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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Going to the Valley End Coronation Fete at Highams Hall, 1911. (Image courtesy J. End.)
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.
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.
The greenhouses at Highams. (Image courtesy of Ann Wolfe.)
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.”
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.
Sales particulars of Highams. (Image courtesy Richard Wingfield.
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.