The history of Chobham Park is long and interesting. It has been, at various times a manor house, a royal hunting lodge, a country estate, a tenant farm, a country house and finally a country estate again.
The Abbots Manor House
Chobham Park first appears in the records in 1535 when Henry VIII purchased it from the Abbot of Chertsey. Henry VIII obtained the ' manor of Chobham', that is its manor house from which we can deduce that Chobham Park was at the time the Abbot's manor house in Chobham.
See the page on the history of the manors for further details.
Domesday tells us that the Abbot had approximately 40 hectares for his use at Chobham; could this have surrounded his manor house?
The Cartulary tells us that Abbot John Rutherwyck was busy in his manor at Chobham:
The dates in brackets are those given in the Lansdowne version of the Cartulary.
The reference to 'running water around his manor' is generally thought to indicate some sort of moat. In medieval times, moats were usually status symbols rather than for defence. However the Abbot's need to later supplement his moat with an 'earthen wall' is interesting. This may be a reference to a bank and ditch boundary for the whole estate.
During all this building and 'stopping up', the Cartulary records that the Abbot built a new mill called Hurst Mill (in 1308 and again in 1339). We don't know the site of this mill but since it was obviously the Abbot's then it should have been built on his own lands. If at his manor house, then most likely where the streams from Langshot and Gracious Pond join just to the east or present-day Chobham Park House. It is usually accepted that the Abbot stopped up Gracious Pond to make a fish pond but if he did build a mill at Chobham Park then Gracious Pond (and perhaps Glovers Pond) may have functioned, instead or also, as, albeit rather remote, mill ponds. It is interesting that the building of the mill and the stopping up of Gracious Pond were done in the same year.
The Surrey Heath Archaeological & Heritage Trust have investigated the water courses and the possible site of a moat - see here
Abbots of Chertsey had importance in the land and liked to demonstrate their status by with moated manor houses and hunting parks. The abbot certainly had an enclosed hunting park in Egham. The Chertsey Cartulary refers to 'Le Perke' in Chobham which appears to be a hunting park but associates it with John de Arderne ( of Aden?) and Richard Pentecost (manor of Pankhurst?). 1 Vol XII 812. There is no mention in the Cartulary of a hunting park at Chobham used by the Abbot or attached to Chobham Manor. 'Le Parrok', a term which was used for a hunting park, is mentioned several times but refers to an enclosure of just a few hectares. However, the reference in the Cartulary to the Abbot constructing an 'earthen wall about the manor' may refer to the construction of a banked pale around his park.
Henry VIII, like monarchs of that time, was in the habit of touring during the Summer. Scheuller reports "In a letter dated September 1514: The King went to Oatlands and there in the meads under Chertsey was killing stags holden in for the purpose, one after another all the afternoon, although they were warned by the trumpets and made known thereby if they did enter any deer of prize . . . and on Thursday the King lyted at Byfleet and from there I took my leave and from Oatlands he removes to Chobham or Woking, I know not whether the first and then to Guildford and so on to Windsor." You can view the Friends of Woking Palace's website by clicking here www.woking-palace.org
If Henry was in the habit of visiting Chobham, we can be reasonably confident that there was a palace or hunting park here to attract him. There is no record of a palace so it is likely that he stayed at the Abbots manor house and park at Chobham Park.
A Royal Hunting Lodge
Henry owned Woking Palace and in the following years he acquired and built a whole string of other residences. In 1525 the King acquired Hampton Court Palace from Cardinal Wolsey. In 1538 he built, or rebuilt, Oatlands Park at Weybridge - it is said as a present for Anne of Cleeves, his arranged bride. In 1535, two years before Chertsey Abbey was dissolved, Henry VIII obtained the manor house in Chobham. "The chief messuage (house) of the manor of Chobham, called Chobham Park, was granted to the king by John Cordrey, Abbot of Chertsey"
Since this record comes from 1535 (Patent Roll of Letters, 27th of Henry VIII , pt.ii, m. 28-29) it appears to indicate that the estate was, at the time of the transaction, known as Chobham Park and would therefore have been a hunting park.
