Local History Society

 Auctions - Bear Wood Mansion, July 1911

Sale of Outlying Portion of Bearwood Estate, March 1911

Arborfield Remount Depot - Leased in 1904; sold privately to the Army in 1911

Second sale of Outlying Portions of Bearwood Estate, September 1912

The Auction Sale document of the Bearwood Estate dating from July 12th 1911 has been reproduced as a facsimile by the staff of Bearwood College, and has many photographs of the mansion and its grounds.

The Estate was described in the facsimile document as:

The renowned Freehold County Seat distinguished as "Bear Wood" comprising a Commodious and Stately Mansion, occupying a Commanding Position in a grandly timbered and undulating park, diversified by wonderfully beautiful Lakes, the entire Estate extending to over 3,000 acres, and including extensive wood and forest lands, seven excellent Farms with superior Residences, the picturesque model village of Sindlesham, numerous Small Holdings, Cottages, etc.

There were five Lots:

Lot 1: The Mansion and Grounds, occupying "one of the most delightful situations in the Home Counties, in the centre of a very favourable social district, with excellent sporting amenities". The Sale document quoted Kelly's Berkshire Directory as follows:

Bear Wood was formerly an outlying part of Windsor Forest, and still retains much of its primitive wildness of character. Its name is supposed to be derived from the Saxon word 'Bere', signifying a farmstead in a wood. Hollies and junipers flourish here in great perfection, and the gardens abound with rhododendrons and other exotic plants. Most varieties of the fir tribe, including a large number of Cedus Deodara are to be found here; but the chief attraction is its magnificent lake, which covers a space of about 43 acres, and contains several islands, one of which is over an acre in extent. This fine sheet of water yields to none in the county but Virginia Water in point of size, and perhaps not even to that in beauty; the upper lake covers over three acres.

Among the delights listed were:

  • 12 County Seats (including Windsor Castle) within an easy drive.

  • Hunting with the Garth and the South Berks Foxhounds; also with the Berks and Bucks Farmers' Staghounds.

  • Golf Links and Polo Ground near (note that the current grounds now have two golf courses!).

  • Shooting: The woods and plantations, which are well placed, extend to about 1,000 acres, and will hold a large head of pheasants, whilst a really good bag of partridges, hares, and rabbits can be obtained, as well as wild duck.

  • Fishing and Boating can be enjoyed on the beautiful lake of some 43 acres, besides the lesser lakes.

The Mansion was erected some 45 years before, on the site of an old residence, in Tudor style of red brick with Mansfield stone dressings, and was approached by five principal carriage drives, each guarded by an entrance lodge. It had 50 to 60 bed, dressing and bath rooms, 'splendid' suites of Reception Rooms, together with a full complement of Domestic Offices.

On the Ground Floor were listed:

A massive and finely carved Stone Porte Cochere, leading by a pair of heavy carved oak door to the Vestibule, having tiled floor, wainscot oak dado, and painted ceiling, and communicating with the Entrance Hall, with oak parquetry floor, panelled oak dado and ribbed ceiling, plus a large Cloak Room having fireplace, panelled oak dado, two fitted lavatory basins, two W.C.'s, and large store cupboard.  A handsomely finely-carved oak and glazed screen divides the entrance Hall from the imposing Inner Hall around 30 ft square.

The Inner Hall has a polished oak floor, with parquetry border and open tiled fireplace. The dado, door frames and cornice are of panelled and carved oak, the walls being hung with fine old Cordova leather, and the ceiling cross-ribbed in oak with carved pendatives. This hall, which gives access to the picture saloon and to the circular iron staircase, also opens on to the well-lighted Staircase Hall, decorated and fitted with oak in character, and from which ascends by easy rise teh Grand Oak Staircase, with panelled soffites and carved newels and banisters, illuminated on two sides by leaded glass windows, and reaching to the Golden Gallery with beautifully enriched and decorated ceiling.

The well-placed Picture Saloon, which is about 68 ft. 6 in. long by about 24 ft. wide, having polished oak floor, with parquetry border, with panelled and ebonized walnut dado. Two open tiled fireplaces with tiled hearths and massive marble mantelpieces. The oak doors are inlaid with maple and walnut. The carved cornice is heavily enriched, and the lighting is by a ceiling of ground glass with gilt ornamentation. Adjoining is the Stately Drawing Room.

Other adjoining rooms listed were the smaller Drawing Room, Library, Garden Saloon, 'capital' Billiard Room, 'cheerful' Dining Room with serving lobby, plus Business or Writing Room, Garden Lobby, Tea or Morning Room, and Domestic Offices. Outside were Model Stabling with Coachman's Cottage.

