Contents

PART 2: Private house

  1. THE LLOYDS: 1899-1905.

1.1.       Background.

1.2.       Planned extension to Skippers.

1.3.       Two proposed uses.

1.4.       Spring to supply water to extension.

  1. THE HOODS: 1906-1911.

2.1.       Background.

2.2.       Viscount Hood dies leaving fortune.

2.3.       Bequests of jewellery and paintings.

2.4.       Extensive changes to house.

2.5.       Aerial photograph.

2.6.       Declining health.

  1. THE NICHOLSONS: 1911-1944.

3.1.       Background.

3.2.       A life of clubs, climbing and travel.

3.3.       Changes to garden.

3.4.       Chattels.

3.5.       Generous bequests.

3.6.       Bomb damages cattle shed.

3.7.       Downsizing and selling up.

3.8.       Mrs Nicholson’s will.

4.       FOOTNOTES [Part 2].

1.    THE LLOYDS: 1899-1905

1.1. Background

In about 1899, Lewis John Fry sold Skippers Hill to retired tenor singer Edward Lloyd (Lambeth, 1845-1927), once referred to as the “Prince of English Tenors”.1 Before moving to Sussex, Lloyd and his wife Mary Anne Turner had been living in Lambeth. Lloyd was born into a musical family and became a chorister at Westminster Abbey. According to Herman Klein, Lloyd had one of those pure, natural voices that never loses its sweetness. Lloyd was essentially a concert and an oratorio singer.

        Edward Lloyd, 1899

After he retired, Lloyd sang the lead role in the premiere of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius at the Birmingham Music Festival in 1900. Apparently, the first performance was a near disaster. Lloyd’s voice was unsuited to Elgar’s musical style, and nerves and constant standing up and sitting down affected his performance detrimentally.2

                The Lloyds lived at Skippers Hill with their son, Raymond R. Lloyd (1877-1972), a farmer and an employer, Eliza Turner (49), Mary’s sister who was living there with her own income, and her daughter Lena Turner (26), a visitor.3 They were looked after by three servants: a cook, a housemaid and a gardener.

1.2. Planned extension to Skippers

On 20 April 1903, Lloyd applied to the Rural District Council of Uckfield for planning permission to build a billiard room or a music room at Skippers Hill.4 The actual plan was to erect a two-storey building with 14-inch brick walls and connect it to the main house. The ground floor was to have a 28ft long by 20ft wide billiard room or music room with its own veranda, boudoir, window seat and, behind it, a kitchen, store cupboard, WC and a housemaid’s closet with sink.

 Plan of proposed billiard/music room on ground floor, 1903.
Image: Courtesy ESRO, The Keep, Falmer, Brighton. Ref: DW/A/5/762

1.3. Two proposed uses

The two proposed uses for the ground floor extension suggest that the Lloyds were still discussing the space’s eventual use when the plan was submitted. The plans for the first floor show a bedroom (262 sq. ft.), a bathroom, a WC and a walk-in dressing room with three entry points.

1.4. Spring to supply water to extension

The roof of new the building was to be 20ft high to the eaves and tiled. A London firm of architects, Messrs Herring, Son & Daw, drew up the plans and a Mayfield builder, Joseph Boon, submitted the application to the council on Lloyd’s behalf. The plans show several steps leading up to a 3ft, raised entrance to the billiard room/music room.

                There was obviously no mains water supply in 1903, as a spring-fed water tank was to act as the extension’s water supply. The plans were approved by the Council5 on 4 May 1903. Block plan drawings made in 1907 by the subsequent owners confirm that Lloyd’s plans were actually realised. The Lloyds only lived at Skippers Hill until the end of 1905, after which they sold the house and moved to Worthing.

