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Contents:  (this page is regularly updated)
The Short Story:
A Brief Timeline:
A Fuller History: based on the Timeline:
Additional Information:

The Short Story
Despite Beckenham Place Park and the Mansion being previously dated to 1773, it now emerges that John Cator the younger acquired property here as early as 1757.
He also retained land his father John Cator the elder had held in Herefordshire prior to coming to London to start a timber business by the Thames. The land on which the park stands was mostly in the manor of Foxgrove and some parts at Southend and Stumps Hill in the manor or parish of Lewisham. John Cator built a 'fine house at Stumps Hill' according to his father in law Peter Collinson between 1760 and 1762. Between those dates and 1785 he acquired more property from the manors of Foxgrove and Beckenham. He purchased the manorial rights and land of Beckenham Manor in 1773 but by this time he was well established at Stumps Hill.  But in 1777 parts of the park were still owned by Mrs. Amy Burrell.
His other land holdings in the area were extensive and widespread, mingled with the holdings of the Burrells and Lord Bolingbroke.
By 1800 he had created his private park, diverted a road to keep people away from his front door and created a lake. He also acquired large estates of farms, fields, woods and meadows in parts of Beckenham, Lewisham and Blackheath as well as some in Norwood.  
Subsequently after his death in 1806 his heirs began to sell off the estate while buying other estates
at Woodbastwick in Norfolk . A series of leaseholders occupied the mansion and park during most of the 19th century. In the 20th century the mansion was a school around 1900, a sanatarium from 1905, and latterly a public park and golf course from 1928. Since 2014 the park has been subject to a Lottery Fund bid and the golf course closed in 2016. The rest of the story follows in increasing detail.


A Brief Timeline
The following is a brief  timeline is of key events followed by a fuller account. Many accounts of the history of Beckenham Place date the whole creation of the park to 1773 when John Cator acquired the Manor of Beckenham. But our research has shown that this is not the case and only part of the story. In the early 18th century the park area and surrounds was a collection of fields, meadows and woods. John Cator purchased land which constitutes the park from about 1757 upto the 1790's.
A House was built here as early as 1762 though it may have been of quite different appearance. The whole park may not have come together under his ownership until after 1780 and some parts even later. The land now constituting the park was mostly once in the Manor of Foxgrove.

Timeline: relating mainly to the Mansion and parkland, main events in the parks evolution.

1623 - A Plan is drawn of Beckenham Manor lands by Nicholas Lane showing they are divided between Sir Henry Snellyer of Beckenham and Sir John Dolston of Cumberland
1650 - ??  The Manor of Beckenham which had been divided in two moieties as above becomes rejoined
1674 - Hugh Raymond's date of birth. He later becomes owner of Langley Park. 
1699 - Amy Raymond date of birth, daughter of Hugh Raymond of Langley
1705 - Birth of Jones Raymond, son of Hugh Raymond
1708 - 
Sir Walter St. John dies in possession of all of Manor of Beckenham. (source: Hasted).  Henry Viscount St. John inherits.
1720 - An estate plan of Foxgrove Manor is drawn by surveyor John Holmes, the current park is constituted of lands mainly within the Foxgrove Manor. (British Library source).
1721 - An inventory is taken of all Hugh Raymond of Langley's assets to do with the South Sea Bubble affair
1723 - Amy Raymond, Hugh Raymond's daughter marries Peter Burrell the 1st of Beckenham (subsequently there are three Peter Burrells involved with the story of Beckenham).
1728 - John Cator the younger born on 12th March to John Cator the elder (1703 - 1764).
1735/36 - Peter Collinson (John Cator's eventual father in law) meets Carl Linaeus on Linaeus's only recorded visit to England.
1737 - Hugh Raymond of Langley, owner of Foxgrover Manor dies, his son Jones Raymond inherits Langley Park.
1745 - Rocque's Map published showing the park area and about 10 miles around London.
1749 - Frederick, 3rd Viscount St. John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke inherits Beckenham Manor
1753 - John Cator the younger of Southwark marries Mary Collinson, daughter of Peter Collinson FRS, merchant and botanist
1756 - Peter Burrell I  dies and properties inherited by his widow Mrs. Amy Burrell.
1757 - John Cator buys lands at Stumps Hill (P.Manning source)
1757 - Frederick Viscount Bolingbroke marries Lady Diana Spencer
1757 - Viscount Bolingbroke exchanges the Beckenham Manor House and land with Peter Burrell (Bromley Local Studies/BLS)
1759 - John Cator exchanges lands in Beckenham and Lewisham with Jones Raymond and
Peter Burrell (1724-1775) via Parliamentary Private Act http://www.portcullis.parliament.uk
1760 - 1762 Cator builds the house on Stumps Hill as per comment by Peter Collinson in his Hortus Collinsonianus
1762 - Collinson records in a letter his visit to John's house newly built on Stumps Hill. (maybe visiting his now pregnant daughter?)
1763 - a daughter Maria (also referred to as Mary) born to John and Mary, John's father dies, John inherits the timber business and his mother comes to live with him.
1765 - Jones Raymond is recorded as purchasing Foxgrove Manor (source Hasted)
1766 - Cator's daughter Maria dies in infancy, John's sister also dies after a long illness. Research is perhaps necessary into epidemics in such as smallpox/measles.
1766 - The Foxgrove Manor estate plan is transcribed by Proudlove, showing landowners including Jones Raymond and plots on Stumps Hill owned by John Cator. Also Burrell and Bolingbroke shown as a local landowners.
1768 - Jones Raymond dies, Foxgrove Manor passes to Peter Burrell II, Jones Raymond's sister's husband.
1768 - The Manor of Beckenham plan from 1623 redrawn/transcribed by Proudlove (in British Library) Beckenham manor rejoined.
1768 - Viscount Bolingbroke and Diana Spencer are divorced by Act of Parliament, the estate plan may relate to the settlement.
1772/80  -  John Cator is MP for Wallingford  (History of Parliament online)
1773 - John purchases the Manor of Beckenham from Lord Bolingbroke not including the site of the Old Manor previously passed to Burrell.
1776 - The Foxgrove Manor plan is redrawn by John Sale from several plans (British Library)
1777 - An estate plan shows Mrs. Burrell still owns some land falling within the modern day park.(British Library)
1781 - John Cator is High Sherif of Kent, a position appointed each year from March.
1781 - Carl von Linne the younger visits London. Did he know Cator?
1782 - John's brother Joseph is in possession of land and manor house at Clockhouse between Beckenham and Penge (estate plan Bromley Library)
1783 - John Cator purchases Wricklemarsh at Blackheath, the house and estate of Gregory Page Turner.
1784 - Elected MP for Ipswich but unseated
1785 - Cator has the road diverted to current Beckenham Hill, Southend Road line and also closes Langstead Lane between Southend and Clay Hill. New road at first called Great Stumpshill Road.
1788 - John Cator negotiates lending money via bonds to the Prince of Wales (later to become George IV) but he and another party withdraw before the transaction is completed (Memoirs of George IV)
1790/93 - John Cator is MP for Stockbridge
1793 - land rationalisation exchange with Peter Burrell/Lord Gwydir and acquires Foxgrove Manor.
1794 - John sells the Bankside business and property (P.Manning soure). Also Mrs. Amy Burrell's death is recorded.
1795 -
conveyance of a messuage, water corn mill and lands in Southend, Kent from John Forster of Lincolns Inn, Middlesex, esquire to John Cator  of Beckenham, Kent in consideration of the sum of 1750.
1799 - Earliest version of the Ordnance Survey map of Kent. not published until 1860's but printed by other publishers such as Stanford's
1804 - Mary Cator dies, is buried in St. Georges churchyard with her daughter.
1806 - John Cator dies at his appartment in the Adelphi near The Strand, is buried in St Georges churchyard, Beckenham.
1806 - John Barwell Cator (1781-1858), son of John's oldest brother Joseph, inherits the estate in trust.
1806 - Building leases begin to be sold for parts of Wricklemarsh estate
1808 - John Barwell Cator marries Miss Mahon, her relative Mr. Lambert has access to Barwell's papers inherited from Peter Collinson via John Cator.
1818 - Joseph Cator dies and John Barwell Cator becomes sole owner of the estates.
1820 - Peter Burrell III, Lord Gwydir dies and his estates are sold to new owners including the Hoare Banking family. (BLS)
1825 - J.Barwell Cator acquires permission via act of parliament to sell/lease plots of land for development on the Beckenham Estates
1829 - Alexander D. Inglis recorded as tenant of the Mansion
1835 - Mr Peters. a banker is tenant of the mansion. Peters was succeeded by Captain Walter Raleigh Gilbert, R.H.A., no dates available. Followed by R.H. Page who later changed his name to Page‑Henderson.
1857 - John Abrahms is tennant of the mansion (Pat Manning source)
1858 - John Barwell Cator dies, estates inherited by his son Albermarle (1813-1868).
1864 - November, a map of the Beckenham Estate of Albemarle Cator is printed (Bromley Library) excludes the site of Old Manor House opposite the church.
1866 - Mansion occupier is given as Robert Henry Page Esq.
1869 - Mansion occupier Sir John Kirkland, Bart. J.P.  an army agent who had good relations with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and received gifts from them.
1870 ditto. but Sir John Kirkland dies in 1871 prior to census
1871 Mansion occupied by John Kirkland the younger in census with son, aunt and servants
1873 No one listed as in occupation.
1874‑6 John Fell Christie.
1877‑8 No one listed as in occupation.
1879 - Spencer Brunton. the Brunton children made a Christmas card depicting a royal family visit, maybe this harks back to the Kirkland residency
1880‑84 No one listed as in occupation.
1885‑90 Edwin Covell.
1889 - Act of Parliament authorises building of the Nunhead to Shortlands railway which runs via Beckenham Hill station to Ravensbourne station across the park. Albermarle Cator to be compensated for lands purchased etc. negotiations began as early as 1884.
1894 The mansion occupier is listed as Mrs Covell, her husband Edwin has presumably recently died. E. Covell is also recorded as the tenant in the documents concerned with the authorisation of the construction of the Shortlands Nunhead railway through the estate.
1895‑99 No one listed as in occupation.
1902 Beckenham Place is listed as Craven College which had moved from Elmers End
1905 to 1933 Norwood Sanatorium occupies the mansion and Homesteads, seems much of the park used by Foxgrove Golf Club, all under lease from Cator Estate, and a new chapter in its history opens.

1907 - The Foxgrove Golf Club is established on the grounds of the estate
1927 - The LCC acquires the park from the Cator Estate
1931 - The Home Farm is vacated and demolished.
1933 - The Golf Course becomes public and at one time the busiest in Europe
1939/45 - WWII  Italian Prisioner of War 'Summerhouse' Camp,  anti aircraft gun and barrage balloon, sheep grazing and growing of some crops. 
1972 - The park passes from the GLC to the ownership of London Borough of Lewisham.
1976 - The Park and other open space is designated Metropolitan Open Land,  a form of inner city Green Belt under the Greater London Development Plan.
1992 - Football pitches and  changing rooms closed to enable David Lloyd scheme (DLL). Stable Block Homesteads and other accommodation cleared of tennants to provide vacant posession to DLL
1992 - David Lloyd Leisure attempted acquisition of much of the park, public enquiry and rejection of plans to extend golf and add indoor tennis centre.
1993/2000 - Park managed by David LLoyd Leisure as a 7 year management contract had been awarded prior to public enquiry rejection of the tennis centre and golf extension plans, largely because of MOL status of the park.
1993 - The Friends of Beckenham Place Park is inaugurated.
1996 - Friends of Beckenham Place Park opens a volunteer run visitor centre in a vacant cottage in the stable block.
2000 - The visitor centre moves into the Mansion at the invitation of a park manager.
2000/2014 - various changes is park management, consultations regarding use of buildings, including rejection of a charitable trust bid for management of the mansion.
2011 - Most of the Stable Block destroyed by fire after being left abandoned for several years.
2014 - London Borough of Lewisham decide to bid for Heritage Lottery Fund money to fund changes to the park.
2014 - The Environment Agency are evaluating a flood alleviation scheme to use part of the park to prevent flooding further downriver.
2015 - The mansion remains at risk awaiting HLF restoration bid,  The park and homesteads await the production of stage 2 HLF bid for restoration etc.
2016 - Lewisham Council close public golf course, unable to make it financial viable. Mansion is put on short term lease to a property management organisation RJK Properties with intentions to increase use of the building. 
2017 - 
Heritage Lottery Fund bid for 4.9million approved for park and some buildings regeneration.
Other items to be included in the timeline would be the occupiers of Home Farm, the Stableblock and Lodges. Further research into census records and other  archives is always necessary.


