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Part 3: Shedden to the National Coal Board

On the Ordnance Survey map of 1907 -1923 (see Figure 6 below) Elvington House has now changed name to Elvington Court. Use of the name Elvington Court, as opposed to Elvington House, seems to coincide with the arrival of Capt. Graham Eden Shedden, some time between 1898 and 1900. Newspaper references, to Elvington Court, relating to hunt meetings, start in 1899. One possibility is that Graham Shedden decided to use Elvington Court as a name to avoid any confusion amongst his acquaintances as to his whereabouts as there was an already an Elvington House on the Isle of Wight, where he also had a residence at Millfield, East Cowes.
Graham Eden Shedden had married Margaret Gater in 1892 and at that time he was a Captain in the Hampshire Carabiniers Yeomanry. They had two children, Harold Roscow Graham Shedden (1899-1974) and George Eden Graham Shedden (1901-1977). The second son was definitely born at Elvington Court (January 13th 1901), the first son might have been also.
In March 1899, Graham Eden Shedden was asked to become President of Waldershare Cricket club in place of Julian Sturgis. The Earl of Guilford was re-elected Captain at the same meeting.
Graham Shedden appears to have been a very active huntsman and Elvington Court was frequently used as a meeting point for hunts, his home made sloe gin being an especially appreciated refreshment at a meeting of 2nd March 1900. Both the West Street Harriers and the East Kent Foxhounds regularly met there. On the occasion of the Earl of Guilford’s wedding in 1901, the Shedden’s gifted the newly weds a pair of silver candlesticks for a piano, which was probably of more utility to the couple than the five volume history of the Royal Navy gifted by Mr W. Pugin Thornton. (June 1901).
He also allowed the grounds of his house to be used for village events. Hence a “Sunday School treat in connection with Eythorne Church took place at Elvington Court on July 3rd 1907” and the Shedden’s put their “Lovely grounds at the disposal of the Primrose League fete” also in July 1907.
During his time in Eythorne, Graham Shedden a was District Councillor (for Eythorne) of Eastry Rural District Council, a Guardian of Eastry Union (workhouse) and a Parish Councillor for Eythorne. He also sat on various hunt and farming committees and chaired the committee that put on the Eythorne celebrations for the coronation of Edward VII and Alexandra in 1902.
In March 1908 it was announced that “Mr & Mrs Shedden, having let Elvington Court Eythorne are returning to Millfield, East Cowes, their residence on the Isle of Wight early in April”. Graham Shedden resigned from all the positions he held in April. An auction held of furniture and effects of Elvington Court (bedsteads, bedding, wardrobes, writing tables, settee, high quality furniture etc) was held 9th April 1908. An auction of “the live and dead stock” and outdoor effects had been undertaken earlier in March.
In Late April (24th) 1908, Eythorne Parish Council (Mr Amos Chairman) agreed that “a letter should be sent to Mr G.E. Shedden expressing regret at his and his wife’s departure from Eythorne, where they had resided at Elvington Court for over ten years”.


