Trosley Towers

Trosley Towers location map
Map highlighting the historical location of Trosley Towers

In 1870, Sir Sydney Waterlow, 1st Baronet bought large areas of land including the village of Fairseat, a major section of Stansted as well as other areas of land between Wrotham and Meopham. In 1887, he commissioned the architect E R Robson to build Trosley Towers on the crest of the escarpment on the North Downs, to the east of Trottiscliffe Road. Note: Further information on Sir Sydney Waterlow and his son Sir Philip Waterlow is available in the ‘Luminaries’ section of the ‘People’ page.

Two drives approached the house, and it was surrounded by wooded grounds.  Later, other private drives were constructed, including Hamilton Drive which still survives within the Trosley Country Park and runs from the site of the old house to Commority Road, crossing Vigo Hill which runs from Trottiscliffe towards Fairseat.  The main parts of the estate were linked by a small bridge bearing the Waterlow family crest, the bridge spans Trottiscliffe Road (from Trottiscliffe towards Fairseat) and the crest is still in evidence today.

Sir Sidney made many improvements to the estate and it has been suggested that he hoped to purchase additional land as far as Meopham with the intention of building a private road from Trosley Towers to Meopham Railway Station but this was never completed.  He did however build a number of properties on the estate some of which remain today.  Hamilton Lodge on the Harvel Road was one such example and in later years this was to become the headquarters of 148 Training Brigade that operated on the site from 1942 -1946. Note: Further information on the military use of the estate as an Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU) is available in the ‘Landmarks’ section of the ‘Places’ page.

Other properties include North Lodge on the corner of the A227 and Harvel Road, South Lodge which is further down the A227 in the direction of Wrotham, and Pilgrims House with six acres of land which is at the bottom of Trottiscliffe Road (Vigo Hill).

Sir Sidney died in 1906 and the Baronetcy passed to Philip Hickson Waterlow, one of the nine sons and two daughters from his first marriage in 1845 to Anna Maria Hickson.  When Sir Phillip died in 1931, the estate was sold at auction and the next occupier was Mr Ezekiel. E. Shahmoon of Iraqi descent.

Mr. Shahmoon had Trosley Towers demolished in 1936 and it is believed that his plans were to build a new house on the site with a golf course but this never materialised.  He did, however, build a large stable block at the back of Hamilton Lodge and one story suggests that the stables were constructed to accommodate the Shah of Persia’s racehorses on his visits to England. The stables at Hamilton Lodge were still standing until about 1960 when they were demolished and the rest of the site cleared to make way for the development of Vigo Village.

The whole area was still occupied by Mr Shahmoon when it was leased by the army in 1942 and Hamilton Lodge was to be the HQ of the Army’s Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU). With the outbreak of war and the subsequent increase in the size of the army, the need for large numbers of suitable candidates to train as officers became apparent.  It was decided therefore to standardise this basic training and send all potential officer cadets to a general OCTU. All officer cadets would now be required to attend this newly formed training unit which was to be sited near Wrotham in Kent on the site of what is now Vigo Village. The size of this establishment was to be considerable as it was to train the vast majority of officers for the British Army over the next four years.  Following the end of world war two, the camp closed in 1946.  The army cleared the area but left the buildings and Nissen Huts standing.

After the war, many families found themselves homeless and this was an area with ready-built accommodation and basic services.  Families came from London and other areas and soon a thriving community had been established.  The council made improvements to the buildings and infrastructure providing reasonable sanitation and basic insulation and waterproofing. The interiors were divided with partition walls to provide at least three rooms one of which would have a brick built fireplace.  Wrotham Camp was officially renamed as Vigo Village by the council (now Gravesham Council) in 1947 and the provision of a school for the children of the village was proposed.

Eventually, 165 acres were purchased by Croudace Ltd from for a proposed housing development and outline planning permission was given in 1962.  This was the start of Vigo Village as it exists today with the first residents taking ownership in 1965.  In 1974 plans to extend Vigo village with more housing were vetoed by Kent County Council because of the adverse effect on the landscape of the North Downs.  At the same time, Kent County Council was preparing to create Trosley Country Park, having already purchased the land. Trosley Country Park was opened in May 1976 by Kent County Council and the 160-acre site on the edge of the North Downs was one of the first two country parks to be opened by Kent County Council.