(Part 3, Chapter 1, Section 2) ( Ch. Index )

The Butchers of Ecclesden Manor

Many long-term village residents may have been aware of Walter Butcher who owned and lived at Ecclesden Manor for about 40 years up to 1953 but, until recently, little has been generally known about this extremely wealthy but caring man and his generosity towards the parish of Angmering.

But where did he come from and how did he achieve such wealth? When he died in 1953 his estate was valued at £262,375 which, based on the increase in earnings since that time, would have been worth approx £13.5 million today*.

A banking family

Walter (born 1863) was the younger son of George and Fanny Butcher of Tring, Hertfordshire. The census records of the 19th century tell us that George was a banker as were his brothers Thomas and Frederick, and as was their father Thomas. Walter himself went into banking after finishing his education and his older brother Francis also followed this career.

So we have three generations of bankers, a fact which starts to tell us that there may be something special about this family. When we start probing deeper, we find that Thomas Butcher, a seed and corn merchant, established Butcher’s Bank, in 1836, in partnership with his son Thomas who was born c1806 in Tring. The partnership later expanded to include Thomas junior’s younger sons, Frederick and George, and the business became known as Thomas Butcher & Sons; it was also known as Tring Old Bank and was represented at Aylesbury and Chesham on market days. The bank later became the Tring, Aylesbury & Chesham Bank, opening branches in Aylesbury (1837), Chesham (1840) and Berkhamsted (1900). According to the surviving records, Thomas Butcher & Sons issued bank notes between 1836 and 1900, when it was taken over by the London bankers Prescott, Dimsdale, Cave, Tugwell & Co (est. 1766).

Butcher’s Bank is long gone, but another organisation that grew out of a suggestion by Thomas Butcher Jnr. is thriving; indeed, it’s the oldest surviving building society in the world. Not the Halifax or the Abbey National, as you might think, but the Chesham.

Operating a successful banking business and selling out to London bankers must have resulted in the Butcher family accumulating a considerable fortune of which Walter must have inherited a fair share. This was a time of opportunity, and wise investments could have enhanced his wealth. He remained single until 1904 when he married his cousin Margaret, born in the same year as himself, in the Kensington District of London. They were both 41 at the time and no children resulted from the marriage.

Move to Angmering

The first we know of Walter’s association with Angmering was when he applied for a building permit in October 1912 to construct a new residence on the Ecclesden Manor estate. He was still living in Tring at that time. In 1913, still in Tring, he applied for a permit to build a new cottage there as well. This was probably what was known as Chauffeur’s Cottage in the lane near the gates of the Manor. No doubt Walter and Margaret moved there soon after.

But why should he suddenly move all this way to Sussex from Hertfordshire? The answer is that Margaret’s mother and two of Margaret’s sisters had moved to Chesswood Road in Worthing by 1891, some 20 years earlier. Walter’s parents had probably died by 1912 and there may have been little reason for him remaining at Tring, especially as he and Margaret probably may have had to make regular trips to Worthing to see her family.

So Walter and Margaret settled at Ecclesden. One of the first things they did was to provide themselves with a little more privacy than previous occupants of the Manor had enjoyed. Much to the annoyance of villagers, who used to lean over the fence and admire the garden, the Butchers moved the path to Highdown further south to where it is today. The new footpath was completed in 1917 to the satisfaction of villagers and the justices who inspected the new route.

Village interests

It was in 1919 that we first learn of the generosity of the Butchers. At the village’s peace celebrations that August, Margaret Butcher provided a “splendid display” of fireworks, which hundreds of people gathered to watch in the meadow next to the Angmering Club. She was roundly cheered for her efforts.

Following the 1919 Armistice Day “silence” all the children at Older’s Charity School and St Wilfrid’s RC School were given a bright new sixpence which the Butchers had provided.

There is evidence from the local District Council building permit applications that, at about 1925, Walter Butcher had also purchased Pound House in Roundstone Lane but it is not known for how long he retained its ownership.

Perhaps the most significant piece of generosity of Walter Butcher was his funding of the construction of the Village Hall in 1926 on land provided by Frederick Saville of Ham Manor. Both of these gentlemen were among the first trustees of the Village Hall and received an additional vote as a result of their munificence. The resulting Trust Deed also gave them the power to appoint other trustees and for them to remain as trustees as long as they desired to retain office. Could Walter have been influenced by actions of his cousin, Frederick, who some years earlier had provided land at Cholesbury, Hertfordshire, for the building of a village hall.

The Butchers, however, appear to be a rather reticent couple who largely shied away from publicity. They provided their gardens for village fetes and seemed to support village organisations in a quiet way. However, we do know that in 1942 Margaret Butcher was vice-president of the Angmering, Patching and Poling Red Cross in its Chichester Division.

