Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath


Below O.S. map published 1909 showing location of Heathwood Lodge

Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

The below is kindly supplied by Ed Wainer

Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

Ed's recollections of his time at Heathwood . . . . . .

It started with a bang - quite literally. My father fought and was disabled in the First World War. He was not actually discharged from military hospital until 1920 and consequently took little part in the second. He was, however, because of his disability, allowed the use of a car and it was in this car, a very battered Hillman, that he collected us from rural Cheshire in the winter of 1944 to bring us down to live with him again at Heathwood. We had spent most of the war years apart as he had been transferred by his company to the factory in Erith and felt it too dangerous for us to accompany him whilst the bombing was still on. We had spent those years oblivious of the sights and sounds of the fighting. When we were approaching the heath, we encountered a very thick fog which got worse and worse the closer we got.; Eventually it became too dangerous to drive any further and we pulled into a pub for some refreshment and to decide what to do next. I remember it vividly as it was my first experience of bottled lemonade! When the bottle was opened I marveled at the stream of bubbles coming to the surface and the taste to me was exquisite. My mother was all for staying overnight at the pub but my father's will prevailed and we started out on foot with a suitcase of overnight things.
I wonder that he found his way at all as the fog was so thick but eventually we moved on a path over some heath, passed though some big white gates and along a gravel drive until we were suddenly overshadowed by what appeared, to a small boy, to be the most enormous building. Though the porch and the front door and into the cold dark house.

We were getting undressed to go to bed when it happened. The most enormous explosion that rattled the windows fit to bursting. We children were really scared as it came totally without warning and was something previously unknown to us. My father explained that it must have been one of the new V2's which arrived totally unannounced. There was nothing more, so we went to bed.

My father returned to the pub the next morning only to discovered where the thing had landed. The car was only superficially damaged but the pub much more so. Perhaps it was a happy omen for the contented years at Heathwood which followed.

We didn't own the property. It was actually owned by Captain James and his wife who retained part of the house for their own use. The Jameses were very private people and to tell the truth we hardly knew they were there. I was discouraged from playing on what must have been the west side of the house (where the conservatory was) but this was no problem at all as there were fourteen acres of woodland altogether. There used to be more I had been told, but the old Dartford by-pass trimmed some of it off. I can recall visiting the James's side of the house on only two occasions - the first to the conservatory, which had a black and white squared marble floor at the time, and the second time to their kitchen which was warm and cosy as there was an Aga installed.

There was a lodge and a garage in addition to the house. The lodge was occupied by another couple. I don't remember their names for certain but Whitehead seems to ring a bell. I was never without an air gun at that time. First a Diana, which was quite tiny and suited my size at the time. after, I graduated to a BSA Major; a real air rifle and my pride an joy. As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time outside. I remember all the squirrels drays, the smell of the gorse on the heath during the summer and the annual fires where kindly firemen allowed us to "help" and hang around the fire engines. One of my most exciting memories were the Bren gun carriers which appeared from time to time and the one occasions we were given a ride by the soldiers!
There was also a sort of grassy bank on which the scouts used to camp every year. We used to visit whilst we were there. Whether that encouraged my later joining the local cub pack, I can't recall. I do remember on one occasion they were stirring what appeared to be custard in a big pot over the fire. It tuned out to be scrambled egg!

We were at Heathwood for VE Day. Great excitement with a bonfire and my cousin, who was staying with us, managed to get hold of some fireworks; the first I'd ever seen. We were also there for the winter of 1947. What a brilliant winter that was. Snow feet deep on the ground for months. A man at my father's factory made us a toboggan. Very professional looking with gave us hours of fun. Less fun for my parents, I'm afraid. When the thaw did come all the pipes had burst. They were mainly lead and offered little resistance to freezing. The bathroom was up in the tower and we had no water there for days.

It was in 1974 that I took my wife and kids to see the fantastic house I used to live in. I warned them that it was likely to be derelict as it hadn't been lived in for years. Imagine my surprise when it wasn't there at all. All that was there was a very large cutting carrying the new road - a great disappointment.

