The Norland Estate

MapTaken From Norland, the First 100 Years. 1892 - 1992 by Penelope Stokes

The Norland Institute for Nursery Nurses, first known as the Training School for Ladies as Children’s Nurses came to Chislehurst at the end of 1941 having lost possession of their wartime home in Bideford in Devon.

Click on the map on the right to see it in larger size 

The Institute bought two properties; Oakleigh, an Edwardian Red-Brick former hotel in 15 acres of land at the top of Summer Hill,  ‘The rooms had big windows overlooking the surrounding country’, and a second House, Millfield, across the road. In 1943 Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, made a visit.

An incendiary bomb hit Oakleigh on the night of 21 March 1944 though no casualties were sustained. In June 1944 the Institute closed for three months during a period of flying bombs.


Oakleigh House, and some nursery children with Nurses

The abundance of land at Summerhill prompted the founding of a small farm, producing ‘more rabbits than anything’.  Foxes decimated a flock of ducks.  There were two pigs named Hooper and Harper and Rosie the goat who apparently survived on a diet of air mail letters and silk handkerchiefs!  50 children were cared for, including five Russians, two Poles, one French and one Spanish child.


Millfield postnatal home

After the war in 1946, whilst Oakleigh was under repair, Mayfield was purchased and Winton in 1954.  The board considered buying The Manor House for conversion into a maternity convalescent home but the venture was undertaken instead at Millfield.   Garden parties were held annually from 1956.



Mary Ann Gibbs visiting in the late 1950’s describes it thus: ‘ I got out of the train at Chislehurst and made my way up the hill in surroundings that still bore traces of the country district that it was, not so very long ago.  When I got to the archway that spanned the road at the top I turned and faced into a bracing wind that met me across The Common.  The houses that form the College have extensive gardens and a horticulturalist produces most of the fruit and vegetables for the College’.


Winton, Miss Kirby's flat, with Nursery School downstairs

Operating across four separate buildings was clearly inefficient especially in the winter.   Plans were made to join Winton and Mayfield but discarded in favour of a plan to sell some land for development and finance a single purpose built college.  The College was however beset with planning hitches arising from their location on the edge of The Common.   Nevertheless consent was finally granted for a brand new building on the site of Mayfield.  In May 1965 building was imminent, fruit trees were transplanted from Winton and a building called Elm House was rented for probationers.  But the financial crisis of mid 1964 put mortgage prospects on hold and the plan was deferred indefinitely.

Wates, the developers, became interested in buying all of the land and the houses were sold for a considerable sum.    In 1967 the College moved to Denford Park near Newbury, 20 van loads taking the College to Berkshire.

The Wates development retained its link with the eponymous nannies by naming it the Norland Estate.   The name is carried on in Norland Gate and Norland Crescent.   The names for the other roads were put forward by the developers but no specific reason is recorded.  We can only suggest connections for the other names - Paget Gardens, Sheridan Crescent,  Onslow Crescent and Penn Gardens.  Paget was the maiden name of Lord Sydney’s wife, Sheridan and George Onslow were peers of the realm with Tommy Townshend, Penn may have been John Penn, a former Governor of Pennsylvania who lobbied Thomas Townshend relentlessly.  The Management Committee of the Norland Estate Information Support Service found a Councillor by the name of Sheridan so that’s another possibility.

Cromlix Close named in 1981 reflects the name of the large house to the south of the estate (see below), the gatepost and lodge of which remains today on Summerhill.

Norland College is now based at York Place, London Road, Bath – names that we all know!




With thanks to the Norland College Archives for use of the photographs