Beckenham History

The Clockhouse.

Strangers to Beckenham, arriving at Clock House Station, invariably ask “Where is the Clock?” The origin of the name appears to have come from a large turret clock which used to be on the stables of a Mansion standing on the site of the present Spa and The Studio.

The house was probably built between 1703 and 1723 for the Lethieullier family of Kent House, although there was a reference to a building there on a map dated 1623. It was a substantial, red brick mansion, a familiar landmark on the main road from Beckenham to Penge, and at one time a fine magnolia tree covered the front wall. Several pictures are in the Gallery on this site. The 1623 map of the Manor of Beckenham only survives as a 1768 copy in the British Library and the detail of the Clockhouse site is vague and might relate to the nearby Thayers or Thayres Farm.

Sir Piercey Brett, “Admiral of the Blue”, died there in 1781. Brett was MP for Queenborough and earlier in his life as a Naval Lieutenant was part of the fleet which Anson took to the Pacific to capture a Spanish treasure galleon making Anson incredibly rich. Both Brett and his wife Henrietta are buried at St. Georges, Beckenham. From 1782 it was purchased as the seat of John Cator’s brother, Joseph Cator and remained in the Cators’ possession. Joseph and his wife Diana had several children, the eldest of whom, John Barwell Cator, would be the main benefactor of John Cator’s will in 1806. After Joseph’s death in 1818 the occupiers included John Goddard, afterwards of Elmer Lodge; E. Richard Adams, also of Elmers End and for many years Churchwarden of the Parish Church; Sir Francis Tress Barry, who inaugurated the Volunteer Fire Brigade, the last tenant being John Wallace. These were under lease from the Cator family who eventually sold the land to Beckenham Corporation for the site of the Technical Institute, swimming pool and library.

This record is in Bromley Historic Collections: Duplicate conveyance between Albemarle Cator (a person of unsound mind, so found by inquisition by Thomas Henry Burroughs) of Woodbastwick Hall, Norfolk, esquire (1st part); Sir John Farnaby Lennard and Reverend Harry Bertie Roberts (2nd part); Thomas Henry Burroughes and Thomas Allen Henry (3rd part); Henry Ashworth James and Charles Ashworth James, esquires (4th part); Romer Williams and Archibald Herbert James, 1st mortgagees (5th part); Burroughes (6th part); Williams, 2nd mortgagee (7th part) and the Council for the Urban District of the Parish Beckenham (8th part) in relation to a piece of land on Beckenham Road, Beckenham, Kent. In consideration of the sum of 5s paid by the Council to Lennard and Roberts at the direction of Cator, he (at the request of the 3rd parties and the mortgagees) conveys the property to the Council to hold in fee simple, discharged from the portions of Cator’s younger children and freed from mortgages. The Council agree that the land shall be used for the purpose of erecting a technical institute and public baths for the parish of Beckenham Includes a map of the property. Ref 989/4/2/9 dated 31/07/1899

The gardens were well wooded and in the lake or pond there stood a two-tier fountain which, on demolition, was placed in the ornamental water in the Croydon Road Recreation Ground.


Clockhouse on OS sheet Kent VII Surveyed 1863 Courtesy of National Library of Scotland 

It was natural that a new station on the Mid-Kent line in 1890 should be called ‘Clock House’, but six years later the house and most of the stables were pulled down, the clock being moved by the Cator family in 1896 to the stable buildings at Beckenham Place where it was a familiar sight to visitors to the Golf Course. The clock was destroyed along with most of the stable block in a fire in 2011 and what remains of the clock tower, the weather vane and bell, are reinstalled in a rebuilt stable block. A Makers plate and a repair or overhaul plate dated the clock to well before the building of Beckenham Place. The cast iron frame of the clock is all that remains of it.

For a time the stable remains were occupied by a livery stable keeper and later as part of Horsman’s Nursery until finally pulled down in 1926.

Robert Borrowman wrote “we are told on good authority that there existed in the grounds a spring containing excellent medicinal properties, and we recall the fact that when the well was sunk for the present Baths, the water obtained was pronounced by experts to be of exceptionally good quality”.

