An Eastbourne House Through Time

I have enjoyed the BBC Series ‘A House Through Time’ where David Olusoga researches the history of a particular house. Inspired by this I thought I would try to do the same with a house close to where I live in Old Town, Eastbourne.

St Mary’s House is adjacent to the Lamb Inn at the top of Ocklynge Road and dates from the early 1800s. It has an interesting history, having been a school, opticians and possibly an artist’s studio.  It was the home of brewers, beekeepers, thespians and a royal photographer. It became a Grade II listed building on 17th May 1971. 

St Mary’s House 2020

Although it is now  ‘St Mary’s House, 2, Ocklynge Road’ the building was originally ‘Matlock House, London Road’ which until the late 1870s was the name given to the stretch of road between the Lamb Inn and the Crown Pub. 

Mr Edward Hurst was an Eastbourne miller and the owner of St John’s Mill at Ocklynge. The Hurst family were also brewers and property developers and had a long ancestry in Eastbourne. The Hurst family ran the Star Brewery which was once immediately behind the St Mary’s House and owned the Manor House nearby in High Street, Old Town. When Edward died in 1910 his obituary stated that he had been born in ‘St Mary’s House in Old Town 90 years ago’[1] If this is the case then St Mary’s House was in situ in 1820. 

The Star Brewery (centre) – St Mary’s House is just behind the trees on the right.

In June 1873 the house, described as ‘an excellent family residence’, was advertised for rent. [2]  Just a few years later in March 1877 both the house and furniture were actioned. [3]   

The next occupant was the Reverend John Robb Bradstock. (1846-1888) 

JOHN BRADSTOCK

The Reverend Bradstock was born in East London in 1846 and went to Cambridge University (MA 1872).  He married in Sussex in 1876 and his first daughter Mary was born the following year, probably in Matlock House, Eastbourne.

In May 1878, John conducted a military funeral for Private Huskins of the Coldstream Guards who had drowned near the Redoubt.  John was the chaplain for the Eastbourne Workhouse. In December 1879 he requested that gifts of second-hand books, newspapers and magazines could be left at Matlock House for use by the inmates of the workhouse[4]  which was a short distance away in Church Street. 

The Reverend Bradstock resigned the chaplaincy of the Union Workhouse in September following a dispute as to whether ‘casuals’ should be admitted to the workhouse. Casuals were homeless men and women, and the vicar was very much against their admittance to the workhouse as they refused to work.  He described these men as “tall, brutish, sullen, incapable and ignorant beyond belief.”  He was particularly unhappy with homeless women attending his services. 

Eastbourne Workhouse

Reverend John Bradstock left Eastbourne shortly afterwards and died in Cambridge in December 1888. [5]

In August 1882 Edward Hurst complained to the Council about defective drains outside Matlock House leading to bad smells.[6]  Although once more owning the house, he let it out. (He advertised it as a house ‘without the encumbrance of a garden’)

One of his tenants was Doctor Edward Johnson Hardy Booth who was living there in November 1886. [7]  

EDWARD BOOTH

Doctor Booth was born in 1846 in Huddersfield.  He was a keen scholar and a member of the cricket team and local Cadet Rifle Corps. [8]  He qualified as a surgeon at St Thomas’s Hospital in London in 1867 [9] and by 1871 was back in his home town where he was the Superintendent and House Surgeon for Huddersfield Infirmary and in charge of a fairly large staff. He was initiated as a Freemason at St Chad’s Lodge, Rochdale in 1873. The following year he was appointed as the poor-law district health officer for Mirfield, Yorkshire. His salary was supplemented by a £5 allowance for ‘destroying the bedding of smallpox patients.’

