On Thursday 23rd June 1881 at two o’clock precisely, the Hedgerley Park Estate was sold by auction in London to Mrs Ellen Emily Stevenson.

The Sales Catalogue described the Hedgerley Park Estate as being 800 acres comprising a Mansion, Pleasure Grounds, Lodges, Plantations, Ornamental Lakes, Stables, Keepers Lodge, Kitchen Garden and the Manor of Hedgerley with “a never-failing supply of excellent water”.

“The Pleasure Grounds are laid out in lawns and flower beds...and the Plantations with extensive Walks and Groves which surround the Mansion on all sides, and the LARGE ORNAMENTAL LAKES WITH WATERFALLS, combine to render it a very picturesque retreat.”

The Estate also included 5 productive farms – Colley Hill Farm Homestead (now known as Tara), Manor Farm and Leith Grove Farm both in Hedgerley Green, Hedgerley Court Farm Homestead (now known as Court Farm) and “The One Pin” Farm.

In addition, there was arable and meadow land plus Stoke Wood in Stoke Poges Parish plus “a rustic cottage” near Stoke Common (Templewood Lane) that was let to Mr James Jeffery.

Mrs Stevenson was born Ellen Emily Hodgson in Clapham Common Surrey on the June 24 1845. Her father John Hodgson was a wealthy tobacco broker. On the August 13 1868 Ellen married Lt Henry S Stevenson (Royal Horse Artillery) at St Mary’s Battersea.

Sadly, Henry died of a brain disease in Wales on the July 28 1870 age 30.

After less than 2 years of marriage Ellen was a widow age 25 with 3 small children, twins Mabel Grace and Ethel Caroline and younger daughter Maud Sophia.

In the 11 years be before purchasing Hedgerley Park Estate in 1881, Ellen and her daughters moved around the country, including spells at her parent’s home at 65 Queen’s Gate Kensington and probably their country home at Scotton Hall in North Yorkshire.

By the age of 33 she had lost both her parents, siblings and husband.

Ellen probably moved to Hedgerley Park shortly after purchasing the estate. In 1891 she was living there with her daughters Mabel and Ethel (age 21) who both listed their occupations as "farmer", Maud (age 20), and a visitor Robert Ottley (Silk Merchant) plus 10 servants.

Community Involvement

The family played a full part in village-life. In 1886 Ellen became a Churchwarden at St Mary’s church, a position she was to hold for 36 years.

In 1893 she gave the use of Court Farm and about 30 acres to the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society for use as a Farm Home, teaching agriculture to up to 26 boys between the ages of 12 and 16.

It was formally opened on the June 22 1893 with a benediction service by the Bishop of Reading in the presence of a large congregation.

The home closed in 1926.

The children at Hedgerley School were regularly invited to picnics in the Park Grounds. For example, the "tea, buns and bananas given by the Misses Stevenson" on May 19 1908 were a great treat.

Hedgerley Women's Institute (WI) was formed on October 27 1921 and Miss Ethel Stevenson was the first President.

The meetings could not start until the President was present and Mrs Stevenson was always late – blaming her chauffeur!

The first anniversary of the WI was celebrated with tea at Mrs Stevensons.

From 1930 to 1952 Maud Stevenson regularly attended the meetings.

At one held on April 19 1945 "Three members then gave travel talks.

Miss Maud Stevenson told about her adventures in Egypt and the audience began to wonder more and more how she escaped without broken limbs or other major disasters!"

Early in the 20th C the Stevensons built a new house called Sherley Close. Initially Maud Stevenson lived in the property and her sister Ethel and mother Ellen stayed in the Mansion at Hedgerley Park.

It would appear that at some point during the 1920’s Mrs Ellen Stevenson and her daughter Ethel vacated Hedgerley Park and moved in to Sherley Close.

The Stephenson sisters

In 1899 one of the twins, Mabel, married the painter Hugh Littleton Norris and they settled in Hampshire.

Maud Stevenson wrote poetry and one of her compositions While the World Sleeps was published in Country Life on 27th November 1909.

Ethel Stevenson was a suffragist and helped to form the Gerrards Cross branch of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (non-militant and non-party).

She was elected President at its first meeting in February 1912 at Gerrards Cross Town Hall, when "the membership of the branch numbers 40 in GX alone".

Early in 1921 Maud was called for jury service in Aylesbury at the trial of George Arthur Bailey,33, dairyman, popularly known as the Whistling Milkman.

The proceedings were distinguished by the fact that for the first time in the history of the County women were empowered to serve on the jury.

They were Matilda Tack, Annie White and Maud Sophia Stevenson. Maud raised an objection to serve on the ground that the nature of the evidence to be called was not of a character which she would voluntarily listen to.

The Judge overuled this, pointing out the obligations which now devolved upon women in common with men.

The Estate is sold

In 1921 the Hedgerley Park Estate (867 acres – 800 in 1881) was put up for sale. The Sale Catalogue describes the Mansion as having 16 bedrooms, three dressing rooms, five reception rooms, five inside WC’s and one bathroom.

There was no electric lighting.

There were Croquet and Tennis lawns and stabling for six horses.

One of the properties listed in the sale was Wood End Cottage which was described as “a very superior type of cottage built by Mrs Stevenson and designed by an eminent architect (not named)” Colleyhill Farm was noted for County Show prizes for best oat and root crops in Bucks plus several prize winning shire horses.

The Estate was finally sold in 1931 to Richmond Watson, ending 50 years occupation by the Stevenson ladies.

The new owner proceeded to strip turves, fell trees and open gravel pits and a short while later the house was demolished.

Some outbuildings (stables and coach house and the old Keepers Lodge) remained until after the Second World War.

The Hedgerley association comes to an end

Mrs Ethel Stevenson died on May 11 1937, a month before her 92nd birthday.

Her funeral was at St Mary's, Hedgerley on May 14, when " No mourning, no flowers" was requested.

In recognition of her contribution to Hedgerley life, Eton Rural District Council, having acquired land on Hedgerley Hill that was formerly part of the Hedgerley Park Estate to build social housing and a shopping parade, named one of the roads after Mrs Stevenson.

Maud and Ethel Stevenson continued to live at Sherley Close supported by a cook, house parlour maid, and a state registered nurse.

Maud was the first of the three sisters to die, in 1952 aged 82.

Mabel died on October 10 1956 (age 87) in Hampshire.

Ethel passed away at her home in Shirley Close on March 16 1962 (age 92).

Maud and Ethel are buried alongside their mother in St Mary’s Churchyard in Hedgerley.

Thus ended over 80 years' connections with Hedgerley by the Stevenson ladies.