Landowners, military men and press barons

The main structure was built between 1842 and 1845 by John Titsel as a small country house, a ‘gentleman’s cottage’. The property included a chaise house, stable and other buildings. The house was purchased by Mrs Ann Reveley, widow of a lawyer and landowner in 1845 and additional grounds were acquired shortly after. On her death in 1852, the property passed to her eldest son, William Austin Reveley who in turn passed it in 1854 to his brother George Johnson Reveley who further extended the property. For many years the Reveley family also retained their London home at 17 Queen Square, Bloomsbury. George Reveley died in 1877 and bequeathed a substantial sum for the Reveley Almshouses, built in Bushey village in 1883.

A black and white photograph of Otway Towers
Otway Towers

Reveley Lodge was then purchased by Captain William John Marjoribanks Loftus Otway a retired cavalry officer of the 5th Dragoon Guards. Although Captain Otway’s main home was 13 Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, where he employed 14 servants, he had also lived in Bushey as in 1860 he built an extravagant country house, named Otway Towers, now Immanuel College. He sold this and moved across the road to the more modest Reveley Lodge. In 1894, the Captain was succeeded by his son, Lieutenant Colonel Jocelyn Tufton Farrant Otway of 7 Park Lane, Mayfair. He commissioned the architect A E Hubert to extend the building, adding new servants quarters to the eastern end and an enlarged drawing room, large billiard room and conservatory to the western end.

A portrait of Robert Leicester Harmsworth
Robert Leicester Harmsworth

The new owner in 1898 was Robert Leicester Harmsworth of Marlborough Gate, Hyde Park, MP for Caithness and Sutherland. He, together with his wife and five of his seven children, used Reveley Lodge as a country home for four years and expanded the estate by the addition of several cottages. Leicester Harmsworth, as he was known, was a partner in the great publishing business bearing his name. He was one of four brothers who were all created Barons (the Harmsworth Barons) one of which was the newspaper magnate, Lord Northcliffe, owner of the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror. Sir Leicester Harmsworth, 1st Baronet, died in 1937 a noted bibliophile whose collection of early English books was acquired by the Folger Library in Washington DC.

In 1902 the house was purchased by Edmund Littler Johnson, an established tin plate merchant and the son of a Lancashire coal proprietor and iron master. He also used Reveley Lodge as a country house with his London residence being in Hampstead. He enjoyed the country air with his wife Marian and his three children. When he left the house in 1909, he auctioned the furniture but retained ownership of the house and Mrs Maria Susan Chewett became its tenant in 1909. An Inland Revenue survey of 1910 shows the house to be extensive, with eight bedrooms on the first floor, presumably enlarged from the thirteen bedrooms advertised in 1901. Outside there was a covered washing yard, coal store, garage with space for three cars, stables for three horses, a loose box and harness room, a greenhouse, potting shed, tennis lawn and pig sties.

A portrait of Maria Chewett
Maria Chewett

Mrs Chewett arrived in England from Canada in 1898. With her were her daughters and youngest son, Albert Ranney Chewett. The son joined the Herkomer Art School and was active in music and painting before turning to photography. His mother and sisters were skilled in wood-working, metal work, lace making and book-binding.  Albert bought the estate in 1921 and in 1931 married Violet Georgiana Eila Chewett. She had a talent for music and dancing. The billiard room was converted into a dance studio where Eila taught well into the 1950s. Albert died in 1965 and Eila qualified and practiced as a medical secretary until she was 75. On her death in 2003 Reveley Lodge passed to the Bushey Museum Property Trust. 

Albert Chewett and family

A photograph of the Rossin House Hotel in Toronto, Canada
The Rossin House Hotel

During the nineteenth century the Chewett family was one of the most prominent and influential in Toronto, Canada. In 1798 they purchased a large plot of land in downtown Toronto that they developed in 1835 by building Toronto’s first business block, the Chewett building, comprising apartments, offices and stores. In 1855, Charles and Marcus Rossin purchased the site and built a luxury hotel, the Rossin House hotel, although interestingly, the Rossins carried out the acquisition with a mortgage raised from the Chewetts. Initially a success, the hotel attracted prestigious clients such as the Prince of Wales. Running the hotel proved expensive, and debts mounted. In 1883, after a series of events possibly orchestrated by the Chewett family, all stock of the Rossin House Hotel company ended up in the hands of five members of the Chewett family. They further developed the hotel but by the early 20th century all the Chewetts had moved to England. The property and land was finally sold by the Chewetts in 1946. 

Albert Ranney Chewett, the youngest of a family of six, came to the England in 1898 as a student of the Herkomer Art School in Bushey. He then studied for several years on the continent before coming to live permanently in Bushey Heath. Mrs Maria Susan Chewett, his widowed mother, rented Reveley Lodge in 1910 and lived there until her death in 1918 with Albert and her unmarried daughter, Ethel. One of the final AGMs of the Rossin House Hotel Company is recorded as being held at Reveley Lodge!

Portraits of the Chewett family

In 1917, Albert’s elder brother, James Chewett, a frequent visitor to Reveley Lodge, died suddenly. Albert became guardian of his three daughters, Phyllida, Jocelyn and Gwenydd, and when their mother died in 1924, the three girls came to live at Reveley Lodge.

A black and white pgotograph of two girls in the conservatory at Reveley Lodge

Gwenydd married Hamilton Beatty, whom she met at London University, and they lived in Ohio, USA. Jocelyn became a sculptress and spent most of her life in France with her husband, the artist, Stephen Gilbert. Both couples made regular visits to Reveley Lodge. Phyllida remained single and lived at Reveley Lodge until her death in 1987.

In 1931 Albert Chewett, now aged 53, married Violet Georgina Eila Hamilton-Baillie, known as Eila. She was the daughter of a clergyman, who had died when she was five, and a distant relation of the Earl of Haddington. She was educated at St Margaret’s School in Bushey. The marriage took place quietly at Leavesden Parish Church in the presence of a few close friends on Eila’s nineteenth birthday.

A painting of Maria Chewett
Maria Chewett in the drawing room

Because of Albert’s inherited wealth, he did not have to work. Initially a keen artist following his training at the Herkomer school, he later dabbled in photography. He did not sell any of his paintings and they were discovered in 1985 in the hayloft over the stables. A number of the paintings feature Reveley Lodge and the Chewett family and some are now displayed in the billiard room at Reveley Lodge.

A painting of a woman sitting reading in the billiard room
The Billiard Room

When Albert died in 1965, Eila qualified as a medical secretary and worked for many years for Lester Warner Lowe, the orthopaedic surgeon, in Harley Street. Following the tradition of the Chewetts of Reveley Lodge, Eila did voluntary work for the Red Cross, taught First Aid courses and became a Red Cross welfare officer. She became the first president of the Bushey Museum when it opened in 1993 and bequeathed Reveley Lodge to the museum on her death in 2003.