, the last of the Library Lectures under the present Esher Urban District Council was given. It was a significant occasion. The speaker, his subject and the occasion could hardly have been more appropriate. The speaker was our President, Mr. E. Royston Pike, who, as Chairman of the Library Committee, inaugurated the lectures some twenty years ago. His subject was "The History of the Esher Urban District Council", which comes to an end on March 31st. As members may know, at the request of the Council, Mr. Royston Pike is compiling a history of its affairs from 1895 when the Urban District first came into existence. Mr. Royston Pike is peculiarly well suited to this task. He was a member of the Council from 1935 until 1968, was Chairman three times, and remembers many of the first officers and almost all their successors. Supported by a fascinating collection of slides, he dwelt mainly on the early years of the Urban District. Mr Royston Pike's interests are essentially about people, and rather than elaborating on the administrative affairs of the District Council, he concentrated on the personalities and activities of its chief officers, notably Dr. Senior, the first M.O.H., and Mr. Horace Fread, Surveyor for some thirty-eight years. Appropriately the meeting was chaired by Mrs. Maisie Ives, the last Chiarman of the Esher Council. She paid tribute to the speaker for his long service with the Council, and to Mr. Derek Brown, for sixteen years Esher's Librarian and the man who fostered and organised the Library Lectures. Under the current Local Government Re-Organisation Schemes, Mr. Brown will regretfully be leaving the district. We are sure the members of the Society would wish us to record our thanks to Mr. Brown for his whole-hearted support and join us in wishing him success in his new appointment. District Librarians may not hit the headlines as often as Clerks to Councils, Medical Officers of Health, Surveyors and Housing Managers, but they are second to none in the affections of the ratepayers. Deerek Brown's departure will be regretted by his many friends. Mrs. Ives concluded by hoping that the Library Lectures would continue under the new Borough of Elmbridge and suggested that that might be called after their Founder, the Royson Pike Lectures.


Winter 2001

The Duckitt Expedition - Esher's Contribution to South African Agriculture

The tomb of William Duckitt (d. 1801) in St. George's Churchyard, Esher, also commemorates his son William who died at the Cape of Good Hope, "to which settlememt he was sent with a large establishment by George the Third to introduce his Father's system and implements of Agriculture."

William Duckitt senior was born on the Isle of Wight but as a youngster was employed by the Duke of Newcastle in the garden at Claremont, where he started his crop experiments and designed his first implements. He married Elizabeth Isles in Esher in 1763 and his second son was named William. The family moved to Weylands farm, then owned by Francis Pelham of Esher Place. The 17th Century farmhouse still survives across the River Mole from Wayneflete Tower. There William senior designed many agricultural implements, winning a silver cup for his drill plough, and many prominent farmers visited him, including George III - "Farmer George". The youngest son, John, became gamekeeper at Esher Place and later managed the Estate and model farm at Woburn for the 5th Duke of Bedford. John succeeded his father at the farm of Sandown.

In the meantime William junior was employed at the Treasurer-General's office in London, and had married Mary Whitbread, of the brewery family. He was selected to introduce his father's modern farming methods to the Cape, three years after the British occupied it in 1796. The authorities realised that the Boer farming methods were outdated and would be unable to feed the increasing population of Cape Town, the British garrison and those in the many naval and merchant ships.

The story of his expedition is recorded in his journal, which has never left the Cape.

A well-armed ship, the Wellesley, was selected for the voyage but had to wait for a convoy as England was at war with France. Numerous other delays occurred, mainly because of the boorishness of the Captain. William wrote that he "refused to go further than the usual Rations allowed to troops which would by no means do for My Family....and no more sufficient for three months was sent". He overcame the problem by obtaining from the War Office an order granting full allowances and also arranged for a supply of meat from Alder, a well-established Esher butcher, at the cost of £15. 6s. 5d.

The Wellesley loaded off Gravesend, leaving on 3rd April 1800 with William's wife and two sons and a farming staff of ten, including Isaac Isles and five members of the Crowcher family, all from Esher. William, however, joined at Portsmouth, having travelled down alone from Esher by chaise for £4. 14s. 8d. Also on board were a Devon bull and two heifers from the Duke of Bedford's prize herd, hop plants, fruit trees and machinery designed by his father. The plan to take sheep was abandoned at the last minute as a bureaucrat remembered an Act of Parliament of 1788 which, to protect the English woolen industry, forbade the export of sheep.

Accompanied by East Indiamen and the Grand Fleet, the ship sailed to the Cape, surviving a skirmish with a French privateer. William wrote "Had a very favourable but long passage and thank God the most part of the crew enjoyed a state of good health. Eleven of the Lascars died after the action but not one of the Europeans during the whole passage. Captain Gordon was very unpleasant to all the passengers till after the action, when he thought proper to change his conduct." They landed at the Cape on 11th September 1800.

William's first experiments in horticulture were not a success, but having obtained a Meat Contract for both the Army and Naval personnel in 1801, he continued to farm at Klaver valley for many years. He had a blacksmith's shop for manufacturing ploughs to his father's design, organised a racing stud and introduced vines to the area - producing wine and brandy by 1818.

William died in 1825 and his wife in 1843, but his descendants still occupy fourteen farms north of Cape Town. They have a house in Darling named Esher and a Waylands farm on the outskirts. In the late 19th century William's grand-daughter Hildagonda, was responsible for introducing nemesia plants into Britain. She exported the nemesia seed to Sutton's Seed Merchants in England where they caused a sensation. She was also the instigator of the Christmas Chincherinchees flower export market from the Cape. Started by Hildagonda's brother over eighty years ago at the Waylands farm, the Wild Flower Fields are now an important tourist attraction. Along with the orchid export nursery across the road, the farm and its associated names from the Esher area are fascinating consequences of the experiments in Esher two hundred years ago.