They also allowed their grounds to be used by the Girl Guides for camping during WW2 when it would not have been possible for them to go further afield. Margaret Butcher, seemed to have a soft spot for the Guides and, even in her eighties, was known to have taken a small party of them up to see Ecclesden Mill and then show them around the Manor garden and downstairs of the house before giving them tea.

Even though they were on the reticent side, it did not stop them enjoying the comforts that such wealth could bring. Their chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce would often pass through the village, but they were obviously not extravagant as they still appear to have used the same pre-WW2 model up to the time of their deaths.

Walter appears to have been a golfer in his younger days and also took great interest in his well known herd of Channel Island cattle which were no doubt looked after by his cowman, Ernie Penn, whose ancestors had resided in Angmering and Poling for many generations. It also appears that Walter not only owned Ecclesden Manor, but also an estate in Aberystwyth in Wales.

Final days

Margaret Butcher died on 13 February 1950 and left her entire estate valued at £17,832 (*£1,160,600) to her husband. It appears that the local British Legion provided the stone seat on The Green in her memory, but it is suspected that Walter may well have financed it himself, such was the nature of this self-effacing man. We do know, however, that the seat was produced by monumental masons, FA Holland, a member of that family being the present owner of Ecclesden Manor.

Walter Butler died, aged 90, on 30 August 1953 and was cremated. In death he was as generous as in life. In his Will he left his wife’s collection of Staffordshire china dogs and five tapestries to Worthing Museum and her bookcase and three Hepplewhite chairs to Mrs Raglan Somerset, wife of a distant relative of the Somersets of nearby Castle Goring. He also provided the following legacies:

Neither did he forget his and Margaret’s retainers:

One bequest was an annuity of £104 (£5370) provided to William Bagnall of 28 Chesswood Road, Worthing, a large late Victorian house that still stands today. This was to be paid as a monthly income. William (b.c1869) also came from Tring and became the manager of Walter's estates at both Ecclesden and Aberystwyth. What is interesting is that the 1881 Census records that Walter’s parents employed a housemaid in Tring by the name of Elizabeth Bagnall who was probably William's sister. William Bagnall's son, also William, did his apprenticeship with Angmering builders, Pesketts, duly qualified as a surveyor, and became a director of the firm, spending his whole career with them.

But probably the most interesting bequest was the residue of Walter’s estate which was left to the family of Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the French supreme commander of the Allied forces on the Western Front in WW1 who died in 1929. Walter’s Will was worded as follows:

“By reason of my admiration for the late Marshal Foch and of my feeling that his invaluable services to our Country as well as his own have never been adequately recognised I am anxious to pay an Englishman’s tribute to the memory of this great French soldier to whom we all owe so much. I therefore direct that my Trustees shall stand possessed of the capital and future income of my trust fund. In trust for all or any the daughters or daughter of Marshal Foch living at my death and the children or child then living of any then deceased daughter of Marshal Foch being male attain the age of twenty one years or being female attain that age or marry under that age and if more than one in equal shares as tenants in common but so that the children or child of any deceased daughter of his shall take (equally between them as tenants in common if more than one) only the share which their his or her mother would have taken had she survived me and attained a vested interest”.

The value of Walter’s estate was, as stated at the commencement of this article, a substantial £262,375 (*£13,550,000).

Family Group

An early 20thC photograph of the mansion south front, with a family group outside. Presumably that of Walter Butcher.

Walter and Margaret Butcher did much for the Parish of Angmering. However, little of their largesse has been recorded, which is probably the way they would have liked but, for historical reasons, their actions should be chronicled.

Neil Rogers-Davis
April 2006

*Note: The values of the 1950/1953 bequests have been converted to present day values based on the increase in earnings since that time. Today’s values are shown in brackets following the original sum. It is recognised that the converted values given may be slightly inflated and the purchasing power may be somewhat less than the stated figures.

Sources of Information and Acknowledgments:
1. “This is Tring” website (http://homepage.ntlworld.com/tadra.secretary/website/)
2. Census Records 1861-1901 (provided by Mrs P Clear)
3. FreeBMD – On-line Marriage Records
4. East Preston Rural District Council Building Permits (provided by Mr RW Standing)
5. “Scribble” (transcribed and provided by Mr RW Standing)
6. “Angmering – Reminiscences of bygone days”: The Angmering Society, 2003
7. Mrs June Penn (Anecdotes and information)
8. Mr Peter Holland (memorial seat information)
9. Mrs Joan Bagnall (estates and Bagnall information)
10. West Sussex Gazette 3 Sept 1953
11. The Will of Margaret Butcher and probate certificate
12. The Will of Walter Butcher and probate certificate
13. Photo (courtesy of Mr & Mrs P Holland)

(Page first uploaded - 01.04.06)