Foxbury is the estate of the Chislehurst Tiarks family. Building of the house started in 1875 on Upper Broomfield within an estate of 57 acres of land acquired from the owner of Kemnal Manor, which stood to the north. It was completed in 1877, and is described in The History of Chislehurst as a “fine mansion, beautifully situated on an eminence”.
The main architect was David Brandon (whose name is on the watercolour of Foxbury reproduced above, by kind permission of Henrietta, Duchess of Bedford). He had been vice president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and had won the RIBA silver medal in 1832 when he was only 19 years old.
The design of the house is a mixture; some gothic, some tudor, some modern. The cost of the building was £22,000, and was carried out by a local firm, Hill, Higgs & Hill. An article in The Builder in July 1881 described the house:
“The mansion is erected upon an estate of sixty acres, on rising ground to the right of the Kemnal-road, Chislehurst. The external walls are built hollow, with Hassock stone rubble-work, faced on the outside with Kentish rag-stone laid in random courses, with a rock face, and lined on the inside with brickwork in cement. The masonry of the cornices, windows, doorways, &c., is of Combe-Down Bath stone, and the roofs are covered with Broseley tiles. The corridors throughout are of fire-proof construction, upon Fox & Barrett’s principle. The principal rooms have been decorated with enriched paneled ceilings and characteristic high mantelpieces of oak, cedar, and walnut, inlaid with other woods, and the walls of the dining-room are lined with wood framing of pitch-pine.
The principal entrance is on the east side, through an enclosed porch, paved with marble mosaic executed by Messrs. Burke & Co., leading into the entrance-hall, which is separated from the corridors and principal staircase by arcades of Portland stone.
The principal staircase, which is 19ft. 6in. square and 27ft. high has a wainscot oak staircase of three flights, protected by balustrades of pierced strapwork, with large newels at the landings, surmounted by heraldic animals after the fashion of those at Hatfield House and other houses of similar date. The staircase windows are filled with grisailled glass, having armorial medallions in the centre of the lights, carried out by Messrs. Heaton, Butler & Bayne.
On the first floor, which is 11ft. high, there are eleven bedrooms and dressing rooms, with three bathrooms, the servants’ bedrooms being arranged over the offices.
The basement-storey is appropriated for the heating apparatus, wine, beer, and coal cellars, icehouse, &c.
The approach-roads and gardens were laid out by Mr. Milner, and lodges are placed at the junction of the carriage-drives with the Kemnal-road. The stables and kitchen-garden, with gardener’s cottage and extensive greenhouses, are arranged on ground to the north-east of the mansion.”
The building of the house was conceived when Samuel Asser bought the house and grounds of Kemnal Manor from New College Oxford in 1871. He carved out 57 acres of the grounds, created appropriate rights of way to enable the building of a large house, and offered the land for sale in 1874. At this time, many wealthy London merchants were building themselves grand houses in the country near London, including the partners of J Henry Schroder, one of the fast growing new merchant banks, whose success was based on the growth of international trade.
Henry Tiarks was at the time a young partner in Schroders, and was living with his family in Balham, South London. He jumped at the chance to build himself a large new house, and brought his 33 year old wife, Agnes, to Chislehurst in April 1874. She noted the visit in her diary: (“To Kemnal. Lovely woods and songbirds.”). Henry bought the land a few weeks later, on May 23rd, for around £20,000. It took a further year for the building of house to start, on May 26 1875, when their eldest son, five year old Harry, laid the first stone. (An old photograph taken from Foxberry Hill, above, shows Foxbury being built in the background, and it is very possible that the family is Agnes and her children) Nearly two years later, in April 1877, the house was handed over to their newly appointed housekeeper, and on June 14 Henry, Agnes and their six young children moved into the house.
With some understatement, Agnes noted “Arrived at Foxbury at 6. Dinner at 7. Sat on the terrace. Tea in Billiard Room.” The house was now to be home for a family of 13, a complement of 20 or so house servants, and a regular train of family, friends, guests and business associates, not to mention a menagerie of dogs, cats and birds. It was to remain the family home for another 60 years.
