I went to visit a cousin recently who has quite a few family albums in their possession which I’ve been really eager to look through. In them there were hundreds of old photos, while most were labelled and named a few were not.
The ones that stood out to me were some hunting photos in front of a stately home. Where photographs of people are hard if not impossible to identify, I thought surely I could find this house.
So I started by asking relatives who still live in the area is they had any ideas of where this house could be from, most likely it was in Kent but there is a slight possibility the house was from Devon where that side of the family originated.
Having no luck with members of the family I decided to just try some searches online. I started with Lost Houses of Kent, while scrolling through the many photographs I was amazed by how many houses in Kent we have lost, and in the country.
Half way down the search I found it, Calehill House of Little Chart, Kent which was demolished in 1952.
Calehill was first mentioned in AD 839 when it was presented to the Monks of Canterbury. The estate belonged to the Sir William Darell and his family from 1410 until the 20th century. Over the years there have been three houses known as Calehill, The first house was built by Sir John Darell who died in 1438. The ruins are just south-east of current house, it is stone rubble which includes a 15th century window.
The house from the photograph was built in 1740 by Philip Darell to the south east, the house was demolished in 1953 after it was considered too badly damaged from being used in the Second World War. However one of the side wings still survives as it houses the chapel which as a consecrated building could not be destroyed.
Before the house was demolished the whole estate was sold off at auction on 1st July 1952 at The Saracen’s Head Hotel, Ashford Kent. The estate was auctioned by Messers Knight, Frank & Rutley, Hubert F Finn-Kelcey and amalgamated by King & Ashenden.
The Auction Catalogue lists details and some photographs of the estate. There was a total of 54 lots being sold ranging from the mansion house to small cottages, the whole extending to about 1,433 acres.
Described in the catalogue “The Georgian mansion is of imposing elevation with two bell turrets and is built in mellowed brick with slated roof. It was erected in 1740. A wide terrace with stone balustrading and steps lead to the columned Porch of the Main Entrance.” the house accommodation is listed after which includes a Music Room, Snuff-Bottle Room, Chinese Room, The Armour Hall, The Library and a Chapel on the ground floor. Upstairs there are eleven bedrooms across two floors.
There is also staff accommodation, with three men’s bedrooms and a bathroom with W.C on the first floor. In the first floor wing there are ten maids’ bedrooms with a bathroom with W.C.
The domestic offices in the ‘downstairs’ part of the house consisted of a “large light Kitchen with tiled walls, double oven range; Scullery tiled walls and three deep sinks; Serving room (next to the Dining Room); Housekeeper’s room with fireplace. On a lower level, off a wide corridor: Butler’s Pantry, Servants’ Hall, Larders, Cellerage, Strong Room, and Boiler Rooms for central heating and hot water service.”
The gardens and grounds looking over the hills to the north-east with sloping lawn, wooded banks and shrubbery. To the South-west are spreading lawns shaded by ornamental trees and park-like timbering, a graveled terrace, an old walled garden. Lowers lawns with pond and a swimming pool about 80ft by 20ft (24m by 6m). The water main connects the swimming pool to the fire hydrants around the house. The Kitchen garden is entirely walled with espalier and other fruit trees, Peach House and cold frames.
Calehill House is just one of 1,991 houses that have been lost in England since 1800s, through demolition, severely reduced in size, or are ruined. You can view the list here, Lostheitage.org.uk are aiming to have an image and history of every house in their list.