Ongar Hill by J Hassell, 1824

Ongar Hill, as the house was originally known, stood in the general vicinity of the junction of Avon Close and Milton Road, Addlestone. For many generations the 50 acre farm belonged to the Crockford family, with references to them as tenants dating back to 1549. By the 18th century the family also owned a large number of plots in the area which included the area that had been Sayes Court and an orchard that had been part of Abbey estate in Chertsey.

In 1717 Maurice Crockford, for reasons not known, needed to mortgage Ongar Hill to secure £330. Alas, he died the following year before the estate could be paid off, but his family continued to farm the estate as tenants for a short while. His son, also called Maurice, sold the estate to Randolph Greenway, a London lawyer, for a mere 1 guinea with Greenway paying off the remaining mortgage of £427. The agreement, signed in the presence of the landlord of the King’s Head pub in Chertsey, also stipulated that Greenway would pay Maurice’s mother an annual annuity of £12.

Greenway improved the estate so that the house became what has been described as “a gentleman’s seat”.  He obtained permission to divert the public road (part of Ongar Hill or maybe Liberty Lane) away from his estate, and he bought a further 55 acres of land and a farmhouse which added to the estate. However, Greenway died without an heir in 1754. It seems the house remained part of his estate until 1776 when it was sold to Captain John Bentinck R.N. (1737-1775) grandson of Earl of Portland. Ongar Hill was also known as Hunger Hill and, in 1767, the cousin of Captain Bentinck’s wife wrote home saying,

I am no longer in London, I am at Hunger Hill with Mr. Van effen and Mr. Staunton, surgeon of the (HMS) Dragon… This house is ugly, the countryside is not beautiful and the road and countryside from Hounslow, all flooded with the waters of the Thames is the saddest thing to see. On one side I find the surroundings there beautiful and the sights pleasant, but on the London side so many common ones, so much uncultivated ground. I would not have bought Hunger Hill for half what it is worth but Mr Bentinck and my cousin are happy.

In 1781 Ongar Hill was sold to Vice Admiral (5th) Baronet Hyde-Parker (1714-1782). Within 10 days purchasing the estate he won a decisive battle against Dutch and in recognition was promoted to Commander of the East Indies. However he was lost at sea when his flag-ship sank on its outward journey to the east. His son, Sir Harry, inherited and added to the estate when, in 1784,  he purchased 109 acres of Inwood’s Farm. Shortly afterwards he put the estate up for sale by private contract through James Christie – the first of the Christie auction house family.

Ongar Hill, 1908

Ongar Hill, 1908

Christie described the house as “an elegant freehold villa most eligibly situated at Ongar Hill, a situation remarkable for the purity of the air, dryness of soil and excellent water… The principle apartments on the ground floor comprise a saloon, eating parlour, and a small hall whilst above on the first floor were drawing room, library and ante-chamber, with 3 bedrooms and 2 dressing rooms; on the second floor were 4 further bedrooms, three dressing rooms and 3 servants’ bedrooms, and then, finally, in the central attic storey, a 36ft billiard room.”

Detached from the house on its west side were 2 service wings – the north wing contained a stable for 12 horses, a double coach-house and ancillary rooms, and the one on the south contained the kitchen and other domestic offices. The kitchen garden comprised of 1.5 acres and was described as recently built, and boasted a melon ground, a 90ft peachery and a mushroom house. The estate, which at this time comprised of the house and its grounds, 116 acres of freehold land and a further 45 acres leased from the Crown, was bought by John Kirkpatrick Escott for £6,300 + a further £1,472 for livestock.

Escott was London wine merchant with a wine business in Malaga, and with previous owners, he added more land to estate when he bought a smallholding near the junction of Spinney Hill and Hare Hill, in 1788 and went on to acquire more land in Woodham, Byfleet, Lyne, Chertsey and Thorpe. Escott died 1799 leaving his son Robert, age 15, as heir. Escott’s widow had had no desire to continue to live at Ongar Hill and from September 1799 it was let to a succession of tenants. In to March 1822 Robert, now married, returned to the estate, adding two fields from the Coombelands estate (1827), and Chertsey Beomond land which he purchased at the Crown Estate sale in 1828. When Robert died in 1854, a widower with no heir, the estate passed to his sister, Elizabeth, for the duration of her life. On her death in April 1863 it was sold at auction for a total of £41,625.

Ongar Hill House and 23 acres of land was sold to Benjamin Locker Lewis, and the rest was purchased by John Marshall Prairie who had been a tenant at Sayes Court. Prairie had had his lease renewal on Sayes Court refused and so he purchased the land and built on it a new Gothic house which he called Coombelands (demolished 1962).

Thomas Lloyd Davies

Locker Lewis remained in Ongar Hill house until at least 1882, when it was owned by Henry Cobbett, who sold it to Thomas Lloyd Davies in 1908. Lloyd Davies name of the house to Ongar Place, the name it still maintained when it was sold to developers in 1960. Permission was given to build houses on 14 acres of the land, a further 5 acres given up to the building of the M25, and 2 acres were developed to make Ongar Place School. The house remained in 14 acres of land until 1963 when it was demolished for further development.