Henry very quickly extended the hunting park to approximately 500 acres. Robbie Schueller tells us that "John Weever, writing in 1631, has this to say about this transaction:
Services done by the said Cromwell unto King Henry the eight, within a few yeares after his first coming into the favour and service of the said king, copied out of the Original written with his own hand, and now remaining in the Treasury of the Exchequer.
This might give another clue as to whether Chobham Park was already a park but unfortunately is ambiguous - was a park made of the manor? or of the 'certain other lands in Chobham'?
Henry visited, and maybe hunted, in his park at Chobham in 1538 and again in 1542. 2, Vol III p415 Each visit was preceded by an army of workers whose job it was to move the huge tented and prefabricated village that travelled around with Henry. Click on the top left margin to read a detailed account of this work.
There is no mention in these accounts of anything which may suggest a permanent house at Chobham Park: merely a reference to the King's lodgings. However, James Nedeham, Henry VIII’s ‘Surveyor of the King’s Works’, in his account books for Chobham Park recorded the making of a pair of steps “going forth of the kitchen down to the moat”. which suggests that we definitely have a moat by this date and that the moat was close by a house - a permanent one else the making of the steps would not be worth recording?
By 1539, Henry had become to unwieldy for taking an active part in hunting. He was in the habit of viewing the chase and the coursing of hares from a raised 'standing'.3 p145 By 1546, or possibly the year before, Henry began using a special chair or `tram' with shafts back and front, something akin to the later Sedan chair, in which he was carried from room to room when his legs were weak.4 Chobham Park's attraction to the King may seem strange; it was very small compared to say Windsor Forest, Richmond Park or even Guildford Park. But the King was well past the days when he needed enough land to ride all day in pursuit of the prey.
Neither Henry's son Edward, or his successor Mary, are thought robust enough to have taken an active part in hunting.
Michael Evans, the present owner, commissioned an historical survey of the house and the lives of its previous inhabitants - this can be read in full by following the 'Essay' hyperlink in the top left margin. Some of what follows is a summary of the main historical points.
The history of the names applied to this site is very confusing. On the first edition of the ordnance survey map of 1870, for example, it appears as Chobham Park. On a map of 1914 it is Chobham Park Farm. It also appears in records as Chobham Farm and as Park Farm.
A Country Estate
Henry’s daughter, Queen Mary, sold the house in July 1558 to her chancellor, Nicholas Heath [1501c-1578], Archbishop of York, for £3,000. This seems to be an extraordinary amount for a house at the time; for instance, in the late 16th century the large and imposing Loseley House was built in Bargate stone for about £1640. And again, in 1629, Charles I sold Guildford Park, which at 1620 acres was three times larger and in a more prosperous area, to John Murray, Earl of Annandale for £5000 including its freehold and tenements.
We can gain an impression of the appearance of the house by examining other high-status houses drawn on Norden's map of this area in 1610.5 p227 Important houses of this date were usually built in brick, but if the house was that constructed by the Abbot then, like Guildford Park, it may have been timber framed under a tiled roof. Roofs have gable ends and most have chimneys. Similar buildings in the county tended to have several buildings, or where there was only one have a courtyard with ranges along three of four sides. Many had two storeys but several have three - the top floor having dormer windows as with the current house. About half the houses were moated and on average occupied about half of the island. The buildings of manor houses of this status would be expected to cover about 700 square metres of ground. Excavations at Guildford Park show that the moat had hard inner and outer revetments; the inner set on substantial foundations. Norden's maps show some detail of Chobham Park - a stream, a pond, a dam and the pale: but do not show a house!
Mary's successor, her half sister Elizabeth, visited Heath several times at Chobham Park. Elizabeth could outride many of her courtiers but we don't know if she hunted in the Park.
On the death of Archbishop Heath, his Chobham manor house and estate passed to Heath's nephew, Thomas, who forfeited both, probably for religious dissent, but ultimately had them restored to him. In 1606 he conveyed them to Francis Leigh [d.1653] afterwards 1st Earl of Chichester.
