1) Contents, Introduction, Timeline.
List of contents, introduction/about this page, timeline of key dates.
A comprehensive history of the original land plot sale, the building of the property and the original owners.
Details about the owners during these time periods.
Details about the owners during these time periods. Includes the Secret Behind the Mirror and the Time Capsule – Part One.
Details about the owners/business during this time period. Includes the Secret Behind the Mirror and the Time Capsule – Part Two.
Is 37 Kings Road haunted?
When working on historical articles for this website, they tend to range from a few lines of data, to something much bigger. Every now and then though, you stumble upon a project that you are lucky enough to have help from multiple sources on, allowing you to piece together a rather large jigsaw…this is one such article.
A huge thank you to those who made this article possible; Helen Taylor Cobb, Katherine Rusbridge, Kristen Munro, Nicki Cranham, Ruth Hill and Graham Clement. I hope I’ve done justice to all your stories and photos…and to everyone else – grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy reading the history of 37 Kings Road.
– Tina x
ABOUT THIS PAGE
This is a record of 37 Kings Road, Fleet, Hampshire- a private residence that existed long before it became a business address. The house was called “Rosario” when it was first built and was later changed to “Benson House” – the name it’s still known by today.
This is a very comprehensive history of the property, covering everything from the sale and purchase of the original land plot, the building of the private residence and the various owner/occupiers. The details below will take you on a fascinating journey showcasing the history of the building, up to its existence as a dental surgery today.
If you have any photos of this business or any additional information/dates etc, please do get in touch as we’d love to add them. If you have any memories or stories to share, please enter them in the comments below.
37 Kings Road (formerly land rear of 1 Guildford Road, Fleet), is now a dental surgery. But before that it was a private residence with a very interesting history!
KEY DATES (OCCUPANTS/OWNERS)
1883 – Empty land plot purchased by Herbert John Lucas.
1897 – Empty land plot purchased by Samuel Frewer.
c1905 – “Rosario” was built by Samuel Frewer.
1974 – The last of the Frewer family died.
1976 – House bought by Colonel and Mrs Patrick Elgood.
1988 – House bought by Don and Ann Taylor.
1993 – Change of permission granted (Dentist).
Before it became known as “Benson House”, 37 Kings Road was called “Rosario”. In section 1, we take a fascinating look into the history of Rosario, researched and written by Katherine Rusbridge in 2018 and provided by Kristen Munro. Many thanks to you both for this wonderful addition!
When you first come to 37 Kings Road, you realise that it is a dental surgery like no other you have been to before. The entrance porch has attractive patterned glass. Look up and you see the name Rosario. (It was years before I did this!). Reception has decorative glass windows. So does the waiting room and in close up, these windows have exquisite details of birds and butterflies. There is more at the top of the staircase and other features which mark this out as a wonderful house!
I was intrigued to find out more about the history of the house and the people who lived in it. I did so using resources from the local history group and the genealogy site, Ancestry. It turns out that the original occupier was called Samuel Frewer; he and his family lived at Rosario for the better part of 70 years, one of his daughters living here until she died in 1974 aged 96. I hope you enjoy reading what I have found out.
Entrance: Stained glass “Rosario” panel above the entrance door.
THE EARLY DEVELOPMENT OF FLEET
It will help you follow the story of Rosario if you are familiar with the development of Fleet.
200 years ago, Fleet as we know it did not exist. There was a track going roughly north towards Reading and one going east. They intersected at what is now the Oatsheaf crossroads – but the Oatsheaf had not been built! The whole area was treeless heathland, used by the people of Crookham for grazing their animals and as a source of peat as fuel. Three events changed all this. The first was an Enclosure Act in 1829 which allocated the common land to local landowners and required them to enclose it. This meant the people of Crookham could no longer have access to it and one objective was to make land usage more efficient. Bad news for the people of Crondall but it did not have much immediate impact on the development of Fleet. The second important event was the coming of the railway, with a siding and platform at “Fleetpond” authorised in 1847. This made the area we now know as Fleet accessible from London. It was in effect a tourist destination, a relatively easy day trip to the countryside, with the added bonus in some winters of skating on the pond.
The third and key event which led the way for Fleet to become what it is today was the auction by landowner Edward May of a huge tract of the enclosed land in 1878. It was bought by Henry Brake who set about clearing some of the heathland to make roads, laying them out in the grid pattern we are all familiar with. He then divided the land into literally thousands of building plots, each 20’ in width and people could buy just one or any number of adjoining plots. Brake’s land stretched from near the Station, along the Pond down to what is now Pondtail Bridge, up to the next canal bridge at what we know as Reading Road South, to the Oatsheaf crossroads and back to the Station along Fleet Road. It might help to realise that some of the roads have changed their name. Kings Road was originally Station Road, Clarence Road was Middle Street and Connaught Road was, somewhat incongruously, High Street.
