A print of Nizels was published in The Building News in 1891, with the following commentary: “This house – “The Nizels” – stands in a well-wooded site near Chislehurst in Kent. Externally the walls are faced with red bricks from the Dunton-green Works, the half timbering in the gables, &c., being backed up with brickwork and the panels rendered in cement. The roofs are covered with pressed brown Broseley tiles. The staircase is of oak, as are several of the specially-designed chimneypieces and over mantels. The ceilings of the reception-rooms are divided into panels with wooden moulded ribs, the floors being of oak parquet. Mr Julius Sax fitted the electric bells. The work was carried out under the direction of the architect, Mr Joseph Buxton, ARIBA. Our illustration is taken from the drawing exhibited this year at the Royal Academy”.
Nizels was a modest house for Kemnal Road, in similar style to Inglewood. Indeed both were built by William Buxton. It had no lodge, and no stables: Tom Bushell notes that Travers Hawes stabled his carriage and horses in stables behind Church Row. Sometime between 1897 and 1909 the north part of the house was extended, creating space for a billiard room.
The first resident of Nizels was Alexander Travers Hawes. He was born in 1852, and was a solicitor, with offices at 117 Cannon Street in the City of London. His first wife was Catherine Beatrice, who was a daughter of Henry and Harriet Honey the owners of Wyvelsfield. Travers and Catherine had five children: Edward, born in 1875, Kathleen (1877), Henry Gurney (1878), Margaret (known as Maggie, 1881), and Gwendoline (1890). Catherine appears to have become ill after the birth of Gwendoline, and after a long illness died in March 1891. She is buried in St Nicholas churchyard. Travers' mother, Anna Hawes, came to live with the family for a while after Catherine’s death.
In June 1899, Travers married again. His new wife Ada Lucy Court was from Dover, and eleven years younger than him, born in 1863. They married at the Parish Church in Nutfield, Kent, and Ada’s younger sisters, Evelyn and Lilian, were bridesmaids. Her uncle, Tom Nickells, gave her away as her father had recently died. She was the second of nine children born to Percy Court and Fanny Quihampton. Percy was a distinguished citizen of Dover, elected mayor twice, and a Colonel of the 1st Cinque Ports Volunteer Artillery. We know that Travers and Ada had at least two children together, their daughter Nancy, who was born in 1900, and Roderick, in 1905.
Travers was very active in local matters, and was Chairman of the Chislehurst Conservators from 1889 to 1896. His name is still to be seen appended to the byelaws of the Commons, which are displayed at many points on the Commons. He was also one of the first Parish Councillors of Chislehurst, and served as chairman in 1898-1899, and one of the original subscribers to The History of Chislehurst. Travers, Walter Murton, and Nettleton Balme were all involved in the same local bodies. In particular they were instrumental in gaining the Act of Parliament that regulated the use of the Commons. There must have been many meetings between them at their neighbouring houses during these busy years. Travers' grandfather was co-founder of the Royal Humane Society, and Travers later became Chairman, as did Roderick, his youngest son.
Travers continued to live at Nizels until his death in May 1924, at the age of 73, when his estate was valued at £91,725. He is buried in the churchyard of St Nicholas in the same plot of his first wife. His widow Ada stayed at Nizels until her death some 15 years later, in July 1939, when she was 76. She had lived there for 40 years. She is buried in the same plot as her husband. They had become well known in Chislehurst. Ada was Dame President of the local Primrose League. Bushell notes that she was asked to plant the commemorative oak for the Coronation of George V in June 1911. The oak can still be seen opposite the war memorial.
Four of their children are also buried at St Nicholas churchyard. Ernest, who, as mentioned above, had died in Hyeres in 1902, Kathleen who died in 1913, aged 37, and Henry Gurney Travers Hawes, who died in 1934 aged 56. Gurney’s wife, Marjory, is buried with them. Their headstone stands to the east of their parents’. Gwendoline had married Charles Balme who had been born at Kemnal Wood. Sadly, like her mother, she died young, aged only 39, in 1928. She is buried in St Nicholas churchyard under the name Beatrice Gwendoline Travers Balme, together with her husband, who died only seven years later in 1935.
After Ada’s death Nizels was bought by Kenneth Bilbrough as a retirement home for his brother Henry, who was about to retire as Bishop of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Henry moved in following his retirement in July 1941. By 1945 he was still there, and had two other residents in the house, Jane Abernathy and Elsie Phipps. We don’t know whether they were lodgers or, more likely, servants looking after Henry. Henry died in 1950, and the two ladies moved out of the house shortly afterwards. More on Henry here...
The house was then divided into three residences, Trees and Walden at the northern wing, with the southern half of the house retaining the original name. The house is still standing, and a photograph of the house today is on the left here.
