Beckenham Place.

The history of Beckenham has long been closely linked with that of the CATOR family who came to the district in the middle of the 18th. Century. John Cator the elder came from Ross on Wye, Herefordshire, lived in Lambeth and married Mary Brough in 1727 at the Savoy Meeting House in Westminster. He established a timber business on Bankside in Southwark. His son John Cator the younger was born in Southwark and after joining the timber business soon became a wealthy businessman. He married the daughter, Mary, of Peter Collinson the Quaker merchant and botanist in 1753. John Cator the younger began acquiring land in and around Beckenham in the 1750’s soon becoming one of the leading land owners in Beckenham. John first acquired land which had been part of the Foxgrove Manor estate which itself has quite a complicated history, being Stone Farm, woodlands and fields nearer Langley and Kelsey. He exchanged some land with Jones Raymond and Peter Burrell in 1759/60 giving up part of his Stone Farm land for fields on Stumps Hill on which he built a fine stately house in 1760/62 according to his father in law Peter Collinson. Collinson wrote in his Hortus Collinsonianus "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."

Initially the house and grounds was surrounded by Foxgrove land owned by Jones Raymond which became the property of Amy Burrell who was the widowed sister of Jones Raymond. The Manor of Beckenham owned by Frederick St. John, Lord Bolingbroke was adjoining Foxgrove, Documents related to Beckenham Manor show that although owned by St. John it was occupied by Peter Burrell, Jones Raymond, Thomas Motley, John Cator and some others under leases around 1768.

It should be realized that the land of the major estates, Beckenham Manor, Foxgrove Manor, Kelsey and Langley were overlapping and intermingled to some extent even with the landholdings of some others such as Motley and Humphrey.

Cator bought the Beckenham Manor land from St. John in 1773 thus extending his estate but the purchase was beset with problems due to St.John having leased the estate to a Margaret Hare, Cator was involved in court cases until and beyond 1780 to gain full ownership of the Beckenham Manor land which by the way excluded the old Manor House opposite St.George’s due to an earlier exchange between St.John and Peter Burrell in 1757.

In 1777 Cator exchanged some more of his Stone Farm land for more of Foxgrove next to the site of his house with Amy Burrell. Cator was referring to his house as Stumpshill in correspondence.

In 1785 Cator had enough continuous land to be able to divert the road from Beckenham to Southend via the new route of Beckenham Hill Road and Southend Road, the old road becoming his ‘Park Drive’.

In 1793 Cator exchanged the remains of Stone Farm and land he had between the High Street and almost to West Wickham for the remainder of Foxgrove Manor with the fourth Peter Burrell who became Lord Gwydir, the latter having inherited it from his grandmother, Amy Burrell.

This 1793 exchange consolidated the estates of Cator mainly north of a line from Penge, Beckenham High Street and Bromley Road and Lord Gwydir having Kelsey and Langley as far as Penge south of that line.

Estate maps of the Burrells dated 1809 and Cator estate dated 1833 clarify this latter situation. Earlier maps 1623/1768 Beckenham Manor, 1766/1776 Foxgrove Manor, 1736 Thomas Motley land, 1736 Burrell land, 1740/50 Langley Jones Raymond, all illustrate the complex interwoven estates. Mostly divided under tenant farmers and leased messuages indicated on some maps.

Daniel Lysons seems to be the first to refer to Beckenham Place in his Environs of London of 1796 whereas Hasted refers to Beckenham and Foxgrove manors as Cator ‘being the present owner’ in his second edition History and Topography of Kent of 1797.

Thus, the belief that Beckenham Place was established on part of Beckenmam Manor has been disproved with map and documentary evidence. Maybe a small strip of Stumpshill Wood in the park was in the Manor of Beckenham but that is all.

