Herbert Reeves

Strange that a list of notable Emsworth properties should feature one that no longer stands. However Museum enquiries show that the property commanding the most interest given its short existence, is Northlands. Built on arable land just north of the railway line and east of North Street, it was constructed of stone and flint in a restrained Victorian style by Mr Herbert Reeves in 1892.

Herbert Reeves was born in Staplehurst, Kent but made his fortune in Emsworth as a “Wholesale Grocer and Provisions Merchant”. The addresses given in censuses (ref. Find My Past) illustrate precisely his improving circumstances. He lived in North St in 1881, in Trentham House, Tower St in 1891 and then in New Brighton Road (Northlands) in 1901. While at Northlands, he began another venture that ultimately brought him fame on a national stage. Around 1893 the newspapers (ref. Portsmouth Evening News 29.06.1893) begin to report on Herbert Reeves’ growing success in poultry competitions at various county shows across the nation. Indication of his skills and standing in this arena may be gained from the citation “Mr Herbert Reeves, of Emsworth, Hants, so well known as one of the most prominent and successful breeders” that appears in a leading work of the time The New Book of Poultry by Lewis Wright (pub 1904).

Herbert Reeves’ first wife, Edith, died on Christmas Day 1885 at Trentham House, and it has been suggested that Northlands was planned as a wedding present for his second wife, Louie Fisher, with whom he tied the knot on 22 January 1887 (ref The Hampshire Advertiser, 29.01.1887). The purchase of a magnificent set of doors from Arundel Castle that required certain structural modifications to the building so that they could be accommodated, seems to indicate that this romantic notion may well be correct. On Northlands demise in 1982, it was fortunate that Molly Goode, a member of staff, remembered the origin of these doors and alerted Arundel Castle. The doors were recovered and returned to the Castle.

Northlands and the Community

The local community has always been most welcoming to Northlands in whatever capacity it presented itself. The correspondence of 16th April 1915 indicates one particular activity that was much appreciated during Northlands period as a military hospital. In its time as a private residence, Northlands reciprocated by providing the venue for the Emsworth Show on several occasions

Letter of Gratitude to Red Cross Hospital, Northlands

Northlands Maternity Hospital

On 5 July 1948 Northlands was taken over by the fledgling NHS as a maternity hospital. The Matron during the whole period of its existence was Miss Ethel Dingle, a formidable woman no doubt. Amongst the 200 babies delivered at the hospital per year there was one subsequently christened Nicholas Lyndhurst. Yes, him!

Key DatesOccupier/Function
1892 Built by Mr Herbert Reeves EMA, NP
1892 – 1907 Herbert Reeves NP
1911 – 1914 Colonel Richard Kelly, MBE, DSO, RA. NP
1914 Given over to relief of Belgian refugees. Belgium was invaded by the German Army, despite the fact that it had declared its neutrality. Thousands of civilians are displaced. EMA, NP
1915 -1918 Red Cross Rehabilitation Hospital initially for Belgian soldiers but later all nationalities. EMA, NP
1919-39 House reverted to private use in the inter-war years. Vice Admiral Sir Michael Henry Hodges, KCB, CMG, MVO, was an occupant in 1925-7 EMA
1939 Believed under control of Hampshire County Council
1949 NHS Maternity Hospital EMA, NP
1970s Closed as a Maternity Hospital
1978-82 Used as accommodation for Vietnamese refugees
Sept 1982 Demolished to accommodate the new A27 Emsworth by-pass

PS: It is in the role of Maternity Hospital that Northlands has attracted many enquiries, and not simply to the Museum. This correspondent answered a knock at his front door to find a woman, visibly emotionally charged. She was re-tracing the steps her mother had taken to her birth. I protested my innocence, which was accepted as she explained that my house was once a guesthouse where her mother had stayed before her confinement in Northlands. She came in and spent a reflective half hour in the rear garden before leaving with barely another word said!