There were some large mansions near Valley End. Some of the owners, such as Julia Seymour Bathurst or Henry Pige Leschalles, were philanthropists, supporting ventures that ranged from building a new church to establishing a cricket club. They employed a large number of staff, which swelled the local population.

One of these influential houses was Ribsden.

Looking back to the history of Ribsden, Chertsey Road in the 19th and early 20th centuries. By Sally Clark.


Ribsden House was originally built for Henry Rothery, a lawyer and botanical collector, in the late 1870s. The land sold on which the house was built, north of the present Chertsey Road, formed part of the Fuel Allotments to the poor in the Enclosure Act of 1814, where they were allowed to carry away “turves, furze, fern or other fuel.” The money raised from the sale to Henry Rothery was used, until a few years ago, “for the distribution of the “Ribsden Coals” at Christmas, mainly to senior citizens or to other needy persons in the village.” The Ribsden Coal Charity has now been incorporated into The Poor Allotments Charity, covering Bagshot, Lightwater and Windlesham (an article in respect of which appeared in the December 2013 edition of the Windlesham Magazine.)


Ribsden House. (Photo courtesy J. End.)

In 1867 Rothery was appointed by the Government as their Commissioner enquiring into maritime losses and casualties, which enabled him to travel extensively to Australia, British Guiana, Dominica and Madagascar and pursue his keen interest in botany, particularly ferns, at the same time. He died at Ribsden on 2nd August 1888 but was survived by his wife Madelaine Rothery who continued to live at Ribsden until her death in October 1891.

The Surrey Heath Museum retains Mr Rothery’s accounts book for 1879 / 1880 and an entry in 1879 shows the following costs recorded:

“Coal and Wood 2 shillings; Help and luggage to the station 4 shillings 6 pence; Stable broom 2 shilings 6 pence; Telegram 1 shiling.”

A second notebook records various remedies for the horses, including how to make a poultice for wounds of the joints or tendons:

“sal-ammoniac powder – 4oz; sugar of lead – 4oz; vinegar – 3 pints water – 3 pints.

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Ribsden House. (Photo courtesy J. End.)

Ribsden was subesquently bought by Richard Coply Christie and his wife Mary Helen in circa 1891 / 1892. Educated at Oxford, Richard Christie was called to the bar in Lincoln’s Inn in 1857 and in 1872 he became chancellor of the diocese of Manchester, a post he retained until 1893. He was appointed trustee of the Estate of the industrialist, Sir Joseph Whitworth. Funds from this estate were used to build a home for people with cancer – and was renamed the Christie Hospital in their honour. Confronted with new diseases such as mule spinners’ cancer and chimney sweeps’ cancer, doctors started to look for possible links to machine oils and airborne soot. The first use of x-rays in 1901 and radium in 1905 were developed at this hospital.

On moving to Windlesham the Christies brought with them their groom, Harry Carnell, who was the grandfather of local resident, Joan Weymouth.


The library at Ribsden. (Photo courtesy J. End.)

In 1901 Harry Carnell is recorded as living in accommodation above the stables and coach house at Ribsden with his wife, sister-in-law and daughter Ellen of 2 years, and employed in the position of groom and coachman.

Richard Christie died on 9 January 1901 at Ribsden and in honour of his memory Mary Helen Christie donated funds to the Windlesham Institute, which were used to develop the building to include a stage to enable concerts and theatre performances. The entrance door to the theatre bears a plaque “1901.”

On 1 February 1911 Mary Helen Christie died at Ribsden leaving no issue. Her estate was held in trust, one of the trustees being her father, Samuel Fletcher MP and subsequently sold by public auction. At the time Harry Carnell was still employed as their coachman and is recorded on the census in 1911 as living at Ribsden Cottage with his family. A second daughter Lillian, the mother of Joan Weymouth, has now been born.


First published in the Windlesham Magazine, Feb. 2014.

With thanks to Sally Clark and the Windlesham Magazine.



A Home for the London Mothers

“Mrs Miller seems to have enjoyed herself immensely and the Doctor was much pleased with her improvement.

