Although the parish church of Hayes can trace its history back over 800 years and local villains joined Jack Cade in his rebellion of 1450 our story begins a little over a century ago when Hayes became a popular place in which to live. A time when Bankers, Stockbrokers and those who were “something in the City” sought property in the area. The Warren was built in 1882 by Walter Maximillian de Zoete, a Dutch banker and stands in 22 acres of lovely grounds consisting of playing fields, quiet gardens and woodlands.
The ground on which the current Club House was to be built had been enclosed before the passing of the Metropolitan Commons Act of 1866 and no one could claim its restitution; it remained unfenced but was surrounded by a strand of plain wire. Colonel Sir John Farnaby Lennard was a substantial Landowner in the district but it was his wife, Dame Julia Maria Francis Lennard, who, in 1882, leased to Walter Maximilian de Zoete six acres of land for ninety-nine years at £60 per annum. On this land Walter Maximilian built The Warren and its Lodge. The de Zoete family originally came from Holland and settled in the City first as Merchants and later as Stockbrokers in the firm of de Zoete and Gorton. Samuel Herman de Zoete was elected Deputy Chairman of the Stock Exchange in 1866 and six years later he became its Chairman. Walter Maximilian, his son, was noted for his conservatism, he disliked changes of any type. Meticulous in habit, of medium height and fine presence, he had been a keen athlete in his younger days. Golf was now his favourite pastime, he played regularly at North Berwick, where he had a fine house, and also at Sandwich. He played in the first Amateur Golf Championship at Hoylake in 1885. Sporting activities, however, did not take up all his leisure time for he had a keen eye for Antique Furniture, good pictures and other works of Art. The house was built to his design in the Flemish style, particularly noticeable in the stepped gables, a style that is not common in this country. Perhaps he was acknowledging his European forebears.
Later he purchased the historic Layer Marney Towers, near Colchester, and restored it. This Tudor mansion in mellow red brick with terracotta decorations on the battlements and windows had fallen into decay. He also restored the adjoining church.
Our Club House, when built, was called Warren House, a name derived from the wooded valley on the west side of the house (now the Dell where the children`s playground is situated) and known locally as the Warren because it was overrun with rabbits. Here the locals came to catch rabbits with their ferrets and polecats – hence the name of the footpath, Polecat Alley, which runs from the back entrance on the north side of the Club grounds and skirts the valley to Croydon Road.
In the same year that Warren House was built, 1882, the Hayes and West Wickham Railway was opened. The trains ran to Elmers End where passengers changed for the “through” train to London. There were 13 trains, in each direction, on weekdays and 4 on Sundays.
In 1885, Walter Maximilian de Zoete assigned his leasehold interest to a Martin R Smith of 1 Lombard Street, a well known Banker, for £8,000. In the same year Sir John Farnaby Lennard, and others, leased to Martin Smith an extra 16 acres of the enclosed land for 93 years at £320 per annum. Smith extended Warren House by adding a Billiard Room, a new wing overlooking the rose garden, then called the rosary, a pair of cottages, a summer house in the wood and a range of glass houses.
A lean-to greenhouse was used for grapes. The new owner was a great philanthropist and entertained more than a thousand people annually, no one was ever turned away from his door. Whenever he travelled to Town he would go to Bromley South Station in his Barouche and almost on every occasion he would be stopped at Hayes Grove near Warren Road and asked for money by a very brown and dirty character known as Flannel Nan who lived rough on the Common. At Christmas he would distribute Christmas Boxes, a Sovereign and a piece of Beef to all and sundry – including the local Constable.
The lay-out of the ground floor of the house at this time was as follows: Entrance Hall, Staircase Hall, Lounge, Dining and Drawing Rooms, Cloakroom, Business Room, Billiard Room, the Kitchen, Larders, Scullery, Butler`s Pantry, Housekeeper`s Room, Boot and Knife House and Serving Lobby all being on the West Side. The first floor had twelve Bedrooms, Bathrooms, a Lobby and Housemaid`s Pantry, Five Staff Bedrooms and Boxrooms were to be found on the top floor. The Staff was comprised of a Housekeeper, Cook, Butler, two Footmen, Hall Boy, Housemaids, Kitchen and Scullery Maids, Governesses, Coachmen, a Carpenter, an Electrician and Gardeners.
