Saxonholme, the demise 2006

By Bill Kocher

Photo:Going  12/9/2006

Going 12/9/2006

Bill Kocher

Photo:Gone  3/10/2006

Gone 3/10/2006

Bill Kocher

This page was added by Richard Beckett on 04/07/2008.
Comments about this page

While surfing the internet in general for items about Newhaven, I came across a site whose members specialise in locating and exploring tunnels throught the UK. Apart from the obvious one of HMS Forward at South Heighton which was mentioned on the site, the name Saxonholme is also mentioned as having a tunnel. The following information is taken from the website
"Apparently a local rumour had it that a tunnel ran from the house to the Convent so in February 1977 two members of the Society persuaded the owner of Saxonholme to let them look and they actually gained access to the tunnel from an opening in the cellar. The tunnel was about 8m long with walls of stone, while the floor and the vaulted ceiling were brick. At the far end was a well, capped at floor level. A shaft ran upwards from the well and emerged in the middle of the garden above, where it was covered with a large stone slab. It is thought that the tunnel was constructed so that water could be carried from the well to the house without the need to go through the garden."
Was anybody in Newhaven aware of the existence of the cellar/Tunnel/Well during the demolition of the building, or did it just disappear under a pile of brick rubble I wonder?

On 22/08/2009

I used to live in Meeching Place and had the keys to the cellar of the main building, down in this cellar there are bricked up arches and if you look at the garden fronting Church Hill there appears to be a regular undulation, suggesting possible tunnels leading out towards Church Hill. Unfortunately this would be the wrong direction to end up at Saxonholme!

By Michael Young
On 04/02/2011

This building used to be owned at one time by my uncle Arthur Bennett. When he first took over there were gardens all around the building with many apple trees and I remember having a great time collecting these, and eating a lot of them as well.

By Derek Longly
On 26/06/2011

It is very sad to see the remains of Saxonholme just left to the ravishes of nature. This once, majestic building used to boast a sweeping, in and out drive lined with conker trees. Something at the back of my mind is telling me that the driveway used to rise and the main entrance door was where the middle window, on the first floor of the front elevation was of late. We, as youngsters, would knock on that door and asked if we could collect some of those conkers. Years later, I became a employee of Oxley and Bennett who became the owner of Saxonholme. This, gave me the chance to really "explore" this fine old building and it's grounds.

By Colin Brandon
On 02/07/2011

Bill Packham caught me scrumping there once, you could stand on the wall to the left of the house and reach the branches quite easily. Another time a lady was in the garden while I was helping myself and gave me a bag full. She frightened me more than Bill, I didnt go there again.

By Terry Howard
On 06/07/2011

I remember, as a kid in the 1950s, standing in the front garden of " Saxonholme " with a crowd of others as a lady threw hands full of conkers to us from the top of her front steps.

Yes I remember that as well Doug !

John -- editor



By Doug Hall
On 08/07/2011

I remember Saxonholme as a boy (my father was Rector in the years 1947 to 1954). The owner then was a Mrs Summerhayes, a very grand and kind lady who was probably in her eighties then. I seem to remember that her husband had been a "Doctor Summerhayes" but he wasn't alive when I lived in the town. Yes, I too saw the tunnel in the basement, but only briefly; much of it had fallen in, and was being re-excavated in the early 1950s. Mrs Summerhayes used to allow the use of her garden for such things as Church Fetes. There were fruit trees and a rose garden. Mrs S would take me and my sister Rosemary to see the roses, and would cup a bloom in her old hand, saying "aren't they beautiful creatures!"

By Tony Evans
On 17/02/2012

My mother, Janet Davis, remembers Dr & Mrs Summerhayes. She remembers them both as exceptionally kind people and the house as very grand and beautiful and the garden being used for church fetes and Mrs Summerhayes doing charitable work for the Missionary Society. Apparently he, Dr Summerhayes, used to refer to his wife as "the saint" and himself as "the sinner". She also recalls Dr Summerhayes' great kindness in getting her mother seen by his son-in-law, Dr Denny Brown (perhaps houseman or registrar) at the Royal London Hospital together with Sir Hugh Cairns, all free of charge which was quite remarkable in those days. She went on to have a brain operation under Sir Hugh Cairns. Later, because of this connection with the Royal London, my mother chose this hospital as one of those to apply to to train in radiography and that is where she spent two years training. My mother also recalls her aunt (Hilda Baker - nee Davis of 51 Brighton Road) saying that if Dr Summerhayes was wanted in the night, people would have to go to the house and throw stones at the window. She says it was a dreadful thing to have destroyed this beautiful house along with Sussex Lodge next to what was the old cinema (opposite Parsons). The Cooks owned this house and the cinema and other properties in Newhaven.

By Jane Barrett
On 18/08/2012

I remember working at Mr Wherry's Dental Surgery in 'Willowhale' opposite 'Saxonholme' in the late 50s. We watched the major alterations being made, removing the magnificent drive and exposing the basement, then converting that part of the building to become the main entrance. Sad to lose buildings of character like this, but I suppose that is progress. What has taken its place?


By Janet Finn
On 03/06/2014

The area has lain empty since Saxonholme's demolition, Janet. However, it is about to be redeveloped with a new building housing a Fire Station, Police Station and Council Offices.

No doubt the existing ones will then be demolished or converted - more expensive houses and flats, anyone? Or am I being a tad cynical? Perhaps one of the houses on the Fire Station site could have a tower at one corner, like the long lamented 'Lorraine' that made way for it.

Anyway, it will be good to see something useful on the Saxonholme site, with the fire station almost back to its previous location. We've put up with the empty space for long enough.

By Andy Gilbert
On 04/06/2014

Thanks, Andy. Maybe 'a tad cynical' but justifiably so I think!

By Janet Finn
On 06/06/2014

I put a lot of hard work and dedication into the new fire station [the one at Fort Road: Editor] and now they are going to knock it down are they.

Somewhere in there is a piece of wood with my name on it. It might be on the back of a piece of skirting or architrave. I wonder if it will be found?


By Terry Howard
On 07/06/2014

I am the maternal grandson of Dr and Mrs Summerhayes, former owner of 'Saxonholme'.  I am currently writing a book about them, primarily about their time as missionaries in India based on a diary kept by Lucy Summerhayes for 1896 but I'm also including short chapters on their later lives in Thame Oxon (where I happen to live) and Newhaven.  I am short of material and photos, for the Newhaven chapter and would be grateful for permission to include in the book some of the anecdotes in the Demolition of Saxonholme thread.  The source would of course be acknowledged.

I can confirm from my memories of the house that the driveway did curve upwards to a fine entrance.  That the house was completely demolished is a disgrace. The facade at least should have been retained.  Unfortunately  I only learnt about the demolition after the event.

I can add one further anecdote about the fire station next door.  A cousin of mine, Martin Denny Brown, was a very naughty little boy and while he was staying at Saxonholme, repeatedly set off the fire alarm.  His father, mentioned in one post, became a world-famous neurophysician and was head hunted during WW2 by the Americans to work at the Harvard Medical School.

Derek Turner

13 July 2015

By Derek Turner
On 17/07/2015

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