St. Ann's Hill

From Hillfort to Country Park

Engraving of St Ann's Hill from Egham Hill by W.Woolnoth after J.Hakewill, 1820

Engraving of St Ann's Hill from Egham Hill by W.Woolnoth after J.Hakewill, 1820

St. Ann’s Hill is a prominent feature on the landscape of Chertsey. Historical evidence shows that it has been used by humans since prehistoric times, although little in the way of objects has been discovered. It was originally known as Mount Eldebury or Oldbury Hill. However, with the building of a small chapel dedicated to St. Anne in the 14th century, it acquired its current name – variously written as St. Ann or St. Anne.

This exhibition seeks to tell the story of some of the people and buildings that have shaped St. Ann's Hill.

Iron Age Hillfort

Late Bronze Age socketed and pegged spearhead found on St Ann's Hill

Late Bronze Age socketed and pegged spearhead found on St Ann's Hill

Situated a mile to the north west of the town, it rises out of the Thames Valley to a height of 240 feet (69 metres). Roughly 16 feet (5 metres) from the top of the hill was an oval, univallate Iron Age hillfort enclosing an area of approximately 11 acres. The hill has been the subject of much debate over the years as locals and archaeologists speculate about the importance of the earthworks discovered there. In 1814 Manwaring Shurlock suggested that the defensive earthworks dated from a fort from 12,000 to 3,000 BC (Mesolithic). However, due to the continued use of the hill throughout history the ground has been heavily disturbed and so much of the hillfort is incomplete.

The terms univallate and multivallate indicates whether a fort has more than one defensive line of external ditches. At St. Ann’s Hill, the site mostly has a single line of defences comprising a main bank and an external ditch with an outer counterscarp bank. The best preserved earthworks can be found on the western side where the inner bank reaches a height of 3 feet (1 metre) and a width of 46 feet (14m). Here the ditch, despite being partly  lled over the years, is still over 2 feet deep (0.7m).

In the south-east section of the fort there are signs that there might have been a second, outer rampart. Today, it has been breached by many footpaths. This, combined with the destruction caused by sand and gravel quarrying prior to the 19th century, makes it difficult to say with any certainty, how the hill was used during prehistoric times.

In the early part of the 1990s Surrey County Archaeological Unit conducted a partial excavation, concentrating on two areas; the north-west ramparts and the interior of the fort to the south-east. This investigation established that the ramparts were constructed in two phases. During the first a ditch was dug with the soil dumped to make an internal bank. Later the ditch was re-cut to deepen and the spoil was added to the bank. Investigations in the interior uncovered Mesolithic worked flints, indicating that the site was in use between 10,000 and 6,000 years ago. As well as flints, 53 prehistoric features were uncovered leading archaeologists to surmise that there had been intensive settlement on the hill. Post-holes pits, bean slots and ditches overlapped each other indicating at least three different building phases.

Archaeologists have not uncovered any obvious entrances, although it is most likely that there was only one entrance, at the south-east corner in the area now largely destroyed by the Dingle quarry. The Dingle is not the only quarry on the hill; there is evidence of at least a further three, all of which cut into and destroyed the fort. This southern area, close to the modern car park entrance, was part of the hill most densely occupied during the early Iron Age.

During the 1990/91 excavation very few finds were unearthed. Removing between 30 and 50cms of soil from the interior site revealed the natural gravels and the prehistoric ground and 42 post-holes which had been filled in during the early medieval period. In total, 768 prehistoric pottery sherds were recovered from the trench, together with many hundreds of flint waste flakes and a few flint implements. The lack of artefacts uncovered from the rampart trench means there is no dating evidence for the hillfort earthworks. 

Hillforts served many different functions. They were citadels, tribal centres, market places for buying and selling produce and goods, and status symbols. It is not known which, or how many of these St. Ann’s fulfilled. It is possible that the hillfort was part of a network of medium sized univallate forts in the area which includes St. George’s Hill, Weybridge; Caesar’s Camp, Easthampstead; and Caesar’s Camp, Wimbledon Common. Alas, centuries of planting, terracing, building and quarrying have left their mark on the landscape, but despite this, the hill is still an important historic relic and as such is designated as a scheduled monument by Historic England.

