Selwood (formerly Timara)

Selwood is a wonderful house, well preserved today. It has a striking cupola over the entrance porch, and a fine window on the half-landing. Suggestions that the house was built by Harrods, the London retail store, for the use of one of their senior staff, are unfounded

Selwood today

It was set in grounds of 3.5 acres and set well back from the road. There was no lodge. A plaque at the rear of the house indicates that the house was built in 1878, but David Clarkson was the first resident we can find, in 1884. He was to stay until 1891, when Charles Speyer (68), a retired merchant from Germany moved into the house. Charles’ wife, Joanne, was also German, and born in 1834, was eleven years his junior. There were five children still living with them, all grown up, all single, and all born in Highgate, Middlesex: Henry (34), a merchant’s assistant; Maria (29), Arthur (25) a stockbrokers agent; Willie (23), and Helen (21). Charles died in January 1893, aged 70, and was buried at the Church of the Annunciation in Chislehurst. His wife stayed on for a while at Timara, but by 1896 the house was vacant, and in the following year Robert Payne was resident at the house.

It was at this point that the name of the house was changed to Selwood.Robert Payne was a solicitor from Little Linford, Bucks, aged 60 at the time he moved into the house. He had retired by the time of the census in 1901. His wife, Alice, born in 1845, was also born in Buckinghamshire. They had a son and two daughters living with them in 1901, all of whom were born in Frome, Somerset: Henry (28), Edith (25) and Mary (23). They would appear to be an economical family, having only two servants.

Robert Payne died in 1904, though we have no record of his burial. His family stayed on at Selwood after his death. His middle daughter, Edith, married the younger Henry Murton of Meadowcroft in 1906 (see note below). They are both buried in St Nicholas churchyard.

Panelling detailWe know from Arthur Battle’s comments that the Payne family was still in residence when he delivered there, but they moved out in 1921, possibly after Mrs Payne’s death. Jean Percy refers to the occupants of Selwood, at the time she was living at Inglewood, as Sir Hugh and Lady Fraser. Sir Hugh Stein Fraser was born in Blackheath in 1863. He had spent much of his time in India, and been amongst other things a director of the Bank of Madras, and Sheriff of Madras in 1915. He married Fanny Louise in 1904. Hugh was knighted in 1911. They moved into Selwood in 1921, and stayed there until Hugh died in September 1944. Lady Fraser moved out after her husband died, and died in February 1949. They are buried together in St Nicholas churchyard. Their daughter Frances lived with them until 1936, when we lose touch with her. (The National Portrait Gallery have a photograph of Sir Hugh, which is reproduced in our booklet, but which cannot be reproduced here.)

In 1946 Harry and Ivy Groom moved into the house with their children, who included Peter and Anne Groom. They were to stay here until 1951, when Selwood was converted into apartments, as it remains today. It is said that the property was transferred to the Government in lieu of death duties (though we don't know whose). The property was then sold to Hyde Housing who have let the property ever since as apartments. The house is still substantially in its original state outside, and in some rooms inside, with some especially fine panelling in the Drawing Room (see picture right). Its grounds have been severely curtailed, first when Willet House was built, and later when Pickwick Way was extended. It is now somewhat cramped for space but nonetheless remains a fine house.

There was no separate lodge at Selwood, but in 1901 there were residents at Selwood Stables. These would be the buildings at the north-west side attached to the house. The head of household was Richard Tolhurst (51) a coachman from Hawkhurst, Kent. Rebecca, his wife was 50. She and their two children were also born in Hawkhurst. The children were Alice (21) and Fanny (11). The family was to stay on here while Mrs Payne was in residence in the main house. They left in 1919. The stables were occupied from 1921 until 1927 by Charles and Dorothy Tiffen. For a few years after the war the stables were renamed Selwood Cottage, and were occupied by Charlotte Farrant. They were incorporated into the house when it was converted into apartments.

In the 1960s the plot in front of the house was developed and a care home built on it. This was later acquired by Bromley Council, who have redeveloped it as Willett House, a care home for the elderly, now run by Mission Care. The garden behind the house was retained for a time, but eventually, in the 1980s, Pickwick Way was extended onto that land, and a further 6 houses were built there.

Rear of the house

Domestic servants at Selwood

There were five servants in the house in 1891: two housemaids, Jane Gurney (23) from Gloucester; and Phoebe Cooling (28) from Woolwich; a parlour-maid, Susannah Francis (30) from Ware; May Hopcroft (32) a cook from Oxfordshire; and Lavinia Treadwell (19) a kitchen-maid from Oxfordshire.
There were only two servants in 1901: Kathleen Griffiths (25) a cook from Gloucestershire; and Rosetta Cook (28) a housemaid from Canterbury.
The Frasers kept a small and loyal group of three servants; one, Winifred Stroude, was to stay with the family from at least 1934 until Lady Fraser left in 1946.

An illness and an engagement in Italy

"Mrs Payne, who had been for some time a resident at Chislehurst, came out with her two daughters to Alassio. Unfortunately Mrs Payne became seriously, even dangerously ill with pneumonia and pleurisy, but, thanks to the skill and care of our friend Dr Boon, a resident doctor, she ultimately recovered.

It seemed, though I had not known it, that my eldest son, Walter Herbert, had become much attached to the elder daughter of Mrs Payne and he came out to Alassio on a visit to us. They became engaged while there."

In October that year (1906) Bertie was married to Miss Edith Alice Payne.

Taken from "Reminiscences" by Sir Walter Murton CB