Whether true or not the house was near the river Chaffinch which becomes the Pool when it joins the Beck or Hawksbrook and several other ponds and ditches are shown on the early OS maps.

On the corner of Churchfields Road stood the public house “The Prince Arthur” which was destroyed by a flying bomb in August 1944. After the war the rebuilt public house was renamed “The Clock House” with a colourful sign, by a local resident, depicting the original residence of that name.

In April 2007 “The Clock House Public House” was demolished as part of local redevelopment.

An estate plan showing Joseph Cator in possession in 1782 is in Bromley Historic Collections.

8 Responses

  1. Hi there, we have a large metal sign in our garden that’s from Clock house station. We’ve had it for years. Was wondering if you had any photos that it might be pictured in. Happily forward a photo of it to you.

  2. Thank you.
    Furlough time and likely redundancy on my plate, it is fascinating to have time explore the history of the area I have lived in and loved for over 30 years. G

  3. A map from 1736 showing Thayer’s farm owned by Thomas motley also shows part of clockhouse grounds as the gardens of William Lethieullier

  4. Joseph Cator occupied Clockhouse from 1782 until his death in 1818. An estate plan in Bromley Local Studies shows the date, area of fields etc. I guess the plan went with property deeds? we have a copy of the plan from the library.

  5. Dear William, What a lovely and welcomed surprise to hear from you. I have been researching my wider Shaw family for more than 40 years now and have acquired a wealth of information including your whole lineage. I contacted your grandfather in September 2000 and he was extremely helpful and went out of his way to assist me with information. In a detailed letter he informed me that his father, Fred, 1883-1963, was the son of Eyre Massey Shaw, (in turn the son of the fire chief) and a domestic maid and that together they eloped to Montreal where Fred Sr. was born. I have a serious problem with this account as I know Eyre Massey Shaw Jr. was on the Congo river working for the enterprise of Henry Morton Stanley at the same time he was supposed to be in Montreal. The following year, 1884, mother and child returned to London where they lived at the Clock House in Beckenham. My No. 1 priority is to try and verify this story. I was in touch with Kevin a year or two ago but our e-mail contact petered out from his side. I was hoping he would have been able to shed light on this whole issue having presumably inherited his father’s papers. There is so much more info I could share with you but will leave it there for now. There is a note above which states that e-mail addresses will not be displayed. Although this website is specifically “Beckenham” that is a fairly trivial aspect of this whole Massey Shaw saga so I am hoping the webmaster will allow me to mention my e-mail address so that we can pursue a wider correspondence that has nothing to do with Beckenham. The address is Thanks a lot. Eyre Shaw. Outside my immediate family I am known as George.


  6. My name is William Rickarby. My mother Colleen Joan Massey-Shaw was the eldest surviving daughter of Frederick Massey-Shaw. She died in 1998. She was the sixth child of the family. She had 4 older brothers and 2 younger sisters. An older sister died before she was born. Her youngest sister Margaret is still alive. Margaret lives in Hampshire. She is in her 80s. It may be that she and I can help you with some information . There is one surviving male Massey-Shaw – my first cousin Kevin who lives in Virginia USA . He was the second child and only son of my uncle Frederick Verdun Massey-Shaw, who was born in 1916 (hence his middle name). If I can help further please email me.

  7. My name is Eyre Shaw and I live in Johannesburg. I am distantly related to the London Fire Chief, Sir Eyre Massey Shaw, 1828-1908. I have written information from a primary source that a baby boy, Frederick Massey Shaw, 1883-1963, supposedly a grandson of the fire chief lived at the Beckenham Clockhouse with his mother (name not known as birth believed to be illegitimate) shortly after his birth in Montreal, Canada, after which his mother returned to England. I am desperate to verify this information and if possible to find out more about this mother/son combination —- local churches for baptisimal records, schools, etc. I would therefore be extremely grateful if anyone could assist me in this matter of to refer me to a genealogist or archivist with local knowledge. Sincerely, Eyre George Shaw

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