Watercolour of Ottershaw South Front by John Hassell (RA), 1824

Watercolour of Ottershaw South Front by John Hassell (RA), 1824

Until the mid 19th century, the term Ottershaw only referred to the Ottershaw Park area. From then onwards it was used to describe the area made up by the hamlets of Chertsey Lane End, Brox and Spratts. The first mention of Ottershaw is as ‘Otreshagh’ in the charger of King Alfred to the Monastery of Chertsey c.890, but there is some question over the validity of this reference.

In the 1270s Ottershaw was owned by the Earl of Hereford and Nicholas de Cruce (or Croix), but by 1301 it had been leased by Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford to Walter de Langton, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield who cut down 300 acres of Ottershaw woods. Humphrey de Bohun gave a house and 40 acres of land in Ottershaw to Geoffrey de Parys whose heir John Aylet passed them on to John de Tighele. From him they were acquired by William Inglehard and then his heir, Edward ate Brugg, and on to Robert Dachet and his son William.

In 1504 John Danaster, a merchant of Exeter, died in possession of a tenement called Ottershaw, passing it to his widow Joan and then to their son John, a Baron of the Exchequer and his wife Anne. He died in 1540 and their only child, Anne, married Owen and their son Edward inherited Ottershaw. Edward married Susan Doylie in 1570 and after his death Susan re-married Anthony Cooper in 1594. After the Coopers died, Ottershaw and their other local estates reverted to the Bray family.

Richard Roake and his wife Elizabeth lived at Ottershaw Farm from around 1646. At Richard’s death in 1661, the estate passed to his son, Richard and daughter-in-law Joyce. They had two sons, John, who married Margaret Porter of Woking and Henry. Joyce was widowed in 1670 and re-married Water Spong, a Yeoman of Chertsey, who moved into Ottershaw Farm. John and Margaret inherited the farm after Joyce’s death, but they had no children. Therefore, in 1722, the farm passed to Lawrence Porter, the eldest son of John’s sister Joyce.

The farm had been mortgaged heavily by John with debts of £1,470 to be paid off. It was described as: ‘one messuage, two barns, two gardens, two orchards, 100 acres of land in the parishes of Chertsey and Chobham; and 160 acres of furze and heath, now unfenced’. In 1726 this was sold by Porter to Thomas Woodford, solicitor to the East India Company.

During the 1720s, 1730s and 1740s Woodford set about purchasing plots adjacent to the Ottershaw Farm estate. When he died in 1759 his eldest son, the Rev. Thomas Woodford, inherited his estate and manor in Chertsey and Chobham parishes, but did not stay long. He sold everything to Thomas Sewell of Lincolns Inn Fields.

Thomas Sewell demolished the original buildings of Ottershaw Farm and built a Palladian house of brick and stone, designed by Robert Taylor. It had a central block with five bays and a large conservatory at either end, and all the land around was landscaped, with some local roads diverted to enable this. Small lakes were made on the east and west sides of the parkland, some of which are still in existence and used for fishing. Thomas Sewell died intestate in 1784 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Thomas Bailey Heath Sewell. He became a Lieut. Colonel in the Surrey Fencible Cavalry which was raised in 1794 during the threat of French invasion. In the same year the British Directory of 1794 mentions Ottershaw Park as a “noble stone edifice built by the father of the present possessor”. It is described as large, with an air of grandeur. They note a lawn at the front “from which is a most enchanting picturesque prospect for many mile over the surrounding country”.

Thomas Bailey Heath Sewell sold the Ottershaw Park estate in 1796 to Edmund Boehm, who came from a well-known merchant family in London. He enlarged and improved the estate by buying the waste land bordering the east and north-east sides of the park. James Wyatt designed two lodges – the only buildings still standing from the earlier estate, although they have since been enlarged. Edmund Boehm also redecorated the interior of the house and a 1819 sale catalogue describes the drawing room as ‘…of octagonal shape, 14 feet height, finished in the Chinese taste with circular dome ceiling, the walls hung with beautiful India paper, in panels, with pillars of Japan, the chimney-piece of white statuary…’; the windows led onto an ornamented iron balcony from which guests could admire the park.

