The house which came to be known as Garbrand Hall was built in about 1770 for Philip Rowden, a prosperous London wine-merchant and one time Master of the Vintners Company. A description from the late 18th century describes a grassy area in front of the house running down to a clear stream dividing the property from the road, a reference to the Hogsmill, which rises in Ewell and runs into the Thames at Kingston. It is likely that the lake in the grounds, which is replenished from these springs, was constructed at this time but the exact date has not been established.
The Times, 19 May 1795
After his death in 1795, the property was bought by Thomas Hercey Barritt, a descendant of a family that had built up substantial estates in Jamaica, initially from land granted by Charles II.
Thomas Barritt enlarged the house, including the addition of conservatories on each side. He also increased the size of the gardens and erected outbuildings in the form of stables, a brew house and a dairy, later known as "The Turrets" reflecting its crenellated appearance.
Barritt was also responsible for building the imposing gateway which can still be seen at the junction of High Street and Spring Street in Ewell. This is colloquially called the 'Dog Gate'; a reference to the Talbot hound which stands on the top of the gate. It is sometimes claimed that the dog's tail was damaged many years ago and replaced with a cow's horn supplied by the local butcher but this has not been substantiated. The gateway carries a coat of arms incorporating the arms of the Barritt and Garbrand families. The Garbrands, who also held land in Jamaica, had inter-married with the Barritts and to reflect the family connection the Ewell property came to be called Garbrand Hall. At about the same time a high brick wall was built around the estate together with the arched bridge, which can still be seen at the edge of the horse pond opposite the Spring Hotel. Parts of the original wall can still be seen, including the curved recess that was incorporated to allow a neighbour to turn his horses and gain access to his driveway.
The Dog Gate in 2007 Copyright image courtesy of Clive Gilbert
The Dog Gate (Detail) in 2007 Copyright image courtesy of Clive Gilbert
Thomas Hercey Barritt died in 1817, and we know that for a couple of periods Garbrand Hall was let out however his widow continued to own it until her death in 1841, when the property was bought by Henry Batson who sold it in 1859 to George Torr, a charcoal manufacturer.
The Times 20 Aug 1825
The Times 02 Jul 1827
The Times 07 May 1841
George Torr, who moved to Ewell from Deptford, was a substantial benefactor to Ewell, providing money for the new school and for the upkeep of St Mary's Church. He also gave £800 for the purchase of a new church organ in memory of his son George, who had died after five days of congestion of the brain.
George Torr died in 1867 but his widow, Elizabeth, continued to live at Garbrand Hall. She was a keen gardener and she and her head gardener, James Child (aided by ten other gardeners), made Garbrand Hall famous for its beautiful gardens. These covered some 15 acres and were planted with shrubs, conifers and ornamental trees, some of which can still be seen in the grounds of Bourne Hall, the building which now stands on the site. Garbrand Hall was several times praised in the gardening press of the 1870s for its displays of chrysanthemums and orchids, which were also successfully exhibited. Elizabeth Torr died in 1886 and was succeeded by her daughter Bertha.
The next occupant was Sir James McCulloch. He was born in Glasgow but spent much of his adult life in Australia where he was a successful businessman and politician. He left Australia in 1886 and lived in Garbrand Hall until his death in 1893.
Garbrand Hall subsequently passed through several owners before it was bought in 1926 by Miss Margaret Glyn, one of the daughters of Sir George Glyn, the one time vicar of Ewell. The house was renamed Bourne Hall and it and much of the grounds were leased as a 'school for the daughters of gentlemen', opened in 1929 by the owner of the nearby Ewell Castle School for boys.' Bourne Hall School for the daughters of professional men', as it had become, closed in 1953.
In 1945 Miss Glyn sold the property to Epsom & Ewell Borough Council with a stipulation that the layout of the gardens should be retained and the trees and shrubs preserved. It was hoped that the building could be restored and adapted for use as a library. However, it had deteriorated to such an extent that it was demolished in 1962 together with the stables and replaced with a new building, called Bourne Hall, that opened in 1969 while The Turrets was demolished a little later in 1969.
Bourne Hall in the early 21st Century Copyright Image courtesy of the Manager Bourne Hall.