The Manor of Coulsdon, originally known as Curedesdone (c. 675) was bought in 1782 by Thomas Byron, a wealthy businessman, from the Earl of Radnor. The tithe map of Old Coulsdon dated 1837 shows that about half the parish belonged to Thomas Byron as Lord of the Manor. Manorial lands included such farms as Portnalls, Tollers, Old Lodge, Colegrims, Stoats Nest, Greenways, Garston and Place House. They stretched from Purley in the North to Caterham in the South and from Chipstead in the West to Kenley in the East. The Byron family held the Manor of Coulsdon until 1921. It is not thought that they were related to the famous poet Lord Byron.
Squire Thomas Byron died, childless, in 1821. His married nephew, Thomas Byron (MP), became the principal beneficiary of his will and inherited the estate along with considerable wealth.
Coulsdon Court, a c16th/17th century farm of about 1,000 acres, formed part of Lord Byron’s estate. It stood next to St Johns Church (c1260) in Old Coulsdon and was used as a Court House for the locals. In 1850 the house was renamed “The Grange” and the name “Coulsdon Court” given to the new manor house being constructed. The new Coulsdon Court was built on the site of Old Hartley Farm which can be traced back to 1235 when it was called “Hartlees”.
Squire Byron resented the public road, Hartley Old Road, passing so close to his new house so created a new road called “Byrons New Road” (now called Hartley Down) in 1854. This enabled travellers to bypass Coulsdon Court. He added a gated drive at the head of Hartley Old Road; the line of the carriage road can still be traced across the golf course on the 12th & 13th holes up to the house. In 1856 the family moved into the new Coulsdon Court. Squire Thomas Byron died in 1863 leaving behind his wife Julia and two sons Edmund and Henry. Edmund, then aged 19, became Squire of the manor.
The family remained at Coulsdon Court until 1921. The family crest remains over the old front entrance to the house now covered by the new porch and the family pew and graves remain at the parish church of St John’s. Edmund Byron died, aged 77, in 1921. He was buried in the family tomb.
As Lords of the Manor, the Byrons were local benefactors. They built almshouses for retired staff (opposite Coulsdon Bowls Club) and gave land on which Smitham Bottom School was built. In 1803, Thomas Byron proposed the Coulsdon workhouse, which was built shortly afterwards, and also cottages for the poor.
Golf Course Development
Following Edmund Byron’s death, the estate was placed in the hands of trustees. On the 24th October 1922, the whole estate was put up for auction including mansion and grounds, farms and residential properties, a total of 1,226 acres. In 1923 the trustees sold Coulsdon Court to a local developer, Charles H Cearn, for £32,500.
In July 1925, Mr Cearn conveyed 220 acres to Coulsdon Court Estate Ltd, a development company, for £70,600. He agreed to lay out a golf course on the 35 acres that he retained whilst the developer agreed to build houses. Mr Cearn commissioned the course to be built by Harry S Colt, a famous golf course architect known for the design of Sunningdale, Royal Lytham St Annes, St Georges Hill and over 300 courses worldwide. His design principle was that the golf course must blend in and not be imposed on the landscape.
The course remained a private one until just before the second world war. The development company, however, pulled out of the housing scheme and Mr Cearn had his 220 acres back in his possession. In 1934, he sold his estate and golf course to Ukrainian Mr Nenski for £62,200 who resold it to a development company, Purley & Coulsdon Estates Ltd that he controlled, for an additional £15,000.
In February 1936, Purley & Coulsdon Estates offered the golf course, land and house for sale to the council who agreed in principle but not to the price. Upon threat of sale to a developer, the Council took out a compulsory purchase order leading to a public enquiry in November 1936 which upheld the order. The price was fixed at £54,735 for just over 146 acres to include the golf course, house and other buildings. A further £1,600 was paid for certain effects in the house and on the estate and the purchase was completed on the 26th November 1937.
Prior to completion of the purchase, the Council appointed the Coulsdon Court Committee to consider the future use of Coulsdon Court. In July 1937 by the casting vote of the Chairman, the Council agreed that the estate should be retained as a public open space. The Coulsdon Court committee was authorised to investigate the possibility of leasing the course to the existing club or opening it as a municipal course. They decided on the latter. The course was opened to the public as Coulsdon Court Golf Course on the 8th January 1938, just before the onset of World War II.
During World War II, Coulson Court was commandeered by the RAF as a mess and leisure centre. The Grange, mentioned earlier, was used as an operations centre for Fighter Command Kenley from September 1940 and was visited by King George the VI.
The Coulsdon and Purley UDC (later to become part of Croydon Council) took the golf course back after the war, filling in some of the bomb craters and relaying the turf where cereals had been growing as part of the war effort. The Golf Course was opened again to the public in 1946.
By 1981, the house was falling into disrepair and threatened with demolition leading Croydon Council to lease out the house and the course to Waites Builders under the name “All Weather Sports”. They created the hotel and increased the capacity by building an extension and squash club with its own bar.
When subsequent plans for a housing development were turned down, the lease was sold to Best Western Hotels. They in turn sold to Marston Hotels who changed the name to Coulsdon Manor Hotel although the golf clubs retained the Coulsdon Court name. In April 2005 the lease was sold to Swallow Hotels and then again to Oxford Hotels, the current owners. In 2013 Bespoke Hotels took over the running of the hotel and golf course and plans for a further extension are on hold. Croydon Council retain overall ownership.
Adapted by Vicky Burley from an article first written by Tom Searle and Tony Wise and added to by Nigel Messett