A History of Langley Court
Any residents wishing to read about the history of the Langley Park and Park Langley areas may be interested in a short booklet written in 1994 by Dr. Arthur Newman, one of Welcome's directors. If you're keen, you can borrow the booklet: if not, here's a summary!!
There is some reference in ancient texts to a property on the site as early as 862 AD. The Domesday Survey in 1086 mentions properties at Langley, which was at that time part of the estate of ado, Bishop of Baiex, Earl of Kent, and half brother of William the Conqueror (obviously why there are so many "Conqueror" trees around here).
The properties and land passed through several families over the centuries and these have given their names to roads and features of the area. One example is John de Malmaines, who had a King's Charter to hunt game on his lands at "Begenham" in the 14th Century.
The property came into the hands of the Langley family in 1350, since when the name has attached to the principal residences of the area. The original Langley Mansion, the main house of the estate from Tudor times, was destroyed by fire in 1913, and the Club House of the Langley Park Golf Club was built on the site
The site of the current Mansion House was occupied by the estate's Farmhouse.
The best source of information on the early property dates from 1820, when Langley Farm was auctioned and was bought along with 250 acres of land by one Emmanuel Goodhart. There were a number of buildings included in the Farm properties, although only one, the Chapel, with its thatched roof still remains (refurbished in 2019).
In 1884, Goodhart's son sold Langley Farmhouse and 105 acres of the land for £25,000 (Laing Homes eat your heart out) to JL Bucknall. Soon after the purchase, Bucknall decided to demolish Langley Farmhouse and to erect in 1886 a new property of suitably grand proportion the present Mansion House. The Buckmall family lived at Langley Court until 1914, when they ran into financial difficulties.
It is part of the folklore of the site that these owners were shipping magnates and that they underwrote the Titanic. Subsequently when it sank they financially sank too hence the sale. Moreover, their involvement in shipping and cruising the world, took them regularly to the Far East and Japan. Many plants were collected and planted around the estate. As a result an architect was inspired to design the local garage in a pagoda style, distinctly Japanese architecture and not Chinese. The locals with memories of the Pacific preferred to call it the Chinese Garage so the name has remained.
The Mansion was then unoccupied for a time, and was used during the first World War as a camp for Officer prisoners of war (but did they get the security to work?)
At the end of the War, Wellcome bought Langley Court for £32,000 (together with the 105 acres originally bought by Bucknall) as the answer to his need to relocate his Physiological Research Laboratories from Brockwell Park. The remainder of the Goodhart estate was sold for residential development the current Park Langley estate. Wellcome developed the site extensively for his manufacturing (penicillin) and research activities (chemotherapy, poliomyelitis, veterinary vaccines and other such biological products.
The Chinese Garage.
The Chinese Garage is, in fact, a Japanese garage! Built in 1928 by Edmund B Clark, the name 'Chinese Garage' was not registered until 1989. Prior to this it was known as the Langley Park Garage. It was voted the 'Most Unusual Garage in England' in 2001 and also, in the 1930s, was the winner of the 'Better Petrol Stations' competition, run by the Daily Express and Gardeners Guild. It is a Grade 11 listed building. Back in the 'old' days, staff apparently wore Chinese silks robes to serve customers.
Local folk lore has it that the area's former owners, the Bucknells, were shipping magnates who lost their wealth due to the Titanic sinking. They were supposed to have visited the Far East and Japan. This inspired Edmund Clarke to design the garage like a Japanese Pagoda.