A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Esher is a village 4 miles south-west from Kingston. The parish is bounded on the north by East Molesey, on the east by Thames Ditton, on the south by Cobham, and on the west by Walton on Thames. It measures barely 3 miles from north to south, and scarcely 2 miles east to west. It contains 2,044 acres of land and 50 of water. The River Mole forms the greater part of the western boundary. The village itself and most of the parish lie upon the only considerable elevation of Bagshot sand which rises east of the Mole Valley, a situation which has at once rendered it picturesque, dry, and a favourite site for houses. The borders of the parish however touch the alluvium of the Mole Valley on the west and the London clay on the east, and in the north the sandy gravel of Ditton Marsh.
Esher is agricultural and residential. Esher Common is an extensive piece of open land now largely planted with conifers and birches, and adjoins other open land at Fairmile and Ockshot in Cobham parish. The London and Portsmouth road passes through the village. The main line of the London and South Western Railway has a station at Esher, and the Cobham line to Guildford skirts the eastern boundary of the parish.
Claremont, which was originally part of the manor of Esher Episcopi, was bought by Sir John Vanbrugh, who built a small house for himself, and began to ornament the grounds (Guest's poem 'Claremont' attributes the first improvements to Vanbrugh). The Earl of Clare (Duke of Newcastle 1715) bought the property in 1714 on coming of age, and called it after his own title 'Clare Mont.' On his death in 1768 the whole was bought by Lord Clive, who employed 'Capability' Brown to build the present house. It was unfinished at his death in 1774, and was sold to Viscount Galway. He sold to the Earl of Tyrconnel, who in 1807 sold to Mr. Charles Rose Ellis. He in 1816 conveyed it to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests for the use of the Princess Charlotte on her marriage with Prince Leopold. After her death in 1817 Prince Leopold continued to reside here. When he became King of the Belgians it was occupied occasionally by Queen Victoria, to whom the king conveyed all his rights for life in the house. In 1848 it became the home of Louis Philippe, the exiled king of the French and of his family. He died here in 1850, and his queen Marie Amélie in 1866. It was granted to the late Duke of Albany on his marriage in 1882, and is now the seat of H.R.H. the Duchess of Albany. The house is of brick, with windowframes, portico and cornice of stone. The portico is supported by Corinthian columns, and the pediment bears Lord Clive's arms. Marble is extensively used in the internal decorations, and the rooms are very spacious and handsome.
Another phase of the associations of Esher is of a very different kind. At Sandon was a small hospital, founded in the 12th century. (fn. 1) In 1436, after an unfortunate history, during which in 1349 all its brethren had died of the plague, and later, great suffering had resulted from dishonest or incompetent masters, it was suppressed and its property granted to St. Thomas' Southwark. Sandon remained as the name of a farm only, till in 1875 the first meeting of the Sandown Park Racing Club revived public knowledge of it. The racecourse lies south of the line, close to Esher station, and is chiefly in Esher parish, but partly in Thames Ditton. The meetings stand at the head of the inclosed racecourse meetings in the kingdom.
Esher is an urban district with the Dittons, under a Local Government Board Order issued April 1895. (fn. 2)
There is an iron mission church at West End. The Baptist chapel was built in 1852, and the Wesleyan chapel in 1889, and there is a Quakers' meeting-house. The village hall was built in 1887. The drinking fountain was presented by Her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1877, in place of a public pump given by the late Comte de Paris, which had become unserviceable.
Besides Claremont and Esher Place (see under manor) there are several large houses in Esher: Esher Lodge, built late in the 18th century, is the seat of Mr. W. Seymour Eastwood; Milburn of the Hon. Henry Lorton Burke; Glenhurst of Lady Emma Talbot; Moore Place of Mr. C. A. Moreing; Littleworth, a modern house in a small park, of Mr. P. M. Martineau; The Grove of Mr. Rhodes H. Cobb; Hill House, in a small park, of Mr. G. B. Batchelor; Hawkshill Place, in a park, of Mr. A. W. Drayson. Broom Hill was the residence of the late Sir Robert Hawthorn Collins, K.C.B.