People Who Shaped the HIll

Ownership of the hill has changed hands many times over the years and records are confusing. There is often no distinction between the various parcels of land involved with the name St Ann’s Hill. It has been used to refer to the park, the house, a farm and the general area. Similarly, there are many references to “the cottage” which is a term that was used to describe the house before it was extended, the cottage on the summit, as well as the cottage at the foot of the hill near The Golden Grove public house.

In the summer of 1334 Orleton, Bishop of Winchester granted Abbot John de Rutherwyk permission to build a chapel on the summit of the hill. It was dedicated to St. Anne, giving the landmark its name. The following year he granted 40 days of indulgences, “remission before God for punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven”, to any person who repaired or added to the fabric or ornaments of the chapel. Just over a century later, Henry VI granted a fair to be held on the hill to mark the feast of St. Anne, 26th July. The fair was held there until the dissolution of the abbey, after which it was held in the town on the 6th August. This event is now celebrated every year on the second Saturday of July when the town comes together to celebrate Black Cherry Fair.

The building of the chapel was not the first act of destruction of the Iron Age hillfort, as the area was already in use by the monks of Chertsey Abbey. A Papal Bull of 1258 lists amongst the tithes payable those from “the vineyards on St. Anne’s Hill”. These vines were grown on the south-western slope on terraces cut into the hillfort embankment. The small building, which by the 17th century had long since disappeared, was located near to a natural spring, which is known as St. Anne’s Well or Nun’s Well. It was said to have medicinal properties, particularly when it comes to eye complaints, however the water is now muddy so it’s not recommended! There is a second spring, Monk’s Well, on the hill which is marked by a large slab of stone. Legend has it that this is the grave of a monk from Chertsey Abbey containing hidden treasure. Unfortunately excavations have revealed neither a monk nor his treasure!

The St Ann’s Hill Estate was part of the Manor of Chertsey Beomond. During the 16th century the estate was owned by Laurence Tomson, secretary of state to Queen Elizabeth I. Initially he retired from politics to Laleham whilst he had the first house built on the hill, which he lived in until his death in 1609. It is said that he built the house out of the ruins of the chapel. After Tomson the hill was home to Barbara Palmer, Duchess of Cleveland, and at some point it was the property of the Duke of Bedford, who had Tomson’s house rebuilt. By the mid 17th century Henry, Lord Holland was Steward of the Manor of Chertsey Beomond and therefore responsible for the hill, although in 1728 it was listed as belonging to  Catherine Barton. By 1732 the house and the hill were occupied by Lord John Trevor, Speaker of the House of Commons, before his widow surrendered it to Lord Charles Spencer in 1769. He, as the Duke of Marlborough, sold the hill in 1785 to its most famous resident, Mrs Armistead, who lived there with Charles James Fox, Britain’s First Foreign Secretary.

Charles James Fox 1749 - 1806

Engraving of Charles James Fox, after a drawing by Charles Turner, 1808

Engraving of Charles James Fox, after a drawing by Charles Turner, 1808

Charles James Fox was born on 24th January 1749, the 3rd son of Henry Fox, 1st Lord Holland and Lady Caroline Lennox, eldest daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond. As a child he was always very close to his father who over indulged him in everything. By the age of 15 Fox was living an independent existence in London, with no external constraints to his lifestyle. During a two year Grand Tour of Europe (1766-1768) Fox invented an alter-ego whom he named “Carlino” and to whom he attributed all the excesses of his lifestyle, to absolve himself of any guilt he might have felt about his gambling and womanising. It was during this time that Fox acquired experiences, friendships and a sense of fashion that, when he returned to London, marked him out as a man of the world. By the age of 25 years Charles was one of London’s leading ‘Macaronis’ or dandies, infamous for their tight fitting and oddly-cut clothes. The Macaronis formed in London in 1764 and members were generally frowned upon by the English establishment as being overly flamboyant and incredibly vain.