A Fuller Account of the History
The history of Beckenham Place Park is shrouded in some mystery even though several local historians have recorded many facts about the place. It has become a jigsaw puzzle of facts and some assumptions.
A pivotal period in its history is between 1757 and 1785 when John Cator began to acquire the estate, lands and manorial rights of a sizeable area around and including the current park.  The whole park area did not come into Cator's possession until after 1777 and some part possibly as late as 1795 although he had vast holdings outside of the park area.  After his death in 1806 his heirs began a long period of selling off parts of the estate from 1825 onwards which we will explain later. The remaining public park, house and buildings are the remnants of the estate.

We are always open to new information and corrections that can be substantiated and still conducting our own research. We have also challenged a few details which we believe are mistaken. Errors exist in several histories i.e. Hasted has some transposed dates and names and others did not have access to some archives.

Among the authors, contributors and recorders we should acknowledge and thank:  Hasted for his History and Topography of Kent (1797), Robert Borrowman (1910), Rob Copeland (1962), Nancy Tonkin and Eric Inman,  Especially Pat Manning of Beckenham Local History Society who still publishes local history books,  Eric Inman (in memorium) who produced a series of articles for our newsletter and who's work is largely reproduced here with  updated information. We recommend for reading 'The Cators of Beckenham and Woodbastwick' by Pat Manning and 'Beckenham'  by Nancy Tonkin and Eric Inman, available in Beckenham book shop. Also Niel Rhind's Blackheath Village and Environs. Hasted's work is now published on-line and several archives can be searched. Items from the Copeland collection of material has also provided clues. Resources have been researched at Bromley Local Studies,  Kent Archive Maidstone, The British Library, Parliament Archive Catalogue.

It should be noted that some conclusions drawn by various people and some leaps of faith may have slightly misconstrued some evidence. The lack of full documentary evidence is frustrating although many other archives hold evidence e.g. the papers of Hester Thrale, the letters of Peter Collinson, memoirs of Doctor Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, Memorials of John Bartram and Humphrey Marshall,  Diaries of Fanny Burney (Madame D'Arblay) etc. etc. Of late we have the  advantage of several archives being opened to the internet via online catalogues as well as several books being published as e-books e.g. Hortus Collinsonianus.

Since we focus on the land of the remaining now public Park reading Pat Manning's The Cators of Beckenham and Woodbastwick would explain the wider activities of the Cator family and other publications about Beckenham, Lewisham, Sydenham, Blackheath and any others regarding Cator property. However, we believe we have some updates here which correct some information in other publications.

You can conduct your own online research using keywords in various combinations: Cator, Collinson, Thrale, Johnson, George IV, Burney, Boswell and others from the text here.

For a long time the current park's creation was dated to 1773 when John Cator purchased the manor and rights of Beckenham Manor from Lord Bolingbroke. However the story begins somewhat earlier and is more complex than hitherto believed.

As it transpires that the Public Park is on land once belonging mainly to the Manor of Foxgrove rather than the Manor of Beckenham then some mention of the previous owners of Foxgrove is relevant. Hasted's History and Topography of Kent published in 1797 records some if not all of the people through who's ownership the land constituting the park and surrounds passed.

The remaining records show that from the mid to late eighteenth century the area occupied by the present Beckenham Place Park was a patchwork of woods and fields straddling the Lewisham/Beckenham parish boundary. Most if not all of it was part of the ancient Manor of Foxgrove. It was bisected by two public roads leading from 
Southend to Beckenham and Southend to Clay Hill respectively. This is illustrated by maps shown later.

From 1600 to 1700 (The 17th Century)

1623 - A Plan of Beckenham Manor lands is drawn by Nicholas Lane showing they are divided between Sir Henry Snellyer of Beckenham and Sir John Dolston of Cumberland. According to Hasted,  the manor was earlier inherited by two daughters and divided into two parts or moieties between them and their relevant husbands. After a few generations the owner of one part purchased the other part rejoining the Manor into one. This image from the plan is the legend explaining the division, written in 1623 and transcribed by Proudlove in 1766.



1650 (?)
- Manor of Beckenham rejoined which had been divided into two moieties (parts) becomes rejoined
under Sir Walter St. John. This extract from Hasted's History and Topography of Kent is part of the explanation of how the manor was divided and then rejoined.


From him this moiety descended to Sir George Dalston of Cumberland, who about the middle of Charles I.'s reign, alienated it to Sir Patrick Curwin of Workinton, in the same county, who had been created a baronet, anno 1626, whose ancestors are said to be descended from Gospatrick earl of Northumberland, who took that name from Culwen, vulgarly called Curwen, a family of Galloway, the heir of which they had married. They bore for their arms,Argent a fretty gules a chief azure. He, at the latter end of the same reign, conveyed his interest in it to Sir Oliver St. John of Battersea, in Surry, from whom it came to Mr. Walter St. John, afterwards a baronet, on the death of his nephew, Sir John St. John, bart. son of Oliver before mentioned, who having before purchased the other moiety of this manor and advowson of Mr. Henry Snelgrave, as has been already related, now possessed the entire see of them both.


1674 - Hugh Raymond's date of birth. He later becomes owner of Langley Park and father of Jones Raymond a one time owner of some of the BPP parkland in Foxgrove Manor. His family come from Saling in Essex and he is referred to as Hugh Raymond of Stepney, Saling and Langley. He is a ships captain with the East India Company and a director of the South Sea Company. His story is interesting and deserves more investigation.

1699 - The birth of Amy Raymond, daughter of Hugh Raymond of Langley, she would become Mrs Amy Burrell and later hold ownership of some lands within the park

The Years 1700 to 1800

1705 - Jones Raymond born, son of Hugh Raymond, he will become landowner of Foxgrove Manor and most of what would later become Beckenham Place Park under John Cator. Jones Raymond will be a director in the East India Company eventually selling a ship to the Royal Navy which would take part in the Anson voyage to the Pacific which made Anson an immensely rich person.

1708 - Sir Walter St. John dies in possession of all of Manor of Beckenham. (Hasted).  Henry Viscount St. John inherits.

1720 - An estate plan
of Foxgrove Manor is drawn by surveyor John Holmes. (British Library source). Though the plan only survives as the redrawn 1766 version it implies that fields and plots aren't much changed.
Hasted states it was purchased by Jones Raymond from John and Edward Brydges in 1765 so perhaps the later 1766 plan is to reflect the change of ownership. The plan covers not only the area directly around the park but some plots quite isolated in Elmers End and elsewhere

1721 - An inventory is taken of all Hugh Raymond's assets to do with the South Sea Bubble affair. He will become indirectly associated with the story of Beckenham Place. The British Library has various records such as:
 "A True and Exact particular and inventory of all and singular the lands ... and personal estate whatsoever which H. Raymond was seised or possessed of, upon the first of June, 1720 ... Made and delivered pursuant to the late act of Parliament. Together with the abstract of the same ".
Investigating this record at the British Library shows that Hugh Raymond did not own any of Foxgrove or Langley at this time but is resident of Saling, Essex  Wapping and Stepney with extensive property assets. Hugh Raymond was also a ships captain with the East India Company and other connections with the EIC will become apparent. He had also been a director in the South Sea Company. The Raymond family had extensive estates in Essex and elsewhere. Hugh Raymond has to forfeit some of his assets to do with the South Sea Bubble.


1723 - Amy Raymond, Hugh Raymond's daughter marries Peter Burrell.

1728 - John Cator the younger born on 12th March to John Cator the elder (1703 - 1764).

1735/36 - Peter Collinson (John Cator's eventual father in law) meets Carl Linaeus on Linaeus's only recorded visit to England.
An association has been made between Cator, Collinson and Carl Linnaeus the botanist, assuming that Linnaeus contributed to the landscaping of the park.  We have gathered evidence regarding relevant dates of birth and death as well as age of the individuals and known movements of Linnaeus indicating this was very unlikely if not impossible. Although Linnaeus' son later visits London in the time of John Cator we are investigating whether they met.  Peter Collinson did communicate regularly with Linnaeus by letter. Linnaeus's only know visit to Britain was in 1735/36 when he met Collinson among  many others, long before Cator then aged 7 married Collinson's daughter or acquired Beckenham Place. Collinson enabled  Linnaeus to collect various plant specimens and collections.   On Collinson's death his books and papers were passed to John Cator and thence inherited by John Barwell Cator, who then enabled them to be copied by the emergent Linnaen Society of London. One of many interesting exchanges Collinson had with Linnaeus and others was the speculation as to where swallows went in winter, it was even thought they might hibernate under water. Collinson also discussed electricity with Franklin and the migration of people to America and its impact on the native Americans. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and contributed to the establishment of the Foundling Hospital. Having originated from a family home in Peckham he moved to a house inherited via his wife at Mill Hill and established his garden there. It is now the Mill Hill School, see the Mill Hill Society for further information.

Peter Collinson  (1694-1768
)

Carl von Linne (1707-1778)

1737 - Hugh Raymond of Langley, dies and his son Jones Raymond inherits Langley Park. It seems sometime between 1721 and 1737 Hugh Raymond purchased Langley Park.  The name Jones seems to be derived from an acquaintance of Hugh's with the EIC, another ships captain, perhaps in acknowledgement of some past favours or even family intermarriage.
Jones Raymond and previously his father also owned the Langley Park estate.  Land would have been let to tenant farmers etc. Again, referring to Hasted's can explain detail. Jones Raymond also is involved with the East India Company and at

1742 - Henry 1st Viscount St. John dies, Manor of Beckenham inherited by  Henry 2nd Viscount St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke

1745 - Rocque's Map published showing the park area and about 10 miles around London. Note the houses or farms on Stoms Hill which predate the Mansion. Some buildings on Stumps or Stoms Hill make us curious about any pre-existing buildings. Certainly there was a house or farm near the Mansion which is illustrated on the Road Diversion plan, of which more later. The detail in Rocque's Map and some of the names are perhaps questionable. Rocque has Stoms instead of Stumps Hill and Langstead Wood is called Morrisswood or Lewisham Lands on estate plans. Also the road runs more north/south than it does east west on his map which might be regarded as schematic rather than accurate? As he was mapping all of London and its surroundings some short cuts and errors are likely.


1749 - Frederick, 3rd Viscount St. John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke inherits the Manor of Beckenham. The fact that some aristocrats had more than one title and sometimes changed names when intermarrying or inheriting estates can add some confusion to tracing events. Although it seems Bolingbroke did not own any land which is now in the park his sale of the Beckenham Manor lands to Cator did allow Cator to become 'Lord of the Manor' but without any title other than Esquire after 1773.
           
              Frederick St.John, Viscount Bolingbroke  

Lady Diana Spencer, later Diana
Beauclerk when remarried.


1753 - John Cator the younger of Southwark marries Mary Collinson, daughter of Peter Collinson FRS, merchant and botanist. The marriage settlement document is in Surrey Archive.  More about John and Mary

1756 - Peter Burrell I  dies and properties inherited by his widow Mrs. Amy Burrell. This includes parts of Foxgrove Manor which are now in the park. Also his son Peter Burrell II of Langley Park inherits other properties (needs clarification).

1757 - John Cator buys lands at Stumps Hill (P.Manning source).
The property of Francis Valentine whose ownership was demonstrated by the inclusion of a family tree. John Cator paid 1000 on 25th November 1757 for a messuage, outbuildings, yard, garden and several pieces of land at Southend, Lewisham.