Agnes kept a diary throughout her life at Foxbury, and from her diaries we are able to create a sense of life at Foxbury up to her death in 1923, at the age of 83. She was renowned for her absent-mindedness, and even her obituary noted that “her left hand knew not what her right hand did”, so we need to take her recollections with that in mind.
The young Tiarks family
Henry and Agnes married in 1862. Six children, Margaret, Alice, Harry, Edith, Frank and Herman, were born to them before they moved to Foxbury. In their new house they completed their family, with five more girls, Nellie, Agnes, Sophie, Mattie and finally Rika, who was born at Foxbury in 1883. It appears to have been a loving family, with Agnes doting on her children. Her diaries record their illnesses, broken limbs, successes and triumphs, their pets and their friends. It also records the death of their eldest son in 1893, an event which all but broke his parents’ hearts. In 1890 Margaret, the eldest daughter, was married and left home, to be followed by her brothers and five of her sisters over the next few years. Some lived locally, and all would visit regularly to stay for a few days or even weeks with their own growing families. (For more information on the lives of the individual members of the Tiarks family, click here).
While young, the children were taught at home in the house schoolroom/library. It is an indication of the family’s philanthropic nature that these classes were also attended by other local children including those of the families who worked on the estate. Even after her own children had grown up, Agnes allowed the schoolroom to continue for the children on the estate and nearby, with Agnes and daughter Sophie often taking on the role of teacher. Later two of the boys went on to public school, and Herman went on to Oxford. The girls did not.
In addition to Henry and Agnes’s own children, the house was a focal point for their wider families. Agnes had two extended families of her own, since she had been adopted as a child, while Henry was one of five children, all of whom had large families. As a result it was a rare week when some relative or other was not a house guest, and indeed from time to time some became almost permanent residents. Henry’s brother John moved there from Loxton after his wife died, until he himself died, sadly depressed in 1902. As time went on, their family members, particularly their own children, brought their friends to the house, and when they themselves married, they would regularly come to visit and bring their own ever extending families. Indeed many of Agnes’s 23 grandchildren were born at Foxbury. The Tiarks obviously found it difficult to part from old trusted servants, and provided lifetime accommodation for at least two of their servants, after they had retired. Harriet Hide, the family nurse, had been taken on by the family before they came to Foxbury, and was still alive, living permanently at Foxbury, and occasionally working, when Agnes died.
Clearly Foxbury was a very hectic place for most of the time, and one can see why twenty servants will have been kept very busy. They also had to look after the many family pets: “Margaret’s black greyhound, Raglan…Rabbits and guinea pigs on the lawn…New donkey with foal for Mattie…Two parrots came…Persian kittens”, and at times this got rather fraught “Wasp [the dog] had a fit and was killed – my fear of hydrophobia.”
There were times when relative quiet descended on the house. In the early days, Henry and his wife would take up to three holidays each year. The longest would be to Europe, without the younger children, covering over the years most of the itinerary of the old Grand Tour. Their second holiday would be to the Kent seaside during six weeks or so of the summer months. Their third holiday was to the West Country, taking in Devon, Somerset and surrounding areas. Eventually they bought a property there, Loxton Lodge, which they would visit at times throughout the year.
The layout and use of the house
Foxbury was a home to a large family and an even larger group of single servants. How did they live in the house?
During the day the family had use of the large ground floor rooms in the main house. These included the double drawing room, study, dining room, morning room, library and billiards room. A conservatory was added in the 1900s on the south side of the house, and the large entrance hall was also used, and not only for morning prayers and hymns. Photographs taken in July 1910 by Mr Lemere of some of these rooms (and of the outside of the house, following the laying of the new west terrace) are reproduced below. The full album can be seen here...
An earlier album, dating from 1886 has also been located, with photographs taken by S.G. Buchanan Wollaston. This is held by a great-great grandniece of Agnes Tiarks, now living in New South Wales, Australia, who has been in contact with us and generously provided us with copies of the images, and of the contents of the diaries of Agnes' brother, Albert. Click here for images.
The youngest children will have spent quite some time in the day nursery on the first floor. At night the family of thirteen would retire to their seven bedrooms (and one night nursery), though it is possible that some of the four additional dressing rooms might have been used as bedrooms at some stages. There were only two bathrooms. Most of the rooms had open fire places and Agnes records the first autumn days when the first fires were lit each year. Lighting the fires and maintaining them must have been a full time job in the winter months.
