The Limes Estate, Felbridge - An Outline History (2004)
The full fact sheet contains many maps, sale particulars and photographs. Only the text is provided on-line.
3. The Early Years
4. Sale of Felbridge Place Lot 31
5. Sale of Felbridge Place Lot 6
6. Ebor Lodge
7. The Limes Estate 1913 1928
8. The Limes Estate 1928 1945 The Heselden Years. The Quilters.
9. The Limes Estate 1945 1990
10. The Limes Estate 1990 2004
1. The Lime Tree
2. The Heselden Houses Building Materials and Services
Kind assistance of Mrs. S. Clarke of The Felbridge & District History Group.
Interviews with many friends and neighbours in The Limes and in Felbridge, in particular Mrs. W. Bingham, Mark Heselden and Harry Heselden.
Background material regarding the general development of Felbridge from the booklet: Felbridge Parish and People.
1. The Limes Estate - Location
The Limes Estate, now generally referred to as The Limes, is a cul de sac road in the village of Felbridge, Surrey. Felbridge lies just to the north of East Grinstead, West Sussex.
The A22 main road from London to Eastbourne passes through Felbridge on a roughly north to south alignment and The Limes connects onto the A22 from the east, just opposite Whittington College, a retirement home owned by The Mercers Company of London.
The location, just opposite the College, is highly significant since, as with so many aspects of Felbridge history, an understanding of the past in the shape of the evolution of The Felbridge Place Estate (which was based on the site of the College), provides an understanding of the present in the shape of The Limes Estate.
2. The Limes Estate - Introduction
At first glance the road would appear to be a fairly unremarkable collection of houses, of various ages and styles. The majority might be referred to as stockbroker mock Tudor, as was fashionable in the twenties and the thirties in the outer London suburbs. Others clearly are more modern, perhaps with less character, but probably rather sounder as building regulations became stricter in the fifties, sixties and seventies. The plots of the more modern houses have clearly been carved out of the generous gardens of the older houses but there is one continuous line of six more modern styles. Overall, the impression would be of the typically eclectic mix of architectural styles that comprise so many English suburban roads.
Closer examination, however, reveals that in fact the various house types fall into one of two categories, either the pre-1945 mock Tudor/villa style or the post-1960 modern, unrendered brick style. The reason for this difference, and the reason for the distribution of the house types, is described later. Other items of interest, such as the reason for the shape of the road itself and the origin of the many old fruit trees in the gardens, are also discussed.
In trying to describe the history of The Limes Estate, the writer has undertaken research which has shown, as is so often the case, that the simplest question can provoke the most complicated answer or new lines of enquiry. This paper does not attempt to be too scholarly, but rather provide a brief history of the evolution of The Limes Estate.
3. The Limes Estate The Early Years
In 1588, George Evelyn of Nutfield purchased seventy acres of land at Felbridge from the Godstone Manor Estate and over the next 260 years or so, various members of the Evelyn family added to the initial purchase and built a substantial country house on the site of the present Whittington College. By 1855, when the Evelyns sold their estate, by then known as The Felbridge Park Estate, it was one of the largest country estates in the district.
A map of the Felbridge Park Estate, published by Bourd in 1748, shows the extent of the Estate in that year and, interestingly, shows that the area of The Limes Estate which fronts the A22 London Road and which lies in the Parish of Godstone, was part of the Park Estate, but the Limes Estate land lying in Tandridge Parish was separately owned by Lord Rockingham.
The pond, located by the entrance to where The Limes road now starts, is shown as existing in 1748 and may well have been dug as a watering place for the horse and cattle traffic passing along the London Road.
In 1855 ownership of The Felbridge Park Estate passed to Mr. George Gatty of Crowhurst Park and later became known as The Felbridge Place Estate.
Most significantly, in respect of the story of the development of The Limes Estate, Mr. Gatty purchased Wards Farm and its land, which lay to the east of the London Road and in the Parish of Tandridge (Conveyance dated 20.03.1856). This land included the site of The Limes Estate plus the land later used as the site of St. Johns Church and its Vicarage. The Felbridge Place survey plan of 1856 shows the Wards Farm land and interestingly on plot 10 (part of The Limes), there is the suggestion of a plantation of trees which, if apple trees can survive that long, may explain why so many of the houses the top end of The Limes have very old apple trees in their gardens (see also section 7.).
