Page 3 of 3
When Henry VIII acquired the manor of Cuddington in 1538 for his new palace of Nonsuch, he turned the whole of the manorial land into a royal park, divided in two by the London Road, the smaller area south and east of the road being the Little Park, that on the north and west the Great Park. Stoneleigh lies largely within the area of this. Its boundary ran from about the Organ, approximately along the line of the by-pass to the railway, then along the line of the back fences of the west side of Walsingham Gardens and the boundary of Auriol Park to Worcester Park Road, which it followed to Worcester Park, along Malden Lane and across to the boundary in London Road. The land to the west of the line, over which ran the Kingston Road, was in Ewell. The park pale consisted of a ditch and bank surrounded by a fence. Parts of the former still existed until recently, and probably still do. There were gates at various points; there is a drawing of one at the boundary on the London Road on a plan of c.1550 and there was probably another at the Organ.
The park was a hunting area for the king, and was kept well stocked with deer. A court official was appointed Keeper of the Great Park, with a house, the Keeper’s House, at the northern end of the park. In 1606 James I appointed the Earl of Worcester Keeper of the Great Park; this led to the park being known as Worcester Park and the house as Worcester House. This was not on the present Worcester Park House site, but at Worcester Court, opposite the junction of The Avenue and Royal Avenue.
After the Civil War and the execution of Charles I, the Great Park was sold to Col. Thomas Pride, of “Pride’s Purge” of parliament, who died at Worcester House in 1658. At the Restoration in 1660 the park reverted to the Crown, and was leased to Sir Robert Long, Chancellor of the Exchequer. By this time it was no longer a park; trees had been felled, the deer disposed of, and the land turned over to agricultural use. In 1671 Charles II gave Nonsuch to Lady Castlemaine, who pulled down the palace and left to the land to her son the Duke of Grafton, who sold the parks in 1731. The land was owned for many years by the Taylor family, who pulled down the old Worcester House and built a new one on the present Worcester Park House site in 1797.
What of the land before Henry VIII cast his eye on it? The Manor of Cuddington, like its neighbours, was long and narrow, more less north and south, the village in the middle, most of the arable land on the better ground to the south, the northern half being mostly common and waste. Some cultivated furlongs can, however, be identified in our area. Alongside the London Road, running down the hill, were three, called the Upper, Middle and Nether Wetlonds; between Briarwood Road and the by-pass was another called Otbreche. Along the boundary, in the Walsingham Gardens area, three more: Stetemede, Stanecrofte and Heghcrofte, with Gubby, Heymede, Tounacre and Trottesworth to the east. Beyond, and stretching into Malden, was the Common of Sparfield, remembered today as Sparrow Farm.
West of the boundary, all the way from the railway, was in the Manor of Ewell, and was party of the Common of Ewell, the East Heath, with the Kingston Road running through it. It remained common land until the Enclosure Act of 1802, when it was turned into fields.
We have traced our story back pretty well as far as domesday. Perhaps we can leave it there. It is the sotry of an ordinary piece of English countryside, not very important, by-passed by the great events of history, slow to change until it was suddenly swamped by progress.
We have houses to live in, all modern conveniences, a better life; but the green and pleasant countryside has gone forever.