Charles Charman Elgar, Quaker, Councillor and landowner of the site that was to become Fengates Road.

Chapter 3 - The Start of the Development

By the time Charles Charman Elgar inherited Fengates, he was a prominent figure in the manor. He had continued in the family drapery trade in Bell Street but also had significant property interests. The parish survey of 1860 showed him owning 32 acres of land in the ‘foreign’ and six properties let to tennants. These included Fengates House, then occupied by a Matthew Bartlett.

Extracts from the 1860-61 Plan

Extracts from the 1860-61 Plan

Extracts from the 1860-61 Plan of the Parish of Reigate. Charles Charman Elgar’s property interests,
including Fengates and the adjoining meadows, plus additional properties total 32 acres.

On the incorporation of the Borough Council in 1863, Charles Charman Elgar stood for office in the first elections and came second in the poll, thereby becoming elected to the council for three years, representing the west ward. In common with the Blatts two centuries earlier, Councillor Elgar was a Quaker and was excused from swearing an oath of loyalty to church and office at the inaugural council meeting. He continued with the drapery business until 1870 when it was sold. A subsequent sale in 1883 was to James Knight whose family expanded the business to incorporate the Grapes Inn premesis in 1911 and who continue to trade as Knights to this day. The drapery shop thus has almost 200 years of continuous trading and is possibly the oldest surviving retail business in Reigate.

The growth of Redhill had gradually begun to encroach upon and surround the Fengates Estate in this period. To the east The National Freehold Land Society and its auxilliary, the British Land Company purchased several acres of surplus land in 1859 from the London and Brighton Railway Company and laid out Grove Hill Road, Bridge Road and Ridgeway Road. These grandly titled companies had been formed to enable men of small means to purchase freehold property and thus qualify for a parliamentary vote.

The Waterslade Estate

The Waterslade Estate

A similar company, The United Land Company, purchased the Waterslade Estate in around 1869 and laid out Ranelagh, Shrewsbury and Brownlow Roads, named after its promoters. T. R. Hooper had an involvement in the subsequent resale of some of the individual plots and acquired an interest in one at the top of Ranelagh Road where he built ‘Glinton’. Various stipulations applied to the sale of plots to ensure that the houses were built to a consistent standard. Amongst these were the minimum building values (effectively the cost of labour and materials) which ranged from £150 each for the terraced houses on Ranelagh, through £350 for the detached houses on Brownlow and Shrewsbury (£660 for a pair of semi detached built on a plot), and up to £500 per house (£950 pair) for the large plots facing Hatchlands Road and certain corner plots.

Charles Charman Elgar died on 4th April 1877, aged 61. He was unmarried and had appointed his brother-in-law, Martin Robinson (who had married his sister Maria), and nephews Frank and Charles Robinson as the executors and trustees of his estate. His other sister Mary Ann, inherited a life-interest in his estate and had chosen to live at Fengates House. Once again the lord of the manor had his heriot, a chestnut cart horse valued at £20 and a further £65 in respect of the inheritance.

However, the incorporation of the borough council had reduced the influence and authority of the lord of the manor and the power associated with the position was in decline. On 18th July 1882 Mary Ann Elgar and the Robinsons negotiated with Earl Somers, Lord of the Manor of Reigate to have the copyright enfranchised, thus acquiring the freehold title to Fengates House and the attaching meadows. Centuries of feudal ownership thus came to an end for the grand sum of £580. The purchasers were nevertheless careful to maintain their centuries old rights of commonage over the wastes and commons of the manor.

Extract from title deeds

Extract from the title deeds showing the enfranchisement of Fengates

Mary Ann Elgar died in August 1889 at Fengates House, aged 76, and the estate reverted to the Robinsons. Being of independent means and living outside the borough meant they had no interest in retaining the property - besides, this was a sizeable parcel of land that the rapid expansion of the successful town of Redhill had so far passed by and had significant development potential.

On 6th May 1890, Fengates House was put up for sale at public auction to be sold in one lot including the farm premises and “three enclosures of rich meadow land; in all nearly ten acres of very attractive building land and ripe for development.” For reasons that are not clear, the land failed to sell and on 22nd June 1892 the Robinsons put the estate up for sale once again, only in the hands of different auctioneers.