The same year (1874) Edward married Amy Canwarden in Hampstead, London. They stayed in Huddersfield for a few years and on 24h January 1876 he was involved in a traffic accident in the town when he was thrown from his horse-drawn gig which was hit by a bakers cart apparently driving at speed.  He later appeared at court to sue the baker for damages. [10]

A short time later Edward and Amy moved to London but in 1876 Edward complained to Huddersfield Council that they still owed him money despite the Council summonsing him for non-payment.  [11]   

By 1880 he was living in Beckenham, Kent where he was the House Surgeon for Beckenham Cottage Hospital.  In July 1880, his house was burgled when Francis Judd, a 19-year-old labourer was caught inside.  As Judd had not actually stolen anything he was convicted of being ‘a rogue and a vagabond in a dwelling house for an unlawful purpose’and was sentenced to six months imprisonment.

By 1886 Edward and Amy had moved to Matlock House, Eastbourne. In August 1889 the following advertisement was placed in the Eastbourne Gazette: “PAGE WANTED To make himself generally useful. Age about 14. Apply to Dr Booth, Matlock House, Old Town.”  If a lad got the job he was not employed for long as the house and contents were again auctioned in September 1889. [12]  

From Eastbourne, Edward and Amy moved to Portsea in Hampshire where he worked for a short time.  In August 1890, he sued a Mr Nobel of Bedhampton at Portsmouth County Court for the sum of £7 7s 6d. Nobel paid him a cheque for his services but it had bounced at the bank.

In 1891 Edward had moved again and was working as a Surgeon in Folkstone Kent. He appears to be doing well as he employed a cook, however just 10 years later, in May 1901, Edward died in the Middlesex County Asylum. He left his widow just £5.

A SCHOOL ROOM

The 1895 edition of the Gowlands Directory records that Matlock House was being used as a pre-preparatory school run by a Miss Fowler. 

A search of the 1911 census shows just one female teacher by the name of Fowler in Eastbourne.  Jessie Mary Fowler was born in Gloucestershire in 1878 and is shown as a teacher at St Katherine’s School, Meads.  Jessie remained unmarried and returned to Gloucestershire where she died in 1972 aged 94. 

My father, Roger Gordon, who now lives a short distance from St Mary’s House in Greys Road, attended Colville House school at 2, Selwyn Road in the 1940s.  Although Colville House was a girls school, brothers of the girls were able to attend the school during the war.  As his sister Sheila was a pupil he was one of just two boys who went to school there at the time.   

When I questioned my father about his school days in 2016 he said “The founder of Colville House school was Miss Carlile who was a cousin of Prebendary Wilson Carlile. Carlile was a successful businessman, but looked for more on the ethical side of life. He became a canon at St Paul’s Cathedral, was a founder of the Church Army and a member of the Plymouth Brethren. He was awarded the Companion of Honour in 1926.[13]  

Miss Carlile became friendly with the lady who lived in St Mary’s House, Ocklynge Road, opposite St Mary’s Church and together they opened a school there, right next to the Lamb Inn.  Unfortunately the school did not last long there as it became infested with cockroaches and moved to the far end of St Mary’s Road.  Soon after it moved again to a large house at the corner of the road. (and afterwards to Selwyn Road)” [14]

Maggie Lilian Carlile [15] lived with her parents, a short distance from St Mary’s House at 41, Ocklynge Road. The 1911 census shows her occupation as the ‘principal of a private school’.

A MYSTERIOUS VICAR

Matlock House was advertised for rent in July 1898 having six bedrooms and three sittings rooms for 3 ½ Guineas a week. [16]  The following year it was put up for auction again (along with the adjacent house in Baker’s Road) but did not reach the reserve price of £1,925.

A strange advert appeared in the Eastbourne Gazette of 22ndAugust 1900 “LONDON VICAR wishes to meet with one or two pupils (resident in London) with whom to read for a few hours weekly.  Apply to “M” – Matlock House, Ocklynge Road, Eastbourne”  I wonder who the mysterious ‘Reverend M’ was?