1757 - Frederick Viscount Bolingbroke marries Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of the Duke of Marlborough.

1757 - Viscount Bolingbroke exchanges the Beckenham 'Old' Manor House opposite St. George's Church and land with Peter Burrell II(Bromley Local Studies/BLS)

Bromley archive has this record:

1/2 August 1757 Lease and release and exchange of property between Right Honourable Frederick Lord Viscount Bolingbroke, Baron of Lydiard Cregote, Wiltshire and Viscount St John Baron Battersea of Surrey (1st part) and Peter Burrell of Beckenham, Kent, esquire. The first parties (one person with several titles) assign the mansion house known as the Manor House at Beckenham, Kent with 8 acres of land to Burrell, in exchange for a messuage called Woolsey's Farm and lands and woodland in Beckenham.

So the subsequent purchase of Beckenham manor land by Cator, we think, excludes the manor house site opposite St. George's Church.
The Cator estate plan of 1864 excludes the Old Manor house site and any land south of Beckenham High Street and Bromley Road.
Woolseys Farm seems to be land at Clay Hill near Shortlands which is on an estate map of 1723 in the British Library. The Old Manor house later becomes the property of Henry Hoare when Burrell estates are sold.

1759 - John Cator exchanges lands in Beckenham and Lewisham with Jones Raymond and
Peter Burrell II(1724-1775) via Parliamentary Private Act http://www.portcullis.parliament.uk.  This may include the land at Stumps Hill but needs more research.
"An Act for exchanging certain Messuages, Lands and Hereditaments, in the Parishes of Beckingham (sic) and Lewisham, in the County of Kent, Part of the Estate late of Hugh Raymond Esquire, deceased, for other Lands and Hereditaments in the said Parish of Beckingham, belonging to John Cator the younger, and for settling the Lands so taken in Exchange to the same Uses, as the Lands given in Exchange stand limited, and for enabling Jones Raymond and Peter Burrell Esquires, to grant Building Leases of other Parts of the Estate, late of the said Hugh Raymond." ...from Parliament archive catalogue. This implies that John had considerable land holdings already by the age of 31.


1760 - 1762  - Cator builds the house on Stumps Hill as per comment by Peter Collinson in his Hortus Collinsonianus

1762 - Collinson records in a letter his visit to John's house newly built on Stumps Hill. (maybe visiting his now pregnant daughter?).
It is now established that John Cator certainly came to live at the house on Stumps or Stom's Hill much earlier than 1773 as there are records of him buying land in the area in 1757, exchanging land with Burrell and Raymond in 1759. and John Cator's famous botanist father in law, Peter Collinson speaks of his purchasing a fine estate and building a house in letters dated 1761 and 1763. 1763 is also the year in which Cator’s father died and his mother came to stay with him, presumably selling the family home, which was somewhere in Bromley. We now know that the original house dates to 1760/2 as the most recent revelation is a note by Collinson in his Hortus Collinsonianus (catalogue of his plants) in which he says:
"Sept. 17, 1762, went, for the first time, to visit my son-in-law,John Cater (who married my daughter), at his new-built house, now finished, at Stump's Hill, half way (on the south side of the road) between Southend and Beckenham, in Kent, began in the spring 1760, on a pretty wooded estate which he had then purchased. The plantations about it, all of his own doing, I found in a very thriving condition, and when grown up will adorn so stately a house, in so delectable a situation, and make it a Paradise. In his woods grows the native English Chesnut spontaneously. P. Collinson, F.R.S."
Then the publisher of this catalogue, Lambert says :When I visited these grounds, in 1812, I was much struck by the remarkably healthy appearance of many fine trees, including, as nearly as I can recollect, Cedars, Exotic Firs, Liriodendrons.

1763 - a daughter Maria (also referred to as Mary) born to John and Mary, John's father dies, John inherits the timber business and his mother comes to live with him.

1763 - This example of a land exchange illustrates how property deals were conducted..... 25/26 March 1763 Lease and release of a piece of land called Stone Mead in Beckenham, Kent, containing one acre and two rood from John Catorthe younger of Southwark, Surrey, merchant to Peter Burrell of Beckenham, esquire in exchange for land called Gatton's Mead, containing 2 1/2 acres in Beckenham. (Bromley Archive)

1766 - Maria dies in infancy, John's sister also dies after a long illness. Research is perhaps necessary into epidemics in 1766 such as smallpox/measles.

1766 - Foxgrove Manor estate plan transcribed by Proudlove, showing plots owned by John Cator.
The land within the Foxgrove Manor which became the park was only the northernmost part of Foxgrove Manor. John Cator added some land purchased from the Forsters and Francis Flower of Southend in Lewisham and possibly the Earl of Rockingham who is identified on the Foxgrove Manor plan.  The records of this area are more difficult to trace but the Rockingham, Sondes family and Lees Court Estate possessed land at Mottingham, Lewisham and Bromley. Estates were not contiguous areas of land but very divers holdings often being the odd field, wood or farm. Intermarriage was one way these widespread estates accumulated. It seems John Cator acquired his early land acquisitions as they came on the market. The death of an estate holder might prompt the heir to sell some unwanted sites.
On the 1766 map Cator's land is surrounded by the holdings of Jones Raymond. The Hop Ground, Pill Crofts etc outlined by a dark line are listed as Raymond's. It may be that plots not heavily outlined near Cator's are already his property (more research). The Lord Bolingbroke annotation between two ''Cators'' is clarified on the Beckenham Manor plan as being a small plot owned by Bolingbroke but leased to someone else.  So there was a jumble of ownership. Also few buildings are indicated on these plans so Rocques map is an indicator of where buildings may have been.
Some field shapes are recognizable to this day. Thistle Down is the modern day Crab Hill field and Lewisham Lands is most of the woodland (summerhouse wood). Lewisham Land Hills is Railway field and adjacent woodland. Nail Brooks is Summerhouse Field and the Common.

This image is from the 1776 redrawing which is easier to read. The Cator holdings do not change between the two versions apart from some acquisitions in the village 'high street'. 




A bit more can be said about the Foxgrove Manor plan as it depicts lands owned by Jones Raymond. It also depicts lands owned by the Burrells and Lord Bolingbroke as well as Cator. Some fields are outlined heavily to show Jones Raymond and a list at the side shows field names and acreages. Some plots are just named without an owner indicated i.e. Lewisham Lands 18.2.29 (18 acres 2 rods 29 perches). 2 plots called Morrisswood west and east bound the hop ground and may already be Cator's. 'A' Earl of Rockingham is indicated as being grazed by oxen (12 great beasts of Foxgrove). This part is believed to have been a marshy area by the river probably no good for agriculture. The road which is now the drive through the park is the boundary of the Foxgrove Manor and partly of the Beckenham Manor lands, but it seems some of the land along the western side of the road is not in either manor, possibly being Forster Estate/Lewisham Manor. The description Lewisham Lands may denote land in Lewisham Manor which was or would be acquired by Cator. Lewisham Land Hills and Nat Brooks are owned by Jones Raymond as indicated in the legend below. The small lozenge shaped plot is believed to be a sandpit on the river floodplain. No buildings are drawn, only boundaries and enclosures.



1768 - Jones Raymond dies
with no direct heir so Foxgrove Manor passes to Peter Burrell as Jones Raymond's sister's husband Some lands appear in the name of Mrs Burrell or Peter Burrell on estate plans. The Burrell's already owned other lands in Beckenham/Bromley such as Kelseys' ? It was common for intermarriage between land owning families. There were at least two marriages between other members of Burrells and Raymonds families.

1768 - The Manor of Beckenham plan (below) redrawn/transcribed by Proudlove
from 1623(in British Library) Beckenham manor rejoined. With the Foxgrove plan above it is possible to fit The Bolingbroke land next to the church with Church Field and Broom Field in the plan below and see how a piece of land is unaccounted for by both Manors.  

reproduced by kind permission of the British Library


On the above plan Beckenham Place would eventually occupy the bottom left corner. The plan is orientated with North at the bottom and the road running down from the church is the road which runs through the park from approxomately just above Hicks Field.  Hicks Field, Leigh and Sir Francis Delves plots are marked as Lord Bolingbrokes on the Foxgrove plans. Another example of the mixed ownerships.
The legend on the plan reads:  

The Plot of the Manor of Beckenham with the Demesne Lands Woods Pastures Meadows and Brooks unto the same pertaining now used and belonging situate lying & being in the said Parish of Beckenham In the County of Kent. And is now the Manor Land etc. of Two Men as yet un-divided (that is to say?) Henry Snellyer of the Parish of Beckenham aforesaid his own part) or Moiety. And Sir John Dolston of the Parish of Leyton?... in the County of Cumberland Kt. the other part or Moiety As... is inscribed and plotted one Tenement or Farm and the Land unto the same belonging being also in the said Parish of Beckenham called the................and is coloured about in Yellow. Being the said S. Henry’s own tenement and Land and now Leased out unto Richard Baldwyn of the same Yeo. All which said Manor and Tenement and the said several Lands etc. were at the Request of the said Sir Henry Snellyer. Measured and Plotted in the month of November in the year 1623. By Nicholas Lane. Supervisor.

T. Proudlove. TransferiRfit.  1768



1768 - Viscount Bolingbroke and Diana Spencer are divorced by Act of Parliament, the estate plan may relate to the settlement.

1769 -
John Cator was certainly living at Beckenham Place in 1769 for his house is clearly marked on a map published by Andrews, Drury & Herbert in that year. He may well have come to live here soon after his marriage in 1753. Peter Collinson writes to Benjamin Franklin about being on the eve of his daughters wedding 12th August 1753, but John Cator retained property at Bankside, Southwark until 1794. This map shows a building with a rounded bay at the rear as is the construction of the mansion but no projecting portico at this time or a lake. The scale prevents much detail being drawn but the record of other landowners is interesting and a clue to further investigations at varioius archives.




 
1772/80  -  John Cator is MP for Wallingford  (History of Parliament online)

1773 - John purchases the Manor of Beckenham from Lord Bolingbroke who had inherited the estate.
The purchase of land from Bolingbroke was less than straightforward as subsequent court cases in Chancery and Kings Bench involved the transfer of land and obligations to third parties i.e. Mrs Hare had lien on part of the lands (see Internet searches). Bolingbroke's reason for selling the land seems to be related to the dissolution of his marriage to his wife Lady Diana and his financial problems. He had a reputation for gambling and general excess. This extract from legal proceedings illustrates.


1776 - Foxgrove Manor plan redrawn by John Sale (from several plans) in British Library. It shows no change in Cator's holdings in the park area but does show he has acquired some land in Beckenham Village.

1776 - From 1776 to 1782 John Cator is listed as also being resident at the Adelphi, a development of apartments near The Strand built by the Adam brothers,  on www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol18/pt2/pp131-137#h3-0007
He would have desired a town residence for his business and political career. Other residents in the Adelphi were the Adam brothers themselves and Garrick the actor.




1777 - In this estate plan of 1777 below the plots called Pill Crofts and Hop Ground (or part of it) are belonging to Mrs. (Amy) Burrell so we might assume that Cator had Morrisswood east and west and maybe part of the hop ground. Then we have to ask how the 1793 exchanges between Cator and Burrell affected holdings or indeed whether any other exchanges took place of which we are yet not aware.
Some of the field boundaries in these maps are still visible in the landscape on aerial photo maps such as Google Earth and Bing. The earlier map published by John Rocque in 1745 does not show the hop field, but depicts a continuous stretch of woodland called Langstead Wood stretching all the way to the Ravensbourne. The hop field may have been created between 1748 and 1766, but the two later maps are probably reasonably accurate as traces of the features depicted on them can still be seen on modern ordnance survey maps. 

reproduced by kind permission of the British Library




1781 - John Cator is High Sherif of Kent, a position appointed each year from March.
 John Cator - Portrait by Joshua Reynolds
This portrait would have been in the round plaster border over the fireplace in the south facing room. It is supposed to be now at Woodbastwick in Norfolk but may have been sold by the family so whereabouts unknown.