Another satisfied customer of the London Mother’s Convalescent Home!

The Home stood on Chobham Road, in the north of Valley End parish. It was founded by the Hon. Mrs Charles Hay, (Arabella Augusta Hay,) in 1889.


The London Mothers’ Convalescent Home. (Photo courtesy J. End.)

The Home was intended for married women. They could visit with babies aged between 3 weeks and 3 months, and could stay for a fortnight. Many were from poor areas, with large families, living in 1 or 2 rooms.

Mrs Hay was right to be concerned for their health. Even by 1905 the infant mortality rate for Notting Dale, a poor area in Kensington, was 432 out of 1,000.*

The Home was run by the Clewer Sisters, an Anglican order of Nuns, founded in 1852 to support the poor in Windsor. Mrs Hay had been connected to them for many years, and so it was natural that when she founded her charity she invited the Clewer Sisters to run it.


The London Mothers’ Convalescent Home. (Photo courtesy J. End.)

The Home seems to have been skilled at raising funds. There was a list of subscribers, and an annual Pound Day, when they received goods in money and in kind. The contributors were listed; “Mrs Walter Forsyth, sweets; HM the King – 20 pheasants.”

The Pound Day had speeches. In 1929 they were praised for the “care of both mother and child… helping them to take their true part in the future of the Empire.”

The women and babies benefited from their stay, and returned home refreshed. Local ladies enjoyed taking the girls out for treats, or inviting them to tea. It was a popular and successful local charity.

In 1899 Mrs. Hay was succeeded at her death by her daughter, Miss Maud Hay – Drummond. Then in 1941, Maud died. As she had always intended, she left the Home to the Clewer Sisters.

London Mothers Home_0005.jpg

The Chapel in the London Mothers’ Convalescent Home. (Photo courtesy J. End.)

But the situation had changed. The building had been bombed, and needed repair, and the Sisters would have had to pay the death duties. The Order was also starting to cut back on their activities. They seem to have declined the legacy.

By 1971 the house, now renamed Drummond House, had been redeveloped as flats. The author Hilary Mantel lived there for a while. “We were living in Sunningdale in a ramshackle flat converted from a former mother and baby home, which had been run by nuns…The big rooms were gracelessly partitioned, and there were crucifixes and Latin mottoes in unexpected places.”**

The building has recently been redeveloped. It still stands on the Chobham Road, just before the railway bridge in Sunningdale. On the front there is a carving of a mother and baby, a reminder of the London Mother’s Convalescent Home.

London Mothers Home Stamp.jpg

Stamp from the London Mothers’ Convalescent Home. (Image courtesy J. End.)

  • Quoted in “Love and toil; motherhood in outcast London 1870 – 1918.” Ellen Ross. OUP 1993.

** Hilary Mantel. “Giving up the ghost: a memoir.” Fourth estate. 2010. p.234.



Berkshire Record Office. D/EX  1675/1/12/9/1-44

Living in Sparrow Row

What would it have been like to live in Sparrow Row 100 years ago?

 Old pictures 023.jpg

Living in Sparrow Row; by Sophie Stevens, 1891 – 1978.


I was born at Ripley in a little old cottage over on the Green, it has been pulled down now, we had to get out. My mother’s mother came from West End and she found us a cottage at Penny Pot where my brother was born. We moved to 5 Sparrow Row and lived there till my brother, who never married, died in 1969.

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5, Sparrow Row. With thanks to Surrey Heath Museum. (Image courtesy J. End.)

It was lovely up there always sunny and dry and Valley End school was very good. There were 5 cottages and only one well in no 2’s garden but there were good wells over on the Common.


Granny Beetle outside her cottage in Sparrow Row. (Photo courtesy Joan Weymouth.)

My father he did any odd jobs and when he got older he took the Allotment (now the property called One Tree Hill) on the common and grew vegetables. He had a donkey and cart and sold them round Sunningdale, he grew beautiful celery, huge big sticks they were.

