Chipstead Village


Exploring the Hamlet of Old Mugswell

Before the coming of the railway in 1899, the village of Chipstead that we know today consisted mainly of farmland, including Elmore Pond Farm, Dean Farm, Hazelwood Farm and Doggetts Farm. These farms were partly built over, mainly between1899 and 1939, to create the residential area of Chipstead, although some of the farms, including Shabden and Starrock Farms, continue today. So before 1899 the main residential area within the parish of Chipstead was at Mugswell in the south, which included the Old Rectory for St. Margaret’s Church, and, for the Rector, a hike or pony and trap ride of about 2 miles to the church!

The Old Parish of Chipstead

In the centuries before the railways and tarmac roads came to the parish of Chipstead, it was then an aloof village with a few ancient ponds and greens, situated on a plateau between two dry valleys, a relic of glacial erosion.

The 12th century St. Margaret’s Church stood in solitary grandeur on the extreme eastern edge of the parish, like some sentinel guarding the Merstham Gap. The parish boundary has since been moved eastwards twice in the last 75 years to include Hooley in 1933, and more recently Netherne Village in 2005.

Half a mile to the north west lay the village pub, the old White Hart, (dating from the early 18th century at least, but rebuilt in c1890), and a few scattered farms and dwellings along the line of The Highroad, running from the Leaden Cross at Smitham (now Coulsdon) to Reigate Hill, which was then a main road, running  from London to the coast. This route was particularly useful in winter when the valley road was impassable; the Coulsdon to Reigate Turnpike was only opened in 1809.

However, about two miles to the south west lay the hamlet of Mughole Street or Mugswell, as we now know it, situated in more sheltered undulating countryside, and here most of the Chipstead community used to live, before the railway came to Chipstead in 1899.

Map of Mugswell based on the 1847 Tithe Map of Chipstead


"Marksland" is the first house which may be considered as in Mugswell, on the west side of the High Road, close to the turning into Rectory Road. This house is named after Mark Smith, the devoted long term Church Sexton in the early 1900s, "who kept the cemetery grass looking beautiful and dug the graves". He  then lived with his wife and 4 children in an "iron coop" or" cottage" near the Old Rectory on the Glebeland, at the top of the road.

"Marksland" off High Road

“He kept two cows and a donkey in various places around the hamlet, including Parson`s Green and the Glebe field opposite. When he died, his elder daughter Nell and her sister took over this impromptu small holding then having 30 odd cows plus some chickens, and got planning permission to build the house in this field in 1949. These women were rather strange, having beards and moustaches and always wore black, frightening the local  children”.

Rectory Road and side lanes

The rest of the hamlet lies about 800 yards from the High Road, down Rectory Road, in two locations about 300 yards apart; the first is centred on the Old Rectory and Parson’s Green with Southerns Lane to the west, and Fair Lane to the east. Rectory Road continues its switchback route after the Green for another 300 yards to connect with the old "Street"  the other larger settlement; with only the 17th century  "Orchard Cottage"  on this stretch.

Orchard Cottage

The Floods of winter 2014

Why "Orchard Cottage" should be the only dwelling here has always been intriguing, but the torrential rains of  December 2013 and after, have possibly answered this. Fast flowing flood waters from the waterlogged fields above it cascaded down onto the lane on both sides, but avoided "Orchard Cottage" which lies on slightly higher ground near the water shed at which marks the origin of  Pigeonhouse Lane opposite. This deluge flowed down the lane, stripping up the tarmac for a hundred yards or so, to expose the old gravel foundations, which were contoured out like a mountain river bed as the water flowed down to flood the fields off  White Hill and Pigeonhouse Farm.

Flood damage at Pigeonhouse Lane

The old Beagle Kennels and Pigeonhouse Farm

The only old buildings on Pigeonhouse Lane are the Dog Kennels, previously the "Little Well", which were, from 1926 to 1958 the hunt kennels of the "Worcester Park and Buckland Beagles" whose longstanding kennel huntsman, Bill Birdseye, was killed in 1944 during the D Day Landings.  Other prominent members of this hunt`s hierarchy had been Lord Marshall of Chipstead, and Hugh Scott -Willey, the well known local historian and architect. This old property, now a boarding kennels, is well elevated above the lane and not flooded.