By 1864 The Felbridge Place Estate extended to some 1,740 acres and by 1899 Charles Henry Gatty had increased this to over 2,000 acres. Charles Henry died in 1903 and the Estate passed to relatives on his mothers side, the Sayers. In 1911 the Sayers decided to sell the whole Estate and it was purchased by Mrs. Emma Harvey and The East Grinstead Estate Company (by which her husband, Mr. P. Harvey, was employed).
The new owners decided to exploit the extensive land of The Felbridge Place Estate and the sale of various development plots was announced in May 1911. As the sales blurb put it: The widespread lands of an old manorial country estate are upon the market under a scheme of development devised by the present owners. From this scheme of development, The Limes Estate was born, as Lot 31 in the sale.
4. Lot 31
This Lot was described in the 1911 catalogue as: An exceptionally choice, well wooded, residential site, suitable for the erection of a really first class house comprising nine acres plus, of rich meadow and arable land, together with a brick and tiled cottage suitable for adaption as a lodge entrance. The guide price for the whole Lot was £500 to £725.
The agents concept was thus that of a good sized plot of land with easy access off the London Road and on which a substantial country house could be built with a ready made lodge cottage.
The plan attached to Lot 31 clearly shows the present outline of The Limes Estate in its original shape, including land fronting the London Road and extending to the south up to St. Johns Church. It thus comprised mainly land derived from the Wards Farm Estate in Tandridge, plus the land fronting the London Road in Godstone that was part of the original Felbridge Place Estate.
5. Sale of Felbridge Place -Plot/Lot 6
For some reason, possibly simply a failure to sell or secure finance, the planned sale of The Limes Estate site in 1911 did not happen and the site was re-offered in 1913, now described as item Number 6 in the catalogue.
The sales agents now became even keener to promote the Lot, describing the site as delightful and convenient, sloping southward and ideal for the construct ion of a gentlemans house. Covenants were imposed to protect a belt of beautifully grown trees along the frontage to the A22 and the agents embroidered this aspect: It will be readily appreciated by the discriminating that restrictive covenants of this sort will tend to repulse those whose instincts are to destroy natures beauties and to attract such as are lovers of the greenwood, the bushes and the verdant hedgerows! (The covenant being to protect the mature trees.)
Significantly the sale particulars also state that The long road frontage (to the A22) would also facilitate sub-division of the plot if such was desired. In fact this is exactly what subsequently happened.
After this wonderful description of Lot 6, a sale was made by The East Grinstead Estate Company and Mrs. Emma Harvey to Mrs. Susannah Emma West for the sum of £900. Her Deeds are dated 03.02.1913 and interestingly show that the top end of the site (eastern end) was arable and the rest was meadow no mention of any orchard.
The main covenants remained in place, namely:
· To protect the mature trees, mainly Scots pine, along the site frontage.
· To stipulate that any houses built should sell for at least £400.
· To observe a building line 120 feet from the A22.
· To control any huts or caravans in house gardens.
6. Ebor Lodge
Before going on to discuss the development of housing in Plot/Lot 6, it is worth saying a little about the cottage which was included in this Lot and which was described as being suitable for adaptation as a lodge for the proposed really first class house with a nice little garden.
It is significant that the sale particulars make mention of the fact that The iron park fencing is included in the purchase. Conceivably this fencing ran along the original boundary of the Felbridge Place Estate before the Ward Farm land was added, i.e. the railings ran along the old boundary between Tandridge (Lord Rockinghams land) and Godstone, and follow the rather curious boundary line to the east of the A22, rather than along the A22.
The cottage, now called Ebor Lodge, has been extended but still looks quite original and rumour has it that a previous owner wished to remind himself of good fortune at York races! It is not shown in the 1881 census and was probably built in the 1890s as accommodation for one of the more senior staff members of Felbridge Place. Indeed, the 1901 census shows a property on Eastbourne Road (A22), which is probably Ebor Lodge, having as residents Mr. George Huggett, age 66, Mrs. Ellen Huggett, age 67, and Miss Nellie Huggett, age 37, with Mr. Huggetts occupation given as Farm Bailiff. Bearing in mind that Ebor Lodge has always been on Felbridge Place land, rather than Wards Farm (Lord Rockingham), it seems more than likely that George Huggett had been a Bailiff to Mr. Gatty.