    

  Plan of proposed first-floor extension, 1903
Images (3): Courtesy ESRO, The Keep, Falmer, Brighton. Ref: DW/A/5/762

2.    THE HOODS: 1906-1911

Skippers Hill before the Hoods moved in.
Postcard: A.H. Homewood, ca. 1905 6

In 1906, the Hoods purchased Skippers Hill from Edward Lloyd and changed its name to The Manor House, and installed a canon on wheels behind the wall of the rear courtyard. (see 2.3)

2.1. Background

Lord Hood was in fact The Rt. Hon. Francis Wheler Hood, 4th Viscount Hood of Whitley (1838-1907), a hereditary peer, a landowner, a JP, Deputy Lieutenant of Warwickshire, and a former Lieutenant-Colonel in the Grenadier Guards.

                In 1865, he married the glamorous Edith Lydia Drummond Ward (Tun. Wells, 1847-1911), whereupon she became the 4th Viscountess Hood of Whitley. She bore him eight children: five sons: Grosvenor Arthur Frederick, Grosvenor Arthur Alexander, Horace, Neville, Francis, and three daughters: Mabel Edith (Lady Ashburton), Alma Marguerite and Dorothy.

2.2. Viscount Hood dies leaving fortune

In 1907, after a year of living at The Manor House, Lord Hood died aged 69. He left a fortune — £108,246 — equivalent to £8.5 million in 2017. The will included an immediate bequest to his wife of £1,000, and an annuity of £1,500 (equivalent to £118,000 in 2017) for life.

                In a codicil to his will, dated 1 July 1906, he gave his widow the option of either owning his principal residence at 17 Hertford Street, Mayfair, London, or his recently acquired freehold property comprising a house and outbuildings and some “70 or 80 acres” of land which he referred to as “my Skippers Hill Estate“. She opted to take on The Manor House and the land.

2.3. Bequests of jewellery and paintings

He also bequeathed a large number of items to his wife for her use and enjoyment during her lifetime, including:

  • a painting of his wife by George Richmond
  • a painting of his wife and their late daughter Lady Ashburton7
  • by Graves
  • four Kit-cat portraits of various Viscounts Hood
  • five oil paintings of sea battles
  • a Collet necklace containing 59 brilliants
  • a Russian-style tiara with 85 spikes
  • a diamond pave Marquise ring of small brilliants
  • a gold snuff boxpresented to the 1st Viscount Hood in 1782

Lord Hood specified in his will that all these items be devolved and enjoyed as heirlooms after his wife’s death.8

    Image:  Edith Lydia Drummond Hood, probably painted by George Richmond

The image of Edith Hood is based on an original painting owned by the Hoods. Apparently, it was notable for the head you may, or may not, be able to see on her left shoulder, which shows the face of a man looking down her front.9

Photo: Lord and Lady Hood, 1866, the year after they married 10

Photo: The Manor House in 1910 showing a wheeled canon and steps up to rear courtyard
Postcard
postmarked 1910 [author’s private collection; date verified]

2.4. Extensive changes to house

When the postcard of Skippers Hill ca. 1905 [start of section] is compared with the one of The Manor House ca. 1910 below, it is clear that the Hoods made extensive changes to the house, including:

1. The front entrance and porch were moved further back.
2. When the right side of the house was extended and the roofs were thatched, the small upper window under the front-right chimney disappeared.
3. Diamond-shaped single glass panes were installed in windows along the right side of the house and in the rear windows.
4. The bay windows at the front were changed.
5. Each of the front four bay windows was redesigned to hold 96 panes of glass (upper windows: 8 panes x 4 = 32; main windows 16 panes x 4 = 64). When the Lloyds were living at the house, the front bay windows only had 16 panes each.

Photo: The Manor House, 1910, Dolphin Series (181263).
Courtesy of www.theweald.org

    Notes

  1. The Ordnance Survey Map of 1897 (see left margin above) clearly shows two small, rounded protrusions at the front right-hand side of the farmhouse, which were not visible in the 1873-74 map, indicating that the bay windows were installed after 1874 but before 1905.
  2. A detailed internal examination of the house would be needed in order to establish beyond doubt, the dates of changes, renovations and extensions made to it. My findings are based on the limited photographic research material currently available.