Dog Kennels on Pigeonhouse Lane

Pigeonhouse Farm belonged to a John Pigeon in the 17th century, who donated the carved oak pulpit in St. Margaret`s church. A relation of his was married to the then Rector, John Ingram, in 1675. Centuries later in the early 20th century more Jacobean carvings were found at the farm and given to the church, to become incorporated into the panelling of the then fairly new organ.

The Track Way

Green Lane or "The Street", as it was previously known, is the short initial section of a long tortuous lane, running down to the Reigate road. Here is the main part of the hamlet on the western edge of the parish of Chipstead, following the course of an ancient track way or “Ley”, running southward from Burgh Heath though Kingswood and Mugswell to cross the Pilgrims Way at Reigate Hill. This would have brought employment and trade to Mugswell, as well as some rather strange, and possibly ill, travellers heading for the Reigate Workhouse on Earlswood Common, later Redhill General Hospital, now demolished.

Hogdens Bottom next to the Well House Inn

The Well House Inn

St. Margaret's Well at the rear of the Well House Inn

The track way, now a public footpath, enters Mugswell as it runs across White Hill, at Hogdens Bottom, then past St Margaret`s Well, where the "Well Inn" now stands, and climbs up to the top of Mags Hill to join The Street, by Langridges Farm (Owned and farmed by James Shurman in 1847) and the 8 May cottages.  All these buildings were demolished by a V1 flying bomb in the summer of 1944, along with damaging the Mill House and the four “Mags Cottages" further up The Street. Most of the cottages have subsequently been rebuilt, but the more robust Mill House only needed repair and Langridges was never rebuilt. Thankfully, nobody seems to have been killed.

The Mill House

The Hamlet Centre

Here in The Street the traveller could rest from his journey or “De Ley.” On the right side there was the windmill and bakers shop, and to the left an alehouse, situated at Juniper Cottage, which was then a single property with its neighbour Flint Cottage. By the beginning of the 20thcentury he could also have said a prayer of thanks at the Mission Hall next door! This small weather-boarded building was lifted off its foundations in 1944 by the bomb blast, but survived.

Juniper Cottage

The windmill* (or one of  its predecessors), was not “The Mill” mentioned in The Domesday Book in 1086, where it is recorded that "the Manor of Tepestede or Chipstead  answered for a collection of people, animals and lands, amongst which was a mill valued at 20 shillings". It was partially demolished in 1912, though the Round House survives as a garden feature. The alehouse at Juniper Cottage was built in the 17th century or earlier. At that  time. the current "Well Inn" was just a row of four  cottages, then later a tea room, and only became a pub in  the 1950s, and Juniper Cottage was a private home

The old windmill

Jean Northover and other inhabitants

Opposite Juniper Cottage are the four rebuilt Mags Cottages, one of which is now occupied by Mugswell`s oldest inhabitant, Mrs Jean Northover, who has lived there since they were built. She was born just down the road in "Dingley Dell" in Chipstead Lane in the 1920s, and remembers the bombs falling and life during WW 2 in Mugswell, when the Canadian Army was stationed here before D Day. After the war she married Len Northover, newly de-mobbed after seeing action in the Desert, Sicily and Monte Casino; he had been born at Keeper`s Cottage across the fields in Fair Lane. After the war they both worked in Kingswood, where they walked daily along the Old Path; she at the Legal & General and Len as gardener to Dr Paul Dick, a local GP and partner to Dr John Smallshaw, Chipstead’s doctor. Sadly, Len died a few years ago.

"Mags Cottages" rebuilt after World War Two

Jean Northover

Most of the other cottages here are relatively modern, thanks to the flying bomb. The  exceptions are the Corner Cottage, now occupied and recently rebuilt by Roger Hutchings and Trish Etheridge, whose family were the last  farmers at Gatwick Farm; also here is Lilac Cottage, on the bend of Green Lane, which was originally a row of  2 cottages and traditionally the old general store, run by a Miss Jane Richbell from the 1890s, who was a "most old fashioned lady", who sold everything, including coal. These are set back from the road bend and just outside the Parish of Chipstead, in Kingswood on the west of the track way.