Within the 'Beautiful Pleasure Grounds' were extensive Croquet and Tennis Lawns, sequestered Woodland and Shrubbery Walks, a Romantic Rock and Water Garden, magnificent groups of evergreen and choice-flowering shrubs and Kalmia, which are said to be unequalled in the whole country. The double flight of wide steps lead from the lower to the upper terrace are a fine achievement in Stone. At the East End the charming Rose Garden merges almost imperceptibly into the Pinetum.     

Situated well away from the mansion and pleasure gardens were:

  • The walled kitchen garden, with a first-class range of glasshouses comprising six vineries, peach, nectarine, fig, and strawberry houses.

  • Brick-built and slated range of buildings including gardener's office, coal store, stokehole, loft, vegetable room, mess room, implement shed, pot shed, mushroom house, store, man's room, potato store, and packing room.

  • Plant Houses around a spacious square, and consisting of two ranges of forcing houses, three ranges of plant houses with serviceable pits, large stokehole, roomy fruits store, and packing room.

  • A wide border well planted with fruit trees, and a most productive orchard.

  • Frame Yard, having stabling for two horses, Fodder Store, Harness Room, Coach-house, Cart Shed, Piggery, Coal Store, etc.

  • Gardener's Residence with 7 rooms with outbuildings.

  • Bothy containing 4 bedrooms, Mess Room, Kitchen, Foreman's Room, Lavatory, etc.

  • 'Capital' Laundry with spacious and well-equipped Wash-house and Ironing Room, Coal and Wood Store.

  • Gas Works including brick and slated cottage, having 4 bedrooms, sitting room, kitchen, etc., and garden. Gas House, with Five Retorts, Gasometer, Coal Stores, Meter House, Pumping House, Governor House, Lime Sheds, etc.

  • Estate Workshops comprising wood and slated Timber Store, Plumbers' Shop, Saw House with Workshop over, two Engine Rooms, Machine Room with Carpenters' Shops over, Office, Store Room, Masons' and Painters' Shops, Blacksmiths' Shop with Shoeing House and Iron Store, Stable for four, Stable for five, large open Waggon Shed, Wheelwrights' Shop and Store.

  • Mole Farm including Yard with Open Shed, Range of Five Piggeries, Cow House, Bull Pen, Fodder Store, Dairy Wash-house, Poultry Room, etc., plus cottage containing five rooms.

Lots 2 to 5 are not included in the facsimile document, and are largely outside of Arborfield and Newland parishes.

The 'Reading Mercury' previewed the sale in its edition of July 8th:



Wednesday next, July 12th, is the date fixed for the Auction Sale of the beautiful “Bear Wood Estate”, which occupies such an exceptionally commanding and unique situation about 2½ miles from Wokingham, and adjacent to the picturesque villages of Arborfield and Barkham and Sindlesham. This renowned Freehold Country Estate comprises a stately mansion, a grandly timbered park, with extensive lakes, and exceptionally lovely rhododendron walks and drives, together with extensive pleasure grounds and gardens; also seven excellent Farms with suitable residences, and the whole of the model village of Sindlesham, which is only about four miles from the county town of Reading.

This lovely Estate is to be offered by Auction in consequence of the lamented death of Mr. Arthur Fraser Walter, son of the late Mr. John Walter, who for many years represented Berkshire in Parliament, and was also the chief proprietor and controller of the Times newspaper until his death, which occurred on November 3rd, 1894.

Messrs. Trollope and Son, the well-known auctioneers and estate agents, of Mount-street, Grosvenor-square, W., and 5, Victoria-street, Westminster, have been entrusted with the auction sale of this important property. The Solicitors to the Estate are Messrs. Cooke, Cooper and Barry, of Wokingham, and Messrs. Soames, Edwards and Jones, Norfolk-street, Strand.

“Bear Wood” was formerly an outlying portion of Windsor Forest and still retains much of its primitive wildness of character. Its name is supposed to be derived from the Saxon word “Bere”, signifying a farmstead in a wood.

Mr. John Walter, the grandfather of the late owner, purchased “Bear Wood” from the Crown about the beginning of the last century and erected for himself a house of moderate size in the Wyatt style of architecture. As time went on many additions to the Estate were made, and adjacent properties in the parishes of Finchampstead, Arborfield, Barkham, Winnersh, Wokingham, and Sandhurst were purchased, until the Bear Wood Estate comprised some 5,000 or more acres.