We used to go to Valley End church every Sunday and I was confirmed. I went to work in service when I was 14 but when mother had twins I came home to help her. Mother fed one baby and father bought a milking Nanny for the other one. They were lovely babies but the one I looked after died at nine months, she cut too many teeth the Doctor said and it turned her brain. We were very sad and we carried her little coffin to Valley End church.


Valley End Church. (Photo courtesy St. Lawrence and St. Saviour Chobham.)

Many years back a Pedlar was coming down the old lane at the other side of the cottages and he was drunk and riding his donkey, a branch got caught in his neckerchief and he was hanged and he used to haunt the old lane our dog saw him and howled, the dog would never go down the lane at night after that.

One of my sisters she got burnt alive on the Common. She was driving the donkey and cart full of bracken and she wanted a smoke she went to light a match they were in her apron pocket and she set light to the whole box and she was burnt to death.

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Sparrow Row today.


(Original text in Surrey Heath Museum.)



With thanks to Surrey Heath Museum.


The Wrecked Cabin of Brick Hill.

On the 5th September 1908 19-year-old Henry Taylor and his brother in law Albert Lee unloaded a cartload of furniture at his father’s house, Geranium Cottage, Brick Hill. It was a small place, barely more than a cabin.

After a long day, presumably spent moving in, the two went to bed. Just before midnight, Henry was woken by noisy shouting, which he thought it was a wedding party.

This begs the question as to what Valley End weddings must have been like then, because suddenly a large pole used as an impromptu battering ram broke down the back door, the bedroom door was smashed off its hinges, and the pole landed on the bed where they were sleeping.


The Wrecked Cabin, Valley End. By Bill Stevens, the Brick Hill photographer. (Photo courtesy of D. Hizzey.)

Henry Taylor jumped up and hurriedly begun to dress, but when the window crashed into the room, complete with frame, he wisely jumped out of the window instead. Barely had he landed when someone hit him, “slightly”, with an axe. He escaped, and ran off to summon the Police.

Albert Lee was left, desperately dressing, and listening to the men being urged on by two women to demolish the house around him.

The attacking party were highly excited. They had brought gallon jars of beer with them, and tackled the house with huge determination. It was all but razed to the ground. The doors were broken down, and walls were pushed in. Furniture was dragged outside and destroyed

This was in fact a midnight visit from a couple of their aunties and a selection of friends and relations. They were fuelled by beer and indignation, due to a family dispute over a will.

Samuel Taylor had left Geranium Cottage to his wife. It was planned that after her death it would be sold, and the money divided between their children. It appears that this did not happen, and this triggered a bitter family dispute as to who owned the cottage.

Samuel’s son John Taylor had sent Henry and Albert to move in. His two sisters, Ellen Mossman and Amanda Brown, had turned up at midnight with 5 other family members to oppose this.

When the case was heard at the Surrey Sessions, it was pointed out that nearly everyone involved was related. The women claimed that they had a right to a share in the house by the terms of their father’s will. They were found guilty, but the jury recommended clemency. The men were fined £5, but the women, who had urged the men on, were fined £10 – significant sums in those days.

This story caught the public imagination and articles about it were published as far afield as Scotland, Nottingham, Gloucester and Cornwall. It’s not surprising; after all, family arguments rarely bring the house down.


Site of the Wrecked Cabin. (Photo by J. End, reproduced courtesy of J.End.)


Nottingham Evening Post. 8th Sept. 1908.“Country cottage stormed.”

Dundee Courier. 10th Sept. 1908. “Family feud.”

Gloucestershire Echo. 10th Sept. 1908. “Night attack on cottage.”

Gloucestershire Echo. 22nd Oct. 1908. “Midnight house wrecking.”

Cornish Telegraph. 29th Oct. 1908. “Wrecking a cottage; a family feud.”


The Northern point.

The parish boundary of Valley End used to reach as far north as the junction of Broomhall Lane Sunningdale and the London Road, the A30.


Noakes Corner, London Road. (The corner of Broomhall Lane and the London Road, looking towards the station.) Photograph by William End. (Photo courtesy of J. End.)

The London Road used to be the Great West Road, one of the major routes from London.

