North of the Rye are seven substantial properties, each with some history. The first property reached up Ashtead Woods Road is Wood Cottage, but perhaps here one needs to understand the history of the area.
The area bounded to the south by the railway line and on other sides by the Common, Ashtead Woods and the border with Leatherhead, formed part of New Purchase Farm. The farm failed to reach its reserve price when offered for sale as a lot in the break-up of the Ashtead Estate. However, the farmhouse with other buildings and over 263 acres was purchased privately by William Gilford of Redhill on 30 September 1879. By 13 February l880, he had sold on the northern part of some 135 acres, described as "Caen Farm", to Francis Larkin Soames, a Solicitor in Lincoln's Inn Fields and "a man of property." After the leasehold farmer, John Agate, died in 1880, this land was quickly parcelled up into some very large plots for houses to be built within their own grounds. A map of the Tithe Apportionment revision of 24 November 1887 shows the area set out with access fully delineated along routes South Road, East Road, North Road and West Road that, much later, became Links Road and Ashtead Woods Road (unadopted), together with, to the south, the road that would become Preston Grove.
A cart track from the present level crossing at Ashtead Station had run parallel to the line to serve the hamlet of Woodfield and, from its foundation in 1860, Felton's Bakery on the Common (where some of the Birch Court, Woodfield Road now stands. Because the Lord of the Manor would not, or could not, release any of the common land for access purposes, an exchange was arranged in 1882 between Elizabeth Felton and William Henry Goodwin, a builder, of a piece of the garden in front of the bakery buildings for a larger plot at the rear so that the former could be used to get round to the future Links Road and Ashtead Woods Road.
By 1887, the track had been metalled, taken in a sharp zigzag beyond a newly-built Woodfield House to The Caen (later called Lavendon) - the first villa erected in what was to be named Links Road. The road was then extended along the line of Ashtead Woods Road, past Caen Farm, to end in the north-west at Alderleife (home to Walter Richard Cassells who had acquired over 16 acres of land on 8 February 1881). The Ordnance Survey Map of 1913/1914 shows that only four further houses had been completed along the North Road, Trevona, at the western end with St. Swithin's (now Hillthorpe), The Oaks and Caenwood between Floresta (formerly Alderleife, then named Caen Leys and now Ashley Court) and Caen Farm (now Wood Cottage).
The status quo persisted until 1921 when restrictions on the use of the private road across Woodfield appear to have been relaxed, permitting development much further down the South Road. This was perhaps in response to the Government drive to provide "Homes for Heroes'' following the Great War. Following Pantia Ralli's death the manorial rights were purchased by Arthur R Cotton, who was Clerk to Epsom Rural District Council, for £550.
The whole area had, for a long time, been described simply as "Ashtead Woods'' but Links Road was given its own name on the Map prepared by Epsom RDC under the Town Planning Act 1925. Speculation about the reasons for this appellation may be put to rest by the fact that C P Hodsdon of Longlands (presently numbered 22) was given permission on 28 December 1904 to add a conservatory at his "house on Caen Leys Golf Links" along the road from Woodﬁeld.
Further development on the far side of The Rye was precluded apart, somewhat mysteriously, from Linksway, which was built south of Ashtead Woods Road opposite the lodges to Ashley Court.
Wood Cottage (previously called Caen Farm, and before that known historically as Dicks, Dickes or Dykes) dates back to 1493 when it was recorded as nimis ruinosus (very much collapsing). The earliest reference found (traced by Brian Bouchard) is on an OS map following the survey of 1866/7 when the name has been changed to Caen Wood Farm. Brian attributes this to a family called Cain (Caine or Cane) who are known to have farmed the area in the 18th century. (This has since been confirmed from an Additional Manuscript from the British Museum dated 1741which states that Caen Farm was "to be associated with the (family) of Henry Cain".
The 1881 Census shows the name changed again to Caens Farm and shortly after, a new villa was built to the north called Caenwood House. Caen Farm was changed to create a southerly aspect. It gained a west wing in the 19th century and another in the east, and in 1904 its name changed again to Caen Leys Farm. By 1917 its name had changed to the present day's name of Wood Cottage.