Lilac Cottage c1900

Gatwick Farm

The track way then continues south over flat fields to pass Gatwick Farm on the left (owned by Thomas Alcock of Kingswood, and farmed by Thomas Carr in 1847; now Richard Kent of Crossways Farm, who farms most of the land around Mugswell). Gatwick farm was converted into a residential complex and renamed Homewood Farm in 1998; one of the first of the new residents was George Best, the renowned footballer.

It was first documented in 1329  as a property of Chipstead Manor, and occupied by Richard de Gatwick, whose family were Lords of the manor and parish of Charlwood;  Richard became one of the first documented rectors at St. Margaret`s 1331-2.  Interestingly, in the church of St. Nicholas , Charlwood, there are several faded wall frescos, one of which depicts the fate of Saint Margaret of Antioch; these were painted  from 1320 onwards and are among the finest mediaeval wall paintings in Britain.  They were covered with lime wash at the time of the Reformation c 1540 and only rediscovered in 1850.

Original 14c wall panting recently uncovered after 400 years since the Reformation when it was covered by the church to conceal it during the reign of to prevent desecration by Henry VIII due to the association with Catholicism at Charlwood

Painting by a modern artist simulating the bright colours of the original.  

The track way finally leaves the Parish at Babylon Lane, near the now demolished ancient farm and sub manor house of Lovelands; then it crosses the Pilgrims Way at Reigate Hill and continues south, to end at Charlwood, now threatened by the prospect of a second runway at Gatwick Airport. It cannot be just a coincidence that the Rector of St Margaret’s Chipstead and the sponsors of the wall paintings of St Margaret in Charlwood Church, at that time, were both called de Gatwick!

Southerns Lane

Parsons Green

Parson's Cottage on Parson's Green

We must return now to Parsons Green and Southerns Lane, where there are several very old cottages, as well as Southerns Farm, owned by Sir William Hylton Joliffe and farmed by John Thurman in 1847. Here there was once a pit in a field, "full of the dead animals from all over the district, cows, horses, sheep etc, which gave off a terrible stench"** Opposite this was April Cottage, home of the Richbell family, (Thomas Richbell also tenanted part of Mint Farm from Joliffe in 1847).

Further down Southerns Lane is Bashford`s Cottage, (home of James Bashford the Mugswell`s grocer-1850-1885), now Bakehouse and Spiders Cottages. Here Fred Little, a WW1 veteran and author of “Chipstead, Memories of the Village 1902-1920”, lived with his family in his early days before he was called up for in WW1 as a Gunner, and survived to revisit the Western Front many years later. Beyond this and on the opposite side of the lane is The Deerings, previously called Gorringes, where John Keatley lived in the early 19th century. He was Chipstead`s blacksmith at the time, and a builder with a forge and workshops in Hazelwood Lane, where The Lodge now stands. He also tenanted Hazelwood Farm from William Joliffe in 1847. All these cottages, along with Keepers and Parsons Cottages in Fair Lane, date at least from the 17th century.

Bakehouse and Spiders Cottages

The Old Rectory

The other reason why this part of the hamlet developed was the presence of the Old Rectory, the Jacobean home of the Rectors of St. Margaret’s for centuries, until 1902. Little is known of the ancient history of this lovely house, with its surrounding land, or Glebe, but we do know that from 1753 to 1808, the then Rector, Rev. John Griffiths, appears to have commuted to Chipstead from Sanderstead, where he was also the incumbent. For most of his time, the Old Rectory was converted into labourer’s cottages, and he stayed in the nearby Parson’s Cottage occasionally.

In 1808 the Rev.Peter Aubertin, of Huguenot decent, arrived and moved into the Old Rectory, restoring and enlarging it. It has a very large and beautiful garden and about 40 acres of Glebeland, from which came the timber used to restore the church roof and rebuild the collapsed south  transept of the church in c1856. He died in the Rectory in 1861, when his son took over as Rector and built the north aisle and arcade of the church in c1884. He lived in the Old Rectory until 1889, when ill health forced him to retire and leave Chipstead.

