Dunannie House, the Friends Ambulance Unit & more of its History

Dunannie House, the Friends Ambulance Unit & more of its History

Dunannie House, the Friends Ambulance Unit & more of its History

Dunannie house in Steep no longer exists. It lay in the old Dunhill hamlet of Steep on a bend in the Petersfield to Alton road, that is now numbered the C18. The house was demolished in 1972. It had an interesting history however, and is worth recording.

Much of the information for the first part of this article comes from a piece written by Andrew Hicks for the Petersfield Area Historical Association Bulletin for Spring 2023. I am grateful to him and to Bill Gosney its editor for providing the information.

Extracts from Andrew’s article are here:

Through WW2 the Friends Ambulance Unit had occupied expensive headquarters offices in Bedford Square in London but then they had moved out to Steep and set up new headquarters there.

Their advertisement requesting new premises was answered by the Bedales School bursar who offered them a lease of a house named Dunannie.  Bedales had bought the nearby Dunannie house in 1947/48 to extend their estate and to acquire more land for playing fields.  Having no immediate use for the house a letting to a sympathetic institution whose ideals would fit well with the Bedales ethos was an attractive proposition.  The FAU paid an annual rent of £475 for the use of the house. Many Quakers sent their children to Bedales so a sympathetic relationship developed, the FAU maintaining their lease as an interim move between October 1948 to October 1951.

Andrew Hicks explains that one of the key principles of the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers, is that Jesus preached non-violence and accordingly Quakers are committed pacifists.  With conscription of soldiers in the First World War came the potential for conflict. Legislation gave exemption from military service if an applicant to a tribunal proved that they conscientiously objected to military service.  They would however be required to perform alternative non-military service as specified by the tribunal. The Friends Ambulance Unit was set up as an organisation to provide this opportunity for appropriate service.  In consequence a significant proportion of the extremely dangerous ambulance work carried out on the Western Front was done by the FAU.

World War Two presented the same dilemma and the FAU was reconstituted offering conscientious objectors work in UK such as in hospitals (where FAU was said to stand for faeces and urine) and also in many countries abroad devastated by the war.  One of these countries worst affected following invasion by Japan was China. The FAU ‘China Convoy’ was the biggest of the many national projects deploying several hundred members, including doctors.  The work was arduous including the establishment of medical units working both in military and civilian fields and running a large fleet of trucks distributing medical supplies throughout those parts of China not held by the Japanese.  Mission and other hospitals were thus kept functioning saving many lives.  Being away from home for several years living in harsh conditions was no easy option for these pacifists and twelve young men succumbed to illness and accident.  Memoirs have been written of their time in China. Andrew’s book, ‘A True Friend to China‘ offers a full evocation of their life in China at the time, illustrated with five hundred photographs.

Following the end of WW2, compulsory military service did not abruptly come to an end, it was soon followed by compulsory National Service.  Conscientious objectors could again seek alternative service which the FAU continued to provide through its Post-War Service and International Service, based for three years in Steep.

Some of the story is told in a book by Roger Bush called ‘FAU The Third Generation‘, a copy of which is in the Petersfield Museum’s library.  He recounts how Dunannie was the base for the FAU’s new venture, its International Service.  ‘For us it is a Christian duty to break down the walls of ignorance and prejudice which still divide the countries of the world.’  Dunannie was to be ‘an attractive and decent home for visitors of every sort – a very particular sort of Quaker international centre’.  Part of the project was to receive young people from other countries to take part in the work and there were many Germans and also associate members from Africa, China, Ceylon and America.

With the closure of the Gordon Square HQ in the autumn of 1948, the FAU personnel drove their trusty Bedford truck heavily loaded with office and domestic equipment to Dunannie.  On arrival the Aga was misbehaving and they struggled with all the problems of living in a large old house neglected through wartime austerity.

‘Coming up to Steep from Petersfield’ one commentator wrote, ‘the first impression of Dunannie was of an elegant if somewhat shabby period country house.  Inside the house was full of stairs and corridors.  At the back was a large common room with French windows overlooking the garden.  Above this was housed the library, which had come with a lot of furniture from Gordon Square.  There were outhouses and parking space for the Bedford truck and the shooting brake.’