Dr. Veronica King


Spring 1993

The Court Cinema, East Molesey

(The following article was written for the Elmbridge Museum by our late Chairman, Mr Rowland G M Baker in 1985)

This cinema appears to have been started in late 1911, or early 1912, in a building erected for the purpose by Mr Thomas Usher, in front of his motor works at 62 Bridge Road, and called "The Electric Picture Hall". Mr Usher was a well-known local personality, a sometime member of Molesey Council, and also owned an ironmongers's shop on the other side of Bridge Road. The picture house closed for the summer, and re-opened on 2nd September, when the following announcement appeared: "Patrons of the Electric Picture Hall in Bridge Road will be glad to learn that the re-opening for the winter season is announced for Monday next. The hall has just been redecorated throughout in a most tasteful style, and a new heating apparatus has been installed. These things, in conjunction with tip-up plush seats with which the auditorium is supplied, combine to make it one of the most pleasant and comfortable theatres of its kind in the district".

Not long afterwards, the name was changed to "East Molesey and Hampton Court Picture Hall", and in the early 1920s, when the proprietorship was acquired by Mr Frank Saraski, a European emigre, yet again to "East Molesey and Hampton Court Picture Palace".

In 1932, the cinema was taken over by Mr William Hughes, formerly of the Prince's Cinema at Brighton, who immediately set about modernising the place. A new and more imposing facade was added to the front of the building, described as of "white marble and coloured stone", to the design of Mr F B Trimm, an architect, who was also a member of Molesey Council. The interior was said to be "on compact lines, and has accommodation for 500 hundred people. All the seats are on the same floor, and have been arranged so that each patron has an unobscured view of the screen. The most up-to-date methods of lighting are employed and include changing effects. Clarity in sound and voice reproduction is secured with the Western Electric talkie apparatus and Ernemann projectors ensure sharp, steady pictures. A heating and ventilation system maintains an even temperature unaffected by outside weather".

It re-opened as "The Court Cinema", on Monday 10th October 1932, when the programme included "Delicious", starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, together with Richard Cooper and Ursula Jeans in "Once Bitten", described as a "scintillating comedy of blackmail and domestic differences".

Some years later it was purchased by Central Picture Houses Ltd, owners of the Odeon chain; who about 1950 disposed of it to Mr John Ferris, an independent operator. Mr Ferris's policy was to screen as far as possible the type of films not normally put on by the big cinema circuits. One Surbiton correspondent described it as "a courageous policy of screening films of high quality, films that are not merely a sordid mixture of horror and sex. My wife and I frequently travel to Hampton Court knowing that the Court was the only cinema in this area that could give us, and many others, a happy and enjoyable evening".

However, the competition from other sources was too great; patrons like the one mentioned above were too few, and in October 1958, Mr Ferris announced that the cinema was to close. He sold the property to Kadek Arts Ltd, specialists in art design and colour printing, who are still operating in the premises. The last screening was on Saturday 8th November 1958, when the main feature was "His Greatest Role", starring "the incomparable Fernandel"; supported by Stanley Holloway in "Fast and Loose".


Spring 1994

Memories of West End, Esher

The following letter was received recently from Mrs C M Rea, now resident in Australia, in response to information sent her by this Society concerning her grandparents, Horace and Ada Hibbert, who were in service to the Talbot family of Glenhurst, West End, Esher - now the site of Talbot Lodge flats.

"The packet of mail from you, arrived today, and I really do not seem able to express in words the joy of seeing so much about West End and Esher.

My Gran lived in the cottage that formed part of the (Glenhurst) wall, and I believe it was originally part of the old laundry, which was converted. Before moving into the cottage (my half-brother still calls it the Butler's Cottage, Glenhurst) my grandparents lived in Bijou Cottage, Wolsey Road, Esher. My half-brother was born in 1918 and is 9 years older than me, so has more memories.

I remember my Grandfather, although he died in May 1931, and I was 4 years old the next month. I remember him carrying me up the lower drive (the one that came round to the yard and stables) to the farmyard, when the cows were in for milking - I must have been very young.

Later on after his death, I remember catching the Green Line bus from Croydon, with my mother and brothers, to spend part of the school holidays with Gran. Gran used to send me up that same lower drive, to get her milk from the dairy. I believe the farmer was Mr. Giles, but it is a long time ago and perhaps the memory is not clear. Gran used to send me with a jug and fourpence and say 'Be sure to give it to Mr. Giles'. It was always so cool in the dairy.

My bedroom was the one with the small window which was quite high up the wall. I remember jumping up and down on my bed to catch a glimpse of the cows coming up West End Lane at 6am to be milked. They seemed to spend the night in a pasture and they were returned to the pasture after evening milking. I suppose during the day they would have been turned out into some of the fields along the bridle path, which was just past the farm buildings.

I was over in 1992, and the path was very overgrown with nettles. We used to use that path to get to Esher, and where the path turned and went up a rise, was always called Donkey Hill. Whether that was its name or just got called that because there were always a couple of donkeys in those fields, I don't know. There was always a barn owl flying about there late on summer evenings. I remember the path was closed one day a year - something to do with public right of way I think.

My impressions from listening to Gran, as a small girl, are that Colonel and Lady Talbot were good, kind people. The Talbots let Gran stay in her cottage until after the Second World War. I remember seeing Miss Talbot in her Girl Guide uniform, out by the stables once.

My grandparents were in service all their lives, and Gran used to talk about opening the London house for 'the season', and Grandad went to Scotland with the gentlemen for the grouse opening - August 12th? There was a very large picture of my Grandfather's favourite pointer dog whose job was to point to where the birds fell.

