The Neaves of Dagnam & Noak Hill
Born in 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 purchase of Dagnams in 1772 marked the beginning of Richard Neave’s transition from merchant to country gentleman. At this time he was the tenant of the Bower House at Havering-atte-Bower where he remained until 1776. The intervening four years saw the house that was once visited by Samuel Pepys (read Pepys diary entries for the Dagnams visit) pulled down and the Georgian mansion, which stood until 1950, erected in its place. Neave further established his position among the local gentry with a land purchase policy, begun in 1785 and continued by his successors throughout the next century, which saw the Dagnam Park estate swell to 1,600 acres.
Richard Neave’s social ambitions were realised with his appointment as High Sheriff of Essex in 1794 and more importantly in 1795 when he was created a baronet. He died in 1814 and was succeeded by his son Sir Thomas.
Sir Thomas’s additions to the Neave estate included the Bear bought in 1820 and the Manor of Gooshays in 1829. He was Steward of the Liberty of Havering-atte-Bower in 1806 and 1809 and a magistrate under the charter of the Liberty in 1826 and 1828. Neave was appointed sheriff of Essex in 1828. The Church of St. Thomas and the Priory were both built for Sir Thomas in the 1840’s. The school at Noak Hill, built by subscription and government grant opened in 1848 – the year Sir Thomas died.
Dagnams was then inherited by Sir Richard Digby Neave, grandson of Sir Thomas, (who was a close friend of the famous landscape artist John Constable) It was Sir Richard who purchased Brick Kiln Farm and Spice Pitts Farm before his death in 1863. The fourth baronet, Sir Arundell Neave lived until 1877 when he was succeeded by his son Sir Thomas, then only 3 years old
Following 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.
Included in the sale were 1,506 acres of the Dagnam Park Estate, only leaving Dagnams, the park and Dagnam Park Farm, which amounted to 550 acres, in the hands of the Neaves. The sitting tenants of the farms on the estate were given the option to buy their land before the sale and most did so.
The farms sold in 1919 were Manor Farm, Maylands, Gooshays, New Hall, Harold Wood, Brick Kiln, Harold Hill, Spice Pits and Hill Farm. Also included in the sale were The Bear public house, the Keeper’s House, Angel Cottages (which had once been a public house) and other cottages and plots of land on the estate as well as a factory site near Gidea Park Station.
THE END OF DAGNAMS. The end of Dagnams really begins with the start of World War II and the death in 1940 of Sir Thomas Neave, 5th Bt. The story of the decline was recounted in a letter printed in The Essex Countryside in 1981 It was sent by Dorina Eileen Parsons ne Neave, the daughter of Sir Thomas and Dorina Lady Neave to Mr A.F. Kilby and was response to a letter printed in the magazine from Mr Kilby.
“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.