By the 18th century it had become a Turnpike Road, with tolls at Egham and Bagshot. The road surface was improved, and milestones added along the route. We have one at Sunningdale, facing Waitrose, announcing that it is 23 miles from Hyde Park Corner.


The milestone at Sunningdale.


The milestone at Sunningdale, at the junction of Ridgemount Road and the London Road.

Before the advent of the motorcar, the road was quiet, with only horse drawn traffic.


The Post Office on the London Road. Photograph by William End. (Photo courtesy of J. End)

It began to be developed. A parade of shops was built on the corner of the London Road and Chobham Road.


Parade of shops on the London Road. (Photo courtesy of J. End.)

30 years later traffic had increased, although it seems peaceful compared to 2017.


Sunningdale, 1960. (Photo courtesy of J. End.)

The scatter of houses to the west of Chobham Road, just before it joins the A30, was known as the North End.

Frederick Charles Hodder was born in Sunningdale in 1871, and remembered his childhood roaming in the area. When he described Chobham Road and the Common, he was remembering what was then Valley End.

He wrote about mixed memories of industry, the military, and gypsies, set against the background of the common.


Chobham Common, Spring 2006. (Image Wikimedia Commons.)

“Passing up the Chobham Road we came to Dagwell House, occupied by Mr. Joseph Norris, and his builder’s yard and workshops adjoining, then three or four cottages and the brickfields, with a brick kiln and a few more cottages connected with the brick works, and then the open common, with Titlark’s Farm cut out of it.

“One could go for miles over the heath without meeting a soul, unless the common had troops encamped upon it or carrying out manoeuvres, as frequently happened in the summer months.

“What a glorious place it was for a picnic, what a refuge for birds, rabbits and hares! And what a place for gipsy encampments!”


Chobham Common, Spring 2006. (Image Wikimedia Commons.)

The common remains a refuge for wildlife, and an open space to be explored; but  the London Road  has changed out of all recognition.



“A short history of Sunningdale with some notes on Wentworth.” F. C. Hodder. Foreword by R. S. Brewer. London, Saint Catherine Press, 1937.


Mayhem on the links.


Agatha Christie once planned a murder in Valley End.

Sunningdale Golf Club lies to the west of the Chobham Road, on what was common land. In the 1920s the southern part of it was within Valley End parish.

Agatha knew Sunningdale and the surrounding area well. In the 1920’s she moved to the district with her husband, a retired officer named Colonel Archibald Christie.

NPG x82104; Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie (nÈe Miller) by Elliott & Fry
Agatha Christie, by Elliott & Fry, half-plate negative. National Portrait Gallery.

Agatha had wanted a country cottage, but she didn’t find her rural retreat at Sunningdale. Instead it was full of expensive houses clustered around the golf course – which delighted her husband.

He had just been elected to Sunningdale Golf Club, and had decided that Sunningdale was perfect.

Colonel Christie was thrilled with their new home. He played on the links at every opportunity, and Agatha rapidly found herself becoming a golf widow.

The years at Sunningdale ended unhappily for her. Not only did her husband abandon her for golf, but he then went on abandon her for another woman too.

In 1926 the pressure must have been unbearable. She went missing, and it was only after a well-publicised search that she was discovered in Harrogate, where she was staying under a false name. It is possible that she had suffered amnesia brought on by stress.

Finally Agatha divorced her husband in 1928.

The next year, 1929, she published a short detective story, “The Sunningdale mystery,” in “Partners in crime.”


“There is a public footpath that crosses the links, and just as they were playing up to the sixth green, Hollaby noticed a woman coming along it.” (The Sunningdale mystery.)

The story centres on Sunningdale Golf Course. Agatha played golf herself, and she was obviously familiar with the links, and was quite happy slotting victim and suspects into the landscape.

She mentions the public footpath crossing the course, and the suspect runs desperately away from the links, tripping over the heather. A revolver is discovered in the furze bushes growing beside the green, and an unknown woman appears suddenly from the ladies course.


