Researching and archiving the history of Leek Wootton & Guy’s Cliffe Civil Parish
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Leek Wootton & Guy’s Cliffe History: Woodcote

The Wise Family
In 1851 Henry Christopher Wise purchased the Ricardo Estate (part of the Mallory Estate), which included Woodcote House and most of the park and surrounding land, about one hundred and seventy-nine acres in all. He had evidently been renting Woodcote for some years before the purchase (several of his children were born there from 1832 onwards), but after Robert Hervey Mallory died in 1820 and his unmarried son Henry died in 1830, a division of the estate was made between the two daughters, Mrs Ricardo and Lady Williams. Eventually, in September 1851 Osman and Harriet Ricardo sold the house and land to H C Wise Esq for the sum of £31,273 16s 10d.

Henry Christopher Wise was born in 1806 in Offchurch. He was the son of The Reverend Henry Wise, Vicar of Offchurch 1805-1850, and his wife Charlotte Mary (née Porten). His great great grandfather was Henry Wise (1653-1738), Gardener to Queen Anne, who had amassed quite a fortune and his eye fell upon the estate and mansion of The Priory in Warwick which he purchased and to which he retired in 1727.

Following his purchase of Woodcote Henry Christopher expanded and improved the estate. One of his first projects was to build a new road, Woodcote Lane, in 1852.

In 1858 Harriett, Henry’s wife of nearly thirty years, died aged fifty-two. Despite his loss Henry Christopher remained active and in 1861/2 the old house and buildings were pulled down.

The new house was built in practically the same position as the old with stables, farm buildings and a kitchen garden in much the same place. The gardens and pleasure grounds were re-arranged, a reservoir built and five acres of the park were taken to enlarge the garden.

On 15th January 1883 Henry Christopher Wise died aged seventy-six and was buried the following Saturday on a beautiful spring morning at All Saints Church. George Wise, in his fifties and unmarried, became owner of Woodcote on Henry Christopher’s death but he was frequently absent being at his family home in Charlwood, Sussex. On 4th January 1888 George died at Charlwood at the age of fifty-seven and his body was brought from there to be interred at All Saints in an ordinary grave adjoining the family vault.

Under the terms of George Wise’s will the Warwickshire estates, the London estates and other properties were left to his cousin George of Eaton Square, London, son of Sir Thomas Wathen Waller who had married George’s aunt, Catherine Wise.

The Waller Family
When he inherited the estate George Waller was fifty-one years of age and had been married to Beatrice for eighteen years. They had two sons and two daughters, Margaret Beatrice born in 1874, Francis Ernest born in 1880, Wathen Arthur born in 1881 and Edith Sophia born in 1884.

After the Boer War Sir Francis Waller, of the Royal Fusiliers, returned to Leek Wootton to a tumultuous welcome for the young squire, but his career in the Army called him away and so later that year the house, grounds and land were let to Captain J Morrow for five years and The Rock became the family home.

In 1908 Sir Francis retired from the Army because he felt it was his duty to live among his own people and take up what he thought to be his position in the county. He returned to Woodcote as a principal landowner, Patron of the living of Lillington church and lord of the manor. He and his sister, Miss Waller were splendid. Duty to him meant a great deal and what was to be done was worth doing well. Beyond this, he was so unaffected and frank that he delighted in seeing the people happy and tried to make them more so. He was a man of few words and high principle.

Sir Francis Waller Bart was killed in action on Sunday 25th October 1914. He was only 34. Wathen Waller, brother of Sir Francis, inherited Woodcote and the baronetcy.

With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 Sir Wathen lent Woodcote to the Red Cross for use as a convalescent home, which was run by a matron called Miss Powlett. He and Lady Waller moved into The Stone House in 1940, giving up their large staff and making do with only a lady’s maid, gardener, butler and chauffeur. Lady Waller worked very hard for the Red Cross during the War organising fund-raising events and supervising the knitting of balaclavas, socks, gloves, stockings etc for the troops.

After the War, Sir Wathen was refurbishing Woodcote ready to return, but in April 1947 he died suddenly at The Stone House. He was buried in the churchyard of All Saints alongside his father and grandfather.

In 1948 Lady Waller sold the house, grounds, and allotment gardens of Woodcote to Warwickshire County Council and, following conversion, it became the Headquarters of the Warwickshire County Constabulary in 1949.

Extracted from ‘Leek Wootton and its Hamlets’

Further reading:

‘A History of Woodcote: The manors, the estates, the houses and their owners’  

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