The manor of ESHER (also called ESHER EPISCOPI) which Tovi had held of Edward the Confessor, was given to the Abbot and convent of Croix St. Leufroy in Normandy by William I, (fn. 3) on condition of finding two priests to say mass in the said manor for the souls of his predecessors. (fn. 4) In the reign of Henry III, before 1238, Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, bought the manor from the monks of Croix St. Leufroy, (fn. 5) and gave it to the Abbot and convent of the Place of St. Edward at Netley in Hampshire. (fn. 6) In 1245 the Abbot and convent of Netley released the manor to William de Raleigh, Bishop of Winchester, and the church of Winchester, (fn. 7) and it remained among the possessions of the see till 1538, when Bishop Gardiner conveyed it to Henry VIII, who wished to annex it to the honour of Hampton Court. (fn. 8) In 1550 Edward VI granted the manor to John, Earl of Warwick, to hold of the king in chief by service of one knight's fee; (fn. 9) but a few months later the earl reconveyed it to the king. (fn. 10) Queen Mary restored the estate to the see of Winchester in the first year of her reign. (fn. 11)
In 1578 it appears that Charles Lord Howard of Effingham tried to prevail on Bishop Horne of Winchester to grant him a lease in perpetuity of the manor for £20 a year, and by the threat of compassing his end by other means if the bishop would not agree, and bribing him further by promising to support his scheme for reviving a school at Farnham, (fn. 12) induced him to comply. (fn. 13) Lord Howard was acting in the affair for the queen on behalf of Richard Drake Her Majesty's equerry. In February 1582–3 the Crown bought up the lease (fn. 14) and granted the manor to Lord Howard, who evidently transferred the property to Richard Drake, for he died in possession in 1603. (fn. 15) His son Francis Drake held it in 1629, and died in 1634. (fn. 16) He had apparently sold the manor during his lifetime, for in 1635 Sir William Russell, bart., and his wife Dorothy conveyed it to George Price. (fn. 17) In 1659 George Price and Margaret his wife quitclaimed the manor to Walter Plomer and his sister Elizabeth, (fn. 18) who held a manorial court here in 1662, (fn. 19) and in 1663, in conjunction with John, son and heir of George Price, they conveyed it to Nicholas Colborne, citizen and vintner of London, in consideration of the sum of £9,104 14s. 6d. paid to Sir Walter and his sister, and a competent sum to John Price. (fn. 20) Colborne mortgaged the estate, which in 1677 was purchased by Philip Doughty. (fn. 21) He in 1679 sold Northwood, which, though in the parish of Cobham, was demesne land of the manor of Esher; and it seems probable that he sold the manor also to Sir T. Lynch, who held it in 1680, (fn. 22) and whose daughter Philadelphia married Thomas Cotton. They held the manor jointly, (fn. 23) and sold it to John Latton, (fn. 24) from whom it was purchased in 1716–17 by Thomas Pelham, Duke of Newcastle. (fn. 25) After the duke's death in 1768 this manor, together with Esher Wateville and the mansion and estate of Claremont, was purchased by Lord Clive, who held the whole property till his death in 1774. It was then sold to Viscount Galway, who disposed of it to the Earl of Tyrconnel, from whom it was bought in 1807 by Charles Rose Ellis. (fn. 26) He in 1816 agreed to sell the entire property to the Commissioners of His Majesty's Woods and Forests for £66,000 for the use of Princess Charlotte, and the purchase was ratified by an Act of Parliament. (fn. 27) Subsequently it reverted to the Crown, and the Duchess of Albany is now lady of the manor. Shortly after the time that the manor of Esher was sold to the Duke of Newcastle, the park and manor-house, which had been separated from the manor, were sold by John Latton to Peter Delaporte, (fn. 28) one of the directors of the South Sea Company. When in 1721 the South Sea crisis occurred, the estates of the principal directors were seized under the authority of an Act of Parliament, and sold for the benefit of those holders of South Sea stock who had lost their money. This estate was purchased by Dennis Bond in 1724, (fn. 29) and resold by him in 1729 to the Right Honourable Henry Pelham, the well-known statesman. (fn. 30) By a will dated 17 September 1748 Mr. Pelham devised the estate to Frances, his eldest surviving daughter, for her life. (fn. 31) She died unmarried in 1804, and this property passed to her nephew, Lewis Thomas, Lord Sondes, (fn. 32) who in 1805 sold the estate in parcels. The house and park at Esher were purchased by John Spicer, (fn. 33) whose son, J. W. Spicer, succeeded him in 1831. (fn. 34) The present owner is Sir Edgar Vincent, K.C.M.G.