THE FIRST PURCHASER OF THE ROSARIO PLOT
The plot on which Rosario now stands was bought by Herbert John Lucas in 1883. (Pictures 1 and 2) Like most of the other purchasers in this area, Lucas was not a local man and does not feature in any other record such as a census for Fleet. It seems as though people bought a plot as a “nest egg” which they would build on later, possibly retiring here from London. This approach might reflect the fact that Brake was good at selling plots but not so good at providing infrastructure such as sanitation! Mains water for example was not available until 1900. Perhaps it was best to secure your plot when the price was reasonable and await developments.
Picture 1: Brake’s Map showing sale of plots in Station Road / High Street area. Box indicates plots bought by Herbert John Lucas in 1883. Rosario was built on these plots by Samuel Frewer. The map shows the amazing scale of Brake’s operation.
Picture 2: Detail from Brake’s map showing purchase by Herbert John Lucas more clearly.
An incredibly detailed Ordnance Survey map from 1896 (25 inch to the mile!) shows that there had still been no building on the plot (Picture 3). It had been cleared of the scrubland and possibly there had been some trees planted along the boundaries but that was all. The nearest house shown in this stretch of road can be identified as Escada Casa. John Richard Murray had bought this plot in 1880 when he was living in Crondall. It proudly proclaims its name and the date 1880 over its two doors. He was living in it by 1891, though he had very few neighbours!
Picture 3: Ordnance Survey map from 1896 at a scale of 25” to the mile. The Rosario plot had been cleared but there was no evidence of building. The nearest property is Escada Casa. Just one house in Dunmow Hill! Samuel bought the plots of land in 1897. The map therefore indicates the nature of the area he would have seen.
INTRODUCING SAMUEL FREWER – THE “FOUNDING FATHER” OF ROSARIO
I am all but certain that Rosario was built at the start of the 20th century for a gentleman called Samuel Frewer. What is certain is that he and his immediate family lived here for over 70 years, with the last of his children passing away in 1974 aged 96. Samuel Frewer was not a local man. He came from humble beginnings in Lambeth, born in 1847. His father was a bricklayer. The 1861 census shows Samuel’s two older brothers had started working with their father as bricklayers and he, at 14, was an errand boy. He must have been an ambitious youngster and a future as a bricklayer was not the life he wanted for himself.
The day before his 16th birthday, he signed up for the Navy and went to train on HMS Fisgard which was a shore-based training ship. On his 18th birthday, he signed up for 10 years of service.The 1871 census finds him on board a ship stationed near Queensland, Australia. And here was my first key discovery : the ship’s name was HMS Rosario! How about that?! He had the rank of captain, though this did not mean the same as it does now. The “boss” of the ship was the Commander. There were captains for different roles; they were roughly equivalent to platoon leaders. Samuel did not in fact complete his 10 years, getting a “Discharge by Purchase” in 1872. I don’t think that HMS Rosario returned to England until 1875 so I’m not sure how Samuel made his way home, but come home he did.
He married Charlotte in 1876 and had 5 children, one of whom only lived a few months.The surviving children were in order : Amy, Sidney, Constance and William. In 1881, he was an assistant to a leather seller. Aged 32 by now, this was not looking too promising for him. Later records show him described as a leather seller and/or an ironmonger. So far, so normal for a working Victorian family – not poor but not obviously well off either. Throughout this time he was living in New Cut, Lambeth. This is now known just as The Cut and is the road which includes the Old Vic theatre. So very close to Waterloo Station – definitely not a coincidence for what happens next!
THE FREWER FAMILY COME TO FLEET
The first sight of Samuel Frewer in Fleet is a record of the plot where Rosario now stands being bought by him in May 1897. He would have been about 50 at this time. The cost of the plot was £170 with £1100 then being spent, presumably on the building of the house. How times have changed! Samuel Frewer next appears in the Fleet records when he buys a run of seven of Brake’s plots in Dunmow Hill on December 27th 1898. (Picture 4). His new plots are pretty much directly behind the Rosario ones. He is the first person to buy plots on that side of Dunmow Hill, so he could have bought anywhere along the road. How significant is it that he bought behind Rosario? Did he have ambitious plans to integrate both? Maybe using the original plots for his home and the Dunmow Hill ones to start up a new ironmongery. If that was his intention, he did not in fact carry it through.
Picture 4: Brake’s map showing purchase by Samuel Frewer of plots in Dunmow Hill in 1898. (There is no good orientation for this map! Part of the writing will be upside down whichever way you choose. “Station Road” – ie our Kings Road -is to the top of the picture).
We next meet Samuel in in the 1901 census, in Station Road (what we now know as Kings Road) with his wife Charlotte. His children are still in Lambeth. His elder son Sidney is 19 and in charge of the ironmongers. William is just 11. It seems very unlikely that Samuel and Charlotte had moved permanently to Fleet, leaving their children to cope up in Lambeth. Possibly Rosario had been built by then, it was habitable but not really finished, certainly not with all the details we see today. They may just have been visiting to oversee some of the work.The name Rosario first appears in 1905. (Picture 5) Oddly this is in the Lambeth North electoral register.