7. The Limes Estate 1913 - 1928
Despite her investment in a presumably speculative development, Mrs. West failed to secure any house building on her newly acquired land over the period 1913 to her death in 1921, or similarly to her husband Samuels death in 1927. No doubt the war years of 1914 to 1918 and the Depression in the twenties inhibited investment in housing, although she did manage to get the covenant on house prices altered from the £400 minimum sales value down to £200.
At this stage it is interesting to speculate that although no houses were built, an orchard may have been planted, since many of the houses in The Limes, and notably the ones built by Mark Heselden, have very old fruit trees, often apple, in lines which go through adjacent gardens. Indeed the first sales brochure of 1932, for The Limes Estate, makes particular reference to the fact that Many of the sites already have well-grown fruit trees presumably at least ten to fifteen years old, therefore.
8. The Limes Estate, 1928 1945 : The Heselden Years : The Quilters
The building business run by Mr. Mark Heselden was already established in Felbridge before 1930 and operated out of the builders yard at 121 Crawley Down Road (near the junction with Rowplatt Lane). Mr. Heselden first lived on Lingfield Road, East Grinstead, but moved to Rowplatt Lane, Felbridge, at a young age and thus largely grew up in Felbridge. His own trade was bricklaying.
The business was very much a small family run affair with Marks son Fred joining in the late 1920s, also a bricklayer, followed by another Mark, a carpenter, Bert, a carpenter, and Bob, a plumber. Sub-contractors were used for other trades but over the period Heselden builders erected a significant number of houses in Felbridge, including ones in Rowplatt Lane, Copthorne Road (including the distinctive semi-detached group just past The Star Public House), Mill Lane and The Limes Estate.
Rumour has it that when Mark Heselden acquired the site of The Limes Estate probably around 1928, he did so as part of a deal with someone who owed him money possibly he had done work for Mr. and Mrs. West elsewhere and had money outstanding but, for whatever reason, The Limes Estate site came into the ownership of Mr. Heselden and he immediately started to plan its development.
The existence of the pond and Ebor Lodge meant that the access road had to be driven in from the A22 at an angle so as to skirt the pond (the site of which was common land), but give room for a building plot (now Poynings) to the north of Ebor Lodge. The access road then straightened due east to allow regular plots to the north and the large garden of Ebor Lodge to the south. The road then swings to the south and then east again to allow regular plots on each side up to the end of the road. Road incidentally is too good a description because it was only in the 1960s that the surface was properly tarmaced and drained up until then it had been a potholed dirt track.
The first building plots to be laid out were numbered 1 to 4, from north to south. Two plots on each side of Ebor Lodge. Building commenced in 1930. Mr. Heselden did most of the design work himself, although clearly inspired by the mock Tudor fashion of the time and he employed Mr. Gasson, an East Grinstead architect to do the detailed drawings. (Mr. Gasson probably had links to the builders merchants, Gasson's, in East Grinstead, on the site now operated by The Builders Centre on London Road.)
Mr. Heselden was clearly not one to miss a trick in exploiting a site, since he quickly got the restrictive covenants altered in his favour, i.e.:
i) He could now remove such mature trees as was necessary to allow his preferred house siting.
ii) He could now build 65 feet from the A22 and not be limited to a 120 foot building line.
iii) The first four houses to be built to sell for a minimum of £1,000. Any other houses on the Estate to sell for at least £400.
These revisions to the site covenants were defined in a Deed dated 22.10.1930 and in fact the three 4 bedroom detached houses eventually built across the site frontage were put on the market in 1932/1934 for £1,250, including single garage. See the sales particulars below for the first release of houses in The Limes Estate in 1932.
It will be noted that only three out of a possible four plots were developed in this first phase. These were the houses now called Brownwood, Poynings and Glendale. These were all built to the same basic design though later alterations and additions make this less clear.
