Woodcote Park

Woodcote Park c.1816
Woodcote Park c.1816 by Hassell
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre Collection

During the Roman occupation of Britain a section of the long-distance road known as Stane Street ran through the district extending from "Pebble Lane" in Ashtead as shown by John Lawrence on his map of 1638. A modern Ordnance Survey map has it passing north of Thirty Acre Barn and evidence has been found for continuation through Tudor Croft to Woodruff Stables (near the junction of Chalk Pit Road with Headley Road). A line may then be inferred to have crossed what is now Woodcote Park golf course to The Grove in Epsom. It is known then to have proceeded behind St Martin's parish church en route to Ewell.

Ashtead Map 1638 - click image to enlarge
Ashtead Map by John Lawrence. 1638 - click image to enlarge
Image courtesy of Leatherhead and District Local History Society

The development of Ebbi's ham during Saxon times is considered in A Brief History Of Epsom And Ewell. In 727 Frithwald, subregulus of Surrey, and Bishop Erkenwald, are said to have granted to their newly founded abbey of Chertsey twenty mansas [a Latin word used as an alternative to the Anglo-Saxon 'hid' = archaic measurement of 'a hide', each of about 100-120 acres] of land in Epsom and this was confirmed by King Edgar in 967. Epsom is mentioned in the Domesday Survey among the possessions of Chertsey Abbey. Henry I granted the abbot leave to keep dogs on all his land inside the forest and outside, to catch foxes, hares, pheasants, and cats, and to enclose his park there and have all the deer he could catch, also to have all the wood he needed from the king's forests. Thus a hunting park came to be created in 1155 by enclosure of the south - western corner of the manor and the hamlet of Woodcote Green developed. The name 'Woodcott' itself may have been derived from Old English 'Wudu' + 'cot' meaning 'Cottages in a wood. Woodcote Park estate was established around an area called 'Digdens' possibly from the Saxon 'Digle' + 'den' indicating a remote or hidden valley.

The Abbot's emparkment would have led to a need for the diversion of Stane Street. Dorothy Nail suggested in the Meeting place of the Copthorne Hundred (SAC Vol. LXII , 1965) that it had been re-routed through Shepherds Walk, Ashtead, to Langley Vale before taking a turn to the north down what was called in 1871 Walnut Tree Road (later diverted to form Downs Road), Epsom. [Another possibility has, however emerged.#]. Stane Street became The Portway and these changes explain how a point east of Motshambles is mentioned as a bound in the 1495 itinerary around Epsom in a document from the Chertsey Cartulary. [see Appendix below.] A combination of the Abbot's Chalk or Marl Pit and the park pale could account for the dog-leg from Wilmerhatch Lane to Headley Road. [Link]. A linear earthwork may be traced on the ground from what was the Pleasure Pit to Nutshambles (NGR: TQ 20065787 to TQ 20105744). This bank and ditch surmounted by an ancient hedge is a fragment of the Epsom/Ashtead parish boundary from the Middle Ages. Although of large proportions (originally with an overall height of about 10 feet and width in the region of 35 feet), this is common to many boundary banks encountered elsewhere in Surrey.

In 1537, as part of the process of his suppression of lesser monasteries, Henry VIII "purchased" rather than confiscated the lands of Chertsey Abbey. Epsom was immediately granted to Sir Nicholas Carew, K.G., in tail male [meaning only sons could inherit], but in 1539, in consequence of his attainder, the manor returned to the Crown, and the next year was annexed to the honour of Hampton Court. In this period, a Tudor house appears to have been constructed within the former monastic deer-park.

The right granted to Chertsey Abbey was to catch and enclose deer (at the time 'forest beasts') as distinct from warren. This seems to imply more a matter of a deer farming for food rather than the sport of hunting. After King Henry VIII got hold of the area and annexed it to the Honour of Hampton Court it became part of the great Chase from Hampton to Nonsuch and it is likely the Woodcote deer were then released entirely or used to re-stock the woods as needed.

The capital messuage of Woodcote in Epsom, held of the sub-manor of Horton, then entered during the first half of the 16th century into the ownership of one John Ewell of Horton, and continued in his family until 1591, when it was the cause of litigation between Agnes Tyther, a descendant of John Ewell, and Roger Lamborde. This estate is reported to have come into the possession of John Mynne, lord of the manor of Horton, before 1597, and he settled it on his son William on his marriage.

