Notes on the history of Coonoor, 2 Woodland Vale Road

I have often walked past this attractive house, at the bottom end of Woodland Vale Road, and decided to have a look at its history. Here are some notes about it, which show how different sources can be combined to understand more about a house’s past. The name of Coonoor is that of a hill station in what is now Tamil Nadu in southern India. Below is its modern appearance.


Coonoor, 2 Woodland Vale Road

The Keep has a document DH/C/1/6809, dated 20 December 1901, for that address. I haven’t seen it, but it is almost certainly plans for the original layout. This also makes sense as when in 1937 it was advertised for sale there were 62 years left on the lease, which suggests a very typical (for St Leonards Eversfield Estate properties) 99 year lease from 1901.

The date of that document, 20 December 1901, is perhaps a problem for identifying it with the following house being approved by the Council in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, 21 December 1901:

Proposed house, Woodland Vale-road, parish of St Mary Magdalen; Mr J. Harvey, owner, per Mr A.W. Jeffery, architect.

They wouldn’t have had the time to examine the plans ! Unless the document’s date meant when approved.

J. Harvey was almost certainly Joseph Harvey, who in the April 1901 census was on the same road, at Woodmancote, builder and decorator. This house is now no. 21, almost across the road from Coonoor. He also had a workshop on Kings Road.

In the 1903 Pike’s Directory there were only six houses on the road. From 1904 James Frederick Hoar was listed as the householder. The 1911 census tells us that the house had 10 rooms and listed its occupants as follows:

James Fredk. Hoar, head, 67, married 27 years, no children, retired merchant, born London Dalston

Ada Hoar, 56, born Manchester Lancs

Ethel Hollands, servant, 23, single, general servant (domestic), born Sussex St Leonards

James Hoar died later that year, on the 2 November. He had married in 1883 at Stoke Newington Louise Ada Procter. He was a merchant. His widow died at Coonoor on the 25 October 1923 and had a funeral at the Presbyterian church in Warrior Square. She was described as very charitable in the Observer, 27 October 1923. The newspaper reported that both the “exceptionally attractive” house and the furniture were for sale by John Bray, the auctions being held on the premises (as was common).

The house then appears to have been divided up (as confirmed in 1930). The Observer, 6 June 1926:

CONVENIENT Unfurnished FLAT: own front door and staircase; 5 rooms, kitchen, bathroom, geyser, electric light and gas; £75 inclusive. – Apply Coonoor, Woodland Vale-rd., St Leonards.

There was another advertisement in the Observer, 13 September 1930. The owner was selling the entire house, a “delightful residence, in a charming position.” There were four bedrooms, drawing room and a dining room. A separate part of six rooms was divided off and let (but clearly included in the sale).

On the 8 May 1937 there was yet another advertisement in the Observer when the 10 room house, with 62 years left on the lease, was for sale at £1650. There was also a photograph, shown below.

Coonoor, 2 Woodland Vale Road, in 1937


The Observer in its 14 August 1937 issue says that it was to be sold at auction by John Bray. It was described as a guest house and was vacant.

I will end this brief account with the occupants in the September 1939 register compiled for rationing purposes. This gave three occupants:

Thornton, Rebecca L., born 9 March 1886, single, unpaid domestic duties

Thornton, Anna E.D., born 28 June 1867, single, incapacitated

Beresford, Harrietta Ethel, born 24 November 1870, incapacitated

This account could easily have been added to by searching the annual directories at Hastings Public Library, which give listings of householders by street, and also the electoral registers, which of course expand on that by giving voters (but not e.g. giving “Miss” or “Mrs”, unlike the directories). Nevertheless it shows how combining information in newspapers, the census, the 1939 register, and the catalogue of The Keep’s collection can provide very useful starting points. I was helped by an unusual house name., of course. The problems start in trying to work out relationships and lives: were the Thorntons and Beresfords in 1939 related, for example ?

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