The indoor servants also had rooms on both floors. The housekeeper and the butler had their own small rooms on the ground floor in the east wing by the kitchens. There was a large servants’ hall. This was where the servants would eat and relax when they had the chance to do so. In 1911 (from an inventory following Henry’s death) the hall contained four tables, eighteen Windsor chairs and two easy chairs. There were a number of servants’ bedrooms, including individual bedrooms for the cook, nurse, butler and housekeeper. The two footmen shared a room and the remaining fourteen or so maids shared five other bedrooms. It is likely that one or more of the nursery maids slept in the night nursery, and the two ladies maids may have slept close to their charges, in the dressing rooms.
There were almost continual changes to the fabric and facilities of the house during the forty six years that Agnes lived there. A conservatory was built; new terracing was introduced; new plumbing was introduced after the cholera scares in London; electric lights and later telephones were installed as soon as the new technology was introduced. Indeed the family seemed to be very interested in new technology. Various makes of gramophones are mentioned in Agnes’s diaries in the 1890s, and vacuum cleaners were purchased as soon as they were invented. Frank is said to have been the first in Chislehurst to own a motor car, and by 1914 all the children had their own cars. One of Agnes’s loves was astronomy, and she had telescopes installed at the house and at Loxton. It was she who introduced her grandson Henry to astronomy, a hobby which he pursued throughout his long life.
The estate contained a working farm, stables, woods for shooting, as well as pleasure grounds and lakes.
The largest part of the estate was given over to farming. There were fields for pasture, and haymaking in the summer. Every year Agnes noted the start and end of the haymaking on Foxberry Hill, when the family and all the servants would help to bring in the hay in favourable weather.
The 1911 inventory showed the farm animals at that time. The list included 8 cows, 6 heifers and calves, a boar, 2 porkers, 2 sows and 18 young pigs, and 250 head of poultry. There were no sheep recorded there, but we know that 25 sheep were bought in 1884, 24 shortly after Henry’s death, and 30 in 1913, so sheep rearing was an important part of the farm. The farm became even more important during the First World War, when rationing was introduced, and the farm had to be run on economic lines. Frank, Agnes’s eldest surviving son, took control to ensure it was a viable enterprise.
Chislehurst was regarded then, as indeed some regard it now, as being in the country. Frank and Herman spent much of their time hunting and shooting, and it was clearly a passion for both of them. They kept a pack of beagle hounds for some years, and until the First World War, kept horses both for polo and for hunting. In 1914, Frank sent his two horses to the army at Aldershot, which must have been a great loss for him.
Additions to the estate at Foxbury were made from time to time. The most significant was the acquisition of the Homewood Estate shortly before the outbreak of war, which provided additional farmland, but more importantly, more polo grounds and hunting land.
Agnes was always happy to be at home, ready to throw herself into family and social life at Chislehurst. She was part of the circle of Victorian women who would call on their neighbours and acquaintances, usually in the afternoons, and in turn she would be called upon on a regular basis. Her diaries list a litany of such regular visits, often with one or more of her daughters. She and Henry regularly received invitations to dine at neighbours, and in turn gave dinners, often for twelve or so at a time. Many of these included their neighbours in Kemnal Road. We occasionally get a glimpse of how well the dinner went (“Mar 9 1882: Dinner at Mrs Forbes – Manor Park Road – dull”), and also the entertainment that was part of the evening (“May 11 – Mr Ries. Dinner Party – Fosters, Simons, Worsleys, Adams, Sewells – I played minuet.”). Agnes lists the people she dined with, so we see some of the interaction of the households both in Kemnal Road, and across Chislehurst at that time. There were numerous tea parties for younger children, and dances for the older ones (“Jan 19 1898: Fancy dress dance at Camden House. Mattie – Egypt, Rika – Britannia”) and for the adults. Foxbury was very much part of Chislehurst “society”.
The servants were not ignored. They were invited to join the family for drinks on Christmas Eve, for prayers and hymns on Sunday mornings, and were taken to the pantomime each January. They were also taken to events such as the Crystal Palace Exhibition: “Feb 7 1882: Servants to Crystal Palace in ‘bus with three horses”.
