Beckenham Place.

The history of Beckenham has long been closely linked with that of the CATOR family who came to the district in the middle of the 18th. century from Ross on Wye, Herefordshire and soon became the leading land owners in Beckenham.

For some time before, the St. Johns owned the Manor of Beckenham and such lands as went with the Manor, including the grounds of Beckenham Place, prior to the sale of the Manor to John Cator in 1773. John Cator acquired Beckenham Place from Viscount Bolinbroke in 1773.

In talking about the Manor of Beckenham it must be remembered that the word 'manor' means the district over which the court of the Lord of the Manor had authority, and that 'manor-house’ is the house or seat belonging to a Manor.

John Cator had the Mansion, Beckenham Place, built in 1773. The portico was added in 1787 from Sir Gregory Page Turner’s mansion at Wricklemarsh Park, Blackheath. Cator had bought Wricklemarsh in 1783/84 for £22,500 when Turner was in financial difficulties.

John Cator represented Wallingford, Berkshire in 1774 and was a Sheriff of Kent in 1781. He was elected MP for Ipswich in 1784 but was unseated for bribery.

Among eminent persons who visited Beckenham Place as friends of John Cator were the celebrated Dr. Samuel Johnson, Linnaeus, the great botanist, the actor David Garrick and Hester and Henry Thrale, socialites from Streatham

The Mansion was leased out by the Cator family from about 1835 to a succession of tenants and in turn has been used as a Boys’ School from 1902 to 1905, a Sanatorium from 1905 to 1934 and then as the L.C.C. Golf House. The L.C.C. purchased the land in 1928 and in 1934 the Golf Course, which previously had been private, was made open to the public.

It is now the responsibility of the London Borough of Lewisham.


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  • It seems unlikely or impossible that Linnaeus ever visited beckenham place. Linnaeus only visit to England was in 1735/6 when he met Peter Collinson among others. Collinson writes to John Markham that Cator was begging him for plants from his Mill Hill garden in 1763.
    Somehow the connections got crossed. We would be pleased to see any other conclusive evidence but this seems to be a myth that has built up along with the Linnaeus / Blackheath connection which is often attributed to Putney Heath by biographers.

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  • We have discovered new information regarding the building date of the mansion and the unliklihood of linnaeus visiting, some information from the papers of cators father in law p. Collinson
    information on our website and we are in contact with pat manning who has been looking at our sources etc. Many of which are now on the internet

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  • Hi, Beckenham History We have been reviewing the histories of the park and following on from the work of Eric Inman, Pat Manning and before that Rob Copeland and Robert Borrowman we have discovered some material which they might not have had access to or may not have noticed some anomalies. Our website has been updated and we welcome any questions or information not noticed by us.
    The House has now been dated to 1760/62, The land of the park was mainly in Foxgrove Manor and passed through the hands of Jones Raymond and the Burrells before Cator acquired all of it. Maps in the British Library illustrate that Cator acquired th park in tranches probably from 1757 and up to the mid 1780's or even later. though the house most likely had a couple of major alterations it was described as a fine house by Peter Collinson in 1762.

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  • Maps in the British Library of Foxgrove Manor and Beckenham Manor show that nearly all of Beckenham Place was in Foxgrove Manor and none in Beckenham Manor. The maps are dated 1766, 1768 ad 1776. The plans illustrate that Cator owned part of the park prior to 1766 and his father in law states he built a fine house at Stumps Hill by 1762. Though some of the park land did not come into his possession until after 1777 as some fields were still owned by Amy Burrell. As he moved the road in 1785 we might assume he did not create his whole park until around that date. Land exchanges with the Burrells who had inherited Foxgrove Manor via Jones Raymond enabled the Burrells to become landlords of most of the area south of the High Street and the Cators mainly north of the High Street. Prior to 1780 Cator had acquired many plots of land south of the High Street presumably purchased in small lots but evidence is sketchy apart from the 1780 map of the Langley park area showing these divers ownerships between Cator and the Burrells. I would (naturally) recommend reading our updated history on which builds upon the previous works by Eric Inman and Pat Manning following the works of Borrowman and Rob Copeland with evidence provided via the aforesaid maps. The 1773 date seems to originate in Hasted's History of Kent and only relates to Cators purchase of Beckenham Manor from Viscount Bolingbroke (also holding the Viscount St John title). Even at that time Bolingbroke has already sold the Old Manor house opposite St. Georges with its grounds to the Burrells. As Cator did not acquire the old manor house his Stumps Hill residence became his manor house after acquiring the 'lordship of the Beckenham Manor estate. Other evidence is always welcome and we still dispute the Linnaeus connection as it was only via Cators father in law Peter Collinson and no evidence that Linnaeus visited Beckenham has been found.

