All About Wadhurst

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Many of the large houses and estates in Wadhurst provided employment for farm workers, keepers, chauffeurs, gardeners, and the domestic staff needed to run the household.

Whiligh  Whiligh Whiligh

Whiligh was one such estate. It was the home of Lord George Courthope who had two daughters but no heir to succeed him. He was a Justice of the Peace and a Member of Parliament for Rye for many years. He was created a Baronet in 1925 and a Peer in 1945, Much of the house is Georgian

The estate comprised a timber yard, a brickyard and many small farms run by tenant farmers. There was a large domestic staff to run the house and to care for the family.

This included a butler, a footman, a housekeeper, lady's maid, cook, housemaids, kitchen maids and a scullery maid. There was also a groom and a chauffeur. After the first world war many girls from Wales and from Ireland came to Wadhurst to work in houses like Whiligh and so fresh blood was introduced into the long established Wadhurst families.

The house was reduced in size after the second world war as most of the servants' quarters were demolished. In the mid 1980's the house was divided and made into two residences, the work being executed by H F Bishop and Son.

The Honourable Daphne Courthope was Captain of the Ist Wadhurst Girl Guides and those who were Girl Guides will remember the many occasions when they were invited there for meetings, for games and to camp in the grounds.

During the war the Guides spent Saturday afternoons in the panelled hall knitting clothes for families bombed out in London. Leading down into the hall was a grand oak staircase and more oak panelling was used in the library. The Whiligh estate has been famous for its oak trees. It is thought that timbers from Whiligh were used in the original building of Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster. In the 1920's timber was conveyed by horse drawn timber tug to Westminster Hall for repair work and after the second world war was more timber was supplied from the same source for more repair work.
When Lord George Courthope died in 1955 the house passed to his daughters and then in 1980 when the Honourable Daphne Courthope died it passed to Mr. John Hardcastle her second cousin.

Wadhurst Castle

Wadhurst Castle is not an ancient historic building as its name would suggest but was erected on the site of another old house formerly known as Maplehurst.

In the late 19th and early 20th century it was the home of the Watson Smyth family who made extensions to the existing mansion. The estate included Windmill Farm and Foxes Bank Farm and had a nine hole golf course. George Meech was a keeper on the estate and lived in a cottage in Snape Wood called 'Pigs Run'. The foundations of this cottage can still be seen today. The castle was damaged by fire in 1933 but was repaired and is still in use today.

Wadhurst Park

Old Wadhurst Park

Formerly named Wadhurst Hall was sold to Julius Charles Drew at the end of the 19th century. He was joint founder of the Home and Colonial Stores. In the 1920's Edwin Lutyens built Castle Drogo on the edge of Dartmoor for him. 

While living at Wadhurst Hall he looked after his employees and encouraged the children to attend Sunday School in the private chapel where they were taught by one of the Misses Drew. When the family moved to Devon many of his employees went with him.

In the days of the previous owner, Christobel de Murrieta, the Prince of Wales, later to become Edward VII, frequently visited him there.

In 1928 Wadhurst Hall was bought by Mr. Grant MacLean who changed the name to Wadhurst Park. Mr. Grant MacLean's name lives on in Wadhurst because he donated one of the Silver Cups presented to prize winners at the Wadhurst Gardening Association's Shows and is still being used today.

During the Second World War the house was requisitioned for troops. Prior to the Dieppe raid and before D-Day Canadian soldiers were billeted there awaiting embarkation to Normandy. After that it was used as a prisoner of war camp. In 1948 because it was so dilapidated the house was demolished. In the park is a large lake and after the war many of the local children went there to swim. On reflection this was a very dangerous pastime.

Wadhurst Park - entrance

In 1976 Dr. Hans Rausing purchased the estate and had a very unusual one-storey house erected but had parts of the old house, which were still standing, very cleverly preserved as a feature of the gardens. In the park land a herd of deer may be seen.

Wadhurst Park - soth west front
Wadhurst Park - conservatory

Hill House

Hill House was built by John Legas, an ironmaster. It commands a superb view across Snape Wood towards Broad Oak and there is a farm behind the house. This property was later sold to Thomas Wace, a London merchant, who left it to his nephew the Reverend R H Wace. It remained in the Wace family until it became the home of Mrs. Boyd and her daughter Nan.

During the first world war invalided troops convalesced in a building there and between the wars children, from mining areas in the North East of England and who were suffering from tuberculosis were nursed there. Local women helped to look after them and on fine days the children, lying in basket-like invalid carriages were taken for outings around the village. During the summer months Guide meetings were held in the gardens and at the end of the meeting they went into the hospital and joined the children for evening prayers. 

Miss Nan Boyd was a person larger than life. She could often be seen driving to the High Street in her pony and trap. She owned many cottages which she rented out and had the Dutch-style houses built in Green Square.

Walland  Walland Manor  Walland

Walland Manor was owned by the Courthope family until the 20th century. Elizabethan in appearance it has a facade of oak timbers and plaster and two clusters of fine chimneys. In 1987 it was very carefully restored and while the work was being carried out part of a shoe was found in a upstairs partition. It was sent to the keeper of the Shoe Collection in Northampton where it was dated between 1610 and 1620.

