The Knole

The building has had an interesting history before becoming the home of Bournemouth Freemasons in 1958. The notes below were written by local historian and archivist Alwyn Ladell

The story of the Knole...

...began in 1792 when John Sloman from Islington, London, and Richard Hughes of Wick (now part of Bournemouth), acquired the land on which the Knole now stands. Sloman bought various parcels of land in the Springbourne district and built Wick House on Wick Green for himself. Succeeding generations of Slomans lived there until 1939. John Sloman revived Wick Ferry but his main interest was the purchase and development of land, especially that area which is now Windham Road, Curzon Road and St Clement's, Boscombe.

In 1867 a Sloman sold the site on which St Clement's Church now stands and, with the help of public subscription but mostly via a gift of £30,000 from Edmund Christy, the church was begun in 1871, being completed two years later, along with its Vicarage, School, and Curates' Cottages (all completed by 1877). The philanthropic bachelor, Edmund Christy (born 1827 into the famous hat-maker family), having leased the Knole site from Sir George Meyrick, with an adjoining plot purchased from John Sloman, commissioned a house for himself in 1872 and the Knole was built in 1872-3, with some additional work continuing until 1875 . The architect Christy chose for all this work was John Dando Sedding who employed a local builder, John Toogood to execute his designs (the church also had additions and modifications by Sedding's pupil, Henry Wilson, in 1893). J D Sedding is perhaps best known for having designed the Law Courts in the Strand, London. In Bournemouth he designed St Peter's Church; St John's School, Moordown; and Pokesdown National School, adjoining St James' Church.

Edmund Christy was a devout Anglo-Catholic and, when his spiritual director and mentor departed with tuberculosis (shortly after, to be replaced by a non-Tractarian priest), he quickly left Bournemouth in 1873. At some point he sold the lease on the Knole to John Grant Shepherd, and in 1882 he provided a mortgage to Mr Shepherd to enable him to buy Knole Cottage. In 1891 Mr Shepherd bought the freehold from Sir George Meyrick (the census shows tenants Emma Hardy and her son in residence), and paid off his mortgage to Mr Christy the following year. Lady Miller was in residence from 1894 to 1903 (when the house was put up for auction but failed to meet the reserve price). Shortly after, it was occupied by the Austrian Ambassador, Lord Davy, and the Earl and Countess of Harewood.

John Grant Shepherd...

...had died in 1899 and his son, William Grant Shepherd, (who had offered the estate at auction in 1903) sold the estate to Mrs Anne Page Croft in 1911 (for £7,500) for her dying husband though he lived for less than a year after the purchase (moving Mrs Croft to pay for the Clock Tower at the Lansdowne College). Their second son, Sir Henry Page Croft became Conservative MP for Christchurch and the New Forest in 1910, and for Bournemouth from 1918 to 1940 (when he was elevated to the peerage). In the first years of WW2 the Knole became headquarters to the 11th Infantry Brigade then, from 1942 to 1945, Lady Croft opened the Knole as a nursery for infant evacuees from London and Portsmouth, with the assistance of St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross. In 1946 Lord Croft offered the house and estate, through Fox & Sons, at auction but, having again failed to reach its reserve, of £16,000 he sold it privately to Charles Wright of Eden Holme, Grove Road, Bournemouth, for £17,250.

Wright leased the house to Philip Barclay-Bull, an hotelier, who sold the lease to Mabel Harrison a year later. Wright also sold plots facing Knole Road and Knyveton Road, losing the carriage entrance. In 1948 the freehold of the hotel site was sold to Miss V M Pettitt for £14,250. The hotel closed in 1954 and the house was empty and boarded up. In 1955 Miss Pettitt sold the freehold for £11,000 to Horace Clark. The following year Mabel Harrison sold the lease on the hotel for £1,000 back to Mr Clark. He reassembled parts of the estate to develop Knole Gardens but abandoned his plans, to demolish the house and redevelop the site, selling to Lansbourne Estates (owned by Harold G Walker and F G Rowe). They sold the house to Bournemouth Masonic Buildings in 1956 for £8,500 and built the remaining 22 bungalows in Knole Gardens.

Bournemouth Masonic Buildings was formed in 1939 by local Lodges to share the cost of larger premises. Having bought the Knole it then converted the former hotel into Bournemouth's main Masonic venue with a two-storey extension to house forming the principal Lodge Room and a Dining Room beneath. This necessitated some internal re-ordering including the removal of two staircases, rebuilt as one surrounding a lift, installation of central heating, construction of kitchens, a Club Room and Bar, cloakrooms and offices. Regrettably, this involved the loss of a drawing room with a fine marble fireplace, removal of the crenellations on the tower, and cement rendering of the brick buttresses - though, as the building had otherwise faced demolition, this must be seen in context. The first Masonic meeting to be held in the Knole was the Installation Meeting of the Lodge of Hengist, No.195, on 2nd January, 1958. Bournemouth Masonic Buildings subsequently bought the former stables area for a further £1,700 and, in 1967 built an annexe (comprising Lodge rooms and a flat).

The Knole was Listed Grade II on 27th February, 1976. The description is as follows:

"1872-3, J D Sedding for Edmund Christy (founder of St Clement's). Much altered since 1950, but still impressive mansion of the earliest Arts and Crafts period, influenced by William Morris. Tudor Gothic, red brick and stone dressings, tiled roofs with ornamental ridges, 2 storeys and high basement, L-shaped. Long symmetrical south front to garden terrace, with central 3-storey gatehouse-type tower: stone polygonal corner buttresses, 4-centred door with coat-of-arms in sculptured panelling over, mullioned windows to upper floors. 2-storey canted bay on each side with mullioned and transomed windows and stone inscription giving date 1873, under deep stone-coped parapet. West flank asymmetrical: big rectangular bay at north-west, with 2 transoms and hipped roofs, supports canted dormer, with 2 transoms, plaster gable and sunflower metal finial. South-west gable altered, with tilehanging recessed behind parapet, intricate 3-light Tudor-arched window and projecting chimneybreast at 1st floor level (chimneystack gone). 

Entrance side L-shaped, with approach up steps to terrace alongside east wing - reconstructed with flat roof 1958. North wing of interesting composition has 4-centred doorway in surround of small Tudor-arched lights (similar lights to strip window under eaves); door itself with incised patterns and studs. Adjoining wall windowless, with inset stone sculptured panel of St Hubert's Dream in Gothic frame, battlemented gable at 1st floor level with large merlons of smooth stone, then recessed tilehung gable to 2nd floor with projecting canted bell-canopy on brackets, topped by sunflower finial on leaded base. 

Recessed northern wing with gabled stone dormer over lean-to single-storey annexe with brick chimneystack at end - much bare brickwork. (Flat-roofed modern extension). Forecourt has clipped yew hedge on 2 sides over low brick coped wall. 

Interior much altered, agent from linenfold-panelled doors and Jacobean-style balustered staircase. 2 fine rooms survive : at south-west corner, dining room with linenfold panellings, plaster foliage frieze and Elizabethan-style plaster ceiling, chimneypiece with blue daisy tiles in pink marble surround under white marble 4-centred arch with carved frieze between fluted wood pilasters and cornice, supporting overmantel of mirrors in 3 Jacobean-style arches under plaster tester with 3 rows of sunflowers. 

Reception room at north-west corner, of Great Hall type, has elaborate Elizabethan-style plaster ceiling with pendants, over foliage frieze, similar ceiling and frieze in windowless recess opposite square oriel. French C16th style of chimneypiece with Renaissance type round arch (blue tiles within) and hooded open grate, overmantel with flowers in vase motif in tiers, under frieze with pilasters."