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Beurles - A House on the Forest


Those who attended the April 2023 meeting of the History Society heard about 'Beurles'. Lying in the heart of the Forest to the west of the Duddleswell Road this unusual house has long caught the eye of walkers and passers by with its distinctive features and its commanding position.

History of the property

In 1920, a distinguished ophthalmic surgeon, Arthur William Ormond bought a two acre property on the Forest known then as 'Fairview'. He promptly renamed it 'Crofts'. He was a consulting surgeon at Guys Hospital. He was a pioneer in this country for treatment for detached retina of the eye. He worked at St Dunstans Hospital for Serviceman blinded in the First World War - treating a thousand men. He was awarded the CBE by King George V.

In 1927 he built a detached house, 'Beurles', in the garden of Crofts mainly for the use of his family and friends. He commissioned a distinguished architect, John Daniel Clark of Eastbourne, to design the house. John D Clark was described as 'a master of domestic architecture - he was greatly beloved - a rare spirit and an inspiration'. His work is referenced in the East Sussex edition of Nikolaus Pevsner's County Guides to Architecture, including a brief reference to 'Beurles'

Suffering from tuberculosis he was sent to South Africa as a young man to train as an architect. His obituary stated that he 'Sometimes gave his houses exotic reminders of South Africa days, such as an arcaded stoep, or a twin arched window or a turned baluster mullion. These features can be seen at

'Beurles' today

In 1936 Arthur Ormond and his wife Mary decided to move into Beurles and to sell Crofts. He asked John D Oarke to design an extension to 'Beurles'. The plans maintained the unique style and features of the original house. It gave it an even greater vista for the long uninterrupted views to the South Downs.

Why Beurles?

But one puzzle remained. 'Why was the house called 'Beurles' ?' No answer was forthcoming from local enquiries. But an inspection of the Roll of Copyholders of the Manor of Duddleswell provided the answer. The property known as Fairview/Crofts was owned in the late 19th Century by one Louis Beurle, Gentleman of Hackney. An interesting character described as 'A worthy individual who invested much of his time in standing up for humanitarian causes - woman's suffrage, abolition of capital punishment. Involved in the early days of the vegetarian movement. He was closely connected to the Vegetarian, Cycling and Athletic Club of England. So Louis was an admirable character way ahead of his time. His family house in Hackney was known as 'Vegetarian Cottage'. This apparently remains chiselled into the brick pillar at the entrance to the cottage.

Other owners

The Roll of Copyholders of Duddleswell Manor also revealed that three of the various 19th Century owners of the property were the Walter, Markwick and Curd families. Descendants of these local families fought in the First World War and their names are recorded on the Memorial Board 'Fairwarp Men for King and Country'. A later owner was John Meek Banks Butler. From 1872 for twenty five years he was the Rector of St Bartholomew's Church in Maresfield.

1964-1981

In 1964 Beurles was bought by Edgar Woolf and his wife Zosia. They lived there until their deaths in 1981 when Edgar was 98 - Zosia also in her nineties. Edgar was the brother-in-law of Virginia Woolf who was married to his brother Leonard. Edgar served in the First World War as a lieutenant in the Bedfordshire Yeomanry. A military man, stockbroker, a horse rider and lover of the Ashdown Forest he was a very different personality to his left leaning, pacifist brother literary Leonard. Said to be difficult and grumpy but at 98 this was perhaps entirely understandable.

1981 onwards

In December 1981 my wife Kathy and I, looking for a property on the Ashdown Forest for our family home, saw a 'For Sale' sign by the stone bus shelter opposite Putlands. It was during the 'Big Snow' of 1981-82. We drove gingerly along the snowy track to the house and

entered the garden through the little gate in the very high hedge to be confronted by a magical scene of - a winter wonderland of pine, larch fir and spruce - almost alpine in the snow. With its great garden and distant views to the South Downs it was a revelation.


But the house, empty for a year, was in a very bad way with broken windows, damp, smells, vermin and broken fittings. This was a blessing. It meant the price was just affordable for us. So with four children aged 8 to 13, and my 87 year old mother, Kathy and I gambled. We moved from London, bought Beurles, and moved in - 40 happy years ago.


John Manthorpe

April 2023


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