The Silver Birches

Church Street, Epsom
Stilwell's private asylum

Silver Birches stood where Epsom's Police Station is now, and was demolished by the Council so that public services could have premises in its garden along Church Street.
Silver Birches stood where Epsom's Police Station is now, and was demolished by the Council
so that public services could have premises in its garden along Church Street.

Links to our Policing and Sergeant Green pages

Dr H L Lehmann's The Residential Copyholds of Epsom explains that following the death of James Ireland of London [Will proved 27 September 1660] his heirs sold real estate in Epsom to Samuel Sternelle, alias Starlinge, of the City of London by indenture dated 29 September 1664 [Close Rolls of the Court of Chancery 16 Car 2, part 17 - National Archives C54/4167].

On 16 April 1670, Sir Samuel Starling and Thomas Newton re-sold a messuage with 4 acres in the occupation of Edward Shoare, late of Robert Palmer, to Humphrey Beane. Humphrey Beane had married Katherine Vincent at Holy Trinity the Less in 1649 and their daughter, Elizabeth, became the first wife of John Parsons. A London merchant and alderman, Beane was appointed Master of the Cordwainers' Company in 1677.

John Pink(e), citizen & barber-surgeon of London acquired from Beane, on 30 April 1677, the messuage, barn, stable and backside, with the appurtenances, in the occupation of Edward Shoare, in a lane called Church Lane between the tenements of Eleanor Bois/Boys, widow, and William Grout on the south and north parts - with other property. Pinke was a Warden of the Barber-Surgeons' Company and became Master in 1700. Described as gentleman of Lambeth, he obtained a licence to let his properties in Epsom for 21 years from 9 February 1701. His death was recorded on 29 October 1703 [Will - Barber - Chirugeon of London - proved 11 August 1703].

A son David Pinke succeeded to the property but, on 15 November 1705, surrendered it to his brother in law, Joseph Young, citizen and ironmonger of London [Master of Ironmongers' Company in 1717].

Joseph Young sold on, 26 July 1715, to Mark Dutton of Epsom. [Link to George Fitzroy] By his will dated 3 May 1749, with codicil 11 May 1749, [Proved 12 July 1749] Captain Mark Dutton of Epsom bequeathed the copyhold messuage in Epsom, then or late in the occupation of Mary Lane, widow, and Joseph Shawe, Esq., to Thomas Lambard of Sevenoaks, Kent in trust during the minority of Dutton's godson, Mark Parsons, son of his nephew William Parsons, whom he had adopted. On attaining the age of 21 Mark Parsons was to receive the rents and profits during his life time, remainder to his eldest son. In default of heirs of Mark Parsons, Grace Lambard, niece of Dutton and wife of Thomas Lambard, would inherit.

Thomas Lambard, as guardian, obtained licences to let Mark Parsons' properties during the latter's minority. Mark's father, William Parsons, had been transported to the American plantations for forgery. He returned without permission and became a highwayman, but was recognised, arrested and hanged at Tyburn in 1751. When Sir William Parsons, Bart., of Stanton in the Wolds died in 1760, therefore, he was succeeded by his grandson Mark Parsons who became the fourth and last baronet in that line [ARMS - Argent, a chevron between three holly leaves, erect, vert. CREST- On a chapeau, gules, lined, ermine, a griffin's head, erased, argent, beaked, gules].

Sir Mark, having been born circa 1741, came into his inheritance soon afterwards. On 10 March 1764, and at other dates thereafter, he was licensed to demise his various properties in the manor. He lived on 'quietly' in Epsom until 1812 when he died unmarried and without issue.

Under the terms of Mark Dutton's 1749 will, the copyhold messuage in Church Street, with outhouses, buildings, gardens, orchards and several parcels of land descended to Multon Lambard of Sevenoaks, Kent, gent., the eldest surviving son of Thomas Lambard (deceased 16 January 1770). Having been admitted to the property on 3 May 1813, Multon Lambard sold it to George Browne of Epsom, gent., for £440, 7 April 1825.

