More about Hazelwood

Published 1963

The land on which Hazelwood was built formed part of the lands awarded to the Archbishop of Canterbury under the Croydon Inclosure Acts of 1800. The Archbishop leased a large area to the then Lord Auckland who granted subleases to various people. A Mr. J. J. Welch had a sublease of about 19 acres. At some time Mr. Welch acquired the freehold of a small area of land fronting on to South Norwood Hill. (At the time of the Inclosure Award this land was designated Common!). Mr Welch lived in a house on his freehold land and in 1860 his house was in a bad state; he wanted to replace it by another. It appears he came to terms with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners who purchased Mr. Welch’s freehold land, accepted the surrender of Mr. Welch’s lease and granted new building leases to him for 99 years. One of these leases was the 6 acres or thereabouts upon which Hazelwood was subsequently built. The ground rent was £220 per annum.

It would perhaps be only right to point out that whilst a ground rent of £220 per annum may sound a lot for 1860 it was after all charged upon about 6 acres of land on which at least 22 good class houses could have been built, in which case the ground rent would not have been more than £10 per house. Within a short time, Mr. Welch demised his lease to a Dr. Butler at an improved ground rent of £370 per annum! It would be interesting to know who built Hazelwood and who was the architect. It was thought by some to be a very good example of domestic Italian architecture. Mr. Welch lived in the adjacent property known as Beaulieu which replaced his original house. He died in 1872. In 1879 a Mr. Toleman purchased Hazelwood from Dr. Butler and proposed to use it as a private hotel or club. Whether or not he was successful is not certain but in 1888 the United Kingdom Provident Institution purchased the leasehold interest and remained the leaseholders until 1920.

Shortly before the 1914-18 war the leaseholders proposed that a film company should take over the property, the greenhouses to be replaced by a theatre studio and the house to be used as a workshop, darkrooms and dressing rooms. The company proposed to use the grounds for scene shooting but not for the Wild West type of film! The freeholders however would not agree to the property being so used. Such use would have been a breach of the covenants restricting the use of the property to that of a private dwelling and cause nuisance and annoyance to other lessees in the vicinity. It was hoped someone could be found to occupy the property as a private dwelling. (An opinion was expressed that demolition and redevelopment in this part of Norwood promised little profit!).

The property was requisitioned during the 1914-18 war. In 1920 the leasehold interest was purchased by someone for £320! He proposed to spend £5,000 on the property to convert it into a private hotel. However he ran into financial difficulties and in 1921 he arranged for disabled soldiers to reside there under the auspices of the Surrey Guild for Disabled Soldiers and some 600 men occupied the property. The Guild hoped to be able to purchase the property and ran fetes in the grounds to raise funds. But the noise of the swings and roundabouts together with the nuisances caused by some of the soldiers brought many complaints from residents in the neighbourhood and the soldiers left. Quite a lot of wilful damage was done to the property both during the war and when occupied by the disabled soldiers, and also a lot of lead was stolen from the roofs. In 1922 the 1920 purchaser went bankrupt and the property reverted to the freeholders who arranged for the demolition of the house as it was in such a bad state of repair. The freeholders did succeed in recovering some dilapidations compensation from the Provident Institution!

R. McN. R.

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