Lutcombe or Ludcombe Cottage
The cottage is more commonly referred to as ‘Lutcombe cottage’, although some sources refer to it as Ludcombe. Nearby is Lutcombe Pond and Lutcombe Bottom.
William Whiteman, researcher of Steep history 1970-80s, in his Origins of Steep booklet, states that in the tenth century the Ashford Stream was known as the Ludburn or Loudbourne from the noise of its running waters. This may be the origin of the name of Ludcombe or Lutcombe, for both the combe and later the cottage.
It was previously thought that the cottage was perhaps originally built for workers on the Ashford Manor estate. However, it will be seen from a closer inspection of the records, this was not entirely the case. Looking at the old photographs, Lutcombe cottage had a timbered frame with outer walls perhaps of stone or clunch, and the use of some brick. The roof was thatched. The style and the building materials of the cottage appear similar to those of Kettlebrook Cottages in Steep, which date possibly from the seventeenth century. Given that Lutcombe Cottage was demolished some time ago, it is now difficult to date it precisely. It can only be said that the cottage appears on records from at least 1837 and that it was built some time before that.
The cottage was situated near a small triangle just above the emergence of the Ashford Stream. It was at the point where the present lower Hangers footpath branches off to the east. Lutcombe Cottage was beside the main footpath, known by locals as ‘The Woodcutter’s Path’. This path runs northwards from the present Ashford Lane straight up the combe, passing Lutcombe Pond and the former site of the old cottage. It then emerges at the present Cockshott Lane in Froxfield.
Londoner Moses Hoper was the owner of the Ashford Estate at the beginning of the nineteenth century. During his time, he had the old Ashford Manor house changed into a hunting lodge and renamed it Ashford Lodge. He sold the estate in 1828 to Yorkshireman Frederick William Thomas Vernon Wentworth, but nine years later it was for sale again.
In July 1837 the sale of the 600 acre Ashford Lodge Estate was advertised by auctioneer George Robins of Covent Garden. The sales brochure for this auction is at Hampshire Record Office. Details of the various properties on the estate and their tenants are given. Admiral Edward Hawker and his family had been the tenants of the big house since 1830. Lutcombe Cottage, Lot 223, is described as:
‘A COTTAGE at the foot of Ashford Hill’
‘A cottage and garden etc. of 2 rods and 11 perches, in the occupation of James Reed’
This is the first specific mention of Lutcombe cottage in records. We know from this that the cottage dates from at least 1837. Lutcombe cottage was to remain part of the Ashford Lodge estate for the rest of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century. The Ashford Lodge estate was possibly withdrawn from the 1837 sale, as it seems to have continued in the ownership of William Vernon Wentworth with the Hawker family as tenants. In 1846, the Ashford Lodge estate was purchased on behalf of the Hawker family by Lady Williams, the second wife of Admiral Hawker.
The 1839-41 Tithe Map of Steep shows Lutcombe cottage on the map but does not specifically name it as such. In the Listing that accompanies the Tithe Map it is denoted as:
‘Plot 257 Cottage and garden
Owner: William Frederick Vernon-Wentworth
Occupier: James Reed’
In the various census records and registers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the spelling of the ‘Reed’ family name varies between Reed, Read, Reid and Reede.
When the Tithe map referred to ‘cottage and garden’ the term ‘garden is not used in the present sense. Instead, it denotes that the ‘garden’ was an allotment garden for the growing of food to support the occupants of the cottage.
The 1841 census of Steep confirmed the Tithe Map Listing. It denoted James ‘Read’ aged 60 years, agricultural labourer, living at Lutcombe Cottage. Also with him at Lutcombe Cottage, were his wife Lydia, 55 years, James, Mary and William Read all listed as 20 years old, and Joseph Read 12 years.
And the Reed family were still at Lutcombe Cottage at the 1851 census where they are recorded as: James Reed 73 years, agricultural labourer, Lydia 68 years wife, Mary 29 years daughter laundress, Joseph 22 years son agricultural labourer, and grandson Jacob 2 years. All the family members had been born in Steep. One wonders whether some of them may well have been born at Lutcombe Cottage. It is known from later oral history that the cottage had a well in front of it. The Ashford Stream was nearby. If Mary was working from home as a laundress. presumably there was a ready supply of water for her laundry needs. One might also speculate that she was perhaps performing the laundry tasks for the Hawker family at Ashford Lodge.
