Woodheath (later rebuilt and renamed Hoblands)

Woodheath from roadThe first house here was Woodheath, built in more than 4 acres of grounds, about half of which (the south-east corner) was woodland.

This was a Victorian house, as the photograph here shows, and it took its name from the woodland over which Kemnal Road was built.

We do not know who designed the original house, but it is of interest that a design of a house called Woodheath was made by a local architect, Joseph Moye, who had designed Kemnal Warren and a number of other houses in Chislehurst. It may be that Moye proposed his design, but another architect was chosen, or that Moye was asked to submit a different design. A copy of the unsuccessful design can be seen here.

The original house appears to be less interesting than Moye's drawing. It was rebuilt in its present style after being destroyed by fire, and renamed Hoblands in 1925. A later resident, Sir Gerald Hurst, said of Hoblands: “This “Georgian” House and its grounds are all a man could desire for a home. Even the antiquarian sense is pleased because the plot now known as Hoblands is so marked on medieval maps of this corner of Kent, while Hob is at least as old a name as Hengest and Horsa. Chislehurst, moreover, has retained the village touch in spite of the growth of London, and its bonapartist tradition touches it with the romance of history”.

The first house was completed by 1877. Two sisters, Frances Lydia Gould, born in 1826, and Caroline, seven years her junior, were the first occupants, moving into the new house that year, and staying there for 22 years. They were from Middlesex, and living on their own means. There is no indication that they were or had been married. They had regular guests: two school teacher sisters stayed with them at the time of the 1881 census, Susan Lowder (59) and her sister Mary (57) from Bath, while in 1891 Mary McGill from Kensington, described in the census as a “companion” was living there. Curiously, the two sisters died within 6 weeks of each other. First, Caroline died at home on Ash Wednesday in February 1899, aged only 66, while her elder sister died at Hastings on Good Friday, aged 73. They are buried together in St Nicholas churchyard.

Woodheath was bought at auction by Frank Tiarks (click here for more information), the second son of the owner of Foxbury. In November 1899 Frank married Emmy Brodermann, a Hamburg-born girl, and this was their first home. It was bought in July of that year for £8,500, possibly as a wedding present from Frank’s father. Frank's family was to live there until 1913. Their first son, Henry Frederic (named after his grandfather), was born here in 1900, Ramona in 1902, Edward in 1904, and twins, Myra and Peter, were born in May 1910.

Second Fire at Woodheath

"Not since the great fire at 'Woodheath' Kemnal-road, about three years ago, has such a disastrous conflagration broken out in Chislehurst as that which occurred in the early hours of June 29th, also at “Woodheath”, the residence of Mr F.C.Tiarks, who is one of the most popular residents in this district.

Woodheath in ruins 1917

The upper part of this fine mansion was totally destroyed, and in addition an elaborate pavilion erected on one of the lawns for the grand ball that was to have been held during the Chislehurst Cricket Week was burned to the ground. The falling timber from the burning mansion set fire to the pavilion and from here the conflagration spread to the handsome billiard room which is also severely damaged.
The building covers an area of 150 ft by 50 ft and the official report states that the upper floor was burned out and practically the whole of the roof destroyed. One third of the first floor was severely damaged, the rest of the floor and the lower part of the building suffering considerably from water. The billiard room was one which suffered most in this respect. The house was rendered quite uninhabitable. The fire appears to have originated in the loft above Mrs Tiarks’ room, the cause being unknown. The damage is covered by insurance. The damage is estimated at £15,000."

(from Bromley Record, August 1913)

A question was asked in the House of Commons about the time taken by the Fire Brigafe in responding to the telephone call alerting them to the fire. Read about it below.

In truth, the twins were not born at Woodheath, since in November 1909 there was a serious fire, called by the Bromley Record 'The Great Fire at Woodheath' (see caption). Frank was away from the house at the time, and fortunately his pregnant wife and three children were not harmed and were able to move into Foxbury. For the next eighteen months the family lived in London (at 32 Green Street, Mayfair), though they continued to spend much time at Foxbury. Frank took the opportunity to expand the house. The picture at the bottom of this page shows how different the house was by comparison with the original building.