When we were in England in 1992, I did not have time to do any research. I have five brothers in England, and some of them I had not seen since 1946 - they were still at school when I left - so it was a great time of family reunions.

We did come to Esher and looked for my Grandparents' grave. My Gran, like Lady Emma Talbot lived a very long time after the death of her husband. Gran was buried in Esher Churchyard with her husband in 1960 - she was 97 years old. We scrubbed the headstone and put flowers there before we left.

We also put some flowers on Winifred Hollywell's grave. She died aged 15, and was apparently my half-brother's first girlfriend - he says she died within 48 hours after getting meningitis.

I never thought I would have photos of Gran's cottage and Glenhurst - it's wonderful. Last year my husband took a photo of my brother and I by the wall, because we told him that this was where Gran's cottage used to be.

I have so many memories - Mrs Webb's shop! Mrs Webb got quite cross one day when my younger brother kept opening and shutting the door, because he liked the tinkle of the bell which hung over the door. The cows grazing on the common were so big! I did not want them too close! My brothers managed to elbow me into the pond one Sunday in my best dress and shoes! We got lost in the pine woods and yelled our heads off for Mum; some people riding horses restored us to her! So many memories! There used to be harebells in the ditch at the bottom of the lane where we caught the Green Line bus back to Croydon - I also fell in there!"

Website editor's note November 2007

Mrs Rea remembered the name of the farmer perfectly. A check of the local Kelly's for 1936 reveals the following for the east side of West End Lane

Hibbert Mrs. (The Cottage)

Finch Fredk. (Glenhurst stables)

Talbot Col. F. G., D.S.O. (Glenhurst)

Giles Edwd. (Glenhurst farm)

Bailey Hy. S. (The Lodge)

Ellis Commdr. Henry Samuel H., R.N. (ret.) (Glenhurst cott) is footpath leading to Esher....


Spring 1990

Sandown Park by Richard Burr

To support this year's History Council Symposium, when the subject was "Leisure and Pleasure", we used Sandown Park as our display subject. We thought it appropriate to publish a few words on the history of the Park.

In the dim past, the mound now known as the Warren was part of the foreshore - a giant waterway. It is possible that the Thames in those early days was much wider than today. This fact is supported by excavations carried out when the new stands were constructed, and it was confirmed that the top soil to a depth of several feet was "blown sand" only. It is this sand content that today makes the ground ideally suited for a race course, leaving it well drained in winter and still soft after severe drought.

The reign of King John saw a priory, under Augustinian rule, founded within the park boundaries and dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene; the residents worked as farmers and cared for the poor.

Two visitations of the plague led to the decline of the Priory, and in the 15th century it was merged with Saint Thomas the Martyr Southwark. The only known remaining remnant of the Priory is the water forming the water jump.

In 1740, Sandown House (now the Council Offices) was built and the park was cultivated as farmland. This continued for over a century and in 1870 it was on the market as farmland held by the Spicer family of Esher Place.

Various proposals were made: these included the building of a large mental hospital, the construction of a new town with streets, squares, shops, and a fine new church. Despite all these noble ideas, a group of young society men, friends of the then Prince of Wales, wanted to create a race-course.

General Owen Williams, Member of Parliament, purchased Sandown Farm, and in conjunction with his brother Mr Hwfa Williams, and Sir Wilford Brett (then living at More Place), laid out the race-course, much as we see it today.

Entry to the race-courses at this time was free to spectators and as such attracted undesirables - the roughest, most foulmouthed, and coursest members of society. To control entry to the park Mr Hwfa Williams, who had been elected Clerk of the Course, decided to completely enclose the area with a high fence, thus making it the first enclosed racecourse in England.

Thus it gained a reputation of being a place where it was possible to take a lady, and soon became a place, supported by the then Prince of Wales, where both the well to do and ladies of fashion would parade.

The first meeting was held in1875, with two meetings held in this year that were sufficient to establish horse racing at Sandown Park, and its success went from strength to strength. Mr Hwfa Williams continued as Clerk of the Course, and was to remain so for almost fifty years. It was he who, in 1886, persuaded his friend Leopold de Rothschild to put up £10,000 for a race which became known as the Eclipse Stakes - this at a time when the Epsom Derby was only worth £4,600. Today, however, the Coral Eclipse is worth £100,000, with the Derby worth over £250,000.

The year 1887 saw the first great event for the people of Esher, when after a long procession, including the Esher Band, the Cricket Club, the Volunteer Fire Brigade on their engine, and hundreds of villagers, a tea party on the lawns was set out for 1500 people. Medals were distributed to school children, followed by a torchlight procession and bonfire on Esher Green.

Edward VII became a regular visitor to the course, and twice won the Eclipse Stakes with Persimmon and Diamond Jubilee, and a Royal Box was built by a local man, Mr Rouse, a cabinet maker and upholsterer of High Street, Esher. In the 1970's this was dismantled and re-erected in a Sussex park.

The park was to play a part in the history of early aviation, for in 1909 the French aviator, Louis Paulham, attempted and broke the world's record for altitude at the time, with a flight which achieved over 600 feet.

Both World Wars saw the park occupied by the military.

After racing in July 1972 , work was commenced to dismantle the old stands and Royal Box, and fourteen months later the stands as we see them today emerged, bringing a new use and image to the complex, to include exhibitions, symposiums, fashion displays and trade shows.

The park itself provides a golf course, ski slope and heavy goods vehicle driving school.

Since 1978, the course has many times been voted the Race-course of the Year. Royal patronage continues for the racing activities, and even as we write, building work is in progress to improve the facilities and the pleasure of those attending functions in the Park.

