CHURCH HILL HOUSE
Church Hill House (or Cottage) is situated next to the White House (formerly Park Cottage). It was built by Thomas Farmer Baily (1824-1876) – it is clearly dated 1856 above the front door and was part of an extensive building programme undertaken by Thomas Farmer Baily at this time. According to Lawrence Biddle’s book “Leigh in Kent” (p.76-77) – the money probably came partly from his mother’s estate, his mother being Caroline S A Perkins, whose family owned the largest brewery in London at this time, the Barclay Perkins Brewery. The money also probably came partly from the further development of the Lordship Lane property of the Farmer Baily family.
The architect for Church Hill Cottage – and the other building that Thomas Farmer Baily undertook at this time (ca 1855) – namely, the buildings at Home Farm, Laundry Cottage (built as a bakery), the Kennels in High Wood, and the four cottages in the High Street, two of which were later extended to become the Fleur de Lis – was probably Charles Baily. Charles Baily was the youngest son of the wholesale ironmonger, William Baily of Gracechurch Street, London and uncle to Farmer Baily II (1799-1828). This would make Charles the first cousin once removed of Thomas Farmer Baily (1824-1876) – not his cousin as stated in Biddle’s book.
In addition, the fact that Charles Baily was staying at Hall Place (see 1851 census) when his host was away seems to indicate that this was not a social visit but more likely a regular visit. Charles Baily was also employed as architect for the rebuilding of the nave of Leigh Church. It appears that Charles Baily took up an appointment in the Architects’ Department of the City Corporation in 1865; thereafter, Thomas Farmer Baily employed the prestigious George Devey.
Following the building of Church Hill House in 1856, the first known resident comes from the 1861 census, when there is a James Waghorn given as Butcher in Leigh: although the 1861 census does not specify Church Hill or name the various properties along Leigh Street or Church Hill, the one which is indisputable is the residence of John Humphrey, grocer, where the Post Office was situated, today’s Great Brooks. Purely by deduction, with the two former cottages at the top of Church Hill, occupied by a William Foreman and James Kingswood, named next, the following property mentioned in the census is occupied by the Butcher, Mr Waghorn: and Church Hill House was built with a butcher’s shop incorporated within it.
The 1870 Sales Particulars of Hall Place (held in the Leigh Archives) describes what we now call Church Hill House as “a newly erected residence” – brick and tile, with bath stone dressings. It contained 8 rooms, ‘a butcher’s shop, washhouse, & c with garden’. (It is no. 13 on the plan, and was situated on an area of 28 perches (0a 0r 28p). It was in the occupation of Mr Edward Outram, a yearly Michaelmas tenant, at an apportioned rent of £23 per annum.
We do not have much information on Edward Outram: by 1871 census he is not listed as being in Leigh. All we have is a calling card in our Archives which lists Edward Outram, Butcher, Leigh, with prices of meat: however, no date. There is also a record of Edward Outram in the Maidstone Telegraph of Saturday 1 May 1869 where he is summoned by the inspector of weights and measures charged with having two weights and a pair of scales incorrect. In the 1871 census, the premises described as ‘Butcher’s Shop in Village’ is occupied by two families, the heads of which are Joseph Miller, carpenter and William Martin, Cricket Ball Maker.
Information taken from subsequent censuses is again based on the order of properties as they are listed in the censuses as many properties in Leigh do not have the names by which we now know them (although we do know where some Leigh people lived from other sources),. Therefore, from the 1881 Census it appears that the Village Butcher’s Shop was occupied by George Leigh, Butcher. However, the premises did not remain a Butcher’s Shop: in the 1891 census, it would appear that it is occupied by R Barden, a Baker: then 1901 and 1911 by George Everest, a bootmaker, who also lets some of the rooms.
Chris Rowley’s book (We Had Everything … p. 262) refers to what had been the butcher’s shop annexed to Church Hill Cottage which had become the workshop of Mr Playfoot, a cordwainer, who made hand-made boots. These boots were reputed to last a lifetime. However, there are no families by the name of Playfoot in Leigh in the 1901 census, although there are in 1911 census – at Garden Cottages: of these two families the heads were an agricultural labourer and a cricket ball maker. Also looking at trade directories from 1899 to 1938, there is no family of shoemakers by that name in Leigh, although as seen above it was occupied by Mr Everest, a bootmaker until 1911 at least, and probably longer. Perhaps Mr Playfoot used it as a workshop but did not live in the parish.
Another occupant given in the Chris Rowley’s book on p.262 is a Mr Bourne, the shepherd for the estate, hence he lived in one of the estate houses – Church Hill House. In 1948, David and Monica Purdy went to live with Mr Bourne to help to look after him after the death of his sister. Monica was from Yorkshire, and had been drafted into the Land Army in the 1940s. She had married David Purdy in 1947, a butcher at Whiteheads in Leigh. By this time, Mr Bourne was over 80. Apparently his sister was a very good musician and had looked after him as he grew old. The Purdys, therefore, now took on this role as carers. They had been led to believe that they would be allowed to stay there after Mr Bourne had died, but unfortunately that did not happen.