“She ran for her life across the golf links, expecting every minute to be shot down by a revolver bullet. She fell twice, tripping over the heather…” (The Sunningdale mystery.)

It is also clear that she knew the surrounding area. Paths leave the golf course, to emerge on the Windlesham Road. The murderer goes back to London via Woking.


“Just at that point there is another of those narrow slips leading to the Windlesham Road…” (The Sunningdale mystery.)

Agatha included other features too. The victim, Captain Sessle, bore a curious resemblance to Colonel Christie. He also was a retired officer, and married to a devoted wife. A devout golfer, he spent much of his time practising on the course.

This was his downfall. Early one morning “a gruesome discovery was made on the famous golf links.” Sessle was found, lying face down on the seventh tee. He had been stabbed to the heart with a woman’s hatpin.

Definitely a writer’s revenge on her errant ex-husband!


Agatha Christie. “An autobiography.” Harper Collins. 1993.

Agatha Christie. “Partner’s in crime.” Fontana paperbacks. 1983.


The Battle of Chobham Place Woods

“They hang the man and flog the woman

That steals the goose from off the common,

But let the greater villain loose

Who steals the common from the goose.”[1]


The entrance to Chobham Place Woods.

The people who lived on the ancient heath lands had rights on the common land. They could graze their livestock, and gather fuel and building materials. When the common land was enclosed to be cultivated, it had a massive effect on rural society.

One example of enclosed land is Chobham Place Woods. These are now a public space with a car park off Valley End Road, near the junction with Windsor Road.

In the 1850s they were part of the common and Denis Le Marchant, the owner of Chobham Place, wanted to enclose them.

NPG Ax46399; Sir Denis Le Marchant, 1st Bt by Hills & Saunders

Sir Denis Le Marchant, 1st Baronet. 1795 – 1874.   National Portrait Gallery.

He was virulently opposed by Richard Gude, a local landowner, who lived at Valleywood Farm and was therefore a neighbour of Le Marchant.

Where litigation was concerned, Gude had previous form. He took a dispute over an annuity, Gude v. Mumford, (descendants of the family still live in the village today,) as far as the Court of the Exchequer in 1837.

But Le Marchant was the Clerk to the House of Commons, and a powerful man. Gude was too incensed to care. Between 1853 and 1854 he petitioned the Queen and Parliament three times, writing to Lord Palmerston, the Secretary of State, who must have known Le Marchant well.

NPG D1396; The House of Commons, 1860 by Thomas Oldham Barlow, after  John Phillip

“The House of Commons, 1860″(including Denis Le Marchant) by Thomas Oldham Barlow, after John Phillip, mezzotint, 1863 or after.   National Portrait Gallery.

Gude wrote bitterly, “I am goaded by the scandalous and oppressive nature of the proceedings of Sir Denis Le Marchant and the Inclosure Commissioners.”

One of his arguments was that the poor would suffer when the common land was enclosed. This sounds suspiciously like special pleading; Gude he had been such an unpopular Guardian of the Poor that he was subject to arson attacks.

Gude complained that Le Marchant bought the land at his own valuation, while William Abdy’s offer, of three times the amount, was rejected. But the real cause of frustration shines through when he complains that the other adjoining landowners, William Abdy and himself, would get no part of the woods.


The Avenue in Chobham Place Woods.

He claimed that Le Marchant had twisted the law in his own favour, secretly putting clauses into a Public Bill for his personal benefit.. And he was clearly infuriated that Le Marchant, a relative newcomer, should profit over old Chobham families. Such as the Gudes.

The issue was settled in 1854, by the Inclosure Commissioners.

They looked at the deed by which Le Marchant claimed the to have bought the land, and accepted it. But they refused to let Gude see it, as it was a private document.

No wonder he was so frustrated.

The Commissioners complained that Le Marchant’s Agent had interfered with the appointment of the second valuer. They found this so objectionable that they refused to accept him. Maybe some of Gude’s fury was justified.

Le Marchant won, and took Chobham Place Woods. For many years they framed the approach to his house, Chobham Place.


