Shrewsbury House Estate For Sale – in 1873

Print of the old Shrewsbury House
J.T. Rawlins’ sketch of the old Shrewsbury House

The heavy tome I carefully carried from the counter in the British Library’s Maps department to one of the reading desks was about A3 size, some 4 inches thick and solidly bound. It contained a set of Victorian sales literature for great houses in the south of England, including Shrewsbury House and Mayfield. The Shrewsbury House set was typical:  it included a pastel-coloured lithograph of the house,  a hand-drawn fold-out map of the estate and half a dozen pages describing the mansion and its grounds. The descriptive statements were centred on each page and contrived to use as many different fonts and sizes as possible.

I’ve included a full transcript of the Shrewsbury House details at the bottom of this post, though I haven’t attempted to reproduce all the different fonts. In true estate agent style it brings out all the advantages of the area –  “The Neighbourhood of Shooter’s Hill is exceedingly picturesque and much admired, and a favourite one for residence” – and the location of the house which:

“Is almost on the summit of the hill, about 350 Feet above the Sea Level and commands a beautiful landscape, exhibiting a great variety of extensive distances, a cheerful luxuriance of sylvan scenery, including on the south the Knockholt range in Kent, on the north and east the hilly parts of Essex and Hertfordshire and the Alexandra Palace and Park; on the South, parts of Sydenham and the Crystal Palace and Windsor Castle; and as a home view, the extensive windings of the noble river Thames with its shipping. From the mansion it is said Seven Counties are visible in clear weather.”

This original  Shrewsbury House, built in 1789 by the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury was a substantial property with 15 bedrooms, including those for servants, and extensive grounds including pleasure gardens,  stables and buildings for livestock, and a 20ft long vinery.

The picture at the top of the post isn’t taken from the sales particulars, the British Library would have charged £60 for a digital reproduction. It is a scan of a sketch originally published in  Greenwood’s 1838 “An Epitome of County History“. The house would have been the same in 1873 though – a photograph in the Shrewsbury Park Estate conservation area appraisal shows that the appearance of the house was unchanged through to 1901. The Epitome of County History also extols the views from Shrewsbury House:

Shrewsbury House, in the Parish of Plumsted, the seat of John Cooper,
Esq. is situated on the north-east edge of Shooter's Hill, and commands pros-
pects unequalled in any other part of the county. The metropolis, the shipping,
the winding course of the Thames to the verge of the horizon, the County of
Essex, and the most interesting parts of Kent, including the populous towns of
Greenwich and Woolwich, are all presented to the eye in a vast panorama from
the leads of this lofty mansion. This was the residence, for a considerable time,
of her late Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte, during her education : and
certainly no situation could have been selected more salubrious, or better adapted
to compose the attention to literary pursuits. In the study there is an immense
globe geographically delineated on the floor, formed, it is said, to familiarise the
science to the mind of the illustrious pupil. The interior of this house is
decorated with many works of art, among which are paintings by Waltean,
Permigiano, De Here, Weenix, Glover, Chamberlain, and others ; some fine
sculpture, &c.

The 1873 sales document doesn’t mention the expected price anywhere, it would be too vulgar to mention money I guess, and I wondered how much the estate sold for. However it’s not clear that the house sold at all in 1873 – dependable Colonel Bagnold lists the owners of Shrewsbury House from 1789 through to its demolition in 1923, and he says that the Rev. John Smallman Masters owned it between 1856 and 1888, though he mortgaged it more than once during 1862-76.

The occupants of the old Shrewsbury House were a varied bunch: from royalty (Princess Charlotte) and the head of the Royal Dockyard,  through to the early experimenter in gas lighting, Mr Winser. It also had spells as a boarding school with a dozen boy pupils and as the Crole-Wyndham Home for Convalescent Children  – housing 32 poor children from the slums of London. In 1923 the old Shrewsbury House was pulled down by  former mayor and later Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Kent F.T. Halse, who then built the current Shrewsbury House, now in active use as the community centre.