The family moved back into the repaired and extended house in May 1911, but not for long - there was another fire at the house two years later, in late June 1913. This time Frank did not repair the old house, and it was to remain unoccupied, and in ruins, until 1925, when a completely new house was built. Frank continued to own what remained of the house and maintained the gardens, stable and swimming pool throughout these years. The Tiarks family at Foxbury and their friends also made regular use of the gardens, where there was a large colony of rabbits, played croquet on the lawns, and had swimming parties in the pool during the hot summer days. They also used the footpath through Woodheath gardens as a pleasant walk or drive home to Foxbury through the Homewood Farm and grounds, which Frank had purchased in 1914, and were incorporated into the Foxbury Estate.

Frank owned a number of different flats in London at differnt times, including The Manor, Davies Street, Berkeley Square, Warwick Square in Belgravia, Tite Street, Chelsea, and Troy Court, Kensington. He moved to Warwick Square after the second fire. But he remained very much in the heart of Chislehurst. He and the family spent much of their time at Foxbury, where there was plenty of room for the family, and a warm welcome from Agnes, who doted on Frank’s children, especially Henry. In 1915 Frank purchased Peter’s Lodge in Holbrook Lane for use as their Chislehurst home, and in 1917 they had a new house built, Roycroft (today known as Parkmore), in Wilderness Road, Chislehurst. Roycroft remained their home until Agnes Tiarks died in 1923, when Frank took ownership of Foxbury. At this point Frank owned five Chislehurst properties: Woodheath, Peter’s Lodge, Roycroft, Woodheath Cottage (near Foxbury), and the huge Foxbury Estate.

He now moved his family into Foxbury, installed his two unmarried sisters, Sophie and Agnes, who had lived with their mother at Foxbury, into Peter’s Lodge, sold Roycroft, and finally, sold Woodheath. He had separated off the polo stables and swimming pool, and he retained them as part of his Foxbury estate. A roadway through this area served as a private route to Foxbury house. As a result the gardens of Woodheath were somewhat reduced.

The new owner of Woodheath was Arthur Pelham Ford. In July 1925 he commissioned Fred Harrild, a relatively young architect, to design a new house to replace the derelict old house. The new house was completed the following year, and was named Hoblands. There is still an area called Hobland Woods to the east of Kemnal Road, by the A20, though much reduced in size by the extension of the road. Arthur had previously lived at Frogpool, which was close to Hobland Woods.

Arthur was a Chartered Accountant, based at 4, Old Jewry, in the City of London. These were the offices of Peat Marwick, where Arthur was most probably a partner. He lived at Hoblands with his wife, Elsie Elizabeth, for the next 11 years. Elsie was born in 1882, and was five years younger than Arthur. Arthur became a Trustee of the Amenity Strip, but otherwise we know nothing of him, except that he is buried at St Nicholas churchyard, with his wife. She died first, on 29 August 1937, and he followed her only one month later, on 27 September. She was 55 years old, and he was 60. There is no indication in the register at St Nicholas as to what caused their near simultaneous deaths (with a bizarre similarity to the deaths of the Gould sisters).

Within a few months, in early 1938, the house was bought by a County Court Judge, His Honour Judge Gerald Hurst KC. He had been appointed to the Croydon and West Kent Circuit, and decided to base himself here in Chislehurst. We know a great deal about this interesting man, since he wrote two volumes of memoirs. You can read more about him here... He and his wife Margaret lived at Hoblands during the war years, until 1944. Two of their daughters lived with them for a while. Their only son, Quentin, was killed early in the war (his name being inscribed on the Chislehurst War Memorial). One of the reasons for leaving Hoblands was that his wife was increasingly affected by arthritis, and the shortage of domestic servants made the running of the large house too difficult for them. He and his wife therefore moved to 15 Church Row in 1944, and later to Heatherbank, a private hotel on Summer Hill. His book shows that while he lived in Hoblands he was acutely concious of the state of the war, not least since their son had been killed while they were living there: 'I never dreamed that I should live to watch overhead from my own doorstep some of the decisive air combats which constitute the Battle of Britain”. Later he comments “I look southwards from my windows at Hoblands at the encircling woods across a bright garden and a green spinney, all utterly quiet except...when I occasionally hear the tramp of soldiery'. Gerald and his wife are buried in St Nicholas churchyard.

After the Hurst family moved to Church Row, Colonel Dudley-Cooke and his wife Lily lived at Hoblands for not much more than one year, followed by Joseph and Amy Scratcherd who lived there until Henry and Mona Cox moved into Hoblands in 1953. Their daughter Val Yorke, described Hoblands as 'the perfect house', and has provided notes on her time at the house. See her account here...