Elvington Court after Graham Shedden
It’s not known whether Graham Shedden sold Elvington Court or continued to own it but let it out after his departure in April 1908 but by November of that year it was occupied by Colonel John Hoysted and family. It is believed that John Hoysted was retired from the Royal Army Medical Corp but had still been employed by the army at a “station” in Derby prior to his move to Kent.
It was noted that “although they have only recently come to Elvington Court, Colonel and Mrs Hoysted and their daughters are very kindly giving to the school children and their parents a Christmas tea and entertainment this Saturday afternoon”, the 19th of December 1908. During the Hoysted’s tenure Elvington Court was still in use as a frequent meeting place of both the West Street Harriers and the East Kent Hunt and Mr Hoysted’s hospitality to the former was noted in November 1908 and again in December 1909.
In January 1909, not long after the Hoysted’s arrival, it was announced that “entertainment was given in Elvington Court Barn by several ladies and gentlemen who are in sympathy with the objectives of the Eythorne Rifle Club. The barn, which has recently been converted into a capital amateur theatre, was filled with an appreciative audience . The conversion of the barn into an entertainment venue suggests that the Hoysted’s may now have owned Elvington Court as it seems unlikely that they would spend the money on a leased property. The proceeds of the event were devoted to the new Eythorne Rifle Range which had been inaugurated by Colonel Hoysted. Colonel John Hoysted (1848-1929), Royal Army Medical Corp, was commissioned in September 1874 and had served in Perak (Malaysia) 1875-1876, Afghan 1878-1880 and Soudan (Sudan) 1885. He was born on 8th November1848 in Walterstown House, Kildon, County Kildare, and married Beatrice Alice Hatfield (1863-1942) in 1884. They had two daughters Phyllis (1885-1950) and Judith (1896-1966). Phyllis had received an excellent education, having been at a boarding school in Bexhill, Sussex (1901 census). In the 1911 census she was recorded as living with her parents in Elvington Court and was 26 and single.
Elvington Court Barn continued to be used for various entertainment in 1909 including when the Hoysted’s again gave a party and tea to the village children at Christmas on the 10th of December.
The milk from Elvington Court Dairy farm was frequently TB tested and supplied its milk to a creamery run by E Farley in Dover (see advert of 1911, Figure 5). Edwin Farley was an outstanding Dover Mayor and was later knighted.
Although Graham Shedden left Eythorne in April 1908, he retained an interest in the village. Thus during an Eythorne Parish Council meeting on proposals concerning “East Kent Mineral Light Railways” the chairman then produced a letter dissenting against the Light Railway Scheme from Mr Shedden of Millfield, East Cowes, Isle of Wight, dated June 19th 1910. He wrote as follows: “Dear Mr Amos, I see your Parish Meeting is going to consider the proposed Light Railways through the Eythorne district so I write as a landowner to say that I view this scheme with the greatest alarm as likely to spoil the peace of the neighbourhood and drive residents away. There seems no reason to take it through Elvington Court which would simply ruin it as a residential place. Surely they could plan their railway when they have found the coal strata in the mine and find it workable. But if a line has to be made surely there is plenty of room to take it without doing so much harm cutting up a pretty little place like Elvington Court. I have written to dissent and I hope your council will do the same as far as this is concerned. I am yours, very truly, Graham E. Shedden” The Chairman of Eythorne Parish Council (Mr Amos) said “he knew other dissenters as well and he thought the coal should be got and be ready to work before the light railways were attempted. His candid opinion was that he thought they should reach the coal before they (the Council) made any promise to let the lines go across their lands for the Light Railway”. Councillor Moody said “it would be 18 months or two years before negotiations were completed with the landowners and different parties and the railway was started at all”. This makes it clear that, despite moving to Millfield on the Isle of Wight, Graham Eden had retained interest in Eythorne and Elvington Court.
In May 1910, it was announced that the Dowager Georgina Countess of Guilford and her daughter, the Lady Muriel North, had left London and taken Elvington Court for the summer.
Elvington Court remained in the occupation of the Hoysted’s and the barn was still a place used for entertainment into 1914. They again gave a Christmas tea for the village children and parents, amounting to 250 people being seated overall in the barn. The eldest daughter of Colonel and Mrs Hoysted (Phyllis) had married Arthur L.T. Friend of the 7th Dragoon Guards in July of that year, the marriage being solemnised at Eythorne church.
Britain declared war on Germany on August 4th 1914. Following the example of many other districts all over the country, a National Volunteer Reserve was formed in connection with the parish of Eythorne as the result of a meeting held on Friday evening of October the 16th at Elvington Court . The President of the reserves was Colonel Hoysted who “kindly offered the use of his barn for drilling on wet evenings and his meadow for Sunday morning parades”. The report went on to say that “up to now no officers have been appointed” and that “drill nights are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and that the first drill night of the Eythorne National Volunteer Reserve would be on the 23rd October.
It is not certain when the Hoysted’s left Elvington Court but it seems likely in 1915 as there is no evidence for their presence in 1915 and neither does Elvington Court appear in the news. From his service record it seems that Colonel John Hoysted was employed by the army, when on Retired List at Norwich.


