Nonsuch Mansion

in the Little Park
and its tenure by members of the
Thompson and Whateley/Whately families, c1735 to 1797
Thompson Of Watton-at-stone Arms
Thompson Of Watton-at-stone Arms
Or, on a fess dancettee Azure three estoiles of the field,
on a canton of the second the sun in glory of the first.
CREST An arm erect vested Gules cuffed Argent,
holding in the hand proper five ears of wheat Or.

Allegations for Marriage Licences issued by the Vicar-General of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1680 include 'Oct. 12. Joseph Thompson, of Stoke Newington, Middx., Sugar Baker, Bachr., abt. 22, with consent of his father, & Mrs Mary Glover, of St.Clement's Lane, London, Spr., abt 16, with consent of parents; alleged by Giles Woodman, of Stoke Newington, Parish Clerk; at Stoke Newington afsd.' Joseph's father was Major Robert Thompson (1621 -1694), from Elsham, Lincs., but latterly of Newington Green, who acquired extensive real estate in both England and New England. A great friend of Oliver Cromwell, he was Navy Commissioner from 1649 throughout the Interregnum, serving in 1657-60 as victualling commissioner at Plymouth. Thompson, Connecticut, has been named in his honour. A wealthy Puritan merchant, he was a member of both the East India Company and the New England Company (incorporated in 1649 as the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England). Newington Green became an important haven for Dissenting ministers after 1662 and the location of the academy founded by Theophilus Gale, a fellow and tutor of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1666 whilst acting as assistant to the minister of Newington Green chapel.

The union of Joseph Thompson and Mary was blessed with at least three children - Elizabeth baptised at St Andrew Holborn, 29 September 1684, Mary born 6 February 1698/9, baptised at St John Hackney 7 February, and Joseph, junior, baptised St Botolph, Aldgate, 7 September 1698.

The Hackney connections

Newington Green straddles the border between Islington and Hackney. The Thompson family possessed extensive property interests in Hackney descended from ancestors of Elsham, North Lincolnshire. They included a house 'on the passageway leading from London Fields to Mare Street'. In 1719, Joseph Thompson [senior] was described as one of the principal landowners in London Fields.

His daughter, Elizabeth Thompson, married Stamp Brooksbank M.P. at St Mary le Bow on 26 December 1722. Brooksbank was a Director and subsequently governor of the Bank of England. He lived on Mare Street, Hackney, and 'in the reign of George I, about the year 1727 at an expenditure of upwards of £28,000' commissioned Colen Campbell to build Hackney House. The Brooksbank arms impaling those of his wife, Thompson, were represented in the pediment sculpture on a five and a half foot plaque.

An image of Hackney House can be seen on the City of London Collage system.

Residence in Epsom

On 21 November 1726, Richard Rooth died at his house on New Inn Lane, Epsom: H L Lehmann's The Residential Copyholds of Epsom (1B29) indicates that subsequently the property, which later became known as The Elms, was occupied by Joseph Thompson, presumably the younger.

That Joseph Thompson's sister, Mary, (daughter of Joseph Thompson, wealthy merchant of Hackney, Middlesex) had married Thomas Whateley [sic] of Epsom (c.1685-1765), a Turkey merchant and director of the Bank of England, at St Giles Cripplegate on 2 December 1726. Thomas, their eldest son, was baptised at St Martin's, Epsom, on 19 August 1728.

Extract from the 1729 map by John Senex
Extract from the 1729 map by John Senex

Nonsuch estate acquired

Nonsuch Little Park was sold by the Duke of Grafton in 1731 to Joseph Thompson, junior, who built a new house there, probably completed before 4 June 1736 when Richard Rooth's former home on New Inn Lane, mentioned above, was sold [Lehmann 1B29].

A preliminary map of the Little Park, 1731, adapted from A Survey of Nonsuch Park, the seat of Joseph Thompson, appears in the late John Dent's The Quest for Nonsuch.

A preliminary map of the Little Park, 1731 - Click image to enlarge
A preliminary map of the Little Park, 1731 - Click image to enlarge
Image Source The Quest for Nonsuch by John Dent

According to Martin Biddle Nonsuch Mansion "was built between 1731 and 1743 by Joseph Thompson, but greatly enlarged into its present form by the architect Jeffrey Wyatt in 1802-6. The chequer-work wall of flint and chalk on the east side of the house, beside the drive from the car park, is certainly of Tudor date. Inside the porch of the Mansion House, set into the wall on the right, is a stone, rather crudely inscribed: 1543 HENRICV OCTAVS + 35 ('1543 Henry the Eighth, the 35th year of his reign'). The chequered wall and the date stone suggest that the Mansion House occupies the site of, and was perhaps originally converted out of, one of the lodges within the Little Park".