Charles James Fox entered politics when his father bought him the seat of Midhurst, in Sussex, in 1769, and being a member of parliament gave Charles access to all that London society had to offer. Within three years he had amassed £20,000 of gambling debts, which his father paid off, only for him to run up a further £140,000 (the equivalent today of £12.5 million) within the next two years. This time it was his friends who bailed him out; such was the charisma, personality and standing of Charles James Fox. Even in an age of excess Fox’s financial situation raised a few eyebrows, but it did not prevent his rapid political climb. He was only 21 years old when he was appointed a junior lord of the admiralty, although he resigned two years later in opposition to the Royal Marriage Act which George III wanted passed to prevent royals marrying without the consent of the King. From this point forward there would be out and out war between Fox and his King, both relishing every opportunity to undermine the other. Fox was heralded as the “man of the people” with his strong support for American independence, the French revolution, parliamentary reform and the abolition of slavery; however, due to the feud with the King, he spent most of his political life out of office. In 1782 he became Britain’s first Foreign Secretary, although he resigned four months later.

It was a position he held on two further occasions, in 1783 and shortly before his death in 1806, but all three were short lived. Charles James Fox never gave his life to politics, it was always an aside that prevented him from spending more time gambling, womanising, socialising and in later years, kept him from being at St. Ann’s Hill. His private secretary, Bernard Trotter, wrote, “Here Mr Fox was the tranquil and happy possessor of about thirty acres of land, and the inmate of a small but pleasant mansion.” Charles came to love the country lifestyle at Chertsey, and was increasingly annoyed if politics interfered with his time there. He became more and more interested in caring for the land, learning about planting requirements, soil types and even taking on the responsibility of sheep rearing on the Hill. He also added new buildings to the estate, most noticeably the Temple of Friendship which was erected in 1794 to commemorate the coming of age of his nephew, the 3rd Baron Holland.

Domestic life turned Fox from the gambling, womanising dandy that had been seen lurching out of many a London club in the early hours of the morning, to a man who spent his time reading ancient Greek and Latin, writing history, and entertaining shooting parties. The daily routine of life at St. Ann’s Hill was documented by Trotter. In summer, the Foxes would rise in the morning between six and seven, and in winter they were always up by 8 am. At breakfast, Fox would read the newspaper aloud, and when finished he would spend the rest of the morning studying literature, reading Italian authors and Greek poetry in particular. At 2.30 pm or 3 pm (or 4 pm in winter) Charles and Elizabeth would have a “frugal but plentiful dinner” with a few glasses of wine followed by coffee and a long walk if weather permitted. Then at tea time Fox would read aloud, from history, continuing until nearly 10pm when they would dine on a supper of fruit, pastry or something similarly light before retiring to bed at 10.30pm.

From 1802 onwards Fox suffered intermittently with serious illness, and from late 1805 this made participation in politics difficult, right at the time when he was preparing to return to office. After making a passionate speech in favour of the Abolition of the Slave Trade bill in the House of Commons on 10th June 1806, Fox was taken ill with dropsy and never recovered. He died on 13th September that year, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Mrs. Armistead 1750 - 1842

Copy of an engraving of Mrs. Fox, (previously Mrs Armestead) from an engraving after the portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 19th century after 18th century original

Copy of an engraving of Mrs. Fox, (previously Mrs Armistead) from an engraving after the portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 19th century after 18th century original

Elizabeth, or Mrs Armistead, was one of a number of 18th century courtesans, who had at one time been linked to the Prince of Wales. It was he who, in 1782, introduced Mrs Armistead to Charles James Fox, and a year later they began their relationship which would last 24 years until the death of Fox. Elizabeth Bridget Cane was born on 11th July 1750, but little else is known about her parentage or where she grew up. In fact, there is practically no information about her until she reached her mid-thirties. Neither are there any clues as to why she chose to be called Mrs. Armistead. It is not known which London brothel she originally worked in, but she came in to contact with some very high powered clients, and it was Lord Bollingbroke who released her from this tie and set her on her new and very lucrative career path as a courtesan.