A Conveyance dated 14th March 1901 shows the plot (10 acres and 20 poles) that would become The Oaks sold by Joseph Soames to a Charles Keith Jago Rooke of Sunnybank, Ashtead for the sum of £1,350. was first built and owned by Charles Keith Jago Rooke in 1905. Rooke and his brother emigrated to Australia in 1909. In August 1914 Rooke volunteered for the Australian Infantry, Australian Imperial Force (AIF). After completing basic training he was killed on 25th April 1915 at Sulva Bay, Gallipolli on the first day of the landings along with countless other Australian and New Zealand troops. His name appears on Panel 64 on Lone Pine memorial, Gallipolli. His name is also recorded on a brass plaque in St Giles Church, and on Ashtead's War Memorial as "Cpt. C.K.J.Rooke", the "t", by a slip of the stonemason's chisel, suggests a posthumous promotion from an actual rank of Corporal. For a more detailed look at the life of Charles Keith Jago Rooke go to the Lancing College war memorial web site http://www.hambo.org/lancing/view_man.php?id=189-. See also the web site of the Leatherhead Local History Society http://www.leatherheadlocalhistory.org.uk/Ashtead-War-Memorials/AshteadWM-RookeCWJ-story.htm.
In June 1914 the property was let to Clifford Blackburn Edgar of Richmond, Surrey and in 1921 sold to Stanley Clarence Edgar for £5,000. The Conveyance is signed by Rev'd Francis Edward Trelawny of Coldrenick, Cornwall and Francis Darell Rooke of Hovelands, Taunton, brothers and Executors of Charles Rooke. (F.E Rooke changed his name by Deed Poll to Trelawny in February 1914.) S C Edgar was appointed a temporary 2nd Lieutenant in the East Surrey Regiment in 1916 and served until 1921 when he relinquished his commission. At the commencement of WWII he re-enlisted and was promoted to Captain in the Intelligence Corps in 1942. His youngest son, John, joined the Royal Navy and was appointed as Lieutenant in the crew of HM Submarine Thunderbolt (formerly the ill fated HMS Thetis which had sunk in 1939 during sea trials with the loss of 99 lives, had been salvaged and re-commissioned as HMS Thunderbolt).
HMS Thunderbolt was sunk off Capo San Vito, Sicily by an Italian Corvette, Cicogna on 14th March 1943. (http://ww2db.com/ship_spec.php?ship_id=445)
The Officers of HMS Thunderbolt are opposite from left to right Lieut J O Edgar, RN; Lieut B J B Andrew, RN; Lieut Cdr C B Crouch, Captain, DSO, RN; Lieut R L Bird, RNR; Mr D M Woodcock, RN, Warrant Engineer. Picture © IWM (A 8459).
S C Edgar sold The Oaks to Mrs J Telling of Wimbledon on 24th March 1947 for £7,250. Mrs Telling appears to have kept the property for a short time only and sold the house on 8th October 1948 to George Ian Burns Gowring of Crampshaw lane, Ashtead for the sum of £9,000.
Gowring sold the house to Mr & Mrs Peter Alan Yeldham of London SW5 for £19,500. Peter Yeldham is an Author now living in Australia. http://www.peteryeldham.com. Peter Yeldham has fond memories of his time at The Oaks and his recollections make amusing reading.
"To begin, my wife first saw the house in February, 1970. At the time when we lived in London, in Coleherne Court, Old Brompton Road. She actually went looking for a weekender, and after many searches in Kent, Surrey and Sussex, returned to say she'd seen this house, "not exactly a weekender," she warned me, but said it was interesting and I might like to have a look at it. She told me it was fairly awful, very run down, lots of gas leaks, tatty decor, and the large living room had been used by the owner, Mr Gowring, as a workshop for his motorbikes.
All of this turned out to be true, but she deliberately failed to mention the position, the charm, the tennis court and the stables, plus the fact that this large house with nine acres was only thirty minutes by train from Waterloo, and a short drive down the A3 from London. I fell in love with it, as she knew I would. One of the clinchers was the stables, as our son, then sixteen, was mad about horses. We instantly decided we'd love to live there, and give up our flat in London.