Henry Pownall in Some particulars relating to the history of Epsom tells us that the premises were then occupied by the Rev. J Barron, proprietor of a school conducted on the Pestalozzian system but he had moved to Stanmore before 1829.

George Browne, a Captain in the Royal Marines on half pay, had arrived in Epsom in time for the birth of his youngest daughter, Louisa Elmslie Browne on 28 May 1820. She was baptised at St Martin's the following 13 July.

Memorial Inscription 568 in St Martin's churchyard records: -
Sacred to the Memory of GEORGE BROWNE Captain of the Royal Marines Late of this Parish who departed this Life on the 31st day of July A.D. 1843 In the 73rd Year of his Age. Also to the Memory of JANE (RICKARD) his Wife who departed this Life the 26th of June 1844 In the 63rd Year of her Age.
The property had been devised by George to Mrs Jane Rickard Browne but she died intestate. It descended to their son, George Elliot Browne, who sold it to George Stilwell, 19 December 1844.

Stilwell's Private Asylum


George was one of the 'Medical Stilwells' who had been in general practice, with various partners, in Ewell and Epsom. He married Jane Catherine Ratheram on 2 May 1831 and their eldest son, George James Stilwell, was baptised at St Mary's, Ewell, 13 April 1833.

In The Standard, 22 October 1839, appeared an advertisement: -
"Mental Imbecility. Mr Stilwell, Surgeon, Epsom, Surrey, who has for many years been accustomed to the care and treatment of Mental Disorders, has a vacancy in his house for a Gentleman or Lady, whose state of mind precludes more general intercourse with the world; his late inmate having been restored to the blessing of health both bodily and mental. The success that has followed Mr Stilwell's plan of treatment and personal superintendence in such cases makes him bold to hope that equally fortunate results would occur to any individual placed under his care."
George Stilwell's views on the 'Treatment of the Insane' were detailed in a letter to the Editor of the Lancet dated 25 December 1840 - see http://books.google.co.uk

The Church Street building was first licensed as a private asylum in 1846 - for 6 or 7 female patients 'mostly of the nervous variety'. Stilwell, with his wife and children, lived on the premises and the house is described as having a domestic quality, the ladies associating together as one family. George Stilwell had the property enfranchised on 14 June 1851. A partnership with John Nichols Shelley was terminated 30 July 1853. Mrs Jane Catherine Stilwell died towards the end of 1865, survived by her husband until 5 January 1879.

Extract From 1896 O S Map
Extract From 1896 O S Map

In the 1881 Census appear sisters Anne Louise Stilwell (39) and Charlotte Anne Stilwell (30), each described as 'Proprietress of private lunatic asylum'. The nine patients are identified only by initials.

One of George Stilwell's later partners became Dr William Clement Daniel [Link to Woodcote End] who married Agnes Maria Stilwell at St Martin's on 19 February 1868. By 1882, Daniel was being named a joint proprietor of Silver Birches with the Misses Stilwell. In 1900 he is reported to have become owner/occupier of the property and his sisters in law appear to have moved to Lynwood, Beckenham, before 1904.

Dr W C Daniel died on 30 December 1905 and his widow, Mrs Agnes Maria Daniel, on 5 January 1910; both are interred in Epsom Cemetery.

The asylum continued to be conducted by one or more of their daughters until 1933 [Reports of visitors 8 & 9 Vic., cap 100 - Surrey History Centre QS/5/5/9]. In that year the contents were sold at auction followed by the premises (withdrawn at £6450) by private treaty. The real estate included two acres of land with 700ft of frontages to Church Street and The Parade.

Surrey County Council acquired this real estate in 1935 before demolishing the old house. Part of the land was used to widen Worple Road and another area sold off for development. After WWII, a new Police Station was built there by the Home Office in 1963, followed by an Ambulance Depot and a Clinic for the County Council in 1964.

Later developments are touched upon in Epsom Heritage Part 8.

Brian Bouchard © 2012




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