When Whitehall was built, in around 1500, Cheam was a rural community of around 300 people, centred around Park Lane and Park Road. The only similar building to date from this time is the Old Cottage, which once stood near the junction of Ewell Road and the Broadway, beside the village brewery and inn. It is thought that a Tudor inn and brewery were located on the site of today's Harrow Inn, while the blacksmith's forge was at the corner of Park Lane and the Broadway. A medieval kiln producing the distinctive Cheamware pottery was situated on today's High Street, and there were probably others in the village. Tradition holds that Whitehall was built as a yeoman farmer’s house and farmers did live in Whitehall in later years, but some non-domestic use cannot be ruled out. A previous structure on the site had collapsed or had been demolished when Whitehall was built, and would have been served by the fifteenth-century well. Whitehall was constructed as a two-storey continuous jetty building with a deep overhang at the front and back. The fabric of the building with its timbers of local oak and elm, is revealed inside. The wood was used unseasoned and untreated, often within a few months of felling. It was later blackened when the contrast of black and white became fashionable. The frame of the house would have been prefabricated at a carpenters’ yard. Each timber was jointed, assembled into a frame and marked, before it was dismantled ready for removal to the building site. Assembling the frame on site was a comparatively simple procedure, as the timbers already bore the carpenter’s marks (a form of adapted Roman numerals) and mortice and tenon joints. Such buildings could also be dismantled fairly easily. Vertical studs were fixed into the horizontal base timbers. Straight or curved planks (cut from curved branches) were used to brace the angles. Wooden pegs, rather than expensive iron nails which would rust in the fresh, damp wood, were used to hold the timbers together, and many original pegs are evident, particularly in Whitehall’s roof. The jetty was formed by the projecting joists of the upper floor, which were fixed across the horizontal timber at the top of the ground floor upright studs and posts. The process was repeated for the top storey, ending in the wall plates, or upper horizontal timbers. Thus the structure was like two boxes one on top of the other, rather than a building of full height sub-divided into floors. A low wall of chalk blocks provided a foundation for Whitehall’s frame and protected it from rot. The land to the south of Cheam’s cross-roads is chalk, and the material was at one time used extensively in Cheam. Interesting how terms chang; Whitehall is said once to have been called "The Council House," owing to its use by Queen Elizabeth I for holding an impromptu council meeting for signing papers while on a hunting expedition from Nonsuch Palace, it would be a fine council house now.
Extensive alterations were made during the sixteenth century. The attractive porch with a room above was added. Attics were created by inserting a floor in the upper storey. These were reached by means of a newel staircase housed in a timber staircase tower, which replaced the earlier internal ladderway. A three storey extension with a cellar was made to the rear of the house in the following century. The ground floor of this addition is now Whitehall’s Refreshment Room. The Rev. George Aldrich, the founder of Cheam School, is reputed to have lived in Whitehall at that time. John Killick leased Whitehall in 1741,and his son, James Killick, bought the property from Robert, ninth Earl of Petre, of East Cheam Manor, in 1785. On James's death in 1807, Whitehall passed to his son, William, who had been born in 1775, married Lucy Noakes, and had eight daughters and three sons, Whitehall passed by entail in 1853 to William's daughters, Charlotte and Harriet. Three of their sisters had died young, and Susan and Penelope had married, Harriet was governess to the children of Cheam's Rector, Charlotte's life was closely connected with the nearby Cheam School, where she was governess to the daughters of Robert Tabor, the headmaster, and taught music to some of the pupils there. Whitehall's size, its proximity and Charlotte's connections with the school made it an obvious location for boarding out pupils and staff. Several sons of the headmaster were lodged at Whitehall. In the original house the hall would have been the all-purpose living room. The focal point was the fireplace and chimney, which are probably original, although they may have been greatly altered over the centuries. The room would originally have been furnished with a table and benches to sit on. The Parlour: The use of this room has changed over the centuries. In 1908 this was the dining room but originally it was probably the kitchen. At first smoke from the fire passed up through a plaster-lined partition known as a smoke bay, which ran across the full width of the building and extended up to the roof. At some point in the 16th century the existing brick chimney was inserted in the smoke bay. The heavily-restored oven dates from the 18th century. Around 1800 an extension was added to the back of the house and a new kitchen was made there, allowing this space to become a living room. Hurry up and visit as the museum will close on 10th April 2016 for renovation and upgrading. Audio guide is £1.
Location : 1 Malden Road, Cheam, Surrey SM3 8QD
Transport: from Victoria (National Rail). London Buses routes 213, 151, 470 and X26 stop nearby.
Opening Times: Friday to Sunday 10:00 to 17:00.
Opening Times: Bank Holiday Mondays 14:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Free.
Tel: 020 8770 5670