A hundred years of Leigh squirearchy: 1809-1886
SAMUEL MORLEY 1809-1886
Small in stature but huge in planning, Samuel Morley was the mainspring of the current Hope Morley family and its future.
He entered the counting house of I & R Morley in Wood Street in the City of London as a clerk. In 1841 he married Rebekah, daughter of Samuel Hope, a banker and manufacturer, and they produced a remarkable family. Samuel himself guided the business from 1820 to 1871. From our village’s point of view the key to the future was that Samuel Morley bought Hall Place and the estate of 380 acres. The existing 1780 Georgian House did not meet his needs and so he pulled it down and built the present building and stable block at a cost of about £77,000.
Samuel was in drapery but a dignified version in that he bought, built and occupied huge factories and even bigger warehouses and concentrated on exports, making it necessary to maintain some 200 travellers at home and abroad.
An advanced Liberal, he sat in Parliament for Nottingham from July 1865, was unseated the following year, represented Bristol in 1878 and retired from the Commons in 1885. He refused a Peerage. In Parliament, he became a leading non-conformist, being particularly concerned with temperance and the working-classes.
In early life, Samuel Morley had become a member of the Kemp House Chapel in the City of London and in 1847 he launched a Dissenters Parliamentary to promote the return of non-Conformists to Parliament. Hardly a chapel was built to which he did not subscribe. He acquired and built numerous chapels which he handed over to reliable followers, including a good number in the Sevenoaks and Tonbridge area – several of which exist to this day. He put his daughter in charge of the Leigh Village Hall as a chapel. The attendance at St Mary’s Church suffered greatly and never recovered until Samuel’s interest was withdrawn.
In 1900, I & R Morley’s payroll included 3,950 … workers with 3,173 factory hands working in seven factories and 1,241 staff in the Wood Street and Nottingham warehouses.
He was a philanthropist, sometimes in public, sometimes in private. He founded Homerton College at Hackney (later moved to Cambridge), Milton Mount College for Girls at Gravesend and Morley College, a music hall transformed, in Southwark.
SAMUEL HOPE-MORLEY 1845-1929: 1st BARON HOLLENDEN
Samuel’s eldest son, Samuel Hope-Morley, was born in 1845. He became a senior partner of I & R Morley and was a Director and Governor of the Bank of England 1903-05. He lived the life of an aristocrat, becoming a peer, the 1 st Baron Hollenden, occupied 2 Grosvenor Square in London, owned a large yacht and drove a four-in-hand. He added Leigh Park and Prices Farms to the estate and ran the shoot on first-class lines. He died in 1929 and his widow, Laura, Lady Hollenden, lived at 49 Grosvenor Square during the war, dying in 1945.
THE RT HON GEOFFREY HOPE-MORLEY 1885-1977: 2nd BARON HOLLENDEN
Geoffrey Hope-Morley, the second Lord Hollenden, loved Hall Place and put his stamp upon it. He created the surrounds to the double hard tennis courts and the pavilions and nurtured the small arboretum alongside. He built three stone bridges around the lake and robbed the Deer Park to enlarge the flower beds. In the balmy days, 20 gardeners were employed. During the War, he suffered a fire at Hall Place which demolished one third of the mansion: and he headed the collection of a fund which purchased two Spitfires. He gave Leigh Green to the village in 1948 and created the Morley Trust in 1952. He gave the Village Hall to the Parish Council.
He built one cottage at Home Farm, two cottages and a bungalow at Prices Farm and many agricultural buildings were replaced. He was deeply involved in the church, especially as Vicar’s Warden. During his reign, the Home Farm improved its image and in particular, the Guernsey herd was a success. Overall, each farm on the estate formed a dairy herd.
He led the firm of Morleys to greater importance and the trade acknowledged this by granting him the First Freedom of the Textile Trade. After the war, the Wholesale Textile Association, of which his Lordship was President, formulated plans to rebuild the textile centre of the City of London. His brother, the Hon Claude Hope-Morley concentrated on the export trade, particularly in Australia where a warehouse flourished. In the mid 1960s, Morleys were taken over by Courtaulds.
The Laundry had closed in 1933 and been converted into a dwelling. It was sold in 1971 with Laundry Cottage sold in 1978.
The Gate House, which had been lived in by the Estate’s Agent was sold and renamed “Porcupine House”.
One by one the estate dairy herds have been diminished and only Leigh Park Farm herd remains. Farm orchards have also nigh on disappeared.
Little Lucy’s Farmhouse was sold as was Little Lucy’s Farm in 1991.
Gordon Hope-Morley, nephew of the 2nd Baron Hollenden, became the 3rd Baron Hollenden in 1977. As a member of the Black Watch Regiment, he served in Norway where he met and married Sonja Sundt and produced three sons. He succeeded the estate in 1973 and decided he could not live in the mansion as it was. During 1975-76, the kitchen area and the top floor were abandoned and the remainder modernised. His mother, Lady Dorothy, was involved in London Society and wore a monocle. Mr Colin Bastable became tenant of the whole farmable estate. In 1994 Home Farm House, two cottages and farm buildings were sold. Farmhouses at Prices and Lower Street Farms had previously been sold and so the one at Leigh Park Farm was the only survivor.
Parish Magazine Articles: June/July 2008: by the late Alfred Houghton