Outside, the valley and slope in front of the house became known as the wood and at the North End of this, where the lower Tennis Courts are located, there were fruit bushes, fruit sheds, a fishpond and a Carpenter`s Shop. The brick-built storage house for fruit still stands behind the Squash Courts. The house on the left of the approach to the rear entrance was the Carpenter`s Cottage – the Carpenter at that time being a Mr Rutherford a Scot. Just inside the rear entrance Mr Smith had two cottages built to house the Gardener and the Watchman, a Mr Wilkins, respectively. Before Mr Wilkins was engaged, the duties of Watchman were undertaken by Police Constables working on a rota of one month day duty, one month night duty. (It must have been some early form of Special Employment.)
The drive and flower border flanking the Tennis Courts was known as Broad Walk. The large lawn in front of the house extended to where the climbing frame is today. Beyond this, to the East Side, there was a wild growth and in the North-East corner was Julian`s Wood. Julian was the youngest of Mr Smith`s four sons. He was said to be a brilliant interpreter, unfortunately he was killed in the Great War while serving with the 9th Lancers. On the other side of the lawn and wild growth was the semi-circular “common border”, bounded by an herbaceous border which extended as far as the gateway to the Common.
It is not generally known that the carnation as we know it today was developed from the French gillyflower, Dianthus Caryophyllus, and Martin Smith became one of the leading growers of its hybrids. The old Cricket Pavilion stands on the site of carnation beds and yet more greenhouses. Mr Smith employed 18 Gardeners. The Head Gardener was Charles Blick and Bill and Tom Price were the Under-Gardeners. The cultivation of the carnation began in 1889 and no doubt much of the work and credit must go to Charles Blick. John Player in the course of his research met Miss Blick, Charles`s daughter, still living in Hayes. It was with some pride that she showed him a cutting from the Evening Times, dated 21st March 1911 (the year of the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary), which read;
“It is just 22 years ago since Mr Martin Smith started to raise the carnation from its lowly state, and it is entirely due to his efforts that it has become a flower of such character that a Queen has chosen it to adorn her on the proudest day of her life.”
Martin Smith`s daughter, Sybil, married Eric Hambro, son of Sir Everard Hambro of Hayes Place. The youngest daughter, Winifred, married Olaf Hambro. The route to the parish church at Hayes through what is now Preston Road and Warren Road was made festive by lining it with barrels supporting poles carrying bunting. Obviously the weddings were joyous occasions which all the local populace could enjoy.
During Martin Smith`s occupation a popular game known as “bumplepuppy” was played by the family and their guests. It was played with racquets and a tennis ball fastened by a line to the top of a pole. The object was to wind the ball spirally around the post while preventing your opponent from doing so. (There is a modern version by Dunlop known as “Swingball”.) The game was played on the square between the Snooker Room and the ornamental brick arbour near the Bowling Green. Traces of the circle made by the game can still be seen on the lawn. It does not need much imagination to conjure up the scene with the guests in the arbour waiting their turn to play, shouting encouragement to those trying desperately to hit the ball.
While on the subject of entertainment you might like to compare our Bar prices with the cost of liquid refreshment in those days. A gallon of Scotch Whisky could be bought for 18/-; a dozen imperial pints of Bass Pale Ale cost 4/6d while a dozen pints of Guiness Extra Stout would set you back 3/6d. The staff in the those days were not kept short of the amber fluid and were able to entertain their friends regularly. “By golly, they used to drink a lot of beer in the Stables in the good old days”, said one of them to John Player. [And, when Mounted Branch were in situ, nothing changed!]
But what was it that prompted Martin Smith to insert the following clause in the deeds in 1901? “No building now erected or hereinafter erected on the lands shall be used as a Lunatic Asylum, Hospital, Convalescent Home, Public House or Shop or for any other purpose of a like nature or otherwise whatsoever as a private dwelling house with the consent of the said Martin R Smith, without his or assigns ………”.
With the presence of so many nobs in the area the village of Hayes gradually developed. Martin Smith did much for the village and made generous donations to the church school where about seventy children were taught. Sir Edward Hambro, of Hayes Place, was now the major Landowner in the area and in the period before the Great War he purchased many small properties.