The church registers of All Saints’, Steep record the burial of Lydia ‘Reid’ on 3rd October 1853, aged 69 years. The burial of Lydia’s husband James ‘Reid’ took place three years later on 25th October 1856 at All Saints’. James ‘Read’ had married Lydia Eames in Petersfield on 20th August 1804. Between 1804 and 1828, Lydia had given birth to at least eleven children, including one set of twins. All eleven children of James and Lydia were baptised at Steep church.
Lydia Eames had been the daughter of Thomas and Anne Eames who had been married at Steep on 16th March 1778. A Thomas Eames, labourer, and his wife Ann were listed in the Steep church registers at the baptism of two of their later children in 1795 and 1796. This may have been Lydia’s family. An Eames family who were husbandmen, or richer farmers, at the Tankerdale and Dunhill areas of Steep appear in the Steep church registers in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It could be that Lydia’s father despite being listed as ‘labourer’ may have had a connection to the richer branch of the Eames family.
William Eames,1797 – 1879, is well known to present day residents of Steep village as the person who left money from his estate for the building and endowment of the Steep Almshouses, sometimes known as the ‘Eames Almshouses’. His friend the Rev. William Hawker of Ashford Lodge gave the land on which the almshouses were built. Both of these gentlemen were truly generous Victorian benefactors to Steep village. Over the years, many older residents of Steep have benefited from their generosity. William Whiteman writing about William Eames in Steep Newsletter of 1976 states that William Eames had been the owner of Aldersnapp Farm, or Winters farm. He seems therefore to have been part of the same better off family of husbandmen/farmers. And from the 1876 will of William Eames, we learn that Lydia Eames was in fact his sister. The Lydia Eames who had married James ‘Read’ in 1804 at Steep was therefore also from this better off family.
James ‘Reed’ was the son of Jacob Reed labourer and his wife Elizabeth. He had been born in Petersfield in 1778. His parents had married at Steep in 1776. His father Jacob was also listed as a labourer in the Steep registers.
It is interesting to speculate as to whether Lutcombe cottage was built just before the marriage of James Reed to Lydia Eames at Steep in 1804. The Eames family would certainly have had the financial means to do so.
Lydia’s brother, William Eames, who later endowed the Steep almhouses, was living with his wife Elizabeth nearby at Ashford Cottage in 1851. For some reason, William preferred to refer to himself as ‘pianoforte tuner’ rather than retired farmer. On census day of that year, Elizabeth listed herself as ‘pianoforte tuner’s wife’ aged 60 years. Meanwhile on census day in 1851, William Eames was actually away visiting the Kelham family in Rugby. He still listed himself as ‘pianoforte tuner, aged 54 years, born Steep. At the same time, living with William and Elizabeth Eames at Ashford cottage in 1851 was their nephew James Reed agricultural labourer aged 34 years. The 1816 date of birth of this James Reed is consistent with him being the son of James and Lydia Reed and William Eames’s nephew.
In his will of 1876 William Eames, left money in trust for the building of the Steep almshouses. He also left a portion of his estate to ‘my nephew James Read’. If James ‘Read’ was William Eames’s nephew, it follows that his mother Lydia, whose maiden name had been Eames, was therefore the sister of William Eames. It is from the will therefore that we discover that William and Lydia Reed (neé Eames) were brother and sister. This further supports the theory that Lutcombe Cottage may have been built for Lydia and her husband James Reed around the time of their marriage in 1804. Or might it even have been built for an earlier member of the Eames family?
Many years later, a visit in the 1920s of the rating valuation officer to Lutcombe cottage noted that on the ground floor, the cottage consisted of ‘K. P. S.’ (kitchen, sitting room and parlour or pantry?), with a larder. It had three bedrooms on the first floor. Outside there was an earth closet, a woodshed and the allotment garden. This is consistent with old photographs of the cottage which appear from 1890s. Compared to the typical ‘two up two down’ or even smaller cottages built for agricultural labourers in the nineteenth century and earlier, Lutcombe cottage was therefore slightly larger than the norm. Could this also be consistent with the fact that the cottage had been built for family members connected to the richer Eames family, who possibly had slightly more money and expectation than normal agricultural labourers?