1781 - Carl von Linne the younger, Linnaeus' son, comes to London.  We don't know if this is the Linnaeus who might have met John Cator but as Carl did meet Banks, Solander and others who knew Peter Collinson then there is a potential link. Carl contracted an illness which killed him on his return to Sweden in 1783. It is recorded as jaundice.  See Linnaean Society and Wikipedia entries.

1782 - John's brother Joseph is in possession of land and manor house at Clockhouse between Beckenham and Penge  according to the estate plan in Bromley Library.  
Being a younger brother he had not it seems inherited a large estate and had worked for the East India Company as a factor (merchant). John and other members of the family were shareholders in the company. Records in the British Library and elsewhere beg investigation. It is remarkable how many local landowners and politicians had dealings with the East India Co. and it much be suspected as a source of some wealth. Chinaware, spices, silk and luxury items were traded for British manufactures.  During the 18th century the practices of the EIC were questioned and investigated in parliament on several occasions but it is too complicated to relate it here.

Clockhouse between Beckenham and Penge (looking towards Penge)

1783 - John Cator purchases Wricklemarsh at Blackheath, the house and estate of Gregory Page Turner. The pillars of the portico along with several ornate windows from Wricklemarsh House at Blackheath were added to the mansion when much remodeling was carried out. The date is debatable, but the Ordnance Survey surveyors preliminary sketches of 1799 in the British Library clearly show a house without the portico. Though the curved bay at the rear of the house and a stable block and a lake are shown.
Having lived in Southwark on Bankside near his business and later acquiring an apartment in the Adam Brothers Adelphi near the Strand he was a man of property and we can only speculate on how he accumulated his wealth. 



Wricklemarsh:  The columns and windows came to Beckenham Place
the large ground floor window is the same as at the sides of portico


1784 - Elected MP for Ipswich but unseated. The History of Parliament online describes John Cator's political career or in 'The House of Commons 1754-1790 by Lewis Namier and John Brooke'  available as an e-book

1785
- Cator has the road diverted to current Beckenham Hill, Southend Road line and also closes Langstead Lane between Southend and Clay Hill. New road at first called Great Stumpshill Road.
It is noteworthy that the present pond is clearly marked on the eighteenth century road diversion plan, though the site of its farmhouse on the same side of the road is now mostly outside the park boundary and occupied by modern housing.


Centre for Kentish studies has this document:
Part of highway between village of Southend in Lewisham and village of Beckenham, 1,500 yards long, to be diverted to a new line, through lands of John Cator , Esq., 1,518 yards long, 30 feet wide. Highway from Southend Green near vill of Southend to Clayhill in Beckenham, 2,250 yards long, to be stopped up, since it is disused, and the road from Southend to Clayhill by Beckenham Church is used in its place. Order: at Beckenham 22 March 1785, with plan (scale: 10 ins. to mile). Endorsed:consent of John Cator of Beckenham, Esq., same date Certificate of completion: 4 April 1785. Order enrolled 5 April 1785 [ Q/So.W11.pp529 - 530 ] At this time the local gentry were vying with each other in improving their estates and almost all of them adopted what was then the height of fashion, large scale landscaping to produce vistas of pasture leading down to stretches of water with a backdrop of trees. The closing of Langstead Lane which would have crossed the footprint of the lake was probably with a view to creating the lake and excluding the public. This redevelopment might partly explain why few traces now remain of any exotic planting, which John Cator is reported to have carried out on the estate under the influence of his wife and eminent botanist father in law, Peter Collinson, during the early days of his marriage. However, introduced species such as Turkey Oak, Holm Oak, Rhododendron, Swamp Cypress are present whether due to original plantings or later landscaping. the Turkey Oak which blew down in 2002 was dated to 230 years of age (planted 1772 or earlier).  Collinson remarks in a letter to John Bartram "my two sons (Cator his son in law and his own natural son) vye with each other in acquiring plants and ask Collinson for azaleas, khalmeias and rhodedendrons.  Search The Memorials of John Bartram and Humphrey Marshal for Collinson's letter, it makes entertaining reading and an insight into the Collinson/Cator relationship. Collinson was a supplier of many plants to a wide number of clients including the aristrocracy. However, the passage of time, changing fashion and various tennants have had an impact of the landscape.

Cator also buys the title to a cottage in two tenements with several pieces of land in Lewisham received in exchange from Francis Motley Austin Esq of Court Lodge, Lamberhurst on 9th May 1785 with Cator paying 600 by way of equality of the property. Whereabouts of property unknown.

The core of the park probably took most of its present form in the 1780's. For it is then that the public was excluded from the park roads the existing road becoming a driveway through his park and he also closed another road called Langstead Lane (or Lagg Street Lane on some maps) which ran from Southend to Clay Hill, effectively excluding the public from his parkland estate. The gatehouses at the north and south ends of the drive through the park still remain though the southerly one is now outside of the public park being at the entrance to what is now a private road confusingly also called Beckenham Place Park.

1788 - Pat Manning records an exchange of lands from Lees Court, Kent with certain lands in Lewisham for which John Cator paid over 550 for equality 19 November 1788. These would probably have been Earl of Rockingham/Sondes/Lees Court lands which are identified on the Foxgrove Manor plan as being in the area of what is now Downham/Southend.  The Earl of Rockingham was a prominent politician who had married into the Sondes family who owned large estates in Kent. The Rockinghams had large estates in the north of England.

1788 - John Cator negotiates lending money via bonds to the Prince of Wales (later to become George IV) but he and another party withdraw before the transaction is completed (Memoirs of George IV). These books are available on the internet   "The history of the life and reign of William the fourth, the reform monarch ...By Robert Huish "

1789 - Bayly's Print of the mansion is produced. It shows a villa with views of a lake but no evidence of the portico which is constructed with materials from Wricklemarsh at a later date. The house originally had no attic dormer windows. the internal staircase shows that the attic rooms were a later alteration, possibly mid 19th century.





1790/93 - John Cator is MP for Stockbridge


1793 - In a land rationalisation exchange between Peter Burrell III who has attained the title Lord Gwydir and John Cator acquires Foxgrove Manor. Amy Burrell's death is recorded the next year so she has passed the estates to her grandson, Peter Burrell III

1794 - John sells the Bankside business and property (P.Manning source)

1795 - A record of a conveyance of a messuage, water corn mill and lands in Southend, Kent from John Forster Esq. of Lincolns Inn, Middlesex, to John Cator  of Beckenham, Kent in consideration of the sum of 1750.

..... land at Southend purchased from John Forster Esq of Lincoln’s Inn for 1750 on 1st/2nd Jan 1795 detailed as Flowers Garden, 3r 1p, Tree Crafts, 4a 1r 31p and Sand Pitt field 3a 1r 22p. The fifth abstract concerns land purchased from the widow Jane Weatherall of Deptford by John Cator of StumpsHill for 850. It is described as “All that one close of pasture and arable called Broomfield 7 acres and one close of pasture or arable. Called Two Acres adjoining Morrices Wood, also 2acres of meadow lying in Rookey Meadow adjoining East lands, also Bullocks Meadow 2 acres and a pasture called Three Acres.” Proof of ownership was provided by the inclusion of the will dated 11.2.1735 of Robert Friend gardener of Deptford who was Jane Weatherall’s father.

Of the above, the last one mentions Morrices Wood, called Morrifs (Morriss) Wood East and West on the Foxgrove Map. Its likely these are the same plots and perhaps this land is around A on the Foxgrove plan. The land at A is described as being grazed by oxen (Bullocks Meadow?) and perhaps East Lands is adjacent to Morrisswood and Lewisham Lands. Until we find a relevant estate plan this is conjecture.


The Ordnance Survey drawing shows Southend in about 1799. It is possible to identify the positions of pubs, mills and Flower House as well as lodges at the park entrance. The Ravensbourne was the source of power for several mills along its course.




1799 - The earliest version of the Ordnance Survey map of Kent. Not published until 1860's but printed by other publishers such as Stanford's reproduced by kind permission of the British Library. This map shows clearly how the lake is supplied with water from a stream and pond. The pond is now filled in and in a school playground.
By 1799 the Ordnance Survey surveyors working drawing (below) in the British Library and viewable on their website, shows the park and nearby details. Some field outlines are still similar to the 1766 Foxgrove Manor plan. John Cator has removed field boundaries inside much of his 'park' landscape. A farm to the south of the mansion still exists as it had been on the 1785 road diversion plan. The buildings of home farm are just visible between the stable block and Southend Lodge. The field pattern here may relate to the 1795 land transfer? Land marked with stripes is cultivated, woodland is apparent, mottled land is probably pasture and parkland marked with less dense concentrations of trees.



The Years 1800 to 1900.  The Park is mostly leased to a series of tenants.
But other events affect the park such as the building of the railways and inheritance of the park by other members of the Cator family.

1804 - Mary Cator dies and is buried in St. Georges churchyard with her daughter.


1806 - John Cator dies at his appartment in the Adelphi near The Strand, is buried in St Georges churchyard, Beckenham.

1806 - John Barwell Cator (1781-1858), son of John's oldest brother Joseph, inherits the estate. It is held in trust by his father Joseph until Joseph's death in 1818.



John Barwell Cator 1781-1858

.
1806 - Building leases begin to be sold for parts of Wricklemarsh estate

1808 - John Barwell Cator marries Miss Mahon, her relative Mr. Lambert has access to Barwell's papers inherited from Peter Collinson via John Cator. Lambert's letter to other members of the Linnaean Society in their archive is the route which leads to Collinsons revalation about the date of the mansion. Lambert made copies of the catalogue which became the property of Lewis Weston Dillwyn who printed the version which we can now access on the internet and reveals the first date of the mansion at Beckenham Place.

1818 - J. Preston Neale produces a print of the Mansion although the pedement on top of the columns is not drawn accurately it does depict how it perhaps should have been built.



1820 - Peter Burrell III, Lord Gwydir dies and his estates are sold to new owners including the Hoare Banking family. (BLS). These estates are mostly south of the Beckenham village whereas the Cator estates are mostly north of the village.

1825 - J.Barwell Cator acquires permission via act of parliament to sell/lease plots of land for development on the Beckenham Estates. John Cator's will had put restrictions on selling land. It seems an Act of Parliament was required to permit JBCator to dispose of lands.

1829 - Alexander D. Inglis recorded as tenant of the Mansion

1833 - An estate plan is produced: map entitled: 'Plan of an Estate belonging to John (Barwell) Cator Esq situate in the Parishes of Beckenham, Lewisham and Bromley in the County of Kent'. Shows roads, field boundaries, Southend, parish boundaries (with Croydon and Penge) and boundary with Lord Farnborough's lands. Scale is 5 1/2 cm: 1/4 mile. Certified as 'Plan marked 'B' in declaration of Thomas Henry Burroughes and John Cator

1835 - Mr Peters. a banker is tenant. Peters was succeeded by Captain Walter Raleigh Gilbert, R.H.A., no dates available.

Followed by R.H. Page who later changed his name to Page‑Henderson. Although census records note the occupants of the village there are not addresses in the first records. Later census records give addresses and eventually occupiers complete their own census returns.

1857 - John Abrahms in occupatiion (Pat Manning source)

1858 - John Barwell Cator dies, estates inherited by his son Albermarle (1813-1868).

1861 - Robert Henry Page and family reside in the mansion.   A Merchant and Russia Broker. (census)

1864 - November, a map of the Beckenham Estate of Albemarle Cator is printed (Bromley Library). It excludes the site of Old Manor House opposite the church.

1866 - The Mansion occupier is still given as Robert Henry Page Esq. (directory)

1869/71 - Occupier Sir John Kirkland, Bart. J.P.  an army agent who had good relations with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and received gifts from them but he dies in 1871 prior to census

1870 The first publication of the Ordnance Survey maps shows very little development around the park. Field patterns from the Foxgrove and Beckenham manor plans may be detected. The
Ordnance Survey maps in the British Library and National Library of Scotland illustrate the mainly rural nature of the estates at Beckenham and Blackheath upto the 1860's and 1890's. An internet search for 'NLS Kent VII' should access the full map from which the extract below is taken.