From 1781 Elizabeth leased the house on St. Ann’s Hill from the Duke of Marlborough, and it was she who introduced Fox to the joys of Surrey life when he and Lord Holland were invited to join her on the hill for the spring of 1783. The house itself was considered quite modest for the times, and the layout has been described as dark and pokey, but it benefited from a charming location. The house sat in 90 acres of land of which 2/3 of the pasture and arable slopes were sub-let to a local farmer. The area around the house was maintained as a garden and woodland, although much of the planting was done when the house was inherited by Lord and Lady Holland.

By 1784 St. Ann’s Hill had become Mrs. Armistead’s primary residence, and she loved to spend the spring and summer months in Chertsey studying the bird life and flowers that grew on the hill. A local record of the early part of the 19th century describes the estate as “a very interesting and beautiful place, both on account of the extensive prospects obtained from the house, and the taste for picturesque beauty and rare plants displayed by Mrs Fox in laying out the grounds. Among the trees are some fine cedars; one was brought as a small plant from Lee’s Nursery, and after thirty years’ growth has attained a circumference of five feet at the surface of the ground.”

In 1785 Elizabeth, rather than Fox purchased the house from the Duke of Marlborough for £2,000 although she immediately mortgaged it back to him at £100 a year interest. It is likely that Fox’s debts prohibited him from purchasing St Ann’s Hill himself, however, on his marriage to Elizabeth ten years later, the property became his by law. At the time of purchase, both Charles and Elizabeth maintained other properties in London, but their hearts belonged in Chertsey.

After Fox’s death in September 1806, Elizabeth continued to live on the hill, and was a regular sight in the town as she took extended walks over to Laleham and back. The announcement of her marriage legitimised her status, and so Mrs Fox was able to receive aristocratic friends who would not otherwise have been able to visit. She financed a small school in Ruxbury Road, and every May Day the pupils would visit the house bringing with them garlands of flowers. With only a modest fixed income, Mrs. Fox struggled financially and was forced to sell off parcels of land, but she continued to support the school and other local charities.

An account from the Royal Horticultural Society from 1837 states that Mrs. Fox’s estate had “numerous and diversified” walks, a pleasure ground with several buildings, a “glass-fronted house” which contained her prized collection of plants including the “finest specimens of Camellias, in tubs, ever seen”, as well as a fine Tuxodium distichum, or bald Cypress, on the lawn that stood 30ft tall. Praise was given to Mr. Tucker who had been the estate’s gardener for the past 30 years, who had clearly done much to landscape and enhance the site, but sadly at a cost. With each flower bed dug, each new shelter and summer house, a little more of the hillfort was destroyed.

In the later years of her life Mrs Fox continued to entertain as “the Lady of the Hill”, as Fox had called her, but was increasingly fragile. She died on 8th July 1842, and is buried in St. Peter’s Churchyard. The people of Chertsey turned out in force as a mark of respect for their benefactress and neighbour. On her last journey in to Chertsey, Elizabeth Fox’s coffin was met at the foot of St. Ann’s Hill by some forty tradesmen from the town, dressed in deep mourning, who walked behind the coffin through the town to the church.

Lady Mary Augusta Holland 1812-1889

Copy of a portrait of Mary Augusta Lady Holland by G.F. Watts circa 1843-3 from the Royal Collection

Copy of a portrait of Mary Augusta Lady Holland by G.F. Watts circa 1843-3 from the Royal Collection

Mary Augusta Fox, wife of Henry Edward Fox, 4th Baron Holland, the great nephew of Charles James Fox, was the daughter of the 8th Earl of Coventry. They married in 1833 and spent most of their life in Italy where her husband was British Minister in Florence and later in Naples. On his engagement to Mary Augusta, or Gussie as she was affectionately known, Holland wrote to his mother
describing her as petite, with a very beautiful face – especially her eyes – but with a bad figure and an even worse sense of dress. He commented that “she doesn’t possess a single gown or chiffon of any sort that I do not look forward to burning with great complacency”. Augusta was intelligent, and well educated and quickly learned what was expected of her as Lady Holland. Soon Casa Feroni was the most fashionable home in Florence, one that all visitors longed to be invited to. It was whilst in Italy that Lady Holland converted to Catholicism, and on returning to England after the death of Lord Holland in 1859, she had built a private chapel so she could continue worshipping.

