A HISTORY OF WEST END …… BY IRENE CODD
A story of agricultural villeins, highwaymen, secret
tunnels, murder and Royalty!
As long ago as 975 a large
part of Esher was in the hands of the
church. Bishop Erkenwald granted
five mansas of land in Esher to Chertsey
Confirmed in 1062 by King
Edward, the village
of West End would
only have been a few cottages and huts belonging to the agricultural
villeins bound to the land.
The first mention of a farm
was in 1526, when Garsons Farm was referred to as “Gastunfeld,” it was
farmed in 1780 by William Nightingale, together with Walton Farm known as
Winterhouse Farm, which dates back to Tudor times; in 1548 it was known as
“Wynterhous”. It was much larger in
the 17th Century when it was farmed by Thos. Awbrooke. It stretched as far as Stoney Hills, one
field was known as Highfield which is the name of a house where a Mrs.
Butler and her husband lived.
When Clive of India rebuilt Claremont he altered
part of the Portsmouth Road. The grounds reconstructed by Capability
Brown, were not large enough so the Portsmouth Road was altered from its
former position through Claremont
to its present position. Horseshoe
Clump Hill was cut through and the mound of earth from the excavations is
the present Horseshoe Clump. It was
known at the time as the “New Cut Hill”.
From a small hamlet of
labourers’ cottages over the years, the village of West End
slowly emerged. Lord Tyrconnel, one
of the former owners of Claremont,
built West End Cottage for his mistress Sarah Thompson, (a nice lady, the
The house, later called The
Cedars, stood where West End
Gardens is now
situated. It was a gracious house,
with large glass windows to catch all the sun. Later in 1836-1839 William and Mary
Howitt the Quaker writers, lived there and described the villagers as
“ignorant and improvident, but affluent in owning a cottage, a pig, a
garden, and a large flock of geese which they graze under common rights on
the common. Most have a cow and
often a pony, they are all employed and ask a great price for mushrooms,
fruit, geese, whatever they sell.”
She also mentions that you
could walk for miles through pinewoods and heath and not meet a soul. Charles Dickens visited the Howitts at West End and their pony, owned by Lord Tyrconnel,
appears as “Peg” in Master Humphries Clock.
The Howitts later moved to
“The Orchard” which belonged to Florence Nightingale. The Cedars, which had a ghost of a grey
lady, was demolished in the 1930s for modern houses. Opposite lies West
End Lodge, where Mr. Nat. Petree lived. When he died he left (in 1879), £850 to
the rector for support of the Sunday School and a library of religious
books and £1,000, the interest to be paid to the schoolmaster to act as
Another interesting house,
once Hodgsons Inn, the Chequers, was the haunt of Jerry Abershaw, a young
Highwayman who robbed (very courteously) mail coaches in Surrey. There is said to be a tunnel from the inn
under the common to the Portsmouth
Road, any hint of the law arriving and Jerry
and his chestnut mare were away down the tunnel. The landlord was in on the nefarious
goings on and used to offer the coach drivers a pinch of snuff with an
opiate in it, so that sleep overcame them further on and Jerry was
Later, stage folk rented The
Cottage—Carl Brisson, Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney.
Claremont Cottage is another interesting
house. A Mrs. Brough—wife of a
Claremont Bailiff—went off her head and chopped up her children, and then
waved the bloodied sheets out of the window, screaming madly until she was
removed. She is said to haunt and
wave the sheets, but the present owners have not seen her yet.
In 1857 a Mr. Turner, who
stopped at The Brown Bear in Esher, walked down to West End and did not
think much of it, as he described it as “a nasty, stinking and choleric locality,
compelling me to be constantly sniffing at my camphor, to get a view of a
house where a terrible murder had been committed a few months previously.”
Two small cottages known as
Alder’s Cottages (now Clover Cottage) have been converted into one, they
were built by Thos. Alder, a popular butcher in the 19th Century. He was a friend of George Meredith and a
regular follower of the Duc D’Aumerles hounds. The French Royal family lived at Claremont at this
Opposite Alder’s Cottage was a
similar wooden boarded cottage, now demolished for modern houses. By the 19th Century the village had grown
considerably. There was a Post
Office on the corner, later run by a Mr. and Mrs. Webb. This has been demolished for a modern
Albany Lodge, which still has
the Royal Arms on the front, was the home of Dr. and Mrs. Royle, he was a
physician to the Duchess of Albany, his daughter Mrs. Haughton and her
family lived in it in the ‘30s.
Glenhurst later called Talbot
Lodge, now demolished, was the home of Col. and Lady Emma Talbot. She was Lord Derby’s daughter, and she
had been bridesmaid to Queen Victoria’s
eldest daughter. Col the Hon. Sir W.P. Talbot had been
for 40 years Sgt. at Arms of the House of
Lords. They were very well
liked in Esher.
During the 19th Century, the
Prince of Wales public house was built.
It used to be a quiet village inn which we used to visit when we
were skating on the pond. It has
been enlarged. Next to it is the
tall tower of the old Hodgson’s Brewery, later used by Mr. Plowman as a
boot repairer’s and saddler’s shop.
Both the ponds and the ditches
on the common have been wrongly used.
The larger pond (Prince of Wales) used to be twice the size, it was
used for drinking by the cows at Chamber’s Farm, now a close of
houses. The pond nearly reached the
road and has now been suburbanised into a smaller edition. The Chequers Pond was a very large pond
on which we used to skate. It was
allowed to become overgrown and silted up, although efforts have been made
to clear it. The large ditch with a
pipe in it has been filled in and the ditches each side of the main path on
the common have also silted up.
These were dug by the Canadians in the First World War to allow them
passage to the gun emplacement, which are still on the common under the
brambles etc., and Horseshoe Clump is still full of spent bullets where the
rifle range was situated. It is not
surprising that West End was so badly
flooded some years ago as all the natural outlets for flood water were
blocked up or altered.
The infants’ school was built
in 1879 by Mrs. Bailey of Highfield, Stoney Hills, in memory of her
husband. The little church St. George’s, West End,
was always known as the “Tin Chapel”, but was really a Chapel of Ease.
TO BE CONTINUED…………..