Leigh kept his estates at Chobham only about a year before selling on to Anthony Cope.
Norden and Speed’s map of 1610 shows Chobham Park enclosed by a pale and therefore probably still functioning as a hunting park.
In 1614, the eleventh year of the reign of James I, Cope disposed of his interest to William Hale. In the course of time, the old manor house was inherited by Hale’s son, John Hale, who conveyed it in 1654 to Henry Henn, whose descendants were still in possession in 1681.
For much of the Henn family’s ownership the house was sub-let. One of these sub-lessees, James Martin, was a prosperous East India merchant. His son, John, also an East India merchant, afterwards purchased the estate.
We do not know why, or even exactly when, the old manor house on this site was pulled down and the park broken up, no documents surviving. It was probably at the end of the seventeenth century or at the beginning of the eighteenth century. It will be remembered that the buildings’ inspectors attached to the Department of the Environment put the date of the present house at 1700, although this is no more than an approximation. It could have been constructed twenty or even thirty years either side of this date. Steve Dyer has reported that 30,000 bricks from Woking Palace were used in its construction.
James Martin’s son, John, who may have been responsible for this rebuilding, was in possession of the Chobham Park estate in 1720, the year he conveyed it to John Crawley, ‘late of Doctors’ Commons’, the colloquial name for the College of Advocates and Doctors of Law situated near St. Paul’s Cathedral.
A Tenant Farm
Between 1734 and 1752 Chobham Park House is said to have been owned by Mr Revel MP. In 1777, Revel’s granddaughter married the 7th Viscount Bulkeley of Cashel [1752-1822]. Curiously, although Lord Bulkeley still owned the Chobham Park House Estate at the time of his death in 1822, the land tax returns for 1798 show the ‘owner’ as Sir William Abdy bt., and the tenant farmer as James Collyer, who paid annual land tax for it of £19 13s 0d. Although this anomaly cannot be resolved, it is quite possible that the Abdy family held a sub interest in the property and estate.
Between 1810 and 1822 the owner was Lord Bulkeley and the tenant farmer Maurice Burchet. When Lord Bulkeley died in 1822 he bequeathed Chobham Park House to his nephew, Sir Richard Williams Bulkeley [1801-1874c] M.P. for Anglesey and Lord Lieutenant of Carnarvon. However, the usage and benefits continued with the 7th Viscount’s widow, Elizabeth, until her death at Englefield Green on 23 February 1826 aged sixty-six. At this date the tenant farmer in physical occupation of Chobham Park House was John Daborn.
In 1838 Sir Richard Williams Bulkeley sold the Chobham Place Estate, including Chobham Park House, to the politician, Sir Denis Le Marchant [1795-1874]. We know that Denis Le Marchant was born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 3 July 1795.
By the time the census came to be taken in 1841, the tenant farmer John Daborn had been replaced here by his 48-year-old son, also called John, who was still residing here a decade later in April 1851. At that date, Chobham Park House, still known as ‘Park Farm’. Daborn gave his age as fifty-eight, his place of birth as ‘Chobham’ and his occupation as ‘farmer of two hundred and twenty-five acres employing nine men’. He shared Chobham Park House with his wife, Anne 48, and with their seven children: Frances 22, Ann 18, Elizabeth 17, George 16, Frederick 14, Caroline 11 and Sarah 9. In April 1851 Daborn was also accommodating three of his family-less farm labourers: James Smithers 29, Frederick Turner 19 and the widowed James Waller 40.
Chobham Park House would have been a relatively modest dwelling by modern standards - although not by the standards then existing. It is unlikely to have been short on creature comforts, but one suspects there was no false show. Chobham Park House would have been a rambling, somewhat inconvenient, but essentially comfortable place. Daborn and his family lived cheek-by-jowl with the sights, sounds and smells of the farmyard.
