The Bentleys 1900-1916

Algernon Royds Bentley and his wife Louisa Emily Percy (nee Lousada) purchased the Rectory from the Church in 1900 and renamed the house ‘Oxted Place’. Algernon was the son of John Bentley, a Magistrate, and Emma (nee Royds). Louisa’a father was Rev Percy Martindale Lousada who, despite being from a well known family of Sephardic Jews of Spanish descent, was a Church of England clergyman; he was also a keen photographer. A short biography can be found here. Percy Martindale died at the age of just 36 in 1859; a book of his sermons was published the year after he died.

Algernon owned the Elijah Eyre & Co brewery in Norfolk and was also the licensee of a number of premises including the Station Hotel in Kings Lynn. He sold the brewery the same year that he bought Oxted Place.

The Bentleys embarked on major refurbishment and extension to the house for which they engaged the architect Charles Marriott Oldrid Scott. C M O Scott was one of a number of architects produced by the Scott family (his cousin Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed Battersea Power Station and Liverpool cathedral). C M O Scott seems to have specialised in church restorations; he also designed Oxted’s ‘new’ rectory on East Hill. The modifications to the house included the addition of an east wing housing a billiard room, winter garden and morning room.

The billiard room (photographed in 1923)

 

As befits a brewery owner the billiard room displays a remarkable resemblance to a pub with extensive quirky carved decoration. The ceiling beams carry caricature carvings of the many workers in Algernon’s brewery while in the centre are more flattering likenesses of Algernon and Louisa who, apparently, was a great beauty.

Algernon
Louisa

 

Across the house’s southern elevation Scott added a dramatic columned portico which is shown on the 1923 photo which is the header to this website.

The view from the new portico
The south elevation of the extended house showing the portico with the winter garden on the right

 

A further improvement in 1902 was the installation of an hydraulic ram ( a Blake’s Hydram) to pump water from a spring up to a reservoir tank in the garden from where it then fed the house. Quite how the previous occupants managed without a piped water supply is unclear; presumably they must have carted it up to the house with a tank in a horse drawn cart. The hydraulic ram served until 1969 when a mains water supply was installed. Blake’s Hydrams are still in production, their website is here.

Specification and instructions for the hydraulic ram
The hydraulic ram in action

The Bentleys also remodelled Oxted Place’s gardens and for this they engaged Joseph Cheal and Sons, landscape gardeners from Lowfield Heath near Gatwick. Today Cheal is best remembered for Cheal’s Weeping Cherry (of which there are two in the garden) and Cheal’s Scarlett Crab Apple but in the early 20th century his company was well known for garden designs, often working in the Arts and Crafts style. The gardens at Polesden Lacey and Hever Castle were both by J Cheal and Sons. Today most of Oxted Place’s garden remains as Cheal designed it.

Joseph Cheal V.M.H.
Cheal’s design for the gardens. The planting remains much as this plan

Algernon and Louisa had one child, Edward Frederick Bentley who was born in 1880. Algernon Royds Bentley died aged 59 on 2nd April 1914. Louisa then sold Oxted Place on 17 December 1915. Louisa died aged 79 in 1931.

Hampton & Sons 1915 advertisement for the sale of Oxted Place (bottom right)