Woodcote Hall


on eastern side of South Street, Epsom
otherwise known as Nether Woodcote, Woodcote Place, or The Poplars

Woodcote Hall
Woodcote Hall
Photographed by LR James in April 1970

A building listed by English Heritage as : -
"Mid C18. Three storeys, red brick, the 2nd floor an attic with walling front. Originally 2 - 3 - 2 sashes but the left hand part has a later two storey brick bay. Sashes to right hand. Centre has three round headed sashes to ground floor; left hand of right hand portion has open pedimented doorcase with blocked ornamental fanlight and fluted pilasters. Brick modillioned cornice over 1st floor windows; 2nd floor has large half round window to centre. Painted cornice over 2nd floor with pediment and round window. Interior: mid C18 staircase with turned balusters, columnar newels and open string. Pavilions of one storey flank entrance court. Left hand pavilion is one storey red brick, central part projecting under pediment,and flanking wings with half pediments having some roof slope. Two tall sash windows centre, smaller windows sides. Brick modillioned cornices to wings. Right hand pavilion has been altered. Three storeys, red brick, 3 - 3 - 3 sashes, the outer ones in full height brick canted bays. Cemented ground floor with central glazed Cl9 verandah in iron. Three windows 1st floor - central leaded semi-circular window 2nd floor. Eaves cornice,central pediment with round window. Tile roof. (Apparently flats and maisonettes).
Garden Wall to road. C18 red brick garden wall, with original railings on plinth, red brick end piers with stone capping and C18 lead vases. (NGR: TQ2064460249)"
Surrey Historic Environment Record 13622 declares: -
"The original house was built in the 17th Century and rebuilt in the 18th century. On the 25'' OS map, the house was named 'The Poplars', and the grounds comprised of two separate open areas divided by a tree walk. These open areas were described as paddocks on the Sales particulars of 1915. Today, the house and associated buildings have been converted into flats and most of the ground has been built over. Only the splendid brick wall along Sweetbriar Lane remain."
Because this property was held freehold there are difficulties in tracing its early history. The 'Epsom, Town Downs and Common' booklet suggests, however, that it had been built about 1680 but "the main house soon suffered the Georgian 'improvement' of the protruding bay on the left being added, and the originally central door being moved to the right. The two-storey infill between house and right pavilion is a Victorian addition, a little vague in its arrangement. The original roof lines of both forecourt pavilions are a strong decorative and architectural feature, arranged to flank the view to the somewhat simpler house facade" In 1976, the left hand pavilion had just been rebuilt in replica and the original railings were being reconstructed as before. [See description in 'Ironwork in Epsom and Ewell by Cloudesley S Willis, SAC 48 1942/3]

The Sabb family

The Seat of Mr Sabb
The Seat of Mr Sabb
Image courtesy Bourne Hall Museum

John Sabb, the elder, (1718 - 1811) married Phoebe Day on 2 August 1754 at Dartford, Kent. He became a freeman of Maidstone in 1740 and a hop factor, trading from 70 George Inn, Borough, Southwark, also a brewer at the Sun brew-house, Wapping. In 1798 he advertised for a partner in his ale and porter brewery who could inject £5 - 10,000 capital. A partnership between the father and son was dissolved on 18 December 1801. Mrs Phoebe Sabb's interment took place at All Saints, Maidstone, on 27 July 1809. In recent years, a mourning ring was unearthed from a flower bed, in Rosebery Park, north of Sweetbriar Lane, inscribed 'Phoebe Sabb died 20 July 1809 - aged 73'. John Sabb, senior, died at Epsom aged 93, but he followed his wife for burial at Maidstone, Kent, 23 August 1811.

The baptism of John Sabb, junior, had taken place at St Saviour, Denmark Park, Southwark during 1766. He became a partner in the Rochester Chatham and Strood Bank but withdrew on 1 August 1806. Still a bachelor, his marriage to Miss Ann Speck was solemnised on 20 May 1818 at St Dunstan's, Cheam.

John Sabb, the younger had arrived in Epsom prior to 1 December 1806 when he acquired the 4 copyhold acres of Readings Mead [Lehmann 3C14]. This land was added to the Woodcote Place estate on New Inn Lane (South Street).

