Buildings of Cheam - Cheam Park House

Wed 21-Dec-22

Buildings of Cheam - Cheam Park House

By Imogen

 

 

In our previous article, we discussed how the building where Cheam School once was has nowadays been converted into a block of flats. In this article, we talk about Cheam Park House, a building that no longer exists at all.

 

Cheam Park House in 1928

 

Originally, the land where Cheam Park now is was divided among several owners, with most of it being farmland. There was a building to the north-west of the area, owned by someone named Bartlett, that served as the predecessor to Cheam Park House.

 

The enclosure map of the Cheam Park area, which shows the different owners of each section of land.

 

The house was first built in 1820 for a London tea merchant named Archdale Palmer. He and his wife had previously lived in London but had moved up to Cheam for a healthier lifestyle after six of their children died in infancy. Fortunately, they had another daughter after moving to Cheam who survived into adulthood. By 1842, the farm buildings that had originally been in the area had been demolished and the house had been expanded upon. The park around it was intended as “pleasure grounds” for the family.

 

The daughter of the Palmers gained ownership of the house after the demise of her parents, and her descendants continued to have this ownership. However, plenty of tenants stayed at the house during this period. First there was Isaac Carr and his wife, whose bodies are buried in St. Dunstan’s Churchyard. Next was the Durrant family, and then a Mr Souley. The next two tenants, Mr and Mrs Jacomb, even added a billiards room to the house.

 

From 1900, the tenants of the house were Mr and Mrs Bethell. Mr Bethell was the chairman of Cheam Parish Council and he lived until 1908. Mrs Bethell became highly involved in Cheam’s local life and even allowed village activities such as a may fair and maypole dancing in the house grounds. In 1920, she bought the house and park.

 

Cheam Park was created from the grounds of the house in 1937. There had been an agreement years back between Mrs Bethell and the Sutton and Cheam Council that she would sell the park to them, but this would not come into fruition until after she died. The council proceeded to turn the area into a public place for people to visit.

 

After Mrs Bethell’s death, there were no new tenants or people living in the house. Instead, it was used for various functions. Arguably the most notable function was as a place making gas masks from 1939 to 1940.

 

In 1944, the building was severely damaged by a flying bomb. It was demolished a year later, possibly because it would have been time-consuming and costly to rebuild it, especially given the economical situation in Britain after World War 2.

 

Currently, there is nothing that occupies the space where the building once was. The horseshoe-shaped drive remains, but as a pathway for people going through the park. On hot dry sunny days, the outlines of the house can be seen in the grass, giving you an idea of how big the rooms might have been.

 

Cheam Park, 2022. The sign in the background is next to the house’s original site.

Cheam Park Lodge, which was built in the early 19th century as a gatehouse to the manor, still stands today. However, the gates next to it have been removed.

 

If you are interested in learning more about the history of Cheam Village, join our Cheam Village - A Historic Walking Tour on 12th January, led by volunteer Geoff West.