Little Woodcote House was a large farmhouse located in the area known locally as Hungry Bottom – at the top of Woodmansterne Lane.
Around 1853, the property was bought by one George Marshall. He was born on January 18th 1802 at Westoe, County Durham, the son of George and Hannah Marshall. His family were prominent in the shipping industry of South Shields. He married Elizabeth Helen Gore on February 23rd 1836 in Woodford, Essex.
They lived at Cumberland Place in London initially, and his mercantile business was very profitable, so by 1851 they had moved to a much larger property in Gloucester Square, Paddington and employed a retinue of seven live-in servants. The family, meanwhile, had also expanded to the tune of five daughters and two sons.
Elizabeth’s family connections were also important to the business, as her relatives were early merchants in Australia, and her brothers Edmund and Harry and two brothers-in-law were all involved in the trade.
In 1847 the Croydon and Epsom Railway line had opened including the station at Wallington (called Carshalton at that time) and by 1849 there were services running between there and London Bridge. The ability to commute to London would have been a key factor in the decision to move to Little Woodcote House. Their youngest daughter Eva was born at Little Woodcote in 1855, after the move. By 1861 they were employing eleven live-in servants there.
Their sons, George and Walter, were educated at Winchester College and Oxford University and joined their father in the shipping company, George Marshall & Sons, which took offices in Philpot Lane, just north of London Bridge. They commissioned a number of vessels through their contacts on Tyneside, including the George Marshall in 1854, the Woodcote in 1855, the Surrey in 1857, the Patrician in 1860, and the Essex in 1863.
Their fleet comprised mainly three-masted wooden clippers, and sea journeys were not without risk. The George Marshall, bound for Sydney, hit a reef in poor weather off the coast of Tasmania on January 14th 1862. The captain beached the ship in what became known as Marshall Bay on Flinders Island, and all 60 passengers plus the crew were rescued. Later ships were made of Iron and built in Clydeside, including the Sussex in 1866, the Berkshire and Buckinghamshire in 1868 and the Wiltshire in 1869. By summer 1867 they were running twice monthly services to Calcutta and by 1869 they were running a monthly passenger service to Sydney. On February 27th 1873 the Patrician was lost having just left San Francisco bound for Queenstown, Ireland. The crew was saved, though its cargo of wheat was lost.
By 1871 George had retired to St Leonards-on-Sea near Hastings, East Sussex where he died on May 21st 1877. Much of the fortune he had amassed was used by Walter to build Hambleton Hall in Rutland. Little Woodcote House was partly demolished and the part that remained was turned into cottages.
And was he Wallington’s first commuter? It’s almost impossible to prove, but very possible to disprove, if anyone would like to take up the challenge?