As Henry and Agnes grew older, and particularly after Henry died, there were fewer social events mentioned. Most dinners then were with family or close friends, and there are few signs of Agnes being invited to dine on her own. But there was a least one garden party each year, to which 250 or so people would be invited, and an afternoon in the summer for the Sunday School children. Later Sophie and Agnes would organise events for the Boys Club, the local Scouts, and injured soldiers from Frognal, Holbrook and other local hospitals during the First World War years.
Agnes with Nellie (Anne in pram), Ramona, Frank and Edward
Music was an important part of the family’s life. They would hire a local band to play at the lighting of the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, and again on Harry’s birthday, Jan 2nd. There were at least two Broadwood pianos in the house, and the family acquired the latest of the different gramophone players developed in the 1890s and early 20th Century. It is clear that music making was taken seriously, with some children quite proficient. Harry, the eldest son, appears to have been a very capable violinist, and Agnes herself had regular lessons and accompanied her children and also dinner guests who are reported as having sung after dinner (“May 4 1886: Dinner party – played “Chanson d’Amour”. Balmes sang.”). In their early married life Henry and Agnes would regularly go to the Opera and to concerts, the Monday Pops being a regular feature at the Queens Hall in London. At Christmas time, there would be dancing, (“Dec 25 1913: The servants are dancing with new gramophone. 15 at dinner. Dancing after dinner.“), although there are few references to Agnes herself dancing.
The family and their guests seem to have enjoyed their drink, according to the state of the wine cellar in 1911. There were 1,850 bottles in the cellars, including 269 bottles of champagne, 82 bottles of spirits, 778 bottles of port, sherry or Madeira, and 721 bottles of still wines, mainly clarets and hocks.
Involvement in Chislehurst
The Tiarks were well known, and by all accounts, well liked in Chislehurst society. Henry was a benefactor of the Church, particularly at St Nicholas'. The young couple had some initial difficulty with the high church nature of the worship at St Nicholas. Before they had moved to Chislehurst they paid a visit to the church, and Agnes recorded in her diary for July 11 1875: “Mr Murray’s Church – bowing and crossings”. But they obviously overcome their concerns, since Henry was appointed Church Warden, a position he retained for 25 years until his death. He also provided financial support to the Church, assisting, for example, in the founding of the Men’s Club in Bull Lane, now Easden’s. Henry also contributed to the building of the Annunciation Church, and of Christ Church in Lubbock Road, both of which the family would attend from time to time. He was on the Parish Council, a founding member of the Chislehurst Conservators, a trustee of the Cottage Hospital in Orpington, and President of the Chrysanthemum Society, at which annual show he was often a prize winner.
Outside the church, the family was involved in other aspects of village life. Agnes’s diaries relate how their children performed at the regular concerts and plays given at the Village Hall, “Dec 29 1894: Edith, Frank Herman and Nell acting at Village Hall.” They also attended events there on a regular basis. Agnes also notes the celebrations in the village that marked events such as coronations, war news or the Queen’s Jubilee in 1897: “June 20: Jubilee of the Queen’s reign. Jun 22: Chislehurst schools and village enfete.” Special mention must be made here of Sophie Tiarks, who appeared tireless in her support and involvement in good causes. She helped found and then ran the village Boy’s Club in her early 20’s (“Oct 16 1905: Henry opened new Boys’ Club. Oct 17: Sophie’s Club began”) and later the Boy Scouts Troop. She was also involved with a range of charitable works organized through the church, but most remarkable of all was her work after 1914 with the Red Cross in caring for the injured troops who were sent to Chislehurst (“Oct 14: Sophie summoned at midnight to prepare for wounded. She and others scrubbing Holbrook House. They arrived at 10am. Beds, blankets, tables. Oct 15: Sophie to decorate church and then to her Red Cross work at Holbrook.”) Agnes also records how Sophie made herself ill as a result, at one stage being out of action for a month. She was later made Commandant of the local Red Cross Association.
We know that Frank was one of the first people in Chislehurst to own a car. He acquired it in May 1901, and over the next fifteen years all of the children had their own cars, and even Agnes was able to drive, though it would appear that she was not the safest of drivers: “ Jul 16 1918: Driving to station with Matty, I ran over a small boy’s foot.” Agnes was a week short of her 78th birthday.