Elvington Court and the Colliery
In July 1916 it was announced that “Elvington Court (see Figure 7 for a picture of how it would have looked around this time) has been taken over by the Directors of the East Kent Colliery Company and is being converted into a boarding established”. At the start of August it was announced that the building was ready and at the end of August that it was “now in uses as quarters for single men operating the Kent Coalfields”. It could board about 100 men. It would seem that the actual ownership of Elvington Court was vested in a company called the “Elvington Court Extended Extension Ltd” and Elvington Court was then leased to the East Kent Colliery Company. I would imagine that the “Elvington Court Extended Extension Ltd” was set up by Kent Coal Concessions (which owned the mineral rights in East Kent between Canterbury and Dover) to keep the purchase off the books of its subsidiary, the East Kent Colliery Company, and hence keep it more financially attractive to investors. The East Kent Colliery Company was set up to run Tilmanstone Colliery after the company initially responsible, the Foncage Syndicate, ran into financial difficulties sometime just after 1906. Both the Foncage Syndicate and East Kent Colliery Company were under the control of Arthur Burr.
By June 1914 the East Kent Colliery Company was in the hands of receivers. Burr was dismissed and the shareholders rescued the company and took over the management and it is this group that progressed the acquisition of Elvington Court. When Burr was eventually made bankrupt in 1914 , the judge made several scathing comments about his activities and called him a rogue!
Elvington Court and some adjoining land, in all about 73 acres, was offered for sale (the property details have been posted in the group by Colin Varral previously) by auction in November 1923 by Mr Hinds (Auctioneers, S, Hinds and sons, in conjunction with Messrs Worsfold and Hayward) but when the bidding had reached £2300 he withdrew the Elvington Court lot and stated he had better offers for sale by treaty. The other offers Mr Hinds mentioned might have been real, or they might have a fabrication designed to attract a higher bid on the day, but either way Elvington Court was not sold and all the evidence supports it remaining in the hands of the Kent Coal Concessions. The lots of land adjoining were also withdrawn. It was announced that Lot 6 (2 acres, 2 roods, 16 perches) on the road from Lower to Upper Eythorne had been sold prior to the auction. Kent Coal Concessions, who ultimately owned Elvington Court, had also put other farms they had in their possession up for auction at the same time, suggesting they had serious financial issues and needed to convert assets into money quickly. It therefore comes as no surprise that the colliery was once again in the hands of the receivers during the 1926 General Strike. It was sold to Tilmanstone (Kent) Colliery Ltd. which was owned by Richard Tilden Smith.
Richard Tilden Smith (1865 – 18 December 1929) was a share underwriter turned industrialist, who made a fortune in mining in New South Wales and Western Australia and also had significant business interests in Britain. He has been described as benevolent capitalist.
The press reported in late (November and December) 1926 that “Elvington Court had been leased to Tilden Smith” and that he had started to have it converted into a residential club with accommodation for about 200 persons. Later accounts imply that events at this time were acts of benevolence by Tilden Smith, with him allowing property, which he owned to be developed as a hostel for miners and that “Adjacent to the property was a barn, which the owner, Richard Tilden Smith, allowed to become used as a sport and recreational facility for the miners and their families. The barn was converted by the miners themselves and at their own expense, which eventually had a seating capacity for 750 people to watch stage productions. Facilities included dressing rooms, electric lighting, heating and a dance floor”. The likely reality is that Elvington Court was never personally owned by Tilden Smith or was ever intended to be a home for him. As we have seen Elvington Court was a company asset purchased in 1916 by the East Kent Colliery Company specifically to provide accommodation for the miners. The Tilmanstone (Kent) Company would have acquired the existing lease agreement on Elvington Court when it acquired the East Kent Colliery Company. It is also highly probable that plans to expand the accommodation were already in place before Tilden Smith’s arrival but held in abeyance due to lack of funding by East Kent Colliery Ltd.
Regarding the suggestion that Elvington Court was a “home” for Tilden Smith, his actual home at this time was 13 Upper Brook Street in London, which he acquired in 1918. This was an exclusive and elegant house in London’s Mayfair district and surviving drawings by J. Hungerford Pollen for a ceiling, friezes and painted panels, suggest that quite elaborate interiors were included in the house. Tilden Smith worked from a building called Adelaide House, in London which he had built in 1925 on the bank of the Thames, adjacent to London Bridge. This housed his “National Metal and Chemical Bank company”. Tilden Smith’s expansive office was on the top floor and had a private roof garden with stunning views of the capital as it was the tallest office block in the city at that time. The garden covered two-thirds of an acre and featured an 18-hole putting course, telephone, rockeries, fruit trees and beehives.
As for the barn development, we already know that its conversion to a theatre and place of entertainment took place over 15 years earlier, in January 1909, during the occupation of Elvington Court by the Hoysted’s. That’s not to say that Tilden Smith didn’t facilitate further improvements in these facilities during his brief tenure.
The fate of Elvington Court from 1926 onwards is a bit muddy. It would seem that Elvington Court was acquired from the Elvington Court Extended Extension Ltd (confirming it wasn’t sold at the auction in 1923 or after) by Elvington Tenants Ltd, a body set up in 1926 by Eastry Rural District Council and Tilden Smith’s Tilmanstone (Kent) Colliery Ltd to oversee development of housing at Elvington. The new body also took over 25 houses that had already been built and also the “Elvington Institute”.
Tilden Smith died suddenly in 1929 in the House of Commons whilst attending a conference on coal. It has been written that Tilden Smith (and others) were of the view that it would be better, for reasons of child education, job opportunities on the occasion of redundancy, community harmony and so forth, if the miners were dispersed into the communities rather than grouped in miners villages and hence it is interesting to ponder how Elvington would have developed (or not) had he lived.
During World War II Elvington Court was used as a billet for troops.
Tilmanstone (Kent) Colliery disposed of its interest in Elvington Tenants Ltd in 1953 when it sold all its shares and debentures to Eastry Rural District Council. Eastry Council then acquired all the Elvington Properties and immediately dissolved Elvington Tenants Ltd. It is assumed that Elvington Court, however, was passed back to what would then have then by now been the National Coal Board as they put an area workshop and stores on the land at the rear of the building.
Regrettably, Elvington Court was demolished by the NCB, and the majority of its very long history lost. The exact date seem uncertain, but sometime in the 1950s seems a good assumption.
Only three buildings remain of the original Street End/Elvington House/Elvington Court estate. One is the main building of Woodpecker Court which is the old bailiff’s house. The Historic England listing for the building calls it a manor house (but would pales into insignificance compared with the main estate building had it survived) and goes on to say its early C18 and has two storeys and cellars with elliptical wall recesses. The other buildings that remain are a probable stable building and an ice house.

Vince Croud

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