Pitt Place


For many decades Pitt Place, Epsom, was occupied by some of Epsom's high society, many of who led very interesting lives. This page just gives an eye witness description of the building and Lord Littleton's dream but for information about the many colourful characters associated with Pitt Place please read the full article (You may need Adobe Reader to view this file, this software can be downloaded free from Adobe).

After Durdans burnt down on 25 February 1755, Alderman William Belchier [Banker in Lombard Street and sometime M.P. for Southwark] built a new house for his use, in an old chalk pit close to Epsom parish church, to become known as Pitt Place. John Wesley dined with Belchier at Epsom on 13 August 1759 which suggests that the property had been completed before that date. According to the Victoria County History "The lions at the entrance and some interior work (were) said to have come from Nonsuch": some of the chimney-work was also believed to have been derived from the old palace.

Detail from 1866 OS Map
Detail from 1866 OS Map

PITT PLACE
The Seat of Thomas Jewdwine, Esq.


As described by John Hassells in Picturesque Rides and Walks with Excursions by water, Thirty Miles round the British Metropolis, 1817


Pitt Place by John Hassells
Pitt Place by John Hassells c.1816

This elegant retreat was the 'whimsical offspring of the late Mr. Belchier, who converted a chalk pit into a most desirable residence. Mr. Fitzherbert, who afterwards possessed it, made considerable improvements; but its present possessor, Mr. Jewdwine, has completed what taste and judgment must allow to be a very pretty chateau. It is much to be regretted, that in giving a view of this structure, there is no point that can he taken which embraces the rich woody scene on its opposite side. For so small a space, it has an abundance of luxuriant native and exotic shrubs and trees.

Pitt Place by John Hassells
Pitt Place by John Hassells c.1816

The bowling green in front of this mansion is kept in very high order, and affords an opportunity for a gentlemanly pastime. Mr. Jewdwine's pinery, green, and hot houses, are of the most excellent kind. By a subterraneous passage from the lawn, you are conducted to the kitchen and flower gardens, and from thence to his farm, &c. The interior of this mansion has every convenience for a family residence: - among its elegant luxuries, is a marble hath. The drawing room, conservatory, and aviary, are supposed to be the most beautiful in the county of Surrey.

In the conservatory is a myrtle of extraordinary growth, which Mr. Jewdwine has taken infinite pains to cultivate and preserve; it is fifteen feet in height, and covers an area of seven yards in diameter ; a bottom, it measures thirty-six inches in circumference, and at the height of three feet upwards, it is twenty-eight inches in girth; at six feet from the ground, it divides into two stems, each of which are two spans round. It is presumed to be the largest myrtle in the south of England. With this tree are several citrons, Maltese oranges, and shaddocks.

The Drawing Room, Pitt Place 1959
The Drawing Room, Pitt Place 1959

The interior of the villa is fitted up with elegance: the drawing-room is thirty-nine feet long by thirty feet broad, and about twenty-eight feet in height: - the looking-glasses have an excellent effect, by being let into the panels, and appear to represent a continuation of the grounds one way, and the orangery the other. The panels are ornamented with groups of flowers, and subjects from the antique, and shaped with borders. The windows reach from the very top to the bottom of the room, corresponding with the one that leads into the conservatory. In this room, Mr. Jewdwine keeps the chef-d'oeuvre of his collection of pictures; a most beautiful gem, entitled, "La Fille Retrouve," presumed by some to be by Gerard Dow, to which I cannot agree, ascribing it rather to the pencil of Vanderwerf. It is a most rare and beautiful production, and evidently painted to commemorate a domestic calamity: - the recovered daughter is convincing her parents of her identity by pointing to a mole on her breast, and to confirm her relationship, she presents her Dutch pass, and the family jewels she wore before her departure; the mother is weeping over the daughter with rapture - the tear, ami her convulsed and swollenn throat, denote her excessive joy and surprise: the father, with closed hands, returning thanks, is a strong marked character, habited in a Spanish dress. Another female is seen wiping the tear from her eye, and forms the group on the left side. An old gipsy woman, who, it is presumed, has brought back the fugitive, makes up the group: -there are some flowers introduced, touched with sweetness and delicacy.

