In the "Dog House"

a place fit for nobleman and priest but not for pauper.

Henry Pownall in Some particulars relating to the history of Epsom, published 1825 wrote:-
"Proceeding towards the house of Solomon Davies, Esq. [The Hylands] and the Work-house, an old building, formerly the residence of the Earl of Berkeley; we pass, on the left of the road, a handsome white house, partly screened from the road by trees and evergreens. It formed part of Mr Rooth's elegant mansion..."
Since the Berkeleys are only known to have owned two houses in Epsom in addition to Durdans this statement begs the question was this the one known as the "Dog House" or another nearby which was described as 'a late erected Messuage or tenement' in 1686.

An impressive assembly of material from the archives bearing upon the history of the Doghouse may be found in John Parsloe's Woodcote Green House published in 2008. He arrived at a view (expressed in a final paragraph on page 128) that the Dog House could have been the old part of Woodcote House and the later west wing was a "newly erected messuage" acquired by Sir Edward Northey in 1695. Mr Parsloe recognised, however, that there might be reasons to challenge such an assumption. A re-examination of the issue, prompted by Pownall's reference to a former residence of the Earl of Berkeley, [on New Inn Lane, the present Dorking Road] leads to somewhat different conclusions as summarised in the final paragraph of this article. The reasoning is as follows: -

A ] The 'Dog House'

This image is just marked 'Epsom, Northey' and signed by J. Hassell 1823 but is the thought to be of the main Woodcote House building
This image is just marked 'Epsom, Northey' and signed by J. Hassell 1823
but is the thought to be of the main Woodcote House building
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

The Chertsey Cartulary contains references from 1596 to freehold property - "one garden called Downers lying in the Woodcote, lately of John Downer' and 'a cottage and 1 croft lying at Woodcott...formerly of John Downer". Later corrupted to 'Downewards', these holdings had become 50 years later a location for 'The Dog House'.

An article about Durdans mentions "Sir Robert Coke also acquired a building on the estate known as the Dogghouse (Dagghouse), probably from John and Thomas Hewett. He fitted this as a library for any of the Ministers of the county of Surrey to use on week-days between sun-rising and sun-setting. He had inherited the books, which included some Greek and other manuscripts, from his father Sir Edward Coke. These remained at Durdans until 1682 when they were given to Sion College"

It is known(as recognised by Mr Parsloe on page 126 of his book) that Sir Robert Coke had purchased the building called Dogghouse or Dagghouse in 1647, before he made his will on 7 December 1652. The property was left to Edward Wenyeve, Sir Robert's 'lovinge and faithfull friend' and Executor, but it was passed on by the latter to George Berkeley after his uncle's death, 19 July 1653. Berkeley had been left to open the premises up as a library for clergy (as desired by Sir Robert Coke in a codicil to his Will) and George is listed as being in possession of the freehold in the 1680 Survey. Most of the books were indeed gifted to Sion College in 1682 but they were retained at Durdans for the rest of the 1st Earl of Berkeley's life. In November 1689 various Berkeley properties had been mortgaged to Sir William Turner of London. On George's death, 1698, the real estate passed to Charles, 2nd Earl Berkeley, but he sold Durdans with the Dog House in 1702 to Charles Turner of Kirkleatham, Cleveland, Yorkshire. Turner re-sold Durdans, 1708, whilst retaining the Dogghouse or Dogghouse Farm.

All of the foregoing comments bring us back to the question, "But where was the Dog House situated?" The location of these premises is described in the 1680 Survey as abutting on Gills Lane on the south west part and on lands of John Maund on the north east part. Clay Lane formerly Gills Lane was closed off in the 19th century: as reported by John Parsloe, it ran from Woodcote Green west of Woodcote House to Crockingham Corner across the road from Durdans. Maund held property in the Chalk lane area. Consequently, the Doghouse would appear to have been sited on what became the Woodcote House estate. In a 1708 Deed, the "messuage or tenement.. [known as]... Dogghouse or Dogghouse ffarme" was described as lying near to the mansion house called Durdens. Cholmley Turner and the Administrator under the Will of Sir William Turner (died 9 February 1692), sold what was evidently the Doghouse to Sir Edward Northey on 23 February 1709/10. The indenture mentioned that there had been a bargain and sale, immediately previously, between Charles Turner, Cholmley Turner, son and heir apparent of Charles, and Sir Robert Beddingfield, Administrator of the late Sir William Turner. It seems, therefore, entirely likely the Doghouse was either incorporated in Woodcote House, or demolished, as part of Sir Edward Northey's subsequent rebuilding.