1871 John Kirkland the younger
is mansion occupant in the 1871 census with son, aunt and servants

1873 No one listed as in occupation.

1874‑6 John Fell Christie is listed in a directory.

1877‑8 No one listed as in occupation.

1879 - Spencer Brunton and family in occupation of the mansion. the Brunton children made a story book Christmas card depicting a royal family visit, maybe this harks back to the Kirkland residency. This page from the book depicts a move into the mansion.




1881 - The mansion is occupied by Oliver Henley and family, a gardener - so we might assume he is acting as caretaker?

1885‑90 Edwin Covell lives in the mansion, a butchers proprietor.

1889 - An Act of Parliament authorises building of the Nunhead to Shortlands railway which runs via Beckenham Hill station to Ravensbourne station across the park. Albermarle Cator to be compensated for lands purchased etc. negotiations began as early as 1884. The Cators had obtained parliamentary approval to develop their Beckenham estates for housing in 1825 and the 1865 estate plans show an intended road slicing right through Summerhouse Hill Wood, a proposal which fortunately never materialised. In 1879 discussions took place between the Cators, neighbouring landowners and the London, Chatham and Dover Railway concerning a proposal to build a railway along the Ravensbourne valley in order to encourage speculative builders to construct houses in the area. This came to nought, as did a bill brought before Parliament in 1884. However in March 1889, an agreement was signed between John Cator of Woodbastwick Hall, Norfolk, Sir John Farnaby of Wickham Court and representatives of the London, Chatham & Dover Railway, which paved the way later the same year for the passing of an Act authorising the construction of the Shortlands and Nunhead Railway.The landowners contributed land as well as finance whilst the L.C.D.R. guaranteed to operate the line once it was constructed. Records in Bromley Library note the Forsters and a Mr Redman as being promoters of the bill to authorise the railway with compensations and land purchases from Albemarle Cator.

05/07/1889     Agreement betwen Alfred George Renshaw, of The Hall, Southend, Kent, esquire and William Stewart Forster, of 28 Lincolns Inn Fields, esquire, promoters of the Bill relating to the Incorporation of the Shortlands and Nunhead Railway Company (1st part) and Albemarle Cator, of Woodbastwick Hall, Norfolk, esquire (2nd part). It is agreed between the parties that if the Bill is passed in to law to authorise the construction of the railway, then the Company erect stations at Ravensbourne and Beckenham Hill and will pay compensation to Cator. Cator will sell property to the Company as required.

The attraction for the railway company was that it offered an alternative route to that through the Penge tunnel, an important role it provides to this day. Maximum charges per mile were set at 3d, 2d & 1d for first, second and third class passengers, 4d for horses, 1d for cats and dogs and 5d or 4d for carts and carriages depending on whether they had two or four wheels. Five stations were to be provided on sites selected by the landowners, each well staffed and provided with all comforts for both lady and gentleman passengers despite the fact that when they first opened they were surrounded by fields with hardly a dwelling within sight! As the landowners provided the lions share of the resources the precise route of the line was dictated by them, not by the operational needs of the railway company. The result is that the line winds its way along the valley carefully avoiding major features, such as the former lake in Beckenham Place Park as can be seen from the sketch plan which shows the original field boundaries.

The railway company was very happy with their new route, which cost 265,000 and opened for business on 1st July 1892. Under a new Act passed in 1896, they assumed complete control of the Shortlands & Nunhead Co exactly five years after it opened.Ravensbourne Avenue, Crab Hill, Downs Hill and Farnaby Road owe their existence to the building of the line, as does the gully, which forms the present entrance to the park from Crab Hill. This was the source of much of the gravel used in the construction. Many of the trees, which still shield the line, are the successors of those originally planted to screen it from the expected housing development. This house building never took place, but evidence of the Cators' expectations can still be seen today.

The width of the bridge, now connecting nothing but two parts of the park, suggests that it was originally designed to take considerable traffic. It contrasts markedly with the two earlier ones nearby in Westgate and Downs Bridge Roads, which are much narrower as they were intended solely to provide farm access.

Despite several changes of ownership the railway service through the park continues substantially unchanged.
Ravensbourne station lost its goods yard in the 1960s and in 1986 the booking office was badly damaged by fire. It has been rebuilt in a sympathetic style and the remains of the porters accommodation can still be seen in its basement by peering through a gap in the wall. Beckenham Hill station is basically 
unchanged apart from the loss of the down side canopy which was removed in 1968. We believe there was also a goods depot at one time.


Beckenham Place circa 1892

1894 The mansion occupier is listed as Mrs Covell, her husband Edwin has presumably recently died. E. Covell is also recorded as the tenant in the documents concerned with the authorisation of the construction of the Shortlands Nunhead railway through the estate.

1895‑99 No one listed as in occupation.

1902 - Beckenham Place is listed as Craven College School.  It had always been difficult, especially as the area became increasingly urban, to find tenants for Beckenham Place sufficiently wealthy to rent both the house and the whole of the surrounding park. At the turn of the century there was still a pheasantry in Summerhouse Hill Wood and a photograph of the participants at the last shoot together with their bag used to hang in the mansion. The local hunt last met in Beckenham in 1905, by which time the house was occupied by a private boys school called Craven College. An advertisement for which copied from Thornton's 1902 Beckenham Directory by kind permission of Bromley Library, is reproduced below.
(insert image)
The advertisement implies that the College was founded in the 1830s, but nothing is known of its early history or whether its name is derived from a place or a person. Immediately before coming to Beckenham it was only in Highgate for a few years, occupying a house in Millfield Lane on the north-east corner of Hampstead Heath.

The College occupied Beckenham Place from approximately 1900 to 1905 under the headmastership of J. Hartley French. It then moved to Elmer Lodge at Elmers End, probably because of the loss of sports facilities due to the lease of the park to the newly formed Foxgrove Golf Club.
Elmer Lodge was built in 1856 on the site of a 17th century predecessor and still exists today, substantially unchanged externally apart from the loss of its conservatory. Today it is a mosque after many years existing as a public house called appropriately ‘The Elmer Lodge’



Elmer Lodge

J. Hartley French was succeeded as headmaster by Mr W.T. Carlin who held the post initially assisted by a Mr E M Verall, until the demise of the College at the outbreak of the 1914‑18 war. The existence of the former college was commemorated by the nearby 1930s shopping parade, known as "College Parade" until comparatively recently.

Elmer Lodge was built 1856 on site of a previous 17th century building.

1905 to 1933 - Norwood Sanatorium occupies the Mansion and Homesteads, seems much of the park used by Foxgrove Golf Club, all under lease from Cator Estate, and a new chapter in its history opens.
From 1905 until 1933 Beckenham Place was the home of the Norwood Sanatorium, which specialised in the voluntary treatment of wealthy alcoholics and drug addicts. It was founded by a Dr Frances Hare, a retired Inspector of Hospitals for the Australian State of Queensland.

The reason for the name is probably because the sanatorium previously occupied a building at Crystal Palace, strictly speaking Upper Norwood, now called The Alma public house.  The faint inscription 'Sans Souci’ still to be seen over the front door of the mansion is believed to date back to this sanatorium period or was imported with the stonework from Wricklemarsh in the eighteenth century.

The sanatorium opened its doors on September 25th 1905 with 13 patients, a number which peaked at 232 in 1913. The average length of stay was six to eight weeks and the inclusive weekly charges pre‑war were 7.17s.6d a week, falling to 7.7s.0d after six weeks. This included medical attendance, medicines, board and lodging, games and ordinary services all provided in luxurious surroundings, as can be seen from the four interior pictures which are included by kind permission of Bromley Libraries.

The billiard and smoking rooms were reserved for gentlemen. The room housing the current Visitor Centre is thought to be the billiard room. The drawing room was for the sole use of ladies, except when afternoon tea was taken there or gentlemen were invited for music or evening games. These could not last long for ‘lights out’ was at 10.30pm.

The sanatorium advertises its amenities as including, lawns for croquet, tennis and bowls. The home farm supplied fresh milk, new laid eggs and chickens for the table, whilst the hothouses and vegetable gardens provided fresh fruit and vegetables, including grapes, peaches and tomatoes.

Dr Hare retired in 1925 and died three years later at his home, 'Oakland's', 15 The Avenue. Kelly's Directory lists his successors as being Dr George (1926‑7), Dr Barham (1931) and Dr Given (1933). A Dr Walter Masters, who is not listed in the surviving editions of Kellys, is, in a detailed biography, described as taking over from Dr Hare before 1928 and moving the business to Chislehurst, because of a lack of space.

Doctor Hare authored several books on the treatment of addiction. We have accessed the 1911 census records which we reproduce here for illustration of the numbers of staff and patients present at Beckenham Place.






)

An interior of the mansion when a sanatarium

1907 - The Foxgrove Golf Club is established on the grounds of the estate. The "Foxgrove Club" Edwardian building is built circa 1912 by club members. From 1933 to 2016 it is a private social club. In 2017 it is occupied by caretaker tenants.

The Creation of the Golf Course
A group of Beckenham residents formed the Foxgrove Golf Club and in March of the same year leased most of Beckenham Place Park, apart from the woods and the immediate surroundings of the home farm, for a period of 21 years. Little time was lost in building a club house and laying out the greens, for in October of the same year the first monthly medal meetings were held for both ladies and gentlemen. Shortly afterwards a commemorative dinner was held in the new clubhouse, which over fifty members attended. (source: Eric Inman)


1927 - The London County Council acquires the park from the Cator Estate. The minutes of the LCC record that there is a need for public open space for the estates of Downham and Bellingham which are being developed. Of course the LCC did not see the current Local Authority boundaries as overly important. The price is 47,000

1931 - The Home Farm is vacated and demolished. Below is a painting produced by a lady who lived at the farm when she was a young girl.




Some references to fresh milk, new laid eggs and chickens being supplied to the sanatorium in the 1920s from a home farm, no trace of which now exists other than in some aerial views of the park taken in 1996 the ‘footprint’ of the building can be seen clearly in the grass as 'crop marks'. Maybe atleast two farmhouses were destroyed in the original creation of Beckenham Place Park and perhaps a new one built to supply John Cator in his mansion.
It could be that Home Farm was in existence when Cator bought the land as the Rocque map shows buildings between the site of the mansion and Flower House. Some buildings shown on early maps appear to have been swept away in the creation of the park. Home farm was just inside the north gate. This was not demolished until 1931.
If one studies the Roque map it might be deduced that there was a house already in this position and a farm in the viscinity of Home Farm.  As map making was inaccurate before the Ordnance Survey then exact positions cannot be identified.
One of the early farms was on the opposite side of the road to the mansion, just outside the present southern gate to the park on a site now occupied by modern houses. Rocque's 1745 map also shows a building and gardens immediately opposite the present mansion, though whether this was a farm, outbuildings or gardens belonging to the previous house is not clear.It consisted of a picturesque huddle of buildings, which had obviously grown up over the years and is well depicted in this watercolour made in the early 1920s/30s by an unknown lady artist. Reproduced by courtesy of Miss I Krombach, who spent some of her childhood at the farm and is probably the artist.
The farm lost much of its land when the private golf course was constructed, originally consisting of 9 holes. The purchase of the park by the LCC and the departure of the sanatorium to Chislehurst deprived the farm of its reason for existence. Its final occupants from 1931‑33 were the Krombach family, in residence when the farm was leased by United Dairies to stable its horses. It was demolished soon after they left and the site incorporated into the now public golf course. The position of Home Farm shown on a sketch map.

insert sketch

1933
- The Golf Course becomes public and at one time the busiest in Europe, see 2016 for history and closure.

