What’s in a name?
Although neither Smallfield nor Burstow appear in the Domesday Book, it is known that Burstow was part of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s manor of Wimbledon. The name Burstow appears in Wimbledon’s records for 1093-96 when Peter de Burstow held land for a Knight’s Fee or Knight Service. [This was a type of feudal tenure which obliged the holder to provide military assistance to the Crown in return for holding land.]
The land we know as Smallfield came under the Manor of Lodge of which a narrow belt of the small common field continued eastward to the boundary with Horne. The word ‘small’ in this instance is thought to have originated from smael meaning narrow and open. There was no village of Smallfield until Victorian times. Maps before this time show commons interspersed with large houses such as Smallfield Place and Burstow Lodge as well as farms, such as Broadbridge and Bridgeham.
Smallfield Green covered 8 acres and Smallfield Common 317 acres. Weatherhill Common to the west covered 9 acres. Under the Enclosure Acts of 1855, the Green was awarded to the Parish to be used by the Guardians of the Poor. In part, this was to compensate villagers for their loss of rights to the use of the enclosed ‘common’.
Later it was let out to parishioners for various uses. The eastern section of the Green consisting of 3 acres was sold to Surrey County Council in 1956 for a new school. The western section served its purpose for the ‘needs of the poor’ in that it was once the site of the dreaded workhouse, to which the desperately needy would go as a last resort. For many years it was allotment gardens until the building of the village hall in 1995. The Common, south of Plough Road, was absorbed by the neighbouring farms and provided a recreation ground.
Smallfield Place once commanded an isolated position on the north eastern edge of Smallfield Common. It was the seat of the De Burstow family from the late twelfth century. During one of the battles of the fourteenth century wars with France, John de Burstow saved the life of Lord Burghersh when he was thrown from his horse. He was rewarded in about 1362 with a ‘small field’ which was originally spelt ‘smaelfeld’.
The present early Tudor stone house was built on the remains of an earlier house. This was possibly twelfth century, as a great post, running up through the centre of the present building, may be a king-post of that period. It may also be one of the rare examples of a standing oak tree being used as a foundation for a timber building. The house was probably extended in stages during the seventeenth century.
The date of 1661 could once be read on the door knocker. The arms of the Bysshe family may be seen in stone above the porch. Edward Bysshe, a great lawyer during the reign of James I was knighted in 1661 and carried out rebuilding work at this time. He also held the title of Garter King-of-Arms.
In the eighteenth century some of the buildings were pulled down and the remainder used as a farmhouse for the Rebow family. It continued as a farm until 1898, when it once again became a ‘gentleman’s residence’.
In 1929 Smallfield Place, with 13 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and 38 acres was sold at auction for about £8,000. It had been advertised as having central heating and being ‘lighted by electricity generated by a natural oil engine’.
By the 1950s, the property had been divided into two; the eastern half retained the name of Smallfield Place and the western half reverted to the original name of Crullings.
The properties have changed hands several times over the last half century and once again form one house. It has been carefully restored inside and out by the present owners who have preserved many of the hidden details.
There are two pictures of the house in the “Gallery”.