Lady Holland’s residence on the hill marks a time of numerous changes and additions to the park. Most noticeably was the building of Holland Chapel and the cottage next to it which housed Father Cumberbatch, her private Chaplain, and a cottage on the summit of the hill built for her estate keeper. However, she also added a summer-house to the hill summit which contained a large rustic table with seating, and had Italian wall tiles of St. Anne with the Virgin and Child. Above this was the Holland coat of arms, and below, his motto: Vitam impendere verso – Stake life upon the Truth. Lady Holland was also responsible for the installation of new gates and railings at the public entrance to the park, opposite the house, as well as the planting of many specimen trees such as the Redwoods which still top the hill today.

Lady Holland died in 1889 and in accordance with her last wishes; was interred in Holland Chapel at the foot of the hill.

Chertsey Volunteer Rifle Corps.

Chertsey Volunteers (15th Surrey Rifle Volunteers), c. 1870.

Chertsey Volunteers (15th Surrey Rifle Volunteers), c. 1870.

At the beginning of the 19th century Britain was at war with France and the threat of invasion was keenly felt. In response to this, volunteer forces were established across the south east of England, and at Chertsey the men met at St. Ann’s Hill. An area known as “the butt” is mentioned in newspaper articles as being the place where the Chertsey Volunteers practiced drilling and shooting, and there was also a rifle-range on the Thorpe/Virginia Water side of the hill.

The hill was used by the corps long after the end of the Napoleonic Wars until c.1870. It is not known exactly where “the butt” was, but the most likely location is the area known as The Dingle. This had previously been a sandpit, used by the town’s foundries when casting ironworks and church bells. Subsequently abandoned, the extraction left a huge depression on the south slope of the hill which had been grassed and landscaped during the time of Lady Holland. According to the Windsor & Eton Express, in early October 1860 the corps held their first annual prize contest on the hill. They convened at their headquarters at the Town Hall early in the morning, and marched to “the butt at the back of St. Ann’s Hill, when, after placing signal flags and posting sentinels, the shooting commenced”. The winner of the competition, Joseph Hunt, was awarded with a new rifle whilst second and third place received silver tankards. In total there were 29 men competing with rounds shot at 200, 300, 400 and 600 yards. At the end of the day, which included a competition for honorary members, everyone retired to the Crown Hotel to enjoy a celebratory dinner.

Sir William Berry 1879-1954

The hill remained in the Holland family until July 1925 when Stephen Powys, Lord Lilford the great-great-great nephew of Fox, auctioned the estate. Approximately 20 acres of land was bought by the West Surrey Water Society to add to an area it already owned on the summit where they had built a reservoir.

Concerns were raised locally that, after more than a century of public access, visitors would be banned. Local resident Sir William Berry purchased more than 16 acres of the land from the Water Society together with a further seven acres, and presented them both to Chertsey Urban District Council for use as a public recreation ground.

Sir William Berry had made his fortune during the Great War publishing The War Illustrated magazine. He and his brother then purchased The Sunday Times, the Financial Times, and later, the Daily Telegraph. The newspaper magnate lived at Barrow Hills and when elevated to the peerage in 1929 chose the name Lord Camrose of Longcross. As a local resident he knew how important St. Ann’s Hill was to the people of Chertsey, and he financed further improvements to the park. Areas of shrubbery were cleared to open up vistas across the Thames, and additional landscaping took place. Under the supervision of renowned landscape gardener, Percy Cane, a terrace with a stone balustrade was added, along with further seats, so that it was ready to be officially handed over by Lady Berry on 13th June, 1928. The ceremony included a speech by Neville Chamberlain, the then Minister for Health. Today the hill is cared for by Runnymede Borough Council who, together with Historic England and the Surrey Wildlife Trust, ensures the historic and environmental importance of the site is maintained whilst ensuring Berry’s vision of a public recreation space continues. The hill is home to a wide range of habitats from broadleaved woodlands to open grassland, and even open water, so it is a complex site to care for. All of this sits on top of a scheduled monument. The plantations created by Mrs Fox and her successors are in danger of crowding out the native species, and the badgers, bats and stag beetles that live there are in need of protection. There is a fine balance between nature and accessibility, an equilibrium that RBC seeks to sustain.

