This grand Victorian house was originally called Rippledene, but there is a mystery about its origins. There was a local tradition that the house had been moved stone by stone from the south of the river when the Metropolitan Water Board acquired the land it stood on. Unlikely as it may seem, there may be some truth to this, as when it was demolished in 1967, its stones were found to be numbered, which would be unlikely in the case of a new building. Having said this, the mystery remains as to which house it might have been.
The most likely candidate seemed to be Apps Court in Walton, which stood on the site of the Bessborough reservoir, between Hurst Road and Walton Road, but the dates don’t quite seem to add up, as construction of the reservoir began in 1898 whereas Rippledene appears in the 1891 census, and the house appears to have been a different style, so the mystery remains.
The census tells us that the house was lived in by James Matthews, a banker and prominent Freemason, together with his wife Sarah, 2 daughters, 4 sons and 4 servants (cook, housemaid, nurse and page), as well as 2 visitors, so it was quite a full house on census day.
In 1931 the house became a private school. The photo, taken in about 1950, shows the garden front, with a flight of steps leading into the grounds from French windows.. The school had been founded at Bay Villas, Green Street, about 1894, subsequently moving to a house at the end of the south side of Sutherland Avenue in 1906, before moving again to the Old Vicarage. When it moved to Rippledene, the name of the house was changed to Beauclerc, but the reason is unknown. Eventually the house was demolished (for the second time if we are to believe the old tale), but this time permanently. Its site is now occupied by Beauclerc Infant School, so at least the name lives on.
To learn more about Sunbury’s history, see ‘A History of Sunbury-on-Thames’, published by the Sunbury and Shepperton Local History Society and available from Squire’s Garden Centre or via the society’s website www.sslhs.org.uk.