Extract from the 1866 OS Map - click image to enlarge
Extract from the 1866 OS Map
Click image to enlarge.

In the 1755 Survey, the description of Woodcote House, held freehold by Sir Edward Northey, included a reference to a dog kennel as one of the outhouses.

B] Late erected Messuage

Epsom Poor House by Hassell
Epsom Poor House by J Hassell,
formerly a residence of the Earl of Berkeley; Late erected messuage
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

During 1682 the Berkeley family was riven by an affair between Lady Henrietta Berkeley and Ford, Lord Grey of Warke who deserted his wife, Henrietta's sister Mary. It is possible that George, Earl of Berkeley and Elizabeth, his wife, had a new house erected in which their daughter could live after estrangement from her husband. Certainly, before 1686, Lady Mary Grey had taken up residence in a newly-erected residence "near the house called or known by the name of the Doghouse". Ford Grey eventually returned to England before he became Earl of Tankerville in 1695: since Mary automatically became Countess of Tankerville, one cannot say whether there was a reconciliation with her husband. Nevertheless, for that or some other reason, Mary gave up use of the Messuage to her brother, Lord Clifford. He in turn was succeeded by a tenant called Dupas [Samuel Du Pass of Epsom, First Clerk in Secretary of State's Office]* before, in October 1695, it was sold with two acres to Edward Northey described as in the Parish of Epsom "near to a Messuage there sometimes called Downwards alias Downers or Doghouse and now or lately called Doghouse in the occupation of [William] George"

Sir Edward Northey (b. 1652) died on 16 August 1723. Consequently, the property could have come on to the market, during the administration of his estate, about the time of Knatchbull's General Workhouse Act of 1723, which enabled single parishes to erect, buy or rent a workhouse to the destitute if they wished, so that they could enforce labour on the able-bodied poor in return for relief. The 'workhouse test' then enabled parishes to refuse benefits to those paupers who would not enter them: "no poor who refuse to be lodged and kept in order should be entitled to ask for parochial relief". The same Act introduced the vicious system of "farming out" the poor. Parishes were authorised "to contract with any persons or person for the lodging, keeping, or employing any or all such poor of the parish". Grave abuses sprang up but Epsom seems to have delayed the practice until the last quarter of the 18th century as described on the Workhouse page.

Because the Messuage appears to have been held freehold it is not mentioned directly by Dr H L Lehmann in his analysis of The residential copyholds of Epsom. However, a sketch map between pages 84 & 85 of that book shows it as an outline of the old poorhouse behind plot 3C5 (The White Horse) next to Edward Northey's 18 acres, similarly freehold.

A Vestry record for 1778
"Upon the Complaint of Mr Northey that the drain from the Workhouse running into his Field , to the great Inconvenience and Annoyance of the Same, Ordered that the same be immediately remedied..."
In 1836, as part of plans for a Union workhouse to be built on land to the rear, aged and infirm inmates from various parishes were moved into the old Epsom poorhouse. During 1840 the occupants were moved out to a ward in the new main building. A footprint of the original structure appears on the 1843 Tithe Map but by 1866 that building had been replaced by another on its site, re-aligned by 90 degrees to the axis of the rest of the complex.

Extract from the Epsom Tithe Map
Extract from the Epsom Tithe Map showing the location of the Late erected messuage

In Conclusion

It seems clear to the present writer that George, Earl of Berkeley, became the owner of three houses in Epsom forming a line north-west from Durdans: -
- Durdans itself.
- Another, next in sequence, was The Doghouse, 'near to the mansion house called Durdens' and 'abutting on Gills Lane on the south-west part' [Later Woodcote House].
- Finally came a Messuage, 'late erected' in 1686 and near to The Doghouse. The unnamed property was sited on a plot derived from a larger area of freehold land which could be accessed from New Inn Lane: it was eventually acquired by the Parish for use as a Poorhouse and incorporated into Epsom Union Workhouse before demolition.


Brian Bouchard © 2010
Member of Leatherhead and District Local History Society


* Samuel Du Pass is reported to have left his employment during the reign of James II on account of his religion and went to Holland to join the Prince of Orange with whom he returned to England. Having declined to accept reinstatement in his old post he retired to the west Indies where he died during 1699.


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