Picture 5: The name Rosario appears in the record for the first time : 1905. Oddly to our minds, in those days your right to vote was based on property. Samuel’s “Qualifying Property” was in Lambeth but his “Place of Abode” was Rosario in Fleet. (You’ll also notice some women on the list. They were widows and by continuing to occupy the same house had “inherited” their voting right at local level from their husbands. They were not entitled to vote for an MP).
It is easy to forget, given all the interest surrounding the suffragette movement, that not all men had the vote. Eligibility to vote was based largely on property ownership or “occupation” – ie whether you occupied the house. (The rental value of the property was the key to voting qualification). Samuel Frewer seemed to be entitled to vote in Lambeth North at his New Cut address, though by 1905 he was declaring his Place of Abode as Rosario. By the 1911 census, the house is clearly identified as Rosario. Station Road now has rather more buildings, though nothing much beyond Kent Road. Samuel is 64 and his wife Charlotte is 65.
The census not only gives information about the people living at a property but includes the number of rooms of the house. Rosario has 9 rooms, including the kitchen but not the bathroom, scullery and closet. One servant is named – she must have been resident, ie sleeping at Rosario, to be included in their census return. In contrast to the comfort and apparent wealth of Samuel and Charlotte, Charlotte’s widowed sister Emma is living in one room in London with her only daughter, Ada.
MORE ON ROSARIO
We can glean a bit more about the house from the detailed maps of the area. The one based on the 1909 map shows the outline of the house very exactly with an imposing in-and-out driveway and several outhouses. (Pictures 6 and 7) A member of the local history group has seen a record of these as follows : 2 workshops, a coal place, a fowl run and an iron tool house-shed. In the 1909 survey and subsequent ones, there appears to be a fenced off area to the back right of the property (as you look at it from the road); this might have been for the chickens. There is also a rather odd little structure which strictly speaking is just outside the back of the Rosario plot. I wonder if this was a well or maybe even a privy. This shows up best in the map from 1930. (Picture 8). Even to this day, the property behind Rosario has a slightly shorter garden than the adjoining ones. Maybe Samuel negotiated about retaining this when he sold his Dunmow Hill plots.
Picture 6: 1909 Ordnance Survey Map –our first look at Rosario and all its outhouses. The whole map has the word FLEET written across it. The “T” of Fleet overlaps the Rosario plot. The Church next door was the original St Philip and St James Church.
Picture 7: A smaller scale image from the 1909 map showing how much building had taken place around Rosario since the 1896 map (Picture 3).
Picture 8: The Ordnance Survey map from 1930 shows the details of the outhouses and the privy/well more clearly.
DID SAMUEL RETIRE TO FLEET?
At first, my research all pointed to the idea that Samuel had a long-term plan to pass his Lambeth ironmonger business on to his two sons and retire to the countryside at Fleet. Indeed by the 1911 census, he did describe himself as “Retired Ironmonger”. I now think it is highly likely that he continued to trade out of Rosario. For one thing, all the building work around Fleet with new households being established was too good an opportunity for him to miss. Also, there is a billhead for his ironmongers in the local history group archive – it must have been issued in Fleet. (Picture 9).
Picture 9: Billhead for Samuel Frewer’s Hardware.
I’m fairly convinced that some of the outhouses were used for storing some stock. I’ve also heard from two sources that the house was used as a bit of a show house for features such as decorative windows and fireplace tiling. The clincher for me is the figure above the back door – it is of a whiskery gentleman of the Victorian / Edwardian era. It has to be Samuel! (Well it doesn’t have to be, I suppose – but I bet it is). He looks like a jovial sort of fellow (Picture 10).
My feeling is that he traded out of the back of the property. Indeed that may have been his intention all along, once he had sold the Dunmow Hill plots, given the shape of the house with the thin extension-like area at the back, lending itself to the possibility of combining comfortable living quarters at the front and the business part facing the yard/garden.
Picture 10: The “gargoyle” at the back of Rosario-almost certainly Samuel! (see the Miscellaneous section at the end of the article for more on this!)
THE FREWER FAMILY AT ROSARIO 1911 – 1974
After the 1911 census, Samuel’s two daughters, Amy and Constance probably settled into life as spinsters at Rosario. The two sons Sidney and William continued with the ironmongers business in Lambeth, appearing in the electoral records at 24 New Cut. Sadly Samuel dies in 1919 and he is buried in All Saints Church in Fleet. By 1923 Sidney and William give their “abode” as Fleet, presumably Rosario, while remaining on the Lambeth electoral register as “occupying 24 New Cut”. All rather strange to our modern ideas. It seems they were in effect commuters with a home in easy reach of Fleet station and a business near to Waterloo. Of Samuel’s four children, only William married in 1929 aged about 40 and this seems to signal the end of the ironmonger business. There is no further mention of it in the records. He married in Lambeth not Fleet, suggesting his “social life” such as it might have been at the time was in London not local to here. He and his wife settled in Poole, though William was to return to Rosario many years later as a widower. Charlotte died in 1932 and is buried with Samuel, her husband. The next opportunity to see the family is in the 1939 register. With war looming, the government realised that it needed to find out more about its population – how many young men there were, where they lived, what the skills of the people were etc.