There was a manor-house at Esher in early times, which was enlarged by John, Bishop of Winchester, in 1331. (fn. 35) Bishop Waynflete (fn. 36) built a stately brick mansion on the banks of the River Mole in Esher Park, the gate-house of which still remains and bears his name. (fn. 37) This house perhaps did not satisfy the gorgeous ideas of Cardinal Wolsey, to whom it was lent by Bishop Fox in 1519. The latter wrote on this occasion, 'Would God that the poor lodging of Esher did content your Grace as it rejoiceth me that it can please you to use it.' (fn. 38) When Wolsey in 1528 succeeded Fox as bishop he gave directions for the repair and partial rebuilding of this house; and after his disgrace he took up his residence there for some time. (fn. 39) In a survey of the manor taken in the reign of Edward VI it is stated that besides the 'sumptuously built' mansion-house there were an orchard and garden, with a park adjoining, 3 miles in circuit. (fn. 40) When restored to the see of Winchester by Queen Mary the manor comprised, besides the park, the rabbit-warren, about 185 acres of land, and the land called Northwood in Cobham. (fn. 41)
Henry Pelham, the statesman, employed Kent to rebuild wings to the gate-house. (fn. 42) The main part of the standing gate-house is of Waynflete's time. The porch is undoubtedly Kent's, and he probably altered the windows. How much of the original house was standing when he built in 1729 is unknown, but the view in Salmon seems to show the great hall on the side of a quadrangle opposite to the gatehouse.
Mr. John Spicer pulled down Pelham's additions, leaving the original gate-house, and rebuilt on a new and higher site. The present house, of Palladian style, with Ionic porticoes, commands fine views, and the grounds are well planted and very picturesque.
ESHER WATEVILLE—In 675 Frithwald, subregulus of Surrey, and Bishop Erkenwald are said to have granted to Chertsey Abbey 5 mansas at Esher. (fn. 43) This grant was confirmed by King Edward in 1062, (fn. 44) and during his reign an Englishman gave to the abbey 2 hides of land in Esher belonging to the manor of Esher. (fn. 45) At the time of the Domesday Survey the monks had 5½ hides of land in Esher, rated at only 5 virgates, which were held of them by William de Wateville. (fn. 46) The land apparently continued in the possession of the Wateville family till the reign of Henry III, when Robert de Wateville held under the Abbot of Chertsey a fourth part of a knight's fee in Esher; (fn. 47) and this constituted the manor of Esher Wateville. The manor descended to Matilda daughter of Robert de Wateville, probably son of the Robert mentioned above. She had three husbands, Reginald de Imworth, (fn. 48) Richard Russell, (fn. 49) and Nicholas de Wynton. (fn. 50) John de Imworth, son of Reginald and Matilda, conveyed the reversion of the manor to Margery and Joan, co-heiresses of Nicholas de Wynton and Matilda. (fn. 51) Margery married William de Milbourn, in whose family the manor remained. (fn. 52)
In August 1344 it was held by John de Milbourne, (fn. 53) and in 1360 it was settled on him and his wife Isabel, with remainder to William their son, and the heirs of his body, and in default to the right heirs of John. (fn. 54) John, then known as John Milbourne senior, was still living in 1383. (fn. 55) In 1533 the manor was in the hands of Cecilia Sympson, widow, daughter and heir of Sir Thomas Milbourne. (fn. 56) As late as 1539 Margaret York, widow, had a life interest in part of the manor; (fn. 57) two years later Cecilia Sympson enfeoffed trustees of the manor to the use of herself for life, then to Margaret Hardwen for life, with remainder to the heirs of her cousin William Fawkner. (fn. 58) In 1567 William Fawkner was holding the manor, (fn. 59) and in 1572 he conveyed it to Thomas Brockholes. (fn. 60) The latter in the following year conveyed the manor with view of frankpledge to Richard Hatton. (fn. 61) In 1614 Richard Hatton and Robert Hatton levied a fine and made a settlement in jointure of this manor on Alice, wife of Robert Hatton. (fn. 62) Robert and Alice were holding in 1628, (fn. 63) but shortly after this the corporation of Kingston purchased the manor from Robert Hatton with the manor-house and about 45 acres of land, to be settled for charitable uses. (fn. 64) In 1716–17 the Duke of Newcastle, owner of Claremont, procured an Act of Parliament for vesting in himself this estate, subject to the payment of a perpetual fee-farm rent to Kingston of £95. (fn. 65) It was afterwards transferred with Esher Episcopi to other proprietors, (fn. 66) and so ultimately came into the hands of Leopold King of the Belgians, (fn. 67) and subsequently reverted to the Crown. The Duchess of Albany is now lady of the manor.
The house now known as Milbourne was presented by Princess Charlotte to Major-General Sir Robert William Gardiner, K.C.B. (fn. 68) It is now the seat of Mr. William Hartmann, J.P.