2.5. Aerial photograph

The curved courtyard wall at the rear looks new in the 1910 ‘wheeled canon postcard’ (See 2.3), as does the stone platform made for the canon, and the flight of steps up to where the two arcs of the wall meet.

Aerial photo of Skippers
Google Maps, 2018

See:

  • hump-like shadows cast by rear bay windows (circled red)
  • curved ramparts
  • the canon platform
  • the ‘great barn’
  • grassy bank

The three-sided, leaded-glass bay windows at the back of the manor stick out from the curtain wall, mimicking the bay windows at the front. The presence of a canon in front of a curved walled rampart (rear courtyard), and the imposing, bastion-like rear bay windows, create an impression of a hill-top castle being defended. This is hardly surprising, given the Hood family’s long history of naval and military service.

2.6. Declining health

Lady Hood continued living at The Manor House for four more years. By 1911, her health had declined and she was being looked after by two hospital nurses, Winifred MacNab (live-in) and Mabel Heseltine. She retained a butler, George Rickman, as well as a live-in footman. Only the grandest households could afford a footman, as they were considered a luxury and a status symbol.11

                In March 1911, Lady Hood died at her former marital home in Mayfair, occupied then by her son Grosvenor Arthur Alexander Hood, 5th Viscount Hood of Whitley.12 Her official home address was still The Manor House, Five Ashes. In her will, which was valued for probate at £15,796 — equivalent to £1.23 million in 2017 — she left The Manor House and other real property to her son Grosvenor A.A. Hood.13  He decided to sell on The Manor House. It was bought by Lothian Demain Nicholson.

3.    THE NICHOLSONS: 1911-1944

3.1. Background

On 11 August 1911, Lothian Demain Nicholson (Bloomsbury, 1858-1931), a wealthy retired distiller and his wife Frances Laura Squire (Camden Town, 1858-1952), sold their 13-room home at 4 Sloane Court, London, and bought The Manor House, and changed its name back to ‘Skippers Hill’.14

Lothian Nicholson was the second son of William Norris Nicholson (b. Hounslow, 1834-1889), a successful barrister living at 43 Phillimore Gardens, Kensington, London and Emily H. Daniel (1837-1873). In July 1882, Lothian Nicholson (24) married Frances Squire (24), the daughter of William Squire. In the 1890s, Nicholson worked as a wine merchant, and later became a manager at J&W Nicholson & Co Ltd, gin distillers based in Clerkenwell and Three Mills, Bow, London. By 1911, he had retired, aged just 52.15 The irony, that a former gin distiller purchased The Manor House, a property that had once been a smugglers’ depot for bootlegged gin, should not go unnoticed.

 

                                                                       Photo: Postcard of Skippers Hill ca. 1920 when the Nicholsons lived there

3.2. A life of clubs, climbing and travel

Lothian Nicholson was a member of the Devonshire Club in St James Street, London, a gentleman’s club initially aligned with Liberals. Nicholson was also a member of two other London clubs: Queens’s Club and the Alpine Club. He may well have watched test matches at Lord’s Cricket Ground too, as a club member, as J&W Nicholson, his former employer, was patron and trustee of the MCC.16

                Nicholson was a keen alpinist. Between 1881 and 1902, he made 34 climbs up mountain peaks and passes, mainly in Switzerland and Italy. In 1887, he climbed the Wetterhorn (3692m) in Switzerland. In 1900, while climbing the Matterhorn (4478m) and the Weissmies (4017m) in Switzerland, he aborted the climbs due to bad weather, which “showed good judgment”.17 His prolific climbing record enabled him to join the Alpine Club in December 1902. His elder brother, Sir Charles Norris Nicholson (1857-1918) was already a member.

                On two occasions, the Nicholsons travelled in Italy together, sailing back first class to England from Naples on the SS Osterley in 1926, and later from Genoa aboard the Koningin der Nederlanden in 1929.