There were 5 adults now living at Rosario, the three siblings : Amy, Sidney and Constance joined by Emma Jarvis and Ada Geary, both of whom were widows. It took me a while to work out who Emma and Ada were. Emma was Charlotte’s sister (mentioned earlier as living in one room in 1911). Ada is Emma’s daughter, so cousin to Amy, Sidney and Constance. At the time of the register Emma was in her late 80s and must have been offered a home by her nieces and nephew, passing away at Rosario in 1943 aged 92. It is a rare opportunity to see something of the character of the family – a kind gesture to an ageing aunt. (I think Ada was just a visitor as the records show her living in Ealing later). The more recent records are only of deaths, sadly. Sidney was the first of the siblings to pass away (1958), then Constance (1962) followed by William (1963). Remarkably, Amy the oldest of the family lived on to the age of 96, passing away in 1974, thus ending just over seven decades of occupation of Rosario by the one family. I found out early on that she had lived to such a good age and I assumed that she must have moved at some stage into a nursing home or equivalent. I was able to order her death certificate and her will online and these showed clearly that she did live out her life in Rosario.
AMY FREWER – HOME ALONE?
It is almost impossible to imagine Amy living in such a large house by herself in her 80s and 90s. She must have had a companion or helper of some sort. Indeed she did – and it is a nice story. In Amy’s will, she divides most of the inheritance between William’s three children –Janet, Patrick and Douglas. She also makes some small bequests to named individuals for their “help and kindness” to her. Most significantly for our story she leaves £300 to Ada Freeman whom she described as “my companion and friend residing with me at Rosario”. So who was Ada? I found her in the 1911 census as a domestic servant to the Goddard family at the Hollies, three houses away on the junction of Station Road (now called Kings Road) and Kent Road. By the 1939 register she was still there, now described as their maid. On both dates, Ada must have been living in, otherwise she would have been included at her own residence.
Having worked as a live-in domestic servant with the Goddards for over 20 years, it seems highly probable that Ada continued to live at The Hollies until both Mrs Goddard and then Mr Goddard died (1949 and 1957 respectively). She would then have been homeless! I think this is when she moved to Rosario, possibly at first with some domestic duties, more latterly as the “companion and friend” to Amy. Amy and Ada would have been of very different “class”, no small thing in the 1950s and 1960s and yet Ada was made welcome and given a new home. Again this is a welcome opportunity to see something of the character of the Frewer family. Ada does not entirely solve the problem of how Amy coped in her final years. Ada was just 10 years younger than Amy, meaning she was 86 at the time of Amy’s passing – definitely a companion and friend but probably not that able to give practical help around the house. My hopes are with Douglas Frewer, William’s son and hence Amy’s nephew. He bought Gate Cottage in Reading Road North in 1964 and it was his wife Evelynne who formally registered Amy’s death from that same address when the time came in 1974. I feel pretty sure that Douglas used some of his inheritance from William (who died in 1963) to make that purchase and I like to think that he chose a property in Fleet to be near his now ageing aunt – the sole survivor from that generation.
MY FAVOURITE FEATURE OF ROSARIO
Rosario is full of interesting features and I have two to choose from as my favourite. First though, let’s consider some of the others. At the top of the stairs, in a passageway running to the back of the house, there is a curious pair of decorative windows. They are curious as they are different proportions, one rectangular, the other closer to square. The style of decoration is different, one with a lovely bird, the other with a geometric pattern and a rather amateurish painting in the centre (Pictures 11 and 12). They don’t seem to make much architectural or artistic sense together. They fit more with the idea that the house was a showcase for the different styles of decorative windows available from Samuel or a contractor of his. (I wonder if the painting was added by one of the Frewer women, maybe Amy’s drawing of Constance or vice versa).
Picture 11: Decorative window in passage off the landing, one of two side-by-side.
Picture 12: More geometric decoration on the 2nd window in the passage. This window features a painting in the centre which is rather out of keeping with the quality of windows in the rest of the house. Maybe one of the Frewer ladies painted it.
My runner-up as favourite is the decoration of the windows in the waiting room. (Picture 13) At a glance, they are attractive. Take a closer look and you can pick out beautiful little birds and delightful butterflies – quite exquisite (Picture 14).
Picture 13: Overall view of the windows in the waiting room. These are pretty and a familiar sight to people waiting here. The more close-up view in the next picture shows how lovely they really are!
Picture 14: Close-up of the detail in the left hand window of the waiting room. Exquisite!
My overall favourite though is one of the faces above the doors on the ground floor. Three of the rooms – reception, waiting room and a third room down the hall to the left – have the same face, clearly that of a young woman (Picture 15). I think these represent the three women in Samuel’s life: his wife Charlotte, daughter Amy and daughter Constance. He wisely has not distinguished between them, so Charlotte looks the same as her daughters. The key face though is the “cherub” on the fourth door at the back right of the hallway. As soon as I saw it, I guessed that it represented Samuel and Charlotte’s first daughter who only lived a few months – Lottie! (Picture 16). How touching that over 20 years after she lived out her short life in 1877, her parents chose to remember her thus. Definitely my favourite feature!
