Where was Hadleigh House?

The lost Great House of Hadleigh

Renamed Victoria house by the Salvation Army, this photo was taken prior to 1906
The Gate Lodge stood facing the Four Wanz or Hadleigh Cross. This postcard is stamped 1908
Author's Collection
The 1923 Auctioneer's Site Plan
Found in her loft by Mrs Iris Smith, of Hadleigh Park Avenue
Three layered maps show where Hadleigh House was. RED: the old 1847 Tithe Map, pale GREEN" the 1876 Ordnance Survey and dark BLUE the 1923 sale plan. BLUE "spot" is mine, shows rough site of the Wellingtonia
The 1876 Ordnance Survey map of what became known as "Victoria House Corner"
by courtesy The Ordnance Survey

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.
Click to open in a bigger window. 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.

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  • Hadleigh House was purchased by the Salvation Army and re named Victoria House. It was opened in 1901 and licensed as a voluntary retreat under the Inebriates Act of 1879, 1899. It had accommodation for up to 25 men who needed help with alcohol problems. I don’t think I am related, Carol.

    By Graham Cook (04/02/2016)
  • This made very interesting reading for me as my great great grandfather was a Lodger at Hadleigh Great House in the 1903 Census, other than the Master and Matron, the 38 other residents were Paupers.  My g.g.grandfather had a very large family, I wish I knew why was he there and not living with one of his many children. How did he become a lodger there, until he retired he was a bricklayer living in Rochford. My Dad hardly knew any of his relatives, so if any one reading this is a relative, I would be happy to be in contact with you. My g.g.grandfather James Thomas Cook born 1834 was married to Ellen Cook born 1835, their children were Mary Ellen, Henry (my great grandfather), Arthur, Alfred, Frederick (I’ve been told he was a local builder in Rochford/ Hockley), Herbert, Edith, Agnus, Emily and Percy.

    By Carol Smith (02/02/2016)

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