William and Hilda Cashford took up residence at Nizels next, but had gone by February 1956, when Charles Williams bought the house. He was to live here with his wife Lillian, until his death in June 1999. Lillian died the following year. Mr Williams was a trustee of the Amenity Strip. More on Charles here...
Trees and Walden
The two apartments of Trees and Walden have had a number of occupants, the longest of which were William and Ivy Smart, who lived at Trees from 1967 to 1978, and Howard and Margaret Devereux, who were at Walden for 14 years from 1963 to 1977.
Gordon Hutchings has written to say that he lived at Trees with his parents - Col (Reggie) and Mrs (Jean) Hutchins - from 1958 to 1965, when Gordon married. "They moved back down to Budleigh Salterton in Devon, where there were family connections, in 1967 - so must have sold to the Smarts. I have no recollection of who preceded them in 1958. Walden was occupied by Cdr (Peter) and Mrs (Madge) Waldram, and Peter Waldram's sister - Wendy, I think her name was. He was with the Admiralty, and they moved to Bath in 1963. He was a fine pianist, and I used to love hearing his Mozart and Beethoven rising from below. The Devereux then arrived - we knew Mrs Devereux as Rita not Margaret. They had a son and daughter: my recollection is that the son was Alan, but my sister seems to think he was John. I forget the name of his sister. I am almost certain that Howard Devereux died suddenly before my parents retired to Devon, but Rita Devereux did stay on - my mother kept in touch with her for many years." See New Information for more.
The Great Wall of Nizels
On the boundary between South Home and Nizels (now of course Trees and Walden), there is a massive wall, now almost wholly covered in ivy. The wall can be seen from the road. In 1995 The Chislehurst Society wrote to the Department of National Heritage asking them to consider whether the wall should be statutorily listed. We do not know if any reply was received, or any action followed the receipt of the letter.
“The Society requests you to inspect this massive brick wall with a view to making it Statutorily Listed. Approximately 25ft high, with stout buttresses topped with what appears to be fused blocks of charred bricks.
The main section on the north side contains a row of four false Roman Arches about 10ft high and 8 to 10 ft wide, each containing three bosses on which urns or plant containers may be stored. The side facing south shows the wall reducing in thickness about 12ft above ground level where it is about 2 ft thick.
Above the arches is a further row of similar arches but naturally without bosses for flower containers. Within each of these upper arches, however, there are five vertical piercings about 5 inches wide varying in length from about 5 ft at the centre, decreasing to conform with the shape of the arches. All but one of these slots have at some time been filled in but are still clearly visible as they are not filled in to the full thickness of the wall. Most of these details have been revealed only recently when much of the thick ivy covering the wall was cut away.
The Society has no knowledge of the history of this wall, but as Kemnal Road was developed late last century, it is probably 100 years or so old. We do not know why it was built so tall, but local rumour has it that at that time the neighbouring owners were the Bishop of Rochester on the north side and a very prominent local resident, Mr Travers Hawes, on the other side, who presumably did not care for each other.
The rough sketch attached herewith may help you to visualise this probably unique garden wall and persuade you to inspect and confirm the desirability of listing this extraordinarily interesting construction”.
Note: There is no evidence that a Bishop of Rochester lived at South Home, though perhaps this is a reference to Dr White, who did live there, and who was a professor of Theology.
The household had a complement of seven servants, whose details we can get from the census returns.
In 1891, John Bland (33) was the butler/manservant from Oxford. There were two housemaids, Emma Crane (23) from Orpington, and Emily Stevens (29) from Oxfordshire. Effie Chislett (40) was the cook; she was from Somerset. A Hackney girl was kitchen-maid – Lilly Garrard (22). There was also a nurse, Hannah Coles (21), and the seventh servant was Janet Tyler (43) from London; we don’t know what her role was.
None of these servants remained in 1901. By then, Richard Jackson was the butler. Aged 43, he was born in France. Kate Gosburn (31) was a cook from Staffordshire. Ellen Anderson (25) was a Nurse from Scotland, and Amelia Addington (27) was a Maid from Norfolk. Two Housemaids, Lucy Williams (36) from Herts, and Jane Whittington from Sussex, and a Bickley-born kitchen-maid, Minnie Sampson (19), made up the rest of the household.
By 1911, all the servants had changed again, and this time there was no butler. The six servants (none of them described more specifically as to their roles) were: Sarah Crane (22), from Laxfield, Suffolk; Marion Burt (40), Barnsbury, Middlesex; Emily Morse (48), London; Margaret Findlay (32), Wick; Emily Watson (18), Dunton Green, Kent; and Maud Fenn, (32), Hammersmith.