Chobham Place from the woods. It is now known as Wentworth Place.

But during the Second World War part of the common was taken for the Tank Factory. To compensate the village, Chobham Place Woods and Round Pond Woods were given as a replacement, and now, after a century and a bitter dispute, they are once again common land.


National Archives HO 45 /5530.

Reports of cases argued and determined in the Court of Exchequer in Equity…Vol. II, 1838.

With thanks to Rob Searle.


If you would like to know more about Richard Gure’s case against Denis Le Marchant, here is the text of his 1853 petition.

In Parliament.

Sir Denis Le Marchant’s Inclosure.

Reasons against the inclosure.

That CHOBHAM COMMON is 25 miles from London and easily accessible by railway, – midway between Windsor and Guildford, and near Virginia Water, Sunning Hill, Staines, Bagshot, Chertsey and Woking, and therefore likely to be resorted to, as Railway facilities increase, by the London Population.

That the intended Inclosure of these 32 acres of Common, adorned with 300 trees and upwards, the growth of centuries, and some 12 feet in circumference, is a wrong to the Public, and a case not contemplated by the Inclosure Acts, which were passed “ for the Improvement of Commons, subjected to rights of property, which obstructed cultivation and the productive employment of labour.”

That no cultivation can improve this spot, beautiful by nature, and no employment of labour upon it can be so productive as its fuel to the poor, and its shade, shelter and food to their cattle and pigs, and to those of the adjoining proprietors and their tenants.

That a Public Highway is included in the Inclosure, the diversion whereof will increase the distance, already about Two miles from the Village, and send the public up two steep bleak and scarcely traversable dusty hills.

That the two adjoining Proprietors have about equal frontage to this Common with Sir DENIS LE MARCHANT, and have therefore an equal right with him to the Common proposed to be inclosed, whereas he is to take the whole, and access to their lands is to be stopped.

That Sir DENIS LE MARCHANT proposed to give £10 an acre, which he considered more than the value and claimed the trees as his property; whereupon Sir WILLIAM ABDY offered £30 an acre and to pay for the trees by valuation, and insisted that at all events this Common should be submitted to public competition by a sale by Auction.

The Inclosure Commissioners however direct this Common be sold by valuation to Sir DENIS LE MARCHANT, by virtue of their Act of Parliament passed in June 1852, after he had been informed he would not be permitted to put up further embankments until he had thrown open his previous Inclosures, pursuant to his written undertaking to the Parish, and no notice of such an intended Act of Parliament was given to the parties greatly interested in preventing this Common being inclosed.

That by such an Act of Parliament, seemingly passed for this express purpose, this part of the Common, of importance only to the public, to the promoter of this scheme, and the two adjoining Proprietors, is to be transferred from the two to the one, and the price thereof given for public purposes, to the majority of the Parish, to whom any rights over it were of little or no value.

That the inclosure of the 32 acres will tend to delay bringing into cultivation the remaining 7000 acres of Common, which have not the same recommendations to promote their inclosure.

That the estates of some of the opponents of this Inclosure have descended to them through centuries, whereas Sir DENIS LE MARCHANT purchased his house abutting the Common, in the year 1840.

That all the documents and papers relating to this Inclosure ought to be laid before Parliament, that full justice may be done to the Public and the parties interested, this however is opposed by the Secretary of the Treasury, so that the right by sanction of Parliament to all Inclosure Bills is reduced to a mere sham, as it can have no materials upon which to form a judgement as to the propriety of an Inclosure, directed by the Commissioners of Inclosure, and will account for their utter defiance of all legal rules and the acknowledged rights of property.

It is hoped Parliament will erase “CHOBHAM” from the schedule to the Inclosure Bill about to be brought in, and show the public that the machinery of the Inclosure Commission is not to be set in motion and worked by the Chief Clerk of the House of Commons, that he may monopolize advantages equally belonging to his neighbours.


8, George Yard, Lombard Street,

May 1853.

[1] Quoted in “Surrey Heath in the 18th century,” by Phil Stevens. Surrey Heath Local History Club and Phil Stevens, 2007.