1939/45 - WWII An  Italian Prisioner of War 'Summerhouse' Camp is constructed on Crab Hill and an anti aircraft gun and barrage balloon emplacements are installed. Sheep grazing and growing of some crops for the war effort is introduced.  Curiously enough the nearer one comes to the present day the more difficult it becomes to find out what happened to the mansion and park but Eric Inman wrote most of the following... I know of no bombs or rockets actually falling on the park, which is quite surprising considering the numbers, which fell on the built-up areas close by. However, the recollections of someone who was aged 12 and lived in the stable yard homesteads recalls a V1 falling on the golf course in front of the mansion. Nearby residents recall a bomb crater just off of Worsley Bridge Road and Greycot Road. The area experienced several bomb hits, V1's and V11's. Bomb strikes were mapped quite comprehensively.
This entry recalls a V1 strike near the park: The Flying bomb exploded In Beckenham Hill Road. 1-11 ,2-16 Highland Croft,1-23 and 2-50 Braeside.184,186,188 Beckenham Hill Road, 37b Beckenham Hill Road, 31-37Southend Road, 42-80 Southend Road,  Ada Lewis House Southend Road. Were damaged.
An anti–aircraft gun and later a barrage balloon was sited near the mansion, with the operators of the latter being based in a wooden hut to one side of the mansion forecourt. (A recent park visitor, who had been stationed with the AA battery, informed us it was only here for a short time as the tactic was changed from having single weapons stationed locally, to having a larger battery at West Wickham). It has been said that Anti Aircraft fire injured or killed more civilians than it did enemy aircraft. Sheep were grazed on the golf course, but whether this displaced or supplemented the golf is something else it would be interesting to know.
Part of the park was dug up to grow potatoes and other vegetables particularly during the latter part of the war, when it was used as a prisoner of war camp. It housed Italian prisoners and according to one Italian book entitled ‘Prigionieri Italiani in Gran Bretagna (1940-47) was Camp No 233, known as Summerhouse Camp, Ravensbourne, Bromley, Kent. Probably some of the bumps in the ground may owe their origins to this period and not to some more distant times as some believe. Some of the paths through the woods also owe something to the efforts of the prisoners, as well as stonework and path-laying in some local houses. Another camp on Worsley Bridge Road accommodated German navy POW's.

A consultants report produced for the Heritage Lottery Fund bid found that several high explosive bombs fell in the park but no damage to buildings is recorded.




This image shows the POW camp on Crab Hill from Google Earth Historic imagery


197
1 - Control and ownership of the park passed from the Greater London Council to the London Borough of Lewisham (LBL) and in 1995 the boundaries were adjusted so that the whole of the park fell within Lewisham. Prior to this the mansion was in Beckenham, (since 1965 part of the new London Borough of Bromley), whilst the stables were in Lewisham as evidenced by a number of parish boundary posts which can still be seen within the park today. The present condition of the mansion and stables reflects the inability of any borough council to fund, repair and maintain a Grade 11* nationally listed building, when faced with competing higher priority responsibilities.

1976 - The Park and other open space is designated Metropolitan Open Land,  a form of inner city Green Belt under the Greater London Development Plan.

1992 - Football pitches and  changing rooms closed to enable David Lloyd scheme (DLL). Stable Block Homesteads and other accommodation cleared of tennants to provide vacant posession to DLL

1992 - David Lloyd Leisure attempted acquisition of much of the park, public enquiry and rejection of plans to extend golf and add indoor tennis centre.

1993/2000 - Park managed by David LLoyd Leisure as a 7 year management contract had been awarded prior to public enquiry rejection of the tennis centre and golf extension plans, largely because of MOL status of the park.
In 1993 planning permission was granted in principle by London Borough of Lewisham for a sporting venture, which would have radically transformed what is Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) into inaccessible sporting areas, at the expense of informal leisure activities by the general public. Determined opposition by a widely supported and well-organised  ‘Save Beckenham Place Park Campaign’ and other groups led to a public inquiry and rejection of the application in 1994. Many local and national groups were active in the campaign, primarily the Ravensbourne Valley Preservation Society, a local residents association. Other groups included The London Wildlife Trust, Council for the Protection of Rural England, Friends of the Earth and Save BPP Campaign group.

1993 - The Friends of Beckenham Place Park is inaugurated to attempt to positively influence the management of the park for conservation, heritage and open space use.

1996 - Friends of Beckenham Place Park opens a volunteer run visitor centre in a vacant cottage in the stable block. There had already been a high level of vandalism and the Friends repaired and decorated the cottage to a degree where a park conservation worker lived there for some years afterwards.

The 21st Century

2000 - The visitor centre moves into the Mansion at the invitation of a park manager.

2000/2014 - various changes is park management, consultations regarding use of buildings, including rejection of a charitable trust bid for management of the mansion.
As part of one management tendering exercise around 2009 a firm of architects,  Rees Bolter, produced a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the Mansion and a summary of possible uses.  The CMP has a lot of interesting information about the park and mansion including details of past stages of renovation and repair. It is worth a read but bear in mind that some of the history has since been altered and revealed. The CMP describes how the mansion resembles Palladian designs in Italy among other things.

2011 - Most of the Stable Block destroyed by fire after being left abandoned for several years.

2014 - London Borough of Lewisham decide to bid for Heritage Lottery Fund money to fund changes to the park.

2014 - The Environment Agency are evaluating a flood alleviation scheme to use part of the park to prevent flooding further downriver.

2015 - The mansion remains at risk awaiting HLF restoration bid,  The park and homesteads await the production of stage 2 HLF bid for restoration etc.

2016 - Lewisham Council close public golf course, unable to make it financial viable. Mansion is put on short term lease to a property management organisation RJK Properties with intentions to increase use of the building.

2017 - Heritage Lottery Fund bid for 4.9million approved for park and some buildings regeneration.


The Earliest Records


Some additional information not in the expanded timeline above.
So far the maps or estate plans we have found are:

1745 - John Rocque map of London and surrounding ares.
1766 - Proudlove Foxgrove Manor plans redrawn from a 1720 plan by John Holmes.(British Library)
1768 - Beckenham Manor Plan by J. Proudlove reproduced from a 1623 plan by Nicholas Lane (BL)
1769 - map published by Andrews, Drury & Herbert
1776 - Proudlove Foxgrove Manor redrawn but not covering as large an area as the earlier one. (BL)
1777 - Plan of an Estate of John Cator, only part of it being some fields in the larger Foxgrove plan. (BL)
1780 - Part of a large map of estates belonging to Peter Burrell (BL).

1785 - Plan of the new road which became Southend Road and Beckenham Hill Road. Originally called Great Stumpshill turnpike.(Kent Arch).
1799 - Surveyors working drawing for the Ordnance Survey covering West Kent. (BL)
1809 - Map of Burrell estates Beckenham, Langley, Eden Park
1870 - Ordnance Survey 6 inch surveyed 1863 (National Library of Scotland)
Other Ordnance Survey editions 1890's onwards (NLS)


The sketch map by Eric Inman below is constructed from information contained in the 1766 Foxgrove Manor plan below right and the map attached to the successful 1785 application by John Cator to divert what is now Southend Road and Beckenham Hill to its present route and close the road called Langstead Lane to Clay Hill, plus some detail from the earliest Ordnance Survey published 1870. Eric wrote his history of the park in the mid 1990's and must have accessed these maps and archives.


The Foxgrove plan shows two plots labelled Mr Cator in the positions copied onto the sketch map though in reality one was divided as Lord Bolingbroke owned a small plot between two holdings between Morriss Wood East and Bread Fields.

At this time landowners such as Jones Raymond, Lord Bolingbroke, Lord St. John and the Burrell family, and the Earl of Rockingham had considerable holdings in the area, many of which would eventually be bought up by John Cator the younger. The Earl of Rockingham is anotated on the map as having land in the Southend/Downham area.
Much of the woodland shown in this sketch and Rocque's map, apart from what is now known as Summerhouse Hill Wood, was probably cleared to create a view from the house of the artificial lake created by damning up a small unnamed tributary of the Ravensbourne and excavating a lake bed (probably after 1785). The two plots Morrisswood East and West are now mainly parkland.
Robert Borrowman in his book entitled 'Beckenham, Past and Present', published in 1910 quotes the historian Hasted as stating the house to have been rebuilt with much taste and elegance shortly after 1773. Hasted's publication can be acquired or read online.

The purchase of the Lordship of the adjacent Manor of Beckenham in 1773 from Lord Bolingbroke confused the date of John Cator coming to live in the area and the date of the house for many years with many references still citing 1773 as the date of the building.   Cator obviously occupied and had effective ownership of some of the land surrounding his home long before this and indeed did not acquire the Lordship of the Manor of Foxgrove until 1793 in a land rationalisation deal with his neighbour Peter Burrell III(Lord Gwydir 1754-1820). Not to be confused with the Private Act recorded in parliamentary archives describes some land exchanges in 1759 with the Peter Burrell who was Lord Gwydir's grandfather.

Humphrey Repton, the famous landscape architect, came to Beckenham to advise the Rector, the Rev. William Rose, on the layout of the garden to complement his new rectory for St Georges, Beckenham being designed by the Adam Brothers. The Rectory is the subject of a separate article in our newsletter of October 2016 though it was demolished to make way for Beckenham Town Hall, which in turn gave way to a Marks and Spencer.





The lake was introduced after the 1785 Langstead Lane closure though with a different outline than the later published map indicating that it may have been remodelled. Stumps Hill wood is  much larger straddling the new road. Cator also owned the land on the other side of the road which was part of the Beckenham Manor estate acquired from Bolingbroke or parts acquired from the Forster estate.
The Mansion is just by the 'k' in Beckenham and shows the rounded bay at the rear but no evidence of a portico.  The Stable block is drawn in and the lake. Woodland and field boundaries can be identified as variously Stumps Hill Wood, Summerhouse Wood, Crab Hill and Railway Fields. The ancient pond is perhaps under the 'e' in Beckenham. A Farm  or buildings are south of the mansion and just south of that a quarry perhaps for gravel or clay.  Gate lodges are at the north and south of the drive through the park. A pond/spring feed the stream which in turn feeds the lake. That pond is now filled in as part of the school playground in Westgate Road. The Ravensbourne is to the east. Is Home Farm indicated just south of the north gate lodge?  There is a field system near it. I'm tempted to believe there's a structure in the crescent of the lake, we do not know the origin of 'Summerhouse' as a name and it implies there was a summer house. A cottage in the woodland is now just a few remains of foundations. The various shading indicates woodland, parkland, cultivation and meadow.  It was common practice for bricks to be made locally and london clay is present in the area as is blackheath beds which are a source of gravel or pebbles.


The top right hand corner of this extract shows the bend in the Old Bromley Road which is still evident though the main Bromley Road was straightened. Buildings there are on or near the site of the 'Garden Gate' public house, currently a MacDonald's burger franchise. As pubs seemed to stay on established sites this may have been a tavern or inn during the 18th Century.


More about John Cator.

What sort of man was this John Cator whose activities were to have such a long - term effect on this part of what is now Greater London? Fortunately, we have a portrait by no less an artist than Sir Joshua Reynolds. It shows a gentleman attired rather casually, but expensively, in the fashion of the time.
The Cators were a devoted couple but had only one child, a daughter who, as commonly happened at that time, did not survive childhood and died aged three in 1766, the same year that John's sister died 'after a long illness' but some sources cite 1766 as a particularly bad year for smallpox deaths and measels was also a common cause of death in children. Also locally some polluted water courses were blamed for dypheria and typhus. We can see from the records that wealthy families were not immune to the high rates of child mortality of the time though perhaps less affected than the poorer classes.
We know from a private report of a lady staying at Beckenham Place that John Cator was very fond of admiring his appearance in the mirror. Such vanity did not extend, however, to conventional airs and graces, for numerous reports speak of the loudness of his voice and the roughness of his manners. He did not suffer fools gladly and always spoke his mind, not hesitating to call a spade a b….. shovel no matter who he was with. The combination of wealth and business acumen led to his company and opinion being sought by many people in society including by the distinguished Dr Samuel Johnson.