Auction

Going…Going…but twice the estate failed to sell at auction.
Copyright of Surrey History Service

1892 sale particulars

Further detail from the 1892 sale particulars.
Copyright of Surrey History Service.

This time Fengates House itself received much less prominence within the sale particulars and appears almost as an afterthought: “A valuable freehold property comprising about ten acres of First Class Building Land (Land-Tax Redeemed) ripe for immediate development most advantageous situate facing the High Road skirting Redhill Common with return frontage to Linkfield Street and also abutting on the main road to Reigate. Within ten minutes walk of the important railway junction admirably adapted for the erection of a large number of houses of the class for which a position is most suited together with a comfortable old-fashioned house known as Fengates.”

The Sale Plan

1892 Sale Plan showing suggested road scheme.
Copyright of Surrey History Service.

The intentions of the latter sale particulars were clear, and helpfully included a plan of the estate traversed by three ‘suggested roads’. The first of these approximates to the course of Charman Road but instead of Fengates Road there is a second road parallel to Charman Road, just to the north of Fengates House, which is intercepted by a third road that runs parallel to Ranelagh Road. This suggested scheme had the advantage of leaving Fengates House’s formally laid out pleasure garden and orchard intact and attached to the property. This layout also afforded ‘sites for villas facing the common and cottage properties in the lateral roads’, whilst the grid-like plan would have allowed all of the plots to be a more regular size and shape.

However, another suggestion in the sale details was rather less appealing: that ‘the land abbuting the railway would be available for factory purposes as sidings could be readily obtained.’

This second attempt to sell the estate in one lot also failed and thereafter the Robinsons made a decision to develop through roads, install drainage and divide the estate into individually numbered plots themselves.

Later that year another plan of the estate was published, this time showing the course of Fengates and Charman Roads as they stand today and 115 individually numbered building plots with frontages to good roads and to the common. This plan was drafted by T.R. Hooper to whom applications for purchases of the individual plots were to be made. Three ‘blocks’ of plots along each side of Charman Road and along a section of the western side of Fengates side were shown on the plan edged in green: these were business plots, available for developers to purchase as a block.

 

1892 Plan of Fengates Estate

1892 Plan of Fengates Estate drawn up by T. R. Hooper.
Copyright of Surrey History Service

Accompanying the plan was a Deed of Mutual Covenants among the Purchasers of the plots, their Heirs and Assignees.

The deed includes a number of conditions imposed on the purchasers of plots and, together with the plan, is responsible for much of the character of the road today in terms of types of houses and where they are sited. The principal construction conditions were as follows:

  1. No fence adjoining a road, or nearer thereto than the building line upon any plot shall exceed five foot in height and no other fence shall be more than six feet or less than four feet six inches in height from the ground.
  2. The buildings to be erected upon the plots numbered 46 to 50, both inclusive, shall face the Hatchlands Road, and those to be erected upon the other plots shall face the roads or one of the roads upon the which the plots respectively abut. These are the shops on the south western side of Reffels bridge.
  3. The front and side walls of all buildings shall conform to the several building lines marked on the said plans, and no part of any building, save only ordinary architectural dressings and bays and balconies, and these only to an extent not exceeding three foot shall be erected or carried out in front of any building line.
  4. Upon the plots numbered 1 to 7, both inclusive, detached houses only shall be erected, which shall not be within four feet of either side boundary. These plots formed the villas facing the common on Elms Road.
  5. Except upon the plot numbered 57, no building but one detached messuage or a pair of semi detached messuages shall be erected upon any one plot.
  6. Upon all plots except those numbered 46 to 50, both inclusive, a space not less than three feet in width shall be left unbuilt upon on one side.
  7. No messuage upon any one plot shall be of less value, as reckoned at the lowest current prices for the time being of the materials and labour employed in its construction than the sums following, that is to say:
    • Upon plots 1 to 7 inclusive, £500.
    • Upon plots numbered 27 to 38, both inclusive, 52 to 56, both inclusive, 80 to 115, both inclusive, £250, if one detached messuage; or £450 if a pair of semi detached messuages.
    • Upon plots numbered 19 to 23, both inclusive, 51, 57 to 69, both inclusive, £300 if one detached messuage; or £575, if a pair of semi detached messuages.
    • Upon plots numbered 8 to 18, both inclusive, 39 to 43 both inclusive, 70 to 79, both inclusive, £350 if one detached messuage; or £675, if a pair of semi detached messuages.
    • Upon plots 44 to 50, both inclusive, £400, if one detached messuage; or £775, if a pair of semi detached messuages.
  8. There is to be nothing but boundary fences erected on any plot until after a building of the description and value prescribed shall have been either wholly or partly erected thereupon.
  9. No building behind the front or main buildings upon any plot is to be erected or used as a dwelling house.
  10. All buildings, and the drains thereof and other appertunances thereto shall be erected and constructed in conformity of the bye-laws for the time being in force of the Sanitary Authority relating to new buildings.