Picture 15: One of the “faces” above the doors in the hallway. There are three like this.
Picture 16: My favourite feature! This has to be in memory of Lottie, the first daughter of Samuel and Charlotte who only lived a few months. I love the fact that my researches have in effect “resurrected” this little infant.
SAMUEL AND HIS MONEY
Where did Samuel get his money from?! He did not come from a wealthy background, somewhat the reverse as I have seen evidence that his father went bankrupt not just once but twice. And yet, he ended up a wealthy man. Not only did he invest in Fleet as we have seen, in 1911, he appears on an electoral register for Herne Hill as an Ownership Elector based on his ownership of a run of 5 mansion blocks in Brixton. This was a considerable investment! He like others on the list was essentially a buy-to-let purchaser and I feel that the rental income was the main source of income for his daughters who I don’t think were ever employed. I really have no idea where he got his money. He must have been a canny business man. Certainly Brake sold his plots on very reasonable terms and Samuel might have made a good profit on his sale of his Dunmow Hill plots. A tiny little bit of me wonders if his wealth started when he was on the Rosario in Queensland. His time there coincided with one of the Queensland gold rushes and maybe, just maybe, he got himself discharged out of the Navy in order to join that. He didn’t make a fortune there but perhaps found just enough to get him started on his business life and he built it up from there.
AND FINALLY, WHAT WOULD SAMUEL THINK?…
• If he knew that members of his family lived at Rosario for over 70 years?
• If he knew that his children welcomed their elderly impoverished aunt into Rosario
• If he knew that his youngest son William came back to Rosario, his family home, as a widower*?
• If he knew that his “cherub” had been recognised as Lottie?
• If he knew that he was still looking out from the back of the property?
I hope he would be very touched to know all of this. And what would Samuel think…if he knew that more than 100 years after he moved to Fleet, his home was still visited by dozens and dozens of people each week who could admire it? (even if they did have their minds on less appealing things at the time!). He would probably be amazed and I am sure more than a little bit proud.
*I haven’t been able to date William’s return. His wife died in 1956. The more significant date may be 1958 when brother Sidney died. Maybe he came “home” to be the man about the house for his two sisters.
A FEW EXTRAS:
– THE NEIGHBOURS
The various census records, Brake’s maps and the detailed Ordnance Survey maps are useful in telling us about the early development of the Rosario area of Station Road. One of the earliest homes to be built was Escada Casa, (Picture 17) still standing today. The plot was bought by a local man, Richard Murray in 1880 and he had moved into it by 1891. He had always intended it to be a pair of houses, what we would now call semi-detached and by 1901 the smaller part was occupied by a Colonel, reflecting Fleet’s closeness to Aldershot. The name is a bit of a mystery to me. It is Portuguese and it means “Staircase House” or “Ladder House”. Richard Murray had no connection I have found to Portugal, so who knows why he chose that name!
Picture 17: Escada Casa, the first home built between Pinewood Hill and Kent Road. The plot was purchased by local man Richard Murray in 1880. The first evidence that he was living here was the 1891 census. I have no idea why he chose this name!
You might have noticed in Picture 1 and 2 that the plot adjoining Rosario was purchased in 1899 by “Rev Preston and others”. The 1909 map shows a church had been built. This was the original St Philip and St James, built because the population of Fleet had grown to such an extent that All Saints Church was too small for its congregation. This church appears in various other records as the Iron Church, so not a great structure! The Church moved to its present site in the 1960s. St Philip Court next door to Rosario is a reminder of this background. Immediately opposite is the Catholic Church.
The main plots for this were bought in 1882 with a small strip at the front sold in 1884. The 1895 map shows nothing on the site. By 1909, the small chapel building was there but it was not until the 1940 map that we first see a substantial church. The house immediately next to Rosario was called St Monica. It was occupied by Mrs Alice Alloway Thompson. Now, Thompson was the maiden name of Charlotte Frewer (Samuel’s wife) and I tried hard to find convincing evidence that Alice was her sister-in-law but I decided this was just a coincidence. Would have been nice if it had been the case! Beyond that was a house which became known as Richings. However in 1910, it is shown as Pinewood School run by Miss Gowen who was a music teacher. It is shown in the 1911 census as uninhabited (she was resident elsewhere as a lodger) though on her marriage certificate in 1917, Miss Gowen does give it as her address. A Miss Mary Pusey, also a music teacher, was resident at Buena Vista on the other side of Escada Casa. It seems highly likely that they worked together at the school, perhaps just giving lessons in piano and violin rather than providing a full schooling. I’m not aware of any other records of this school.
