Kemnal Warren, formerly Homeleigh

Kemnal Warren printA print of the design for the house taken from The Architect Magazine.

This house has had a chequered history. It was built and occupied by 1880. It was a substantial house, indeed one of the largest in Kemnal Road, though originally the grounds were not so substantial. Between 1897 and 1909 the grounds were extended to the east, and then covered 2.75 acres. Behind the house the original glasshouse and stables were also extended. The house also had its own lodge in the south-western corner of the grounds, where the original entrance to the house can still be seen, leading now to the rebuilt house called Kemnal Lodge. A print of the house is shown opposite, reproduced from The Architect Magazine. It discloses that the architect was Joseph S Moye. Moye was a well-known architect who had been commissioned to design the buildings numbered 399-405 on the south side of Oxford Street in 1880. Like this house, the buildings in Oxford Street have since been replaced by less interesting modern buildings. He also designed other houses in Chislehurst, including his own, Fairview, in Southill Road, and Hillside in Lubbock Road. He also designed the rows of shops opposite the Bickley Arms.

The Architect Magazine contains the following comments: “We illustrate a residence in course of erection in the Kemnal Road by Mr Grover, from the designs and under the supervision of Mr Joseph S Moye, of Southwick Street, Hyde Park Square. The building is of Queen Anne character, somewhat freely but effectively treated. The whole of the exterior facings are in red brick; the door and window jambs throughout are rubbed and gauged, and BROWN’S pressed bricks are used in sunk panels, cornices and strings. The roof will be covered with Broseley tiles, and the ridges and finials will be of red terra-cotta of COOPER’S manufacture. The ground floor contains four handsome reception rooms, the floors of which will be laid in parquetry, with spacious outer and inner halls and all the necessary offices. The principal feature on the chamber floor is the picture gallery, forming the upper portion of the staircase hall. The staircase is lighted by a large and handsome window, filled in with lead glazing by Mr ODELL.”

The first identified resident of Homeleigh is Mr W B Walker, who appears in records for the house in 1884. He would appear to have died in 1890, since in 1891 his wife is recorded as the householder, and she remained as such until 1898 when Henry East moved into the house. Henry was to live at Homeleigh until 1907. He was born in Weymouth in 1846, and his wife, Elizabeth, was born in the same year in Somerset. Their daughter Ida was born in London in 1877. Henry recorded that he had “no occupation” in the census information of 1901. He subscribed £10 to the purchase of the Amenity Strip, but we know nothing else about him. Henry was to live at Homeleigh until 1907.

In 1907 two new names appeared at the house. The new owner was one Horace Harrington Nelson. He was then aged 64, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society . Was the new name, Kemnal Warren, a reference to the number of rabbits in the grounds, or to the interior design of the house? The name was adopted again when the property was rebuilt.

Kemnal Warren

A view of the rear of the house, 1914.

More pictures here...

Horace was a banker. He was born in Bayswater in 1843, and probably moved to Hong Kong with his family in the 1850s. He appears to have been a director of Mercantile Bank Limited, one of the Hong Kong based banks that ultimately became the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. He returned to England at some stage in the early 1880s, and was involved in liquidations and administrations of companies. He had probably met Emma Rostron Macauley, his future wife, in Hong Kong. She was born there, a daughter of a Scottish father and Australian mother. She was 25 years his junior. They were married in St Mary's Kilburn in November 1887 and had three children, all of whom are likely to have lived with them at Kemnal Warren: Horace, born in 1889, John, born in 1892 and Marion, born in 1896.

The Nelson family lived at the house for 23 years. Horace died in September 1930 at the grand age of 87. He is buried in St Nicholas churchyard, together with Emma, who died in June 1952, aged 83, and their daughter Marion, who died in 1986, aged 90. Marion is described on the headstone as a 'beloved daughter and family aunt'.

More details on Horace and Emma here...

After Horace Nelson's death the house was occupied by a Mrs Alice Morrison. The only information we have about her is from a report on an injunction sought against her by her neighbour at Mulbarton Court.

According to the report, Mrs Morrison kept 81 dogs, 27 cats, 16 monkeys, 100 birds, a goat, (but not a rat) at the house. A report from the Manchester Guardian in June 1935 sets out the proceedings in the case against her (More...) Sufficient to say here that her stay at the house probably resulted in it requiring complete internal refurbishment, and the result of the case was probably enough to make Harold Molins want to destroy the house, which is what happened.

By 1939 the house had been bought by Harold Molins and demolished (though not its lodge), and the grounds were taken over by him. Jean Percy (Inglewood) wrote to us: 'Next door to Inglewood was Mulbarton Court which had such a huge garden that the owner, Mrs Molins, bought a bicycle to get round it'. This was at first mystifying, but now makes sense.