He even negotiated a loan to the then heavily indebted Prince of Wales, later to become George IV but a deal wasn't finalised (memoirs of George IV and William IV). Later John was to be appointed a member of the committee set up to organise the erection of a statue of Johnson in Westminster Abbey and became one of its most generous subscribers. He was acceptable as a son-in-law to Peter Collinson, the eminent antiquary and botanist whose daughter Mary he married in 1753. Collinson writes to John Barham in America stating that his sons (his natural son Richard and son in law John Cator) are pestering him for plants. He wishes to encourage John Cator who ' when he married my daughter barely knew an oak from an apple'  This and the fact Collinson left his valuable books to John Cator bear testament to a good relationship.

Cator is recorded as supplying timber for houses in Berwick Street, Soho and other estates in the West End. He was a shareholder in the East India Company and his brother and nephews were employed by the Company. He lent money and acted as executor for wills for his acquaintances the Thrales.  Certainly an entrepreneur and social climber seeking position as MP, Sherif of Kent, but any title eluded him although the Cator family had connections to aristocracy they may have been regarded as nouveaux riche.

John's father in law, Collinson had a great interest in the Americas, was a friend of Benjamin Franklin and John Bartram, and is credited with introducing a number of plants and trees to Britain and elsewhere through his friendship with other botanists. Neil Rhind, in his book on Blackheath and its environs* speculates that it was timber that led to the meeting of John Cator with Mary Collinson and their consequent romance. John had inherited, from his father, a thriving timber business on the banks of the Thames at Mould Strand Wharf, now the site of the former Bankside Power Station which is the Tate Modern. He is listed as occupying a house on Bankside upto 1760 in the book 'The House by the Thames' by Gillian Tindall. Also 'Forget Thee Not My Garden' a book of selected letters to and from Collinson is interesting reading.

When John Cator was forty, he decided he would like a political career, to add to his success as a timber merchant, businessman and landowner. Our records here are amended to take account of information on historyofparliamentonline.org  which we recommend for reading. e.g "In 1768 he stood for Gloucester in opposition to George Selwyn, though he had no connexion with the borough. Selwyn’s friends were indignant: ‘I am heartily sorry, my dear George, that this d-d carpenter had made matters so serious with you’, wrote Gilly Williams in March. But William Dowdeswell, though he found it ‘a very extraordinary opposition’, told Charles Yorke that the arrival of ‘this adventurer’ had ‘procured for Selwyn ... the assistance of those who would have given him opposition if a gentleman of the neighbourhood had been proposed’. And Cator was forced to withdraw. In 1772 he successfully contested the venal borough of Wallingford."   and  in 1780 "Cator appears in Robinson’s lists of candidates for seats at the general election among ‘persons that will pay 2,000 or 2,500, or perhaps 3,000’. In the end no Administration seat was provided, but Cator was invited to contest Ipswich by the ‘Yellow’ party in the borough. He paid 1,700 for his election, was returned, but on petition was found guilty of bribery and unseated. He also accepted an invitation from the town party at Lyme Regis to oppose the Fane interest, but was heavily defeated. In January 1785 he approached Jenkinson about a vacant seat at Ilchester, but though Jenkinson seems to have been encouraging, nothing came of it. Nor did Hawkesbury (as Jenkinson had now become) offer him the seat at Ilchester when put at his disposal in October 1786, though Cator was still hoping to reenter Parliament."


John Cator represented:
WALLINGFORD  27 Jan. 1772 - 1780
IPSWICH  3 Apr. - 18 June 1784  (this election was declared void)
STOCKBRIDGE  1790 - 22 Feb. 1793


Eric Inman had recounted that his first attempt at election in 1780, partnered by an immensely rich East India Company (nabob) Indian Civil Service retiree called Richard Barwell, was abandoned after his well entrenched opponent referring to him as a 'damned carpenter'. He was made Sheriff of Kent the following year and cast around for another seat that could be acquired for “an expenditure not exceeding 3,000”. He was finally successful at Ipswich, only to be immediately unseated for bribery. It seems even in those freewheeling days there were bounds over which it was unwise to step. After failing, once again, at Lyme Regis he was elected for Stockbridge in Hampshire, which he represented from 1790‑93.
John's eventual heir had been named John Barwell Cator by John's brother Joseph and some members of the Cator family were members of the East India Company thereby acquiring more wealth. Pat Manning's book 'The Cators of Woodbastwick' throws more light on the family history and we  recommend it for reading if more is wanted regarding the Cator family.

The 'unseating for bribery'  description seems to have been recorded in another local history but the situation from history of parliament online indicates that the situation was one more of irregularity rather than bribery.  When one considers the electoral system of the time was only landowners having the vote and an intricate system of patronage and rotten boroughs then the offence if there was one was probably less than "fiddling your MP's expenses"

Mrs. Thrale writes that when asked by her husband whom to appoint as executur to his will, she named Dr. Johnson, Sir Lucas Pepys, and Cator: stating

"This was rather a testimony of good opinion ... than of fondness, for who could be fond of Cator? and yet I really think him as fit a man for the purpose as either of the other two. Rough in his manners, acute in his judgment, skilful in trade, and solid in property is John Cator Esq."


She thought it possible to ‘gain great information from keeping him company; but his voice is so loud, and his manners so rough, that disgust gets the better of curiosity’. And Fanny Burney: ‘He prated so much, yet said so little, and pronounced his words so vulgarly, that I found it impossible to keep my countenance.’ But Dr. Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale: ‘Cator has a rough, manly, independent understanding, and does not spoil it by complaisance, he never speaks merely to please and seldom is mistaken in things which he has any right to know.’ Cator seems to have been a conscientious trustee, and a good friend to the Thrales’s daughters, and it was to his house that they went after their mother’s second marriage. Boswell writes, June 1784,12 that Johnson was pleased with the kindness of Mr. Cator, and thus describes him: ‘There is much good in his character, and much usefulness in his knowledge’. He found a cordial solace at that gentleman’s seat at Beckenham, in Kent, which is indeed one of the finest places at which I ever was a guest.'




Samuel Johnson


James Boswell


Hester Thrale


Fanny Burney


Mary Cator died on the 13th August 1804 and her husband was not to survive much longer, he passed away only two years later at his Adelphi home. They are both buried in an impressive tomb, which can still be seen in St. George’s churchyard, Beckenham. There is very little about Mary Cator other than she was Peter Collinson's daughter. One record is of the Cator's visiting the Thrales with a niece 'Miss Collison' (sic)  whom we take to be Mary's brother's daughter. Names were still being spelt differently or phonetically e.g. Beckenham referred to as Beckingham in some records. One can only speculate on the possible details of the relationship.

Cator died 21 Feb. 1806, ‘immensely rich’.  The Will of John Cator is available but difficult to read the handwriting. (National Records Office)

Various names entered the family because of their connections 'Bertie' 'Barwell' 'Albermarle' all have aristocratic or influentual lineages and links through marriage. 'Barwell' arises from the connection between the Cators and Richard Barwell 1741-1804 who's entry on History of Parliament online is worth reading and perhaps further investigation.
Pat Mannings publications include works on the memorials in St George's churchyard. The tomb of Joseph Cator contains several members of his family some of whom were closely related with the future of the park although John Barwell Cator is buried at Woodbastwick, the family seat he acquired in Norfolk.

The Memoirs of George IV and the Piozzi Letters throw some light on the business affairs of John Cator who negotiates lending money and holds a mortgage on Hester Piozzi (ex Thrale) and so is acting as a money lender or banker. There are records in the National Archive regarding court actions by the Piozzi's against Cator and differences over the estate of Henry Thrale.  Cator also had court cases as plaintiff and defendant over his acqusition of the lands and manor from Lord Bolingbroke.  I recommend various internet searches under, Cator, Adelphi, Piozzi, Thrale, Burney, Johnson, Collinson etc. in various combinations.

The Cator estates at Beckenham and Blackheath as well as land in Hertfordshire, Surrey and Essex together with the family timber business were left to three nephews, John Barwell Cator the eldest son of John's brother Joseph, and George and Henry Sparkes, the sons of his sister, Mary. All three were minors so Joseph Cator was named as trustee of the estate, a position he held until his death in 1818. George and Henry died young without issue, so John Barwell inherited the money when he reached the age of 18 in 1809 and later, on the death of his father in 1818 the control of the whole estate. In 1809 he used his inheritance to purchase Woodbastwick Hall in Norfolk, after which Beckenham Place was never again to be the main seat of the Cator family. Various evidence suggests that J.Barwell Cator may have occupied Beckenham Place upto 1840 but the recorded tenancies conflict with this.


Bear in mind that Cator family members had property at Clockhouse. Joseph, John's brother from 1782 to 1818. And at The Hall, now St. Christopher's Preparatory School, Peter Cator 1880?.


Back to timeline 1753


Peter Collinson


Although only related as John Cator's father-in-law, he revealed to us the most exact date for building of the mansion and his life is interesting in its own right. He was acquainted with several well known figures and he left a legacy of accumulated knowledge about plants and other subjects. At his death he left his books to John Cator then they were inherited by John Barwell Cator who allowed Lewis Weston Dillwyn access to them and the Hortus Collinsonianus was copied.
Among his acquaintances were Joseph Banks and Solander who accompanied Captain Cook on his first voyage to the Pacific. Collinson corresponded with John Bartram and Benjamin Franklin in America. He introduced several plants to Britain from his contacts.
This entry in
A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great ..., Volume 2 by John Burke outlines his life and explains how he inherited the house at Mill Hill.  His letter in 'Forget Thee Not my Garden'  are a window on the thinking of the Georgian 'phylosopher'.



The Tenants of Beckenham Place 1818 ‑ 1902.


John Cator died on 26th February 1806 leaving control of the estate to his brother Joseph of Clock House in trust for his son, John Barwell Cator, then only fourteen and two other nephews, George and Henry Sparkes. The Sparkes brothers both died young and unmarried leaving John Barwell as the sole ultimate heir. Burke's 'Landed Gentry' records him marrying Elizabeth Louise Mahon from County Galway in Ireland just before his 25th birthday. Certainly this union did not result in a son until 1813, when Albemarle, later to inherit the property was born. At this time John Barwell was  living at Woodbastwick Hall in Norfolk, which he had purchased in 1809. His father Joseph seems to have lived at Beckenham Place until his death in 1818 and it is presumably during this period that the stable clock was transferred from Clock House, if it was moved from there to Beckenham Place at all, this is still disputed. John Barwell Cator, now in full control of the estate, seems to have preferred his own home at Woodbastwick to Beckenham Place and in 1825 obtained parliamentary approval to develop the estate for building, whilst seeking out a tenant for the house itself. The earliest tenant appearing in any record is a banker named Peters, who laid out the Foxgrove cricket field in the 1830s, which some thirty years later was to become the home of the Beckenham Cricket Club.

Searching through the directories in Bromley Local Studies Library suggests that for some periods the house was unoccupied or occupied by caretakers as can be seen from the following list. Census records fill in some of the gaps but before 1840 the census is only a list of names with no 'premises' identified. Some comparison with Pat Manning's book is required here.