3.3. Changes to garden

Based on the above foreign-made postcard, it is clear that the Nicholsons added a wrought-iron gate in order to close off the front garden from the entrance drive. The front garden appears to be much developed compared to the empty garden in the 1910 postcard, when the Hoods were there. The tall Scots pine (?) at the back of the house seems to have disappeared and the two conifers flanking the gate to the entrance have increased in height since 1910. All these changes therefore suggest a probable date of this postcard at ca. 1915-1920.

3.4. Chattels

The Nicholsons owned several motor cars and motor-car accessories, and employed a chauffeur. To help them run their large house, they were assisted by a number of female servants, domestics and two gardeners. The couple owned several horses and carriages, harnesses, a stable and farming livestock, so clearly they were running a farm on their estate.

3.5. Generous bequests

When Lothian Demain Nicholson died without issue in 1931 in Broadstairs, Kent, he left his widow a fortune — £99,673 — equivalent to £4.6 million in 2017. Frances Nicholson was well provided for. He gave her the freehold house, Skippers Hill, all its contents, chattels and other assets, and an income for life paid out of a trust fund set up to invest the residue of her husband’s estate in stocks and shares.

         Nicholson ensured that others were not forgotten, even those who had been in service to him at Skippers Hill. He made many bequests including £4,000 to his brother William Henry Nicholson R.N., £250 to each of his eight cousins and nieces, £250 each to two other brothers and three sisters, and to his gardeners, Alfred Berwick (£100) and Wilfred Wren (£50). His chauffeur and the female servants were each gifted £100 provided they had been in his service for at least five years.18

3.6. Bomb damages cattle shed

Mrs Nicholson remained at Skippers Hill after her husband died. In August 1940, during the Battle of Britain, German bombers jettisoned bombs on Kent and Sussex villages. That same month, the main hospital in nearby Tunbridge Wells was hit by one of those bombs. Mrs ‘Lothian’ Nicholson, as she called herself then, contacted the local council on 29 August 1940 and reported that agricultural buildings at Skippers Hill had also been hit, leaving a “large crater” in the grounds. Based on scribbled notes written at the time, it seems that two divisions of a cattle shed constructed of horizontal weatherboards and built on brick foundations, and two wooden cribs each measuring 33ft in length, were totally demolished down to the foundation level by the bomb, and a number of tiles in a slate roof had been damaged and needed replacing.19

                                 Photo: Postcard of Skippers Hill, 1937-39, with helmeted head of a Norman knight on reverse,
taken by Shoesmith & Etheridge, Hasting 20

3.7. Downsizing and selling up

In 1944, 13 years after her husband died, Mrs Nicholson decided to downsize. She dropped the word ‘Lothian’ — her husband’s first name — from her entry in the telephone directory, and instead used her own initials “F.L.”. On 14 February 1944, after 33 years in residence, she sold Skippers Hill and associated land to Noel Lawrence Harris for £4,00021, equivalent to £142,000 in 2017. She moved to a property down the road called Coopers22, a 17th century manor house with a large Sussex barn attached and 11.5 acres of land.

3.8. Mrs Nicholson’s will

Frances Nicholson, a member of the Sussex Archaeological Society from 1914, and late of Coopers, Five Ashes, Sussex, died at Stoneyhurst Nursing Home, Hindhead, Surrey, in September 1952, aged 94. Her will reveals some insights into her lifestyle, interests and possessions.

                Her will was valued for probate at £29,486, equivalent to £920,233 in 2017. She drew up her first will in September 1943 when she was living at Skippers Hill. After moving to Coopers, she added five codicils, revoking a few initial bequests. Her maid, Minnie Hoath, and her gardener, Alfred Berwick, who had gardened for her at Skippers Hill and at Coopers, were both given substantial bequests of £500 each, in gratitude for their “affectionate service” to her “in a difficult time”.