A pedigree of Merston and Mynn in relation to the manor of Horton may be found in Manning and Bray's History of Surrey. The John Mynne, who had been holding the manor of Horton in 1564, died in 1595 leaving a son and heir William (born circa 1561), who was knighted 23 July 1603.

Sir William Mynne died in 1618 survived by nine children (John, born circa 1598, William the elder, Thomas, Nicholas, William the younger, Elizabeth, Frances, Dorothy and Jane). His will provided for the eldest son, John, to inherit his manors, tenements, hereditaments and lands but the estate was charged with various annuities for the younger children and substantial amounts to be paid as dowries when the daughters married.

Elizabeth described as a daughter of Sir William Minn of Woodcott, Surrey, and the widow of Sir Henry Berkeley of Wymondham, Leicestershire, became the second wife of Sir Hugh Wyndham, judge of common pleas, and Jane (born circa 1612) entered into a union with Thomas Hanson, citizen and grocer, at St Peter le Poer, London on 2 August 1631.

John Mynne himself married Alice daughter of William Hale and settled various lands and tenements on her, among them the manor house of Horton. During the first quarter of the 17th century the mansion at Woodcote Park passed from the Horton branch of the Mynne family to a kinsman, George. Futher, in order to pay his debts and with the consent of William Hale, John sold the remaining Horton estate to George Mynne "of Woodcote" during 1626.

George Mynne died in 1648 without leaving a will and his son, also named George, survived him only until 1652. By a will dated 18 May 1663 of Anne Mynne, widow of Epsom, co-heiresses to the family's real estate became her daughters Elizabeth (b 1629), who had married Richard Evelyn, Esq., during the year of her father's demise, and Anne (b. 1634), wife of Sir John Lewknor, M.P. for Midhurst.

Anne Mynne, widow deceased, relict of the late George Mynne the elder had been in occupation of 'that Capital Messuage, mansion house or Tenement called Woodcott' with an estate which, in 1663, comprised: -
The Deane, pasture 20a, Hill Close 10a, Stony Crofts 5a, Two coppices adjoining, 2a, White Hill 35a, Longlands, 20a, Abbots Hill, 20a, The bottom by Long Grove, 12a, Great Digden, 40a, Certain lands in Langley, 3a, Coppice Wood on the Downs, 10a, Long Grove, 10a, A grove in the Deane, 6a, Sheep Walk for 400 sheep on the Downs, Lower Blakes, 15a, Upper Blakes 15a [LINK to Stone House Estate], Nynhams, 20a, & Two coppices, 2a.
A total of 210 acres then within the 'park' is only about a tenth of the area of land granted to Chertsey Abbey in the 8th century.

E W Brayley's A Topographical History of Surrey mentions that: -
"In the 15th of Charles the Second (1675), a deed of partition was entered into between Mrs. Evelyn and Lady Lewkenor, the sisters, or co-heiresses, of George Mynn, which recognizes the right of the owner of Woodcote-Park to a sheep-walk for four hundred sheep on Epsom downs. In other documents this is referred to as the sheep-ground abutting upon the demesne lands of Ebbisham on the west and south parts, and on the common downs of Ebbisham on the east. [Much later it was this sheep-ground, or sheep-pasture, which formed the basis of a claim of the Baron de Teissier's family to two hundred acres of Epsom downs stated to be called 'Abbott's Hill, on the east of Woodcote, part of a plot of ground comprising the site of the Grand Stand, Winning-post, Judges' Stand, and other contiguous property'."
Following Anne Mynne's demise the manor of Horton fell to the share of Elizabeth who, having survived her husband and children, eventually left this manor, with Woodcote Park, to Charles Calvert, third Lord Baltimore, a great-grandson of Anne, daughter of George Mynne of Hertingfordbury, "a connexion of her family".

Epsom manor itself had descended to Edward Darcy who sold it to Mrs. Anne Mynne, widow of George Mynne of Horton Manor and daughter of Sir Robert Parkhurst: she left it by will to her daughter Elizabeth (as mentioned above) wife of Richard Evelyn, brother to John Evelyn the diarist. The Evelyns decided to reside at Woodcote and Richard commissioned the building of a new mansion there.

On the map of 'Surrey, Actually surveyed and delineated by John Seller, Hydrographer to the King..', published during 1690, 'Woodcote' appears adjacent to 'Willmore Pond', unfenced in contrast with Nonsuch Park. Elizabeth Evelyn, Lord of the Manors of Horton and Epsom, died in 1692.

