Heath House Conference Centre in Uttoxeter Staffordshire is a beautiful Georgian building with an intriguing past. Walking through the building you cannot help but imagine what the people were like who lived and worked here.
We are continually adding to the story of Heath House Conference Centre, so if you have an anecdote about this incredible building, a photograph, or if you can add any information about the characters who lived and worked here then we would love to hear from you.
Delving into the building’s past gives a fascinating insight into the history of the area. There appears to have been a settlement in the area of Uttoxeter since anglo saxon times when it was referred to as Wotocheshede (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uttoxeter) or Wuttuceshǣddre, which we are informed translates as Wuttuc’s homestead on the heath” or “Wot’s homestead on the Heath” http://www.uttoxetertowncouncil.org.uk/local-history giving the building’s name “Heath House” a fitting and intriguing link to the anglo saxon origins of the town.
In 1066, according to the Doomsday Book, Uttoxeter was valued at a staggering £7 and in 1086 soared in value to £8. It had 24 Villagers and 11 smallholders, 11 ploughs, 16 acres of meadow and 2 leagues square of woodland.
Jump forward to the 7th Century and squatters’ cottages are recorded on ‘the heath’ which is the area of land close to where Heath House is located.
Skipping forward in time again, there are a cluster of news reports that make reference to Heath House in Uttoxeter and its residents. These references are confusing and have to be viewed at this stage with a degree of scepticism. If the references are accurate then they imply that Heath House changed hands regularly. This seems unlikely. Where the name Phillips and Philip appear, we are assuming that these references should have been to Heath House in Tean rather than Uttoxeter though this needs to be verified.
In 1865 there is a reference to a gardener working for J.C. Phillips of Heath House in Uttoxeter. The following year, in December 1866, there is a reference to R.B. Wood of Heath House Uttoxeter. In January 1868, only two years later, there is reference to Mary who is said to be the only surviving daughter of the late William Strettou Esq of Heath House Uttoxeter, and in May 1870, again only a further two years later, there is a marriage announcement for Frederick William Lasbrey of The Heath House, Uttoxeter, to Locisa Jane, second daughter of Thomas Oakley, Esq (The name of the paper for this entry was just about visible and it appears to be the Staffordshire Advertiser – though this requires verification). Confusingly, there is a refernece in 1893 to ‘Mr C. J. Philip’ of ‘The Heath House. Uttoxeter’ (Lichfield Mercury Staffordshire, England 24 Feb 1893). The name is similar enough to the afore mentioned J.C Phillips to be a typographical error or there may in fact have been two owners of a similar name.
A charming newspaper report said to be from May 1914 entitled “Town And Country Gossip” (Name of original newspaper not identified – If you have this information, please let us know), suggests that the children of the then owner of Heath House Uttoxeter, Mr A. G. Harley-Jones, owned a ‘blue Andalusian fowl’ which produced an incredible egg said to be 5 inches long, containing three yolks and weighing six ounces!
Digging deeper into various news snippets, it seems that Mr A.G. Harley-Jones (Arthur George Harley-Jones) mentioned above may well be the pottery manufacturer associated with Wilton Ware.
A report from January 1930 suggests that one of the residents of Heath House Uttoxeter, a Joyce Harley-Jones, was killed early one morning when she was returning home to Heath House from a dance. Looking at the name and the dates, it is possible that Joyce was one of the children who owned the remarkable Andalusian fowl. This is conjecture and we would welcome any additional information and sources.
Leaping forward in time to 1950, one of its better-known and seemingly well-loved residents of Heath House was Councillor William Clarke. Along with members of his family, Councillor Clarke, was evicted from his home under a compulsory purchase order made by the council. The Heath House of the 1950’s was described in idyllic terms as being a 20 room Georgian mansion surrounded by seven and a half acres of garden.
At the time of the eviction, Heath House was home to not only Councillor Clarke, but also members of his family who included his father in-law Mr William C. Brown, his daughter Mrs Amy Brown and a second daughter Miss Mavis Clarke. According to reports, the family were given 14 days to vacate Heath House.
According to newspaper sources, the compulsory purchase order, made by the council in August 1950, suggests that Heath House was to be used for health and social services. Presumably this is linked to the creation of the welfare-state. A few conversations with local people contradict the reason for the compulsory purchase, suggesting instead that the compulsory purchase was linked to the bypass.
Councillor Clarke’s story appears to be a sad one. It seems that the eviction process started in 1950 and spanned the summer months. Newspaper clippings that we have been fortunate enough to see show councillor Clarke, flanked by two police men, being forcibly removed from Heath House, and another shows him climbing back through one of the bay windows at Heath House in defiance of the order.
There are reports that the eviction was disputed, that the family were not given a fair deal and that police officers were put on ‘special duty’ at the town hall when the council met to discuss the eviction. It appears that the case eventually came before Justice Donovan in the Vacation Court, London.
Having been evicted from Heath House, it is said that Councillor Clarke spent the first few nights in a caravan. He then, according to local people, lived in a red Elke’s double decker bus on the site of Barlow’s scrap yard opposite to where McDonalds is now located.
In October of the same year, just two months after the eviction, Councillor Clarke was forced to say goodbye to five members of his family as they boarded the Mauretania, bound for America. Looking through the passenger list for 1950, Mavis Clarke’s name appears clearly, stating her date of birth as being 1923. She was just 27 and according to newspaper reports, her father was 70.
We have not been able to find out what became of the family who left for a new life in America.
There are a number of stories about Councillor Clarke’s death. All of them are oral accounts which we have no way of verifying, some saying that he died in a fire or that he was living in an old railway carriage. One suggests that he burnt his leg badly when he fell against a stove whilst he was living in his double decker bus. This source says that he went into hospital following the accident but doesn’t say when or how he died.
If you have information about Councillor Clarke’s life, if you can add to, or correct any of the information that we have been given, or if you or one of your relatives have a memory that you would be happy for us to share then please get in contact so that we can add to his story and the story of Heath House.
Following the compulsory purchase of Heath House, the building was used as a clinic. Many people remember visiting Heath House to have babies weighed or to see the dentist, who many have referred to as Daddy Duck.
If you have a story that you would like to share about Heath House clinic, or about the people who worked hear then it would be lovely to hear from you.
In the 1990s, Heath House was sold and the rooms were rented by several different businesses, then in 2005 PBM Inspection Services Ltd purchased Heath House, and after a lot of TLC and redecoration, opened the doors as a training, meeting and conference centre, and also as home to PBM which provides training and consultancy to schools and colleges.