    from Beckenham, UK
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  • Mal Mitchell

    The deeper you dig the more you'll find. Court records from Kings Bench and Chancery reveal that the Manor of Beckenham sold to Cator by Bolingbroke was in fact already under lease to Mrs Margaret Hare and Hans Winthrop Mortimer. Cator did not acquire full possession until 1780 after a legal battle with Margaret Hare. Bolingbroke had previously exchanged the manor house and grounds with the Burrells who gave him Woolseys Farm in exchange. Presumably Bolingbrokes sale to Cator included Woolseys Farm and other property in Foxgrove Manor and around Kelseys. From analysis of archived maps, documents and court records.
    Cator was still pursuing recompense from Bolingbrokes estate trustees as late as 1787 by suing the Earl of Pembroke and the Earl of Guildford. A (Mr.) Goodright also sued Cator for loss of tenure in 1780 as he was a sub lessee of Mrs Hare. It needs a lawyer to unravel the whole of it. But '1773' does not describe the situation especially as the part of Beckenham Manor in Beckenham Place is just the remaining bit of Stumps Hill Wood. history sections for fuller account.

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  • Hi Ian, it really has become timely to make some significant edits to parts of this site. We have explored the history of Beckenham Place, and it has almost nothing of Beckenham Manor in its footprint apart from maybe a small bit of Stumpshill Wood.
    I have been recently working with another researcher and even the account we have on Friends of Beckenham Place Park website is requiring small but regular updates.
    A lot of the new material has been found based on earlier clues left by Beckenham historians ie. Eric Inman noted that the park was mainly on land belonging to Foxgrove Manor. The history of Foxgrove manor itself is complex and Hasted did not explore all of the intricacies fully.
    Certainly a lot of material exists about the various estates and the intricacies of land purchases, exchanges and bequests. Not least the fact that John Cator gets confused with his nephew John Barwell Cator and the process by which the Cator estate was eroded to become developed north of a line from Penge to Bromley, since the property south of that line was mainly Burrell/Baron Gwydir upto 1820. How Cator acquired a foothold around Stone Farm, Kelsey and Langley prior to his land exchanges with the Raymonds and Burrells was it seems relatively unknown and now the process is pretty much discovered, underpinned by evidence from various archives which historians such as Rob Copeland viewed but did not perhaps fully explore.
    Beckenham Place house has now been dated to 1760/62. The whole park would not have been emparked until 1785 or later and the lake not constructed before 1785 when the road was diverted and Langstead Lane closed.
    The maps of Beckenham from 1720's have been unearthed although seen by earlier researchers, not interpreted.
    Consultation of archives could obtain permission for reproduction even if in parts or low res images.
    Robert Borrowmans copy of a map of the Burrell estates has been traced to its original with the Burrell family at Knepp Castle and Sir Charles Burrell, Bt. is willing to have copies reproduced under copyright conditions.
    Other 'characters' in history have been unearthed such as Mr Morgan who took Beckenham church wardens to court for not setting a poor rate for which John Cator was accused of exercising undue influence and his brother Joseph subsequently take to court for libel agains Morgan. A Mr Jackson was excluded from land he rented from Cator and when he sued Cator he got £100 damages or expenses. The case was prosecuted by the barister Garrow who gained some notoriety.
    Beckenham Place is now in Lewisham but its history if firmly and partly in Beckenham along with some characters who migrated across Parish boundaries such as the Valentines who sold land to Cator in 1757 and had substantial land in Bromley such as the Bell Inn and Holloway Farm. Eventually a Frances Valentine became resident in Beckenham. The Valentines were also connected with Abraham Colfe.
    So I do think its time to reappraise the potential of this site, as electronic media is the only way to keep track of changing discoveries.
    Best Wishes

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  • Admin


    Would you like to do the complete update using the existing pages? Contact me via the contact button on the site.

    Comment last edited on about 1 week ago by Bhistory
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