Where was Hadleigh House?
The lost Great House of Hadleigh
There is no trace nowadays of Hadleigh Great House (later renamed Victoria House) but a magnificent Wellingtonia redwood tree which stood in its extensive gardens stands testimony to a grander age.
The house had been built in the Regency style at the beginning of the nineteenth century and, although it still looked palatial a century later, its accommodation was hardly fit for the gentry it was designed for.
Sir Charles Archibald Nicholson, 2nd Baronet of Luddenham, spent his formative years living at Hadleigh House and, although he loved the gardens, he described the house as inconvenient, damp and insanitary.
Although it was christened Hadleigh House, it actually stood, for the most part, in the parish of South Benfleet.
Confusingly, folk who nowadays live in the immediate proximity, choose to refer to themselves as living in Thundersley!
(The Post Office, of course, is indifferent to all their foibles.)
The Victoria House estate (“Hadleigh Park”) was sold off as “plotland” after the First World War and the land is now occupied by various commercial buildings and factories, shops, a retirement home, a restaurant and the residential roads “Hadleigh Park Avenue” and “Pinetrees”.
I have overlaid three old maps to try and explain exactly where Hadleigh House was.
The RED map is (part of) the old 1847 Tithe Map, the pale GREEN is the 1876 Ordnance Survey and the dark BLUE is the auctioneer’s sale plan from 1923.
The BLUE “spot” is mine, and represents the approximate position of the Wellingtonia.
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The parish boundary went through the porch of Victoria House.
All three maps are remarkably accurate but, unsurprisingly, do not match exactly when overlaid.
The 1876 (GREEN) is probably the best of the three and has some delightful detail, showing various features in the gardens, including an ornamental lake.
(It is still inclined to flood around this area, as the water table is very high.)
The “rights of way” shown on the BLUE map (apart from the northern part which still services some of the shops) fell into disuse and have been variously appropriated since the 1970s.
Pinetrees (named not for the Wellingtonia but for a number of large Scots pines which no longer exist) is not shown on the 1923 plan – it was to become a later addition.