After 120 years, racing at Sandown Park, is I am sure, here to stay.

(Editor's note. Now another 21 years later in 2011, Sandown Park continues as a focal point of activity at the heart of Esher. Richard Burr was President of the Society from 1989 - 1992).


Winter 1989

A Stay at the Gun Site, Cobham by Dr D H Phillips Chairman Farnham & District LHS

I spent most of World War II with the 274 Battery of the 86th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment (Honourable Artillery Company). During the London Blitz, this battery formed part of the defences of the capital. It was deployed mainly around the north-eastern edges, near Chingford, Loughton and Chadwell Heath.

By the end of the Blitz, changes were taking place in Anti-Aircraft Command. Mixed batteries were being formed to take over the permanent sites with static guns, and all-male batteries began to withdraw. Some then began the long training for the invasion of occupied Europe, which eventually took place on 6 June 1944.

It was then that 274 Battery gave us its 4.5" static guns at Chadwell Heath, collected new mobile 3.7" guns and other equipment, and took over from another battery a piece of open land at Fairmile, Cobham, behind a pub called the Tartar.

I think our stay there must have taken us over the 1941-1942 winter, and I remember that the weather was extremely cold. For some time the showers and water supplies were frozen up, and we melted snow in mess tins for washing and shaving. When the thaw eventually came, the ground gave off the same strange smell that comes from baked soil, wet by rain after a long summer drought.

The new guns needed much attention. They were covered with an array of grease nipples. These were to be treated with a variety of greases, and had to be painted with a colour code to assist in future maintenance. Among the gunners was Robert Aldhouse, who in civil life had been a scene painter in one of the London Theatres. He was a small man with a bald head, a handle-bar moustache, and a ready wit. Not to be outdone in wit, however, was the wartime Army, which ordained that Robert, with his artistic background, was the ideal man to paint the grease nipples, and this he duly did. Neither was he in any way offended, for he was not easily perturbed. He painted many backgrounds for battery pantomines, and other shows. On one occasion, when a scene was almost finished, someone threw a pot of paint over it. Robert said nothing, but quickly repainted it.

Entertainment in Cobham was not lavish in those wartime days. On pay nights, those free to do so, often visited the local pubs, of which, besides the Tartar, I remember White Lion. Otherwise, if time permitted, there was the trip to Esher, and so to London.

In the Spring, the Battery moved on, and seemed to tour most of Britain before the final landing in Normandy, and the advance across Europe to the end of the War.


Winter 1991 and repeated as "A Blast from the Past!" in the Autumn 2007 Newsletter

by Roy Simpson

Members may be interested to learn that March 1992 marks the 100th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes' visit to Esher.

It was a cold wet evening in March 1892 when Holmes and Dr. Watson arrived in "the pretty Surrey Village of Esher", and having found "comfortable quarters at the Bull" proceeded with Inspector Baynes to Wisteria Lodge, about two miles south of Esher, in connection with the murder of Aloysius Garcia whose body had been found on Oxshott Common.


Winter 1989

The Demise of the Title "Duke of Newcastle"?

On 13th September 1989, under the heading Ross Benson - "The Diary", the Daily Express published a report that Lady Patricia Pelham Clinton Hope, an actress, better known as Trisha Pelham, and now living in Los Angeles, was making a claim to the title of the Dukedom of Newcastle.

This title became officially extinct by the death in January this year of the 10th Duke of Newcastle, a bachelor, who died without heirs. Trisha is the eldest daughter of the 9th and penultimate Duke, who died in November 1988.

Convention dictates that titles pass only to men and excludes females from succession. Trisha will now petition the Queen, who, seeking advice from the Lord Chancellor, and the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords, will eventually say "Yes" or "No".

The local interest in this case is centred around Claremont, where in the house built by Vanbrugh, lived Thomas Pelham, Earl of Clare and 1st Duke of Newcastle, who had purchased the residence from Vanbrugh in 1714.

Thomas Pelham also employed Vanbrugh to build the chamber pew, still to be seen in St. George's Church, Esher, with its divided seating arrangement - one half for Thomas Pelham and family and the other half for his brother Henry and his family from Esher Place.

Richard Burr


Spring 1990

Brickmaking at Claygate in the 1950's

The request for information in the last issue of this Newsletter has prompted the following notes from a lady who was for many years in the industry.

"The brickmaking season in Surrey began in mid-April and ended in September. Clay was dug during the winter months and allowed to 'weather' and then mixed with 'town ash' collected from a 'tip' at Merton by the company's own lorries. The smell from this refuse was overpowering and it contained many unwanted objects. This refuse was passed through a sieve (riddled) so that only real ash was used and unwanted items thrown out.

Near the beginning of the brickmaking season, the clay and the ashes would be mixed together with water; the clay in Claygate contained a layer of 'London Blue Clay', so there was no need to use any colouring material. Mixing continued until the mix was the consistency of dough.

All the brick-making companies in Surrey were small i.e. employing an average of 100 - 120 men.

The process was a collective operation, and a typical set-up would consist of up to six sheds, each about 25 ft x 25 ft, housing a brickmaker, three assistants and two boys - the sheds were referred to as 'stools'.

The mixed clay would be wheeled into the stool and fed into a machine which would extrude the mix into suitably prepared moulds, which had been internally sand-blasted to prevent sticking. Each mould was levelled off with a wide knife and the pre-sanded cover placed in position on the mould.

Moulds were upturned and bricks turned out into pallets with wheels that looked more like coster's barrows. When the pallet was full, it was wheeled out to the drying ground, where the bricks were transferred to duck-boards and allowed to dry in the wind and sun.