We know that John Daborn was solidly based - both in the community and within the freemasonry of agriculture. Evidence suggests that he was probably a gentleman farmer - hardly distinguishable from the local gentry and sharing with them the pleasures of the hunt. Given that he employed nine agricultural labourers, a relatively large workforce, one suspects that he was not the kind of farmer who worked alongside his labourers in the fields, in his smock coat.
Like all farmhouses, Chobham Park House would have been divided into two areas - one for service, one for living. The former would have included rooms for brewing, dairying and laundering. At the very least, the latter would have been represented by a parlour - used on high days and holidays, and for funerals. Bridging the two and serving as the chief focus for the house would have been the kitchen where, sooner or later, all occupants met.
Certain items were basic to all farmhouse kitchens: a robust long table, for example, large enough to seat all the household. Chairs of ladderback or spindle back were common, as were Windsor chairs. Alternative seating was provided by the settle, which was invariably placed beside the kitchen fire, where its back served as a screen against the scything draughts drawn up the chimney. Another essential item was the kitchen dresser, loaded with earthenware such as Staffordshire, which by the Daborns’ day had replaced the pewter of an earlier age.
At night the farmhouse would have been lit by candles, and from about 1850 by paraffin lamps.
John Daborn died about 1869, at which date he would have been about seventy-six years of age. In 1871 his widow, Ann, was running the farm of two hundred and twenty acres with her son, Frederick, and with the assistance of ten men and six boys. She seems to have sat at the head of a very labour-intensive operation because in an era which saw the increased use of mechanisation, she employed a workforce almost twice that previously employed by her husband in order to farm five acres less.
The county directories for 1877 show Chobham Park House, then known as Park Farm, in the occupation of William Tice, who was employed as farm bailiff and land steward to Sir Henry Denis Le Marchant bt., of Chobham Place. Tice, whose family was also associated with nearby Gracious Pond Farm, was still residing here in April 1881 when he gave his age as thirty-three and his place of birth as ‘Puttenham, Surrey’.
William Tice continued at Chobham Park House until about 1908, the year in which he is thought to have died.
The Le Marchants found a new tenant for the property in the person of William Laurence, the last of the old-style tenant farmers to occupy Chobham Park House.
A Country House
In 1908 Chobham Park House was greatly altered and extended to convert it into a residence suitable for an Edwardian gentleman. It was purchased by Aynesely E. Greenwell, a gentleman of private means, who moved here from Stanner’s Hill Manor. About 1920 Greenwell sold the house to a widow-lady named Ryland-Smith, who in turn sold it before 1930 to G. du Vallon, of whom nothing is known other than that he may have been of French extraction.
By 1934 Chobham Park House had been purchased by Captain [afterwards Major-General] Ririd Myddleton [1902-1988] who was probably responsible for the improvements, alterations and extensions carried out to the property two years later.
About 1947 Chobham Park House was acquired from Major Myddleton by his friend and fellow Guards officer, Sir Coles John Child [1906-1971] 2nd bt. Child was a Major in the Coldstreams. He and his wife, Lady Sheila, occupied the house until the mid-1960s.
In 1968 Sir Cranley Onslow and his wife Lady June acquired the house - thought to be worth £50,000. In 1965, Onslow, who was then lord of Chobham Manor, transferred the manorial lands to Surrey County Council; thus Chobham Park missed becoming the manor house again by just six years - DS
By 1985 the Onslows had departed and the electoral registers were showing Brian Ledson, of the Period Property Register, his wife, Judy and their son, Ben as the voters recorded for Chobham Park House. The house was said to be worth £150,000.
The Ledsons sold on about 1986 to the entrepreneur, Anthony Tiarks for £0.5M. In 1989, during restoration, a fire damaged two floors and the roof of the north wing of the house.
A Country Estate
In 1996 Anthony and Lesley Tiarks sold Chobham Park House to Michael and Francesca Evans. In mid 2001 Michael and Francesca bought Chobham Park Farm and Chobham Park Cottage as well as the associated riding stables and some fifty acres of land. This brings Chobham Park back to its original form prior to it being broken up in the early part of the twentieth century.