By the 1939 register, Richings was occupied by Harold Oakley, son to James Oakley who is an important name in the history of Fleet. He bought a run of plots on the corner of Fleet Road and Upper Street and ran what was in effect a department store though he called it his emporium – and yes, this is now the site of the Emporium Pub. He donated a large area of land to the people of Fleet in his will – Oakley Park. The last property I will comment on is the Hollies, mentioned before in connection to Ada Freeman.This was occupied from at least 1911 by Alfred Goddard, who with his brother was a local builder. He also set up an undertaker business A & W.Goddard, which still operates out of Kent Road. In the 1939 register, there are four names on his list: Alfred, his wife Ruth, Ada the maid and a fourth person who was described as a “customer”. I hope that was for some building works rather than the undertakers!
– WILLIAM FREWER, SAMUEL’S FATHER
It is interesting to contrast the fortunes of William Frewer (Samuel’s father) with those of Samuel himself. They appear to be exact opposites of one another. All Samuel’s ventures (whatever they were!) seemed to be successful, whereas his father’s were decidedly not. William was a builder who went bankrupt twice. The first time was in late in 1862. He was required to appear before his creditors in early January 1863. This was just weeks before he agreed to Samuel joining the Navy. I still think Samuel did this out of a sense of adventure. Maybe though it was William’s idea; he just wanted one less mouth to feed.
William was in trouble again in 1873 when he was up in the Old Bailey for “forgery of a bill of exchange for £48 10s”. On the day, no evidence was brought and he was not charged. Something fishy must have been going on though for him to get as far as the Old Bailey! His last disaster links to the Old Vic, in the same street where we find Samuel and his ironmongery shop. (William lived a few streets away). The Old Vic in the 1860s was not the respectable theatre it is today. It was a rather bawdy place, putting on crude melodramas and making most of its income from selling alcoholic drinks. In 1871, it was closed for an expensive refurbishment but this bankrupted the developer. The lease was taken over by William in 1875. It seemed a major departure from his usual builders work and I think maybe he had worked on the project and was one of the creditors. He might have seen this as his only chance of getting some money back. Sadly, he was proved wrong and he also went bankrupt within the year, dying a few years later with less than £100 to his name.
– SAMUEL’S SONS AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR
I have not been able to find any record of Sidney or William volunteering or being called up to serve in the First World War. William was about 25 and Sidney was about 31 in 1914. Living so close to both Waterloo, a major transport hub, and Aldershot they could not but be fully aware of the numbers of soldiers involved. Part of me thinks this does not reflect well on them. It might however be the case that they were exempt from service because of their trade as leather sellers. Back in the day, they would not have been selling handbags and shoes. It would have been saddles, bridles, reins etc. Indeed it might have been this trade which earned them the contracts with the Government (see Picture 9). It is interesting to note that Samuel described himself as a leather seller in early censuses and his children’s baptism records. More typically in the early decade of the 20th century, the term ironmonger is used. You can almost plot the transition away from horse-drawn transport.
SOME LAST MINUTE ADDITIONS!
– ORAL HISTORY ABOUT ROSARIO
I thought I had finished my research and write-up about Rosario when a member of staff told me about two pieces of oral history. Just goes to show you are never finished! The first story is about the ghost at Rosario. Now, I’m not a great one for believing in ghosts, but if you are, then you might want a theory about who the ghost is. My money would be on Amy. She lived here for 70 years and I think she might pop back from time to time to see how things are going now. Or it might be Samuel. He has left representations of his family in the faces of the hallway and he might come back to check that they are still being looked after.
The second story we can take a bit more seriously. It has been passed down the years that two elderly sisters lived here. This is nearly but not quite right. There were indeed two sisters in the Frewer household – Amy and Constance – but they did not end their days with just the two of them together at Rosario. Constance died in 1962, leaving Amy with brother William. William then died in 1963. At some stage, Ada Freeman had joined the household and it was Amy and Ada , elderly friends rather than elderly sisters who were left at Rosario.
Sources of Information
Ancestry.co.uk : the genealogy site which gives access to census records, electoral records, dates for Births, Marriages and Deaths. National Library of Scotland which has the Ordnance Survey maps on line (maps.nls.uk then choose Find By Place). The maps can be purchased. My maps are taken from screenshots. General Register Office: birth, marriage and death certificates can be ordered from here (you’d need to have information about the event, probably found on Ancestry) www.gov.uk/search-will-probate: wills can be ordered and can then be downloaded. (As with the GRO, you must have relevant information about the person, which I took from Ancestry). Resources of the Fleet and Crookham Local History Group available at Fleet Library. These include May’s Directories which list houses street-by-street giving the name of the occupant.
Many thanks to Phyl Ralton of the Fleet and Crookham Local History Group who has kindly supplied me with many of the resources, including the Brake’s maps and for her general interest and support for this project. I am also grateful to Graham Clement who took the time to show me around once when I just fortuitously happened to be his last appointment. He pointed out various features I had not noticed before –and we “discovered” Lottie ; he’d seen her often without realising who she represented. I think he was nearly as pleased as I was.
