Henderson House, off Downs Road was originally called Abbotsford. There is a degree of confusion regarding the original name - occasionally referred to as Abbotsfield - however contemporary news reports, street directories and mapping confirms the name to be Abbotsford. The house was built in 1899 with 17 acres of gardens by Australian James Stewart Henderson (1863-1933). For the first twenty years of the house's existence, James was a frequent visitor, but did not really engage with society within Hastings. Henderson, who had his main residence in Hampstead, in later life did on many occasions plan to come to stay in the Hastings house - going so far as to maintain a staff of ten people to tend the grounds and house, however ill-health prevented him from doing so. The house remained staffed yet empty for over ten years prior to Henderson's death.
The house itself was described as "a handsome building with a red-tiled, gabled roof and some fine oak inside". Mr. Henderson was an enthusiastic collector of arms, armour and other antiques and curios, and there were between 12 and 15 magnificent suits of medieval and oriental armour in the house. In the middle of the armour display stood the life-size figure of a horse, magnificently caprisoned in shining armour, with a fully-armed knight, helmeted and with a drawn sword, in the saddle. The description continued; "The walls are hung with weapons and coats of chain mail and quaint suits of eastern armour and the uniform of a halberdier complete a remarkable and extremely valuable collection."
Following Henderson's death, the house together with an endowment of £10,000 to his long-serving secretary Miss Alicia Burkitt for her to maintain the premises as a convalescent home for the poor of Hampstead - the Henderson Trust. This became a charitable foundation that offered heavily subsidised holidays for the needy of Hampstead.
Later, the house underwent alterations by architect Oliver Law and the trust taken over by The Hampstead Wells Trust. Eventually the trust ran out of funds to continue and Henderson House was sold to The Watermans Trust in 1965, subsequently demolished and housing Abbotsfield Close and Henderson Close was built on the site.
References & Notes
- 1066 Online
- British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 11 March 1933 Pg. 0012
- Pike's 1933 Directory
- National Library of Scotland mapping