A Brief History of Dagnam Park
The 1919 auction map shows how the Neave estate was broken up and sold as separate lots. Go to the map and click on the lots to see the details of each lot. Thanks go to E. Herbert for providing a copy of the auction catalogue.
Dagnam Park has a long recorded history that stretches back many centuries - long before Harold Hill was built. The following brief articles give some insight into this rich history.
This history is based on an early draft by Don Tait and Simon Donaghue amended and updated over time.
As of 24 Dec 2006. Ernie Herbert's three new booklets are also available for download as Winzip files. These are major local history works and well worth downloading. Go to Ernie's Download page
Following Ernie's online publications Andy Walpole produced an excellent history of Harold Hill which was available on his own website for some years. It is now archived by the British Museum and can now be viewed here.
The most recent publication is "Harold Hill and Noak Hill: a history" by Simon Donoghue & Don Tait. It is the only in print local history and is available from local libraries at £15.99. Full information and sample pages here.
THE NEAVES, DAGNAMS AND NOAK HILL
1731, Richard Neave, the eldest son of James Neave of Walthamstow and
London, had made his fortune trading in the West Indies and the Americas when slave trading was at its height.
At various times he was chairman of the Ramsgate Harbour Trust, the
West Indian Merchants and of the London Dock Company, as well as a director
of the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1783 he was appointed Governor
of the Bank of England, (a position subsequently held by his grandson Sheffield
Neave in 1851).
THE NEAVE'S MANOR HOUSE BUILT BETWEEN 1772 AND 1776.
the First World War, Sir Thomas Neave 5th Bt., like many of his fellow
landowners, sold a large portion of his estates. Alfred Savill and Sons
arranged an auction for 2.30 pm on Monday, 26th May 1919, at Winchester
House, Old Broad Street, London, which saw Sir Thomas dispose of his
entire Essex holdings at Burstead, Rayleigh, Canvey Island and Eastwood.
"In 1940 my father, Sir Thomas Neave, 5th Baronet, died and the house and grounds were requisitioned and soldiers billeted in it, and all their transport was parked under the trees in the park. The house was damaged by a V2 right at the end of the war which cracked the wall of the front of the house. When emergency repairs were done they found the walls were two and a half bricks thick, which was why it hadn't collapsed. The house had cellars and a barrelled shaped damp course, you could easily crawl along the whole way round the house....After the war the LCC bought the property for £60,000 under a Compulsory Purchase Order - I have never and will never return.He diligently stripped the lead off the roof - an easy task - you got up through a trap door and could walk all round inside the parapet and scramble into a sort of well in the centre about 20 ft. X 15 ft; all lead covered, where we as children could hide, or later on sunbathe.Once the lead was stripped off, the rain got into the bomb cracks and eventually the house was demolished. I’ve often wondered if the stables and garden walls still stand. On the south side was a large lake and on the west side, the largest cork Ilex tree in England, heavily propped. There was a drive leading from Noak Hill which passed between the house and stables and garden and continued in a straight line to the main Romford to Brentwood Road.”When the LCC bought the house they said they were going to repair the house and use it as a club centre, so they put in a caretaker. He diligently stripped the lead off the roof - an easy task - you got up through a trap door and could walk all round inside the parapet and scramble into a sort of well in the centre about 20 ft. X 15 ft; all lead covered, where we as children could hide, or later on sunbathe.Once the lead was stripped off, the rain got into the bomb cracks and eventually the house was demolished. I’ve often wondered if the stables and garden walls still stand. On the south side was a large lake and on the west side, the largest cork Ilex tree in England, heavily propped. There was a drive leading from Noak Hill which passed between the house and stables and garden and continued in a straight line to the main Romford to Brentwood Road."..... (Read the letters in full)
Sir Arundell Neave, 6th Bt. had however, agreed to the sale of Dagnams before the compulsory purchase order was obtained though there is no doubt he had little option but to sell. The Neaves had moved to their home in Anglesey at Llys Dulas for the duration of the war, clearly the damage suffered by the building, very visible in the photographs taken prior to demolition, would have cost an awful lot of money to repair. The LCC had planned to save the house and indeed were legally bound by a Ministry of Planning Order which had also specified that the barn at New Hall Farm, New Hall farmhouse itself, the Priory and Cockerell’s Moat, were not to be removed. Essex County Council, Romford Borough Council and the LCC all stated that they could find no use for the building. By January 1950, the Ministry had released the LCC from its undertaking to preserve Dagnams and the house was demolished later that year with the demolition team removing the spoils as payment. Much of the bric-a-brac was to be distributed among the villagers at Noak Hill by Lady Dorina Neave at a charity bric a brac sale whilst returning to Noak Hill in 1950 to open the new Victory Hall. ( Women at sale walk out on LCC critic. Romford Times, May 28, 1952). and at the same time she donated a copy of the valuable Guido Reni painting. FORTUNE FLYING OVER THE WORLD which had once graced the mansion. Lady Neave commented bitterly on the ‘vandalism of the LCC’.
Del Smith comments (2003) Despite the Neaves having a prestigious art collection the newspaper reports that the original Reni painting had been donated to the people of Noak Hill was false it was in fact a copy. Little remains to give a clue to the whereabouts of Dagnams. Fence posts, some foundations, the floor of the stables and the concrete pool which appears in the map of 1748 being the only real signs of a glorious past. However the park remains and the family and their house are remembered in some of the street names of Harold Hill. The 7th Baronet of Dagnam Park, Sir Paul Neave was born three weeks after the first house on the Harold Hilll estate was handed over.
In Romance of the Bosphorus she wrote "The summer of 1907 was the last that I was to spend on the Bosphorus, on August 26th of that year, my birthday. I left Turkey, in the 26th year of my stay there, to meet, not long afterwards my future husband, Sir Thomas Neave, whose birthday was also on the 26th of the month (July). My husband and I settled down in England, with a second beautiful home in Anglesey. Much as we have desired to visit Constantinople together, we have never found an opportunity of doing so”. Whilst in Noak Hill Lady Neave played a full role in Noak Hill's village life and is remembered in Romford by the foundation stone of an extension to the Victoria Cottage Hospital in Pettits Lane Romford, which she laid in the 1930s. Dorinna Neave is buried in the cemetery at St Thomas's Church, Noak Hill.
Dorina Lady Neave: Romance of the Bosphorus (Hutchinson & Co, London) Read excerps from the book