Joseph Thompson, junior, (Mary [Thompson] Whateley's brother) had been admitted to the Inner Temple on 26 November 1720, giving his occupation as 'armiger' (a person entitled to use a coat of arms). He donated a number of books to Yale College in 1730. As the grandson and heir of Robert Thompson of Stoke Newington he was granted a further 2000 acres of land at Killingly, Massachusetts. As far as one can tell Joseph, junior, lived on what would have been substantial income from real property and did not practise as a barrister. He died 14 October 1743 at Hackney [Will, 'of Cuddington', proved 20 October 1743 - PROB 11/729/386]. Henry Pownall, in Some particulars relating to the history of Epsom, remarked that Joseph Thompson left Nonsuch Mansion to his nephew, Joseph Whately, on condition that he should take priest's orders. Rather than that requirement being specified in Thompson's Will, however, the testator simply expressed a wish that his nephew should take steps to adopt the Thompson name 'if it be not unsuitable to his own inclination and his parents'. Joseph Whately was to come into possession of Nonsuch when he attained the age of 25.

In The history and antiquities of the County of Surrey, Volume 3, Manning and Bray report on Cheam - 'This Inscription, with a shield of arms, is on a white marble headstone which is inclosed with handsome Iron Rails in the Churchyard: In Memory of Joseph Thompson of Nonsuch Park Esq. who departed this Life October 14th, 1743, aged 55 years. This Monumental Stone was by his direction in this manner erected.' His burial at Cheam, Ewell or Epsom was to have been 'without any building or covering over my grave than the earth' beyond a simple headstone.

Joseph Whately's christening took place on 17 March 1730 in St Martin's, Epsom, Surrey. He became Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College from 19 January 1759. Instituted Rector of Widford, Hertfordshire, 25 July 1765, he resigned 8 April 1790. On 9 June 1769, he had married Jane Plumer at Widford. A Marriage Settlement was drawn up - 'Between Rev. Joseph Whately of Nonsuch Park, Surrey, clerk, devisee of Joseph Thompson of the same, Esq., and Jane Plumer of Blakesware, Ware, Herts., spinster. Release of capital messuage, Nonsuch Park, Surrey, and Nonsuch Little Park, adjoining, 671 acres, use of a drain out of pond in Nonsuch Park or Little Park, across road from Worcester Park to Nonsuch Park, through Worcester Park to Ewell Common, and lands and messuages in Nonsuch, Malden, Ewell, Cheam, Sutton, Epsom, Esher and Kingston, Surrey. William Plumer of New Place, Gilston, Herts., Esq., son, heir and executor of William Plumer, late of Blakesware, Esq., (by direction of Joseph Whateley) and Joseph Martin of Downing Street, Westminster, Esq. to Samuel Salt of Inner Temple, London, Esq. to the use of Joseph Whateley for life, and then to the use of Jane Plumer, and then to William Plumer and Thomas Whateley of Parliament St., Westminster, Esq. in trust for the children of the marriage, etc. 15 June 1769.

The Mansion appears as 'Nonsuch Farm' on Rocque's map of 1768
The Mansion appears as 'Nonsuch Farm' on Rocque's map of 1768

Because Joseph lived in Hertfordshire, Nonsuch Mansion came to be occupied by his elder brother Thomas who died 26 May 1772 unmarried and intestate: - http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Page:Dictionary_of_National_Biography_volume_60.djvu/435

