Wharncliffe, Chorleywood, from 1890s

& William SHARP (1855-1905)

October, 2014


Toni D'Urso (Tonianditalo @t hotmail.co.uk) of Chorleywood writes: The new owners of the building on the corner of Common and Colleyland, (recently Rapid Tool Hire shop and Wharncliffe flat.) would like to restore the exterior to its original pre WW1 design.  After exploring libraries, the internet and council sources, we have come up against a brick wall.  We have been told that the building is possibly an early bakery and, if required, we could show you the property, which includes an extensive basement.  This property and the next door property, 1 Common View, may have had common ownership in the past. If you can help us to restore a part of old Chorleywood we would be very grateful.

The general form of the house is very interesting as it appears to be architect designed compared with the other pretty standard houses in the area, which were built at about the same time. It would be interesting to know why - for instance was it the first plot sold to a profession man wanting easy access to the train to London (station opened 1889) who also wanted a view over the common (note the unusual first floor windows) and they were expecting the other plots to attract similar houses?

The map shows the location of the house on the  1898 Ordnance Survey (blue dot). The area was undeveloped in 1889 (Ordnance Survey), although the Berkeley Arms is shown. The Methodist chapel site (immediately NW of blue dot) was only purchased in 1892 and I could spot nothing obviously relevant in the 1891 census. This all points to the immediate area being developed in the early 1890s.

The earliest dated reference to the property I can find relates to 1899.  In August 1899 William Sharp (a Scottish poet and writer, who also wrote under the pseudonym Fiona McLeod) wrote "I may take this opportunity of saying that (my South Hampstead address being cancelled) from 1st October my address will be Wharncliff | Chorleywood |Herts (it is a pleasant place not far beyond Harrow & Rickmansworth)" and at the end of September he wrote "The above is our new address (not far beyond Harrow) — a kind of small Hindhead!"  [The excerpts from his letters are take from The William Sharp "Fiona McLeod" Archive.]

On the first of October 1899 William and Elizabeth Sharp occupied their new residence in Wharncliffe, in rooms overlooking the high common in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire. Ever in need of more money, they hoped to economize by living outside London and avoid having to go abroad to escape London’s smoke and smog in the winter. They were delighted by the new location and on 8th October 1899 William wrote "We are now settled here, at this bracing & delightful place, near Milton’s Chalfont St. Giles and Arnold’s beloved Ches: & here sometime you may feel inclined to come for a breath of vivid air."  Later in the month he wrote How lovely autumn is at this moment. The trees here are divinely lovely.” and still later "We like this most beautiful and bracing neighbourhood greatly: and as we have pleasant artist-friends near, and are so quickly and easily reached from London, we are as little isolated as at So. Hampstead — personally, I wish we were more! It has been the loveliest October I remember for years. The equinoxial bloom is on every tree. But today, after long drought, the weather has broken, and a heavy rain has begun." William travelled a lot and the last letter in the collection from Wharncliffe was posted in October 1901.

Frederick Baldwin, baker, was shown as the occupier of Wharncliffe in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, together with his family. No lodgers are shown in 1901 (William Sharp almost certainly not being "at home" on census night) but Frederick had one lodger in 1911 proving that he did let a room (or rooms). As the 1911 lodger was a coal merchant it would suggest that the accommodation was suitable for someone like William Sharp. The last information I have on Frederick was that he was still a baker at The Common & Lower road, Chorleywood, in 1937. However Holiday's Bakery Ltd is listed as The Common & Lower road in 1960 and 1966. I have no information on when the building ceased to be a baker's shop.

Unfortunately the one thing I have not found is a picture of the building in the early years but perhaps someone will see this posting and be able to produce one. However it is possible that someone took a photograph of the Baptist Chapel from a position which shows at least part of Wharncliffe.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

October 2014   Page created