The manor of SANDON or SANDOWN, also called SANDON CHAPEL and occasionally BURWOOD, is said to have been the original endowment of the hospital of Sandon, in this parish, given by Robert de Wateville in the time of Henry II. (fn. 69) The hospital certainly existed in the reign of Henry III; but in the licence for its suppression in 1436 the foundation is attributed to an unknown Bishop of Winchester. (fn. 70) It is quite possible that the land had been part of the Wateville manor of Esher. It extended into Walton on Thames, Thames Ditton, and West Molesey.
In 1436 the hospital became so impoverished that it could no longer support itself, and was therefore united, with all its possessions, to the hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr, Southwark. (fn. 71) The rolls of the courts held by the master of St. Thomas's at Sandon in 1467–8 are extant. (fn. 72) In 1538 the master and brethren of the hospital conveyed the manor of Sandon and parsonage of Esher to the king in exchange for other parsonages, lately monastic property. (fn. 73) The manor remained in the hands of the Crown, and was leased by Queen Elizabeth to Elizabeth Nolte in 1577, under the name of the manor of Sandon Chapel. (fn. 74) In 1603 James I granted the manor to John Earl of Mar, (fn. 75) but five years later the king resumed it, granting the earl other lands in exchange. (fn. 76) Charles I in 1630 granted Sandon Manor to Dudley Carleton, Viscount Dorchester, (fn. 77) who died in 1632. (fn. 78) From him it descended to his nephew Sir Dudley Carleton, who with his wife Lucy and his elder brother Sir John Carleton, the heir-atlaw of the viscount, conveyed the manor to William and Gerard Gore as the manor of Sandon and the manor of Sandon Chapel. (fn. 79) Courts were held by William and Gerard Gore till 1640, and by William Gore only till 1659. In 1665 and 1675 John Gore appears as lord, in 1768–9 courts were held by John and Gerard Gore, in 1684 and 1692 by John Gore only. (fn. 80) In 1694 Sir William Gore, Benjamin Dolphin and Tabitha his wife, daughter and heiress of Gerard Gore, conveyed to John Gore, (fn. 81) whose wife Joanna sold it in 1715 to Charles Earl of Halifax, (fn. 82) who had become Lord Lieutenant of Surrey in the previous December, but died in May 1715, about the time of the completion of the sale. He was succeeded by his nephew George, second Earl of Halifax, who entered into a contract for the sale of Sandon to George Tournay, then a resident at Esher. Tournay died before the purchase was completed, and after some litigation the estate was conveyed in 1740 to Marsh Dickenson and Henry Laremore in trust for the co-heirs of Tournay. A partition of the property was made, the manor falling to the share of Nathaniel Bateman, and the old buildings and Sandon Chapel to Mrs. Catherine Jenkin. In 1741 the manor was bought by Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons, who died in 1768. In 1780 his son and heir George, Lord Onslow and Cranley, sold it to Sir John Frederick, bart., of Burwood Park, from whom it passed to his second son and successor, Sir Richard Frederick, who died without issue in 1873. (fn. 83)
Sandown House, the seat of Mr. J. P. CurrieBlyth, J.P., belonged in 1870 to Mr. Spicer of Esher Place. The Sandown Park Racecourse Company, which held its first meeting in 1875, has acquired some of the land.
The property is described as consisting, at the time of Lord Dorchester's death, of 'the manor of Sandon, and houses, chambers, &c., in the manor, belonging at the time of the Dissolution to the hospital of St. Thomas of Southwark, called 'le Master's lodgings,' to wit, a parlour and a chamber built above it, a small kitchen, and a garden, and the two chambers above the said chapel.' (fn. 84)
CHRIST CHURCH is a completely modern structure, built in 1853–4, and consists of a chancel with north vestry and organ chamber and a south chapel or pew belonging to Esher Place; a large nave with north and south aisles and porches, and a west tower surmounted by a broach spire. The whole church is in 13th-century style, and contains no old work of any sort except one monument brought from the old church. This is on the wall of the south aisle and is to Richard Drake, who died in 1603, who was 'one of the Queries (i.e. Equerries) of Our late Soverane Elizabets Stable.' He married Ursula Stafford, and had one son, Francis. Above are three shields. In the centre a shield of seven quarters, arranged four and three; (1) Argent a dragon gules for Drake; (2) Argent on a chief gules three molets argent; (3) Gules on a fesse argent two molets gules; (4) Ermine on a fesse indented azure three crosslets argent; (5) Ermine three bars azure; (6) Azure six lions rampant or, three, two, and one; (7) Argent a cheveron azure. On the dexter side is a shield of six quarters; (1) and (6) Or a cheveron gules with a canton ermine; (2) Party fessewise gules and azure a lion rampant or; (3) Azure, two bars or with three molets gules on each; (4) Azure a cross argent; (5) Or ermined sable a fesse azure. On the sinister is the first shield given above impaling the second. The crest over the first shield is a clenched hand. The monument itself is in the form of a small Corinthian order inclosing an arched recess in which is the kneeling effigy of a man in complete armour with ruffs at the neck and wrists. In the north aisle is a wall monument to Leopold Duke of Albany, died 1884, with his arms of England with the difference of a label of three points argent having three hearts gules thereon, and the arms of Saxony in pretence. In the tower is another modern monument, erected by Queen Victoria to Leopold King of the Belgians, 1865, 'in memory of the uncle who held a father's place in her affections.'