About this time references appear in the press to a Matlock House in Meads. The Ocklynge Road house is not shown in either the 1906-7 or 1908-9 local directories [17]  

A CHANGE OF NAME

In 1909 the building was occupied by James Francis Rowsell and his family. James was born in Portsmouth in 1853 but was bought up on a farm near Little Common, Bexhill. He married Orpah Seymore from Jevington in 1875.

James was employed as a baker’s assistant and lived in St Mary’s House with his wife and five adult children; 33-year-old Harold, who worked as a carpenter for a building company, 31-year-old Ethel, who was an upholsterer, 29-year-old Margaret, who was a ‘mother’s help’, 23-year-old Thomas, who was a clerk in a gramophone shop and 21-year-old George, who was a painter and paper-hanger.[18]

It was James who changed the name of the building from Matlock House to St Mary’s House.  

About 1912, James and his family moved from St Mary’s House to 12, Greenfield Road,[19] the address given in December 1914, when his son George, joined the Royal Sussex Regiment.  James died aged 63 in 1916. The next occupant of St Mary’s House was a Mr James Stevens.  

The name James Stevens is difficult to research as it is quite a common name.  It is clear however that Stevens’ occupancy was short. In August 1918. Edward Hurst who was still the owner of St Mary’s House, sued Stevens for damages. He told the County Court that Stevens had left the house in a dilapidated, dirty and neglected state and claimed money for making the property suitable for another tenant. [20]

A STING IN THE TALE! 

The occupant in 1926 was Alfred (Alf) Miller who was a furniture dealer. He is remembered for holding regular “Shilling Sales’ at the nearby old barn. Alfred previously lived in Broomfield Street.

Alfred Ernest Miller was born in 1, Bradford Street, Eastbourne in 1870.  His father was a grave-digger at St Mary’s Church. [21]  In 1881 he was living at 1, Church Street, opposite the Lamb. He married local girl, Caroline Lewis in 1891 and they moved to 108, Willingdon Road. The 1901 census shows they had two children, Florence and Ernest. Alf was then working as caretaker for the Willingdon Golf Club. 

During the Great War, Alf appeared at Eastbourne Police Court accused of disorderly behaviour. [22]  The incident in question related to a swarm of bees which had settled in a tree in Terminus Road in June 1917.  Mr H.E. Warren ran a jewellery business in Terminus Road but his hobby was bee-keeping, indeed he was the honourable secretary of the Kent Beekeepers Association. He kept an eye on the bees all day and when he finished work managed to coax them all into a box. At this point Alf rushed up to him and said they were his bees and he was claiming them in the ‘national interest!’.  During the argument a large number of people gathered to watch the fracas and when Mr Warren refused to hand over the box of bees, Alf kicked the box in the air releasing them.  The angry bees stung both Mr Warren and several of the people around. Some of the spectators, including several soldiers, were so angry they turned on Alf who had to be rescued from assault by Police Constables Simmons and Dean. 

The Magistrate’s Clerk (who does not seem to have taken the matter seriously) pondered on whether it was Alf or the angry bees who were guilty of disorderly behaviour!  Alf was eventually fined £5.  On leaving court, he complained that, as a fellow bee-keeper, Mr Warren should have been more friendly towards him.

Alf died in Eastbourne in 1937. 

THE ROYAL PHOTOGRAPHER

From the early 1930s the next occupant was an interesting character called Frederick Leslie Paviere, who described himself on census returns as a ‘photographic artist’.   

Frederick was born in Oxford in 1871. He married artist Edith Hughes on 11thMay 1889 in Streatley, Berkshire. They had 10 children (seven daughters and three sons).  Frederick was an art dealer but became the proprietor of ‘Hill & Saunder’s Oxford Photographic Gallery’ in Oxford. At that time they were the leading photographers of students with other branches at Cambridge, Eton and Harrow. He claimed to have taken the first photograph of Queen Victoria with her family and also photographs of Edward VII.  This is indeed possible as the studio boasted that they were ‘Photographers to H.M.The Queen’.