1829 - Alexander D. Inglis
1835 (1841 census) -1851(census) - Mr William Peters. a banker.
Peters was succeeded by Captain Walter Raleigh Gilbert, R.H.A., no dates available.
Followed by R.H. Page who later changed his name to Page‑Henderson.
1861(census) - 1866 Occupier is given as Robert Henry Page Esq. with family, servants, coachman etc.
1869 - Sir John Kirkland, Bart. J.P.  an army agent who had good relations with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, received gifts from them.
1870 ditto.
1871 ditto in census with wife, aunt and servants
1873 No one listed as in occupation.
1874‑6 John Fell Christie.
1877‑8 No one listed as in occupation.
1879    Spencer Brunton. the Brunton children made a Christmas card depicting a royal family visit, maybe this harks back to the Kirkland residency
1880‑84 No one listed as in occupation.
1881 (census):  Owen Henley, Gardener with wife and children / Lodge: George Skinner, Joiner, wife and nephew (caretakers?)
1885‑1891(census) Edwin Covell with extensive family and servants.
1894 The occupier is listed as Mrs Covell, her husband Edwin has presumably recently died. E. Covell is also recorded as the tenant in the documents concerned with the authorisation of the construction of the Shortlands Nunhead railway through the estate.
1895‑99 No one listed as in occupation.
1901 No census record of occupation.
1902 Beckenham Place is listed as Craven College
1907 to 1930 Norwood Sanatorium occupies the mansion and Homesteads, seems much of the park used by Foxgrove Golf Club, all under lease from Cator Estate, and a new chapter in its history opens.
1911(census) The Norwood Sanatorium is listed with its staff and patients, Home Farm is occupied.
The sanatorium continued in occupation up until
1927 The LCC acquired the park. Then park employees occupied some rooms until
1993? When London Borough of Lewisham vacated living accommodation.
1992 - 1999 David Lloyd Leisure have management of the park after failed 'Tennis Centre' scheme
19?? to 20?? The Mander Mitchenson Theatre Collection occupied the mansion mainly as a storage premises despite earlier 'Theatre Museum' plans.
20?? - 2016 Glendale have a golf course management contract using the mansion as pro shop and cafe
2017 Mansion leaseholders RJK Properties put resident caretaker managers in first floor apartments.

A further reminder here that reading Pat Manning's 'The Cators of Woodbastwick' clarifies various facets of the families activities with careers in the Church, Navy, Army etc.



The Development of the Park in the Nineteenth Century.

The earliest detailed Ordnance Survey map dated 1870 (National Library of Scotland archive) shows the park as it was before any incursions by the builders with the positions of rows of trees revealing many of the field boundaries as they were before its creation. The Cators clearly intended to destroy the view from the house as their 1864 estate map shows a proposed road cutting through Summerhouse Hill Wood from Westgate Road round to Downs Bridge Road. Fortunately, maybe the distance from the railway and the nature of the ground discouraged purchasers, thus preserving the view and the wood for our present enjoyment. Or it may have been a slump in property prices. The proposed Downs Road was never created.
Some assumptions have been made that John Cator laid out Beckenham roads and developed the village into a town, but the 1870 OS map clearly shows minimal house building on some roadsides. Pat Manning quotes John Cator's will as specifying that no land should be disposed of and that trees should not be felled etc. Also, as some beneficiaries of John's will did not survive, the whole estate came to John Barwell Cator almost by default. Various records regarding leasing of plots of land are in Bromley Local Studies library relating to Albemarle Cator leases to several builders often mentioning that Albermarle is of 'unsound mind'. He is believed to have had porferia, a debilitating illness thought to have affected King George III. Albermarle's business affairs were overseen by trustees.  The Wythes estate papers also infer a lot of development undertaken by George Wythes on lands bought or leased from the Cator estate. We question the assumption that the Cator's were proactive planners but clearly were selling off the Beckenham estate. The London Chatham and Dover Railway skirts around much of the Cator land and the later Nunhead Shortlands railway was promoted by other investors than the Cators. There is a jigsaw puzzle of documentation to put together regarding disposal of land and development. Maps from the mid 19th century of the Blackheath estate show a higher degree of development although mostly large houses with large gardens.  The railway arriving in Blackheath in 1849 would have spurred on development.


One interesting item is an explosion of a steam engine on a brickfield not far from the park in Worsley Bridge Road which kills and injures several workers.

By the 1860s the mansion would have gas from the works at Bell Green and mains water provided by Lambeth waterworks, but not for the stable block, which was not in Beckenham parish.  From 1854 Beckenham vestry was in a strong position to insist on such supplies, as it controlled access to the Crystal Palace, a prize customer for such providers. Prior to this the mansion would have relied on pumps, wells and cesspits (a cesspit was discovered in the woodland on a Friend’s workday in March 2010). Large scale maps of the park show a pump and trough in the stable yard and other wells are around the park. There would have also probably been an ice well, which might well have been situated in Summerhouse Hill Wood. A raised sheltered position was a prerequisite for such a structure and distance mattered little in the days of cheap and plentiful labour. (Anecdotal evidence suggests an ice well may be under a mound outside Garden Cottage). This latter location of an ice well is favoured by the Friends, however no ice well is indicated on maps but one is indicated on the old Foxgrove Manor/Farm site and one is still visible in Kelsey Park.

The present attractive garden is substantially different to what it was in Victorian times. Once the glass tax was repealed in 1845 and the window tax in 1851 even the most modest landowner had his walled garden equipped with ranges of heated glass houses and Beckenham Place was no exception as can be seen  on the 1897 Ordnance Survey map.

The Beckenham estate of Albemarle Cator was valued at 260,000 in the latter part of the 19th Century.  Compare this to the 47,000 paid by the LCC for the remaining park and buildings and maybe some extent of the former estate can be gauged.




The Private Estate becomes a Public Park

In February 1928 the freehold of the Mansion and its park was purchased from the Cator Estates by the London County Council, which restricted the private golf club to the clubhouse when its lease came up for renewal the following month. The greens themselves were opened up to the general public as a municipal golf course on Friday 6th July 1934. (The professional was Rex Kennedy, based in the mansion.)

This next passage was contributed by the late Geoff Lewis, a park ‘friend’, a personal friend and a golfer, and is included in memory of him.

Beckenham Place Park is the home of what had been for many years Britain’s busiest golf course. It provides sport for many golfers without handicaps as well as the two associated golf clubs, Beckenham Place Park Golf Club founded in 1907 and its junior, Breaside Golf Club, founded in 1947. For many years the professional was Tom Cotton, brother of the more famous Henry and father of Geoffery Cotton, who followed in the family footsteps after World War 11 and enjoyed fame as Chairman of the PGA (Professional Golfers Association).

He was followed more recently by Bill Woodman, who left when the operation of the course passed to David Lloyd Leisure in the 1990s.


BPP was also the nursery for many assistants who moved to major professional posts in other golf clubs after Tom Cotton’s tutelage. The course is short by today’s standards at 5,722 yards, but is regarded as challenging though much of the rough was cut back in the sixties to speed up play. (At present efforts are being made to extend the rough to encourage more wild life, maybe at the expense of ‘wild’ golfers, who have to hunt for lost golf balls!) Perhaps the final tribute to the course in these days of hi-tech equipment and reduced rough, is that the course record of 62, set many years ago by Tom Cotton remains unassailed. This was long before green keepers and the gales of 1987 removed some landmark hazards.

1939 to the Present Day

By 1952 the park looked like this map viewable on The National Library of Scotland website. The cottage in the woodland is still shown but although the lake is shown at its full size on the 1898 map by 1952 it is reduced to a pond. The story goes that it began to dry up and it was reduced in size to increase the size of the golf course.

Between 1980 and 2000, perhaps earlier, the mansion was used for the housing of the Raymond Mander and Joseph Mitchenson collection of theatre memorabillia within the building, originally with the intention to convert the mansion to a theatre museum. The Trustees of the collection could not raise the necessary funding to complete the project. So apart from the golf operationn this only contributed to stopping any other use being proposed. The collection was excellent, but as funding for the project failed the museum didn’t materialize and the contents of the collection have never been accessible to the general public. It has now left the building and is now housed at Bristol University after passing through the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts housed in Greenwich. It's still a puzzle why the collection didn't pursue Lottery Arts Council funding after the Lottery was established.



After the Public Enquiry in the Save Beckenham Place Park Campaign transformed themselves into The Friends of Beckenham Place Park after the cease of hostilities with Lewisham  Council in 1996. At this time the BPP Working Party was set up to involve all interested parties in the decision making process. Although it doesn’t always involve the communication and discussion of actions before they happen, it was a step in the right direction. Although recently the Council disbanded the Working Party in favour of some forums to discuss matters.

Permission was granted to open a Visitor Centre in the stable block in January 1996 to be run by volunteers from the Friends. (Visitor Centre removed to the Mansion in November 1999). The Friends repaired and redecorated the cottage and it was later occupied by a conservation officer for a few years.  We regret leaving it as it might have saved the stable block from the later fire.

The future was uncertain with Lewisham Council having employed numerous consultants to put forward a strategy for the park. In July 2005 the park was granted Local Nature Reserve status, which will hopefully secure the ancient woodland, meadows, acid grass lands and other wildlife areas from inappropriate development. 

Even since the public enquiry there have been many ups and downs, often the latter, with failed lottery bids, three changes of management (since August 2001 LBL are back) and a project by a hotellier to do something similar to the David Lloyd scheme with a hotel and conference centre also was not pursued.


During 2009-12, a subsequent tendering of the mansion and park management contract led to a bid from The Beckenham Place Community Trust who offered to seek grant funding for restoration and subsequent management of the mansion was rejected by Lewisham Council.

In 2011 a fire destroyed much of the grade II listed stable block, perhaps the most significant loss being the clock which dated back to about 1750.
The Friends are doing their best to keep the Mansion in the public domain and accessible. In May 2013 the Council were researching the possibilities of grant funding from the various National Lottery sources.

In 2014 the Heritage Lottery approved in principal the grant of about 4.9 million subject to a stage bid with full details of developments. There is a proposal to close the golf course which is hotly contested by many including a lot of non-golfers. Golf ensures there is a number of people in the park at most times of day.

The Environment Agency are evaluating a flood alleviation scheme which will affect the landscape of the eastern side of the park along the Ravensbourne corridor.  

The golf course has been closed at the end of October 2016 by Lewisham Council who cannot or will not make it financially viable. The mansion is on short term lease to RJK Properties which hopes to make it used, maintained and viable. RJK are happy to accommodate the Friends visitor centre and we hope it will be a good working relationship.

The Lottery Bid has been approved in January 2017, which should enable rebuilding of the stable block although most heritage content is destroyed. But the nearby cottages are not in the bid.

The Working Party set up by ex-mayor, councillor John Rudd has been wound up by LBLewisham and three forums established to discuss Events, Arts, Schools and Children, Nature History and Interpretation.  

There is much that is unsettled about the parks future and the Friends of BPP attempt to positively influence outcomes for conservation of the natural and historic heritage of the park.


Further reading:
The Cators of Beckenham and Woodbastwick - Pat Manning
Hortus Collinsonianus
Hasted's History and Topography of Kent
History of Parliament online

Mansion

Stable Block

Lodges

The Protagonists:
Foxgrove Manor

Hugh Raymond        1674-1737
Jones Raymond       1705-1768
Peter Burrell I  1692-1756
Mrs Peter Burrell I (Amy Raymond (1699-1794): daugher of Hugh Raymond, sister of Jones Raymond)
Peter Burrell II,  1723-1775
Peter Burrell III, Lord Gwydir  1754-1820
Beckenham Manor

Henry St. John 1st Viscount Bolingbroke
John St John  2nd Viscount St. John     1695-1749
Frederick St. John 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke, 3rd Viscount St. John (Married and divorced Lady Diana Spencer)  1732-1787


the holding of several titles and the same first names confuse matters.

Beckenham Place Park:

John Cator the elder 1703-1764
John Cator the  younger 1728-1806
Joseph Cator   1723-1818
John Barwell Cator   1781-1858
Peter Collinson  1694-1768
Mary Cator (nee Collinson/daughter)
Carl von Linne (Linnaeus) 1707-1778
Carl von Linne the younger ?
Merrick Burrell  1699-1787
Earl of Rockingham / Sondes family / Lees Court Estate
John Forster of Southend
Francis Flower of Southend


updates March 14th 2017, March 9th 2017,  Nov 2016


Archives: some on-line catalogues facilitate preliminary searches, however lists are often not complete so much more material is yet to be rediscovered.

Kent Archive Maidstone (Cator road diversion, Lees Court/Rockingham)
Essex Archive (pertaining to Raymond family)
Surrey Archive (the Cators resided and had property in Surrey)
Bromley Local Studies Archive  (Cator, Burrell, Raymond, and many other links)
The British Library  (estate plans, East India Co., Raymond, Burrell etc.)
History of Parliament online  (political history of Cator, Burrell, Rockingham etc.)
The Mill Hill Society (Peter Collinson)
The Linnaean Society (Collinson, Linnaeus, Carl von Linne the younger)