We have carried several extracts from the diaries of local Lord of the Manor, William Shaw Lindsay. It has been interesting therefore to read about a story of a notable visit and a direct link in Laleham. It tells the story of John Arthur Roebuck who was MP for Sheffield and who had a formidable reputation. He was born in Laleham and returned in 1867 on a visit when he stayed with WS Lindsay who writes:
“On Monday last Mr Roebuck and his wife and daughter came to spend a week with me….
In the neighbouring town of Chertsey there lives a banker, Miller, and farmer, named La Coste and his forefathers for some generations have in the same place carried on the same business. The present La Coste is a man of about 60 years of age and at the present moment is engaged by me to value the stock upon the Manor farm as a fresh tenant takes possession of it at Michaelmas. Hearing me mention to my bailiff the name La Coste, Roebuck remarked “I am sure it was that man’s father who asked my mother’s sister in marriage but she would not have him for he was not genteel enough.”
It was the first time Roebuck had heard the name of La Coste since his mother had mentioned it to him more than half a century ago; and it proved to be really the case that the father of the present man had asked Mrs Roebuck’s younger sister in marriage and had been refused.
I then learned that when Mrs Roebuck returned from India a widow she took up her quarters with her young family in the neighbourhood – took a home at Inglefield Green and after that at Laleham the adjoining Parish to Shepperton, and there Mr La Coste had made the acquaintance of her sister.
Since that time about 58 years ago Roebuck had never been to Laleham but said to me yesterday that he would like to drive to see it. We did so after dinner. He told me on the road that when his mother resided there, Mr Harlowe, one of the best pupils Laurance the great artist ever had, was living with them. He was what artists and men of genius too often are, much in debt, and was living at Laleham more to be out of the way of his creditors than for any other reason.
In return for Mrs Roebuck’s kindness to him he painted while there a picture – Christ walking on the Water – to her, which she in turn gave to the Rector of the Parish to be hung above the alter in the Church. Of all this Roebuck had a distinct recollection and we were conjecturing as we drove to Laleham if the picture was still in the church.
We found it there in the place where it had been hung 58 years ago. The house where his mother had resided he thought he would not recollect, but there has been so little change in the village during the last half century he had no difficulty in remembering it – as the house known as the Clock House close to the old church though that portion of it close to the road has been materially altered.”
Although he describes living at ‘the Clock House close to the old church’, the only ‘Clock House’ currently in Laleham is some distance along the Ashford Road from the church, and it’s a late 19th century property, built on previously open land.
However, close by All Saints Church is Dial House, built in the early 1700s and currently the home of Anne Furst; Anne has confirmed from the records she holds that a Mrs Roebuck was a tenant of Dial House sometime between 1810 and 1816.
John Roebuck’s early life fits well with these dates. He was born in Madras (now Chennai), India in 1802, and lived there until his father’s death in 1807, when he came to England with his mother. When his mother remarried, he moved with her to Canada in 1815, before returning permanently to England in 1824. So he would have lived in Laleham sometime between the ages of five and thirteen. Perhaps its not surprizing that he hadn’t precisely remembered the name of his childhood home, but he left some good clues.
As to ‘Christ Walking on Water’, it is still in All Saints Church in Laleham so do go and see it.