The house, when we first saw it, was a strange grey colour. It looked like it had been coated with leftover paint from the Forth Bridge, where Mr Gowring had been an engineer. The gas company came to check on gas leaks; we felt sure there were two or three, but it turned out there were thirty!! The living room was an extraordinary mess of oil stains, nuts, bolts and spare parts, so thick with debris that the floor was not even visible beneath the rubble.
The price, remember this was in 1970, was ₤19,500. Mr Gowring wanted ₤20,000, we suggested ₤19,000, and we met in the middle. Then there were minor amounts he wanted for curtain rails, wall mirrors, wash basins in the attic rooms, etc, which we discovered somehow brought the eventual price back to ₤20,000. But to us it was a bargain, and we had no complaints. In addition Gowring kindly offered to order a delivery of coal to run the Aga, for which I would duly recompense him. The cost was ₤5. On the April day when we were about to move house there was a phone call from Bill Balmer, my solicitor.
"We have a problem," he said.
"How could we have a problem," I asked, "the house is paid for, our furniture is in a removal van standing in Old Brompton Road, and it's about to rain."
"The coal," Bill said. "He's upset because you forgot to pay him for the coal. You owe him five pounds, and he went to the trouble of ordering it, so he expects you to come and pay the fiver in person."
The bloody coal! I'd completely forgotten he'd ordered it for us. I asked Bill if he'd pay Mr Gowring for me. But Bill explained that the vendor was upset, and wouldn't move out until I'd come in person to pay the debt.
I explained I couldn't be in Ashtead until we'd handed over the keys of the flat, and that we were in danger of making legal history, by going to court ever a fiver's worth of coal. So in the end Gowring agreed my solicitor could pay him the offending amount, and about three hours later than planned, we finally took possession of The Oaks.
We moved in and for a month or two lived in utter chaos. To be honest, it had been left in a certain amount of chaos; a live gas jet protruding from the kitchen wall, peeling wallpaper on the stairs, the debris in the living room, and worst of all the Aga that wouldn't stay alight. It was supposed to not only heat the water but cook food to perfection. Our Aga couldn't even summon up enough heat to boil an egg, and after a few weeks of cold showers it was replaced.
Then we started to make gradual repairs. We stripped all the wallpaper with the aid of friends who came to visit overnight. We had a rule for guests, that when they came downstairs for breakfast they should bring with them a large strip of wallpaper ripped from the walls. No rip, no breakfast! We had the house painted white, then cleaned out and carpeted and redecorated the living room, turning it back into a likable room with a baby grand piano. The gas leaks were fixed, we started to renovate and for the next six months I wrote nothing new, working full time along with my wife to restore what our friends from London had already started calling "Yeldham's Folly".
It was fortunate I had a stage play running at the Piccadilly Theatre at the time, as it paid the bills and allowed me to take all this time off. By the following year, with the sudden increase in property prices and The Oaks looking like a very different place, our friends had stopped calling it a folly. Knight Frank & Rutley valued it at several times the purchase price.
Our son Perry became great friends with Lord Barnby. They had a mutual interest in horses, and on weekends rode together in Ashtead Woods. We became closely acquainted with Barnby and his wife, and went to his 90th birthday party, which I seem to remember was in 1974. The Ashtead Woods area was a close and friendly community while we lived there. Each year there were Christmas parties, and we all took turns in hosting them. It always amused me that, when many of our neighbours washed and polished their cars and drove to these function, dear old Lord Barnaby rode an ancient bicycle to attend. In the winters he and his wife migrated to warmer climes, often to Capetown where at the age of 80 had had learned to surf ski. In retrospect, he was one of my favourite neighbours.
We sold the house in 1975 to an American couple. I'm afraid I don't remember their name, but I understand they were the ones who sold it to Mark Cox. It was with great reluctance that we sold it, but we were starting to spend half the year back in Australia and The Oaks required too much looking after to leave it for long periods. We bought a small new house just off Kingston Hill, and finally returned completely to Australia soon afterwards."
