The Leschallas family in Valley End.

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Highams Hall, the residence of the Leschallas family in Valley End. (Image courtesy Ann Wolfe.)

Henry Pigé was born 1833, to a Huguenot family in Bethnal Green. They were pawnbrokers, and Henry took his turn behind the counter.

However his cousin, John Leschallas, was in a different trade; he was a builder. It was an era in which cities were expanding, and huge fortunes were to be made in development. John Leschallas lived in the “pretty suburb of Tottenham” in the prestigious Rows House, a mansion with extensive grounds.

Henry left the pawnbroking, and moved in with his cousin. In 1874, he changed his name to Henry Pigé Leschallas, and in the same year he married Alice Beaumont Rogers. They had 6 children, John, Mary (Alice) , Gilbert, Percy, Harry and Beaumont.

In 1877 John Leschallas died. Henry was not the sole beneficiary, but was left a huge fortune.

Henry sold Rows House. A born businessman, he added a note to the sale particulars to the effect that it would be a valuable building site. But he couldn’t resist adding a note explaining his new situation; “The proprietor… has purchased a large Estate at Bagshot in Surrey, and is removing from the neighbourhood.”

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The gardens at Highams. (Image courtesy Richard Wingfield.)

The large estate was Hyams – later  called Highams Hall. The Leschallas family moved in, and seem to have hit the ground running. Almost immediately Henry built a lodge, and seems to have added a laundry and a gas works.

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Highams Hall. (Image courtesy of Ann Wolfe.)

Henry went on to buy other houses and land. He purchased the Manor of Boscastle in Cornwall, and then Glenfinart in Argyllshire, Scotland. He also bought land around Valley End, and at one time owned properties in Brick Hill. No wonder he was sometimes known as the Governor!

But it is in Valley End that he is remembered as a benefactor, and a generous supporter of local causes. Even after Henry died in 1903 the Leschallas family continued to take an interest in parish events.

Henry, and then Alice, were valuable friends to St. Saviour’s. The vicar knew he could rely on them. Henry Pigé Leschallas was churchwarden from 1893 – 1903. His son Gilbert took the office during 1904, and Percy held the post from 1905 to 1914. It was unusual for people of such high social standing to become churchwardens, and was a measure of their commitment.

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Memorial to Gilbert and Percy Leschallas. (Photo by David Fettes.)

The family is remembered in the church. Henry and Alice are buried in the churchyard near to their son Percy. A stained glass window on the west wall was given in memory of Henry, and there are memorials for his sons Gilbert and Percy.

In about 1892 the church ran a Young Men’s Club, which met in the school. The venture was supported by local people, including the Leschallas family. Funds were tight, and Henry used to send them his illustrated papers after he had finished reading them. This was the origin of the Valley End Institute. In 1915 the Leschallas family gave land for a new building, and paid for the hall. This building was replaced in the early 1970s, but the main room is still called Leschallas Hall.

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The memorial window to Henry Pigé Leschallas. (Photo by David Fettes.)

The Valley End Cricket Club was founded in 1895, and in the first annual report thanks are given to, among others, Mr. And Mrs. H. P. Leschallas, “for their donations to the club.” By the mid 1900s, the Leschallas family were not only a force on the pitch, but guiding lights in running the organisation. When the Cricket Club had to leave their ground at Windlesham Park, they simply invited them to Highams.

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A board at Valley End Cricket Club, remembering benefactors. Several of the Leschallas family are included.

The family seem to have opened their home to the community. There are photographs of a Flower Pageant held at Highams in 1905. The girls look surprisingly solemn.

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A Flower Pageant at Highams Hall, 1905. (Image courtesy J. End.)

In 1911 a fete was held at Highams to celebrate the Coronation of George V. There are pictures of villagers processing along the lane to the Hall.

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Going to the Valley End Coronation Fete at Highams Hall, 1911. (Image courtesy J. End.)

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Children marching to the Valley End Coronation Fete at Highams, 1911. (Image courtesy J. End.)

The family were also involved in Valley End School. Percy Leschallas was a school manager for some years, and was proud of this; it is included on his memorial in St. Saviour’s. Mrs. Leschallas paid for some of the school dinners, and helped with school treats. When the Armistice of World War 1 was celebrated with a special bonfire and sports day, Alice gave every child a patriotic flag and a Peace mug.

The school appreciated all this support. When Miss  Leschallas married in 1902 sixteen schoolgirls scattered flowers in front of her when she left the church. When the happy couple returned after their honeymoon all the children were invited to a celebratory tea and entertainment.

The Leschallas family were major landowners and employers. What would it have been like to work at Highams? The photographs we have tend to be of special, happy occasions, such as this picture of the stables, decorated for Christmas.

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Christmas at Highams – decorations in the stables. (Image courtesy D. Hizzey.)

There was a large staff. Some servants lived in, but many had their own homes. There were many outdoor workers. The gardens at Highams were spectacular, with a lake, long greenhouses, kitchen garden and lawns, and consequently a large number of gardeners.