Soon there were twenty three members in residence and the first challenge was reconstruction in the house and restoration of the grounds.  Dunannie became increasingly crowded and many young people passed through this remarkable ‘centre of Peace’ engaging in a bewildering range of projects locally and in Europe, especially Germany and France.  Young men also got on their bicycles and worked on twenty five local farms.  A major contingent provided a shot in the arm for Leonard Cheshire’s first Cheshire Home at Le Court near Liss.  Cheshire himself was often there and he saw their contribution as ‘literally an answer to his prayer’.

At Dunannie there was smoking, but no alcohol. At weekends volunteers went to the cinema in Petersfield.  ‘There were dances when heavily made-up girls appeared from nowhere and steered their bashful partners around the floor to the accompaniment of Victor Sylvester.” Then late in 1951 Petersfield’s very own peace camp closed and moved away to a farm in Melksham, Wiltshire.  Three years of youthful idealism and frenetic activity abruptly went quiet leaving many memories and a new future for the old house.

We now continue with more of the history of Dunannie from Fran Box:

Oakley Cottage, Sandsbury Lane, Steep. Formerly Dunannie Cottage.
The former ‘Gardeners Cottage’ for Dunannie and or Collyers Houses

The ‘picturesque flint cottage’ described in the 1951 Sales Brochure

In 1951, Bedales School attempted to sell Dunannie.  The sales brochure advertising the house may be viewed at Hampshire Record Office. It was advertised for sale by auction on 7th November 1951 at the Welcome Inn, Petersfield. The house was described as brick built with cement facing and a tiled roof. The 21 ft drawing room was on the ground floor, along with a large dining room, morning room, kitchen, study, staff sitting room and conservatory. On the first floor were six bedrooms, bathroom and lavatory. The main bedroom had windows which opened onto the balcony. The second floor housed a nursery and another bedroom.  A garage, a picturesque flint cottage with four rooms and stable block in the grounds were also part of the proposed sale. Perhaps because of post-War austerity, Dunannie did not reach its required price and so did not sell. It was retained by Bedales School. Instead, it was used as a premises to house the newly formed kindergarten school, which was named Dunannie, after the house. It is possible that the nearby houses named Holm Oak and Starlings may date from this time having been built in part of the Dunannie grounds.

Sophie Tatchell was the head of the new kindergarten. The new school was for pupils from the ages of three to seven years. There are more details and pictures of it in the book Bedales the First Hundred Years by Denton and Wake. This school for very young pupils thrived. By the mid 1960s it had expanded from one, to two classes, and a second teacher, Gill Bishop, who would later become Gill Wicksteed, was employed. The little school occupied Dunannie house until 1971. Eventually new buildings were erected for it on the other side of the Petersfield to Alton road, nearer to the existing Bedales Junior School, named Dunhurst. Dunannie house was demolished in 1972. One of its gate pillars still remains and can sometimes be seen under the vegetation on the corner of the turning to Sandsbury Lane. The present houses named Robin Hill and Ridge House were built on the Dunannie site. The house named Medlar Place may have been built around this time or possibly slightly later. The present occupant of Robin Hill reports that there is the remains of an old ice house in his garden. This would have belonged to the former Dunannie House. In cold winter weather, ice would have been brought from Petersfield Lake or other areas of frozen water. This was then stored below ground in the ice house. It would have lasted for several months and provided a means of keeping food fresh.

But what of Dunannie house in earlier times? It was reputed to have parts which dated to the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries. It seemed to have had adaptations in Regency times, as witnessed by its fine metal first floor balcony. Little is known of it before the early C19 records.

Dunannie House in the C19 and early C20

According to the 1839-41 Steep Tithe Award, Dunannie and its lands were owned by Dr Daniel Quarrier. He was a former ship’s doctor, later Deputy Lieutenant of Hampshire and from 1821 a Justice of the Peace. A story about him features in the book The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea by Robert Holden pub 2004 by Harper Collins. He also had lands in Alverstoke.

