Woodheath Cottage, rebuilt as The Foxearth

The Foxearth from NorthThere was a cottage at the junction of Kemnal Road and Kemnal Lane in 1870, and probably for many years before that. It was originally called Woodheath Cottage, although after Foxbury was built it was also referred to as Foxbury Cottage.

The earliest residents we can trace are Harry Cheshire and his family in 1881. Born in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, in 1850, Harry had been a butcher. He married Emma in 1874 in Hanover Square (she was born in 1854 in Middlesex), and they raised 12 children. These were: Frederic (born 1876), Emma (1877), Harry (1878), twins Arthur and Albert (1879), Mary (1880), Philip (1882), Gertrude (1886), Frank (1888), James (middle name Hermann, after Hermann Tiarks?) (1890), Agnes (1892), and, finally, Ada (1895).
Harry gave up his job as a butcher, and turned to gardening, working for the Tiarks family. He described himself as a 'Gentleman's gardener', and there was a good relationship between Agnes Tiarks and the family. When daughter Emma became ill, Agnes arranged and paid for her to go the Cottage Hospital in St Paul's Cray, and later to Gower Street in London. There are many references in Agnes' diaries to her visiting the family, and the younger children attended the schoolroom at Foxbury.

The Cottage was not large, and it is difficult today to imagine life with 14 people in such a small space. When the last child was born, the eldest was 19, and perhaps had already left home, but nevertheless this must have been a squeeze. Harry died in 1905, and is buried in the Annunciation Church churchyard, and Emma moved to live in Frognal Villas on Green Lane with five of her children and two grandsons. Harry is buried with his son, James, who was killed in the Great War in 1917 (see below).

It is clear that by this time the property was part of the Foxbury estate, as were the fields beyond. Benjamin Hope and his wife Beatrice moved into what was called Foxbury Cottage in 1906. At some point after the Cheshire family left, and possibly when the Hope family were living there, the old cottage was demolished and the house now known as The Foxearth was built. It had been rebuilt before 1923, since we have a photograph of Agnes Tiarks in front of the new house (below). It was almost certainly designed by Edward John May, the eminent local architect, and bears his lozenge design motif on its chimney stacks. The new house was larger and grander, and a very good house to be occupied by an employee of the Estate. The same photograph shows clearly that at that time South Lodge (to the left of The Foxearth) had not yet been rebuilt. The Foxearth was further enlarged at a later date, with a western extension and sun lounge, as a comparison of the photographs above and below will show.

Agnes and Foxearth

Benjamin Hope was occupied as Estate Carpenter and Electrician at Foxbury. He was born in Lamberhurst, Sussex, in 1872, and Beatrice was born in Stone, Kent, in 1874. They had five daughters living with them in 1911, Beatrice (aged 12), Dorothy (10), Mildred (8), Emily (4) and Kathleen (1). The Hope family stayed at Foxbury Cottage until 1923, but then moved to Edgebury, presumably as a result of the changes following Agnes Tiarks' death. He died in 1938, aged 67, and is buried in St Nicholas churchyard with his wife, Beatrice, who died in 1957.

Michael and Elizabeth Crowley and, after them, Isaac and Mary Goolden, were registered as residents until 1926, when a new name, Francis Lodge, appears in directories for Kemnal Road at this position in the road. The next resident was the wonderfully named Miss Thunder, who is buried at St Mary's churchyard.

In 1929 Lt Col Wilfred Lucas took up residence. He and his wife Pussy Lucas were friends of the Tiarks children, especially Henry, and were frequent visitors at Foxbury. They were introduced by Henry to his future wife, Lady Millicent Taylour, the eldest child of the 4th Marquis of Headfort. Millicent and Henry married in 1930. However, Pussy Lucas and Millicent formed a very strong relationship, which scandalized the Tiarks and Taylour families, and which resulted in Henry and Millicent separating following the infant death of their only child, Christopher, in 1932. They were divorced in 1935.

Wilfred was asked to leave the house after this scandal, and for the next few years the house was home to two of Frank Tiarks' chidren. First, Frank's elder daughter, Ramona, moved here in 1932. She was aged 30 and unmarried, and this was probably her first move away from the family home. Two years later Peter Tiarks, Frank's second son, moved in. He married Pamela Silvertop that year, 1934, and they lived at the house at least for a little while after their wedding. However, they were separated and then divorced by 1937, by which time the house was sold as part of the disposal of the Foxbury estate.

The house was acquired, or at least occupied, by Stanley Bates, who lived there for only two years. It was in 1938 that the house is first consistently referred to as The Foxearth. David Greig was the first occupant to use the name. He was a principal in the David Greig Grocery Chain which at the time was quite big in the area. He and his family stayed on until after the war.

Foxearth and lakeIn 1947 David and Winifred Langlands were in the house. They had two sons, John and Jim. Jim now lives in Australia, and kindly has sent a note of recollections of living at Foxearth (see below), and a number of photographs (here...).

The family had moved away by 1962, after which Wallace and Ella Hatcher lived here, who were still at the house in 1988.

At the time of writing the house is empty and rather distressed. The Hatcher family have given no indication of what they propose to do with this lovely old house.

A young woman was murdered and her body found in the grounds of The Foxearth in the 1950s. It made the front pages of the London papers and the police quickly established the identity of the killer who subsequently committed suicide. It was the first time a picture of the person the police “wanted to help them with their enquiries” was broadcast on television.

A note from Jim Langlands

My parents, David and Winifred Langlands bought the house and lived there from 1947 to 1962. My father was an agricultural merchant with the firm of Pattullo Higgs, which was originally based in Orpington and is no longer in business. My late brother John and I also lived there during this period. My folks purchased the house from a Mr and Mrs Grieg; Mr Grieg was a principal in the David Grieg Grocery Chain which was quite extensive in that period. We always understood that the cottage was renovated by the Tiarks for one of their children on their marriage; I cannot remember the date of the renovation but there used to be the date in roman numerials set into the brickwork at the top of the semi-circular steps opposite the front door which lead down into the garden. The original plot owned by the Griegs was about 22 acres and included the paddock which Foxearth overlooks. The paddock was green belt and could not be built on at that time though it had collected a bomb during WWII. The crater is presumably still there. My folks only purchased the 4 acres containing the house and the top two lakes. A third lake lies in the paddock and used to provide water for horses which grazed the paddock. During the 15 years that we lived there my Father cleared (by hand!!) the top two lakes of bullrushes which by then had completely choked the lakes. This allowed wild ducks to fly into the lakes each evening and we used to watch them from the terraces surrounding the house.

Langlands family

The photograph shows the family on the terrace with Ms Taylor on the far left. She owned Foxbury South Lodge (across the road from Foxearth) and was an executive assistant to Harold Clifton who owned a large garage and service station on the A20 road. Sadly she developed cancer and died during our period in residence at Foxearth. Next to Ms Taylor is my Mother and Father, my elder brother John and our Great Dane, Brutus.

James Hermann Cheshire

James Cheshire (born 1890) is buried in the Annunciation churchyard with his father. James emigrated to New York in 1911 at the age of 21, and worked as a meat cutter in Ohio until 1917, when he was drafted into the American Army and later sent to France at the end of that year with the American Expeditionary Force. He was killed in action on 30 September 1918.

He was buried where he fell, in the Argonne Forest, but his mother used a loophole in the regulations to have his body disinterred and brought to Chislehurst. His coffin arrived at Southampton on Friday 12 May 1922, was brought to Chislehurst by train, and conveyed to the church on a gun-carriage. He was reburied on 16 May 1922 after a requiem mass at the Annunciation Church.