The outlying portion of this fine property, comprising some 3,000 acres, were offered by auction in March last at the Drill Hall, Wokingham, and a considerable area was then sold. Now the home portion of the Estate, including the Mansion and Park and Home Farm and those portions of the property immediately adjacent to “Bear Wood” itself, together with the whole village of Sindlesham, will be offered by Auction at The Mart, Tokenhouse-yard, on Wednesday next, and the sale naturally arouses much interest amongst adjacent landowners, the tenants and all concerned. It is also attracting the attention of wealthy Americans and others possessed of sufficiently ample fortunes who are seeking an ideal and imposing residence and an estate which has exceptional attractions and beautiful surroundings.

The mansion itself is a very stately and well-designed erection, containing spacious and handsome suite of reception rooms, lofty hall, picture gallery, some 50 to 60 bedrooms and dressing-rooms, and all the domestic accommodation and arrangements which can possibly be required by a family of opulence and distinction. Indeed, it is well adapted for a royal residence, and it has been rumoured that it may possibly in the future become a royal residence for one of our Princes, for which its situation is so particularly well suited, being close to Windsor, and even within the range of Old Windsor Forest itself.

The present Mansion was erected by the late Mr. John Walter during the years 1865-1869 – and occupied four years in building. It is a stately edifice of red brick, with dressings of Mansfield stone in the Tudor style of architecture, exceptionally well situated on high ground and surrounded by its beautiful pleasure grounds and a gloriously wooded Park of 500 acres, through which it is approached by five principal avenue carriage drives, each with its picturesque entrance lodge. The views from the windows of the mansion across the grounds and towards the magnificent lake are of exceptional beauty.

The Pleasure Grounds comprise exquisite rose garden, upper and lower terrace walks reached by a noble flight of stone steps, a romantic sunken rock and water garden, with its pools, rare aquatic plants and ferns, and clumps of bamboos, and shaded by masses of early flowering rhododendrons, spacious lawns, &c., the whole adorned by many magnificent specimens of ornamental and forest timber. Across the lake are the extensive kitchen gardens, with their many ranges of hot houses, gardeners' residence and cottages, the poultry farm, the model laundry, the estate workshops and gas-generating plant, &c. The stabling is remarkably complete and well equipped.

With the Bear Wood Park will also be offered “the Home Farm” of 175 acres adjoining and in the parish of Sindlesham, with its farm house, model dairy and a capital range of farm buildings; also a delightful country residence known as “St. Catherine's Lodge”, close to Bear Wood Church, and now occupied as a rectory and at present in the occupation of the Rev. W. V. Vickers, the rector, the estimated rental being £170 per annum.

With Lot 1 will also be included “Bear Wood Farm” of nearly 500 acres, about 1½ miles from Wokingham, with its model farm buildings, at present in hand, but at the estimated rental value of £500 per annum.

Also “King-street Farm”, about two miles from Wokingham.

Also the Model Village of Sindlesham, with its Institute, Post Office, Schools, Stores and numerous Cottages, and the Inn known as the “Walter Arms”.


Lot 2 will comprise the Freehold Agricultural Estate, about 1½ miles from Wokingham, known as “Randall's Farm” and “Dowle's Farm”, adjoining. About 140 acres in extent, of the rental value of £150 per annum.

Lot 3 will include the Freehold Residential Property known as “Barkham Manor House”, with its pleasure grounds and grass and woodlands extending to about 60 acres. The Manor House is now let on lease to Mr. Wilson Noble at an estimated rental of £300 per annum, and the 13 acres grass land are let to Mr. Allright at a rental of £13 per annum.

Lot 4 comprises the Freehold Residential and Sporting Estate known as the Barkham Estate, of about 700 acres, about three miles from Wokingham, and included in which will be the freehold Residence known as “Barkham Square”, with stabling, cottages and “Brook Farm”, now let to and in the occupation of Mr. E. M. Sturges.

Other portions of the Estate included in the forthcoming auction are “Sparks Farm”, 37 acres in the village of Barkham, let to Mr. Gowing; “Langley Common Farm” with 50 acres of grass and arable land, let to Mr. A. Gibbons; also several enclosures of arable land in Barkham village; woods of about 290 acres in the parish of Barkham, together with the keeper's residence and several cottages.

These smaller properties are likely to attract purchasers of more moderate incomes, and should prove desirable investments.

The last lot, Lot 5, will comprise a Sporting and Agricultural Estate and an extensive tract of woods and lakes in the parishes of Barkham and Finchampstead, extending to over 300 acres; also a Farm in the parish of Barkham known as “Rooks Nest Farm”, extending to some 145 acres, now let to Mr. E. M. Sturges, with other lands.