The church registers record the Reed family as living at ‘Ashford’ at the baptisms of their last four children 1822 to 1828. This address may well refer to Lutcombe Cottage. The various census and tithe map records show that James and Lydia Reed and their children lived at Lutcombe Cottage from at least 1837 through the 1841 and 1851 censuses. The 1851 census records their address as Lutcombe Lane, Ashford. As has been seen, it is speculated as to whether the Reed family had lived there since their marriage in 1804. The records hint that they were at the cottage for at least fourteen years 1837-1851. If they had come there in 1804, it may even have been forty seven years. Either of these periods are considerably longer than the time usually spent by an agricultural labourer and his family in one cottage. Jobs often came to an end after a year or two. A family then moved to new work elsewhere within the same parish, or to a nearby one. This further points to Lutcombe cottage having been rather more than just an agricultural labourer’s cottage.
It has been seen that Lydia Reed, neé Eames, was buried in 1853 and her husband James in 1856. But was this the point at which the Reed/Eames family gave up possession of Lutcombe Cottage? On the contrary, family members seem to have continued there.
The 1861 census records the two sons of James and Lydia. Thomas Reed 42 years agricultural labourer, his wife Sarah, their five children and a visitor were living at ‘Ashford’. Thomas’s older brother James Reed 44 years, unmarried gardener was also a lodger at ‘Ashford Road’. It may well be that these were all at Lutcombe Cottage.
By the time of the 1871 census only James and Lydia’s son James was living there. He was recorded as head of a household of one, aged 54 years, a gardener born in Steep. His cottage is not specifically mentioned by name, but it is that which appears just before the entry for the Hawker household at ‘Ashford House’. It seems more than likely that this would have been Lutcombe Cottage in the lane just opposite.
The Steep church registers record the burial of James and Lydia’s son Thomas aged 52 years on 3rd February 1871. Another connection to William Eames can also be established here. William Eames specified in his 1876 will that money be left to Sarah ‘Read’ the widow of his nephew Thomas. It seems that Thomas with his wife Sarah had moved on from Lutcombe Cottage by the time of his death. Two months afterwards, in the 1871 census, the widowed Sarah and five of her children were recorded at ‘New House Farm’ – just a little further along Ashford Lane. Berryfield Cottage, which was later the former home of poet Edward Thomas, was the farmhouse for New House Farm. The family of Thomas and Sarah Reed may have been either there, or at a nearby cottage on the farm site.
An 1877 codicil to the will of William Eames states ‘In the consequence of James Read being deranged and in the asylum his shares must be divided …..’. It goes on to stipulate that the money was to go to other family members and servants. By 1877 therefore, James Read, was no longer at Lutcombe. The 1881 census lists a James ‘Read’, gardener, who was an inmate in the Wandsworth and Clapham Infirmary. The codicil also states: ‘If James Read gets well and leaves the asylum, he is to have a hundred pounds…..’ Sadly, he did not return. Three years after making his will, his uncle William Eames of Ashford, Steep, died on 15th January 1879. After this, the connection of Lutcombe Cottage with the Reed and Eames families seems to have more or less ceased. The connection of Lutcombe cottage to the Reed and Eames families had therefore extended to at least forty years and possibly even to seventy three years 1804 – 1877.
1891 saw George Knight 51 years, carter, and his wife Elizabeth at a cottage listed in the census between Island Farm and Ashford House, which was probably Lutcombe. An Abigail Knight 19 years had been William Eames’s housekeeper in 1871. They were not from the same immediate family but possibly from the same local extended family.
In 1901 William Vidler 40 years, cowman, his wife Charlotte, their five children and his father in law were at a cottage named ‘Ashford Woods’ in the census, probably Lutcombe cottage. Charlotte had come from the Boxall family, who had lived in Ashford Lane in 1871.
By 1911, living at ‘Ludcombe’ were John Turner 50 years cowman on private estate, his wife Adelaide Kate and their four children.