Buildings on the Hill

St Ann's Hill

watercolour of St Ann's Hill by J. Hassell, 1822

watercolour of St Ann's Hill by J. Hassell, 1822

The name St. Ann’s Hill, or St. Anne’s Hill as it has also been called, has been used to refer to the area, the recreation ground or park as well as the original house. There have been at least three country residences on this spot, the second being the home of Charles James Fox.

Fox’s house was very modest compared with its grander neighbours of Ottershaw Park, Foxhills or Botley’s. However, all commentators agreed that what it lacked in space it more than made up for in location. Bernard Trotter noted, “St. Ann’s
Hill is delightfully situated, it commands a rich and extensive prospect; the house is embowered in trees resting on the side of a hill, its grounds declining gracefully to a road which bounds them. Some fine trees are grouped round the house, and these remarkable beautiful ones stand on the lawn, while a profusion of shrubs are distributed throughout with taste and judgement.” It was a home that Fox and Elizabeth loved dearly and longed to own themselves. In September 1784 Lady Sarah Napier, daughter of the Duke of Richmond, wrote in a letter to a friend that Fox was in want of money to buy St. Ann’s Hill; “he…comforts himself with Mrs Armistead, & all he seems to lament is the want of £2,000 for to buy the house at St Anne’s Hill which he longs for.”

The following year the pair was to have their wish, and they immediately started making alterations. Whilst Charles and Elizabeth stayed at Beomonds, where now Chertsey library stands, work took place on the hill. The house was extended and the summit landscaped. The poet Samuel Rogers later noted in his Recollections of the Table-Talk that St. Ann’s Hill was “a small low white house on the brow of a hill, commanding a semi-circular sweep, rich and woody… In the hall books and statues. The library on the first floor – small and unadorned – the books on open shelves. In the eating room a portrait of Lord Holland sitting, carefully painted by Reynolds; and of Lady Holland sitting, by Ramsey. Several good old pictures. In the garden a handsome architectural greenhouse, and a temple… containing busts of Charles J. Fox, Lord Holland, and a son of Lord Bolingbroke, all by Nollekens. The garden laid out in open and shrubbery walks, trees breaking the prospect everywhere… There is a terrace walk, thickly planted, to a neat farmhouse; in which there is a tearoom, the chimney-piece relieved with a Fox. The drawing-room prettily furnished with pink silk in the panels, enclosed with an ebony bead, and a frame of blue silk.”

Further improvements were undertaken by the Foxes in the last few years of Charles’s life. In 1794 the garden was redesigned by the Hon. Charles Hamilton of Painshill, and part of the new scheme included the construction of a grotto and teahouse. This became a favourite place for Charles and Elizabeth to take tea and entertain friends. The teahouse was a two-storey building which was open on the north, east and south sides. The interior of the ground floor, the grotto, was decorated with spar, tufa and shells which were brought down from the ceiling to imitate stalactites in a cave. The first floor, reached by a curved stairway on the west wall, opened up onto a small room with a fireplace and a balcony overlooking the newly landscaped gardens. The tearoom was still in reasonable condition in the 1930s but has unfortunately been reduced to a ruin by vandalism.

Further source note that the house was “rebuilt” in the early 1820s so that by the time it was auctioned in 1925 the sale particulars list four reception rooms, sixteen bedrooms and two bathrooms together with running water, gas and a telephone. Unfortunately by this time the house itself was in need of major work, and instead of repairing it the new owner demolished it, replacing it with St. Ann’s Court.