Peter Yeldham sold the house to an American couple who then sold the property to Mark & Alison Cox. Mark Cox is the former professional tennis player. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Cox_(tennis). The Coxes sold the house to George and Daphne Burnett in 1986.
George and Daphne Burnett have lived at The Oaks for the last 26 years and when purchasing The Oaks also purchased the surrounding fields which abut the Rye Brook.
The land was originally part of Caen Farm and owned by Joseph Soames. On 9th June 1896 Soames sold a parcel of land (One acre and one rod) between what was to become The Oaks and Caen Farm to a William Drew, a gentleman of Ashtead. The Conveyance permitted Drew to build a detached house at least 50 feet from the road boundary and costing not less than £500!
Gerald Alfred P Pilditch had the property originally as Caen House. Between 1905 and 1909 it was occupied by John Dalton Venn who seems to have changed the name to St Swithins. It remained that in 1918 when in the tenure of P Cotterill but had been changed to Hillthorpe by 1927 when Edward Thomas Price was in residence. Price was still there in 1940 and Lord & Lady Barnby took over the property before 1950.
The original land on which Ashley Court was built was 28 acres. This was part of the Caen Farm Estate and was bought by Walter Richard Cassels on 8th February 1881. A large country house was built which he called 'Alderleife' and he resided there until 1889 when he moved back to his large London house in Harrington gardens, South Kensington. Alderleife was the first of the Victorian properties built on the Ashtead Woods Estate and was the largest and grandest. The architecture was advanced for its time, the kitchen window overlooked the drive and the house was centrally heated.
Cassels passed over the estate to his long-standing acquaintance Archibald David Roberston who had also been a civil servant in Bombay. It is recorded that they met, with others "every summer at the beautiful place of our mutual and sympathetic friend, Mrs Robertson, on the skirts of the Ashtead forest, in Surrey." Mrs Robertson was believed to be in fact a former mistress of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.
Whilst in residence Cassels applied for a tunnel under the railway as access to the estate had been problematical. The access then was via the track that is now Green Lane, Ashtead, though a gated crossing over the railway and to what is now Bushey Shaw and up the track that is now the unmade part of Ashtead Woods Road, (previously called West Road). The tunnel was refused, but Robertson then sought a bridge in 1891, but this was also refused. Many present residents north of the railway wish either or both of these applications had been successful.
During his tenure, Cassels sold off 12 acres of the estate. Another house was built on this land called "Trevona" (see below). In Ashley Court's heyday there were nine gardeners tending the beautiful gardens. Large glass houses supplied food for the table and these included, nectarines, figs, apricots, grapes and peaches. There was also a melon house and a pineapple pit.
Cassels never married and died on 10th June 1907 in Kendal. The estate, now called "Caen Leys" was offered for sale at auction. An advertisement in The Times of 19th October 1907 describes the house as "a charming residence, centred in 16 acres of beautifully wooded parkland; spacious panelled hall, large dining and drawing rooms (also beautifully panelled), full sized billiard room, study, 12 bedrooms and bath room; first-class stabling, and two cottages. Electric light; Company's water; main drainage. Charming walled gardens with ornamental lake; golf course half-a-mile." The golf course was presumably the newly commissioned Leatherhead Golf Club not the previous golf links just north of the railway at Ashtead on which now stand Links Road. The property was withdrawn from auction at £10,000.
The new owner, Allen C. Nathan added a carriage/coach house in 1908 and by 1909 the house had its third name, "Floresta". The coach/carriage house was much later to become what is now "Four Gables". Allen Chapman Nathan was a Jewish American, born in Virginia, USA, 22 March 1857 who married the French born Amy Compton Tripp on 31 July 1894. His father, George, appears to have become established in business in Brazil and Allen himself was a partner in Messrs Fry Miers & Co of Rio de Janiero. "Floresta" is the Portugese language word for "Forest". In October 1917 Allen’s son, Lawrence George enlisted from Ashtead in 49th Battalion Machine Gun Corps at the age of 18 and ended the Great War a Lieutenant awarded the Military Cross. Lawrence relinquished his commission in July 1919 and subsequently left for Brazil with his younger brother, Howard, to join their father's business there. Unfortunately by the time they arrived the business had collapsed and their father had had a stroke from which he never really recovered. A C Nathan died on 5 January 1922. Both brothers then decided to stay in Brazil and remained in that country for the majority of their lives.