He later spoke of seeing many famous people in Oxford, some of whom he had photographed. He recalled Oscar Wilde “mincing through the streets in lavender coloured clothes, a billy-cock hat tipped forward and a large sunflower in his buttonhole.”

On their Golden wedding anniversary in 1939 Frederick was interviewed by a reporter from the Eastbourne Herald.[23]  The reporter mentioned that few people passing the house realised that it was full of art-treasures and valuable antiques. Frederick had said that he had retired to Eastbourne as he liked the trees around the town. He was obviously proud of his house and pointed out the room at the front of the house where the celebrated artist Augustus Egg had once painted a portrait of Charles Dickens. He told the reporter “Egg used to occupy this house and it is in that very window there that Dickens sat with light streaming in past the tower of St Mary’s Church.”

The reporter was shown a portrait which Frederick claimed was of Charles Dodgson’s mother painted by Romney.  He said he had found it in an Eastbourne antique shop where it had lain unsold for years. Dodgson was the real name of the author Lewis Carroll.  Frederick said that he knew from his days in Oxford.   

Regarding his days as a photographer Frederick recalled one interesting occasion when he was asked to take a portrait of Kaiser Wilhelm. “I was commissioned to take a photograph of the Emperor – As you can see I possess a luxurious moustache, and so of course did the Kaiser. As he entered the room I nervously fingered my moustache, turning the ends upwards. The Kaiser stared at me with a look of thunder on his face and accused me in German of making fun of him! I almost believed he would have ordered for my head to be chopped off if he could have done so. However his officials mollified him and I took the photograph as requested”. 

Kaiser Wilhelm

Frederick later moved to Ilfracombe where he lived in the Vicarage. He died in the town on 15th November 1959.  

THE THESPIAN AND THE OPTICIAN

Two occupants seem to be using St Mary’s House in 1951. Mrs Dorothy Bonham and Mr G.L. Harrington-Smith.  Mrs Bonham lived in the house and it is possible that either Mr Harrington-Smith was a tenant or he rented a room at the front of the house as an opticians. 

Mr George Louis Harrington-Smith was born in 1913. He ran his business from St Mary’s House and advertisements in June 1951 show he also fitted contact lenses on the premises. The telephone number given was Eastbourne 6534. [24]

The same month, (June 1951) Mrs Dorothy Bonham wrote a letter to the Eastbourne Herald complaining that the Council had removed two colourful flower sellers from the town centre. [25]   Mrs Bonham owned six pets and was a supporter of animal welfare as St Mary’s House was the venue for a meetings of the local branch of ‘Our Dumb Friends League’.[26]  Mr Harrington-Smith was also concerned about animal welfare and the local papers show he also assisted at meetings of the Dumb Friends League.  An interesting item appeared in the press in July 1951 regarding Harrington-Smith fitting a glass-eye to a Siamese cat called Mini. The cat had been found abandoned in a sack in a field near Eastbourne. Interestingly the report states that Harrington-Smith was the ‘former optician to the King’[27]  I have not been able to verify if he was a royal optician but Harrington-Smith was certainly influential as, between 1954 and 1957, he was one of the British delegation at the annual conference of German opticians in Berlin. [28]

There was a fire at the adjacent Lamb Inn in October 1952 which could have threatened St Mary’s House, however Mrs Bonham praised the way that the local fire brigade had prevented the fire spreading to her house. [29]  She was clearly a thespian.  In 1954, she wrote to the Eastbourne Herald suggesting that a ‘Little Theatre’ could be housed under the library. [30]  In the 1950s she appeared in many plays put on by EODS (Eastbourne Operatic and Dramatic Society) including Macbeth (playing Lady Macbeth) and ‘Songs from the shows’. She also produced plays for EODS including ‘And So to Bed’ at Devonshire Park Theatre in 1957. [31]

Mrs Bonham was still the occupant of St Mary’s House in 1958 when she wrote another letter to the Eastbourne Herald stating that she was a theatre lover and had been a member of EODS for seven years.[32]  By 1954 George Harrington-Smith moved his business to 21, Gildredge Road.   Already a Fellow of the British Optical Association, in June 1958 he was elected to be a member of the Royal Society of Health.[33]  He was still practicing in 1967. [34]  He seems to have retired about 1970. He died in Kettering, Northamptonshire in 1995. 