The value of the timber on Lot 1 – which comprises the Mansion and Park and Home Farm, &c., is estimated at £17,486. On Lot 2 the estimated value of the timber is £890. On Lot 3 of the value of £1,057. On Lot 4 the timber value is estimated at £4,971, and on Lot 5 at £15,614. These amounts are to be paid for in addition to the price at which the lots may be sold.

The Illustrated Particulars, with Plans of the Estate and of the various lots, are now ready and may be obtained from the offices of Messrs. Trollope in Mount-street, Grosvenor-square, or from the Solicitors to the estate.

Unfortunately, despite the puffery in the preview article, no Princes or rich Americans put in sufficient bids, as an article two weeks later on July 22nd demonstrated:


As mentioned in the “Mercury” of last week [there was actually no mention in the July 15th edition], the Bear Wood Estate of 3,000 acres and the Tylney Hall Estate near Winchfield, with 2,500 acres, were offered by auction on the 12th inst. at the Mart, London, but neither was sold as there was practically no bidding for either property.

For the Bear Wood Estate the suggested reserve was mentioned as about £150,000, independent of the value of the timber on the estate. Upon the Tylney Hall Estate a lavish expenditure had been made by the owner, who has now returned to South Africa, so that it could not be parted with under about £200,000, which was understood to be the reserve price for the property.

With reference to last week's auction the “Estates Gazette” of last Saturday says: “It is not often that two of the finest estates in England, but unquestionably of the first rank, each having been the subject of lavish expenditure, are offered one after another, as was the case on Wednesday by Mr. Henry C. Trollope (Messrs. Trollope, of Mount-street, Grosvenor-square). The assembly was one of the most influential seen at The Mart for years, as the values, at a modest computation, represented a quarter of a million”.

Foremost, as it certainly takes its place as one of the “stately homes of England”, and has been famous for one hundred years as the home of the Walters of “The Times”, came Bear Wood, in Old Windsor Forest, at Wokingham, a magnificent Tudor mansion and distinguished county seat, with 3,013 acres, having the model village of Sindlesham (with church, rectory, institute and cricket field) at its gates.

Some lovely vistas are obtained at various points of the estate, and one great attraction of the stately seat is the magnificent island-studded lake of forty-three acres, second only to Virginia Water, whilst parklands, combining cultivation with natural wildness, exquisite rose gardens, upper and lower terrace walks, sunken rock gardens, spacious lawns and lofty trees are features.

Altogether the estate is of quite an exceptional and fascinating character and is one conferring distinction, position and prestige upon an owner. The circumstances under which Bear Wood came into the market are well-known, and Mr. Trollope gave expression to everyone's views in sincerely hoping that Bear Wood would pass into the hands of one who could maintain it in the liberal, not to say princely, way it had been conserved for years past. Properties of that kind were the backbone and pride of the country, which must continue to exist and flourish, but everybody with common-sense and foresight must lament that unfair burdens should fall upon this class of property, which already bears far more than its fair share.

Mr. Trollope aptly summed up the advantages of the property: within 45 minutes by rail of the metropolis, the commercial and agricultural values, the improved conditions of which must tend to increase the value of such a property, in addition to the residential qualifications. Hundreds of thousands of pounds had been spent on the model village, and the estate, and as an investment the purchase should prove remunerative, the rent roll amounting to £5,614 per annum, yet £50 an acre, which was merely the mercantile figure, stripped of all sentiment, was not advanced, nor even £120,000, and the property had to be withdrawn.

Of the Tylney Hall Estate, the “Estates Gazette” says: A value of £300,000 might fairly be assumed for such an estate of considerable interest and importance as Tylney Hall, Rotherwick, Hants, with 2,497 acres, yet this sum was only one-half of its real worth. It was once the seat of a family of its own name, and ultimately it came into the possession of Viscount Castlemaine, of Ireland, who was created Earl Tilney in 1732. The owner of Tylney Hall has the perpetual right of nominating to the Tylney Exhibition of £40 a year at Queen's College, Oxford. This right was included in the sale.

The mansion, which forms three sides of a square, is in the Tudor style, was considerably enlarged in 1903. The views are very beautiful over broken and richly-wooded grounds and valleys. It is a perfect county seat on a large scale, singularly well-equipped, and perhaps the finest estate in the market at the present time. Everything about the mansion and grounds had been arranged with perfect taste, wide knowledge and vast care, and the purchaser would gain the benefit of the great expense.

Mr. Trollope then asked for biddings to start with, but no advance even on £200,000 could be obtained, and Tylney Hall had to be withdrawn for private treaty.


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