Walter Augustus Charles Meyer , a German then changing his name to Myers, was living at ‘Floresta’ during 1919. It is suspected that he might have been connected to ‘Miers’ in the Brazilian partnership.
The widowed Amy Compton Nathan appears to have died in London 6 October 1947.
After the Great War, the property was purchased by William E. Rennie, a Director of Providence and New Mills, Stanningley, near Pudsey, West Yorks., whose wife was in occupation by 1921 and is reported to have been "a Yorkshire heiress". They renamed it "Ashley Court". Again it is suspected that the name "Ashley" is an amalgam of "Ash" from Ashtead and "Ley" from Leys arable land laid out for farming as in Caen Leys estate. However Miranda Gudenian was told that there had been some connection with the Ashley family (parents of Edwina Mountbatten), and that they were at the house during Derby week.
After Mrs Rennie's death in the mid 1930's it remained empty until the property was requisitioned by the Miners' Welfare Commission during the Second World War. (picture below left was taken in the 1930's and the same view - right - is the post fire picture showing how much was lost.)
After the war, and whilst unoccupied and sadly dilapidated, most of the South Wing was destroyed by fire. Major May is said to have bought the remains and split the property into the three wings that remain today. These were sold together with the converted stable block and the twin attached cottages in the late 1940's. The stable block is now Rye Cottage, and the two cottages are Orchard Lodge and Paddock Lodge. "Foxholes" and "The Studio" were converted in 1960 from the original boiler house (on the site of a barn claimed to date from the 18th century) and the Ball Room. A well and an outhouse in the kitchen yard have also been said to predate the Victorian house.
No history is complete without a ghost story, and Ashley Court has its own. It is said that there is a ghost of a butler who turned his gun on himself. This story has been passed on in a letter written to local historian Jack Willis by Miranda Gudenian who lived as a child in Four Gables. She says the place was for her "a place of magic and enchantment, vividly evoking another forgotten era, that golden age at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the 20th century."
Update - October 2016
David Gillott the Professional Chef who lives at Four Gables (Four Gables Food Academy - http://fourgablesfoodacademy.com/) is presently undertaking an extension to his property and in the course of the building work has discovered a large underground brick chamber that has local archeologists and local historians very excited. Thoughts on its purpose range from an ice house to a well to a Victorian Water Storage chamber and even a cess pit! The latter is thought unlikely being so close to the property. David too is excited about the find and is hoping to include the discovery somehow into his extended property.
Planning permission for "Heronsmere" as a house for a smallholder was given in 1952; presumably agreed as at the time the property was for 'agricultural' purposes.
This was originally 12 acres of land sold by Cassels from the Ashley Court land. The property was built by the Corbould family who were a dynasty of artists. The original house was built by Chilton R. Corbould. His father was Aster Richard Chilton Corbould. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/aster-richard-chilton-corbould for a slideshow of his paintings. Aster Corbould was born at Easton, Suffolk on 17 September 1811, son of Thomas Richard Corbould (1783-1865), on the staff of the Bank of England, and his wife Mary née Chilton (1789-1853) who married at Ufford, Suffolk on 3 September 1810. A celebrated painter of sporting animals and portraits and exhibited 35 works at the Royal Academy, 32 at the British Institute and 48 at Suffolk Street Galleries between 1842 and 1877. Also a lithographer and amongst his patrons was the Earl and Countess of Rosshire. He married at Claygate, Surrey on 27 April 1848, Elizabeth Royall Ker, who died 15 January 1914, aged 87. He died at his residence 11 Phillimore Terrace, Kensington on 31 October 1882 and buried at Hampstead. They had six children one of who was Chilton R. Corbould of whom the Corbould family web site says:-
CHILTON RICHARD CORBOULD, of Trevona, Ashtead Woods, Ashtead, Surrey, bapt. at Claygate, Surrey. Head of his branch of the Corbould family. Educ. at Harris's School, Windsor. Joined the firm of N. M. Rothschild & Sons, bankers, St. Swithin's Lane, London, in Nov. 1867 and retired in June 1918.
