History Society Walk (July 2023)
On 29th July 2023 a guided history walk was organised by the History Society. The route was from Stansted to Fairseat via Coldharbour and back again after a short break for refreshments in Fairseat Chapel; a rather hilly 4 miles. The group visited graves in St Mary’s churchyard including the Hohlers, Willam Hickson and the Waterlows, WW2 memorials to The One Behind The Church and to Colin Francis, the Saxon earthworks and the Rodney Sheldon memorial bench. In Fairseat we were welcomed to Court House by the Sheldons and to Fairseat Manor by the Nelsons. Forty three people took part, the weather was kind and five year old Oliver Burrowes did a fine job showing everyone various historic photos relating to various events and places on the route.
The following photo gallery contains a selection of images taken during the walk and the section after is an article summarising the talks given, including selected video footage.
St Mary’s Churchyard
About 25 intrepid walkers set off from Stansted Village hall car park at 10am and made their way to the local church. In the churchyard the group visited the graves of the Hohler family, William and Jane Hickson, and the Waterlow family.
Sir Gerald Hohler lived at Court Lodge until he died in 1934. He was the son of Henry Holher of Fawkham Manor. He was a lawyer and became MP for Chatham, then Gillingham. He donated the land for the war memorial and also along with his brother commissioned the statue from a prominent sculptor in Budapest. It is notable that his grave has a clear view down to the war memorial. The Court Lodge estate was split up and sold in 1942.
William and Jane Hickson lived at Fairseat Manor and both died in 1870. William was a very prominent social reformer in the mid 1800s but is probably best known for writing “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again” and for writing the third verse of the National Anthem. It is one of the more inclusive verses of the National Anthem and was sung at the opening of the 2012 Olympics. Their grave has a modest grave marker but it is surprising that there is one at all because William was very specific in his will that he didn’t want one of any description. His wife Jane died 9 months after him and is buried in the same plot so perhaps the grave marker is for her and nor him. Originally the grave was elsewhere in the churchyard but was moved to a new position when the Cloisters were built in 2015.
The Waterlows were very wealthy, having made their money from printing Government documents – and from being one of the World’s foremost printers of banknotes. They bought much land in Fairseat starting in 1870 and built Trosley Towers in 1886 – a stately home overlooking Trottiscliffe. Various Waterlows lived at the Towers until the death of Sir Phillip in 1931. The house was sold in 1935 and was demolished the following year having been in existence for just 49 years.
Notes: Articles on Court Lodge and Trosley Towers are available from the ‘Landmarks & Places of Interest’ section which can be found under the ‘Places’ page of the website. Articles on Sir Sydney Waterlow, William Hickson, and Sir Gerald Hohler can be found under the ‘People’ page.
The grave marker for Sir Sydney Waterlow has been damaged in the past by the removal of two large gilded angels. He was married twice; first to Anna Hickson (William Hickson’s aunt) and secondly to Margaret Hamilton whom he met in the USA just after his first wife died. She was 26 years younger than him. In between wives he had built Trosley Towers.
Sir Sydney’s son, Sir Philip Hickson Waterlow died in 1931 2 years after his wife Laura. There is also the grave of Rosa Jones (Laura’s sister) who died in 1924. Sir Philip built Fairseat Chapel in 1930 for the children of the Convalescent Home at Fairseat Manor in memory of his wife, father and mother.
The last grave belongs to Agnes Hamilton who was the mother of Sir Sidney’s second wife. She was the wife of William Hamilton of San Francisco and died in 1870. Hers was a real rags to riches story of a Scottish woman who married a local man, emigrated to America, ran a store, made loans, went to California in the gold rush and ended up owning a bank. Her daughter married one of the richest men in England and she ended her days at Trosley Towers just after the building was finished and is buried in Stansted churchyard.
Video footage of Dick Hogbin in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Stansted, relating the remarkable life and history of Agnes Hamilton, the mother of Sir Sydney Waterlow’s second wife, Margaret, is available in the section below this article.
Church Cottage is possibly the oldest house in Stansted (C14) and used to be a place for the visiting vicar from Wrotham to stay and seems to have been tenanted at some time. It was extended substantially in the 1970s. The novelist Victor Canning lived here after the war.
The Black Horse. There was a house on this site called Palmers in 1770 which we know became the Black Horse well before 1841 The current building is definitely not of 1770 – and there is some suggestion that the Palmers building burned down and was rebuilt by the brewery in the late 1800s.We are still researching this.
Old Post Office (now a house called High Tree). This opened in 1897. It was the first house up from the Black Horse and there were only 2 other houses and a smithy in the lower part of Tumblefield Road at that time.
Almshouses – the top two were built in 1912; the bottom two in 1926. All four were built in memory of Ada Berry by her children.
Note: An article on the Almshouse is available from the ‘Landmarks & Places of Interest’ section which can be found under the ‘Places’ page of the website. A biography of the remarkable Berry family can also be viewed from that page.