In talking about the Manor of Beckenham it must be remembered that the word 'manor' means the district over which the court of the Lord of the Manor had authority, and that 'manor-house’ is the house or seat belonging to a Manor. It has been said that the portico was added in 1787 from Sir Gregory Page Turner’s mansion at Wricklemarsh Park, Blackheath. Cator had bought Wricklemarsh in 1783/84 for £22,500. Page Turner had inherited it and didn’t want it. The house had become a white elephant. Although Cator sold off the materials of the house, it looks like the material which constitutes the portico of Beckenham Place may not have come to Beckenham until Cator’s heir, John Barwell Cator took over the estate in 1806. It was certainly there by 1812 when drawn by J.Preston Niel. John Cator represented Wallingford, Berkshire in 1774 and was a Sheriff of Kent in 1781. He was elected MP for Ipswich in 1784 but was unseated for bribery and represented Stockbridge 1790/93. Among eminent persons who visited Beckenham Place as friends of John Cator were the celebrated Dr. Samuel Johnson, and Hester and Henry Thrale, socialites from Streatham. Linnaeus never did as he knew Peter Collinson from his 1735/36 visit to England and that is where the association has been drawn. Cator had a residence at the Adelphi houses and apartments where he may have known Garrick the actor and the Adam brothers architects but so far documentary evidence of meetings eludes us. The Mansion was leased out by the Cator family from about 1835 to a succession of tenants and in turn has been used as a Boys’ School from 1902 to 1905, a Sanatorium from 1905 to 1934 and then as the L.C.C. Golf Club House. The L.C.C. purchased the land in 1928 and in 1934 the Golf Course, which previously had been private, was made open to the public. It is now the responsibility of the London Borough of Lewisham