St Ann's Court

St Ann's Court

St Ann's Court

St. Ann’s Court was designed in 1936 by architect Sir Raymond McGrath, who also designed the interiors of BBC Broadcasting House in Portland Place, London. He worked in conjunction with the noted garden designer Christopher  Tunnard. McGrath described it as his “most ambitious piece of domestic architecture in England, looking like a big round cheese with a slice cut out of it facing south for the
sunlight to enter”.

Canadian born Tunnard moved to England in 1929 and worked for Percy Cane, who landscaped the hill for Sir William Berry in preparation for it to be given to the town as a recreational space. St. Ann’s Court consists of the modernist Round House and a 19th century coach house, set within 8 acres of redesigned 18th century gardens. The house itself is one of the finest surviving examples of 1930s interiors, with sweeping staircases and a circular living room decorated with walnut wood and copper pillars. The master bedroom has a balcony overlooking the gardens over which is trained a 200 year old wisteria, planted by Charles and Elizabeth.

St. Ann’s Court was commissioned by stockbroker Gerald Schlesinger, the partner of Christopher Tunnard. They briefly lived in the house together, at a time when homosexuality was still illegal. To guard against prosecution, their bedroom was designed with a sliding partition that divided the room to make two completely separate spaces. In 1939 Tunnard took up a position at the Harvard Graduate School and emigrated to the United States where he remained until his death in 1979.

Gerald stayed on in Chertsey, living on his own at St. Ann’s Court. In 1940 local school boys became convinced that Schlesinger was signalling to German planes from the top of the hill, and taunted him and vandalised the property. He was so harassed that Schlesinger sent a letter to the local newspaper stating that not only was he a British citizen, despite his German name, but he had been decorated in the First World War when he had flown in the RAF.

In more recent times part of the coach house has been converted into a recording studio by then owner Phil Manzanera, lead guitarist with Roxy Music and music producer, with his band and other artists such as Paul Weller and David Gilmour recording there. Despite the replacement of Fox’s house a number of 18th century features still exist within the grounds of the private residence. A surviving cedar tree, the kitchen gardens, the expansive lawns, a small lake and the ruins of Fox’s teahouse still remain.

Holland House & Chapel

Holland House c.1930s

Holland House, St. Ann's Hill, c.1930s

At the foot of the hill, Holland Chapel is the last resting place of Lady Mary Augusta Holland. It appears that the Hollands initially had a property on the hill known as Holland House. Details are very vague, but it appears that between at least 1840 and 1889, this building stood on the plot of land later occupied by Ruxbury House. However, by the time the widowed Lady Holland returned from living in Italy she had inherited Fox’s old home. During the latter years of her life St. Ann’s Hill became her main residence, and she would walk down through the park to celebrate Mass in the chapel she had built.

Lord and Lady Holland had converted to  Catholicism in 1850, however, at the time there were no Catholic churches in the town. Initially Lady Holland used a room in Holland House as a place of worship; before the chapel dedicated to St. Ann was build. In 1860 the retired Rector of Weybridge, Father Charles Camberbach became Lady Holland’s private chaplain and moved into Holland Cottage, a residence she had built for him next to the chapel.

Until 1898 the chapel was the only place for Catholic worship in Chertsey, despite there being many French and Italians living in the area, and so Mary Augusta opened the chapel for them to worship there too. The chapel is still standing but is no longer open to the public.

Reservoir Cottage

Reservoir Cottage, 1975

Reservoir Cottage, 1975

At the summit of St Ann’s Hill is a small, Swiss chalet style building which stands on the site of the 14th century chapel that gave the hill its name. Formerly known simply as “the Cottage”, or “Keeper’s Cottage” it is now known as Reservoir
Cottage. It was originally built by Lady Holland as the residence of her grounds keeper or estate manager in c.1860. It sits on land that was acquired by the West Surrey Water Society in the 1920s, who built the reservoir which gives it its name.

By the 1970s the building was virtually derelict, and was bought by Runnymede Borough Council in 1975. RBC still owns the cottage which is rented to private individuals.