Henry Pownall, writing in 'Some particulars relating to the history of Epsom', 1825, remarked: -
"[On New Inn Lane] is a red brick mansion (of which material most of the houses in Epsom are built). From the road this house has a gloomy appearance, the front being towards the downs and common fields, over which it commands extensive views. It is the residence of John Sabb, Esq., whose charities to the poor, though extensive, are almost unknown, except to the grateful recipients."
It appears, however, that Sabb had let a substantial part of the premises to Captain Michael Halliday, RN. The widowed Mrs Jane Hester Halliday, formerly Slack, could still have been in residence there when she witnessed the marriage of her son, George Slack, to Emma Colston, 15 January 1839, at St Martin's.

For the 1841 Census, John Sabb, 75, of independent means, and Ann, his wife, 55, were enumerated with 4 servants on New Inn Lane, Epsom. John died, 'in his 81st year', on 2 August 1843[PROB 11/1984, 29 August 1843].

The Court Roll records for Readings Mead, copyhold, reveal that on John Sabb's demise, and under his will dated 9 March 1841, his widow Ann was admitted for life. When she died, in May 1846, [Will PROB 11/2036, 20 May 1846] the land descended to Mary Ann Day of Rochester, Kent, widow of David Hermitage Day, banker. Mrs Day sold it, on 15 October 1847, to Robert Davies of Wandsworth Common, Surrey. Evidently, the freehold house and grounds also passed to the Davies family.

The Davies family at The Poplars

Robert Davies, described as an Underwriter, was a partner in the banking house of Robert Davies & Co. , 187 High Street, Shoreditch. He died within two years of the family's arrival in Epsom.

A son, Robert Cradock Davies, had married Maria Louisa Bridge and baptisms of some of their children may be found in the registers of St Martin of Tours parish church. R C Davies eventually became sole proprietor of the bank, which failed in 1860, and he was declared bankrupt. Particulars of the collapse may be read in The Standard 29 October 1860 - Monetary and Mercantile Affairs - and The Bankers' Magazine Vol. 21, 1861, page 428. It is suggested that much of the family wealth remained with his mother. Robert Cradock Davies died aged 62 at Worthing, 25 February 1878 [East Preston 3/1878].

St Martin's Churchyard Altar Tomb No. 605:
South Side
In Memory of
ROBERT DAVIES, ESQUIRE who died 1st July, 1849 Aged 75 Years.
West Side
The Family Vault of ROBT. DAVIES.
North Side
In Memory of ELIZABETH the Wife of ROBERT DAVIES, ESQ.
who died 21st July, 1861, Aged 67 Years.
East Side
In Memory of JOSEPH Youngest son of ROBERT DAVIES
Died November 12th 1850 Aged 29 Years.
Also JULIA EVA his only child who died 1st February, 1851 Aged 6 months.
Top
In Memory of SIDNEY JENNER Second Son of ROBERT CRADOCK DAVIES
Died 6th of June, 1830, Aged 2 Years & 3 months.
Also of DRUSILLA DAVIES Sister of ROBERT DAVIES
Died 26th of January, 1839 Aged 83 Years.
Also of MARIA LOUISA the Wife of ROBERT CRADOCK DAVIES
who Died 21st of December 1864
Also of ROBERT CRADOCK DAVIES Son of ROBERT DAVIES
Died 28th of February, 1878 Aged 63 Years.

The Murray family

Shortly after Robert Cradock Davies' demise, the residence appears to have been leased to Charles Frederick Murray, a solicitor, whose wife advertised in The Times on 18 September 1878 for a maid to attend upon four young ladies from 12 to 15 years of age.

The family appear there in the 1881 census: by that date, he and Mrs Catherine Georgiana Murray had 8 children and employed 9 servants. C F Murray was a member of the firm Murray, Hutchins, and Stirling of 11, Birchin Lane, solicitors to Glyn, Mills, and Co., bankers.

The Bourne Hall Museum holds Sales particulars of 'The very attractive freehold residential property known as Woodcote Place, now Woodcote Hall', from 1889. (Accession Number: 2004.049-002). In the 1900 Rate Book, the owners are listed as Hollands Exors, with C F Murray the occupier. It would appear that the premises had come into the possession of Augustus Holland of Abele Grove who died in 1895.