0 # malvin mitchell 2015-05-26 20:36
It seems unlikely or impossible that Linnaeus ever visited beckenham place. Linnaeus only visit to England was in 1735/6 when he met Peter Collinson among others. Collinson writes to John Markham that Cator was begging him for plants from his Mill Hill garden in 1763.
Somehow the connections got crossed. We would be pleased to see any other conclusive evidence but this seems to be a myth that has built up along with the Linnaeus / Blackheath connection which is often attributed to Putney Heath by biographers.
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0 # malvin mitchell 2015-09-09 07:30
We have discovered new information regarding the building date of the mansion and the unliklihood of linnaeus visiting, some information from the papers of cators father in law p. Collinson
information on our website and we are in contact with pat manning who has been looking at our sources etc. Many of which are now on the internet
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0 # Malvin Mitchell 2017-04-10 13:38
Hi, Beckenham History We have been reviewing the histories of the park and following on from the work of Eric Inman, Pat Manning and before that Rob Copeland and Robert Borrowman we have discovered some material which they might not have had access to or may not have noticed some anomalies. Our website has been updated and we welcome any questions or information not noticed by us.
The House has now been dated to 1760/62, The land of the park was mainly in Foxgrove Manor and passed through the hands of Jones Raymond and the Burrells before Cator acquired all of it. Maps in the British Library illustrate that Cator acquired th park in tranches probably from 1757 and up to the mid 1780's or even later. though the house most likely had a couple of major alterations it was described as a fine house by Peter Collinson in 1762.
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0 # Mal Mitchell 2017-11-08 16:13
Maps in the British Library of Foxgrove Manor and Beckenham Manor show that nearly all of Beckenham Place was in Foxgrove Manor and none in Beckenham Manor. The maps are dated 1766, 1768 ad 1776. The plans illustrate that Cator owned part of the park prior to 1766 and his father in law states he built a fine house at Stumps Hill by 1762. Though some of the park land did not come into his possession until after 1777 as some fields were still owned by Amy Burrell. As he moved the road in 1785 we might assume he did not create his whole park until around that date. Land exchanges with the Burrells who had inherited Foxgrove Manor via Jones Raymond enabled the Burrells to become landlords of most of the area south of the High Street and the Cators mainly north of the High Street. Prior to 1780 Cator had acquired many plots of land south of the High Street presumably purchased in small lots but evidence is sketchy apart from the 1780 map of the Langley park area showing these divers ownerships between Cator and the Burrells. I would (naturally) recommend reading our updated history on which builds upon the previous works by Eric Inman and Pat Manning following the works of Borrowman and Rob Copeland with evidence provided via the aforesaid maps. The 1773 date seems to originate in Hasted's History of Kent and only relates to Cators purchase of Beckenham Manor from Viscount Bolingbroke (also holding the Viscount St John title). Even at that time Bolingbroke has already sold the Old Manor house opposite St. Georges with its grounds to the Burrells. As Cator did not acquire the old manor house his Stumps Hill residence became his manor house after acquiring the 'lordship of the Beckenham Manor estate. Other evidence is always welcome and we still dispute the Linnaeus connection as it was only via Cators father in law Peter Collinson and no evidence that Linnaeus visited Beckenham has been found.
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0 # Mal Mitchell 2018-06-15 10:16
The deeper you dig the more you'll find. Court records from Kings Bench and Chancery reveal that the Manor of Beckenham sold to Cator by Bolingbroke was in fact already under lease to Mrs Margaret Hare and Hans Winthrop Mortimer. Cator did not acquire full possession until 1780 after a legal battle with Margaret Hare. Bolingbroke had previously exchanged the manor house and grounds with the Burrells who gave him Woolseys Farm in exchange. Presumably Bolingbrokes sale to Cator included Woolseys Farm and other property in Foxgrove Manor and around Kelseys. From analysis of archived maps, documents and court records.
Cator was still pursuing recompense from Bolingbrokes estate trustees as late as 1787 by suing the Earl of Pembroke and the Earl of Guildford. A (Mr.) Goodright also sued Cator for loss of tenure in 1780 as he was a sub lessee of Mrs Hare. It needs a lawyer to unravel the whole of it. But '1773' does not describe the situation especially as the part of Beckenham Manor in Beckenham Place is just the remaining bit of Stumps Hill Wood. history sections for fuller account.
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0 # Mal Mitchell 2019-09-21 15:52
Hi Ian, it really has become timely to make some significant edits to parts of this site. We have explored the history of Beckenham Place, and it has almost nothing of Beckenham Manor in its footprint apart from maybe a small bit of Stumpshill Wood.
I have been recently working with another researcher and even the account we have on Friends of Beckenham Place Park website is requiring small but regular updates.
A lot of the new material has been found based on earlier clues left by Beckenham historians ie. Eric Inman noted that the park was mainly on land belonging to Foxgrove Manor. The history of Foxgrove manor itself is complex and Hasted did not explore all of the intricacies fully.
Certainly a lot of material exists about the various estates and the intricacies of land purchases, exchanges and bequests. Not least the fact that John Cator gets confused with his nephew John Barwell Cator and the process by which the Cator estate was eroded to become developed north of a line from Penge to Bromley, since the property south of that line was mainly Burrell/Baron Gwydir upto 1820. How Cator acquired a foothold around Stone Farm, Kelsey and Langley prior to his land exchanges with the Raymonds and Burrells was it seems relatively unknown and now the process is pretty much discovered, underpinned by evidence from various archives which historians such as Rob Copeland viewed but did not perhaps fully explore.
Beckenham Place house has now been dated to 1760/62. The whole park would not have been emparked until 1785 or later and the lake not constructed before 1785 when the road was diverted and Langstead Lane closed.
The maps of Beckenham from 1720's have been unearthed although seen by earlier researchers, not interpreted.
Consultation of archives could obtain permission for reproduction even if in parts or low res images.
Robert Borrowmans copy of a map of the Burrell estates has been traced to its original with the Burrell family at Knepp Castle and Sir Charles Burrell, Bt. is willing to have copies reproduced under copyright conditions.
Other 'characters' in history have been unearthed such as Mr Morgan who took Beckenham church wardens to court for not setting a poor rate for which John Cator was accused of exercising undue influence and his brother Joseph subsequently take to court for libel agains Morgan. A Mr Jackson was excluded from land he rented from Cator and when he sued Cator he got £100 damages or expenses. The case was prosecuted by the barister Garrow who gained some notoriety.
Beckenham Place is now in Lewisham but its history if firmly and partly in Beckenham along with some characters who migrated across Parish boundaries such as the Valentines who sold land to Cator in 1757 and had substantial land in Bromley such as the Bell Inn and Holloway Farm. Eventually a Frances Valentine became resident in Beckenham. The Valentines were also connected with Abraham Colfe.
So I do think its time to reappraise the potential of this site, as electronic media is the only way to keep track of changing discoveries.
Best Wishes
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0 # Admin 2019-10-05 08:16

Would you like to do the complete update using the existing pages? Contact me via the contact button on the site.
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0 # Boxus 2019-11-24 20:48
Good evening,
Please could you inform me about mariage of Mr Evelyn Ayling and Ernest Rousseau in St Benedict church in your town about 1917/1918;Son Camille Jean born 16/9/1920 in Hemden(?)was baptized in Belgium1340 -Mousty on 8/1922
Thanks for info
André Boxus
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0 # mal mitchell 2019-11-28 15:28
Reply to Andre Boxus
Looks like Ernest was Camille J.E(rnest) Rousseau.
St. Benedicts was demolished so maybe the records were moved to St. Edmunds RC church, Beckenham.

the civil registration office was Bromley, Kent, UK volume ref 2a page ref 1145
Evelyn F. Ayling and Camille J.E.Rousseau
start here if you want a copy of the certificate which would have the exact date. The index is only to nearest 3 months. Jan-Mar 1916
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