Silverlands is a large country house in Chertsey, Surrey, I'm unable to confirm the exact date of construction but it was in the years surrounding 1820, an estate has existed here under the name of 'Silverlond' since at least 1420 according to town records. First owned by Henry Hotham, a hero of the Napleonic wars in the early 19th Century, it's recent history is more controversial, after having served as an orphanage and a nurses training college for much of the latter 20th Century, in 2001 plans were made to relocate patients from Wolvercote Clinic for convicted paedophiles.
With 23 schools located within a 2.5 mile radius of the Silverlands estate, one primary school just 5 minutes down the road, this caused a local outrage, on Oct 26th of that year the first of many candlelight vigils were held outside Silverlands by protestors, these were repeated weekly between 17:00 and 19:00 for several months. During these events the buildings went under intense refurbishment and maintenance, the ultimate bill for this and the required security arrangements almost hit £5'000'000. In July of 2002 it was confirmed that Silverlands would not be utilised for the rehabilitation of paedophiles, however the building has been vacant for the most part ever since.
The security arrangements in place today I imagine might remain from that time period, it is surrounded by a number of fences, the building itself has a fair amount of cameras, PIRs and loudspeakers located at strategic points.
Having seen images of the building not so many years ago, the damage to the interior is quite a sad sight to see, damage is mostly from water leaks through the roof, many of the more ornate and beautiful rooms on the ground floor have collapsing ceilings and damaged floors, electricity still works throughout the building however.
The ground floor was of a much different character to the remainder of the house, both in a sense of it's purpose and design, the upper floors seemed much more befitting to your contemporary hospital or orphanage, self contained units with kitchens and bathrooms and mostly bland and boring hallways and rooms. You get to walk up a very grand staircase to get there though. :)
A paper dated 2002 matches up with the date at which this place ceased all operations.
Security apparatus can be found upstairs including a direct link to the CCTV. It's all attached to a router and I'd imagine being fed back to an office externally as well, good to know it's all working. :) The multiple cameras located in the hallways of the upper levels didn't seem to be connected and I would imagine these were installed with the proposed rehabilitation centre in mind. In a separate room a box full of possibly hundreds of keys (10x more keys than doors.. O_o) along with multiple monitors and other equipment would lead me to imagine this is where security would have once been based.
There is a lot to read online about Silverland Manors time as an orphanage, the Actors Orphanage was funded and supported by some very well known names and the children who were looked after were those who's parents were in someway attached to theatre or film industries, "made destitute by the profession". Not everyone was actually orphaned, but those who's parents couldn't support them etc also resided there.
Noel Coward was president for a period of time and visited frequently, documented by Judy Staber: "During the early years after the war, some of the staff were not very kind, many had returned from serving overseas and tended to treat us like small soldiers in boot camp. One or two were particularly brutal, but they didn’t last long, although they surely left their mark. Noel Coward was President, from 1934 until 1956, and on his frequent visits he spotted trouble and rooted it out. He was a kind man and when I look back and think how incredibly busy he was, and that he devoted so much time to us and our well-being, it amazes me."
The charitable organisation once known as the Actor's Orphanage is now The Actors' Children's Trust (TACT), their website has some detailed and very interesting history and accounts of Silverlands. Including an account of one residents meeting with the Late Richard Attenborough: “Of all the things I remember,” continued Mr Carroll, “one day stands out. A young Richard Attenborough and his lovely wife took myself and a friend to Regents Park Zoo for a day’s outing. Before returning to Silverlands we visited the Attenboroughs’ house in Richmond. I felt that day like part of a family, as we had so much fun. That’s what I imagined families did. Every time I see Lord Attenborough in a film I recall that day when I was nine.”
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