There would be row upon row of duck-boards extending over at least half the width of the brick field, and every night the bricks would be 'capped' to protect them from rain - similarily, rain in the day demanded that the bricks be covered. Each row of bricks would be about six bricks high. After two or three weeks; depending on the weather, they would be 'skintled', that is, every other brick lifted higher than its neighbour, so that the drying process could continue. When the bricks were sufficiently dry to be handled without damage, they were again loaded on to special barrows and wheeled along a metal track where the bricks were built into clamps, in such a way that they would not collapse.

A typical clamp base would be about 40 ft x 20 ft, and internally fire holes would be made at intervals. Probably as many as 2,000 bricks would be needed to complete a clamp, and when finished the fires that had been prepared while the clamp was constructed were lit, and slow combustion would continue for about three weeks, during which time the ash was burnt from the clay and then the clamp was allowed to cool.

When the bricks were cool enough to handle they were sorted into 'firsts' and 'seconds' and priced accordingly. In the 1950's best bricks sold at about £12.10.0 per 1,000.

There were many small brickworks in Surrey - at Oxshott, Cobham, Tolworth and Bonesgate (between Hook and Ewell), and two at Claygate, but none producing more than 1,000,000 per season, whereas The London Brick Company were machine-making this quantity in a day, with the inevitable result that the small companies closed.


Spring 2002

Emergency Treatment!

The following account is taken with acknowledgments from "Thames Ditton Today" of Summer 1994. It features Doctor George Tickler, whom many of us will remember as a prominent local medical man and the physician/surgeon in charge at the old Thames Ditton Hospital. His conduct on this occasion was, as you will read, truly heroic.

Several V1 "flying bombs" fell in the Dittons in the summer of 1944, but the biggest impact (in all senses) was the missile which fell on the Imber Court Police Sports Ground. The Welsh Guards training battalion was holding a well attended sports meeting at the ground. It was a fine sunny day and a 100-yard race was in progress. Because the band was playing, few heard the Air Raid sirens, or the approach of the bomb which landed virtually on top of the runners. All taking part were killed instantly, except Lieutenant Paget who sustained a horrific leg injury.

In the immediate confusion, casualties were loaded into any handy vehicles and rushed to the nearest hospitals. Exact casualty lists do not seem to be available (it was Government policy that such figures should not be published), but probably some 40 people were killed and another 100 or so wounded.

This was at the time of the Normandy landings; Dr Tickler was working in the Emergency Medical Service at Horton Hospital, Epsom. He was on full-time call and the hospital (like most in South England) had been warned to be ready to receive casualties from the D-Day assault. The first, mercifully fewer than expected, arrived in the late afternoon of June 8. Some time after midnight, he started a 12-hour session in the operating theatre, after which his wife came to drive him home for a rest. As they came down Station Road, Weston Green, they could hear the air raid sirens and then saw and heard a flying bomb. They stopped the car and, as they watched, the engine cut out and the bomb went into a glide. They jumped out and lay down in the roadside ditch. Some seconds later, they heard and felt a huge explosion. Uncertain quite where it had fallen, they drove home.

Barely had they entered the house when the Matron of Thames Ditton Hospital, Miss Dyson, rang requiring the doctor's immediate attendance. In spite of his undoubted fatigue, Dr. Tickler was at the hospital within 2 minutes. Vehicles of all types were unloading casualties from the Imber Court explosion on to the pavement outside the hospital, and the wards and corridors were already full. The staff coped calmly and efficiently, especially Miss Dyson; Dr. Tickler believed it was her finest hour.

Drs. Howard Smith and Percy Foster soon arrived and, while urgent resuscitation was being given to the worst cases, extra beds were brought into the wards and all along the corridors. The operating theatre was in continuous use all night; only one of their casualties, a Welsh Guardsman with appalling head injuries, died. Lieutenant Paget was some two hours in the theatre but, though critically ill for some days, survived. While the worst cases were being dealt with in theatre, Dr.Foster worked in the first aid post dealing with minor injuries, mainly cuts and bruises.

The flying bombs continued for some time after these events. Dr. Tickler's two children and their dog adjusted to a life spent mainly in the shelter. At the sound of the siren, Peter the spaniel was always first in! Eventually they sent the children to his wife's sister in Somerset. Four V1s passed over Surbiton Station while they were waving the children goodbye!


November 1968 No. 1

An extract from the very first Newsletter

Descent of the Manors of Esher and Milbourne and the Claremont Estate

The Committee has received an extremely interesting letter on the above from Mr. A.F.C. Boyes, formerly Senior Solicitor to the Esher Council. The following is a shortened version. The original can be seen at the Central Library.

The Manors of Esher and Milbourne, otherwise Esher and Wateville, sometimes Waterville, and the Claremont Estate, were bought in 1816 by the Commissioner of Woods and Forests for the benefit of Prince Leopold (later King of the Belgians), husband of Princess Charlotte, heiress to the British Throne (Act; 56 Geo. III cap 115).

Princess Charlotte died in 1817, and by Acts 10 Geo. IV cap. 50, and 15 Vict. cap. 42, the property became vested in Queen Victoria's personal estate, and was conveyed to her as such on April 18th, 1882.

On 19th April, 1882 Queen Victoria, by a settlement made on the marriage of her youngest son, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, to Princess Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont, settled Claremont and the Manors on herself (i.e. the Queen) for life, and after her death upon trust for the Duke of Albany for his life, with power to appoint a life estate in favour of his wife, which appointment he made by a Codicil to his will.

The Duke died in 1884, leaving an only son, another Prince Leopold, who was also Duke of Saxe Coburg Gotha. Queen Victoria died in 1901, and the control of the estate passed to the dowager Duchess of Albany for life.

