WADHURST PARK—continued - [part 1 here]
In June 1898 Wadhurst Park was
sold to Mr Julius C Drew (changed to Drewe in 1913), who had started his working
life as a tea buyer in China. He opened his first shop in Liverpool in 1878;
in 1883 he moved to London. The business developed rapidly under the name of
"The Home and Colonial Stores". After only six years he and his partner
John Musker were able to retire from active participation in the firm as rich
men. Drewe was only thirty-three years old. In 1890 he bought Culverden Castle
in Tunbridge Wells, on which site the Kent and Sussex Hospital now stands, and
at that time married Frances Richardson. Already by 1900 he was listed as Drew
of Wadhurst Hall in Burke’s Landed Gentry.
Julius Drewe bought Wadhurst Park lock, stock and barrel. He paid £47,850 for the whole estate; it was described in the sales contract as the “Manor of Combe or Coombes and its lands, the Mansion House known as Wadhurst Hall, together with the Park, Lake, Gardens, Pleasure Grounds, Stabling and Outbuildings and the land in the Parishes of Wadhurst, Mayfield and Ticehurst, known as the Wadhurst Park Estate”. Mr Drewe added new land to the estate and put in central heating and electricity from a turbine by the lake. He then moved into his new home with his young wife and three sons, Adrian, Basil and Cedric, born between 1891 and 1896. The first born was named after Adriano de Murrieta.
Two daughters, Mary and Frances, were born at Wadhurst Hall. Life there seems to have been blissfully happy. Frances has given an account of her childhood, which reads like a fairytale; the sweet, kind parents with their five children, surrounded by friendly, devoted servants in the most comfortable and beautiful setting. She mentions many of the servants by name: Mr Waite, the butler, with his marvellous mutton-chop whiskers and his wife who made dresses; Mrs Stacey, the housekeeper, busy by the sewing machine in her work room; Mrs Chandler, the cook, who was chef-trained; the much-loved nanny Bernie Rickwood, nicknamed Bop; the second nanny Mary Jane Sharpe and the nursery maid Eliza Winch, who lived with her parents in Stream Cottages by the Miners Arms. Eliza’s husband worked in the kitchen garden. Her father prepared kindling wood in the cellar of Wadhurst Hall. There were White, the estate carpenter; Barnes, the sweeper of the front drive; Hutton and later on Grant, the coachmen; Mrs Bradshaw, the head laundress, married to the previous estate carpenter. There were the two drivers, Holter and Nethercot; Mr and Mrs Dunk - Mr Dunk nursing the Drewe boys when they got the measles, Mrs Dunk cooking for the unmarried men living in the Bothy. There was Mr Crawford at Scrag Oak, the estate agent, who every Christmas handed out turkeys and geese to the people working at Wadhurst Park. There were the under-keepers, Wickens and Everett; the latter reared the ducks at Doozes Farm. There was the charming Irish governess, Miss Jennie Griffith, known as Griff, and the Chaplain Leslie Stevenson at Sunset Lodge. He later became vicar of Wadhurst, then Canon and Dean of Waterford Cathedral. In the Entrance Lodge lived the Friend family, and at the Octagon Lodge by the back drive lived the Necklins. Mr Friend and Mr Necklin both served as night-watchmen.
The main drive was flanked by glaucous cedars planted by the Murrietas. The Hall, still with the Spanish furniture, smelled of bees’ wax polish. The floors were covered by carpets from Donegal which Mr Drewe had ordered when he bought the house. Morning prayers with all the staff were held in the dining-room. The family had many clergymen among their friends, Mr Drewe being the son of an evangelical clergyman himself. Sunday service was always in the Chapel; Mr Drewe taught Sunday-school to the senior boys, his daughter Mary to the smaller children. Elaborate Christmas tree parties were held in the riding school for all the people working on the estate, with heaps of presents and a huge tea to follow. !n the summer there were garden parties with pastoral plays and tea in marquees. There were shooting parties every Saturday during the season with enormous bags of ducks and pheasants, followed by tea in the hall, alternating with dinner parties with the children kneeling in the gallery to catch a glimpse of their beautiful mother going in to dinner. Occasionally balls took place in the huge Oakroom, where the orchestra sat comfortably playing in the ingle-nook. In the summer, lunches were served on the terrace with screens to keep out the draught and light shades to keep out the sun.
Julius Drewe did a great deal of charitable work. He started a Clubroom in what is now Mayhurst, and a book club for young unmarried men. He also supported for many years a Dr Packard, who was a medical man and a clergyman as well, who had his surgery in Shoreditch in the East End of London.
From the Working Album of Nathaniel Hitch—sculptor:
design for the chimneypiece in the Great Hall of Wadhurst Hall [photo from the Henry Moore Institute Archive, Liverpool]. The History Society was recently asked for help in explaining the connection with the de Murrieta family
On the ball Wadhurst Hall
Never mind the danger
Rush it in and score a goal
Play just like a ranger.