One mystery remains about the old house – what happened to the foundation stone?  This stone, according to Colonel Bagnold,  is  inscribed “CHARLES, XVIth Earl &c., &c., of Shrewsbury laid this stone , July 29th, 1789.”, and was installed in a rockery in Well Hall Pleasaunce. It doesn’t seem to be there now as far as I can see – I wonder if it was moved somewhere, or is buried under the shrubbery? The Colonel thought the stone should be mounted on a plinth on the roundabout in Mereworth Drive, which is close to the site of the old Shrewsbury House – what a good way that would have been to commemorate our local history!

Shrewsbury House
Shrewsbury House

Transcript of the 1873 sales description:

KENT,

ON THE SUMMIT OF SHOOTERS HILL

About 8 1/2 miles by road from London Bridge

__________________________________________________

PARTICULARS, WITH CONDITIONS OF SALE

OF

The Shrewsbury House Estate

A VERY CHOICE AND VALUABLE

FREEHOLD RESIDENTIAL

AND

BUILDING PROPERTY

ON THE CREST OF SHOOTERS HILL

About 350 ft. above the sea level and commanding

Very distant and exceedingly beautiful views of Kent, the River Thames with its shipping, the hilly parts of Essex etc.

AND CONSISTING OF

A LARGE FAMILY MANSION

Placed in the midst of its PLEASURE GROUNDS, in the centre of

Undulating and well-timbered park and woodlands,

COMPRISING

About 54 Acres,

VERY COMPACTLY SITUATE NEAR THE MAIN ROAD FROM LONDON TO DARTFORD,

WITH POSSESSION ON COMPLETION OF THE PURCHASE:

WHICH WILL BE OFFERED FOR SALE BY AUCTION,

BY

Messrs. DANIEL SMITH, SON , & OAKLEY,

AT THE AUCTION HOUSE, TOKENHOUSE YARD, CITY, E.C.,

On TUESDAY, the 29th day of JULY, 1873

AT ONE FOR TWO O’CLOCK PRECISELY, – IN ONE LOT

__________________________

Particulars may be obtained of Messrs. A.F. & R.W. TWEEDIE, Solicitors, 5, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, W.C.; at the

Place of Sale; and of Messrs. DANIEL SMITH, SON , & OAKLEY, Land Agents and Surveyors, 10, Waterloo Place, Pall Mall, S.W.

PARTICULARS

______________________

THE

SHREWSBURY HOUSE ESTATE

IS SITUATE AT

SHOOTERS’S HILL

IN THE

PARISH OF PLUMSTEAD, KENT,

Near the Main Road from

LONDON TO DARTFORD,

Having a Frontage of nearly

1,500 FEET TO SHREWSBURY LANE,

About 8 1/2 Miles by Road from LONDON BRIDGE; about 20 Minutes’ drive from BLACKHEATH STATION, 30 Minutes from

GREENWICH, and 15 Minutes from WOOLWICH ARSENAL STATION, all on the North Kent Line of the South-Eastern

Railway, with quick and frequent Train Service to and from Charing Cross, Cannon Street and London Bridge Stations

during the day about half-an-hour’s ride from the Metropolis

______________________

The Neighbourhood of Shooter’s Hill is exceedingly Picturesque and much admired,

AND A FAVOURITE ONE FOR RESIDENCE

______________________

THE ESTATE

Is almost on the Summit of the Hill, about 350 Feet above the Sea Level and commands a

BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPE,

Exhibiting a great variety of extensive distances, a cheerful luxuriance of Sylvan Scenery, including on the South the

Knockholt Range in Kent, on the North and East the hilly parts of Essex and Hertfordshire and the Alexandra Palace

and Park; on the South, parts of Sydenham and the Crystal Palace and Windsor Castle;

AND AS A HOME VIEW, THE

Extensive Windings of the Noble River Thames with its Shipping

From the MANSION it is said Seven Counties are visible in clear weather

______________________

The most important element in the value of this

CHOICE FREEHOLD PROPERTY

Is the facilities it presents as a

BUILDING SPECULATION

Which will suggest itself to an enterprising Capitalist, a Building Society, or Private Company, as offering a favourable

opportunity for Safe Investment

______________________

The Subsoil being Gravel and Brick Earth, the Materials are already on the spot for the formation of New Roads, and

the Manufacture of Bricks.