Tumblefield Estate – the six semi detached houses were built in 1947 and the two bungalows in 1977.
The Forge – The Old Forge and Forge Cottage predate 1841 and used to be three cottages. The Old Forge is one of the original three cottages. The blacksmith’s forge itself was situated between the Old Forge and the footpath – the site is now occupied by Hollytree House and Meadowlands.
World War Two – Memorials
In 2019 two models were erected by Paul and Judy Dyer of Platt House, Wrotham Hill Road to commemorate incidents of aeroplane crashes during the Battle of Britain in 1940. The models are on either side of Coldharbour farmhouse and both were visited on the walk.
On 30th August 1940, an RAF Hurricane smashed into the ground at Coldharbour, killing its pilot who was on his first operational flight. Pilot Officer Colin Francis’ remains lay buried in his aircraft for forty-one years until the aircraft was rediscovered in 1981. The pilot’s remains were finally laid to rest at the War Graves Cemetery in Brookwood near Woking where the RAF provided a full military ceremony in his honour. Prior to the model being erected, the site was commemorated by a memorial plaque placed nearby in his memory by local resident Geoff Allgood.
Just one day after the Hurricane crash, an enemy aircraft belly-landed in the valley behind Court Lodge. The German pilot survived to be taken prisoner, but his gunner was mortally injured. Some thirty years after the event, local schoolboy Mark Charnley interviewed some of the local witnesses and presented his handwritten research to the Fairseat Archive. This was entitled “The One Behind the Church”.
Note: Information on these incidents is available on the ’Events’ page of the website
Video footage of Mike Goddings talking about Paul and Judy Dyers next to the model commemorating “The One Behind the Church” is available in the section below this article.
Coldharbour Saxon earthworks
All that is currently known is that they were identified in 1930 as Saxon earthworks and may be built on a Roman look-out and signalling post (speculum). Further research on this is being carried out by the Kent Archaeological Society.
Sheldon memorial bench
The bench was carved by Tom Brooker from an oak felled in the Great Storm of 1987 and is sited overlooking Rodney’s Sheldon’s favourite view (which, incidentally, was once earmarked as a possible route for the new M20). It is inscribed with his initials, JRCS, and the first two lines of Christina Rossetti’s poem ‘Up-hill’ “Does the road wind up-hill all the way? Yes, to the very end”.
Rodney and Pam Sheldon lived at Court House from 1954 until, in 1968, the owners of Fairseat Manor, Colonel and Mrs Anderson, both in their 80s died within a week of each other. The estate was sold and Rodney and Pam bought the farm at auction and moved there. With no previous background in farming, they set about restocking with a red and white Friesian herd. They subsequently sold Fairseat Farmhouse to the former manager, Len Pointon and he and his wife Kay, part of which they converted as a new Village shop.
In 1981 Rupert Murdoch acquired the Times newspaper, which was ailing and threatened with closure. The Times owned a paper-mill in Snodland, and Rupert Murdoch employed Rodney to run it. He later became a main board director of News International UK which was ‘interesting’ to say the least when it was decided to move the print works to Wapping which led to a confrontation with the print unions. Rupert Murdoch in a letter described Rodney as ‘an outstanding paper-maker’ and he became known at News International as ‘The Sacred Cow’ because newspaper editors came and went but Rodney, as the only expert in his field, stayed on the board until he retired in 1988. He died in 2007.
Note: An article on Rodney and Pam Sheldon can be found under the ‘People>Biographies’ page of this website.
At this point in the walk the original 25 walkers met about 20 more people at Fairseat pond for the remainder of the visits.
Court House, Woolpack Barn and The Courtyard
Known as ‘The Cottage’ for most of its life the house was built in 1850 (or 1835 from some sources) by Horace Grant who lived there until his death in 1859. At the same time his cousin Hannah enlarged an existing building to form a school for up to 50 young ladies. This is Fairseat House.
Hannah’s sister, Elizabeth, was married to William Hickson (Snr) who had lived at Fairseat Manor. WE Hickson Snr’s son (also William) also lived at Fairseat Manor after his father and left an extraordinarily detailed will dated 1862. One provision was that he left 10 guineas (about £2,000) “To the owner of the Cottage at Fairseat built by my late friend Horace Grant for the erection of ornamental chimney pots in place of the one ugly red pot by which the principal chimney stack of the said Cottage is now disfigured.”
Another notable resident of Court House was Major Drummond who lived here until 1916. When the old Trosley Towers land was in use during WW2 as a Military Training Unit a Toc H centre was opened in Court House. A retired Army Officer, Lt Colonel Herbert Greenfield and his wife Dorothy, made the cadets welcome and provided sandwiches, cake, tea and coffee and a general refuge from the rigours of camp life.
Many residents of Fairseat and nearby villages came as volunteers to serve the food, wash up and chat with everyone. Herbert Greenfield was a friend of Tubby Clayton who as an army chaplain in Flanders in 1915 with another chaplain Rev. Neville Talbot opened Talbot House, a rest house for soldiers at Poperinge, Belgium. Talbot House became known as Toc H.