Lutcombe Cottage had been built on land that was part of the Ashford Manor/Lodge estate. For much of the nineteenth century the Hawker family had occupied the large Ashford Lodge house. They had started as the tenants of Frederick William Thomas Vernon Wentworth, the Yorkshire owner of the Ashford estate, who is alleged never to have visited Steep. Thanks to Lady Williams, second wife of Admiral Edward Hawker, the family had eventually bought the estate for themselves in 1846. By 1909 the one remaining member of the Hawker family was Dorothea. She lived in Kent and did not want the estate. The large house and Lutcombe cottage were let to the Logan family. Berryfield Cottage, the former farmhouse, had been let to Edward and Helen Thomas and their family from 1906. In 1908 the Thomas family were given notice to quit, due of the impending sale of the Ashford estate the following year. On 13th October 1909, the estate was auctioned at the Dolphin Hotel, Petersfield by Messrs Walton and Lee. The auction brochure from the time is now at Hampshire Record Office. It lists:
“A picturesque half-timbered stone and thatched cottage known as LUTCOMBE COTTAGE
- Situate at the head of the Ashford Stream and at the foot of the Hanger Plantations. It contains five rooms and a larder with woodshed and a good garden at the side. Together with the garden, embraces an area of about 1 rod 24 perches.
They are let to Miss M. Logan under a weekly tenancy of 3s. 6d per week or £9 2s. per annum.”
The auction brochure also recorded that the Thomas family were still in residence at Berryfield Cottage in 1909 as follows:
A very prettily positioned small freehold property known as
Let to Mr Edward Thomas at a rent of £25 per annum”
The 1911 census shows that 77 year old retired Colonel Joseph Logan was still in residence at Ashford Lodge, with his two single daughters Ethel Mary and Marguerite Alice, who were in their thirties. There were five live in servants.
The Ashford Lodge estate was eventually purchased in 1911 by brothers N. C. and A. S. Graham for occupation by their brother in law Aubyn Trevor-Battye and his two daughters. Their sister Margaret had been his late wife. She had died in 1906. Aubyn Trevor-Battye was a writer, naturalist and traveller. He set about having a new house built for himself further along Ashford Lane on the site of New House Farm.
In December 1914, Edward Thomas wrote the poem ‘Interval’:
Gone the wild day:
A wilder night
Coming makes way
For brief twilight
Where the firm soaked road
Mounts and is lost
In the high beech-wood
It shines almost.
The beeches keep
A stormy rest.
Of wind from the west.
The wood is black
With a misty steam.
Above, the cloud pack
Breaks for one gleam.
But the woodman’s cot
By the ivied trees
To light or breeze.
It smokes aloft
It hunches soft
Under storm’s wing
It has no care
For gleam or gloom:
It stays there
While I shall roam.
Die, and forget
The hill of trees
The gleam, the wet,
This roaring peace.
The poem describes the woodman’s cot by the ivied trees which hunches soft under storm’s wing and smokes aloft. There is some thought that the poem may be describing the cottage known as Upper Ashford Lodge on the Stoner Hill Road. It had been the former gatehouse, at the top of the drive, which led down to the big house, Ashford Lodge. However, the cottage in the poem was ‘the woodman’s cot’ and Lutcombe cottage was beside the ‘woodcutter’s path’. This has led Steep people to think that the poem ‘Interval’ refers to Lutcombe cottage.
By 1915 the Thomas family were living at Yew Tree Cottages in Steep. It was in this year that Edward Thomas wrote another poem ‘The Tale’. He writes again of a cottage which may have been Lutcombe:
There once the walls
Of the ruined cottage stood.
The periwinkle crawls
With flowers in its hair into the wood.
In flowerless hours
Never will the bank fail,
With everlasting flowers
On fragments of blue plates, to tell the tale.
The Thomas family were living very close to Lutcombe cottage between 1906 -1909. If Lutcombe cottage was the subject of this poem, then perhaps it did seem unoccupied and somewhat abandoned when Edward Thomas passed. However, the 1909 auction brochure refers to it being let to Miss M Logan, possibly one of the daughters of retired Colonel Logan. There is also the evidence in photos and other sources, of the occupation of Lutcombe cottage for the period 1909 to 1940s. Thus, it seems unlikely that the cottage was ‘ruined’ as Thomas suggests. The garden could well have been ruined and overgrown with periwinkles, no longer providing a vegetable plot for the occupants. Perhaps the reference may have been merely a romantic device for the poem. Or was Thomas referring to the fact that by then, the cottage had a somewhat ruined appearance, compared with its possible former glory, as the slightly more substantial cottage connected to the Eames family?
And what of the fragments of blue plates to which Thomas refers in ‘A Tale’? They may have been remnants of the popular Willow Pattern pottery. It seems unlikely that, at that time, there would not have been a regular local council refuse collection in this part of Steep. Households would have used part of their gardens, as an area in which to deposit waste. Hence the broken plates would have ended up in the garden. I remember there being similar fragments in the garden of my childhood home in a completely different part of the country. In an email of 2021 to Jeremy Mitchell, Colin Thornton of the Edward Thomas Fellowship writes of the Lutcombe site:
‘I remember when I was in my mid-twenties Anne Mallinson took me there and we collected quite a few pieces of the ‘everlasting flowers on fragments of blue plates, to tell the tale.’