– by Katherine Rusbridge
LT. COL. AND MRS. PATRICK ELGOOD (1976 – 1988)
The next owners of Rosario were Lt. Col and Mrs. Elgood in 1976. The Elgoods were clearly interested in developing the Rosario site by building on land to the rear of the main house. In January 1986, Lt. Col. Elgood applied for planning permission to erect two detached houses with garages on the site but this was refused. In 1987 he tried again with a request to build a detached bungalow and this time permission was granted. The couple sold a lot of the original land before moving on, leaving the house in a somewhat neglected state.
Below: Planning permission was refused in 1986 but granted for alternate plans in 1987.
Although we have no photos of the interior of Rosario during the time the Elwoods lived there, these pictures from the Taylor family, give an idea what the house looked like when they moved in after the couple, before they started any decorating work. (Credit: Helen Taylor Cobb).
A plaque on the side of the building however, shows a softer side to the Elgoods with a dedication to their family dog Maggie, buried “nearby”. Credit: Kristen Munro.
DON AND ANN TAYLOR (1988 – 1993)
After the Elgoods moved on, the next owners to purchase the property were Don and Ann Taylor in 1988. The Taylors renovated the property, bringing back some of the original colouring to combat the sea of magnolia paint that had been used all over the house. They also changed the name from “Rosario” to “Benson House”. Thanks and credit go to Helen Cobb Taylor for this section. The daughter of Don and Ann Taylor, Helen has shared photos and memories of Rosario back when it was her family home.
Don and Ann Taylor: “When we bought [Benson House], the front and drive of the house was covered in a thick bracken of trees and overgrown shrubs. The house was green with fungus as no light was penetrating it. We fell in love with the place immediately.”
Helen Taylor Cobb: “This is 37 Kings Road before it became a dentists. I believe it was commissioned by a captain. The name of his last ship is in the glass directly above the front door – “Rosario”.
Below: Some of the Taylor images from Benson House.
Helen Taylor Cobb: “Dad redecorated the house with colours found inside the house. Wallpaper is as originally built”.
Helen Taylor Cobb: “Library fireplace. The walls were lined with floor to ceiling glass fronted library cabinets.”
Helen Taylor Cobb: “This is looking from the kitchen into the former ‘Flower Room’ there was a pretty little sink and lovely stained glass windows, which were all around the house.”
Helen Taylor Cobb: “The house originally had a ‘Tabernacle’ in the garden which was a miniature house the captain stayed in whilst inspecting build progress. The tabernacle was a completely separate set of 3 mini rooms. One had a little heater in and was lined with book shelves another had a mural painted of mountains I think. The building ran on the left of the house on the boundary line from the back door towards the bungalow behind. It sat at a right angle to the greenhouse.”
Below: The ‘Tabernacle” and the garden of Benson House.
Helen Taylor Cobb: “Rear garden as viewed from right of the house looking to the original green house. The vines produced red and green grapes and we harvested from them each year. Very tasty!”.
Helen Taylor Cobb: “Rear of the house. Door on far right goes into the flower room; door towards middle of picture leads into the back of the hall and windows on the left are into the dining room. The rear of the house had a glass lean- to roof all around.”
So why was the name of the house changed from Rosario to Benson House? Ann Taylor refers to this in her “letter in the mirror” (see “The Secret in the Mirror – Part 2) but here’s Helen’s explanation:
Helen Cobb Taylor: “It was called Benson House because my mum was born in Benson Road in Byker, Newcastle. Originally she was going to consider her family name Maxwell – but for obvious reasons that wasn’t a viable option!”
THE SECRET BEHIND THE MIRROR (PART ONE)
As well as the fascinating history and architecture of this house, it holds its own secrets too, as Helen explains:
“Behind the mirror in the upstairs front bedroom are a series of notes from the original owners and my Mum and Dad with a time capsule of newspapers and information from the time of the original build and my Dad’s refurbishment of the house.”
A real life mystery! But how would we ever get to see behind the mirror? Read on to section four to find out…
Below: Taylor Family photos (click for larger images):
BENSON HOUSE DENTAL SURGERY (1993 – Present)
When the Taylor family sold Benson House, its time as a family home ended. In 1993, permission was sought by S. F. Macfarlane to turn Benson House from a private residence into a dental surgery (D1 medical services). Permission was granted and the business moved from Dinorben Avenue, converting Benson House into a private BUPA dental practice. It remains as such today (2020).
Thanks and credit for the mirror information/photos in this section go to Kristen Munro, Practice Manager at Benson House.
Below: Planning permission for change of use in 1993.
The practice continued uninterrupted up until 2018, when Mr. MacFarlane had a change of heart about the future of the surgery and applied for permission to change 37 Kings Road from a Dental Surgery, back into a private home. However, after objections from BUPA, who did not want to lose the well established business, the application was withdrawn before a decision was granted.
Mr. MacFarlane wasn’t quite prepared to give up on his plans though and in 2020 he applied for permission again. But BUPA objected to the plans a second time. Their comments were refuted (see pictures below) but permission to convert the premises was withdrawn once more. In May 2020 the battle for Benson House ended and the property was sold, giving BUPA the new landlords they wanted. The dental practice continues to this day (2022).