In 1905 the son, Prince Leopold, exercised legal rights by which the estate would have become his absolutely on the death of his mother. Meanwhile, however, he had gone to Germany for dynastic reasons, and on the outbreak of the 1914-1918 War he became an enemy alien within the meaning of the Trading with the Enemy Acts of 1914 and 1916.

On the death of his mother in 1922, his interests being vested in the Public Trustee as Custodian of Enemy Property, in July 1922, 503 acres of the estate were put up for public auction by Messrs. Knight, Frank and Rutley, and printed particulars were got out for the purpose.

Lot 27 comprised the Manors or Lordships of Esher and Milbourne with their Commons and Waste Lands, and this was purchased by the Esher Council. There were other auction sales of parts of the Claremont Estate.

The part which now belongs to the National Trust and is managed by the Council was bought by Mr. Corry at the 1922 auction and ultimately became vested in Sir Samuel Hanson Rowbotham. After his death it was conveyed to the National Trust in satisfaction of certain death duties.

The Council has a full Abstract of the Title of the Manors and a print of the Auction Particulars and plan, together with the Conveyance to them of the Manors and the Commons.


Spring 1993

The Leopold Memorials -these are to be seen in St. George's Church, Esher

by Reg Crabbe

King George III had nine sons and six daughters but in 1815, after more than 50 years on the throne, there was only one grandchild eligible to succeed to the throne of England. She was Charlotte, the daughter of the Prince Regent (later King George IV) and of his estranged wife Caroline. Small wonder, then, that her marriage in 1815 to Leopold, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was marked by the grant to him for life of the mansion of Claremont. Sadly, his bride, Princess Charlotte, died two years later in child bed, delivered of a still-born son. Prince Leopold continued to be entitled to occupy Claremont until his death in 1865, even though he became King of the Belgians in 1831.

Following the death of Princess Charlotte the edict went out that an heir to the throne must be produced. As a result, three babies were born in 1819 - Victoria, daughter of the Duke of Kent and two boys to younger princes, one of whom became George V of Hanover. Victoria frequently visited Leopold at Claremont and regarded him as her favourite uncle - as witness the inscription on one of the memorials which are the subject of this article , where she describes him as "the uncle who held a Father's place in Her affection". Esher Parish has two memorials commissioned by her - one to Leopold and Charlotte in the North Aisle of St George's Church and the other in the West Tower vestry of Christ Church.

The memorial to Leopold and Charlotte is very large - over 12 feet wide - and was originally mounted on the staircase at Claremont. It was commissioned by Queen Victoria as late as 1880 and was sculpted by F. J. Williamson, almost certainly in his studio at the rear of his house in Esher High Street, now the Grapes. It was given to St. George's Church in 1910 by the Duchess of Albany, Queen Victoria's daughter-in-law. It consists of three panels. The centre contains a scene sculpted in high relief depicting Charlotte and Leopold dispensing charity to the villagers of Esher. The scene in the left hand panel shows Charlotte on her death bed with Leopold kneeling at her side. In low relief above the bed appears the apotheosis of the Princess - an interesting revival of a practice which had been in abeyance since the time of the Stuarts. The right hand panel depicts Leopold accepting the crown of Belgium while Brittania looks on approvingly.

The memorial to Leopold was first placed in St. George's Chapel, Windsor shortly after his death in 1865. It was later given to Christ Church by Queen Victoria. The main panel is in very high relief and depicts Leopold, wearing uniform and cloak which drapes his legs, lying in state on a couch. In front of the couch is a lion couchant while above the King's effigy are two winged angels carrying shields with the English and Belgian Royal Arms. Under the main monument are two inscriptions. That on the left summarizes Leopold's life and marriages and records that he lies buried at Lacken in Belgium by the side of his second wife, Princess Louise d'Orleans. That on the right is the inscription I have already quoted, expressing Queen Victoria's deep affection for her uncle.

(Extract from "Esher's Parish Magazine Newsletter" - August 1991 - reproduced by permission of the Rector and the author, which we acknowledge with thanks.)



Autumn 2001

The History of a Local Family - The Batchelors

by Eileen Bernard

My great-great-grandfather was Richard Batchelor, born in Sussex in 1733. He was a farmer in the village of West Grinstead. The name Batchelor (spellings vary from Bachelour, le Bacheler, Bachelor, Batchellor to Batchelor) is of French origin and means an "aspiring knight". The earliest names in the records at Chichester Record Office, under the Sussex Subsidies, is Rado Bachelor (1296) in the reign of Edward l. He lived in Blakeham and paid a tax of three shillings and one halfpenny. One can assume that the Batchelors came from France with William of Normandy.

I have been unable to discover where exactly in Sussex Richard Batchelor was born because it is difficult to find any records further back than 1733. The church records may have been hidden or destroyed for reasons of safety, or they may have been buried or burnt. I have made extensive searches among the villages listed in the area at the Record Office, but to no avail.

Richard Batchelor is buried in the parish church of West Grinstead, together with his wife Elizabeth, their son John and John's first wife, Ann. This church, part of which is Norman, is well worth a visit and is one of the most interesting old churches in Sussex. Richard's second son, John, born in 1778, had five children, the last being another Richard from whom I am descended. After his wife's death, John married Mary Pollard and had ten more children. He was a farmer and lived in Pinland Farm, West Grinstead. The farmhouse is now a relatively modern building and the land is owned by the Lock Estate Ltd. The adjacent farm, now called Moat Farm but named Priors Bine in the 1851 census, was farmed by his eldest son, also John. There is an old farmhouse on the estate and this is also owned by the Lock Estate.

