Tag Archives: Chevening

CHIPSTEAD PLACE

Surplus to requirement. A country house that was stripped of its interiors and subsequently demolished.

Chipstead Place, near Chevening, erected by William Emerton. Image: The Weald.

Chipstead Place was once part of the demesne and lands of the manor of the de Chepsted family. It was first mentioned in the latter end of the reign of Elizabeth I, when it was in the possession of Robert Cranmer, the son of Thomas, who married Jane Grace, daughter of a Sussex landowner.

Anne, their only daughter, carried the seat in marriage to Sir Arthur Herrys, eldest son of Sir William Herrys, in Essex. On the death of Sir Arthur in 1632 the estate passed to his second son, John, who married the daughter of Sir Thomas Dacre, of Chestnut, in Herefordshire. The lady survived him and married William Priestly, of Wild Hill, in Hertfordshire, who in 1652 conveyed Chipstead Place to one Jeffry Thomas.

Chipstead Place. Image: The Lost Country Houses of Kent.

Subsequently it became the property of David Polhill, who was High Sheriff in 1662, and dying without issue, left the estate to his only surviving brother, Thomas Polhill, of Clapham, in Surrey. By his marriage with Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Ireton, he left three sons but, by a will, he conveyed the house in 1665 to Sir Nicholas Strode.

A new house was erected here by William Emerton around the turn of the 18th century. A grand affair with 26 bed and dressing rooms and six reception rooms.

Chipstead Place. Image: The Lost Country Houses of Kent.

David Polhill, son of Thomas Polhill, later re-purchased Chipstead Place from Emerton trustees, and was a member for the county in Parliament in 1708 and Keeper of the Records and Sheriff of Kent in 1715. Once again, the house had come into the possession of the Polhill family. In 1754 Charles Polhill resided here and it later became home to other members of the family.

Frederick Perkins built an estate village here in 1729, and on his death in 1860, the family tenanted the house, including to railway builder Sir Samuel Morton Peto and the banker Henry Oppenheim.

Subsequently it was the home to John Duveen, who during World War One, lent Chipstead Place as a hospital for wounded soldiers.

The first batch of Belgian soldiers who bore the brunt of the German attack on the forts of Liege and Namur were received here and nursed by ladies of the district who formed the local detachment of the V.A.D., under Miss Hall Hall, the Commandant.

During this period Chipstead Place was visited by thousands of local people admiring the stately mantlepieces, the pictures and other glories of the fine old mansion.

After the war, Mr Duveen sold the house to Sir Roland Hodge, who later disposed of it to Dame Adele Meyer.

Chipstead Place. Image: Lost Heritage.

After a sale of contents in 1931, Chipstead Place went under the hammer ‘for demolition’. “Thus, there passes a familiar landmark, another sacrifice on the altar of ‘development’ a sacrifice even more complete than has overtaken other mansions in the district,” reported the Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser.

Chipstead Place was demolished in 1932 and its land used to build new houses. Only the ballroom, servants’ quarters and West Lodge survived. Part of the estate is now occupied by Chipstead Place Lawn Tennis Club.

Chipstead Place. Image: Lost Heritage.

CHEVENING

Sixty years ago, Chevening was bequeathed to the nation to ensure that the estate would not be broken up, but would instead retain a significant role as a private house in public life.

The oldest part of the house was built between 1616 and 1630 by Richard Lennard, 13th Lord Dacre, and the work had traditionally been attributed to Inigo Jones. Later, the wings were built by the first Lord Stanhope, who died in 1721. Pilaster and older stonework, added by the third Earl, completely hid Inigo Jones’ red bricks on the façade. Lord Roseberry, who as a boy stayed at the mansion, invariably called it ‘Paradise’. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

In May 1959, the Chevening Estate Bill, published details about Lord Stanhope’s gift of Chevening, Kent, to the nation. Lord Stanhope, the owner, who would leave no heir to the earldom, and had been a widower since 1940, said that as long ago as 1937 he had told Neville Chamberlain of his intention to bequeath Chevening to the country. During the Second World War he had told Winston Churchill of his wish.

However, it fell to Harold Macmillan to make a formal acknowledgement of the gift.

An endowment provided for the upkeep and maintenance of the house and the 3,000-acre estate, which could be used by Prime Ministers, or nominated members of the Cabinet, or members of the Royal Family. There was also provision in the Bill for its use as the residence of the American Ambassador if other nominees failed to make use of the house.

Mr Macmillan said that the mansion had associations with many distinguished statesmen. Lord Stanhope’s long service to the State, had been crowned with a gift which would allow the rare beauty of Chevening and its peace and serenity to serve the same high purpose which he and his forbears had always cherished.

The main staircase at Chevening, Kent. Lord Stanhope, a former first Lord of the Admiralty and Leader of the House of Commons, standing on the staircase in 1959. It was made of Spanish oak between 1720 and 1723. Behind were pieces of armour from a disbanded militia regiment in Ireland in the reign of Queen Anne. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Chevening had been in the possession and occupation of seven generations of Stanhopes, except for a brief period in 1769 when Lord Chatham stayed here with his family. During this period Pitt planned the carriage drive known as Lord Chatham’s Ride, partly to facilitate visits from his family residence at Hayes to see his only daughter, who married Charles, later the third Lord Stanhope.

The Print Gallery at Chevening, Kent. The long room contained engravings of leading personalities of the era between 1855 and 1875. Many of them were signed. There were also several framed letters of interest. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.