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The greenhouses at Highams. (Image courtesy of Ann Wolfe.)

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The gardens at Highams. (Image courtesy Richard Wingfield.)

For some people, their service with the Leschallas family is literally carved in stone. When Duncan Brown died in 1914, his tombstone proudly announced that he had been “ for 43 years the valued servant and faithful friend of the family at Highams Valley End.” John Teal’s gravestone proclaims that he had been “for 62 years faithful servant of the Leschallas family.”

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The staff at Highams, pre 1914. (Image courtesy Richard Wingfield.)

Even more poignantly “Hattie” Harriet Olleson Luckie was remembered as “the loving friend of Mrs Leschallas of Highams.” In the 1911 census Hattie is shown living at Highams as a companion, but Alice must have known her for years. Hattie had inherited some money from John Leschallas in 1877, as had Henry Pigé.

In 1934 Alice Leschallas died, aged 90. The family had lived in Valley End, and had been closely involved with local affairs, for over 50 years. The vicar wrote sadly, recognising their commitment and support.

“Mr. Leschallas took a very deep interest in all things parochial and in those old times the Church never failed to have him as a worshipper and a generous supporter…Mrs Leschallas never let her interest in the Church and parish cease…”

Alice was buried next to her husband in Valley End churchyard. Highams Hall, their home for so many years, was sold. It was the end of an era.

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Sales particulars of Highams. (Image courtesy Richard Wingfield.

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Sources.

Parish Magazine for Long Cross, Botleys and Lyne, and Valley End. October 1934.

With many thanks to Richard Wingfield.

Sale particulars of a singularly valuable Freehold Estate… London Borough of Haringey Archive Service, Bruce Castle Museum..

“St Saviour’s Valley End 150 years; a history of a church a parish and its people.” By Sallie Buchanan, 2017.

“A brief history of Valley End Church of England School 1859 – 1977: researched and written by Ann Thompson.” A. Thompson 1978.

 

 

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Kitchenmaid at Titlarks

Titlarks Hill, off the Chobham Road, is now in Sunningdale, but this area was once in Valley End. Hilda Pearce was a kitchen maid at Middleton, a house at the top of the road, and wrote about her experiences in 1995.

“I was interviewed for my first job at Middleton, Titlarks Hill, at my home in Shirebrook, was approved, and given the job as kitchenmaid.

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Titlarks Hill, in 1934. ( O.S. map X 7, 1934. With thanks to the Surrey History Centre.)

“In due course I left my home with mixed feelings. I had never been more than seven miles from home, and the thought of travelling to London was like going to the end of the world. Very adventurous – and then, arriving in London, having to change stations – from St. Pancras to Waterloo – was another milestone. After all that a TAXI from Sunningdale Station to Middleton, Titlarks Hill. I was really living it up!

“Arriving at the house I was introduced to the rest of the staff – seven in all, by my cousin, the Cook. They included a nanny – a very proper person in charge of one child. I was bewildered, but was soon knocked into shape by my cousin..

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Servant’s bell board, from Polesden Lacey House. (Image courtesy of the National Trust, Polesden Lacey.)

“The house was on Sunningdale Golf Links, and when I was at liberty to explore, I thought I was in heaven. After leaving a mining district this was so beautiful, walking over the links. I would just sit and absorb the lovely scenery around me for as long as I could. I spent hours this way, and very often walked to Sunningdale Station to the shops over the links so long as I kept out of the way of the golfers.

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Titlarks Hill and Sunningdale Golf Course, Sunningdale, from the south, in 1931. (Image courtesy of Britain from Above).

“After a short while I realised that to get anywhere I ought to have a bicycle. This I aimed for, and eventually bought one on the never-never, paying 2 shillings and 6 pence down and the rest at 10 shillings per month for a year. The bike cost £6.2.6d. I was so proud of it and kept it shining bright – for a while, anyway. I did have outings. One half day a week, and two weeks paid holiday in the year, and when there were dances at Sunningdale Parish Hall, so long as I was accompanied by an adult I was allowed to go – cycling with a long dress pinned up around my waist.

“I had a spate of breakages at one time. It went on and on, and finally, after I had broken six pudding plates all at once, my cousin was so angry with me that she said she would no longer tell Madam about them, I must tell her myself. I waited in fear and trepidation in the scullery and Madam appeared. “Well, Hilda, what have you broken this time?” When I told her and apologised and offered to pay for them – at that time they were 12/6d each! – Madam burst out laughing, turned to go out of the scullery, then said “I will have to buy enamel ones, but there, you would probably chip them!” My cousin was furious, thinking I would have had a severe wigging!

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1930s Staffordshire tea set. (Image courtesy of the V&A Museum.)