Her 1949 codicil contained 12 further legacies. In it, she gifted all her china, pottery, bronzes, two or three De Wint watercolours, some etchings, and a classical marble bust, to the National Art Collections Fund, and two of her Elijah Walton watercolours to the Alpine Club.

She also donated £500 to the University of Cambridge, to be used to fund the William Barclay Squire Prize given annually for the best essay in musical paleography. The Church of the Good Shepherd, Five Ashes, and the Church of St Denys’, Rotherfield, each received £100 and £50, respectively.

                She bestowed her framed embroidery to the Guild of Broiderers, and her family portraits, oil paintings, clothes and furs to Mary Tucker of 17 Gloucester Road, Teddington. She remembered George P. [illegible] of Five Ashes, with a bequest of £500, in recognition of his friendship with her husband and herself. The residue of her estate went to her husband’s sister, Lilian Maud Nicholson.23

4. FOOTNOTES [Part 2]

  1. The Musical Times, Vol. 40, No. 671, 1 Jan 1899, New York and London.
  2. Wikipedia: (i) Edward Lloyd (tenor) and (ii) The Dream of Gerontius.
  3. The 1901 England Census.
  4. East Sussex Records Office, The Keep, Falmer, Brighton. Ref: DW/A/5/762. Billiard room.
  5. Ibid.
  6. This postcard originates from Brian Stevens’ collection of Sussex postcards. The tinted collotype was taken by photographer Arthur Henry Homewood, and belongs to the 3rd Main Issue (4C5), which puts the date of the card at a few months after July 1905, when Homewood began printing the reverse side of his postcards with a pair of red, parallel dividing lines, and labelling them “A.H. Homewood, Burgess Hill, Sussex”, with front-side captions printed in red ink. Source: Sussexpostcards.info.
  7. Mabel Edith Hood (1866-1904), the eldest daughter, was considered one of the most notable women in the society of her day, because of her intelligence, ability and wit. She married Francis Denzil Edward Baring (1866-1938), the 5th Baron Ashburton, in 1889.
  8. The Right Honourable Francis Wheler Hood’s will.
  9. Source: David Webb Carter; author’s Ancestry contact, 2018.
  10. Edith Lydia Drummond (née Ward), Viscountess Hood, and Francis Wheler Hood, 4th Viscount Hood, aka “Lord and Lady Hood”, photographed by Camille Silvy, 14 Aug 1866. Source: The National Portrait Gallery, London.
  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Footman.
  12. Viscountess Edith Lydia Drummond Hood’s will.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Kelly’s Directory, 1913.
  15. The 1911 England Census.
  16. William Nicholson (1824-1909), gin distiller and the son of John Nicholson, a co-founder of J&W Nicholson, was an amateur cricketer. He authorised loans to the MCC so that they could purchase the site for the Lord’s Cricket Ground, and was one of its trustees. Source: J&W Nicholson & Co, Wikipedia.
  17. Alpine Club Journal for 1927-1952, Vol. 43 (p. 381) and Vol. 44, p. 173: membership. The librarian at the AC, London, regarding qualifying climbs and the 2019 comment on the aborted climbs.
  18. Lothian Demain Nicholson’s will.
  19. East Sussex Records Office, The Keep, Falmer, Brighton. Ref: WAT 3/771/14. War damage.
  20. By May 1937, the words “S. & E. Hastings” were added below the scroll and helmeted head of a Norman knight on the reverse of the card. By 1939, the helmeted badge was discontinued. This dates the photograph to 1937-39.
  21. East Sussex Records Office, The Keep, Falmer, Brighton. Ref: WAT 3/760/16. School repairs. The selling price is inferred from the pre-war value of Skippers Hill recorded in a notebook dated 17 Mar 1947, containing a valuation report drawn up for the purposes of obtaining a loan from Lloyds Bank, Harold Bucknall’s bank in Heathfield.
  22. British Phone Books, 1880-1984 [1944], Southend-on-Sea/Colchester/Norwich area.
  23. Frances Laura Nicholson’s will.