The Red House
The Red House, standing so proudly on the rising ground to the south of Hever, was probably built during the latter half of the nineteenth century, by the Meade-Waldo family, but no details of its early history are readily available.
In 1919, after the first World War, Lord Astor, who then owned the house, installed two ex-service men who had lost their sight there, together with their families. The house at that time consisted of two separate dwellings, and both men were allocated some adjacent land on which there was a large barn. They started a chicken farm, selling the eggs locally and also supplying the castle kitchen. The house was lit by oil lamps and candles, but there was running water (cold, of course!) pumped from a well in the field opposite the house. Some time later, the system was improved, with water being supplied to several farm cottages from a reservoir.
In 1928, Mr George Seal with his wife and five-year-old son Kenneth, moved in to the house on the north side. He was employed as carter on the farm, and eventually became farm foreman. Mr Seal, too, was an ex-service man, having served with the Royal West Kent Regiment in India. There were still some chickens there, and as sheep were bred on the farm there was often a lamb to be bottle-fed during the lambing season. The house had a black cooking range with a steel fender, which was lovingly polished with emery paper until it shone brightly. There was a walk-in larder, with large crocks standing on the floor for pickling eggs, and in the scullery there was a stone boiler with a large copper bowl set in it. Every wash day, the fire underneath the boiler had to be lit and fed with coal which was stored in a cupboard in the corner, When the water was hot enough for washing the clothes, they were rubbed on a wash-board, then put through a wooden rollered ringer, hand operated of course. No tumble driers or washing machines in those days.
By about 1934, the blind ex-service men had moved away and a new family with their children moved into the house on the west side. The house remained much as it had been, without any repairs or alterations, apart from the removal of a second staircase in the back of the north side of the house. A door was put in and a toilet made, partitioning off part of the scullery. Previously, coal had been stored in the cupboard under this staircase. It is possible that the staircase was used at the beginning of the century to give servants access to their bedrooms.
Mr and Mrs Seal (Senior) moved to a bungalow in Bough Beech and Ken and Mavis returned to live in the house again and remained there until 1962. Both sides became vacant and were purchased by Michael and Kathy Dews. Michael was a circuit judge and it was he who converted the building back to a single house in 1967. After the Dews left there were some lettings until 1981 when it was purchased by Mr and Mrs Longley, and reverted once more to a happy family home.
Ken and Mavis Seal
and Clare Longley.