Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Living in Eltham Lodge with Mr and Mrs Wood in 1838

Eltham Lodge, 1909
Eltham Lodge is a pretty impressive pile but sadly one that passed me by when I was growing up in Well Hall which was my loss.

It was built in 1664 by the banker Sir John Shaw and was regarded by many as a very stately mansion befitting someone who had assisted Charles II while he was in exile.

Sir John’s reward had been the lease of the manor of Eltham in 1663 which ran “from Southend to Horne park, Lee, embracing the old ‘ruinated Palace (Eltham Court), and all the rights of fishing, hawking, hunting, &c., for the sum of £9 per annum, with 20s. additional for the old House.”*

Eltham Lodge, 1844
And there was still plenty there when Benjamin and Anna Wood occupied the place in 1838 for according to the tithe schedule the estate consisted of 144 acres which included the 48 acres of Front or North Park, the 74 acres of South Park along with three large ponds, “pleasure gardens, assorted out buildings, smaller gardens and part of the Park Icehouse."

So here was a large historic home set in extensive grounds and approached by a long drive with a stream from Mottingham which fed the ponds and which “was said to be full of Trout [along with] heronries within easy reach”**

Once and I suspect soon after the house was built the walls had been hung with tapestries which may have been a gift from the King to Sir John.

But what had once been the height of fashion were later discarded, with some being sold off and ending up as carpet upon the floors of local cottages.

This may well have been in the early decades of the 19th century because in 1838 Mr and Mrs Wood discovered some of the old tapestries buried underneath wall paper.

Eltham Lodge, 1858-73
Not that Benjamin Wood had long to enjoy his new home.  He died in 1845 leaving Anna to live in  in the house until her death in 1889 leaving effects worth £149,834 9s.7d.

And just as I finished the story I came across a relative of Mr and Mrs Wood who provided me with details of his Parliamentary career. He was a Whig and a radical and was MP for Southwark.

There is much more I want to know about the Woods and the house but I am content to finish with the image “of the aged Mrs Wood during the closing years of her life”, sitting in the room with the old tapestries she had uncovered and “calling to attention those tapestries, long, long after she herself had ceased to be able to see them.”

*Rev. T.N. Roswell, Eltham Golf Course, 1895, now out of print.  Quoted by R.R.C.Gregory, The Story of Royal Eltham

**ibid, Gregory,

***ibid Gregory

Pictures; Eltham Lodge  from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on
The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, detail of Eltham High Street, 1844 from the Tithe map for Eltham courtesy of Kent History and Library Centre, Maidstone,  detail of the estate from the OS map of Kent, 1858-73

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