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224 London Road, Mitcham CR4 3HD
Historical documents confirm that Eagle House stands on land formerly owned by Sir Walter and Lady Elizabeth Raleigh. In 1616, the site was purchased by Thomas Plumer for £2,500, ( as Sir Walter needed to fund his last expedition to Guiana. ) Plumer died in 1639, however his family retained control of the estate for the next two hundred years.
Eagle House dates from c.1705 and is thought to have been constructed for Fernando Mendes, a Portuguese Jew, who won wealth and acclaim as the physician to Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II. ( Many of the rain-water heads, which drain the roof and upper floors, carry the date 1705 and the initials F.P.M – for Fernando Mendes and Plumer. )
The architect is unknown but the building has been described as one of the finest surviving “Queen Anne” houses in London and the south-east.
The principle rooms occupy the ground and first floors, which are connected by a central staircase. They were built with lofty ceilings and high doorways, to accommodate the vast powdered wigs worn by people of status during the 18th century. A smaller staircase runs along the side of the house and once connected the basement kitchen, scullery and workrooms, with the servants quarters in the attic. From here a circular staircase reaches the central cupola and roof.
During the 18th century, Mitcham became a popular retreat for City businessmen and in 1711, Eagle House was leased by James Dolliffe, one of the founding directors of the South Seas Merchant Company. His initials and those of his wife, Mary, are featured in the splendid wrought iron gates to the front of the house. James died in 1714 and having secured successful marriage settlements for her daughters, Mary left the house in 1722. Ownership of the property still remained with the Mendes family, but for the next sixty years, the house was leased to a succession of London merchants and bankers.
In 1821, the last private occupant, the widow of City banker, John Bond, left Eagle House and the property was converted into a private boarding school for young gentlemen. The association with education continued for over a century. The popularity of private academies had waned by the mid 19th century and in 1855, the Guardians of the Southwark Poor Law Union purchased
Eagle House for use as an orphan school. It continued to serve this role until 1924, although ownership transferred to the Holborn Union in 1871.
The latter authority was responsible for a vast workhouse, which housed over 1,000 paupers in the Mitcham area.
Surrey County Council used Eagle House for educational purposes until 1965, when responsibility for the building passed to the newly formed London Borough of Merton. In 1970, a scheme was developed to restore the building, for use as an adult education centre. Work commenced in 1975 but the project proved too costly. In 1987, the property was sold to Sheridan Estates as office accommodation. English Heritage advised on refurbishment and following an archaeological excavation, further offices were built to the rear, in the style of an 18th century stable block. In recent years, Eagle House has undergone further refurbishment and is now a school for children with special educational needs.
The following buses stop on London Road near the house: 127, 152, 264, 270, 280, 355
This page was last updated on Friday 28 October 2011