The first book of the registers is of paper and contains marriages from 1691, burials from 1678, and baptisms from 1684, all entries running to 1695. The second book is in part a duplicate of the first and contains marriages from 1688 to 1754, burials from 1678 to 1812, and baptisms from 1682 to 1812, and there is a printed marriages and burials book from 1754 to 1812.
The church of ST. GEORGE, known locally as Sandy (i.e. Sandon) Chapel, consists of a chancel, nave, north aisle, projecting bay on the south with private pews above a vault, a south vestry, and a shingled bell-turret on the west gable.
The chancel and western part of the nave are built of stone; the rest is in red brick. There is now no evidence of any work earlier than the 16th century, and the interior was till 1909 an interesting example of 18th-century fittings and arrangement.
Galleries extend round three sides of the church, and at the west end is a second at a higher level. A framed painting of our Lord hangs above the altar against a panelled reredos. There is no chancel arch or division between nave and chancel, and the north aisle is separated from the nave by wooden pillars carrying a beam. The opening to the bay on the south is filled by Corinthian columns and pilasters carrying a pediment cornice; there are several pews in the bay, two of which have small fireplaces, and steps leading to an external door. There is a small marble font. The church was fitted throughout with box pews, but in 1909 the decay of the floor necessitated their removal, when the floor was relaid. The roof has collars and wind braces, but is partly plastered, and over the nave is pierced with a large skylight.
The church of Esher is not mentioned in Domesday. There was a church there at the end of the 13th century, when the advowson belonged to the Bishop of Winchester, (fn. 85) and it seems probable that the advowson was purchased with the manor of Esher from the monks of Croix St. Leufroy by Peter, Bishop of Winchester. (fn. 86) It was included in the grant of the manor made by the Abbot of Netley to William, Bishop of Winchester, in 1245. (fn. 87) In 1284 the king quitclaimed to the bishop all right to the advowson of Esher. (fn. 88) Soon after this the advowson seems to have become separated from the manor and to have been in the hands of the hospital, for in 1535 the rectory of Esher formed part of the possession of the hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr, Southwark. (fn. 89) In 1538 the master and brethren conveyed it to the king in exchange for other parsonages, lately monastic property. (fn. 90) In 1620 it was granted by James I to Sir Henry Spiller, kt., and others. (fn. 91) George Price held the advowson with the manor in 1635, (fn. 92) and it descended with the manor till 1714, (fn. 93) when John Latton vested it in trustees for the benefit of Wadham College, Oxford, to the founder of which he was related, (fn. 94) and restored the impropriate tithes of the rectory. Under Latton's gift the patronage was vested in 1726 in Thomas Trevor, (fn. 95) and in 1744 in Henry Pye. (fn. 96) These trustees were bound to appoint a kinsman of the founder of Wadham College before any other person, if there were any such of that college and in Holy Orders at the time of the decease of the incumbent of Esher. The college is now patron.
Smith's Charity is distributed as in other Surrey parishes. Lady Lynch, widow of Sir Thomas Lynch, governor of Jamaica, who died in 1682, (fn. 97) gave £100, one third to the clergyman for a sermon annually, 5s. to the clerk, the rest to the poor people; also 3½ acres of land for the repair of the church. (fn. 98)
In 1789 Mr. Nathaniel George Petree left £850 to the rector and churchwardens for the support of the Sunday school, also a library of religious books for the parish and £100, the interest to go to the school-master for acting as librarian and to the poor in bread.
National Schools were fitted up by subscriptions in the disused workhouse in 1837; but in 1779 John Winkin left £6 yearly to educate three children, so presumably a school existed then. A new school (National) was built in 1858 and enlarged in 1891. West End Infants School (National) was built in 1879 by Mrs. Bailey of Stoney Hills in memory of her husband.