Building continued throughout the thirties but was brought to a halt by the outbreak of war in 1939. At this stage the three plots at the far end of the road were not completed and only finished after 1945. (See Appendix 2 for Heselden building details.)
Of particular interest is the only pair of semi-detached houses built by Mr. M. Heselden the houses now called Little House and Limes Cottage. This pair was specifically built for occupation by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Heselden, who had a large family, but in fact they never moved in and the two houses were sold on completion.
After 1945, Mark Heselden had, in effect, developed all the potential building plots in The Limes Estate and he moved on to other developments in Felbridge.
He remained the owner, however, of the area of land occupied by the grass verges outside the houses and the roadway itself, although each house was granted a right of way along it, and this freehold land was to remain in technically Heselden ownership until the 1990s, when it was transferred to The Limes Residents Association. This was achieved via a Deed of Covenant, arranged through Messrs. Allen Ticehurst and Bird of East Grinstead in May 1993. This Deed confirms that three Trustees, elected by qualifying households (31 in total), hold the legal title to the area of the road surface and verges, on behalf of the residents.
The first three Trustees were C. Sibley (Felbridge Cottage), P. Bovey (Orchard Hey) and J. Priest (Ripswood).
Presumably Mark Heselden gave the name to his new estate and called it The Limes. Why this choice? There has been lime burning in the area but this seems a most unlikely inspiration. More likely is the fact that the original Felbridge Place Estate had planted conspicuous avenues of lime trees (of which two survivors may be seen near the old estate lodge on Copthorne Road) and these trees inspired the name choice. It is also presumably in keeping with the desired image of a pleasant, rural location.
Going back to the reason for why only three of the four originally proposed house plots along the A22 frontage were developed, this had a very important bearing on the subsequent overall style of The Limes Estate and this was due to the influence of the Quilter family who moved into Glendale.
The Quilter Family
Mr. and Mrs. A. Quilter moved to Felbridge from Eastbourne and decided to purchase a house in the new Limes development the house called Glendale. They lived temporarily on Crawley Down Road whilst Glendale was being built. They negotiated with Mr. Heselden to purchase not only the Glendale plot, but also plot 4 to the south by the church, and also a large area of land behind Glendale. Later, their daughter Vera purchased more land, which had been part of the garden of Ebor Lodge, together with the land further up along the south side of The Limes road. This therefore precluded Mr. Heselden from building on this area and explains where there is such a conspicuous gap between the Heselden house, Poynings, and the Heselden house, Sussex Cottage, much further up the road.
9. The Limes Estate 1945 - 1990
With the departure of the Heseldens as builders in 1945/1946, the road saw a period of quiet until the early sixties when the general pressure on building land and demand for houses in the area, saw building plots being carved out of some of the Heselden houses with especially wide plots. Thus, the houses Aburi, Gerrans, Kennesis and Kyleakin, were built as infillings.
In addition, when the Quilter granddaughters, Jean and Wendy married, the Quilter's provided two building plots for the girls and each had bungalows built - Balai Kita and Crossways (built by local builder, Ken Housman).
Vera Quilter ran a poultry business on the remaining land behind Glendale with her sister Ethel (who had married locally and became Mrs. Cole), they shared ownership of the land. They later decided to sell further building plots now occupied by Holmfield (built 1966 by Mr. Syred), Ash House (developed by Mr. Arnold) and the semi-detached, Hunters End and Sussex Lodge (built by Mr. Syred).
Finally, two houses by the church and the plot of Nevasa, were developed in the late eighties by Skandi Hus and Mr. Kelly and thus only one plot remains vacant, still owned by Mrs. Cole.
Over the years the road surface deteriorated badly but residents voluntarily made running repairs. Eventually, however, it was clear that it would be beneficial to make a tarmaced and kerbed roadway with proper surface drainage provision. This was achieved under the leadership of Mr. T. Clark of Kennesis and a willing body of resident labourers in the mid-fifties. A very professional result was achieved with the final tarmac being laid by a local contractor. Since then, financed by an annual subscription paid by each household, the road surface has been well maintained and in the early nineties the actual legal transfer of ownership of the verge and road area was achieved, thanks to the diligent efforts of Mr. C. Sibley of Felbridge Cottage. Now the ownership is shared by all households in equal part and an annual meeting ensures a democratic control over the maintenance and financing of the road surface.