And as the Property is on a Hill it is admirably situate  for Drainage

The Roads leading to this Estate having been recently widened, greater facilities of communication have been opened up

which cannot fail to be of considerable benefit to the Property, whether it be developed as a Building Estate or kept as a

Residential Property

Some of the Adjacent Land is now being covered with Residences of a superior class, and Building operations are carried on

adjoining the Estate.

The Land might be so laid out as to preserve the House and Grounds in the centre, and, if not required for a Private

Residence, it would be available for a Public Institution, for which purpose the high and healthy situation renders it

eligible.

______________________

The Property comprises

A SPACIOUS

FAMILY MANSION,

Built by an Earl of Shrewsbury, and once occupied by Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte, placed on the crest of the

Hill, approached through Ornamental

Shrubbery and Pleasure Grounds,

BY A

CARRIAGE DRIVE WITH LODGE ENTRANCE.

______________________

The House is surrounded by

UNDULATING PARK LANDS,

WITH A

BEAUTIFUL WOOD OF 4 1/4 ACRES,

The whole being Richly Timbered with Oak, Elm, and other Timber Trees.

The Mansion possesses the advantages and the quietude of a Country Residence, notwithstanding its nearness to London, in

addition to being in a healthy situation, and in good position with regard to Society, and is in every respect adapted for

the Residence of a Gentleman of position.

______________________

The Extent of the Property is 54a. Or. 21p.,

All being in Pasture except the Wood of 4 1/4 acres, the Pleasure Grounds and Sites of Buildings

THE MANSION

Is principally three Stories in height (part being of two Stories), and Basement, substantially built of Brick, Stuccoed, with

strong Lead Flat Roofs, from which (and other parts of the Property), the Views before mentioned can be obtained.

IT CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING INTERNAL ACCOMMODATION:-

LOFTY ENTRANCE HALL

AND CORRIDOR.

The former being 39 ft. 6 in., by 10 ft., and the latter 21 ft. 8 in. by 7 ft. 8 in., approached by a flight of stone steps.

______________________

THE DINING ROOM

23 ft. 6 in.. with Bow Window overlooking the Lawn, fitted with a Black Marble Chimney-piece, and an

Ornamental Cornice.

______________________

An Alcove or Garden Entrance,

Paved with Stone, of semi-circular shape, 15 ft. by 9 ft. 6 in.

______________________

THE LIBRARY

20 ft. by 18 ft. 6 in., with Bow Window overlooking the Gardens ; (with a Black Marble Chimney-piece)

______________________

THE BREAKFAST ROOM

19 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft. 0 in., of irregular shape, with a St. Anne’s Marble Chimney-piece

______________________

A GENTLEMAN’S ROOM

15 ft. 4 in. by 12 ft., with Statuary Marble chimney-piece; A DRESSING ROOM adjoining 12 ft. by 7 ft. 6 in.

THESE APARTMENTS ARE ON THE RIGHT AND LEFT OF THE CORRIDOR AND ALL COMMUNICATE

They are 11 ft. in height.

______________________

A WINDING STAIRCASE

CONDUCTS TO THE CORRIDOR ON THE FIRST STORY

31 ft. 2 in. by 7 ft. 8 in. and 23 ft. by 9 ft. 8 in. and 11 ft. 6 in. in height from which is approached

THE VERY HANDSOME

DRAWING ROOM

OF NOBLE PROPORTIONS,

42 ft. 3 in. by 29 ft. 9 in., including 3 large Bow Windows, a deep enriched Cornice, the paper in panels of an Elegant

Pattern. There are 2 Fire Places. An Iron Balcony extends round the garden Front.

