Doddington Historic Buildings

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No.17 Gloucester House

Gloucester House September 2006The original buildings on this site consisted of two, 16th Century farm cottages for Down Court Manor (as it was then known).

The present kitchen and rooms above date from this time and are made of flint with hung tile above. The ceilings here are beamed, and until recently the walls were 'hare' plastered (similar to wattle and daub). There was also a brick and stone slab where milk and butter were left to cool.

In the 17th Century one of the cottages was pulled down and the one remaining enlarged to twice its size. In the 19th Century a third section was added and the whole building re-roofed.

When floor boards in the middle section of the house were taken up in recent years, the makers name and date - B Moreton 1787 - were found underneath. An old adze (tool) was also discovered.

Some time in the first half of the 19th Century the building became a school: Gloucester House Academy for young gentlemen. It would seem, however, that young gentlemen were in short supply as girls were later accepted! The school was then opened to tradesmen's sons and daughters in an effort to increase numbers. At this time the main school-room was a building in the garden which was destroyed by fire in the 1930's.

The school closed in approximately 1900 when the then headmaster retired. It was put up for sale as a going concern but, when the new headmaster arrived, all the pupils had gone. A Mr. Longhurst, who had previously taught at the school, had built himself a house in the village and had been persuaded by the parents of his ex-pupils to continue teaching them in this new building. He agreed; Doddington College, now Southdowns (Chequers Hill), was created.

Gloucester House was then on the market for a time until Mr and Mrs Leonard Smith bought it in 1902. They arranged for its modernisation and conversion to a family house, taking up residence in 1905. In addition, stables and living accommodation for a groom were built; the latter is now the bungalow at the front of the building (Hillcrest).

When Mr. and Mrs. Smith moved into Gloucester House all their possessions were drawn from Lenham railway station by horse carrier. On the way up Lenham Hill one of the horses dropped dead; six carriage horses, led along after the carts, were not allowed to assist in the pulling of the load. When the convoy reached the bottom of Dully Hill, then known as Stoney Hill, the carrier would not let the horses struggle any further. At that point the onlookers who had gathered to view the new arrivals were called into action - and all helped to carry the possessions up the hill. One of those helping was Fred Davies who, at the age of six years, was the youngest of eight children brought up in Primrose Place. He remembered carrying an oak carver chair up the hill on his head, and never let the family forget it!

The house remained in the Smith family until the death of Mr. Cyril Smith in 1995. The building has now been bought by a local doctor.

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