Meadowcroft was being built in 1874. Walter and Mary Murton moved in the following year. Walter describes the house in his memoirs: “a pleasant house at the north corner of Chislehurst Common, with a fairly large garden and a few acres of land. The garden ended in a strip of wood parted by a fence from a wood of considerable size then entirely in its natural picturesque state. A private road ran through the wood from my house and is still a private road though a few houses of a considerable size have since been built on both sides of the road, so disposed, however, that a good deal of the wood is still preserved”.
The photograph of Webster’s pond, now filled in and heavily overgrown, shows the house to the rear left, and the house can also be clearly seen in the aerial photograph from 1950. It looks a large imposing Victorian mansion, and would have made quite an impact in that position.
The entrance to the grounds of Meadowcroft was originally from Ashfield Lane, as can be seen in the photograph, but some time after 1909 the access was changed to Kemnal Road, very close to where Marlowe Close starts. The house was in 5.7 acres of land, and there may have been additional land of more than 3 acres to the east of the house, by Sturges Fields. In addition, Murton had purchased a small strip of land running on the west side of Kemnal Road, between his house and Woodlands, along the whole eastern boundary of that house. This strip still exists in its original state and is known now as the Amenity Strip.
In the picture we can also see Fallowfield on Ashfield Lane and, on the left, the fence of Woodlands, in front of which a horse and cart have stopped.
Walter Murton was born in 1837 in Ashford. He was a lawyer, and in 1875 had just been appointed as Solicitor to the Board of Trade. He and his wife Mary had seven children. The youngest, Constance, died in infancy in 1877, as did Arthur, born in 1864. Their eldest son, Walter Herbert, was born in 1862, and became a solicitor, following in his father’s footsteps. Indeed he became a partner in his father’s old law practice. Charles was born in 1866, and trained to be a solicitor, after taking a degree at University College Oxford. We don’t know what career he followed. Ernest, the youngest son, was born in 1867, and after taking a degree at Trinity College, Cambridge, moved to Manchester taking up an apprenticeship. Their two surviving daughters, Edith Mary (called Edie), born in 1870, and Margaret Eleanor, born in 1872, were both described as “scholars”.
Domestic servants at Meadowcroft
The household arrangements were quite modest, judging by the number of domestic servants. There were three servants in residence in 1881, two sisters from Clare in Suffolk, Susannah Chrysell (cook) and Louisa (housemaid) (24 & 17), and a nurse, Eliza Surridge (30) from Essex. In 1891 there were four servants, two housemaids, Mary Mills (29), from Stafford, and Edith Hazell (18), from Berkshire, a parlour-maid, Annie Smith (28), from Chieveley in Berkshire, and a kitchen-maid, Ida Gillman (17), from Rainham in Essex. No cook, and no nurse. The Tyndale family had not increased the complement of servants by 1901. They also had three servants, Harriett Lockyer (45), the cook, from Twickenham, Minnie Bradley (34), the parlour-maid, from Chelsea, and Mary Tiffen (30), the housemaid, a local girl from Chislehurst. The Margetson family initially had the same number of servants, though after the war they were reduced to having just one, Arthur Orr.
Walter had a significant impact on Chislehurst, especially the preservation of the Commons. Fuller details of his life and activities here..
He sold his house in 1900, as he describes in his memoirs, so that he could start on his world travels. His wife had died in 1895, and he had retired from the Board of Trade. The younger Walter had moved to Manor Park in Chislehurst, living there with his brother, Charles, while the two sisters accompanied their father on his travels.
Sir Walter, as he had become, knighted for his services to the Board of Trade, sold the house to John Tyndale who was then 60, a solicitor from Yorkshire. John lived at Meadowcroft with his wife Charlotte who was four years his junior, born in 1844. John died in February 1906, but may have been ill for some time, since Charlotte is shown as the head of household in 1902, and she, rather than her husband, had become a trustee of the Amenity Strip in 1901. She remained at Meadowcroft until her death in February 1933. By then she had only one other person registered at her house, Herbert Cobbett, presumably her butler. This is surprising given the size of the house, but may reflect her financial situation. There are no indications of other family staying with her.
The third and last owner, Major Philip Margetson MC, acquired the house in 1934. He was a senior officer at Scotland Yard, and was later to become Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He also became a trustee of the Amenity Strip in 1938. He lived at the house until 1956, with his wife Diana and his three children. He restored the number of servants back to its original levels. Fuller details here...
Shortly before he retired from the Metropolitan Police, he sold Meadowcroft for development for the sum of £13,000, and shortly afterwards the twenty houses in Marlowe Close were built on the site of the house and gardens. The picture above shows the clearance starting behind Woodheath Cottage.