“Madam was such a sweet lady and attended my wedding a few years later. During my time at Middleton, Madam was very interested in a place along Chobham Road which was then called The London Mother’s Convalescent Home, where 10 mothers and babies came from town in turn, usually for a couple of weeks each. Basket prams were provided for the babies, and one would often see the Mums proudly pushing their young around – it was such a change from the East End of London. A lot of ladies in the vicinity, Madam included, used to have the Mums up for tea, and one I remember was a wizard on the piano. She loved getting on the grand piano in the drawing room, (when Madam was away.) I stayed happily at Middleton for two years and then moved on to Royal Lodge.”

 

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This was first published in the Windlesham magazine, Feb. 1995, and is reproduced by the kind permission of the magazine and Lynne and Keith Pearce. Hilda wrote 3 articles about her life in service;

Windlesham Magazine. Jan 1995 “My progress from Middleton to Royal Lodge.” Hilda Pearce.

Windlesham Magazine. Feb 1995 “Kitchen maid at Titlarks Hill.” Hilda Pearce.

Windlesham Magazine. March 1995 “Back to Sunningdale from Royal Lodge – 1929. Hilda Pearce.

 

 

Below Stairs

“If it had not been for the big houses in this neighbourhood – Hyams, Chobham Place and a few others, this church would never have been built.

“In one of those big houses alone there were over 40 servants. Those were the days when the gentry went to church – mainly Matins – in the morning and the servants to Evensong. It is said that when they returned home in the evening they had to report on the Vicar’s sermon. Poor Vicar!”

The Rev Roney Ackworth, speaking at the centenary of St. Saviour’s, identified with the Vicar. I feel for the maids, sitting in the pews and trying to sum up the address in a few words.

The large houses in Valley End were major employers. In 1901 there were 27 people resident at Highams, including 15 servants and their families. The staff came from Scotland and Wales as well as from the south of England.

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Ribsden – one of the “big houses.” (Photo courtesy Joan Weymouth.) 

This is no surprise, as in Victorian and Edwardian England a huge number of people were employed as domestic servants. It was the main employment for women.

The work could be strenuous. Mrs. Beeton recommended that a Cook should rise at 6am, (7 in winter,) light the kitchen fire, brush the range, clean the hearth, rinse the kettle, clean the kitchen, sweep the kitchen stairs, sweep the hall, shake the hall mats, prepare the breakfast room – and then cook breakfast.

Servants could be vulnerable to ill-treatment. One tragic case is that of Emily Jane Popejoy of Bagshot, who went to work as a maid in Kensington in 1898. She died within a year of the ill treatment that she received from her mistress.

So what was it like working in the mansions of Valley End?

Joan Weymouth can remember her parents and grandparents talking about life in the big houses.

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The staff at Ribsden, having tea in the garden. (Photo courtesy J. End.)

“A lot of girls went into service. Well, they had to, because you didn’t get a bigger house, if you got more children, and girls grew up, and they kept the boys at home to work and it’s what happened. And you got a lot from Wales. But then it was a home, you had to get somewhere.” Servants were given accommodation. Ribsden had 10 servants living in.

There are stories of mothers searching for a place to employ their daughters, and deciding on the the furthest – so that the girls couldn’t run away home. There were happier reasons for a servant to move.  Staff could travel long distances to find a good place.

A good employer was someone to keep. When the Christies came down to Ribsden, some of their staff chose to move with them, and to live the rest of their lives in this area.

“My grandfather, Harry Carnell, came down in the late 1800s and he came down from Matlock in Derbyshire with Mr. and Mrs. Christie to Ribsden. He came down as a coachman.

“My Mum’s mother’s side, they came down from Northamptonshire. My Mum had 2 aunts (in service at Ribsden) and her mother was ladies maid to Mrs Christie. My grandmother was the ladies maid there, and her sister was the housekeeper, my Auntie Annie.

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Annie Foster, Housekeeper at Ribsden, and her sister Louisa. (Photo courtesy Joan Weymouth.)

“And that’s how they met their wives, the other people in the house.”

Harry Carnell, the coachman at Ribsden, met Mary Foster, the ladies maid, and they were married in 1898.

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Harry Carnell and Mary Foster on their wedding day. (Photo courtesy Joan Weymouth.)

The big houses enjoyed a friendly competition. “There was rivalry between the big houses – but not nasty, it was just that you wanted the best. I can remember my Granddad saying that our carriage went faster than that one. But they were all friends.”

St Saviour’s Church was decorated with floral displays for the big festivals, and old photos show incredible arrangements of plants and flowers. They were put up by the head gardeners of the big houses, vying with each other.

Joan’s family had good memories of Ribsden, and Mrs Christie.

“Mrs Christie looked after her staff. She sent my grandmother, because she had a bad heart, down to Brighton for a month.

“If you got a good employer, you were made.”

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Sources.

With thanks to Joan Weymouth. All quotes by Joan Weymouth.

“Time will tell,” sermon by Rev. Ackworth on the 100th anniversary of St. Saviour’s Church, Valley End. In Chobham Parish Magazine, July 12th. 1967.