Richard Batchelor, brother to the above-mentioned John, came to Esher and set up business in the High Street. He was a corn merchant and farmer and lived in the house next to Waitrose. This house is still in the High Street but is partly obscured by two shops which were built out over the pavement. One is a chemist's and the other shop was formerly Hunter Dunn. I have a watercolour of the house, dated 1860, painted by Eric Hull, with the following inscription; "This drawing of her birthplace is presented to Miss Alice Batchelor in remembrance of many happy days spent in Esher. August 1860". Alice Batchelor died in 1864 aged 15.

The following is an extract from the Surrey Comet dated 16th May 1857: FIRE - On Friday night this quiet little village was thrown into a state of consternation in consequence of an alarming fire that broke out upon the premises of Mr Batchelor, a corn merchant and farmer. We are sorry to state that very considerable damage was done to the stock, and a valuable horse fell a sacrifice to the devouring element. Happily the other cattle were rescued. Every assistance was rendered by the inhabitants, and the fire was ultimately subdued".

There is a tombstone in the churchyard of the Anglican church, Christchurch, Esher with the following inscription: "In memory of Mr Richard Batchelor, died Dec 20 1858 aged 46 years. Also Charles Joseph, youngest son of the above, died Feb 14 1861 aged 7 years. Also Richard Batchelor, eldest son of the above, died 13th November 1865 aged 25 years. Also Jane, wife of the above Mr. Richard Batchelor. Aged 51 years. (1868). In the 1861 census, there is no mention of any Batchelors in Esher. After her husband's death, Jane went to live at 76 Crowndale Road, Oakley Square, London, but was buried in the family grave in Esher.

Richard and Jane Batchelor had nine children. Their eighth child, Herbert William, was my grandfather. Several of the children died when young. The eldest son Richard played cricket for Esher, and "had he been in a position to be tempted to try cricket for his livelihood, might have formed one of his County's Eleven, but he had a prosperous business which he would not neglect. He complained of illness during the cricket match played at Esher on October 9, 10 and 11 in 1865 (game played in much wet), and, going home, at once took to his bed and died November 13th 1865 aged 25, at Esher where he is buried". (From the records of the MCC).

Mary Catherine (known as Kate) became companion to Blanche, Duchess of Orleans when she lived at Moore Place in the High Street, Esher, and it is believed that she accompanied the Duchess when she returned to France. I have a prayer book given by the Duchess to Kate. Mary Agnes became a nun in France and returned to England briefly when religious orders were forced to leave France.

My grandfather was born in 1852. He was a partner in a business in Sackville Street, London with a Mr Curtis who lived in Magpie Cottage, Weston Green. This house faces the pond just off Hampton Court Way. My grandfather died at the age of 46, having contracted pneumonia after taking a Turkish bath. My grandmother was a widow at 39 with five children. Her name was Frances Sarah Readwin and she married my grandfather in 1889.

Kathleen Mulheir, grand-daughter of Henry Bernard Batchelor, brother to my grandfather, possesses a brooch given to Jane Batchelor by Queen Victoria for nursing the future Edward VII at Claremont. The brooch is a small turquoise bow. Kathleen lives in Blackburn, Lancashire and is now 95.

Eileen Bernard


Spring 2002

Claygate's V.C.

by Jo Buckley

Holy Trinity Churchyard contains the grave of Captain Douglas Walter Belcher, the holder of the Victoria Cross. He was born in 1889 at Surbiton. The citation for the award of the Victoria Cross reads that on 13th May 1915 as a Lance Sergeant, during heavy bombardment near St. Julien, Belgium, he was in charge of a part of an advanced breastwork which he volunteered to hold when other troops were withdrawing. He succeeded by opening fire on the enemy, just 150 yards away, each time they prepared to attack. Later he became a Captain in 1/5th Bn., London Regiment (The London Rifle Brigade), now the Royal Green Jackets and 6th Gurka Rifles. Captain Belcher died on 3rd June 1953 at Claygate, aged 63. His medals are held at the Royal Green Jackets Museum, and his gravestone in the Churchyard includes an inscription to his wife Gertrude Elizabeth who died in 1967.


Winter 2004

Three Local History Gems provided by our Vice-President Joan Harlow

1. Fete at Boyle Farm, Thames Ditton 1827

Boyle Farm (now the Home of Compassion) was the venue for a celebrated Fete in 1827 given by Henry de Bos of the Farm and four of his fashionable London friends who each subscribed £500 (a substantial amount in those days) for the event. This has been described as having great taste in the arrangements: a pavilion on the bank of the river, a large dinner tent on the lawns capable of holding 450, and a select table for fifty in the conservatory in the house.

Gondolas floated on the Thames at the foot of the lawns containing singers from the Italian Opera Company, and in a boat the famous singers Vestris and Fanny Ayton, one singing in Italian and the other in English. There were illuminations in the grounds of the house and down to the river, with quadrilles danced on the lawn by the beauties of the season. It was recalled as the "Dandies' Fete" for many years to come.

2. Elmbridge Commons

The fact that we are so fortunate in Elmbridge in having so much common land owes much to Henry VIII who drew the land into his Chase for hunting, and in successive years this land has developed into heathland and now our Commons. Elmbridge has a dedicated Commons Management Team led by , David Page to care for around 1200 acres of Common of which 885 acres are in old Esher Council area. The team ensures the restoration of the heathland so necessary to retain the blue studded butterfly, lizards, unique solitary wasps breeding in bare sandy soil and yes, snakes. There are over 1,000 different types of fungi and a rare star water plant in the West End pond. With a rich variety of habitat the Commons are home to deciduous and coniferous trees where woodpeckers, goldcrests, nuthatches, tits and warblers are resident, as well as birds of prey such as kestrel, sparrow hawk and the occasional hobby. The Commons have a wide diversity, from the woodlands of Oxshott, Esher and Arbrook Commons to the heathlands of the Oxshott South Slope and Fairmile Common, the ponds at the Claremont Mansion; and the interesting geology of the Ledges above the River Mole at West End where Neolithic implements have been found.