1821 painting of the Old Rectory

His successor, the Rev. Charles Gordon Young, was a sportsman who had founded the Queens Park Rangers football club in his previous parish, but for some reason he moved into lodgings with the Richbell family, and left under a cloud of misdemeanours in 1902. Then the highly respectable and hard working James Hervey took over, sold the Old Rectory and built a replacement in Elmore Road in 1905. As a sort of compensation, the Mission Hall was built in 1907, largely financed by part of a legacy from the Aubertin family, left over from the cost of the PA Hall.

Front elevation of the Old Rectory

Rear elevation of the Old Rectory

Since 1902 the Old Rectory has had several owners, including Lord Howe, the famous racing driver and MP, from 1930s to 1955. In 1956 it was acquired by Harry Hyams, the successful property developer, who left after a relatively short period of full time residence, but still retains the ownership of the Old Rectory and the nearby Park Farm (farmed by John Currie and formerly owned by the Countess of Warwick in 1847). The Rectory has been meticulously looked after by Mr Hyams’ loyal gardeners ever since, though few people have ever seen it.

In 2017, a campaign was launched by local residents to have the building listed and protect it from development. The Old Rectory was awarded a Grade II listing in 2018.

The Mission Hall

Originally the Mission Hall was meant to be used for Chipstead Parish purposes but this lapsed until in the 1960s, when it was used for baptisms and other services by the then vicar of Kingswood, the Rev Prebendary Vere Hodge MC.  Vere Hodge had been a heroic airborne gunner whose actions were contributory to the success of the allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, and the D Day June capture of the bridge at Ranville  or "Pegasus Bridge". He was ordained in 1948.

Mugswell Mission Hall

After Vere Hodge left Kingswood, ecclesiastical activities at the Hall consisted of a Sunday School, run by Mrs Margaret Ramsdale and others for some years, but even this faded. Recently, there was an attempt by the Chipstead PCC to sell it, which caused outrage from the hamlet residents. Now it has four services a year taken by Canon Andrew Britton, and otherwise is still much used and cherished locally. It is interesting to note that the first ever Chipstead  Flower Show was held there in 1910, shortly after it opened.

To Conclude:

Such is the perception of Mugswell by a resident of the less historic north easterly part of the Parish, and I hope it shows how important the inhabitants of Mugswell were and still are to life in Chipstead;  I appreciate that there are many other fascinating tales of the hamlet untold here.

*Windmills in Europe did not exist until the late 12th century when a windmill at Warlingham was described. The Chipstead Doomsday Mill is thought to have been a Water Mill on a tributary of the River Mole at Chipstead Mead near South Nutfield, which is now Redhill Aerodrome. It was not uncommon in those days for the local manor to own watermills some distance from their own main lands. Locally is Ockham Mill, still functioning on a tributary of the river Wey near Ripley, which is over 2 miles from the village of Ockham .   

I must acknowledge:

Charles Pringle`s “A History of Chipstead” (still available at the Chipstead Post Office)

  • **Fred Little`s paper-- already mentioned
  • F.J. Randell Creasy`s monograph “A Peep At Chipstead`s Past.”
  •  "The History of The Worcestor Park and Buckland Beagles" by Hugh Scott-Willey- a limited edition;
  • Photos and literature from St Nicholas`s Church, Charlwood
  • Mr Simon Daniell of the Mill House for allowing us to copy his old photo of the Mill.
  • All  the Owners of houses in Mugswell , which appear here with or without their their knowledge.

Rupert Courtenay-Evans 2014


Comments (1)

  1. Gareth Hardwick:
    Mar 05, 2022 at 12:39 AM

    In the 1960s I was told by a man who used to follow the Worcester Park and Buckland Beagles before the Second World War that the kennel huntsman who lived at the kennels in Pigeon House Lane was known as Will Birdseye (rather than Bill Birdseye).

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