As already noted, Mrs. Evelyn bequeathed Woodcote to Charles Calvert, 3rd Lord Baltimore. He had held office as Governor of Maryland between 1661 & 1675, again in 1676, and from 1679 to 1684. Having been deprived of the province of Maryland in the Revolution of 1689, he was outlawed 1691/2. During 1694 named but not arrested in relation to the fabricated plot of Titus Oates and the Lancashire plot, he escaped arrest. Baron Baltimore then rose to the rank of Brigadier-General by 1696 and was promoted Major General in1704. He died 21 February 1714/5, aged 77, before being interred at St. Pancras.

Celia Fiennes provides a description from about 1712 of "Lord Baltimores in Woodcut Green encompassed with a wall at the entrance, a breast wall with pallisadoes, large courts one within the other, and a back way to the stables where there is a pretty horse pond; the house is old but low, though large run over much ground; as I drove by the side saw broad chimneys on the end and at due distance on the side on both ends the sides of a court which terminated in a building on which there is a lead with railes and barristers."

Woodcote Park descended with the title to Benedict Leonard Calvert, 4th Lord Baltimore, but his tenure was brief because he died less than two months later, 16 April 1715. Biographical details are available from the Dictionary of National Biography accessible through the Surrey Libraries website.

Charles Calvert, 5th Lord Baltimore, born 1699, (whose details may also be found in the DNB) succeeded. His brothers complained that he "pulled down everything" and "finished nothing" so that on 6 July 1724 Woodcote was found to be in disorder. Shortly before his death in 1751, Charles had gone on to engage John Vardy to design a stone-fronted Palladian range across the east front of the house. His son, Frederick, inherited the building whilst work was in progress before, according to Horace Walpole, spending a fortune making the interior 'tawdry' and 'ridiculous' in the 'French' style.

# The line of Stane Street across Woodcote Park, already mentioned in the first and third paragraphs of this article, is considered by Alan Hall in Surrey Archaeological Collections Vol. 94 on pages 232 -234. Dorothy Nail drew inferences about its diversion, in The Meeting Place of the Copthorne Hundred mentioned earlier, from the references in 1540 (National Archives LR 2/190 - Epsom Manor rental) and 1679 (Surrey History Centre 31/4/1 - Epsom Manor Survey) to 'Dorking Way' and the association of that name with Langley Vale Road. A plan of Woodcote Common Field from the early 18th century, however, shows in addition to Dorking Way Shot, Dorking Road passing Crick Lane Close to meet Chalk Lane. In Epsom Court Rolls, the latter is described as the way to Durdans or the chalk lane leading to Walton. The 'King's highway leading from the town of Epsom towards the downs (or unto Dorking)' now appears to have continued to Upper Woodcote Green; and further southwards, according to a 1726 plan of Woodcote Park Estate, up Thursley Hill to reach Langley Vale Road opposite the approach to Langley Vale Farm. This comes very close to the triangular piece of land, described in the Ashtead Tithe Award as Juniper Green, thought to have been the actual meeting place of the hundred. At that stage the only 'lost' section of Stane Street could have been a relatively short link from a known point at Woodruff Stables to the track descending Thursley Hill. Only following land acquisitions by Charles, 5th Lord Baltimore, in the first half of the 18th century would Dorking Way have been enclosed in Woodcote Park to become an estate track. At that stage public use would have been denied beyond Worlds End.

1726 - Click image to enlarge
1726 - Click image to enlarge
With kind permission of Royal Automobile Club © 2012 and thanks to David Lambert of The Parks Agency

Further documentary evidence about the connection of Stane Street with Dorking Way now suggests that the former continued directly from 30 Acres Barn to Langley Bottom and there turned northwards to descend Thursley Hill as mapped in 1726 above. The following recent photograph taken from the terrace of the RAC clubhouse shows where the course of Dorking Way would have followed high ground around the skyline

View from the terrace of the RAC clubhouse
View from the terrace of the RAC clubhouse
Image courtesy of Brian Bouchard © 2012
John Sennex's map of 1729 had depicted 'Woodcot' as an enclosed estate occupied by Lord Baltimore and by 1768 it had come to be represented as a landscaped 'Park' with the estates of Woodcote House and Durdans to the north and East. At this date, the estate stretched all the way southwards from the Downs to Lower Woodcote Green and to Chalk Lane on the east. The main carriage entrance then appears to have been established as a drive off Chalk Lane beyond Durdans.

Roque's Map 1768
Roque's Map 1768

Frederick Calvert, 6th and last Lord Baltimore, left England in 1771. Woodcote Park had been sold during 1768 with the manor of Horton to Mr. Lawrence Monk who, in the following year, conveyed these estates to Mr. George Nelson.