The dining parlour is a spacious room, twenty-seven feet square, and about eighteen feet in height, and possesses the principal part of the collection of pictures at Pitt Place. There are three charming pictures, by Berghem ; one of Fording the River, in his broadest and boldest manner, with a peculiar richness of colouring ; the other two are cabinet gems, the one Ploughing, and the other a Cattle Piece, both sweet pictures ; - one by Wovermans, Going out Hawking, in his early manner; - a Bridge, by Ruysdale, fine, and a Ferry Boat, with a river scene, by the same master;-the Debauch, with Louis XIV. in character, by Old Wenix ; -a Remus and Romulus, by Coypel; -a Merry Making, by Teniers; -three, by Mieris, very fine, of Venus and Diana, Ariadne, and a sleeping Venus; - a Landscape, Both; - Temptation of St. Antony, with a well composed Landscape, Salvator Rosa; - an upright Landscape, by Cuyp; - Landscape and Cattle, by Du Jardin ; - Separating the Flocks, by Both and Berghem, an exqnisite picture; - the Emharkation of St. Rosario, Claude; - a fine crayon drawing of the celebrated Kitty Fisher; - the rape of Dejaneira, after Guido; - Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne, a delightful composition, by Luca Giordano; - two subjects of the Bay of Naples and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius; beside many more pictures of less note. On the staircase, is the Triumph of Silenus at the Fountain of Bacchus, after Jordaens, a composition of considerable interest.

The Chinese Chippendale Room, Pitt Place 1959
The Chinese Chippendale Room, Pitt Place 1959

The Library is extensive and well chosen, with a considerable number of very rare and scarce books. In this room are the principal works of Hogarth, with a few good pictures, and a print of the celebrated large cask of Heidelburg, which is elegantly ornamented, and will hold thirteen thousand gallons. This celebrated tub was filled with fine hock at the time Bonaparte visited, with his army, that part of Germany: -there would need little occasion to observe, he emptied it. He ordered it to be drained to the last drop, and sent it to Paris for his own and generals' private services. Here is also an original portrait of Garrick, by Gainsborough ; and a curious drawing, by Marcellus Larron, a French artist, of the ancient manner of throwing the stocking at an English wedding.

The circumstances attending the death of Lord Littleton are generally known, though but few persons were acquainted with its being at Pitt Place. The following is a detail given of that event by one who was of the party, and on a visit to that nobleman.


Lord Littleton's Dream and Death.

"I was at Pitt Place, Epsom, when Lord Littleton died; Lord Fortesque, Lady Flood, and the two Miss Amphletts, were also present. Lord Littleton had not been long returned from Ireland, and frequently had been seized with suffocating fits ; he was attacked several times by them in the course at the preceding month while he was at his house in Hill Street, Berkeley-square. It happened that he dreamt, three days before his death, that he saw a fluttering bird, and afterwards that a woman appeared to him in white apparel, and said to him, ' Prepare to die, you will not exist three days' ; - his lordship was much alarmed, and called to his servant from a closet adjoining, who found him much agitated, and in a profuse perspiration; the circumstance had a visible effect all the next day on his lordship's spirits. On the third day, while his lordship was at breakfast with the above personages, he said, 'If I live over tonight, I shall have jockied the ghost, for this is the third day.' The whole party presently set off for Pitt Place, where they had not long arrived, before his lordship was visited by one of his accustomed fits: after a short time he recovered. He dined at five o'clock that day, and went to bed at eleven, when his servant was about to give him rhubarb and mint water} but his lordship perceiving him stir it with a toothpick, called him a slovenly dog, and bid him go and fetch a tea-spoon; but on the man's return, he found his master in a fit, and the pillow being high, his chin bore hard upon his neck, when the servant, instead of relieving his lordship on the instant, from his perilous situation, ran in his fright, and called out for help, but on his return, he found his lordship dead."

The two Miss Amphletts, that were with him at his decease, and their sister, whom his lordship had left in Ireland, were seduced by him, and prevailed on to leave their mother, who was a widow, and resided near his lordship's country residence in Shropshire. The desertion of her daughters brought on Mrs. Amphlett a despondency which caused her death, which happened at the exact period his lordship described having seen the ghost; whom, before the termination of his existence, he acknowledged to be that personage, though her dissolution at the time was unknown to him. The morning after Lord Littleton's decease, the Miss Amphletts received an account of their mother's death, which corresponded with the exact time that the female vision appeared to his lordship.

Another very curious circumstance used to he related by the late Miles Peter Andrews, Esq. who was the companion and friend of Lord Littleton in his revels. Mr. Andrews frequently declared that a personage of the description of Lord Littleton visited his bedside about the period of his lordship's dissolution: - throwing open the curtains suddenly, he desired Mr. Andrews to come with him who, not knowing his lordship had returned from Ireland, presumed he came to play off a joke on him; when, suddenly getting up, the phantom disappeared. Mr. Andrews described his alarm as affecting his whole nervous system, and caused him a short fit of illness. In his subsequent visits to Pitt Place, which were frequent, no solicitation could ever make him take a bed in that mansion; hat he would invariably, however late, return to the Spread Eagle Inn for the night.



Brian Bouchard © 2009
Member of Leatherhead and District Local History Society


Unless otherwise stated images are courtesy of Surrey Libraries and are held in the Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre Collection



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