Rosehill, Hampton (Hampton Library, TW12)

From the website of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames:

“…The house appears to have been empty in 1885 but was occupied by 1887, this time by the Rev. R.H.E. Wix who was there until at least 1891 as he is shown on the census. There is no record of another owner or tenant until Major Percy F. Lambart in 1895. In the issue of 23rd March 1901, the Surrey Comet recorded that Rosehill was to be sold by Major Lambert. His decision would lead to arguments within the Hampton Urban District Council which had come into being in 1895.

At a meeting of the council on 6th August 1901, it was stated that an offer of £3000 had been proposed for the purchase of Rosehill, but that the owner would be more likely to sell the estate for £3300. A special meeting was convened on 19th August when it was proposed that “the council accepts the offer of the owners of Rosehill to sell the property to them for £3300.” Only the chairman, George Sanders, voted against the motion. At another special meeting on 29th August a contract was proposed between the council and the owners for the purchase of Rosehill on the terms already agreed – again, only the chairman voted against.

The Surrey Comet for 31st August had the following comment from the chairman “the purchase of Rosehill was the most mischievous thing ever proposed for Hampton and he was still vigorously opposed to it.” There was also a letter from Mr. Henry Ripley modifying his views about Rosehill, [a previous letter had favoured Mr Walton’s house for the Council offices] but stating that “workmen’s cottages should not be built in a place where they might be overlooked by Council officials”. The next edition of the paper invited parishioners to sign a petition against the purchase and the following week, it was announced that the Hampton Housing Association approved of the council’s decision to purchase Rosehill and build workmen’s houses there.

The 12th October edition of the paper carried a report of the public meeting held at the Victoria Hall to discuss the proposed purchase of Rosehill –

“The meeting was convened by Mr Sanders [the chairman] and 350-400 were present. A formal motion that Rosehill was unsuitable for use as Council offices was proposed by Mr Singleton, seconded by Mr Sherwood and supported by Sir Hector Hay who said he thought that houses for working men ought to be provided by their employers and not by the Council (shouts of ‘Sit down’). A counter motion was proposed by Mr Cadmore and seconded by Mr H. March, who said he could not think of no better site for the U.D.C. offices. [ he had offered £3,100 for the property]. Finally Mr Sanders spoke at length against the motion. The counter motion was carried by a majority to tumultuous cheering by supporters of the scheme”.

More letters followed protesting against the purchase, including one from Mr W.L. Milne who said that “Councillors should not curry favour with working men by offering to build houses for them”.

The middle of November saw the Local Government Board’s inquiry into the proposed purchase when Mr Sanders addressed the Inspector in disapproval of the scheme. But at another special Council meeting on 3rd December, it was announced that the Local Government Board had agreed to the council borrowing the money for the purchase of Rosehill on the following terms –

£1590 for the provision of offices. Repayable within 30 years of the date of borrowing £550 for purchase of land for the purposes of a depot. Repayable within 35 years.

£1160 for the purchase of land for the erection of workmen’s dwellings. Repayable within 55 years.

Mr Sanders resigned from the chairmanship of Hampton UDC on 4th December in protest at the purchase of Rosehill. Captain Christie and Mr. Evans were both proposed in his place, but refused. Finally, Mr N.D. Allbless was elected to the chair who then invited Mr. Sanders to join any committee he wished, but he declined the offer with thanks. The council also decided to ask the Local Government Board to agree to the setting aside of part of Rosehill for a free library.

The Hampton Local Board had first met in August 1890 and, in 1894, moved into offices in Park House – a private house south of Beveree in the High Street. In November 1900 they had adopted the 1892 Public Libraries Act and resolved, in February 1901, to adapt the then council chamber into a Free Public Library and Reading Room on a 12-month trial and if it was successful, to extend the provision to Hampton Hill. The opening hours were 9am- 10pm every weekday except Tuesday 10am-2pm. A sum of £60 was to cover the librarian and caretaker’s salary. The Council also accepted Walter Jerrold’s offer to donate 50 miscellaneous volumes. The monthly reports showed that attendance was steady and that, during the summer, readers were allowed to sit on the lawn and smoke! By November 1901, it was obvious that the library was a great success and so it was decided to ask Mrs Fitzwygram if she would let the room in Windmill Road known as the Band Room be used as a library for Hampton Hill.

On Monday 24th February 1902, the Council offices were moved from Park House to Rosehill where the first Hampton Urban District Council meeting was held the next day. The Library and Reading Room had also been transferred. The building was described by the Surrey Comet thus –

“On entering, the visitor finds a capital lobby with alcoves which suggest statuary hereafter to be provided. On the left is the Surveyor’s office and a door therefrom leads to the ante- room to the Council Chamber, which is furnished with a horse-shoe table. The door from the Council Chamber leads into a passage which forms the entrance to the Reading Room. On the first floor are the offices of the Clerk and the Inspector of Nuisances. On the second floor are the Record room and the drawing office. The rooms of the caretaker are extensive and are shut off from the main building. An office will shortly be set aside for the rate collector.”

On 13th June 1903, there was a foundation stone laying ceremony for 56 workmen’s dwellings in Oldfield Road. By June 1904, all had been finished and let.

Rosehill continued to be used as Council Offices until Hampton was joined with Twickenham and Teddington in 1937. Then the Offices moved out, but the library remained and the former Council Chamber, Surveyor’s room and ante-room were all converted to library use. The house was refurbished in 1981 and the library was extended into the old stables and onto the site of the former mortuary, so making responsible use of the listed building. The work enabled 18 study places and an improved children’s library to be provided whilst retaining period fireplaces and much of the décor…”

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