The next record of ownership shows that the property was owned by Fuller Alfred Bromley Campbell who died without issue on 5th September 1953 at Leatherhead Hospital. Trevona was part of his estate and was auctioned in April 1954 where the chattels included works and watercolours by A & R Corbould.
This is another house whose name has changed over the years. Originally called "Caen House", it was owned between 1905 and 1909 by John Dalton Venn who changed the name to "St. Swithins". In 1927 the property was owned by Edward Thomas Price who changed the name to the present "Hillthorpe".
The house was taken over by Lord & Lady Barnby in the 1950s and together with the house he also owned Ashtead Common. Details of Lord Barnby from Wikipedia are as follows:-
Francis Vernon Willey, 2nd Baron Barnby, CMG, CBE, MVO, TD (29 September 1884 – 30 April 1982) was an English aristocrat, soldier and politician. He succeeded his father as 2nd Baron Barnby in 1929. He was the Unionist (Conservative) Member of Parliament for Bradford South, from 1918 to 1922. He married 20 November 1940, Banning, daughter of the late William Drayton Grange, from Pennsylvania.
Educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford University, (B.A.,1906, M.A.,1908) he served as Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry (see Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry), and was later (same rank) Assistant Director of Equipment and Ordnance for the War Office, 1916-20. He fought in World War I serving in Egypt and Gallipoli. He was President of the Federation of British Industries (a predecessor of the CBI, 1925–26, a member of the Central Electricity Board 1927-46, a member of the Overseas Settlement Board from 1937, and Chev. of the Legion of Honour. He was also Master of the Blankney Hunt in 1919 and 1933. In business, he was a director of Lloyds Bank.
Lord Barnby, despite his advancing years, was an active parliamentarian and attended the House of Lords regularly. He was an early member of the Conservative Monday Club, stating at a Club function in 1964 "where would the black African population of Rhodesia have been by now without the civilizing influence of the white population?" He was Chairman of the Club's Action Fund 1969-71, and in the House of Lords in September 1972 he called for the government to suspend aid to Idi Amin's Uganda. In April 1975 he addressed the Club's Africa Group in a committee room at the House of Lords following his recent visit to South Africa and Rhodesia. On his death without male issue, the barony of Barnby became extinct.
Joseph Soames sold land to Henry Turnhill in 1884, and a Lease was granted in favour of John Edgar Johnson in 1886. The 1887 Tithe Map still shows the area as land so it appears the house was not built until after that date.
In 1897 Captain Biddulph Lee Warner of the 21st Foot Regiment was given permission to extend the house.
In 1908 Maurice Strauss owns the property and in march 1917 sells the property to Anne Nadine Wilkins and in 1918 the property is leased to G.T. Bourne until March 1922.
Anne Wilkins sold the property to Edgar Anderson for £3,650 on 26th January 1925. Sale auction particulars in 1931 show the house as a "Country residence with seven bedrooms, two bathrooms, three reception rooms a winter garden and a modernised kitchen. There are outbuildings, garages and conservatories and the property comes with 5 acres of land, 2 tennis courts and an entrance lodge (Now Caenwood Lodge) with three bedrooms a kitchen and scullery.
"Ashtead – a village transformed" Edited by Alan A. Jackson, Leatherhead & District History Society.
"A History of Ashtead" – Edited by J C Stuttard, Leatherhead & District History Society.
Lawrence Map of Ashtead 1638 courtesy of the Leatherhead & District History Society
City of London Corporation – Ashtead Common Estate Office.
Peter Yeldham http://www.peteryeldham.com.
Painting of Lord Barnby by John Walton.
Colonel Lord Barnby on 'Crusader' with the Blankney Hounds (1929)- Sir Alfred Munnings
The work depicts Lord Barnby (Francis Vernon Willey) who was master of Fox Hounds for Blankney Hunt from 1919-33.