On 17 December 1904, Charles Frederick Murray, gentleman of Woodcote Hall, aged 71, was buried in plot A239 of Epsom cemetery. His widow, Catherine Georgiana, remained in Epsom for the 1911census. She was not interred with her husband until 24 March 1932, after she had attained the age of 91 [death reg. Kensington 3/1932]

The Holmwood family

Mrs Murray was succeeded as tenant of Woodcote Hall by T D Holmwood. A son and daughter were married from the house, respectively in 1911 and 1913, as shown by announcements in The Times.

Lord Rosebery and the Marquess of Crewe

The property eventually passed to Miss Margaret Holland, daughter of Augustus, but she died in the summer of 1912, aged 64, [reg. Axminster 6/1912]. Consequently, it was disposed of by her Executors, with Woodcote End House.

During June 1913, a series of advertisements appeared in The Times which offered for sale: -
"Woodcote Hall an old-fashioned residence standing in beautifully matured grounds of nearly 20 acres, a portion of which could be advantageously utilised for the erection of villa residences, which are in considerable demand in the neighbourhood, without detriment to the remainder of the property...Woodcote Hall with about 8 and a quarter acres is let at £300 p. a. Immediate possession of the remainder could be obtained... Vendors solicitors, Messrs Murray Hutchins Stirling & Co., 11 Birchin Lane, EC."

The 1913 Woodcote Hall Sales Particulars1 - Click image to enlarge  The 1913 Woodcote Hall Sales Particulars2 - Click image to enlarge
The 1913 Woodcote Hall Sales Particulars3 - Click image to enlarge
Plan from the 1913 Woodcote Hall Sales Particulars - Click to enlarge
The 1913 Woodcote Hall Sales Particulars
Click images to enlarge
Images courtesy of James Hakim © 2012

In an article about Lord Rosebery, David Brooks of Bourne Hall Museum remarks: -
"In 1913 Rosebery purchased Woodcote Place, an extensive house in South Street with the lands of Epsom Common Fields at the back. This house was to be a home for his daughter, Lady Crewe: the old Common Fields were separated from the purchase and given to the Council as a park, which they named Rosebery Park after him. Rosebery's generosity was mixed with other motives. A new road had been proposed, cutting across from the bottom of Ashley Road across these fields to join the beginning of Dorking Road. This would have cut out the bottleneck at the South Street/ High Street corner, which even in the moderate traffic conditions of 1913 had been giving problems. But the new road junction at the comer of Dorking Road would have cut right past the gardens of Woodcote Hall. By his generous gift to the Council, Rosebery had kept the road improvements at bay."

The South Street frontage to the park was the original entry to Readings Mead.

Alterations and additions to servants' quarters for the Marquess of Crewe K G were undertaken in 1918 - SHCOL_6004/3/70. The premises remained in his possession until late 1922.

The Longley family (contributed by James Hakim)

Subsequently, in 1927, Henry Banks Longley purchased Woodcote Hall with 20 acres of gardens and grounds from Margaret, Marchioness of Crew.

H. B. Longley JP was an Architect and Chartered Surveyor originally from Bradford who had relocated to Epsom with his young family in 1910. He joined a partnership of House, Land & Estate Agents known as A E Morris, based at 93 High Street, Epsom with the new firm renamed as 'Morris & Longley's Surrey Estate Office'. By the 1920's the firm had become 'Longley & Broadhead' with the head office remaining at 93-95 High Street for the next 50 years. Henry Longley was also an elected local councillor becoming Chairman of Epsom Urban District Council by 1919. (H B Longley was the chairman of the war memorial committee; see the article on the Ashley Road War Memorial.)

In the early 1930's, Mr Longley built 30 large new houses in 11 acres along Woodcote Close. He remained at Woodcote Hall until his death in 1956 when the estate passed to his son, Leslie, and it was divided into flats. Leslie Beet Longley continued the run Longley & Broadhead until his retirement in 1969 when he developed the former stables next to Woodcote Hall and built Ardingly Court, a rather unsympathetic block of ten flats, in its place. Following L B Longley's death in 1973, Woodcote Hall was sold in 1979, however Ardingly Court is today still owned by members of the Longley family.

Woodcote Hall 1
Woodcote Hall 2
Woodcote Hall 3
Three views of Woodcote Hall taken between the 1930s and the 1960s.
Image courtesy of James Hakim © 2015.


Woodcote Hall
Image courtesy of James Hakim © 2012

Brian Bouchard © February 2012





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