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Fir Hill, Droxford, east façade.

Photo courtesy of Paul Highnam.

Fir Hill, Droxford

We were the proud owners of this wonderful house between 2004 and 2020 and worked on substantial renovations to Fir Hill for over 10 years, finishing in 2015. 


In writing this history of the house we have referred to some handwritten notes (sadly incomplete, since her notes were written on two sided paper and our photocopy contains only every other page) of the previous owner, Mrs Vida Schreiber, as well as to histories of Droxford written by Gordon Hope in 1980 and by Kenneth Ward in 1985. We have also received much needed help from the Rev Anthony Hulbert, whose family lived at Fir Hill from 1929 to 1954 and from Stuart Attrill of Droxford who has much local historical knowledge and whose wife is a Westbrook, a family that has lived in Droxford for many generations and briefly owned Fir Hill in 1899.


We have spent many happy hours in the Hampshire Records Office (‘HRO’) in Winchester and of course have also accessed the many helpful websites created by genealogical enthusiasts and others. We have visited local churches and inspected tombs and memorials. We have reviewed old wills and conveyancing documents.


What started simply as an incomplete list of previous owners has become a detective story with multiple leads to be followed up. We have also become fascinated by the social history around the previous owners and what it tells us about the characters of the people who lived in the house and how they lived.  Notwithstanding the years that divide them and us, we have become fond of them.

We found a helpful website which, for the UK, provides three measures for showing what historic sums would be worth today:

  1. 'Real Price/Real Wage/Real Wealth/=', which, using the Retail Price Index, measures the purchasing power of income or wealth relative to defined goods and services.

  2. 'Relative Income', which measures what that income or wealth would have bought relative to the per capita gross domestic product (GDP). It shows the economic status of the owner of the income relative to other earners at the time.

  3. 'Relative Output', which, also using GDP, measures the income or wealth relative to the total output of the economy showing how the wealth owner might control production in the economy.

So we have shown the Real Price/Wage/Weal first, in pounds sterling, followed in brackets by (Relative Income/Relative Output). The most appropriate comparison depends on whether you are talking about a commodity (consumer goods and services - use Real Price/Wage/Wealth), income (earnings - use Relative Income), wealth (assets - use relative Income) or project (large investments, usually by government - use Relative Output).  If you like, please consider making a donation, as we have done.


Our main disappointment is that we have very little information about the women who lived at Fir Hill, with the exception of Mrs Vida Schreiber. This reflects the fact that historically women rarely owned property or were able to have careers or public positions. 


The history is not finished. We first started research in 2014, and have been amazed how much material has been added to the internet since then - the portrait of Rev Thomas Penny White and new details of Nicholas Purdue Smith's government employment, for example. We have been delighted to have met the descendants of nine of the residents of Fir Hill (Rev Penny White, John Blyth Rogers, Samuel King, the Westbrooks, the MacKenzie-Grieves, the Hulberts, Mrs Walker, the Downs and Mrs Schreiber) who have all kindly provided valuable and extensive information and photographs that have greatly enriched this history of Fir Hill. 

With some sadness, we decided in 2020 it was time to move from Fir Hill to be nearer to London, bucking the trend of the general exodus from London owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Fir Hill was sold in November of that year to the Dellals who wanted to be close to their daughter and her family who live nearby. And so another chapter in Fir Hill's history begins.


Matthew Hill & Georgy Evans
September 2021

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