In 1777, the properties were purchased by Arthur Cuthbert but he immediately disposed of 34 acres in the eastern extension to William Joshua Kenworthy in order for the latter to extend his Durdans estate above The Grove.[As an inscription in St Martin of Tours indicates, however, his enjoyment was short-lived: - In Memory of WILLIAM JOSHUA KENWORTHY ESQ., who died at Durdens, July the 16th, 1778, Aged 58 years.] A further 61 acres 12 perches down to Gills, otherwise Clay, Lane and Lower Woodcote Green were sold off to Charles Foreman. [Foreman died 2 January 1791 'at his town residence, St Mary at Hill, supposed to be the richest hop merchant in Europe'. By his Will of 21 pages proved 12 January 1791 - PROB 11/1200 - this land was left in trust for his nephew Luke Foreman, Upper Harley Street, London. Inscriptions on a tomb at St Martins include:- 'Sacred to the Memory of LUKE FOREMAN Esqre. of London the only son of MR. LUKE FOREMAN Esqre. above inscribed Born at Lissbon May 17(5)7 Died at Parish Septr. 1814 Aged (57) Years. A King's Warrant was issued granting certain freehold estates in Surrey which escheated to His Majesty on the death of Luke Foreman without heirs to Mary Foreman his widow in fee, 13 June 1821. She transferred these 62 acres to the Northeys, 6 July 1833, for annexation to Woodcote House and to become known as Woodcote Little Park -SHCOL_4073.]

1777 - Click image to enlarge
1777 - Click image to enlarge
With kind permission of Royal Automobile Club © 2012 and thanks to David Lambert of The Parks Agency

Having severed parts of Baltimore's park, Alexander Cuthbert re-sold the mansion and remaining grounds eleven years later to Lewis De Teissier (1736 - 1811), a merchant of London. De Tessier was responsible for the creation of a large ballroom by converting two rooms into one. Having died in the house, aged 75, of an "apoplectic fit" he was described as an "eminent French merchant of the old school said to have amassed nearly half a million pounds sterling".

Mr. De Teissier's son (1794 - 1868), created by Louis XVIII the Baron de Teissier, was owner of the property at the beginning of the nineteenth century. He died in Brighton during 1868 aged 73.

Woodcote Park. The seat of the late L de Teissier
Woodcote Park. The seat of the late L de Teissier.
Engaving by J H Kernot in Brayley's History of Surrey
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre Collection

We have a description of the house from 1828:
"The mansion is situated in a vale, at the foot of a well wooded eminence, which rises rather abruptly to the south. The east or entrance front is represented in the view given, as seen from the opposite eminence. The basement is cased with stone, and the remainder of the building is stuccoed. It consists of a centre with wings extending in a curvilinear form, and presents an extensive and very imposing frontage. A flight of steps, with balustrade, conducts to the hall which is of good dimensions, and is adorned with coupled Corinthian columns supporting a frieze. Amongst the principal apartments, of which five are en-suite, are two withdrawing-rooms; the walls of the smaller were decorated and painted, as also the ceiling, by foreign artists. The library is a very splendid room, being ornamented with a profusion of gilding on a blue ground. On the ceiling is painted Ganymede, by Verrio. An apartment, styled the painted room, has its walls covered with designs illustrative of the Greek romance of Daphnis and Chloe. At the west end of the building an apartment, formerly used as a chapel, has a painted ceiling representing the Resurrection, by Verrio. On the first floor is a room 40 feet by 28, and 18 feet high.

The park lies about a mile south of the village of Epsom, and contiguous to the race-course; it contains about 350 acres."

In 1901, the large drawing room was said to have a ceiling also painted in part by Verrio, representing 'The Sacrifice to Diana', and another portion by Zucharelli entitled 'The Muses'. An altar from the third Lord Baltimore's Roman Catholic chapel had been removed to Ashtead parish church.

Baron de Teissier is reported to have re-decorated the mansion in Louis Quinze style before selling it during 1855 to Mr. Robert Brooks.