Henry had never owned or driven a motor car, though he had enjoyed being driven by Frank. He was a man of the horse-drawn era, and at the time of his death the household had seven different carriages and six carriage horses. These were:
• Brougham (a closed four wheeled carriage, with driver’s compartment),
• Station brougham (a smaller and faster version),
• Landau (an open topped carriage with hoods that could be opened and closed),
• Omnibus (a closed vehicle with bench seats for up to twelve people),
• Wagonnette (an open version of the omnibus),
• Sleigh, and
• Luggage Cart.
Later Agnes would have a pony cart for her use, which with only two wheels was light and fast, and she was still using this up to the time of her death.
Weather at Foxbury
Perhaps the area most frequently commented on by Agnes in her diaries is the weather. She kept rain gauges and records of temperatures, and on most days in her diaries she notes the state of the weather. The winters were colder with significantly more snow than today, hence the need by the family for a horse drawn sleigh. Snow would often be recorded as early as October, and as late as April, and would lie for long periods. There are many references to skating on the frozen ponds during the winter months, and it would appear to have been a feature of the social calendar to be seen there when the opportunity arose.
The occasional long hot spells in summer were seen as something of a burden, rather than normal, though when the weather was hot, the family seems to have been happy to take the opportunity to bathe in the lakes at Foxbury, or later at Frank’s pool at Woodheath.
Health and illness at Foxbury
Their wealth provided some protection against illness and disease for the members of the family, and indeed their servants, and it is remarkable that all Agnes’s eleven children survived childhood, and that she had only one still-born child, in 1871. But the family still suffered. Henry and Agnes suffered regularly from sore throats and tooth-ache, which would last for several days. She would refer often to Henry as suffering from quinsy (an abscess between the back of the tonsil and the wall of the throat), which would need to be lanced. Over the years all the children would suffer from measles, german measles, mumps, and scarlet fever. Agnes records tonsils being removed, and regular visits to the dentist.
Harry appears to have been a particularly sickly child, with a string of ailments, though this may because, as the eldest son, he was particularly doted on by his mother. Herman was also prone to illness, and in adult life had a very bad attack of pleurisy, which incapacitated him for many months in 1915. There were also a number of accidents in the family, the most serious of which was Herman’s broken arm, after falling off his horse Beauty in September 1882 when he was only six years old. It took a long time to set, and had to be rebroken and set again. Herman refers it in the first page of his autobiography, commenting that he was never able to bend his arm at the elbow after the accident. If it hadn’t been for his mother’s insistence that he should keep the arm it would have been taken off. This probably accounts for the fact that he never joined the military at any stage in his life.
Henry retired in December 1905, after 57 years at Schroders. He was by now 73 years old, and had been asking to retire for a number of years. Now that Frank was established in the partnership, Baron Schroder felt able to give his consent. Previously Henry had been a healthy man, with few signs of illness other than the perennial sore throats and colds that scourged the family. After his retirement, however, there are regular references in Agnes’s diaries about Henry’s health, and while Henry continued to be active in local matters, and able to travel to Loxton regularly and take other holidays, there are signs that his health was declining. By the beginning of 1911, Henry was being attended on a regular basis by the family doctor, often daily, and in June a male nurse, Mr Brookes, was appointed to provide daily support to Henry. That summer Henry found the heat very difficult, and fell into regular depressions. He died peacefully on October 18, 1911, surrounded by his family.
Under the terms of her husband’s will, Agnes was granted a life interest in Foxbury and Loxton Lodge, (with Frank holding the reversion), plus an annuity of £9,000, after tax, to cover her expenses. After a few small personal gifts (but no legacies to any of the causes that he had supported during his lifetime) the remainder of Henry’s £693,000 estate was divided between his ten surviving children, with the boys getting two-twelfths each, and the girls one-twelfth (around £58,000).
By now all but three of the children had moved out of Foxbury. Frank lived nearby in Chislehurst, and visited his mother daily when he could. Margaret lived in Orpington, and often visited. Alice, Edith, Matty and Rika lived further away and visited less frequently, but would bring their families to Foxbury at least once a year. Herman lived near Loxton, though he visited regularly, as much to be with Frank as with his mother. Sophie, Agnes and Nellie were still at home, unmarried, but by 1917 Nellie had married and left home, leaving only three members of the family at the house.