3. Manor House, Long Ditton

The Manor House next to Long Ditton Church was mentioned in the Domesday Book as Ditone or Ditune and Included in the lands of Richard, son of Count Gilbert and held from him by one Picot. The first recorded Rector of Long Ditton Church is Robert Picot (!) in 1166. In 1565 Sir George Evelyn acquired the manor, and later Sir Thomas Evelyn, a Member of The Long Parliament - although a Parliamentarian, he was never Cromwellian - resided in the Manor and it continued in occupation of the Evelyn family until 1692. The Tax Return of 1664 shows Sir Edward Evelyn at the Manor House with 20 hearths. The Evelyn/Alston family sold the Lordship of the Manor to Peter King of Ockham in 1721. He became Lord Chancellor of England in 1725. A map of Sir Peter King's Lands dated 1725 shows "The Manor House, Woodstock", and was the first map of Long Ditton. A Mr and Mrs Trollope made their home at the Manor House at the end of the 19th Century and the lych gate at the Church was erected in their memory in 1902. A small part of the present building retains some of the 18th Century building. (Acknowledgments for some of this information to Rev. Eric Smith and Mr Peter Fussell of Long Ditton)


Winter 2005

A letter from our Vice-President Mr. Derek Brown about R.C.Sherriff

I saw quite a lot of Mr Sherriff in the last years of his life, shy and retiring man though he was. He agreed to give an Esher Library Lecture for me in about 1964 in the old Council Offices at Esher. I was District Librarian, Esher, at the time and made a feature of a monthly lecture in King George's Hall. (These were the forerunners of the present Royston Pike lectures, because as long-time Chairman of the Library Committee, Royston Pike was a strong supporter). To our dismay the then Prime Minister chose our lecture night for the General Election, but a week later we had a large audience anxious to meet an Esher celebrity. Mr Sherriff spoke of his concern about the rise of television and its enormous appetite for plays. In general he had great sympathy for Terence Rattigan and regarded the advent of the "angry young men" with dismay.

It was expected that Mr Sherriff would meet us socially in the Chairman's Room but to our consternation he was a bundle of nerves and would not stay to talk to us. This extreme shyness was shown again on 2 December 1971 when he agreed to open the new Thames Ditton Branch Library. He was so panicky at the thought of meeting the audience afterwards that I actually had to stand in the doorway to block his exit - so that at least we got half-an-hour's conversation out of him! He bore me no malice and I several times took sherry with him at his house, Rosebriars. Sometimes we would go up to his first floor writing room which was largely an open space, since he liked to compose whilst walking about. The fine oak cabinets contained a complete collection of Roman coins, his "portrait gallery of the emperors", as he would call it. A feature of this room was the placing of four pairs of spectacles at strategic points, ready to be snatched up and put on as inspiration for a word or phrase came to him. Downstairs we would sit and enjoy his excellent sherry, with me sitting normally in an armchair and him sitting sideways on, dangling his long thin legs. He was full of nervous energy, describing to me such episodes as the time his regiment was posted to Glasgow in anticipation of a "red revolt". He served under another well-known Esher resident, Major Drane.

I was moved from Esher in 1974 but attended Mr Sherriff's funeral the next year when Dr Michael Dixon, a much-respected Esher GP, delivered a splendid eulogy of his friend and patient.

Bob Sherriff had outlined to me his hopes that Rosebriars, with its large rooms and six acres of beautiful grounds, could become an arts centre. Unfortunately, these plans largely fell through because he had left most of his money to the causes that he cherished. He was a lonely man and I like to think he appreciated my visits as much as I appreciated his sherry!


Spring 2006

Charing Cross Hospital

April 1873

We have much pleasure in drawing attention to the following notice issued by the authorities of this Hospital, as we feel assured that it will be in the power of many of our readers to forward the assistance asked for by the Committee. We the more readily present the Appeal through remembering the excessive kindness and attention received in the Hospital by many patients from this Parish. The Rector will be happy to receive and transmit to the Hospital any such parcels as may be sent to him:

May 1893

Those persons to whom Blankets have been lent during this Winter Season, are reminded that they are to return them to the School House, at 12 o'clock on Wednesday, May 17th. Sixpences will be given for each Blanket brought back well washed and in good condition.


Autumn 2006

More on the Paper Mills

Mrs Audrey Orr has written to say that she remembered how, as a child during the First World War when she lived in Weybridge, she used to hear and see the Rag & Bone men coming in their horse and cart, when householders would bring out "rags & bones" to be disposed of. The rags would go to the Paper Mills.


Autumn 2006

Telegraph Hill, Claygate/Hinchley wood

There are visible earthworks in Hinchley Wood on the Hill, which has been designated as an Area of High Archaeological Potential in the Sites and Monument Records. The team of volunteers from KUTAS, Unisearch and Surrey Archeaological Society has now completed the second survey season of this area.

Much of the land on Telegraph Hill, which is owned and managed by Elmbridge Council, has now been surveyed. The plans appear to confirm the survival of field boundaries and possible traces of the old track across the hill as shown by Rocque. The survey will recommence on 17 September, when it is planned to work towards the large earthworks of the northern scarp slope. Anyone interested in joining the survey team should ring Chris and Gay Harris on 0208 390 1000 for further information.