Mark your man and tackle fair
Keep well on the ball
A jolly lot of lads are they
Who play for Wadhurst Hall.
During the 1914-18 war Wadhurst Hall had its
own squad of uniformed volunteers, jocularly known as “The Nanny Goat Lancers”.
The Pierce children went to school in Tidebrook, a two mile walk from Wadhurst
Hall. They were joined on their way to school by Mary Maylam, whose parents
farmed Lodge Hill, together with their two sons. The children often went to
the laundry along the road to the kennels. The laundry was warm and inviting
in cold weather. Three or four girls worked there, washing and ironing for the
Hall. When the Drewes went to Torquay in the summer, the laundry maids went
with them. During the absence of the Drewes the lake was there for the children
on the estate to explore. A barge moored by the boat-house was ideal as a bathing
platform. At the end of the lake was the Tea House, a wooden chalet type of
building, where lunches were served during the shoots. Mr Darkins, the head
keeper, allotted each guest a boy who carried his cartridge bag for the day.
The beating was done by the men on the estate. The game was hung in the game
larder, a louvered building near the kennels. It still stands within the freehold
of the Hunting Lodge (formerly Maywood and before that Rose Cottage). During
the Murrieta time an ice house in a bank near the Hall was used.
Christmas was a great time enjoyed by all with Christmas dinner provided by Mr Drewe. On Boxing Day the Wadhurst Town Band came to play carols, first at the front door for the gentry and then at the back door for the staff. Then came the great party in the riding school, described also by Miss Frances. The family and the staff rendered songs and recitations.
After leaving school, Leonard Pierce was taken on as a garden boy. He then lived with his parents in Chevincote, now held freehold for more than 40 years by Mr and Mrs Winchester. Around the cottage was the fruit garden. In front of the house across the road were the pleasure grounds, flower borders with box hedges, long glass houses and the great conservatory with palms and ferns.
On the other side of the conservatory was the terrace, covered with fine beach pebbles that needed constant raking to keep it looking nice. Sheep were on loan from the house farm (Flattenden) to keep the grass down by the drive near the house and Leonard was there to herd them off the borders round the drive.
At the annual ball he was employed to guide the chauffeurs to the garage yard, when they had deposited their charges at the front door.
His most important job, though, was in the Chapel, where he rang the chapel bell for service every Sunday. His mother played the organ and he acted as a verger, getting the key early on Sunday morning from the key rack in the butler’s pantry. Once a quarter he presented himself at the estate agents with an account which read, "Due to Leonard Pierce for church work, Thirteen Shillings".
He was christened by the aforementioned Dr Packard from Shoreditch and instructed for confirmation by Mr Turnbill, who came up from Bexhill for the weekends staying at Sunset Lodge, where Mr Waite, the butler, now lived. Sunset Lodge later became the property of Sir Willis Combs. Mr Pierce senior then took a job as head gardener in Tunbridge Wells, and so young Leonard’s carefree, happy life at Wadhurst Hall came to an abrupt end!
The Drewe’s eldest son Adrian died during the First World War. He served in the army like his two younger brothers. His death was a terrible loss and Mr Drewe never fully recovered from the shock. He had by then already lost interest in Wadhurst Park, a place bought ready-made and although beautiful and agreeable not in any sense his creation. Early on he had left his business in the hands of others and in 1919 he and his partner sold the outstanding shares for £1 million, a huge sum in those days.
With his elder brother William he had always taken a keen interest in the history of the Drewe family. A genealogist convinced him that his family was descended from the Drewes of Broadhembury near Honiton in Devon. Already in 1901 he bought land there and installed his brother William, a barrister of the Inner Temple, at Broadhembury House. Their first cousin Richard Peek was the rector of Drewsteighton, named after Drogo de Teigne, and alleged forefather to the Drewes. Julius stayed on several occasions with his cousin and it must have been here that he conceived the idea of building a castle on the home ground of his ancestor. He found an ideal site, and in 1910 he bought about 450 acres south and west of the village. (By the time of his death in 1931 he had bought up an estate of 1,500 acres). He then went to Edwin Lutyens, the most interesting architect of the time, and asked him to build his castle. According to his son Basil, he did so on the advice of William Hudson, proprietor of Country Life, who was both a patron and a champion of Lutyens.
Drewe was now 54 years old, but he still had time and energy and money to create his new family seat. On April 4, 1911, a foundation stone was laid. Castle Drogo was finally completed in 1930, a year before Drewe died. In 1927 the furniture, mainly the Murrietas’ Spanish pieces, was brought down from Wadhurst Hall.
Mrs Drewe and her son Basil continued to live at Castle Drogo. During 1939-45, Mrs Drewe and her daughter Mary ran the house as a home for babies made homeless during the bombings of London.
Mrs Drewe died in 1954 and Basil Drewe was then joined at Drogo by his son Anthony and his wife. Anthony and his son, Dr Christopher Drewe, later gave Castle Drogo and 600 acres of the surrounding land to the National Trust.
The last part of this history will appear in the December Newsletter