By 1922 Aubyn Trevor Battye had also died. The Ashford estate was sold again. This time it was purchased in 1924 by Sir Thomas Jeeves Horder, who would become doctor to five monarchs.
The 1920s notebook of the officer collecting details for assessment of rateable value showed that ‘Ludcombe Cottage’ was occupied by ‘W. Carpenter’ and that the owner by that time was indeed Sir Thomas Horder.
Photographs taken perhaps in 1920s or 1930s and in the possession of Sue Inglis, show tenants living at Lutcombe at that time. Oral history passed down through local residents of Steep suggests that Lutcombe Cottage was occupied until the WWII period. Perhaps due to a lack of gardeners, estate workers and building materials during the war period, Lutcombe Cottage may have been unoccupied and perhaps fell into disrepair during the WWII period. A former Steep resident recalls tales of a fire at the cottage after which it was demolished in the later 1940s. He told of the well outside the cottage. It was filled in and now lies under the path which leads up through the hangers. If one examines the path in the area above the emergence of the Ashford stream, one can still see the remains of bricks and rubble in the pathway, which may have come from the demolition of Lutcombe cottage.
So Lutcombe cottage is no more, but its memory still exists in old photographs. Here it is portrayed as the epitome of the idyllic old vernacular country residence, set against the background of the woods, with smoke coiling from the chimney. Nature reclaims. Since the demolition of the cottage, the area has been invaded by the surrounding woodland. All has become more darkly shaded and overgrown. It is now quite difficult to imagine that there was ever a cottage there. However, the old photographs, the 1841 Tithe Map and the 1909 Ordnance Survey map show that this area was once quite an open lane lined by fields of pasture and a hedge. It must originally have been quite a desirable site on which to erect a cottage. It seems to have fulfilled rather more than the utilitarian need to provide a mere worker’s cottage for the occupation of a local agricultural labourer and his family. It was perhaps more fitting for those connected to the more prestigious Eames family.
The old photographs sometimes refer to Lutcombe Cottage as ‘Keepers Cottage’, but there is no evidence to show that it was ever occupied by a gamekeeper. Ashford Lodge had been created by Moses Hoper as a hunting lodge. It is more than likely therefore, that birds were bred in the Ashford woods for shooting pursuits. The path which runs past both Lutcombe Pond and the former site of the old cottage has always been known by older Steep residents as ‘the woodcutter’s path’. There is no evidence that the former occupants of Lutcombe cottage were ever woodcutters. It seems likely however that gamekeeping and the management of the surrounding woodland would have been jobs amongst others, with which occupants of Lutcombe cottage may well have been tasked.
If present day walkers of the Ashford hangers, look down at the path surface in this area they will see bricks and rubble, reminding them of Lutcombe cottage, which once stood there. It certainly seems to have been rather more than just a labourer’s cottage. This account has been provided to fill in some of its interesting historical background.
If you have more knowledge or memories of Lutcombe Cottage, I would be most pleased to hear from you. See ‘Contact Us’ section.
Article on William Eames by W. H. Whiteman Oct 1976 in Steep and Stroud Newsletter
The Will of William Eames
The Reputed Manor of Ashford, Steep by William Whiteman – Petersfield Paper no. 8
Dictionary of National Biography
The Little Genius by Mervyn Horder
Baptism, Marriage and Burial Registers of All Saints’ church, Steep
UK Census records 1840 -1911
England Births and Baptisms 1538 -1975
England Marriages 1538 -1973
Nick Denton and edwardthomaspoetryplaces.com
Hampshire Record Office:
Map of Estates at Steep and Froxfield 11M59/A2/1/7
Particulars of the Ashford Lodge Estate 1837 147M85/157
Particulars of the Ashford Lodge Estate Steep 1909 69A00/8
Petersfield Rural (R4) 1920s – Rating assessment officer’s notebook 102M92/18
Sue Inglis – photos of Lutcombe Cottage with tenants
1909 O.S. Map of Steep
1839-41 Tithe Map of Steep and Listing
Old postcard pictures of Lutcombe cottage