Ottershaw Park had stables for 16 horses, four coach horses, a smithy, a brew house 36 catacombs for wine storage, a bake house, a laundry, a diary, two farmyards with barns, two slaughter houses, a wood yard, two peacheries, melon ground and pits, vinery, pinery, aviary, venison house, ice house, engine house (for pumping water into a reservoir in the roof of the property) and a water mill at Durnford Bridge, built in 1797. The estate was therefore virtually self-supporting.

Lithograph of Ottershaw Park Estate [one of a series of five] entitled "The Mansion at Ottershaw Park, Grand Portico", 1859

Lithograph of Ottershaw Park Estate [one of a series of five] entitled “The Mansion at Ottershaw Park, Grand Portico”, 1859

The Boehms were extravagant in their entertaining, and also had a London house in St James’ Square. It was probably both this and the depression of trade during and after the Napoleonic Wars which caused her husband to be declared bankrupt in 1819. Ottershaw Park was sold, and the Boehms retired to a cottage in Sidmouth. At the time of the 1819 sale, the estate was said to include 1,300 acres with a number of properties included. This was all divided up into 23 lots. The mansion, park and Potter’s Park Farm were bought by Lieut. General Sir George Wood, a veteran of the Bengal army of the East India Company with the nickname ‘The Royal Bengal Tiger’. However, Wood died five years after moving to Ottershaw Park, and his son George inherited.

In the 1830s Ottershaw Park was let to Lord Belfast and then sold in 1841 by George Wood to Richard Crawshay from Honingham Hall, Norfolk, who had made his fortune making guns and cannon balls for the East India Company. At Ottershaw Park, Richard Crawshay preferred to live the life of the country gentleman, and in 1839 he sold his share in the London business, deciding to live the country life with his wife, Mary Homfray, and their 12 children. The only modifications to the estate made by Crawshay were a new bailiff’s house, the construction of farm buildings and a brewhouse.

At Richard Crawshay’s death in 1859 the park was purchased by Sir Edward Colebrook Bt of Abington M.P. for Lanarkshire. He pulled down the conservatories in 1868 and built a wing on the East side. Sir Edward Colebrook was a generous benefactor in the village, setting up, amongst other things, the local school. In 1883 he sold the estate to Lawrence J. Baker, a stockbroker, M.P. for Frome and later the Liberal candidate for Chertsey. In 1907 Baker put the whole estate up for auction, but it remained unsold until 1909 when it was purchased, with all its farms, by Mr Frederick Eckstein.

Eckstein decided to demolish the old mansion and build a new house designed by architects Niven & Wigglesworth. The interior was very luxurious with much marble and wood carving, and was reputed to have cost £250,000. This ‘palace’ was complete by 1911, but with the advent of the First World War, the building was requisitioned as an officer’s hospital, and Mr Eckstein occupied only the top floor. He sold the estate in 1921 to a Miss Dora Schintz for £100,000.

Miss Schintz, an heiress, from Childwell Hall, Liverpool, was very generous to one of her former employees, mortgaged the estate, and becoming bankrupt. Most of the farms were sold in 1930 to 1931, and the remainder of the estate was sold by the mortgagees for £19,000 to speculators. They sold the mansion and the middle area of the park in 1932. It became Ottershaw College, a new public school. The school was short of money, however, and had to close in 1939.

In 1948 Surrey County Council carried out a compulsory purchase order for the mansion and the central part of the park. They founded Ottershaw School as a boy’s boarding school. It thrived, but council cut-backs eventually led to its closure in 1980. At this point the mansion and all the school buildings were purchased by a property developer and converted into housing or were completely rebuilt. The mansion itself was divided into separate apartments.

References:

Stratton, H.J.M., ‘Ottershaw through the Ages’, 1990

‘The British Directory’, 1794