When they were not being entertained by the staff of Warren House the villagers could resort to any one of four Public Houses (two of which were owned by Sir Everard). The Alma Arms, near the church school, named, as were many others after one of the famous battles of the Crimea, but known locally by the less martial patrons as the Dust Hole! A short distance away, in West Common Road, stood the Rising Sun whose customers had the reputation of being more rowdy. The George had every appearance of a Coaching Inn but the nearest stage coach route was across Bromley Common. An old, weather boarded cottage, opposite the Station, opened as a Beer House after the opening of the Railway and rejoiced in the name of the New Inn.
There were moves to extend the railway to Farnborough and one of the interested parties was a Lord Sackville Cecil who lived at the Oast House. The plans progressed as far as a Bill in 1906 but the line was never built. Lord Cecil was a meticulous handyman who was known to stop his coach if he saw the church clock was wrong and go up and correct it.
The farmer from Coney Hall Farm, Mr McBain, could be seen each Sunday morning on his way to West Wickham Church, dressed in top hat, frock coat and carrying his Bible. Beating the bounds was an annual event in the village and there is a record of choirboys climbing in the front window and going out the back door of a house in Station Hill, part of which was in Hayes and part in West Wickham.
Martin Smith died in 1908 and in 1909, his son, Everard, conveyed Warren House to Sir Robert Laidlaw, Member of Parliament for Renfrewshire, for £15,000. A small triangle of land on the North-East corner of the estate, between the footpath and the road to Hayes, included in the original purchase by Martin Smith was excluded from this sale. On this piece of land, about a quarter of an acre, stood Warren Wood, a cottage which appears to have been built at the same time as the pair of cottages erected by Martin Smith to house some of his staff. The Deeds show ” …… upon making enquiries of the Gardener, it was revealed that Martin Smith sold this cottage and land to a Mr Meadow about 1908 …….” The sale, however, is not recorded in the abstract of title.
Sir Robert Laidlaw was a wealthy business man as well as being a politician. His firm, Whiteway and Laidlaw, were merchants in India and were often referred to as the Selfridges of India. We are fortunate that all the families who have lived at Warren House contributed to the beauty of its grounds. Following Martin Smith`s culture of the carnation, Sir Robert Laidlaw specialised in the growing of seedling Rhododendrons, Azaleas and, to our good fortune, trees. Sir Robert`s Head Gardener was a Mr Brown, whether he was a descendant of the great John “Capability” Brown we do not know, but the setting of the trees, with their rich variety of colour – particularly noticeable from the front of the house – is reminiscent of the natural designs of that marvellous landscape gardener who gave his touch to so many country estates. To accommodate his Gardeners, Sir Robert had a bothy built in 1910. In 1914 at the beginning of the War Sir Robert gave Warren House to the British Red Cross Society for use as a 50-bed hospital. He also contributed £25 a week towards its upkeep together with produce from his gardens. The use of the house as a hospital continued until 1916 and during those two years many soldiers in hospital blue could be seen recuperating in the grounds. Sir Robert died in 1915 and in 1920 his Executors conveyed the property to Edwin Mumford Preston of Monks Orchard, West Wickham, for £19,500. Here again was a man who could visualise still further improvements . Mr Preston`s forte was flowering shrubs and rare plants. As with previous owners, there was a full complement of Gardeners, Mr Preston`s Head Gardener being a Mr Wood whose expert knowledge was sought by many local horticulturalists. One of the oldest members of the Hayes Horticultural Society talking to John Player recalled the time when he brought a rare plant from Wales. “No one knew what it was but I took it to Mr Wood and at once he was able to tell me its name”. To assist the cultivation of rare and unusual plants Mr Preston added a Conservatory to the house. Mr Preston was well liked and he did much good work for the village. The road from Hayes, leading to Croydon Road, was named after him. He and Mrs Preston gave the land for the building of the village hall. It was during his residence that the name was changed from Warren House to The Warren. He had a high opinion of the Police, as did the local people generally. The Hayes parish magazine, dated 1st June 1926, contained the following appeal by the Mayor of Bromley: “The Mayor of Bromley asks for gifts towards the purchase of a Sports Ground for the Police of “P” Division, comprising Lewisham, Camberwell, Beckenham, Penge and Bromley. He points out, a ground at Thames Ditton as suggested for the Police generally, would be little use to men in our locality. Some may have contributed already to the fund but may be glad to support one which means so much to the men of our locality”. The appeal raised £2,025 which was invested and called “P” Division Recreation Ground Fund. Mr Preston was a donor to the fund and it is fitting that his home was later to become the Sports Club for 4 Area . Hayes had become part of “P” or Camberwell Division in October 1885. Before then it had been part of “R” or Greenwich Division since 1840. Sir Everard Hambro died in March 1927 and his large estate was put on the market and lands were bought by speculative builders and developers. His death, therefore, marks the beginning of Hayes as we know it today.