Leonard Gilbert and his wife Nancy bought the house in 1958. Mr Gilbert was to be a Trustee of the Amenity Strip.

By 1966 Cyril Hugh Kinder had bought the house. He was to remain in the house with his wife Audrey for 21 years until 1987, when he retired as a Consultant Urologist at Guy’s Hospital, and moved to North Norfolk. More details on Hugh... Before he sold the house to the present owners, Hugh sold off another piece of Hobland’s land to Crest Homes, who combined this with land they bought from Peter Harding, and built Telson Lodge and Queenborough Gardens, all of it on land once belonging to Woodheath.

Woodheath and carThere were three buildings in the grounds of the house:

The stables, now Hoblands Cottage
The polo stables, now Woodheath Cottage
The swimming pool, now demolished

We also have the particulars of sale of the house in 1899, courtesy of Bromley Libraries. Click here to see them and two photographs that were included.

The picture here is taken from a postcard. It shows the original Woodheath. The car in front is almost certainly Frank Tiarks'. In her book, "Patchwork of the History of Chislehurst", Dorothy McCall notes that Frank’s motor car “was a huge, open and very ugly affair, and the ladies sat in it with great veils round their heads for dust avoidance, for there were then no tarred roads outside London.”

Domestic servants at Woodheath
At the time of the census in 1881, there were four servants at the house, Thomas Arnold, the butler (49) from Hertford, Sarah Arnold (39) the cook from Norfolk, Sarah Smith (41) a maid servant from Norfolk, and Elizabeth Adams (26), a Chislehurst woman who was the kitchen-maid.
Thomas and Sarah Arnold were still together at Woodheath in 1891, so it would seem they were married. There were three more servants: two maids, Annie Neck (48) from Devon, and Grace Peek (24) from Hoo, in Kent, and finally Hannah Grant (26), the housemaid, from North Newington, Oxfordshire.
The Tiarks had at least five servants in 1901. Five were noted at the time of the census. Three were from Germany, Maria (32) the cook, Dora (23) a housemaid, and Katchen (25) a maid. The Parlour-maid Ethel Adams (29) was from Gloucestershire, and Minnie Warren (29) was a Nurse, from Bucks. We know that the new Mrs Tiarks also had a ladies maid, Maria Buls, who had been with her since her wedding, but there is no mention of her in the census.

In 1911, the Tiarks were living in London, and the house was empty, being repaired after the first fire. Among the many servants in their 27 room apartment was a ladies maid, Maria Buls, who had been with Emmy since she came to England. For information on Maria Buls' violent death, look here...

Fire Brigade response, details of a response to a written Question to the Postmaster-General, 1913:

In Parliamentary papers yesterday Mr. Chancellor draws the Postmaster-General’s attention to the fact that on the occasion of a fire at the house of Mr. F. C. Tiarks, at Chislehurst, in the early morning of June 29th, a quarter of an hour was wasted before the fire call on the telephone was answered, and asks what action he has taken in the matter.
Mr. Samuel, in reply, states that his attention had been called to a paragraph in the “Daily Mail,” and as the result of special inquiry he found that the allegations were unfounded. The facts were that about 1 a.m. a call was received from the residence next to Mr. Tiark’s house for the Chislehurst Fire Brigade (Lower Borough). It was put through to them, but the brigade advised the caller to ring up the Chislehurst Police Station. At 1.03 a.m. a call from Mr. Tiark’s house for Bromley Fire Station was put through, and the caller was informed from the fire station that the fire was out of the Bromley district, but that the brigade would turn out if their expenses were guaranteed. About 1.10 a.m. the telephone operator on his own initiative called the Chislehurst Fire Brigade (Upper Borough) to whom he gave information of the fire. The Bromley Fire Brigade turned out at about 1.17 a.m. in response to a second call from Mr. Tiark’s house guaranteeing the brigade’s expenses.
“It will thus be seen,” adds Mr. Samuel, “that the first call was received not from the house that was actually on fire, but from the next house; being a fire-call special attention was given to it, and no doubt if there was a brief delay in answering the call from Mr. Tiark’s house it was owing to the fact that the operator was devoting special attention to seeing the first call through. He was not, however, responsible for the delay which occurred before the Bromley Fire Brigade turned out, and it would appear that he rendered a considerable service by calling the Chislehurst Fire Brigade on his own initiative.