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Home of Compassion

A Grade II* Listed Building in Thames Ditton, Surrey

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Latitude: 51.3921 / 51°23'31"N

Longitude: -0.3312 / 0°19'52"W

OS Eastings: 516202

OS Northings: 167213

OS Grid: TQ162672

Mapcode National: GBR 6H.54S

Mapcode Global: VHGRG.68RP

Entry Name: Home of Compassion

Listing Date: 14 August 1953

Last Amended: 25 June 2014

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1030197

English Heritage Legacy ID: 286770

Location: Elmbridge, Surrey, KT7

County: Surrey

District: Elmbridge

Electoral Ward/Division: Thames Ditton

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Esher

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Surrey

Church of England Parish: Thames Ditton

Church of England Diocese: Guildford

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Thames Ditton


House, later nursing home. Built circa 1786 in Strawberry Hill Gothick style for the Hon. Charlotte Boyle Walsingham, and originally called Boyle Farm, with decorative interior work in Classical style carried out by her daughter, Charlotte Boyle Walsingham. Exterior altered circa 1840 for Lord St Leonards and re-fronted circa 1893 for Herbert Manwaring Robertson in small red bricks, with a classical pediment and Westmorland slate roof. A single-storey south-west loggia was added circa 1905 for the Church of England Community for the Compassion of Jesus, when the property was renamed the Home of Compassion, and in 1993 the north-east conservatory was added.


House, later nursing home. Built circa 1786 in Strawberry Hill Gothick style, with a crenellated parapet, for the Hon. Charlotte Boyle Walsingham and originally called Boyle Farm. Decorative interior work in Classical style was carried out by her daughter, Charlotte Boyle Walsingham. The architect is not at present known. Circa 1840 the exterior was altered for Lord St Leonards by the addition of a further attic storey with Jacobean style gables and the construction of lower side wings. Circa 1893 further alterations for Herbert Manwaring Robertson included the removal of the stucco and Jacobean gables and refacing in small red bricks, with a classical pediment and Westmorland slate roof. A single-storey south-west loggia was added circa 1905 for the Church of England Community for the Compassion of Jesus, when the property was renamed the Home of Compassion, and in 1993 the north-east conservatory was added.

MATERIALS: red brick in Flemish bond with orange brick window surrounds, and a wide bracketed wooden eaves cornice. Hipped Westmorland slate roofs with dentilled brick stacks to the centre and ends.

PLAN: the original 1786 house is of three storeys and basement, in seven bays with a central full-height curved bay on the north-east side. Two-storey extensions were added to the sides circa 1840 and a loggia to the south-west side.

EXTERIOR: the south-west or entrance front is of three storeys, attic and basement of seven bays arranged 2:3:2 with the central three bays projecting slightly, and further projecting two-storey, one-bay side wings. There is a corniced loggia with round-headed glazed doors across the centre and left bays, within which is situated the main entrance, flanked by Tuscan columns. The bracketed eaves cornice is also continued on the central pediment, which has a keyed oculus. There is a stringcourse above the first floor, 3-over-6 pane sash windows to the second floor, 6-over-6 pane sashes below, all under gauged brick arches with keystones and projecting stone cills. There are brick quoins to the centre and ends, and also to the projecting side wings.

The north-east (or garden) front has a central section in seven bays, of three storeys and a basement, including a central full-height curved bay of three windows breaking through the roof. This side also has a bracketed eaves cornice and band above the first floor but additionally has two moulded bands, one dentilled, and a band of paterae. The first floor has a cast iron balcony with some decorative panels. The second floor windows have 3-over-6 pane sashes, the three central first floor and ground floor windows are full-height with 6-over-9 pane sashes, and most other windows are 6-over-6 pane sashes. However, the flanking bays and projecting two storey side wings have ground floor windows in arched recesses. The ground floor of the central curved bay is covered by a 1993 conservatory.

The north-west end facing the street has no windows and has a single-storey service addition with slate roofs and a louvred lantern.

The south-east end has four first floor windows and a porch which is attached to a section of late C18 garden wall with a central relieving arch.

INTERIOR: entrance from the south-east leads directly into the entrance hall which extends through two storeys. It has two tall Ionic scagliola columns and pilasters, round-headed alcoves, a gallery on four sides with cast iron balusters, plain panels and a round-headed arch to the walls, a cornice with floral basket motifs and a stone floor. The wooden fireplace is of circa 1890. To the west of the entrance hall are two entrances with round-headed fanlights, one retaining its six-panelled door. The east side of the entrance hall has a similar entrance. To the north of the entrance hall is the central room with a curved bay, which has a late C18 dentilled cornice although the fireplace is mid-C19. To the east of the entrance hall is the curved main staircase which has plain cast iron balusters and a mahogany handrail with a columnar newel, ovolo-moulded dado rail, and an oval domed roof. A room to the east of the central room has late C18 wall pilasters, a cornice decorated with sphinxes and garlands, and dado rail with Vitruvian scrolls. A room to the west of the central room has circa 1890 recesses and wooden fireplace. The curved late C18 service stair with cast iron balustrade and handrail survives on this side.