It may be noted here that The Limes pond is not part of The Limes Estate, but is technically on common land, supervised by Surrey County Council, but effectively overseen by Tandridge District Council and not by The Limes residents.
10. The Limes Estate 1990 - 2004
One vacant plot remains often the subject of speculative thought and presumably one day to be built on. For the remaining houses, the story is essentially one of ongoing extensions and improvements, such that in the case of some of the Heselden houses it is not easy to pick out the original style. Suffice it to say that the design and construction has stood the test of time and the Heselden houses remain testament to the quality of a well-run, local, family, business.
The road surface and verges are well maintained and the whole, The Limes, remains a fine example of a peaceful suburban scene, an apparently random mix of houses, but whose style and location hides an interesting story of land evolution going back to the seventeenth century and the creation then of The Felbridge Park Estate.
Census Records 1881, 1891, 1901.
Sales Catalogue for the Felbridge Place Estate, 1911.
FHG Bulletin November 2003. Dr. Charles Henry Gatty
History of East Grinstead by M. Leppard.
Felbridge Parish and People : Felbridge Parish Council, 1999.
Sales Catalogue for Felbridge Place Estate, 1914.
The Homefinder Magazine, 1932.
Bourd Map of the Evelyn Estate, 1748.
Wards Farm Sale Catalogue, 1936.
Deed between East Grinstead Company and W.M. Heselden, 22.10.1930.
Felbridge Place Indenture Plan, 1856.
Rogue Map, 1768.
Chartham Park Sale Catalogue, 1978.
Appendix 1: The Lime Tree
It is not known what the original Limes may have been at Felbridge Place but the two surviving trees near the lodge in Copthorne Road appear to be of the Common variety. They would be younger than the chestnut trees planted by Mr. Eveyln and were probably planted during the Gatty ownership.
Most lime trees in England are Common Limes, but there are also two kinds of native lime, the Small-Leafed and the Large-Leafed. In fact, the Common Lime is thought to be a hybrid between these two.
In the winter it is not easy to separate the three types as all carry a cluster of vigorous shoots around the base of the trunk and there are red buds on the reddish brown twigs. However, in summer they can be easily distinguished since the difference in the leaves is pronounced.
On the Small-Leafed Lime, the distance between the stalk and the top of the leaf is between one and three inches, while on the Common Lime it is between three and six inches.
The leaves on the Large-Leafed Lime are about the same size as those of the Common Lime but they are noticeably more hairy on the underside. The fallen leaves are difficult to identify in winter as they are very crumbly and rapidly disappear.
Appendix 2: The Heselden Houses, Building Materials And Services
Any excavation of ground in The Limes reveals sandstone/shale at about two feet depth. Accordingly, in the thirties, the foundations of the houses did not go down too deeply although none are known to have reported problems with subsidence or settlement. This is probably helped by the fact that there is no surface water drainage down the road and all rain water is taken to soakaways, which help to keep the sub-soil moist and less likely to shrink in hot summers.
The Heselden family did brickwork, plumbing and carpentry, and other trades were brought in, as necessary.
The houses have an inner breezeblock lining behind the brick outer shell and it is believed that these very purple and friable breezeblocks may have been made from old steam engine clinker. The mortar is a traditional lime type, which can show some weakness and the galvanised ties between block and brick shells have not always survived.
The damp proof course is invariably of slate, generally effective, with plenty of airbricks.
The outer brick walls were of good quality. Freshfield Lane facing bricks were used for the front elevation, but less expensive flettons to the sides and back. The front elevation was often plaster rendered on the upper storey, usually with superficial timber joists to give the mock Tudor effect. Window frames were wooden with leaded glazing and the roofs were concrete tiled on a close-boarded frame.
The initial services included mains water from the East Surrey Water Company and main electricity from the East Grinstead Urban District Council then, later on, Seeboard.
Sewerage was originally into septic tanks but the whole road is now on the mains; surface water goes to soakaways. Mains gas is a more recent installation along the road, together with the telephone service.