Mrs. Nora Manktelow writes:

"I left school before 1 was fourteen to take a kitchen maid's job at Walland. The wages were 12/6d a week and I lived in. I had one afternoon off but had to be back for 8 p.m. I had to get up at 5 a.m. to clean out and polish a great kitchen range. I managed to get rather dirty doing this and my mother wondered why my aprons got so black. The owner Major Mullins, who I never saw, was cared for by Captain Huntingford from his regiment. We thought him rather odd as we were not allowed to hang out washing in the garden. The house had lovely old beams and a grand garden with a pond full of fish. During the summer while I worked there the 'Battle of Britain' was being fought and at night incendiary bombs were dropped in the woods".


Wenbans was originally built in the time of James1 although it gives the appearance of being Elizabethan. In the 18th century it was farmed by the Tompsett family but after then changed hands many times. In the early 1920's it was bought by Lord George Cholmondeley and it was in his time that the Prince of Wales, later to become Edward VIII made frequent visits there. 

The ownership changed hands in the 1930's when it was bought by Rear Admiral Astley Rushton who added another wing to the house. He was tragically killed in a motor accident in 1935 and was interred in Wadhurst churchyard after a full military service which caused quite a stir in the village. Many dignitaries from the Admiralty and other officials from the War Office attended. His coffin was conveyed to the graveside by a naval gun carriage where a guard of honour of sailors fired a volley of shots over the grave.


The name of Barham has always been associated with the iron industry in Wadhurst. Snape, previously owned by a Barham centuries before, was bought in 1885 by George Barham, a founder and co-chairman of the Express Dairy Company. There he built himself a fine mansion and the old farm house was used as servants' quarters. In 1904 he was knighted. 

Sir George took considerable interest in local affairs and was a great benefactor to Wadhurst. On the 1 July 1910 he arranged an outing to London Zoo for the school children and organised the journey so that it included important sights of London including Buckingham Palace. Great iron gates grace the entrance to Snape which today is a complex of four dwellings: the old farm house known as Old Snape, a converted barn that went with the former.the mansion built by Sir George and the stable block known as the Clock House

Clock House
Clock House, Snape

Old Vicarage - M FleggThe Old Vicarage

The Old Vicarage was previously the home of John Legas who built Hill House. It stands at the bottom of 'The Walk' behind high walls. When John Legas moved to his new house he allowed the vicar of the time to live there. Much later Wadham College Oxford bought the property and the house became a vicarage until 1985 when a more modern vicarage was built by Hodders. The old vicarage was sold and is today owned by the son of one of Wadhurst's former much loved vicars, the Reverend David Rice.


The Lodge

The Lodge standing next to the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul behind a large wall was built on the site of another very old house known as 'Clavers'. It was acquired for the Whiligh Estate and in the first half of this century was the home of the Misses Evelyn and Amy Watson. Both of these ladies took an active interest in Wadhurst and were greatly concerned with the well being of working class families. They owned several cottages which they rented out, among them being Balliol Cottages, Primmers Green Cottages and four cottages in Southview Road in Sparrows Green. Many people enjoyed the summer fetes held in their beautiful large garden.

Miss Evelyn Watson helped organise the local District Nursing Association while Miss Amy Watson did much charity work among the poor in the East End of London. Before the second world war most of the cottages were privately owned for letting purposes or were tied farm cottages. Immediately after the war four dwellings were built off Jonas Lane, now Bankside, to house agricultural workers. There were also several pre-fab bungalows built where Bayham Court is now situated. The Council then built the Bankside houses followed by those at Queens Cottages.

With an ever increasing demand for housing the Council extended their building operations to Courthope Avenue, Watts Close, Fazan Court and Snape View. Much private building was also taking place. The allotment site at Stone Cross was developed followed by Jonas Drive, Deepdene, Pell Close, Mayfield Park, Weald View, The Leas, Holmesdale Close, Little Park, Castle Park and the latest complex of houses on the site of Bassetts Forge. As well as these estates much in-filling has taken place especially in Mayfield Lane.

Almshouses - M FleggAlmshouses

Opposite the green at Sparrows Green stand three cottages which were originally two almshouses. These were, together with their large gardens sold in 1966. An extension was added to the two almshouses and the property converted into three dwellings. Two more almshouses are to be found in the Marlpit, and then as recently as 1965 three bungalows to house the elderly, were also built in the Marlpit by the Mullins Memorial Foundation.


The War Memorial Remebrance Day 2007 - M Flegg

The War Memorial was designed by H. Baker and was erected on land given by Dean Wace of Hill House. It was dedicated on 9 May 1921. The names of men who gave their lives in both world wars are recorded there to remind future generations of the great sacrifice. 116 men died in the 1914-18 war and 33 in the 1939-45 conflict. With such great losses for a small town many widows were left to bring up their families with very little support. 

In 1921 the British Legion, now the Royal British Legion, was formed from many small regimental charities, to provide help and support for ex-servicemen, widows and their children.

Step stile - M FleggStep Stile

Step Stile also known as the "Donkey Steps" is situated at the endStep stile - M Flegg of a footpath leading from the church to Pell Bridge. At the begining of the century these steps were used by school children on their way to the first school on Pell Hill and later by children from Cousley Wood on their way to the school in Lower High Street. It is believed that this route was originally used by monks, travelling with their donkeys, in a direct line from Bayham Abbey to the Church which then was affiliated to Rome. Because of continual use over the centuries it was necessary, in the 1950's to relay the well-worn steps by turning them upside down and setting them in cement. There is clear visual evidence of this today. The Trefoil Guild installed a public seat at the top of the steps from which there is a fine view of Bewl Water.

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