The History of Denvilles House

Denvilles House, now the home of Langstone Conservative Club, is one of the most prestigious Conservative Club buildings in the South of England

Denvilles Club

This Regency house was constructed mainly in the 1820s on the site believed to be of the earlier Manor House of the Lord of Wade predating the later ‘Wade Court’.  It is a Grade II Listed building, set in an acre of land with attractive gardens and parking for 60 vehicles. 
The house was built on an estate which extended north to South Leigh Park and was owned by Thurston Bewley Cator of an East Anglican family who trace their history back to the Saxons.  It was built in the area known as “Denvilles” – a corruption of “Den Fields” – pasture lands bounded by the Chichester-Wickham Roman Road to the south and the track way to ”Southleigh Forest”  on the east.

Map of Havant showing Denvilles House in 1899

Map of Havant showing Denvilles House in 1899. (Copyright Ordinance Survey)

 

The Emsworth-Cosham road, even after it was turnpiked in 1751 was in very bad repair, prone to flooding and the activities of footpads and highwaymen – including the notorious Jack Pitt who was hanged on Southsea Common in 1808.

A Hunt meets at Denvilles House c.1880

A Hunt meets at Denvilles House c.1880

The Cator family integrated into the local community by marrying their daughter to the Rector of Warblington – the Reverend B Norris M.A.  Three members of the Norris family were rectors of Warblington continuously for almost 140 years and members of the family may have lived at Denvilles House during that time.

Other Victorian residents included Mrs Ann Shaw and the Durell family, whose three sons were born there in the 1860/70s.After the First World War Denvilles House became a school when Havant High School, with a staff of 8, moved there from West Street, Havant and stayed until the death of the owner Dr F Lake.

Advertising poster for Havant High School post WW1

A number of private owners followed until, in 1976 the House, by then a “Grade II Listed Building”, came on the market.  2.5 acres of ground were sold with planning permission for 14 new houses and the House, with 1 acre of grounds, in a dilapidated and vandalised condition, was sold to the Langstone Conservative Club who had previously met at Homewell House in the centre of Havant.

The house features a splendid entrance hall with an impressive “flying” staircase and a large Drawing Room with fine mahogany paneling formerly in the liner Mauritania.  The magnificent pillared portico was rebuilt in the 1980s.

The Flying StaircaseThe Flying Staircase

The Flying Staircase

The panel Room

The 'Panel Room' - The paneling is from the liner 'Mauritania'

The Painting on the wall

THE MYSTERY OF THE FRESCO PAINTING ON THE CLUB ROOM WALL

In the early 1990s the committee of the day realised the Club Room was looking very tired and the décor very drab and smoke-stained, not very comfortable nor welcoming.
The decision was made to refurbish and also lengthen the bar.  Quotations were sought and the work allocated.  The chosen company made a start and along with the other work, scraped off the old, stained wallpaper.  This work exposed the fresco painting, but sadly the workman’s tool had done significant damage.  After much discussion it was decided that the painting was still worth saving; after all it appeared to be part of the history of this lovely old Grade II listed building.
As luck would have it, Tony Spencer, a renowned local artist and long-standing Club member, saw the painting and thought it was worth saving as he was impressed with the work.  He immediately offered his services to restore as much of the painting as he could and also provided a picture frame to preserve it for future members to view.  Another member, known then as Mrs Maureen Beech, donated money to cover the cost.
Tony enthusiastically set to work stating that he would be careful not to alter the work but bring out the colours and highlights.  However, when he was restoring the area of the doors using the same colour that was already there, eerily the outline of a figure mysteriously appeared leaving everyone in awe, especially Tony.
Who was this figure?  Could it be a family member or a friend of the family, reported to be a doctor and his family in residence around the 1930s - 1940s at Denvilles House?
Perhaps it was someone connected with a school, also reported to have been in residence sometime in the early 1900s.
The dress style suggests anything from the 1930s through to early 1950s.  Who knows?
This picture has a date (not seen above the frame) of 1952, but no artist’s signature or name.
There has been much speculation about the figure in the picture.  Maybe the ‘Black Sheep’ of the family, so not revealed nor painted in?  Maybe a friend or visitor, who didn’t stay long enough to be included by the artist?
Curious that the ghostly figure only appeared when the picture was uncovered but highlighted by Tony’s restoration work – and NO, he didn’t put it in deliberately!
It is well known by long-standing Club members that certain unexplained things have happened at the Club, like cold spots, mysterious sounds and unexplained feelings of someone watching.
It is also well known that unexplained happenings took place at the house when some years ago, an all-night vigil took place under specialised conditions that resulted in some very atmospheric happenings that defied proper explanation then or since.


Ronnie Tavener

 

Written by Ronnie Tavener
January 2014

 

 

If YOU have any information that might identify the family in the picture, or you can throw any light on the mysterious figure please contact the Club Secretary, Pat Bolton, on 023 9249 2281 or send an email to secretary@denvilleshouse.net – we’d love to know more about the history of Denvilles House.