The Illustrated London News for Saturday, July 15, 1882, provides additional information about this family: -
"The will (dated Feb. 17, 1871) of Mr. Robert Brooks, J. P., late of St. Peter's-chambers, Cornhill, and of Woodcote Park, Epsom, who died on the 5th ult., was proved on the 29th by Robert Alexander Brooks, Henry Brooks, and Herbert Brooks, the sons, the executors, the value of the personal estate amounting to upwards of £378,000. The testator leaves to his wife, Mrs. Hannah Brooks, his household furniture, jewellery, plate, pictures, books, horses, carriages, farming stock, and effects, £2000, and an annuity of £2500; she is also to have the use and enjoyment of his mansion house and estate, Woodcote Park, for life, but, if she elects so to do, she is to have instead an additional annuity of £500. On the termination of Mrs. Brooks's interest in the said estate, testator's and three sons are to have respectively, according to seniority, the option of purchasing it. To his grandson, Ernest Walter, the son of his deceased son Walter, he bequeaths £10,000; upon trust for his daughter, Mrs. May Browning, £10,000; and upon trust for his son, Arthur £8000. The residue of his real and personal estate he gives to his sons Robert Alexander, Henry, and Herbert. The deceased was the Conservative member of the House of Commons for Weymouth from 1859 to 1868."

Fireplace in the Library

The Bailiff's House

The Carriage Drive

The Drawing Room

The Hall

The Lodge

One of the Ceilings

The Morning Room

Views from the East Front
Views of Woodcote Park taken circa 1900

After Mrs Hannah Brooks death was registered in Epsom for December Quarter 1885,Woodcote Park became the property of her son, Mr. Herbert Brooks, J.P., a Director of the Bank of England, from whom the estate was purchased by the Royal Automobile Club in 1913 for use as a country club.

Most of the historic rooms in the Vardy range were removed under instructions from the RAC. Advertisements for the sale of the important collection of architectural salvage appeared in the Connoisseur for 1914 and some fragments have ended up in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA.

The story of Woodcote Park Camp during the Great War is provided in a linked article.

In 1934, Woodcote Park was gutted by fire, but had been reconstructed by May 1936, only 21 months later. Outer pavilions of the building had survived together with the entrance steps, curved colonnades and balustrades. The facade was recreated, using some salvaged material, to resemble the original as far as possible. Other structures remain on the estate from the 18th century including farm buildings, a dovecote and the wellhouse.

During World War II Woodcote Park was used as a training centre with the grounds ploughed for agricultural purposes.

Brian Bouchard © 2012


Ashtead / Epsom Boundary
Following R. A. Lever Proc. L & D LHS Vol. 4, No. 5, 1981
Lawrence's Itinerary, Ashtead, 1638   Chertsey Cartulary, Epsom, 1495
  Woodcock Corner  
Woodcock Park 1 Kocshete (Cockshoot)
  2 King's way from Kyngeston to Walton on the Hill
Lanthorn Green near to Epsom Well 3 Werehull , a place in the heath.
[Ware - Middle English from Old English waer - watchful /attentive.
Hil - Middle English from Old English
Hyll - little hill, to distinguish from, dun, as used for "The Downs"]
"Lookout Hill" would have been an incline or slope, heap or mound, probably the elevated ground, that on which the Wells Estate now stands. Epsom Common was heathland in contrast with Ashtead's "Forest".
The boundary from this point appears to turn eastwards, around freehold land traceable to 1543, following the course of The Rye to Lanthorns Corner and side of Lanthorns before continuing along lands within Epsom called Sytus - in August 1768, Citers - about 10 acres lying east of Ashtead House   Intriguingly, a "Mound" is marked at this point on the 1870 OS Map. In 1902, there was, in the area, "a filter bed for a local section of Epsom drainage system...Against this [was] a small stone mark but any inscription [had] entirely disappeared."

Searches for the mound, reported to have been ditched and rising only one foot above normal ground level, proved unsuccessful in 1966 & 1999.
Abbot's Pit Lane
Abbot's Pit (Pleasure Pit) [distinguish from Abbotisput]
4 Merlesherne iuxta Ashtead
[Merle - Middle English from Old French, from Latin merulus/merula - blackbird;
more likely a corruption of
Marle - Middle English - Marl
Herne - Middle English from AngloSaxon/Old English hyrne - a nook, corner or angle]
The Breech (Shepherd's Walk)
[to the west of Nutshambles]
5 Portway
[to the east of Motshambles]
Nutshambles 6 Motschameles ( Motshambles)

Rev. Boucher
Rev. Boucher
Rev. Parkhurst
Rev. Parkhurst
Sir Fredrick Eden
Sir Fredrick Eden
Mynne G
Horton Manor
Mynne G
George Mynne
Darcy E
Edward Darcy
Kingswood Warren
Kingswood Warren
Pitt Place, Epsom
Pitt Place