Sassoon

Weirleigh

Weirleigh was a rambling neo-Gothic house, built alongside the road at Gedges hill, just North of Matfield in Kent. It was designed by the illustrator Harrison Weir in 1866 for his own use. The architects were Messrs. Wadmore & Baker, of 35 Great St. Helens, E.C.; the builders, Messrs. Penn Brothers, of Pembury, Kent. Weir eventually sold it to the Sassoon family and Siegfried Sassoon was born there in 1886, the house becoming the family home until the death of Sassoon's mother, Theresa, in 1947.

The house, and its Wealden location, were key in nurturing two sides of Sassoon's personality: the warrior hunter and the sensitive poet of rural life. The first two books of his autobiographical trilogy, The Old Century and Seven More Years and The Weald of Youth recount his growing up here, as does his better known 'fictional' autobiography Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man. He developed a great fondness for the house and its details, such as the massive 92 step staircase, which feature in some of his poems and link to memories of his childhood.

Amongst other literary connections to Weirleigh was the visit in 1916 of Robert Graves, not long after the death of Sassoon's younger brother Hamo, at Gallipoli.

Whilst Graves found the house to possess a “congenial atmosphere" he recounts in ‘Good-bye To All That’ being kept awake by "sudden rapping noises" and "diabolic yelling" which were Sassoon's mother trying to make contact, by sťance, with Hamo. The account upset Sassoon deeply, and whilst no fan of spiritualism, it caused a permanent rift between the two friends.

Weirleigh Plan

The picture to the left, produced for the ‘Artists Homes’ series, is a very fitting illustration of Weirleigh with the fox hunt passing down the lane in front of the house. The second is a modern day photograph showing the same elevation of the house. The tower was removed at a later date.

Weirleigh

Weirleigh was divided in the 1950's and renovated in recent years creating Weirleigh Cottage, a Victorian Grade II Listed attached four bedroom family home. The property originally commissioned in the 1860's by the celebrated artist and illustrator to Charles Darwin: Harrison Weir and later purchased by the family of Siegfried Sassoon. Weirleigh Cottage is accessed via a shared private drive leading into the driveway. There is a tiered garden to the front which is enclosed by trees and shrubs offering a place to unwind with pleasant views from an elevated vantage point. The front door (below left) is embellished by a beautiful stone carving and inscription bearing the Weir family motto in Latin "Vero nil Verius" and opens onto a grand hallway (below right).

Weirleigh Weirleigh Hallway

The picture of the house below left shows a side elevation from the road. Roughly in the middle below the sloping gable can be seen three windows. The picture on the right shows the same window from inside in the modern day.

Weirleigh Weirleigh Windows

Money For Nothing - From the Library of Theresa Sassoon

Money For Nothing

Money For Nothing, By P. G. Wodehouse, published by Herbert Jenkins Limited, London. This book once belonged to Siegfried Sassoon’s mother, Theresa Sassoon, and most definitely ‘lived’ in Weirleigh while Theresa was alive.

Theresa has added her name and address on the front endpaper (right):

‘Theresa Sassoon, Weirleigh, Matfield Green, Kent.’

Inscription

Below, A view of the garden at Weirleigh in 1913, with ‘possibly’ Siegfried Sassoon with the girl on the left of the picture.

Weirleigh Aug 15 1913

I have located a copy of the 1911 census return (below) for Weirleigh, Matfield, Paddock Wood, Kent, signed by Theresa Sassoon. All those who passed the night of Sunday April 2nd, 1911 in the house had to be recorded. Those resident on that night were Theresa, two Housemaids, the cook, a maid and Siegfried (aged 24). I love the fact that even in 1911 Siegfried’s personal occupation is listed as ‘Literature’.

In addition, we find two children listed as visitors, Margaret (aged 8) and Thomas (aged 5) Richardson. I wonder where Tom Richardson the groom was and were these children anything to do with him? They are both listed as being born in Matfield.

I have found out very little about Tom Richardson (Dixon in the Sherston Trilogy). Max Egremont states in his book, ‘Siegfried Sassoon A Biography’, that Richardson joined the Army Veterinary Corps during WWI. Jean Moorcroft Wilson records in her book ‘Siegfried Sassoon - The Journey From The Trenches A Biography 1918-1967’, that Richardson died in ‘rather sordid circumstances’ in 1928 (although Sherston had him killed in the war). Tom Dixon was one of my favourite Sherston characters and it seems a pity his real-life counterpart has vanished from the record. That is unless anyone can tell me more?

1911 Census

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