THIS ROOM COMMANDS THE PARK GROUNDS AND LAWNS,

And is 15 ft. 9 in. high.

ON THIS STORY ARE ALSO

TWO PRINCIPAL BED CHAMBERS OR ANTE-ROOMS

AND A DRESSING ROOM

______________________

ON THE UPPER STORY

Are 3 PRINCIPAL BED ROOMS, occasionally used as Nurseries, fitted with convenient Closets &c. A Housemaid’s

Closet and Water Closet.

TWO FLIGHTS OF STAIRS LEAD TO THE LEAD FLAT ROOFS.

______________________

ON THE FIRST STORY IN THE WING

Are also 2 PRINCIPAL and 5 SERVANTS’ BED CHAMBERS; a Store Room, fitted; a Water Closet; and a

Secondary Staircase to the Ground Floor.

______________________

THE DOMESTIC OFFICES,

ON THE GROUND FLOOR,

Are shut off from the Entrance Hall and comprise a Butler’s Pantry and Scullery, a Water Closet, Servants’ Hall, a good

Kitchen, Scullery and Coal Cellar.

______________________

IN THE BASEMENT

Are also the following Offices :- Extensive Arched Cellarage, also a Wine Cellar and several Rooms formerly used

as Kitchen, Scullery, Butlers’ Pantry, 3 Bed Rooms, Mangle Room, Larder, Knife Room, Bakehouse, Dairy &Cc

THE HOUSE AND PREMISES

Are supplied with an abundance of Spring Water from the  Well by a Force Pump

______________________

THE STABLING DEPARTMENT

CONSISTS OF

Two Stalls, with Loft over, Brick, Board and Slate; a Pony Stable; and a Gig House, Board and Tile ;

ALSO

A 2-Stall Stable and a Carriage House, a Hen House,  Board and Felt, and yard, 3 Pigstyes, and a Potting Shed,  Board

and Tile, a Lean-to Cow House for 4 Cows, Board and Tile.

______________________

THE PLEASURE GROUNDS

Are embellished with a profusion of well-grown Shrubs and Ornamental Timber Trees, including handsome Cedars of

Lebanon, Pink, Red and White Thorns, Arbutus, Azanthus, and specimens of Oak, Beech, Sycamore, and Wych Elm,

and there are Banks of Rhododendron, the Flower Borders being arranged in Parterres.

A SMALL SEMI-CIRCULAR ROSE GARDEN

Contains a Greenhouse in 3 Compartments, 60 ft. long, and at the back a Gardener’s Bothie, and a large Potting Shed,

Brick and Tile, and a Closet.

______________________

There are

TWO PRODUCTIVE KITCHEN GARDENS.

ONE CONTAINING A VINERY

About 20 ft. long.

______________________

IN THE PADDOCKS

Are a Barn, with Cow Shed and a Hen House, with 3 Men’s Rooms over, Brick, Timber and Tile, and a Lean-to Shed.

______________________

THE ENTRANCE LODGE

is of one Floor, built of Brick, Stucco and Slate, containing 2 Rooms and a Washhouse.

______________________

The whole is further described in the following SCHEDULE :-

No on                                                                                                                           Quantity

Plan     Description                                                       State                            A.         R.         P

1          Mansion and Pleasure Grounds                                                             5          1          11

2          Park Ground                                                     Pasture                        30        1          10

3          Wood                                                               Wood                           4          0          27

4          Pasture                                                            Pasture                        2          1          14

5          Do.                                                                   do.                               11        3          37

6          Pond                                                                Pond, &c                      0          1          2

Total of the Estate              A   54        0          21

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