Another condition prevented the covenanting parties from “permitting or suffering to be carried on (upon the plots) the business of innkeeper or licensed victualler, or retailer of wine, spirits or beer, or any trade, business, process or deposit which shall be noisy, noxious, dangerous or offensive to the neighbourhood.”

Although the Victorian covenant often suffers minor breaches, it remains legally binding and has been successfully used to prevent the threat posed by developers and to protect the cherished character of the estate.

The first few weeks would have seen the transformation of formerly peaceful meadows. The course of the roads would have been marked across the ground and the individual plots staked out. These were to be modern houses built to the latest standards and enjoying the services of mains water, piped town gas, sewerage and storm drains, all of which required installation. The roads themselves also had to be built up with layers of graded aggregate and surfaced with provision made too for pavements.

Development of the houses themselves was slow by today’s standards: the first two houses completed (as shown on the deed of covenant dated 1893) were numbers 24 and 26, the Ordnance Survey map of 1896 (see page 6) shows thirty-one houses on Fengates Road, whilst the Borough Surveyor’s Plan of October 1897 shows forty-four. Only by 1901 were the original building plots on Fengates Road filled with a complement of fifty-one houses. This reflects two main factors: the piecemeal disposal of the plots and the practice common amongst many Victorian developers of first completing one property and using the sale proceeds to finance the construction of the next.

By way of contrast, the fifty second house on the road (number 41, built in 1989) was watertight within eighteen days and fully completed within three months.

The Victorians initially gave their houses names (although the road was soon given house-numbering as well), some of which survive to the present day.

Original House Names
Odds Evens
1. 2.
5. 4. St Guthlacs
7. Prospect Villa 6. Loxton
9. Clandboye Villa 1 8. Danehurst
11. Clandboye Villa 2 10. Esperanta
13. Marina 12. Marlborough Villas
15. Cultra 14.
17. Brelades Lodge 16. Springfield
19. Eversleigh 18. Fairfield
21. Myrtle Dean 20. Thirlmere
23. The Hollies 22. Kingsbridge
25. The Laurels 24. La Rocque
27. Brockhurst 26. Alameda Villa
29. Bealah 28. Sunnylea
31. Silbury 30. Tranquil Cottage
33. Hilgay 32. Homely
35. Blenheim 34. Heath Cott
37. St Kildas 36. Rockhurst
39. Rockbeare 38. St Agnus
41. Huntly 40. Kewhyrst
  42. Hyrstle
  44. Gilmore
  46. Tolmead
  48. Bradfield
  50. Hartley Cottage
  52. Sherbourne
  54. Dunster
  56. Ecclesbourne
  58. Lulworth
Fifty-two houses in all. 60. Steyne
Twelve more evens than odds. 62. Alexis
Curiously, there is no number 3! 64. Hawera

T. R. Hooper designed a number of the houses built at the eastern end of the road including numbers 39, 52, 56 and 58. Each is to a very individual plan, eschewing the Victorian copybook approach to design. Number 58, which was owned as an investment property by his artist daughter Miriam Mabel, incorporates many different types of brickwork, mouldings and window types and may have been built as a ‘sampler’ to show to prospective future clients.

It also includes an example of architectural salvage above its front door as revealed in a letter written by T. R. Hooper to subsequent purchasers in 1921. It concludes “the fanlight over front door is historic. It was once over the ‘Old Bank’ Reigate probably 1700 ’til 1890.”

T.R. Hooper’s letter

T.R. Hooper’s letter and the ‘historic’ fanlight in its original location
over the door of the Old Bank, Reigate which stood at the top of Bell Street.

As each house reached completion, the first residents were able to take possession and move into their new homes: the social history of Fengates Road was about to begin.