Bernadette Watts' memories of Hothfield Place

Photo:The stables at Hothfield Place viewed through the main arch

The stables at Hothfield Place viewed through the main arch

The Watts flat was upstairs at the rear of the courtyard

Photo:The Watts family car parked below their flat around 1953

The Watts family car parked below their flat around 1953

Courtesy Bernadette Watts

Photo:Bernadette on the steps of the grand entrance to Hothfield Place

Bernadette on the steps of the grand entrance to Hothfield Place

The photo was taken not long before the mansion was demolished

Photo:Bernadette and brother Peter with kittens at the back of the mansion around 1953

Bernadette and brother Peter with kittens at the back of the mansion around 1953

Kindly provided by Bernadette Watts

Photo:Bernadette, Peter and their friends the Robinsons played in the grounds

Bernadette, Peter and their friends the Robinsons played in the grounds

A rare view of the north end of the mansion at Hothfield Place

Site of the former stable block of Hothfield Place

Living above the stables, 1949 to 1953

By Bernadette Watts

My family moved to Hothfield when I was about 7 years old - 1949.  We lived in a flat which was part of the stable block next to The Hothfield Mansion - "Hothfield Place".

When the Mansion was demolished, and also the stable block, my father, Bert Watts, desperately tried to save the stable block, he was a trained architect and surveyor, as he knew it was a unique building and should have been listed.  He failed to save the building but he did get the cobbled courtyard saved.  The cobbles are all egg-shaped.

I have local newspaper cuttings , with photos, of the sale of the Mansion contents etc prior to the demolition.  The Estate Fire Engine, complete with leather buckets and all brass fittings, went for £20.

We later lived at Thanet House for many years. 

When I was a child the Wood family lived in a cottage somewhere close to The High House.  They used to cut and deliver logs.  There was a son, Malcolm, about our age.  On the left hand side of the High House are some cottages.  The first one of those - i.e. the one nearest the Vicarage - was a shop.  It was owned and run by Miss Hughes.  The front room was the shop and her "parlour" was the room behind.

I’ve copied some photos of the courtyard taken when I was there – by the way those arches had no cement between the bricks, they were wedged exactly against each other which was very rare and very precious – and we went through that arch to get access to our flat.  Later we moved from that flat, which I think was no.1, to the flat on the left hand side.  The entrance to that 2nd flat was up a staircase within the arch.

I have a copy of the original drawing of the plans.  I remember all the names of the other tenants.

We loved living there, and as small children we had complete freedom to play on the estate and across the Park.  To one side of the stable block was a small orchard, contained by a beautiful brick wall with a wrought iron gate.  One day some workmen came and bricked up the gateway and we were no longer allowed access.  In the Lower Courtyard, behind the stable block and to the side of the Mansion my brother Peter, then aged about 9 or 10, had built himself a real little house out of bricks and slates lying around, it had windows and a door and was beautifully made for a child.

By the way the big house was never called the Manor.  Locally it was called The Mansion, but its correct name was Hothfield Place.

I remember the Dove Cote.  We played in there too.  On the other side was a small Abattoir, now a cottage.  I do sneak back sometimes and have a look, but it always makes me so sad.  When the stable block was destroyed we moved to the front downstairs flat of Thanet House.  I did go there a few years back as the then owner had found a bundle of Papers in the cellar which had my father’s name on.  The house was beautifully restored.

Just at present I am actually going through loads of family photos trying to get them in order, and of course there are lots of personal photos of that time, with bits of the Mansion etc as backgrounds.

I remember John Coles, he was my boyfriend for some years.  Then I went to Art School after which I moved to London to work as a book Illustrator and we drifted apart.

Well, I think that’s enough from me … I could go on and on ….

If you Google Bernadette Watts Official Website you can see the work I now do which basically was initiated during my happy rural childhood at Hothfield. 

Many thanks

Bernadette Watts

This page was added by Chris Rogers on 26/05/2014.
Comments about this page

I remember playing with Bernadette and her brother during the time they lived in the apartment

By Doreen Cavallier. (Bushell)
On 03/01/2015

What an interesting story. I moved to Hothfield in 1954. My aunt Rose Strickland , who lived with us in Beech drive, worked in the girls school down East hill in Ashford. I have a scroll photo of the pupils and staff . Would I be right in thinking you attended that school ?

By Michael Teesdale
On 05/01/2015

i believe the Bushell family lived in Thanet Terrace next to my partners family (the Allmans) . Annette does remember Doreen.

By MikeT
On 19/03/2015

Yes, Mike, we did live at no.2 Thanet Terrace, having moved from The Street. I remember playing with Annette.

By Susan Chapman (nee Bushell)
On 24/09/2015

the Norland nurses were evacuated to Hothfield Place in 1939. Lord Hothfield kindly agreed to this dispatch from pembridge Square to his regency mansion. 44 children and 75 adults in all. They set up a school in the billiards room before decamping once more to Bideford in Devon in 1940/41.

By Jill
On 07/07/2019

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