Baston Lodge, Upper Maze Hill

Yesterday the Society held a very pleasant garden party at Baston Lodge, Upper Maze Hill, in gloriously sunny weather. On behalf of all the attending members many thanks to our generous hosts, who even compiled a list of events in the history of the house. Here is a photo of the house as seen from the garden, followed by a photo of the party.

Baston Lodge, Upper Maze Hill


Garden party at Baston Lodge

It is thought to have been built in about 1850 for the Ward family of Tunbridge Wells, who had earlier commissioned Decimus Burton to build on their development of Calverley Park in Tunbridge Wells. The Wards already had a Baston Lodge in that town. As we shall see the Ward family were still at “our” Baston Lodge 70 years later, and were presumably the freeholders for that period. This was at a time when even wealthy families such as their tenants often lived in rented accommodation. The 1912 advert for its sale, below, gives some information about the ownership of the land.

This account is not a complete history, but merely a list of some significant or interesting events at Baston Lodge. I have not, for example, systematically looked for every census return. There is a Wikipedia article on Baston Lodge which includes a photo showing the house from the road.

In Sussex East: with Brighton and Hove, 2nd edition, by Nicholas Antram and Nikolaus Pevsner, page 462, we have a terse description:

UPPER MAZE HILL, returns to the Burton era with BASTON LODGE on the l. of 1850 by Decimus Burton, built for his friend and Tunbridge Wells collaborator John Ward. Italianate with a tower.

Historic England has a detailed description of Baston Lodge’s architecture and also attributes it to 1850 and Decimus Burton, perhaps simply copying Pevsner. I understand it is more likely that a pupil of Decimus was in fact the architect. Incidentally, Baston Lodge is the only listed house on Upper Maze Hill (thanks apparently to this Society’s efforts). With other listed houses in the area, it can be seen on the map search function of the website, which is great fun to zoom in on.

Upper Maze Hill does not appear in the April 1851 census, and the first mention of the house that I am aware of is in the Sussex Advertiser, 23 December 1851:

Thomas Gibbon was charged with begging at Baston Lodge. Prisoner, who had been very abusive, was committed to Maidstone for a month.

Short but not so sweet. Police constables spent much of their time patrolling the streets looking for anyone accosting well-off people, or ringing front doorbells, and asking for charity.

The Keep has DH/C/6/1/477 from 1861 which is for a planning application for “House”, 1 Upper Maze Hill, Baston Lodge’s address. It probably is for alterations or an extension. I cannot trace an earlier planning application.

The 1867/68 Mathieson’s Directory lists a Mrs Ward as the occupant. About this time there were some references to families renting the house, probably briefly, among mentions of “fashionable visitors”. This may apply to the 1871 census, which gives the household as Jonathan B. Hawkes, 48, a married solicitor, born Staffordshire Humley, plus his wife, son, and six servants.

The image from the 1872 map is taken from the very helpful National Library of Scotland map of St Leonards, which does not even require registration. There are maps of the area from other dates on the site.

Baston Lodge on an Ordnance Survey map, surveyed 1872, published 1875

The 20 December 1879 issue of the Observer has another mention of begging, giving rather more information:

PAT IN DISTRESS. John Denman, an Irishman, was charged with begging. 

P.C. Gurr deposed that he saw prisoner go to Baston Lodge, Maze-hill. When he came back witness asked him what he had been there for, and he said “Nothing.” Witness took the prisoner back and the servant said that he had been begging and that she had given him some bread. He took prisoner into custody and found fourpence on him. 

Prisoner said he was very sorry for what he had done, but he was destitute. He had tramped from London. 

He was discharged with a caution, upon promising to leave the town.

The 1901 census:

Caroline A. Macbraire, head, widow, 93, living on own means, born York Leeds

James Macbraire, son, married, 68, living on own means, born Yorks Leeds

Anne Macbraire, dau in law, married, 69, born Yorks Knaresborough

Plus five servants. She died in 1903 at the house, the widow of a Scottish landowner.

The 18 September 1909 issue of the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer has an intriguing brief advert in its ‘Situations wanted – female’ section:

AS Useful MAID or Nurse: good reference; good needlewoman; disengaged 1st of October. — R.H., Baston Lodge, Upper Maze Hill, St Leonards. 

Who was R.H. and why did she want to leave ? She had a good reference, so she wasn’t been forced out.

The 1911 census is the first to give the number of rooms in each household, in this case 17 rooms. Householders also had to state how long they had been married, and how many children they had had. The parents:

Walter Waterfield Ward, 58, married 20 years, 4 children, Colonel (retired pay), born Burdwan Bengal

Phyllis Wolseley Ward, wife, 46, born Kent Woolwich

There were also four daughters, a governess, four cousins, and five servants, making 16 in all. Colonel Ward was son of James Jackson Ward of the Bengal Civil Service, who died in 1893, and who appears to have inherited the house in 1855 from his uncle John Jackson Ward. The colonel died in 1935 in Tunbridge Wells.

