THE STORY OF QUINNETTES September, 2011
Quinnettes, a mediaeval house near the centre of Churt, is the home of the Eddystone Housing Association, providing housing for retired people, appropriate to their means. Records of the house go back to 1572; the name is said to be derived from an early English word `quinnot', meaning a small plot of land. In the grounds is a fine 17th-century barn, now used as a community centre. It is an ideal centrepiece for the twenty small homes in Quinnettes and its satellite bungalows, which together make up Eddystone Housing Association. The residents of these retirement homes have thus inherited a history extending over many centuries, and it is useful to recall some of the events in Quinnettes' past. References are made in deeds and other documents to Quinnettes in the 16th and 17th centuries. Over the years, it has had various names including Quinnettes, and Hale House. It was renamed College Farm when the Rector of Headley wanted to raise money for a school in his parish, and sold it to The Queen's College, Oxford. A further change of name took place in the early 1900’s when "Quinnettes" became known as Parkhurst Farm.
A local Churt resident born in 1915 recalls Parkhurst Farm (Quinnettes) in her childhood. It was a working farm with a muddy pond in the farmyard, where now stands Quinnettes' lovely garden. Later the farmhouse became two or three cottages for farm labourers. Around 1925 the tied cottages were bought by Cdr. White who converted them into a house with a garden. At some point the property reverted to the name Quinnettes. By the 1930's Mrs Palin-Evans was the owner of Quinnettes. She stripped the interior, rebuilt, decorated in the rather flamboyant style of that era, and her house was photographed and became the subject of an article in a glossy magazine.
The name “quinnette” was used for a soft drink which she and her son manufactured in their premises off Castle Street, Farnham. The quinnette logo, remembered by older Churt residents, showed three owls known as Quizit, Quoffit and Quenchit. The elegant square bottles had an attractive pressed design around the top and bottom and an elaborate stopper. At the outbreak of World War II, the vacant business premises in Farnham were taken over as the Castle Theatre, precursor to the Redgrave. Quinnettes was briefly re-named Cambrian House, but it became known as Quinnettes again in the 1940's.
Another well-remembered family who lived in Quinnettes were the Ansdells. Brough Ansdell was related to Marie Brough of music-hall fame and instigated several fund-raising pageants in his grounds. These pageants are enthusiastically recalled by parishioners who took part. He engaged semi-professional players and professional make-up artists from London. Superb costumes were hired from Brighton. His last pageant, performed in 1953, unfortunately ran at a loss. Because of his rotund appearance he sat as an understudy for a painting of Churchill.
By 1966 the Quinnettes Estate, comprising some 8½ acres, had been acquired by Hambledon Rural District Council for £36,000. In this year, Miss Ruth Douglass, who had served for many years in the Church Missionary Society in Uganda and London, spotted the "For Sale" notice outside Quinnettes. She was looking for a suitable building to convert to provide homes for single women who had spent their lives in the service of others at home and abroad, but who had been prevented from acquiring homes and families of their own because of the loss of life in the World Wars. In her own words: "I stopped the car, went in by the small gate and stood amazed. I saw the long, low house bathed in evening sunlight stretching back to the mellow old barn. In intense excitement I said to myself, `This is it; this will make seven homes.' And it did!"
Helped by friends, too numerous to mention and her own determination, Ruth bought the house with two and a half acres of grounds for £13,000. The other 6 acres were developed later as the Parkhurst Fields estate of houses. A Management Committee was formed under the Presidency of Sir John Wenham, former Chairman of Surrey County Council, and in 1968 Ruth moved into the house alone as caretaker and treasurer. Ten bungalows were planned on the adjoining land and the new project was named The Eddystone Housing Association in honour of her grandfather, Sir James Douglass, FRS, who had designed the Eddystone Lighthouse. Mr. David Lea ARIBA was appointed as architect. The first phase of building began with the conversion of the house into seven flats. Local builder, Bill Norris, was responsible for the building of Quinnettes Estate. At various times during the development of the complex voluntary labour was used. In August 1968 students, aged 18-30, members of “Christian Workers for Peace", arrived for three weeks' work and were paid £2 per week for food and simple lodging in exchange for 6 hours ‘hard work’ per day.
By autumn 1968 the flats were completed. Costs of converting the house amounted to about the same as its purchase and were achieved through various appeals to Companies, Trusts and a wide circle of individual friends. Later the same year the Residents began to arrive. First of all came Miss Nancy Britten, former CMS missionary teacher and friend of Ruth in Africa. She was a tower of strength, both in terms of the spirit of happiness which characterised and emanated from her, and in her tireless activity in making and tending the garden of the embryo community.
In 1969 the Committee appointed Major-General Wilson-Haffenden CBE, - "Haffy" - as their Financial Adviser. He was well-known in Christian circles and had previously met Ruth through the CMS. They were married in 1969, combining the wedding celebration with an opening ceremony, complete with flashing lighthouse cake for Quinnettes, and moving in as the first couple in married quarters. They were followed soon after by Bishop Stuart of Uganda and his wife Mary Stuart OBE, who had previously served as an original member of the committee, and by Haffy's sister. That year EHA was registered as a Charity.
The next milestone was the completion of the bungalows, again designed by David Lea, and supervised by Bill Norris. A remarkable contribution to this phase of the development was made by a group of young American `GIs' from W. Germany, - members of the Evangelical Christian Group known as The Navigators- whom Haffy had contacted whilst on a visit to their barracks. There seemed, said Ruth, to be nothing they could not turn their hand to, and during four consecutive summers they came over to do it - without any material reward, but with the simple motivation of a strong Christian faith and the desire to help others.
By 1974 all homes were occupied save the last four, then nearing completion, and by 1977, nine years after Ruth had first moved in, 16 small homes were in occupation, six in the old house and ten in the grounds. In the next two years Douglass House and two more dwellings were erected at the far end of the estate, bringing the total number of residences to 20.
In June 1978 the sudden death of Ruth was a severe blow to all associated with the Eddystone Housing Association. Haffy continued as Warden until Lt. Col. "Gus" Ferguson was appointed as Warden in 1979, and took up residence with his wife Joan. He had previously served in the Sudan Civil Service and the British Council. Gus, assisted by his wife, served the Association for eleven years, during which time he exercised a strong influence over its development. He retired on health grounds in 1990.
One of the residents, Ian Maspero then took over as the Warden. Before his retirement, he had extensive experience in administration in the Diocese of Zimbabwe. His wife Margaret assumed responsibility for running the barn. Since major restoration in 1979, the barn has been used for a variety of functions which raise much needed funds towards the upkeep of the properties.
Over the years, improvements have been made to the properties as they became vacant, but recent legislation has required more drastic measures to improve the insulation and safety for the residents. Although the Association had saved a considerable reserve, it will not be enough to cover the cost of the improvements.
In early 2011 there was a proposal to transfer ownership of the Association to RSMHA but it was decided instead to recruit a largely new team of suitably experienced trustees to start the essential building work to bring properties up to “Decent Homes Standard”. A major scheme of refurbishment has now commenced, together with the essential fund raising. The Association has not received grants from public funds in the past, but these and other sources will be considered to enable the Association to retain its independence and maintain the property to the “decent homes standards”, now required by the Government. As with any Charity, donations are always needed and always welcome.
Quinnettes remains a flourishing, friendly and happy community, proving its resilience in the face of time.
The Barn is still available for functions. Any enquiries should be made to the Bookings officer Eva Posnett 01428 714310.