It is also said that ‘after the Second World War the annex was used as the surgery for two Dr Woods, father and then son’. In fact, the premises probably became a doctors’ surgery at some point after the First World War: the annex – still separate from the house – did eventually become the Leigh Surgery for Dr Wood (‘Old Doctor Wood) and later his son, ‘the young Doctor Wood’.
Church Hill House (Cottage) remained part of the Hall Place estate until the 1960s, when in December 1963 it was bought by Colin and Dulcie Stevens. Before moving in, the property had to be treated for woodworm and other pests, a blight of such older houses. When they bought the house, part of it was still being used as a doctor’s surgery. It was the Leigh Surgery of Dr L A C Arthur Wood of Penshurst, although used by his junior partner, Dr Burns-Begg, who lived at Speldhurst. Dr L A C Arthur Wood and his father, Dr Charrington Wood, had become Hall Place tenants of the surgery at Church Hill House after the Second World War; neither had ever lived in the house, both having homes and their main surgery in Penshurst. Therefore, on buying the house in 1963, the Stevens received a letter from Alfred Houghton, the Hall Place Agent about the tenancy stating that “Dr Wood had used the surgery for a great many years, as did his father before him”. The Stevens, having bought the surgery annex as well as the house, gave Dr L A C Arthur Wood notice to quit. However, it appeared that his tenancy was protected and that “only an owner-occupier could end his tenancy after five years”. In the event, Dr Wood remained for longer than the five years, and although quite elderly was often called ‘Young Doctor Wood’ because his father had been the local Penshurst doctor for years.
The practice had its Church Hill House surgery several times a week, although people from Leigh who were part of the practice often went to the surgery in Dr Wood’s house in Penshurst or to Dr Begg at Speldhurst. When it actually became a doctors’ surgery, however, is unclear, but probably in the 1930s, because Bernard Thompsett remembers that Dr Davison used the surgery before and during the War. He was three or four in 1939/1940 when he used to go to Church Hill House. However, for Harry and Jack Lucas in their reminiscences in “We Had Everything …” (p.52) the date was after the war: ‘Percy Seal – who used to be the landlord of The Brickmakers – lived up at Church Hill House, on the left, before it became a doctors’ surgery after the war. Percy used to say the house had been a butcher’s at one stage and you could still see the marks on the floor where they had salted down the meat to preserve it’. Clearly memories vary from person to person.
The doctors’ surgery annex was attached to the right-hand side of the house, although there was no connection to the house itself. It seems to have been built on as a separate shop. (This is indicated from the 1870 Sales Particulars). There was a door at the back left-hand side which patients used when they arrived. That opened on to a little corridor which had a wooden bench along the right-hand side. Then at the front left-hand side of this sort of waiting area, there was a door into the surgery itself. The walls were sort of panelled and painted a greeny-beige colour. In the surgery there was an examination table; as well as a table and two chairs; and a sink on the back wall. There were large opaque windows at the front where now there is a bay window – and another at the far side where there is now a fireplace. And there was a separate door beside the front window where the patients could go out after the consultation without meeting the patients in the waiting area. The whole place seemed to have been sound-proofed so that, if you were waiting, you weren’t meant to hear what the doctor was saying.
The doctors eventually left in about 1975, enabling the Stevens to link the house and the surgery so as to provide more room for their family. Colin Stevens adds: “There was gas heating in the annex. When it was still a surgery, occasionally I’d go next door to see everything was all right. I remember once I went in, and I found a lady on her knees trying to get the money out of the gas meter with a knife or something. We both pretended nothing had happened and I’ve never said anything about it”.
“I had said to the Hall Place Estate when we bought the house that we expected that the doctors would leave fairly soon and we thought that it was agreed. I put their rent up a bit – it went from £13 per year to three guineas a month – partly to encourage them to move. But, in fact, it was probably nine or ten years before they actually went. By that time we had a bit more money – the conversion cost £1,500 – and we wanted the extra space for our three girls who by this time were about twelve, ten and nine. Dr Wood did say to me towards the end that trade was falling off and I think that he probably retired fairly soon after leaving the Leigh surgery. So, if the surgery was converted after the War, it was probably there for at least twenty five years. But I suspect the old Dr Wood was there before the War”.
“Dulcie and I and the children never actually went to Dr Wood or Dr Burns-Begg, although I knew Bill Begg pretty well and his son still lives in Speldhurst or Langton. We went to Peter Skinner whose practice was growing with the arrival of Dr Callum and Dr Ken Evans. But you know all about them”.
In the summer of 2014, Colin Stevens, now a widower, moved to Hadlow and the property was sold.
Sound Proofing in the Church Hill Surgery
Although Colin Stevens has said that there was sound proofing in the surgery on Church Hill, there were cases when it was not going to be useful. One Green View Avenue mother was sitting on the wooden bench with her two year old and a number of old ladies, when her daughter started using her latest word. “Bugger, Bugger, Bugger, Bugger”, she proclaimed cheerfully. The mother thought quickly and said – pointing to the front of the little girl’s dress, “Yes dear, button, button, button, button”.
Joyce Field/Chris Rowley: November 2014
Lawrence Biddle “Leigh in Kent”
1870 Sales Particulars of Hall Place (located in Leigh Archives)
Colin Stevens (former owner of Church Hill House)
“We Had Everything …” Chris Rowley
City Directories – via Ancestry.com