The Great War at Foxbury
The outbreak of war in 1914 brought many changes to life at Foxbury. The war was also quite difficult for Agnes to come to terms with. The family had strong personal links with Germany, and Schroders had even stronger financial links there, so the impact was emotional and financial. But the effects were also very practical.
The first consequence was that a number of male servants resigned to enlist. Then as more occupations became available for the first time to women, Agnes notes that her female staff are resigning to take up other work. As the war progressed it became increasingly difficult to find and keep servants, and the turnover of servants is much greater than before. The financial impact on Agnes and her family was serious. Her income came from investments left to her by Henry, and from this she had to finance the running of the house and estate. Financial returns fell and the costs of maintenance rose, so that for the first time since her marriage she found herself having to watch her expenditure. This occurred at the same time as the introduction of rationing of food and of coal. Agnes had to release her stocks of food (“Jan 3 1918: Frank came and we talked of our hoarded tea and sugar – have sent 30lbs brown and 20lbs white to the Cottage Hospital – and our tea must be reduced.”). To supplement her income, and also to demonstrate her support for the war effort, the land at Foxbury was converted to produce food which was sold at market. These included butter, eggs, bacon and rabbits. In 1918 rationing became ever more stringent, and Agnes notes the regular visits by Inspectors to ensure that rationing was being followed at Foxbury.
The war years were clearly very anxious ones. Schroders was in deep financial trouble, and almost closed. Frank was very involved in the war effort first at the Bank of England and later at the Admiralty, and the husbands of Agnes’s daughters were all involved to a greater or lesser extent in the fighting. Ralph Lubbock, Margaret’s eldest son was awarded the Military Cross in 1918. Fortunately no members of the immediate family were killed or seriously injured, though Agnes notes a number of local men who were killed in action. The war was experienced more directly at Foxbury once the German Zeppelins started to cross the Channel to bomb London, and air raid alarms became a regular feature of their nights later in the war, so that anxious nights were spent in the cellars, though no damage or casualties are mentioned in Agnes’s diaries.
From the remaining diaries in the few years following the end of the war and up to her death in 1923, it is clear that the world was now a different place for Agnes. It was very difficult to get and retain good servants, and it was with some relief that Agnes surrendered her management of the house to her daughter Aggie. In the last few years Agnes noted the coming and goings of her family and old faithful servants, with whom she now seemed more at ease than with her grand neighbours, Agnes died suddenly without any evident illness on the morning of Feb 2 1923. She had lived at Foxbury for 46 years.
Frank Tiarks’ home
Frank moved back into the house after his mother died, and he was to live there until 1937. He was a wealthy man in his own right, and after his father's death he had purchased the estate of Homewood to the east of Foxbury, and now incorporated its grounds into Foxbury’s. “Homewood was a large and rather plain Georgian House. Its last owner was Frank Tiarks whose interest was not in the building, but in the large estate which stretched back to the borders of his own domain at Foxbury. Here he laid out two polo grounds.” (Bushell). It is said that the wooden spectator stand that can be seen from the Bromley Road was built for the polo matches held here. The west lodge to Homewood can still be seen in Old Perry Street, and is now called The White House. Frank’s grand-daughter, now Henrietta, Duchess of Bedford, adds that there were two full-size polo grounds here “and they had Mendip stone walls erected so that the hunters (who spent the summers at Foxbury) could get practice jumping them”.
The farm continued to be an important part of the estate, and Frank won prizes for short-horn cattle bred at the estate. The grounds were also used for golf, gymkhanas, and he cleared trees to allow his son Edward to land his aeroplanes there.
Frank also made a number of changes in the house, to bring it up to date. The old schoolroom was converted into a library, and all the windows were changed to metal leaded hinged windows. Electricity had been introduced to the house in the 1890’s and this was upgraded. It was presumably at this time that the silent vacuum cleaning system was introduced. There was a pump in the basement which had tubes attached leading to each room, where they were capped. When cleaning was being done, the maid would attach the cleaning nozzle into the tube, and the motor would be turned on. This enabled silent cleaning in the rooms themselves. Frank also built a chapel for his wife in the attic, with a vestry for the priest. He replaced many of the fine ceilings with barrel vaulted ceilings, and textured the walls to give the impression of ashlared stonework. The grounds were made more rugged and Somerset limestone rocks added to make the ponds more "natural".
