The ‘Know Our Place’ Project #1: Knowing Whitehall

Mon 21/Nov/22

The ‘Know Our Place’ Project #1: Knowing Whitehall


Join us on a journey through Whitehall Historic House. Over a series of articles we’ll be delving into the ‘Know Our Place’ project, a 7 year endeavour to revitalise the home from the past in the heart of Cheam Village. We start with the ‘Knowing Whitehall’ stage, looking at how the building has connected Cheam’s heritage to its community.


Whitehall Sketch


Whitehall Historic House first came into being around 1500. A phrase like “500 year history” may easily fly over your head but (to put that into context), every week people walk by walls that witnessed everything between the ascension of Henry VIII to the throne, to the invention of the internet. Today you can make wooden floorboards creak, just as Queen Elizabeth I may have done (more on that later). Visitors can read the story of the building, and Cheam itself. From the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian details in the design, to the old village’s heralded pottery and farming exploits, to stories of Cheam men and women contributing to the first world war. Cheam’s history is at the heart of Whitehall’s story.

“I think it’s very much the history that this building provides to the local area. It tells a story of Cheam, and I think that’s something that you don’t really find in many areas. Especially in London nowadays, they don’t have that heritage’s really unique to this area, so I think that is something we should really cherish.” - Whitehall Historic House visitor


'Cheam Serves the Nation' display in Whitehall Historic House

'Cheam Serves the Nation' display in Whitehall Historic House


Despite its name, Whitehall Historic House wasn’t built as a house at all. Since the layout doesn’t fit with conventional house plans of the time it’s thought to have originally been a wool warehouse, due to the local farming land and wool having substantial economic value at the time. Over the following centuries the house would be extended and modified into the curious puzzle of rooms that have entertained mercenary philosophers, merchant captains and modern audiences.

Whitehall Historic House has a fabled brush with royalty. After Henry VIII constructed Nonsuch Palace (consequentially giving Cheam new relevance), Queen Elizabeth I is believed by some to have held an impromptu council meeting in the house. Speculation also suggests a royalist sympathiser around the time of King Charles I may have been an early occupant of the house. The word “remember” is imprinted on a door found in the attic, thought to be his final word before being beheaded in 1649 - and showing support for the executed King could have made the residents guilty of treason.


The door with "Remember" etched on the surface

The door with "Remember" etched on its surface


Of the many interesting characters to call Whitehall their home, James Boevey stands out with an illustrious career as a merchant, lawyer and owner of the former Royal Forest of Exmoor in Somerset (over 18,000 acres large). James lived in Whitehall from 1679, where rumours allege he may have used the gardens to illegally manufacture coins. During his life he’d written several works on the topic of “Active Philosophy” which could be seen as the 17th century equivalent to self-help literature - insights potentially gained due to being very well-travelled. James Boevey was as complex as he was intrepid.

The most recently known residents to live there were the Killick family. From 1742, it was owned by (and passed from) John Killick, to his son Captain James Killick, who co-founded ‘Killick Martin’, a Transportation & Logistics company that still operates today. It passed to James’s son William Killick, then to his daughters Charlotte and Harriet Killick who opened it up for student boarding for the local Cheam School. Their niece, Penelope Muller (née Noakes) lived in the house from 1882 and it eventually passed to her daughters, Susan Mary and Harriet Maud Muller. They passed it to their niece Doris Mills, where it was bought by Sutton Council in 1963. That’s 7 generations and over 200 years under the ownership of one family lineage.


Since then, with the help of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and a building refurbishment, Sutton Council’s Cultural Services host a range of events and activities to the modern public, which we’ll be talking about in the next article.



Find out more about Whitehall Historic House and book your place now to visit the building or attend an event.