A branch of the important Walpole family lived at Stagbury on Outwood Lane during the nineteenth century. Their influence over Chipstead lasts until today.
In the 18th and 19th centuries the Walpoles were one of England’s most influential families. Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745) was the country’s first prime minister serving George II for over twenty years. George II rewarded him by making him the 1st Earl of Orford; Robert rewarded himself by accumulating great wealth and using a portion of it to rebuild Houghton Hall in Norfolk. Sir Robert’s son, Horace Walpole (1717-1797) is also famous. Horace, a politician, writer and thought leader, built Strawberry Hill in Twickenham in a Gothic-revival style a century before Neo-gothic was ‘discovered’ by the Victorians.
Other than Sir Robert and Horace, there were many other Walpoles who held important political and military positions. One of these was Sir Robert’s nephew Thomas. Thomas Walpole (1727 -1803) was a director of the East India Company and a very influential politician before his career collapsed following a financial scandal causing him to sell his house in Carshalton, Surrey. Perhaps it was his childhood love of North-east Surrey that led to his son, another Thomas (1755 -1840), choosing Chipstead as a place to build his home when he built Stagbury (named no doubt after the deer in nearby Banstead Woods) on the road now known as Outwood Lane, close to its junction with Hazelwood Lane. Other than the very hazy old photograph below, we have little information about the house despite it surviving until about 1972.
Little is known about Thomas other than he was an M.P. and, for a period, our ambassador to Bavaria. He married Margaret who outlived him by 14 years. Margaret’s brother was Spencer Percival, the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated. It is Thomas died in 1840 at it is Margaret who, in the 1847 Tithe Map of the Parish of Chipstead, is shown as owning two acres of land around Stagbury as well as the 22 acre Doggett’s Farm (later called Doghurst Farm) on the hill behind it. However, this understates her land holdings as, in the adjoining Parish of Woodmanstearne, she had another 46 acres of land, including Latchford’s Farm.
Both Thomas and Margaret are buried in St. Margret’s churchyard Chipstead, commemorated by a once fine memorial which remains today. They had five children; the eldest male was yet another Thomas (1805 – 1881). This Thomas took the cloth and was Rector of St. Mary’s, Alverstoke in Hampshire where he is buried. It seems doubtful that he would have spent long in Chipstead but the family retained Stagbury and his eldest son, a barrister named Henry Spencer Walpole (1837 – 1913), and his wife, Frances Selina (nee Bourke), lived there for much of their lives. In 1892 Henry Spencer assumed, by Royal License, the additional surname Vade. It was to be Henry Vade-Walpole and his wife who were to benefit from property development in Chipstead - the catalyst for this was the new Tattenham Corner railway line.
In 1891 the M.P. for Kingswood, Sir Henry Cosmo Bonsor, decided to promote the extension of the Epsom Downs branch of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway to Kingswood. The route was bitterly contested and an alternative idea for a line from Purley through the Chipstead Valley evolved. Within months of the news that the railway was coming land values in the area rose from £25 to £40 an acre. It was noted that ‘the residents of this hitherto benighted part of Surrey were looking forward to a boom beside which the Klondike will pale into insignificance’. In November 1897 the line from Purley to Kingswood was finished with ‘Chipstead and Banstead Downs’ its only intermediate station (the line was extended to Tattenham Corner in 1901). The Walpoles and their neighbours, sold off a small amount of their land to the South East Railway (indeed the line passed within 100 yards of Stagbury). The real money-spinner was however to be houses and over the next three decades the Walpoles sold off nearly all of the rest of their land for residential property development.
Part of the attraction of Chipstead for wealthy Londoners relocating to the area was the opening of How Hills Golf Club (later to be renamed Chipstead Golf Club) in 1905. The golf club was mostly built on land acquired by a lady called Matilda Pine-Coffin from Edward Martin (of Nonsuch Park Farm, Ewell). However, about five acres of golf club land was (and indeed still is) leased from the Walpoles. The rest of Doggett’s Farm was opened up by the construction of Walpole Avenue and Bourke Hill. The first properties in Walpole Avenue (The Dial House and Garth Steading) were built in 1906 with perhaps 10 other houses being built before World War One. There was then a pause in the building between 1914 and 1918 with the other houses being built in the 1920s. After the War Latchfolds Farm land was used to build Stagbury Avenue, Stagbury Close and Old Oak Avenue.
The development seems to have been well planned, presumably by Henry Spencer before his death in 1913. That said the plan was largely executed by Frances Selina Vade-Walpole between 1913 and 1924 and after her death by her executors. By that stage the Walpoles had made a ‘strategic withdrawal’ from Chipstead. Although Henry Spencer and Frances Selina continued to own Stagbury they appear to have moved their main residence to West London (in the 1911 census they are shown as living in 101 Lexham Gardens, Kensington). After the war Frances Selina is shown as living in Montpelier Square, Knightsbridge.
Distancing themselves from Chipstead is understandable as the Walpoles probably no longer had a great emotional attachment to the area. Stagbury was old and encroached by the new railway. Frances Selina’s views are also likely to have been influenced by the fact that both of her sons were killed in the First World War. It seems likely that she will have wanted to forget the area in which they had spent their childhoods. It is probably just as well that she never knew that the stained-glass window she had installed in the North Aisle at St. Margaret’s to commemorate their memories was badly damaged by bombing in the Second World War.
In the event both Henry and Frances were burried in the St. Margaret's churchyard and the Walpole line was not lost in the First World War. Indeed there is still a Baron Walpole living in Norfolk. One of Henry Spencer and Frances Selina’s two sons, Horatio, had married Dorothea before the outbreak of war. Horatio and Dorothea were living in Stevenage and had a son, Robert Henry (1913 – 1989). After the war Dorothea and her son moved to the imposing Wolterton Hall in Norfolk. We do not know whether Stagbury continued to be owned by the Walpole family and let or, more likely perhaps, was sold soon after the war. Nevertheless, Stagbury remained occupied until it was demolished in 1972 and a small development of townhouses was built on its site.
In hindsight I think Chipstead can be grateful to the Walpole family. After the arrival of the railway the rapid expansion of the previously small rural community of Chipstead was inevitable. The Walpoles strongly influenced the style of much of that that development. They sold their land in a way that resulted in large houses with extensive gardens being built on it and this approach was mimicked by other developers such as in Hollymead Road and Coulsdon Lane. In a way Walpole Avenue acts as a more fitting memorial to the family than the sadly neglected family memorial in the St. Margaret’s churchyard.
JEC Grant, May 2020