Bromley Library has in its archives the visitors’ book from July 1925 to September 1936, and one can see the range of visitors and family to the house during this period. Some of these were business guests, including members of the Rockefeller family from Connecticut. Others were Emmy’s family over from Hamburg, or his own relations, including the Lubbocks, especially Hugh, Margaret’s husband. Even though these were years of financial difficulty for Schroders, which affected Frank directly, he did try to hold the regular garden parties and polo competitions for which he was renowned.
By 1937, Frank had decided to sell Foxbury and moved to Loxton, Somerset, where he had retained the Lodge as a holiday home. Emmy was an invalid and this may have contributed to Frank's decision to sell up, though his financial situation was also a factor.
Despite the enormous losses he suffered in 1931 he remained a partner in Schröders and a Director of the Bank of England, and retained a London house until the mid 1940s. Emmy died in 1943. Frank lived on until April 1952. . For more on Frank’s life, click here.
Foxbury since 1937
The house and 30 acres of land including the farm, was valued at £30,000, and later sold to the Church Missionary Society. In 1938 they established a women’s training centre here which, apart from a period of military occupation during the war, it was to remain for 30 years.
Both the ATS and the Army occupied Foxbury during the war. There was some initial link with Kemnal Manor in the early part of the war, but this stopped when the REME moved into Kemnal Manor. Foxbury is said to have been the Headquarters of the 3rd Battalion of the London Scottish Regiment, and there was a photograph, sadly now lost, which showed the Massed Bands playing retreat on the Foxbury lawn below the terrace, when the 1st and 2nd Battalions visited the 3rd Battalion at its “Baronial Headquarters” on 13 July 1941.
Foxbury was twinned with the men’s training centre based at Liskeard Lodge at Woodlands on Ashfield Lane (whence the name Liskeard Close). The training centres both moved to Birmingham in 1968, and Foxbury became a retreat. In 1976 the Woolwich Building Society bought Foxbury as a training centre for £145,000, but had to spend another £750,000 to refurbish the house. In 2003, it was acquired as a private home.
Most of the remaining Estate was sold to Foxbury Estates Limited, largely owned by Frank. Plans were drawn up to develop much of the old Homewood Estate, planning permission obtained, and work began on laying sewers in Foxbury Avenue in 1937. However the planning consents were reversed in 1938 when most of the land was designated as part of the Green Belt. Compensation of £65,000 was paid following this reversal. The land has remained since as playing fields or maintained pasture.
Battle ends his book with some comments on Foxbury:
“The estate covered many acres and encompassed several farms and former estates, including Homewood in Perry Street and a large portion of land belonging to Kemnal Manor. There were lakes with ornamental water fowl and waterfalls cascading over rocks, fountains spraying irridescent water into shimmering pools and landscaped gardens ablaze with alpines. There were shrubberies and arbours, summer houses, formal gardens and long weed-free gravel drives.
In summer the Sunday School children had a picnic in this fairytale garden. They ate jam sandwiches and sticky buns and drank lemonade and ginger pop. Games were organised and races run; grazed knees were bandaged and small children comforted and catechisms forgotten until the following Sunday.
Partridge and pheasants abounded in the woods and gamekeepers made certain there were plenty for the shoots which were organised with beaters and dogs. There was much entertaining at the big house and national celebrities were often to be seen arriving and leaving through the lodge gates.”
Michael Jackson and Foxbury
In 2009 Foxbury became one of the world's worst kept secrets when it emerged that the singer Michael Jackson had taken a one year lease on the house and grounds from June that year. He was due to give a number of concerts at the O₂ arena in Greenwich, London, between July 2009 and March 2010, and Foxbury had been identified as a suitable location for him and his family to live during this time.
Sadly Jackson died in Los Angeles on 25 June, just days before he was due to come to Foxbury, and it was with mixed feelings that Kemnal Road residents learned that they had lost the chance to have a global celebrity as a near neighbour.