Heathwood Lodge once stood in the middle of where the new A2 now runs. It was situated on the high ridge of 'Walkers Wood', between the valley of the Dell and the next valley once referred to by the older residents of the estate as the 'Second Valley' The rear of the house faced the direction of Hall Place.

There are three distinguishable valleys running like fingers, horizontally between the Maypole Estate and the old A2. These were referred to as such by local children in the 20s viz.: (Disregarding the valley that lay within the private lands of Maypole House) the Dell was the first, the next (within the private grounds of Heathwood Lodge) the second and the third (adjacent to the old A2) became latterly known to local children, including myself, (c 1960) as the 'Paddock'. Records show that before and, perhaps in the early days of the estate, this last valley was known as 'Wolfes Glen'. In the 18th Century if one stood where Denton Road now is and looked into Wolfes Glen towards Bexley there would have been an uninterrupted view along that valley to Hall Place.

As stated, Heathwood Lodge was situated at the top of the natural ridge in Walkers Wood, with the rear facing towards the direction of Hall Place, Bexley. It had its own long and quite sandy lane that ran from Denton Road at its junction with where The Dell is now, North westerly towards the direction of Hall Place. The lane was probably about half a mile long and wide enough to take a horse and cart or, as in later years, a lorry. Personally, I can only just remember the house - and as being in a state of ruin. As a young boy in the early 60s I remember being warned by my parents not to enter the deserted, dilapidated and dangerous structure. When I went in - as I was bound to do - it was as described by them. It was probably last inhabited in the mid 1950s. There is no record in the Voters Register of 1958 of this building or register of inhabitants.

The house itself, I remember, was a substantial Victorian detached country residence surrounded by wooded gardens that contained many of the obligatory Victorian rhododendron bushes, so fashionable in those times. Some still remain. I believe that the majority of 'Walkers Wood' belonged to Heathwood Lodge. I remember there was also an orchard to the North of the house (In the Second Valley) containing apple, pear and plum trees. In the 1960s, although the trees were, by then, very much abandoned, I remember picking the fruit. Near to the main house, to the North West, were stables and a small cottage. This cottage presumably housed the groom / gardener / handyman employed by the occupants of the larger house.

Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath
Left above OS Map 1890 showing Heathwood Lodge and right above with A2 built c1969-1971 superimposed
in blue

The lands of HEATHWOOD LODGE - being in Walkers Wood - once formed part of the Baldwyns Estate until c1874 -1876. The Ordnance Survey map of 1876 shows that there were no buildings erected on the site at that time. The Electoral Register of 1887 shows the premises occupied. This dates the building to somewhere between c1876 and c1887. The first known residents I have found recorded are the HESKETHs. Everard HESKETH was the head of the family and was known as a prominent civil engineer by trade. HESKETH PARK in East Dartford was named after him. The Census of 1891 names the staff employed at the house under the employment of Everard HESKETH - then aged 37 yrs. There was Clara BENHAM, aged 34 yrs (the married cook) who shared her duties with Jessie LICKFIELD who was aged 29 yrs and single. Mary MITCHELL, a single 30 yr. old, was the housemaid. The same register shows that there were 8 persons there on the night of the census.

Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath
Everard Hesketh

The Census of 1891 on micro fiche is listed in such a way as to indicate that Heathwood Lodge was the smaller cottage referred to earlier as being within the grounds of Heathwood. The head of this family at the time is shown as being Edward FULLER aged 35 yrs and employed as the head gardener. He was married to Ellen aged 37 yrs and they were the parents of Kate and Edith aged 11 yrs and 12 yrs respectively.

Census of 1891 for 'Heathwood'.

Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

1891 census showing the FULLER family in the smaller cottage

Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

It appears that Heathwood later became known as Heathwood Lodge and the old Heathwood Lodge then became known as Heathwood Cottage. This appears to have occurred after 1911 as the Electoral Register of 1900 and 'KELLY'S REGISTER' of 1911 still show the names as still being the former. However the Electoral Register of 1937 names the buildings as they were later to become known.