Nonsuch Mansion gardens in the 18th century

The Gardener's Magazine and register of rural & domestic improvement, Volume 7, 1831, contained: - "A short Account of Nonsuch Park, near Epsom, the Seat of the late Rev. Joseph Whately, as it existed about the Year 1786 -
Communicated by the Rev. W. T. BREE, A.M.
Sir,
The following descriptive sketch of Nonsuch, which I have extracted from a letter lately received from my friend, the Rev. Thomas Whately of Cookham, I think may prove interesting to the readers of the Gardener's Magazine on more accounts than one. In the first place, it will serve to show how far taste, judgement, and ingenuity will go towards rendering beautiful a situation in itself entirely destitute of beauty and natural advantages, and of almost all the component elements of the picturesque; for such, it appears, was Nonsuch, previously to its undergoing the alterations introduced by the art of the landscape-gardener. Secondly, the spot described may be considered as classic ground, having been the frequent retreat of the late Thomas Whately, Esq., author of Observations on Modern Gardening, and brother of the then proprietor. And, what is more, much of the beauty of the garden and pleasure-ground was, in all probability, the result of his taste and genius; for, I am informed, he was at his brother's right hand when the improvements in the garden were made; and no doubt confirmed with his approval, if he did not originally suggest, many of the alterations. The place, therefore, as described below, may be considered, at least in great measure, as the work of Thomas Whately, and may serve as a practical illustration of those principles of the art, which he has so well laid down in his incomparable treatise on Modern Gardening. Let it be remembered that the following brief sketch applies to Nonsuch as it was, not as it now is. The property has some years since passed out of the Whately family; and the whole place, I am told, has now undergone an entire change in the arrangement of its garden, plantations, buildings, &c, the old house having been pulled down and a large modern mansion, erected in its room by the present proprietor, Farmer, Esq. Not being acquainted, however, with the seat, I shall not attempt to describe it, but shall leave to others the task of drawing comparisons between its present and former appearances, and the respective merits of each.

Yours, &c.

Allesley Rectory, April 5. 1831. W. T. BREE.

THE great beauty of the garden at Nonsuch consisted in the exquisite taste displayed, and which created a most delightfully interesting scene of great variety, without the assistance of wood, water, undulating ground, or prospect. The place in itself, indeed, is really ugly. The house was particularly ill calculated for the purpose of adding any thing of interest to the scene: it was a long, low, red building, with eleven heavy sash windows in a row, and the same number above. From the east corner of this south front a high wall extended to a considerable length, with a pigeon-house and stable at the end. To add to its disqualifications, it was enclosed within walls (courts), planted round with formal rows of trees. These trees were made to produce a happy effect, by drawing the middle one of one of the rows forward about 50 yards; by which means the line was so effectually broken that no one could be brought to believe a line had ever existed. The same effect was produced on the other side by planting shrubs before it, and towards the end uniting it to some other trees by judiciously scattered small trees. In front of the house was a large lawn, interrupted about half way by a chalk pit; the front of which was shelved down, and the back so planted as to give the effect of beautifully undulating ground in front, and thick sheltered wood behind. The interest created by this chalk-pit arose in great measure from the very skilful manner in which different channels were made to fall into one another; so that no slope was tame, but each was so contrived as to appear the natural result of time or old watercourses. A happy effect was produced by the attention paid to the tints of the trees, which blended in a delightful manner. I was delighted with this beautiful spot from my childhood; and can remember the conversations of Gilpin*, Sanxy+, Parkhurst J.**, Masyres§, and others, who would stand upon the lawn for hours, talking of its various beauties, with my father, who was himself the greatest ornament of the scene. The bourne, which rose in the chalk-pit, was connected with one three miles off on one side at Epsom, and another two miles off on the other side at Lower Cheam; the water rose after a wet season: I remember to have seen a considerable quantity of water in the pit twice in my life; a circumstance which we considered a great misfortune, as it converted the hollow into a pond. T. W.


*The Rev. William Gilpin, of picturesque memory.
+ An eminent surgeon, the Astley Cooper of his day.
** The Rev. John Parkhurst of Epsom, author of a Hebrew and English Lexicon, and of a Greek and English lexicon to the New Testament, &c. &c.
§ Baron of the Exchequer, who lived at Reigate; a man of very extensive learning, particularly in the mathematics."

The Rev. Joseph Whately was appointed Prebendary of Bristol , 5 March 1793, but died in that City on 13 March 1797 and was buried on 18 March 1797 in Bristol Cathedral. In his Will it was directed that the Nonsuch estate should be sold.

The premises were purchased by Samuel Farmer, M.P. for Huntingdon, of Crabwell, Cheshire. He had a new mansion built during the years 1802-1806. John Dent remarks in The Quest for Nonsuch (1962) that - 'The house built by Joseph Thompson survives to this day, incorporated in the [present] mansion as the kitchen wing, and some of the outbuildings erected for him form part of the premises occupied by the Park Superintendent.'

Nonsuch Mansion c1850 showing the Farmer building
Nonsuch Mansion c1850 showing the Farmer building

Brian Bouchard October 2012

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