Kemnal Warren's lodge remained in use as the entrance lodge to Mulbarton Court, whose drive now emerged onto Kemnal Road where Kemnal Lodge is today. For almost thirty years, two paddocks lay where the house had been (which can be seen clearly in the aerial photo of 1950), until in 1962, the apartments of modern-day Kemnal Warren were rebuilt on the site of the original house.

Kemnal Lodge and other houses

There were two other buildings in the original grounds of Homeleigh; the lodge, and the stables, which had rooms above.

In 1891 Joseph Elvington was the lodgekeeper, but also the gardener to Homeleigh. He was 42 and from Rickmansworth. His wife was born nearby at Chorley Wood in 1852. They had no children with them in 1891. Meanwhile the stables were home to 49 year old George Blackford, from Sussex, and his wife Julia, 6 years his senior, having been born in 1836 in East Peckham in Kent. They lived at the stables with Julia their 24 year old daughter. Ten years later Clement Bolling was the gardener. He was 43. His wife was three years older than him, born in St. Neots in 1855. They had three young children, Victor, Ernest and baby Else, aged 6, 3, and 1, and all born in Chislehurst. They were succeeded by 26 year old George Barnes, a gardener, and his wife Fanny (34). George was born in Wimbourne, Dorset, and Fanny in Thetford and were living here in 1911.

The stables were inhabited by Ernest Cleaver, aged 36, from Buckinghamshire. Interestingly he is described as a kennel man, not a coachman. His wife Mary was 30, and their two children Ernest (10) and Rosa (4) were born in Marylebone. Ernest's younger brother Alfred was also living with them and described as the coachman. These two families stayed here until 1907, when Edward Brice and his wife Harriet moved here. He was a coachman. They had three children with them in 1911. The stables were demolished along with the house around 1936, by which time they were referred to as the garage. The last occupiers were Henry Probert and his wife Nora, from 1921 to 1930.

The lodge continued to be used after Kemnal Warren was demolished, and became the entrance lodge for Mulbarton Court. It was occupied until the war by a succession of people, the longest serving being Joseph and Maude Jordan from 1918 to 1924. It appears to have been rebuilt at the same time as Kemnal Warren, around 1962. The new lodge was considerably larger in size, and somewhat further from the road than the original. It took a square of the original grounds for its gardens. The first occupants of the rebuilt house were Peter and Jean Holloway. They named the new house 'Wits End'. When they left in 1966, the new owners thought that a more fitting name was needed, and Charles and Patricia Barden renamed it Kemnal Lodge. They were to stay at the house for 20 years.

In 1992, well after they had gone, part of the gardens were sold off and Froglets was built on the site. This house is now renamed Little Byfield. In 1977 Avondale was built. It lies within the original grounds of Kemnal Warren, although the site had earlier been acquired as part of the grounds of Mulbarton Cottage when it was separated from Mulbarton Court after the war.

Kemnal Lodge has recently been rebuilt once again. In 2010 a much larger house, closer to the road, and filling the width of its reduced site, was completed. It is now a much grander and stylish house, and we are fortunate that the name of the original modest dwelling on this site has been retained.

The gateposts and walls to Kemnal Lodge look as though they were the original entrance to Homeleigh, and thus have the distinction of being used for three different houses: Homeleigh/Kemnal Warren, Mulbarton Court and Kemnal Lodge.

Domestic servants at Kemnal Warren

There were 6 servants in the house in 1881, Hannah Adderson (22) the kitchen-maid from Norfolk, Mary Brooker (32), the cook from Flintshire, Margaret MacKenzie (26), the parlour--maid from Aberdeenshire, Blanche Patey (24), the housemaid from Salcombe, Devon, Jane Robertson (25), a nurse also from Aberdeenshire, and James Watson (27), a coachman from Norfolk. Since there are no separate records of anyone living in the lodge in 1881, it is probable that James was living at the Lodge. The East family had only four servants in 1901 - a cook, parlour-maid, and two housemaids: Susan White (32), Elizabeth Oliver (30), and two sisters, Margaret Bell (18) and Emmy (16). All four were from Northants.

In 1911, five servants are recorded in the census, Gertrude Tinson, aged 31, parlour-maid from Shropshire, Florence Lloyd (33), housemaid, from Southend, Lizzie Martin (34), Cook, and her daughter (?) Ethel Martin (16), kitchen-maid, both from Tonbridge, and Ellen Hoare (22), housemaid from Bermondsey.

Note: The Geographical Society of London was founded in 1830 as an institution to promote the advancement of geographical science. Like many learned societies, it started as a dining club in London, where select members held informal dinner debates on current scientific issues and ideas. Under the patronage of King William IV, it later became known as The Royal Geographical Society and was granted its Royal Charter under Queen Victoria in 1859.