On the first floor the central bowed room, formerly a library, has circa 1786 'verre églomisé' decorative work by Charlotte Boyle Walsingham. The panelled cupboards are divided by glass pilasters with black and gilded decoration of dancing classical figures, birds and garlands; they have anthemion capitals and support a cornice with roundels, garlands and letters of the alphabet. There is a similar entrance, a decorative ceiling cornice and a wide marble fireplace with blank panels to the pilasters. A room to the east has a late C18 white marble fireplace with cast iron fire grate. A room to the south-east of the library has a marble fireplace with an elaborate fire grate with scrolled decoration, a cornice of alternate decaglyphs and paterae, and a six-panelled door. A further room has a late C18 marble fireplace and cast iron fire grate but a late C19 bolection-moulded surround. A north-facing room has a late C18 marble fireplace with pilasters and moulded cast iron fire grate.

On the second floor the central room with the curved bay has a series of shallow round-headed niches with rectangular panels above to the walls, a marble fireplace with a cast iron fire grate, and a moulded cornice. There are some reset C18 balusters at the attic landing of the main stair and a small section of C18 stair up to the roof.


The land on which the building is built is thought to have been part of a large estate called ‘Stringshaw’ during Henry VIII’s reign. During this reign a wealthy merchant, Erasmus Forde, purchased ‘Stringshaw’ and the property became known as Forde’s Farm. It remained in the ownership of the Ford family for 245 years.

In 1782 Forde’s Farm was sold to the Hon. Charlotte Boyle Walsingham (1738-1790), the wealthy widow of the Hon. Captain Robert Boyle Walsingham, and the name was changed to Boyle Farm. At this time the property comprised about 14 acres of pleasure grounds, gardens, orchards, lawns, fields, coach houses, other outbuildings and two islands in the River Thames. The foundation stone for a new mansion was laid on 5th March 1786. Mrs. Walsingham was a close friend of Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (1717-1797) of Strawberry Hill, Twickenham and Walpole’s diaries show great interest in the Boyle Farm project and also refer to Mrs Walsingham and her artistic daughter Charlotte Boyle. Miss Boyle was skilled in 'verre églomisé' (a form of decoration using gilded, engraved and sometimes painted glass) and there are 28 black background and gold leaf glass panels in the first floor library, one signed C. Boyle, November 2nd 1786. The carved frieze and door surround bearing her monogram are also her own work. The architect and builder of Boyle Farm are unrecorded. John Chute, Walpole’s main architect at Strawberry Hill has been suggested, but he died in 1776. A contemporary picture of the north side of Boyle Farm from an island in the river shows a castellated stuccoed mansion with a three storey central section of seven bays with central curved bay with three windows and two storey wings. An engraving by Gastineau of about 1821 of the south entrance front has a similar castellated appearance and central porch with columns.

On her mother’s death in 1790, Miss Charlotte Boyle inherited Boyle Farm and the following year married Lord Henry Fitzgerald, a younger son of the Duke of Leinster, who was a talented amateur actor. Visitors to Boyle Farm included Fanny Burney, Horace Walpole, Charles James Fox and Lord Henry’s numerous relations, including his brother Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the revolutionary and Irish patriot, who was shot in Dublin in 1798. In 1806 Charlotte became the 21st Baroness de Ros. In 1827 their eldest son Henry William de Ros inherited Boyle Farm. He was noted for his lavish society lifestyle and in 1827 held a Dandies fete on the river gardens for 450 guests.

In 1834 the lawyer Sir Henry Burtenshaw Sugden (1781-1875) purchased the estate. He had been MP for Weymouth in 1828, became Chancellor of Ireland in 1835 and when appointed Chancellor of England in 1852 was raised to the peerage as Lord St. Leonards. Circa 1840 he replaced Boyle Farm’s castellation by a further gabled storey in a Perpendicular style. He died at Boyle Farm apparently intestate having failed to take his own textbook advice to lodge wills with the probate court. His son, the Hon. Rev. Frank Sugden, lived here between 1875 and 1891, and J M Livsey lived there until 1890.

The estate was sold at auction on 15th July 1890 and bought by Herbert Manwaring Robertson from Hampton Court. He had the Victorian stucco and external detailing removed, refaced the mansion with small red bricks, added a classical pediment, fitted brick to the window surrounds and added a gabled roof of Westmorland slate. Building work was completed by early 1893 but the property remained unoccupied and eleven and a half acres were subdivided for building plots and sold off from the estate.

In 1905 the house, with its stables and other outbuildings in approximately two acres, was purchased by the Church of England Community of the Compassion of Jesus and was renamed and dedicated as the Home of Compassion. The columned portico on the south entrance front was replaced by a loggia with a cornice. The stables, later renamed the Priory, were converted to staff quarters and the mansion was adapted to nursing home use. A chapel designed by Christopher Wright was built in 1925. A conservatory was added to the central curved bay on the north side of the mansion in 1993.

Reasons for Listing

The Home of Compassion, a mansion built in 1786 for the Hon. Charlotte Boyle Walsingham, with 'verre églomisé' decoration by her daughter Charlotte Boyle, re-fronted in brickwork in 1893 in the Palladian style, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Intactness: the 1786 fabric and plan form survives behind the 1893 re-fronting;
* Interiors: substantial survival of fine quality late C18 and early C19 fittings including staircases, scagliola columns, marble fireplaces and cornices;
* Rarity: there is an extremely rare example of a 'verre églomisé' decorative scheme to the library dated 1786, which is also a fairly rare example of a decorative scheme by a lady artist;
* Historical interest: in the late C18 and early C19 famous politicians, writers, men of taste and Irish patriots were entertained here.

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