1911 census of the smaller cottage in the grounds of Heathwood Lodge - the much larger house.

Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

The 1891 Census from another source also includes the following information - contradicting the micro fiche record as cited above and showing the main house as containing the EVERARDS and the cottage as containing only 4 persons - so pick the bones out of that !

Jane. Wid. Farm Labourer.B.Berks.Windsor.
Rose. Dau.19.B.Kent.Crayford.
The Heath. Heathwood.

Everard.37.Civil Engineer.B.London.Marylebone.
Katherine.Wife. 34.B.London.St John's Wood.
Frances M.BENWELL.Wifes Sister.M.23.B.London.Kilburn
Dorothy K.BENWELL.Niece. 3mths. B.Kent.Chatham
Clara E.BENHAM. M.34.Cook.B.Kent.Carayford.
Mary J.MITCHELL. 30. Housemaid.B.Kent.Belvedere
Jessia A.LICKFIELD. 29.Cook.B.Kent.Charlton
The Heath. Heathwood Lodge.

Following on from the HESKETH family the next known occupant to be shown on my records relates to a Rev Charles WRIGHT - as on the Electoral Register of 1900. He was still there in 1911. There is no mention of any other person living there during his occupancy so it may possibly be assumed that he was not married. The late Joyce SMITH nee BEARCROFT, a previous resident of the Estate recalls that her aunt - her mothers sister - Charlotte GEORGE was employed as a cook at the house c. 1901. The GEORGE family lived at 28 Baldwyns Road at the time. She would have been employed by the occupant, as mentioned above, at the time - the Rev Charles WRIGHT.

Below is an advert dated 1906 from the South eastern Gazette for a 'good cook'. Apply to a Mrs WRIGHT. Did Charlotte GEORGE take up the position - or leave, creating a vacancy ?

Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

1904 June 28th - advertisement for sale of Heathwood Lodge £3000
South Eastern Gazette

Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

The Electoral Register of 1937 then show the names of the houses as changed and the occupants as being the JAMES family. It appears the family still had an interest in the place in 1945 - along with another couple - Alice and James WAINER. A previous resident of the Maypole Estate - Mr Phillip RUMBELOW - remembers as a boy, having 'tea' at Heathwood - the home of Captain JAMES c1939. Mr RUMBELOW states that he attended Eltham College along with the son of Captain JAMES - Colin? He remembers being greeted in the porch area by a large and noisy parrot. The large house was finally knocked down c 1962 to make way for the new A2, eventually being built in 1970.

Electoral Register of 1937

Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

So far, the only occupants apart from the Fuller's that I have found living in the cottage were George and Susan WHITEHEAD. He is shown in the Electoral Register as being there until its destruction in 1968. I remember him as a gentle, silver haired, rather short man who always rode a bicycle and constantly wore a green beret. It appears that he was an avid cyclist in his younger days.

I remember as a teenager in 1967 going into his empty, derelict house. I retrieved from the loft of the cottage some unopened ‘Cycling Touring Club’ magazines that had been posted to him at that address, still sealed in envelopes and never read. The post marks date back to 1926 or so. I still have them. This indicates his occupancy from at least 1926 to 1967. Susan WHITEHEAD is shown in the voters register of 1958 but not, as is her husband, in that of 1968. The electoral register of 1937 shows the JAMES family as being in residence at the large house. There was Harold, Gwendoline, Hilda, Marjorie and Walter. The electoral register of 1945 shows multi occupancy. There were Ada and Francis COLE, James and Alice WAINER, and Margaret DAVIES. Hilda JAMES still lived there. This is the last record I have of the large house being occupied.

Below - original contemporary sketches by Maypoleman as a 14 yr old of Heathwood Cottage summer 1967

Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

Heathwood Lodge, Dartford Heath - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

During my study of the area I have often considered how strange and sad it is that the larger, and more elegant houses only had a lifespan of some 80 years or so. The more humble terraced houses of the Maypole Estate still remain (after over nearly120yrs of occupancy) intact and very much alive and in use. Popular now for first-time buyers and were valued in the region of £200,000 upwards, until the recent downturn.

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