7 Forest Road, Crowthorne, Berkshire – 1885 to 1981
The house was built by Charles Bishop Coleman in 1885.
Charles was born in a little village called Broadmayne in Dorset and had travelled to Crowthorne to work at the recently opened ‘Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum’. Starting as an Assistant Attendant at the Asylum on 1st July 1873, Charles worked his way up to the top job of Chief Attendant before retiring in 1912.
In 1877, Charles married Eliza Lance from Wareham. The Coleman’s had six children but only two survived to adulthood. Reginald Lance Coleman, who emigrated to Canada but later returned to the UK and died in Battle Hospital, Reading, and the next owner of the house, Hannah Kate Coleman, who was born in 1884 just before Dorset Villa was built.
Charles and Eliza had moved to Alpha Cottage off Bracknell Road just below the Asylum but, with his family expanding, Charles realised he needed a larger home and in 1885 he saw his opportunity. Crowthorne had originally been a small hamlet in the middle of nowhere, but the building of first Wellington College and then Broadmoor saw the village grow at an exponential rate.
Charles had spotted a piece of land in an area undergoing development in Forest Road, which was then called New Road. The location was ideally situated at the end of Upper Broadmoor Road for his job at the Asylum. Charles seized the moment and on 27th May 1885 he negotiated a parcel of land, from Mr Joseph Benson of London, for the price of £22. Charles’ purchase had a frontage of 40 feet on to the New Road and a depth of 180 feet, all he needed now was the money to build.
The early days of Forest Road – Dorset Villa can clearly be seen marked with an ‘x’ on the roof
Charles wanted a spacious, three bedroomed house with separate dining room and living room, plus a kitchen. He secured a mortgage of £180 and as a member of the Loyal New ‘Royal Forest’ Lodge of Oddfellows in Wokingham, he was further loaned an additional £50 by their trustees. Charles built Dorset Villa and it remained in the family until sold by his Grandaughter Margaret nearly one hundred years later.
On 28th September, 1911, just before his retirement, Charles was delighted by the marriage of his daughter Hannah Kate, known as Kit by her family, to a fellow attendant Albert Frank Howard. Originally from Staines in Middlesex, Albert or Bert as he was known, had joined the staff of Broadmoor on 25th July, 1902.
After Kit and Bert’s marriage, Charles and Eliza moved out of Dorset Villa and let the young couple live there instead. Kit and Bert had three children but sadly their eldest, Frank Coleman Howard, died aged only 8 years. He was one of a group of children, all from the same school class in Crowthorne, who died through a diphtheria outbreak in the village during the summer of 1921.
The third owner of the house, Margaret Kate Howard, was born in 1915 and her sister Christal Mary Howard followed in 1917. Margaret’s grandmother Eliza Coleman passed away, in the same year as little Frankie, at Reading where Charles and Eliza had moved following his retirement from Broadmoor. This must have concentrated his mind and, on 26th February 1927, having moved back in with his daughter and son-in-law, Charles legally transferred his ownership of Dorset Villa to his daughter Hannah Kate Howard. Charles lived another four years and died in 1933 at Dorset Villa. He is buried with Eliza in Crowthorne Churchyard.
Charles’ son-in-law Albert, and his daughter, Hannah Kate, both worked at Broadmoor. Bert, from 1902 to 1938 and also during WWII from 1939 to 1945, when he returned from retirement to do his bit for his country. Kit, in common with most women at the time, finished work when she married.
Chris and René in the back garden of Dorset Villa
When Bert and Kit’s children grew up, youngest daughter Christal married René Cathrow who was posted to Italy during World War II and returned to the UK in 1945 as a Major. He went on to become the highest paid Quantity Surveyor in the country at that time, working on early nuclear power stations. His work took the couple away from Crowthorne and eventually to West Wales when René retired. The couple are buried in Cardigan where they passed their final years. During the war Christal brought her two sons to visit Bert and Kit at Dorset Villa. Chris and René also had a daughter after the war.
Len and Margaret
Bert and Kit’s eldest daughter Margaret married Alfred Leonard Tams Cotterell, known as Len, on 19th August 1939 in Crowthorne Church and the couple had one daughter. Len was originally from London and whilst the couple were courting, and following government instructions to the nation, on 12th October 1938 Margaret wrote to Len about Dorset Villa:
“We had quite a hectic time on the Wednesday afternoon digging a trench at the end of our garden. Daddie had planned and measured it out previously and on Wednesday there were five of us working, Mummie and Daddie, Chris, René and I. It really was great fun (but we are glad we haven’t got to use it). We donned overalls and rubber boots and started digging. The ground was so very hard René and Daddie needed pick axes, and we were throwing sand and earth out. Mummie saved our lives half time by giving us tea. It was marvellous tea. We continued our work and eventually finished about 5.30. And did we enjoy our real tea. We certainly did! Anyhow the trench is large enough for eight people. We are very proud of our trench and one day we are going to have our tea down there. The next day we were terribly stiff and I still have blisters on my hands.”
Once the war started, Len volunteered and was posted to North Africa (Nigeria and the Gold Coast) and worked on ‘Monty’s staff’ in Belgium and France during World War II. He returned to the UK in 1946 as a Captain. The couple moved out of Dorset Villa to Weybridge, Surrey, but the marriage did not last, Margaret and her daughter returned to Dorset Villa and the couple divorced in 1952. Len went on to marry a further two times and worked as Private Secretary at the Patents Office. He was responsible for assisting with the patent of the ‘Black and Decker Workmate’ amongst other inventions. He was awarded the MBE in 1975, by Queen Elizabeth II, in recognition of his contribution to innovation and industry and died in Bournemouth where he is buried.
Len with his daughter in front of the summer house in the back garden of Dorset Villa
Bert with his grandaughter in the back garden of Dorset Villa
Margaret worked for many years as a bookkeeper at Lightfoot’s Garage in Crowthorne while she cared for her elderly mother. Kit died at Dorset Villa on 5th February 1968, and is buried in Crowthorne Churchyard with her husband Bert, who died following a stroke on 24th February 1960 also at Dorset Villa. Margaret married a second time in 1981 to Basil Ernest Gerard Loder known as Gerard. She sold Dorset Villa and moved to West Wales. Gerard died in 1998 and Margaret died in 2006, both in Carmarthen Hospital. Their remains were returned to Berkshire and they are both buried in Crowthorne Churchyard.
Margaret outside the back door of Dorset Villa in the 1970’s.
Her daughter married at Crowthorne Church on 23rd September 1962 and had two children, Kim and Lee. The family spent many weekends at Dorset Villa and moved in with Margaret for some months after the death of Kit. Kim and Lee spent most weekends at Dorset Villa as children and enjoyed many happy hours playing in the garden and house until it was sold for £41,000 in 1981.
Kim with Great Aunt Christal and her brother Lee with Grandma Margaret, on the lawn in front of the summer house in the back garden of Dorset Villa