William Whiteman, former Steep historian, described Dunannie as ‘a jumble, as a result of building at various periods from Tudor to early Victorian’. Dunannie may have been one of the four farmhouses which Whiteman states were around the village green of the Dunhill hamlet. This little hamlet was one of the oldest settlements of Steep. Its village green still exists, but is now overgrown with trees. The former green is opposite the Sandsbury Lane turning, on the other side of the Petersfield to Alton road. It is bounded by that road and two smaller lanes – all of which are part of the present Bedales School estate.

Dr Daniel Quarrier died in 1843. A certain  J. W. Wooldridge bought Dunannie from the Quarrier estate. From 1852 to 1872 this farmer and maltster owned the house and grounds. In 1873, he sold it to Lt Colonel Charles Ughtred Shuttleworth who later in 1882 had Collyers House in Ridge Common Lane Steep built for himself and his family. There is a little more of the Shuttleworth family and a photograph of them here https://historyofsteep.co.uk/portfolio/collyers/  

After Collyers was built, Dunannie remained the property of the Shuttleworth family, but was often let to others. Lt Col. Charles Shuttleworth died in 1883 but after that his family remained at Collyers and also for periods at Dunannie.

In 1895 Petersfield solicitor Arthur John Coleridge Mackarness occupied Dunannie. He would later live at Buckmore House, off Bell Hill, Petersfield.

Lt Col Shuttleworth’s widow, Rose Isabella, was at Dunannie in 1898, 1903 and 1911. Her younger son Philip Preston Shuttleworth was named on Electoral Registers for 1903-7 as at the house with her. Dunannie was possibly empty at the time of the 1911 census, as it does not appear.

At the 1921 census Dunannie House was let to and occupied by retired Royal Naval Captain Robert Corbett, his wife Phyllis and their three servants. The grounds were sufficient for a gardener to be employed as William Oakley, gardener to Capt Corbett, was living with his wife Mary Ann and son at the nearby Dunannie Cottage.

By 1923 Rose Isabella’s eldest son Capt Algernon Shuttleworth was at Dunannie perhaps because his mother was in poor health, for she died in 1924. After an army career, Algernon farmed in Buckinghamshire. His first wife Gertrude died in 1917 and they had two daughters. By the mid 1920s he had married a second time to Elsie Cripps and had returned with her to live in Steep at Dunannie, they had another daughter. Algernon died in 1947; Elsie continued to live in Steep but not at Dunannie. She later moved to an apartment at Ashford Chace. In 1948, Bedales School bought Dunannie house and 13 acres of its land for £9,500. It was after this that the Friends Ambulance Unit came to the house from 1948 until 1952. As has been seen, Dunannie, the Bedales School kindergarten, was then developed at the house and occupied the site until 1971. The kindergarten occupied the ground floor rooms and the garden. Rooms upstairs were used for Bedales School staff accommodation.

Ruth Whiting, a Bedales senior school staff member who lived at Dunannie, wrote that many important features in the house were burned when it was demolished in 1972.

by Fran Box Dec 2022

with thanks to Andrew Hicks for the FAU account


1839-41 Tithe Map of Steep

England and Wales Censuses 1841-1921

Electoral Registers

Births, marriages and deaths registers

Jane Kirby, Ian Douglas and the Bedales School Historical Archive.

Andrew Hicks article for Petersfield Area Historical Association Bulletin Spring 2023 on the Friends Ambulance Unit at Dunannie

The FAU the Third Generation by Roger Bush

A True Friend to China by Andrew Hicks

William Whiteman – unpublished notes on the buildings of Steep

History of Steep Archive on the Shuttleworth family, Dunannie and Collyers house

Ruth Whiting – private research into the history of Dunannie

Rollo Wicksteed memories

Bedales School the First Hundred Years by Denton and Wake pub by Haggerston Press 1993.

The Buildings, Gardens and Monuments of Steep updated 2018 by Struthers, Box, Routh and Storey pub 2019, an update to the Steep Parish Plan History booklet.

Hampshire Record Office:

Dunannie Sales Brochure 1951

Details of Dr Daniel Quarrier

Hugh Routh – photographs of Dunannie under demolition 1972

Gill Wicksteed – photograph of Dunannie kindergarten

Bill Gosney – general information

Dunannie 1972 under demolition (east face) photograph @HughRouth


Dunannie house under demolition 1972 west face and garden Photograph @HughRouth


Dunannie kindergarten photograph 1960s @GillWicksteed