In the 1930s the area became very popular with hikers and others seeking a breath of country air; firms just over the border in the county of London held their annual picnics on the common and on one Bank Holiday over 21,000 passengers used Hayes Station. In 1934 Mr Preston conveyed The Warren to Gordon Ralph Hall-Caine, MP of Woolley Firs, Maidenhead, but he did not take up residence and later that same year it was purchased by the Receiver, through the good Offices of Lady Margetson, wife of Major Sir Philip Margetson, KCV MC, the Deputy Commissioner. At the time the Club was renting 18 acres at Monks Orchard, Beckenham. Extensive work was necessary to convert the property into a Club House and to clear an area to provide a playing field. A Bowling Green was laid out on the South-East side of the house. The bedrooms on the first floor of the house were converted to dressing rooms and two large rooms on the ground floor became a Dining Room and Dance Floor, the original oak panelling, paintings and fireplaces being retained. The Billiard Room built by Martin Smith, beautifully panelled in Italian walnut, was used as a Lounge or extra Dining Room. The Club House and grounds were officially opened on 13th June 1935 by Marshal of the Royal Air Force, the Lord Trenchard GCB DSO DCL LLD, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.
During the Second World War the Stables were used as Headquarters for the local Home Guard and beds were moved into the Club House in readiness to receive Police casualties – fortunately they were not required. The Club became a favourite rendezvous for pilots from nearby Biggin Hill; “Sailor” Malan, Stanford Tuck, Jamie Rankin, Al Deere, Don Kingaby, “Spy” de la Torre, E H Thomas and C Masterman, were just a few of The Few who signed in at the Club.
In the sixties the six hard tennis courts were constructed over the old sunken gardens, followed in the seventies by two squash courts to the rear of the tennis courts and adjacent to Pole Cat Alley.
In 1974 major construction was carried out on the old stables to open a new Metropolitan Police Horse Patrol Station. An extra block was added in the mirror image of the existing Dutch style building and for twenty three years the roads of the estate were once again graced by horses. Unfortunately, due to a reorganisation of the Service, the stables were closed in 1997.
There was then very little change until 1984 when the Commissioner, Sir Kenneth Newman, opened the new Hobbit Sports Pavilion. To the left of the main building this new facility provided changing rooms and showers and a sports hall with a bar. Another advantage of The Hobbit was that it allowed the changing rooms on the first floor of the main building to be converted to offices and classrooms.
September 1989 saw the opening of, probably, the most important addition to the estate since the Club was opened in 1935. The Coney Suite, a purpose built function room, was designed by Raymond Smith & Associate Architects and built by R Mansells Ltd and was constructed as a “wing” on the north side of the original building. It is big enough to hold over 300 people and can sit up to 200 for a formal dinner. As this included the old Members` Bar, a new one had to be constructed in what had been used by the Club as a dining hall but which had originally been Mr de Zoete`s drawing room.
For this wonderful addition to the Club amenities, praise must go to the then Secretary, Inspector Cliff Baker, for all his hard work in getting such an enormous project planned and financed, and then to his successor, Inspector Dave Castle, who saw it through to completion.
In 1994 “Wickhams” Restaurant was opened. Consisting of a cocktail bar and a fifty seater dining area, the suite was constructed by converting three classrooms on the first floor of the main building.
Is that the final addition to this fine old estate ……… only time will tell