In July 1958, St Mary’s House was again put up for auction, this time by local auctioneers Edgar Horn of Cornfield Road. [35]The house was advertised as having a lounge, large kitchen, 3 bedrooms, dressing-room, bathroom and two attic bathrooms.  Interestingly it also boasts of a garden – I wonder where that came from!? 

I am sure that St Mary’s House will remain standing for many years to come and continue to delight its occupants.

Mr PAVIERE’s CLAIMS 

I think that it would be a good idea to try to verify the interesting claims made by Frederick Paviere: 

Did he take portraits of Queen Victoria?  

Did he know Oscar Wilde and Lewis Carroll?   

Did he own a portrait of Lewis Carroll’s mother painted by Romney?  

Did Augustus Egg live at St Marys House? 

Did Charles Dickens sit for a portrait in St Mary’s House?

Did Frederick Paviere take photographs of Queen Victoria? 

Hills and Saunders were indeed the official photographers to the royal family from the 1860s to the 1890s. The National Portrait Gallery has dozens of photographs of Queen Victoria and her children taken by the company and we know Frederick worked for the company at that time. It is indeed possible that he did take photographs of the Queen.

Did Frederick Paviere know Oscar Wilde and Lewis Carroll? 

Photographic portraits of both Oscar Wilde and Charles Dodgson are known to have been taken by Hills and Saunders of Oxford. [36]  Both were such extrovert characters, and I am sure that Frederick knew them. 

Did Frederick Paviere have a painting by Romney? 

George Romney (1734-1802) was a very fashionable Georgian artist.  He could not have painted a portrait of Lewis Carroll’s mother, Francis Jane Lutwidge, as she was born a year after he died!  In any case it is difficult to believe that a portrait by such a famous artist would have lain unsold for many years in an Eastbourne antique shop!

Did Augustus Egg paint a portrait of Charles Dickens in St Mary’s House?

The artist Augustus Leopold Egg (1816-1863) was known to have rented a house in Eastbourne to recover from ill-health. The Dickensian Magazine [37]says that when Dickens visited Egg in Eastbourne, his call was unexpected and his friend was not at home. Mrs Egg therefore had to entertain the great novelist in their house ‘just off Borough Lane’.  A date is not given but an item in the Eastbourne Society Magazine [38] suggests that it was in the 1830s.  He was definitely in Eastbourne as late as August 1854. [39]    

My guess however would be that Dickens visited Eastbourne in the 1850s.  Dickens was in nearby Seaford in 1850 to witness the ‘Great Explosion’ of Seaford Head and a few years later in 1856 his younger brother Alfred Lamert Dickens was appointed to conduct an enquiry about public health in Seaford. [40]

Eastbourne historian J.C Wright said in 1903 that Egg lived ‘a door or two removed from the corner of Borough Lane’. [41]  Traditionally it is held that Egg stayed at a house called ‘Pilgrims’ which is on the other side of the High Street to the Lamb in and St Mary’s House.  It was here on 7th June 2005 a blue plaque to Dickens was unveiled by the Eastbourne Dickensians. 

The Eastbourne Society say that Egg, Dickens and their friend, the Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman-Hunt (1827-1910) would meet at Pilgrims before taking part in amateur dramatics at the nearby Lamb Inn. (Annoyingly no references are given) 

Augustus Egg did indeed paint a portrait of Charles Dickens (interestingly with a window behind him!). [42]

It seems that the only evidence that Egg lived in St Marys House and not Pilgrims, was the word of the elderly Frederick Paviere who was talking about events maybe a century earlier.  However if Egg did indeed paint when he was in Eastbourne, Pilgrims would not be a very good venue as it is overlooked front and back by other houses.  Who knows, a brighter room at St Mary’s House maybe have been used by him as a studio?

