Bourne Hall

The old house at Bourne Hall was designed in about 1770 for Philip Rowden, a London merchant who was looking for a country residence. Later the house came to Thomas Hercey Barritt of Jamaica. He improved the grounds by building a dairy shaped like a castle – the Turrets, demolished in 1967 – and by improving the entrance with the Dog Gate, which is decorated with his coat of arms. After him, in 1859, came George Torr, an engineer and charcoal maker, who became a village benefactor. He gave an organ to St. Mary’s church and helped to found the West Street School. When he died, his widow Elizabeth found consolation in perfecting the grounds of the house, relying on her head gardener James Child. Along the walk to the orchards there were prize-winning chrysanthemums, and orchids grew in the heated greenhouses. Inside the house the entrance hall was paved with marble, and there was panelling and plaster columns on the walls. There were eleven bedrooms on the first and second floor, and on the ground floor a library and billiard room, as well as two drawing rooms whose fireplaces were carved with marble statuary and ornaments. The servants had their rooms on the lower ground floor. During the First World War the house was used as a hospital for soldiers. From 1925 it housed a girls’ school, run from Ewell Castle. Part of the garden became a hockey field, and the conservatories were turned into classrooms. The headmistresses ran it as ‘a school for the daughters of gentlemen’, and in the earlier years tradesmens’ daughters could be turned away. There were three houses – Doric, Ionic and Corinthian – and the talbot from the Dog Gate appeared on the school hatband. The school lost money after the Second World War. It closed suddenly in 1953 and pupils arriving for the autumn term were surprised to find the gates locked. During the following ten years the house, already in an unsatisfactory condition, fell into further decay. It was demolished in 1962 and the present Bourne Hall was built in 1969.