Below: 1) Planning permission to change the surgery back into a private residence was withdrawn twice, 2) Objection letter from BUPA, 3) Rebuttal letter responding to BUPA.
THE SECRET BEHIND THE MIRROR (PART TWO)
After discovering the story of the mirror from the Taylor family (above), the next question was, how would we ever manage to take a look at it?
Kristen Munro, Practice manager at Benson House was to save the day. Kristen started at Benson House in 1998 as a nurse/receptionist and has managed the practice for over ten years. After joining our History Group and learning of our dilemma, she was able to access the building during the quiet lockdown period in 2020, finally unveiling the secrets of the mirror.
Below: The mirror hanging up in the dental practice.
Luckily, the original mirror still hung in its original position at Benson House, so it was possible take a look at the secrets it held. On taking the mirror down, there was a message on the back of it saying “Remove this back board for more information”. Once the back was opened, there was a map and instructions drawn inside, to find a time capsule that had been buried on the property.
Below: The mirror hanging up in the dental practice and the message/maps on the back and inside of it.
As previously described by Helen Taylor Cobb, there was indeed a letter from her parents in the back of the mirror, documenting details about the house and their refurbishments efforts to bring the house back to its former glory.
Below: The text of the note left by Helen’s parents, Don and Ann Taylor (former owners of Benson House), inside the mirror.
An additional note, added to the letter by the Taylors, sadly put an end to speculation about the time capsule: “We could not get to the “container” mentioned in Miss Frewer’s message, as Col. Elgood sold most of the land off before we bought the house. A bungalow now stands on where we think the container was buried and once was the garden to this property.”
Kristen Munro commented: “We thought it was by the tree in his driveway but looked again and it directed us to the corner of his plot possibly under his garage? It says It’s 7 feet down & Mr Crisp(?) has the key, so unlikely we will be able to get to it.
Below: The additional note from the Taylor family.
As well as the letter, the mirror contained a range of newspapers from 1934 – 1990. These were added by both the Frewer and Taylor families.
Below: Newspapers inside the mirror dating from 1934 – 1990.
Kristen, representing the latest occupants of Benson House, carried on the tradition of adding to the mirror with some recent newspapers, letters and a copy of the research at the beginning of this page, by Katherine Rusbridge. Thus continuing the story of the 37 Kings Road for future generations.
So has a lot changed inside since Benson House was a private home? The back door had to be removed to be replaced with a fire escape door but it has been put in storage along with other original features such as bookcases and mirrors. If the building ever becomes a family home again, it’s good to know the interior could be restored to it’s former glory.
Below: A few “Before and After” photos, comparing the Taylor family home to the modern dental surgery it is today (click for larger images):
There have been rumours by some, of some supernatural activity in Rosario aka Benson House, but is it true?
These are the views of those who have experience and knowledge of the house:
Kristen Munro (Practice Manger at Benson House Dental Practice):
“I’ve had staff over the years who say they feel something here, a nurse who said she could see a lady in the downstairs surgery dressed in black. A workman who slept here overnight in the waiting room, he said never again, lots of noises during the night…he was very spooked. Also a receptionist who said every morning when she opened up she heard a voice say “Morning!!”. I don’t like being here alone particularly in the evening”
Katherine Rusbridge (Researcher, The History of Rosario):
“A member of staff told me about the ghost at Rosario. Now, I’m not a great one for believing in ghosts, but if you are, then you might want a theory about who the ghost is. My money would be on Amy. She lived here for 70 years and I think she might pop back from time to time to see how things are going now. Or it might be Samuel. He has left representations of his family in the faces of the hallway and he might come back to check that they are still being looked after.”
Helen Taylor Cobb (Parents Owned Rosario/Benson House:-
“Ref the whole ghost thing – absolutely not. The house always felt safe and warm. We never really liked the little back bedroom but that prob cos we never really used it for anything but a record player, records and an old organ. Definitely no cold, creepy feelings anywhere.”
BUILDINGS OF HERITAGE
37 Kings Road in Fleet is one of the properties listed in Hart District Council’s “Buildings of Heritage and Townscape Value” (below).
HF – Directly associated with a significant period in the history of Fleet.
PD – Notable example of planned development, or of incidental development in Fleet.
AV – Especially striking aesthetic value and may be singled out as a landmark within the local scene.
LS – Intrinsic design relates to local styles, materials or any other distinctive local characteristics.
SDF – Part of a group of buildings with a clear visual design or historic relationship, provides the streetscape with interest and variety and/or defines the area in which they stand as Fleet.
SAMUEL FREWER’S FACE?
In section one, it was mentioned that there is a face above the exterior door of Rosario/Benson House, believed to be that of Samuel Frewer. However, this isn’t the only place in Fleet that we can see him. The photos below show not only “Samuel” at 37 Kings Road…but also a strikingly similar face above 315 Fleet Road (currently “Best One”). Could this be Samuel too? and if so…why is he there? (credit: Katherine Rusbridge).
Below: The face at 37 Kings Road and 315 Fleet Road:
Do you have thoughts, comments or memories to share? We’d love to hear from you…so please leave a comment!