Baston Lodge’s leasehold was up for sale as advertised in the Observer, 17 February 1912. It’s an interesting description, and the mention of three stables matches the present three garages. There is a helpful mention of the leasehold being 450 years. The Burton estate liked 90 year leases but also gave some 500 year leases, and this suggests a lease beginning about 1862, perhaps related to the planning application of 1861. The Wards presumably still owned the freehold, though why if they sold it were they there in the 1921 census ? I suggest a possible answer further on. Here was the complete household:

Advert for sale of leasehold of Baston Lodge, 17 Feb 1912

Walter Waterfield Ward, head, 68 years 3 months, married, born India Bengal, Colonel British Army retired, E. Yorks Regt.

Phyllis Wolseley Ward, wife, 53 years 1 month, born Kent Woolwich, home duties

Visitor [daughter] Phyllis Nerina Ward, 29 years 7 mos, married, born Kent Tunbridge Wells, home duties

Hazel Mary Ward, daughter, 25 years 1 month, single, born Yorkshire Beverley, clerk (retired) Foreign Office

Joan Violet Haig Ward, daughter, 10 years 5 months, born Sussex St Leonards, whole time [student]

Harry Ward, visitor, 45 years 3 mos, married, born India N.W.P., Colonel RA

Alan Mathieson Turing, ward, 8 years 11 mos, parents both alive, born London, whole time [student]

Annie Wilkinson, servant, 17 years 4 months, born Ireland co. Cork, house parlourmaid

Mary Augusta Wilkinson, servant, 14 years 5 months, born Ireland Kildare, general help

Evelyn Lowe, visitor, 27 years 6 months, single, born Argentina, student

Dorothy Lowe, visitor, 14 years 6 months, born Argentina, whole time [student]

There is a blue plaque on the building for Turing, whose work on concepts behind how computer software works was so important. He and a brother had been left there by his parents in about 1913 when they went to India. When he went to Sherborne School in Dorset several years later he cycled the whole way, something he thought trivial. According to biographies, he liked Hazel but despised Joan, and found Colonel Ward kind but distant.

Percy Livingstone Parker of Baston Lodge and 44 Essex Street, Middlesex died in the 1 April 1925 at the Buchanan Hospital, age 58. In the 1923 Pike’s Directory he was at 94 Marina. A newspaper proprietor, and author of books on the history of Methodism, he owned the freehold, as in 1927 the property was offered for sale by order of his trustees. Perhaps the Wards in 1921 were his tenants.

On the 9 November 1929 the Hastings & St Leonards Observer, in briefly reporting on planning applications, stated:

Amended plan of alterations, Baston Lodge, Upper Maze Hill, Mr O. Shields, owner, per Mr P.H. Oxley, architect.

The relevant planning application at The Keep, DH/C/6/1/10656 is for a “conversion”, apparently an early attempt to divide the house into, probably, two flats (the basement and ground floor being one). The architect Peter Hunter Oxley lived in a flat at 13 Upper Maze Hill and had applied for permission, as the owner, to convert that address into flats in 1922.

Obadiah Shields is an interesting character. Briefly, he was born in about 1865 in Buxton, Derbyshire. In 1886 he sailed to New York and in 1887 married Mary Alice Walsh (born Accrington, Lancashire). They soon returned to England, as in the 1891 census they were in Accrington, where he sold groceries and fish. He moved on to Lytham St Annes, and several times got into conflicts by selling underweight goods, or blocking footpaths. He was both a freemason and a Methodist. They only seemed to have lived at Baston Lodge for about two years, moving to one of four flats at 49 Eversfield Place, before moving back to Lytham St Annes during World War II.

The 1928 electoral register for 1 Upper Maze Hill gives as voters, besides the Shield couple, James Selmes and Sidney and Gertrude Packham. The Packhams were also living in the Shield household in the 1927 register, at 104 Marina, but apparently not as servants, as they occupied the third and fourth floors. The Shields were on the ground floor.

Selmes could have been a servant, hence two flats ? But in the 1931 register we have the following occupants:

Flat 1. Alexander Cunningham, Mabel Cunningham

Flat 2. Walter Parker Ellen, Nellie Ellen

Flat 3. William Saunderson Flint, Kate Elizabeth Flint

Flat 4. Lilian Beatrice Mumby

In 1937 there was another planning application, DH/C/6/1/13553A, “alteration.”

I will draw a veil over more recent events, other than I am told that in 1973 the ground floor was separated from the basement, and there are now five flats. Much more research could be done, such going to The Keep; identifying more references in digital copies of the Hastings and St Leonards Observer; going systematically through voters’ registers and street listings in annual directories to identify more residents (held on the top floor of Hastings Library, from about 1929 to 2000 and from 1885 respectively); identifying other censuses, and the hard slog of finding more information on residents such as those in 1931. Of those, for example, William Saunderson Flint was a schoolmaster, born 1864 in Lewisham, whose first wife Ada Emily had died in 1927 at 54 Burry Road, St Leonards.

There are also planning applications from 1950 for the town, which, in varying degrees of detail, give at least some information for many houses, including Baston Lodge, at Search for a planning application on the Council’s website.






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