The Red House is a hidden Kent marvel with links to Roger Daltrey of The Who and Jimi Hendrix

Contributed by editor on Jun 26, 2016 - 01:50 PM

By Dana Wiffen

This week's article is about a National Trust property which has surprisingly two musical connotations.



...  Jimi Hendrix and Roger Daltrey .....


Jimi Hendrix once sang “there’s a Red House over yonder” well there is and what a great place it is to visit.

Co-designed by architect Philip Webb and designer William Morris and completed in 1860 as William Morris’s Family home it is an important example of 19th architecture with Morris’s Medieval-Inspired Neo-Gothic design reflected throughout the house.

The house and well  Photo: Dana Wiffen


His designs were later to become known as Arts & Crafts design.

The House was built in the West Kent village of Upton which has now been absorbed into Bexleyheath, Kent.

In 1860 Morris and his wife moved in and at the time planned to remain there for many years and both of their daughters were born there. He continued to add to the house interior and gardens design but by 1865 he had become tired of his constant travelling to and from London by train with the nearest station at the time being Abbeywood some miles away.

Because of the house's isolated location, which is hard to imagine today, Morris had trouble selling the property so he rented it out from 1866.


In 1879 it was sold to the Charlesworth family, who sold it in 1889 and  from that date there were several more owners/tenants.


 Red House Rear entrance Photo: Dana Wiffen


By 1934 locals feared the house might be demolished and there were attempts to save it and a new owner was found in 1935.

During The War (from 1941) the governments “Assistance Board” took it over using it as an office to aid those left homeless by the blitz.

After The War the house was in poor condition and remained empty between 1951-52 when it was bought by two LCC architects, Dick Toms and Ted Hollamby who were both keen to preserve the property and grounds.


Both had a strong interest in the work of William Morris and they worked hard to save and restore the house sympathetically.

Encouraged by Toms and Hollamby, 1953 saw the formation of the William Morris Society as interest in his designs grew and in 1960 to commemorate the house, centenary members gathered at a garden party. As the society’s numbers grew special dates saw selective tours of the house arranged with the owner’s permission and Ted Hollamby looked to secure the house and garden’s future for public access.

It was around the late 1970s that Roger Daltrey the lead singer from the rock band The Who came to stay at the Red House with his family as they were friends with Hollamby’s family. Daltrey's children loved to ride the family’s horses in the Red House's grounds.


Roger was also able to tinker with some Riley Sports cars that were housed in the grounds and were owned by Ted Hollamby’s son.

In 1998 Ted Hollamby helped establish “The Friends of Red House”.


Check out the various perfumes of roses as you walk through the pergola  Photo: Dana Wiffen


In 1999 Ted Hollamby sadly died and his wife continued to live in the house until 2002, when she moved to a care home.


Luckily the Red House was purchased by a benefactor who donated it to The National Trust saving this wonderful house and grounds for all to visit today.

On my way to visit the house on turning into Red House Lane you feel you have stepped back in time and once inside the wonderful and colourful gardens surrounding the distinctive house you feel you have been transported to a rural retreat.


While walking in the grounds you can imagine William Morris’s two daughters playing “hide & seek” in the various nooks and crannies of this unusual and interesting garden.

I returned the following week and with a private talk in each room by the informative volunteers will be writing more on the works of William Morris in the future.

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