The main house has now been split into two separate dwellings (Court House and The Courtyard), and the old agricultural barn has been converted into Woolpack Barn. The story of the conversion appeared in 2021 on the TV programme ‘Grand Designs’ – Series 21: Episode 2 | Channel 4 Court House itself has been lived in for the last 70 years by the Sheldon family.
Note: An article on Rodney Sheldon is available from the ‘Biographies’ section which can be found under the ‘People’ page of the website.
Video footage of Tom Sheldon in the garden of Court House, Fairseat, outlining the history of the building and the creation of The Courtyard and Woolpack Barn, is available in the section below this article.
The origins of the building date to the 1400s, if not earlier, and the middle part of the current structure is original. The first real recorded history that we have is when John Cox bought the building in the early 1700s and added a Georgian facade to the older building behind. He died in 1736 and is one of the first recorded burials at Stansted church.
For about 40 years in the mid 1800s the Manor house was owned by the Hickson family. William Hickson Jnr was a prominent social reformer, particularly around providing education for working people, and campaigned for this through his own publication, the Westminster Review. Apart from writing “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again” and the third verse of the National Anthem he also wrote a long first hand account of an earthquake in Stansted in 1860.
In his Will he also left a legacy of 10 guineas “ for the purchase of filters for the use of such cottagers as are now compelled to drink pond water for want of tanks and should tanks have been provided before my death the money to be distributed among the labouring families at Fairseat including children to share and share alike.”
At some stage the house was acquired by the Waterlow family who lived at Trosley Towers and during the 1920s it was used as a convalescent home for children recovering from sickness. Originally a small space was set aside within the Manor for a chapel. Fairseat Chapel, next door, was built in 1930 by Sir Philip Waterlow for these children and the previous space was repurposed.
In 1938 the house was purchased from Lord and Lady Bridport by the Bayne-Jardine family. Colonel Christian Bayne-Jardine was a Scottish army officer who had had a career in the Royal Artillery. From 1938 to the end of the war he was based at Chatham and was in charge of all the anti aircraft batteries south of the Medway. A very busy man but…Interestingly, along with Frederick and Glady Lance of Wentfield, Gravesend Road, he found time to be active in the introduction of the Saluki dog breed into the UK.
One of his daughters was young during the war but remembers 2 stories
- She remembers being in her paddling pool during the long hot June 1940 and seeing formations of German bombers flying to London in tight formations of 12 and returning in ragged 6s and 7s.
- She also remembers a doodlebug landing and exploding in June 1944 in a hedgerow in one of the Manor’s two fields. She said that the whole village was blasted and that the Manor House had its shutters blown off and all the plastered ceilings in the front bedrooms collapsed. After the explosion she said that the house was a shambles.
After the Bayne Jardines returned to Scotland in 1946 Colonel Anderson bought the house and the land around and ran it as a farm. It was Col Anderson who donated the land that is the current Fairseat Recreation Ground. He died in 1968 and the farm was bought by Rodney and Pam Sheldon.
Since then the house has passed through distinguished hands until, for the last 25 years or so, and is now in the very good hands of Sir Robert and Lady Anne-Marie Nelson.
Notes: Articles on William Hickson, Christian Bayne-Jardine and Frederick Lance are available on the ‘People’ page of the website. William Hickson’s account of the local earthquake in 1860 can be found in the ‘Events’ section of the website. The histories of Fairseat Chapel and of Trosley Towers can both be found in Places>Landmarks.
Video footage of Lady Anne-Marie and Sir Robert Nelson in the garden of Fairseat Manor recalling stories of John Stuart Mill and a doodlebug explosion nearby during WW2, is available in the section below this article.
Fairseat Chapel was built in 1930 by Sir Philip Waterlow for the children in the convalescent home in Fairseat Manor. Ironically, one of the first occasions to take place at the Chapel was the funeral of Sir Philip himself in 1931.
Note: An article on Fairseat Chapel can be found under the ‘Places> Landmarks’ page of this website.
Author: Dick Hogbin
Editors: Tony Piper
Contributors: Mike Goddings, Tom Sheldon, Robert and Anne-Marie Nelson
Last Updated: 6 October 2023
Dick Hogbin in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Stansted, relates the remarkable life and history of Agnes Hamilton, the mother of Sir Sydney Waterlow’s second wife, Margaret.
The One Behind the Church
Mike Goddings talks about two WW2 models erected by Paul and Judy Dyer of Platt House, Wrotham Hill Road.
Tom Sheldon in the garden of Court House, Fairseat, ooutlines the history of the building and the creation of The Courtyard and Woolpack Barn.
Lady Anne-Marie Nelson and Sir Robert Nelson in the garden of Fairseat Manor, Fairseat, Kent, recalling stories of John Stuart Mill and a WW2 doodlebug explosion nearby.