At the heart of what is now Chatterton Village stood the grounds of Bromley Villa, a large house owned by gentryman landowner Henry Hebbert. It was his deathin 1864, and the subsequent auction of Bromley Villa, that presaged the residential development out of which Chatterton Road was built.

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Bromley Common, 1862-68. The Hebbert estate is the shaded area in the middle, with Bromley Villa situated in the westerly corner of the grounds. It is on this footprint that the first development took place, of Walpole Road, Pope Road, Johnson Road and Chatterton Road. Its north-westerly perimeter would become Chantry Lane, although at this time it was a footpath between Bromley Common and Southborough. The well is roughly the position today of the Chatterton Arms. The two principal farms managing the land in the area are Hook Farm, in the bottom left corner, and Turpington Farm, which is just outside the bottom right-hand corner of the image. The road leading east from Bromley Common, along the bottom of the image, is Crown Lane.

Hebbert had been born in Birmingham in about 1783. When he came to Bromley Common is unclear, but it was probably during the 1820s or very early 1830s. In 1820, just before the enclosure, the land wasowned by Robert Makepeace. But Hebbert was the owner at least by 1832, in which year Freeman notes that the development of Bromley Common south from Mason’s Hill extended as far to the south as ‘the delightful residence of Mr. Ebbutt’; dubious spelling aside, this almost certainly refers to Hebbert and Bromley Villa.

Who was Henry Hebbert?

It is possible that the house was built as part of the rash of new homes put up along the eastern side of Bromley Common since the enclosure of the old common in the 1820s. However, it is noticeable from the map that the house was set back a distance from the road, which may indicate that it had been built just outside the old common, as all of the residences in that area had been prior to the enclosure. There are no references to the name ‘Bromley Villa’ in the 19th century histories of the area, although it is clearly indicated on the ordnance survey map that was surveyed between 1862 and 1868. There is also a reference to it in the Journals of the House of Commons, which in 1846 records Hebbert, ‘of Bromley Villa, Bromley, in the county of Kent’, petitioning in opposition to the Kent Atmospheric Railway Bill.

A burglary at Bromley Villa, The Bromley Record, 1864

The grounds of Bromley Villa extended south along Bromley Common, from a footpath (later Chantry Lane) leading up to Southborough, to just past the point where Johnson Road would be built. The easternmost boundary was along what is today Union Road. Most of this was what the notice for the auction described as ‘beautifully timbered park-like meadow land’. In the immediate vicinity of the house, in the north-west corner of the estate, were ‘prettily laid-out lawn and pleasure grounds’. Near to the house was a conservatory, greenhouse, stabling, coach-house, cow house, poultry house, farmyard and gardener’s cottage.

Hebbert died on 10 March 1864. He was buried in Bromley Parish Church. His effects were worth £40,000 (in the region of £1.8 million in today’s prices), according to his will. His estate (or mostof it) was auctioned at Garraway’s Coffee House in Change Alley in the City of London in November 1865. A second tranche of the Hebbert estate was auctioned off by his family in May 1866. This time the sale would take place at the Guildhall coffee-house in Gresham Street, and the land would be parcelled up into 36 lots of building land suitable for villa residences fronting onto Bromley Common.

The sale of the Hebbert estate, notice in The Times, 1865

By 1869, Bromley Villa (now on a much-reduced plot of land of an acre and a half) was occupied by John David Roberts, with his daughter Eliza and brother-in-law Christman Brendel, and its name changed to Walpole Lodge. The family (Roberts’ wife had died some years earlier) had previously run a pub, the Artichoke Tavern in Poplar, east London. They seem to have been there until 1869, so it might be that Roberts did not acquire Walpole Lodge when it was first put up for sale in 1865. His occupation is listed in the censuses of 1871 and 1881 as ‘house owner’ and ‘owner of houses’ respectively (in 1861 he gave his occupation as victualler), which would seem to indicate that he was a landlord in the area. Whoever made that first purchase of the Hebbert estate in 1865, individual building plots on the land would be traded frequently over the years ahead.

Roberts occupied Walpole Lodge until his death, aged 76, in 1887. After Roberts, the next occupant of Walpole Lodge was Hammond Wearne, who in 1895 complained to the Bromley Urban District Council about the amount of drunken shouting nearby on Friday and Saturday nights – probably in connection with the nearby Chatterton Arms.

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Bromley Villa, by now renamed Walpole Lodge, late 19th century

The following year, on October 7, 1896, the house was put up for auction at the Mart in the City. The sales literature for the property provides an insight into its layout. It was billed as ‘a charming old fashioned detached freehold country residence’, with conservatory, stabling, vinery and outbuildings, standing in ‘finely timbered and secluded grounds’, well shaded by ‘fine old forest trees’ including elms, chestnuts, ash, firs and limes. The property had ‘extensive views over the surrounding country’. In front of the house, facing Bromley Common, was a broad, sweeping arc driveway, leading to a porch entrance and entrance hall.

Inside was:

  • a ‘pretty’ drawing room, 18ft by 12ft, with ornamental marble mantel and register stove;
  • a dining room, 18ft by 13ft, with carved oak mantel and Ormolu slow combustion stove, and French casements to the garden;
  • a ‘pleasant’ morning room, opening to an arched conservatory, 28ft by 14ft, with tiled floor and door to lawn;
  • ‘well-arranged domestic offices’ including: housekeeper’s room, large kitchen with eagle range, dresser and sink, scullery with copper and sink, housemaid’s pantry, with hot and cold supplies, larder, dairy, wine, coal and beer cellars, W.C. and ample store cupboards;
  • principal and secondary staircases leading to a ‘capital’ landing lighted by a stained glass window;
  • eight ‘capital bedchambers, the principal 25ft by 12ft, others 17ft by 14ft, 17ft by 12ft, 13ft by 10ft and 17ft by 12ft;
  • dressing room, bathroom and lavatory, with hot and cold supplies, housemaid’s pantry, W.C.;
  • stabling, comprising three stalls, coach-house, harness room, large loft and coachman’s room;
  • small farmery;
  • ‘very attractive’ pleasure grounds, ‘perfectly matured and secluded’, including tennis and ornamental lawns, winding walks, parterres and raised borders;
  • large kitchen garden with. choice standard and wall fruit trees in full bearing;
  • a small paddock;
  • large greenhouse with two grape vines in full bearing.

Next: Chapter Three: The beginnings of Chatterton Road, 1865-1875