St Mary’s House today.

[1]Bexhill on Sea Observer 7thMay 1910

[2]Eastbourne Gazette 11thJune 1873

[3]Eastbourne Gazette 7thMarch 1877

[4]Eastbourne Gazette 10thDecember 1879

[5]Cambridge Independent Press 7thDecember 1888 and probate record. 

[6]Eastbourne Gazette 9thAugust 1882

[7]Eastbourne Gazette 3rdNovember 1886

[8]Huddersfield Chronicle 23rdSeptember 1865

[9]Morning Advertiser 21st December 1867

[10]Huddersfield Chronicle 12thMay 1876

[11]Huddersfield Daily Chronicle 14thDecember 1876

[12]Eastbourne Gazette 25thSeptember 1889

[13]Wilson Carlile 1847-1942. He has a blue plaque on his house in Kensington. 

[14]Interview of Roger Gordon by Kevin Gordon 12thNovember 2016

[15]Her name was Maggie and not Margaret. 1877-1971.

[16]Eastbourne Gazette 13thJuly 1898

[17]Pike’s Blue Books 1906-7 and 1908-9

[18]Census 2ndApril 1911

[19]Pike’s Blue Book 1916-17

[20]Eastbourne Chronicle 3rdAugust 1918

[21]Census 3rdApril 1881

[22]Eastbourne Chronicle 6thJune 1917. 

[23]Eastbourne Herald 13th May 1939 (p13)

[24]Eastbourne Herald 12thMay 1951

[25]Eastbourne Herald 16thJune 1951

[26]Eastbourne Herald 16thFebruary 1952

[27]West London Observer 20thJuly 1951

[28]Eastbourne Gazette 23rdOctober 1957

[29]Eastbourne Herald 18thOctober 1952

[30]Eastbourne herald 16thJanuary 1954

[31]Eastbourne Gazette 8thMay 1957

[32]Eastbourne Herald 12thMarch 1958

[33]Eastbourne Herald 14thJune 1954

[34]1967 Kelly’s Directory

[35]Eastbourne Herald 5thJuly 1958

[36]National Portrait Gallery ref:  X5181

[37]June 1937 – Quoted in the Eastbourne Gazette 23rdJune 1937

[38]Eastbourne Society Magazine 164 – Autumn 2005

[39]The Royal Academy Archives. 236/9b/6: Letter from Egg dated 4thSeptember 1854 saying he had ‘just returned from Eastbourne’ 

[40]Sussex Express 16thDecember 1856 

[41]Bygone Eastbourne J.C. Wright 1903 (page 259)

[42]‘Charles Dickens playing Sir Charles Coldstream’ Charles Dickens Museum, London

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Rachel says:

    Loved this. So interesting

    Like

  2. Bridget King says:

    Excellent. I look forward to your next historical house study.

    Like

  3. Nathan Stanton says:

    What a fascinating read! I lived here with my family between 1990 and 2001. I’d always been led to believe that the house used to be a pub called the Red Lion: there’s a cavernous cellar underneath, with the only access via the garden. There was also talk of there being a tunnel between the Lamb inn and St Mary’s Church: my sisters and I once tried to dig our way from the cellar to the tunnel before being stopped by our rather unhappy Dad!

    Like

    1. Daniel Fielder says:

      I lived at Pilgrims when I was a child between 1979 and 1984.
      I knew St Mary’s house well as my great (older) friend Christopher Rose then owned the house. He had two vintage Bentleys, one of which was stored in the garage. We had a lot of fun times there! I would suggest that the house is considerably older than the date given. It is timber framed behind the stucco facade.
      Daniel.

      Like

  4. Sue says:

    Very clever to research all this Kevin. Thank you for your efforts. We enjoyed the TV series really nice to have our own Eastbourne Investigator!

    Like

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