Sir Edward Nicholl was born at Pool, in Cornwall, on the 17th June, 1862. He came from a fairly modest background, and was apprenticed as an engineer. On completing his apprenticeship, he became a ship’s engineer, and worked his way up to become marine superintendent. Eventually he managed to raise some money and became a ship owner himself. He was very successful and founded the Hall Line of Cardiff, and later the Nicholl Shipping Co. He was a major benefactor in the Cardiff area and founded a children’s home as well as other charitable works.
A member of the Royal Naval Reserve since 1889, during World War One he became the Chief Examiner for shipping in the Bristol Channel area. In 1916 he was knighted for his services, but by 1917 he decided to sell up his shipping interests due to the pressure of his war work.
In 1918 he was elected as MP for Penrhyn and Falmouth, and sought a suitable home in the London area. After seeing 37 properties, he had a chance conversation with Sir Woodman Burbidge of Harrods Ltd. Sir Woodman’s father, Sir Richard Burbidge, had recently died, leaving him the Littleton Park estate. Sir Woodman wished to sell, and Sir Edward Nicholl being a man who acted on impulse, he agreed to buy the property on the spot. He literally bought the estate lock stock and barrel, including furniture, cattle, poultry etc.
Despite having spent most of his life connected with the sea, Sir Edward threw himself with enthusiasm into the running of his Littleton estate, becoming a breeder of prize Shorthorn and Guernsey cattle. He decided not to stand for parliament again in the 1922 election, so had even more time to devote to Littleton. As a keen engineer, he had a large scale model railway built in the grounds. Local schoolchildren were invited in to ride on it. He also remained a proud Cornishman and hosted dinners for the London Cornish Association.
In 1931 he agreed to sell the Littleton Park estate to Norman Loudon, who set up the Sound City film studios there (now Shepperton Studios). Sir Edward Nicholl died on 30th March 1939.
Like Sir Edward Nicholl, Ian Allan created his own business from scratch, and went from publishing list of locomotive numbers from his home, to owning the largest publisher of transport books in the world, as well as a host of other companies. His son David Allan will be telling the remarkable story of Ian Allan Ltd at the next meeting of the Sunbury and Shepperton Local History Society, at 8pm on Tues. 19th April. The meeting takes place in the theatre of Halliford School, Russell Road, Shepperton. All welcome, admission £2 for non-members of SSLHS.