FIR HILL

1929 – 2004

Major Thomas Hulbert

Purchase by Major Hulbert

 

On 5 October 1929 Fir Hill was sold by Colin Mackenzie-Grieve, the executor of Captain Mackenzie-Grieve, to Frederick Ionn Rogers of Keston in Kent, who quickly sold it on 14 November 1929 to Major Thomas Ernest Hulbert OBE (1879–1943) and his wife, Mrs Kathleen Beatrice Hulbert. Why Frederick Rogers bought only to sell a month later is not certain but he appears to have kept back the two Uplands fields from the sale to the Hulberts, presumably to make a profit. Uplands House was built in the 1930s and converted into Uplands Hotel in the 1970s.

 

Major Hulbert purchased Droxford Mill the same year from Howard Rogers, who had bought it at auction in 1927. Howard Rogers appears to have been active in the Droxford real estate market in the late 1920s and the HRO has details of several buildings he was responsible for constructing at that time.

Career of Major Hulbert

 

Major Hulbert was the 15th of 16 children, grandson of John Spice Hulbert, who was Secretary to a succession of Admirals in Portsmouth. He helped his brother George Redmond Hulbert who was an accredited Prize Agent in Bermuda and Halifax, Nova Scotia, with the English end of matters relating to prize (rewards paid for capture or sinking of enemy ships). George Redmond Hulbert was Prize Agent to Captain Broke and HMSShannon, and took USS Chesapeake over at Halifax after her capture in the 1812 war between the US and the UK. Her timbers were ultimately used to build the Chesapeake Mill in Wickham, five miles south of Droxford, which can still be seen today.

 

There is a Hulbert Road in Beckampton and a Hulbert Primary School in Waterlooville, both established by the Hulbert family. However, given the number of children inheriting from John Spice Hulbert, it was Mrs Kathleen Hulbert provided the funding for the purchase of Fir Hill.

 

Major Hulbert joined the Royal West Kent Regiment and served with that unit in the Second Boer War with South Africa of 1899 to 1902. He was also part of a British force that was sent to China towards the end of the Boxer Rebellion, an anti-foreign imperialist and pro-nationalist movement between 1898 and 1900.

 

He then transferred to a crack Indian Army cavalry regiment, the 3rd Skinner’s Horse, founded by James Skinner an Anglo-Indian who had supported the British during the Indian Mutiny.

 

He served on the Western Front during WWI, and was one of very few soldiers to have never been captured, killed or injured, partly because the cavalry were kept behind the lines. Later, the cavalry regiment was dismounted and Major Hulbert was transferred to the machine gun corps, before joining General Allenby on his march into Iraq. He was mentioned in dispatches during WWI and awarded the OBE for services rendered during the Quetta (now in Pakistan) earthquake of 1935.

Life at Fir Hill

 

Major Hulbert and his wife were very keen riders and had chosen to buy Fir Hill because of the excellent hunting nearby and the existence of good quality stables at the house. They became strong supporters of the Hambledon Hunt and often hosted meets of the hunt at Fir Hill. They had a full-time groom, Mr Lawes, who lived above the stables and coach houses. The other compelling factor in purchasing the house was that there was fly fishing on the River Meon: Major Hulbert was a keen and talented fisherman.

 

The original wooden framed mill building had been largely pulled down and its shell was used for the storage of building materials that could be recycled. By purchasing Droxford Mill, Major Hulbert was able to join the two properties and to create a set of water gardens along the mill leat. He took the opportunity of owning the Mill to install a water turbine in a newly built generator house over the mill leat that provided both Fir Hill and St Mary and All Saints church with electricity. However, in times of poor water flow this source of electricity quite literally dried up.

 

Major and Mrs Hulbert had built a hard tennis court on what had been the Victorian games lawn by extending the area towards the River Meon. This was done in order to provide jobs for local men during the Great Depression of the 1930s and employed two men over a six month period.

W Elmes, The Brilliant Achievement of the Shannon ... in Boarding and Capturing the United States Frigate Chesapeake off Boston, June 1st 1813 in Fifteen Minutes (1813)

Major Hulbert, 3rd Skinner's Horse

Source: Anthony, Gervase and Victoria Hulbert

Major Hulbert with the Hambledon Hounds at Fir Hill, 1930s

Source: Anthony, Gervase and Victoria Hulbert

Fir Hill, 1930s

Source: Anthony, Gervase and Victoria Hulbert

Left Fir Hill and gardens, 1930s

Source: Anthony, Gervase and Victoria Hulbert

Research, words and web design by Matthew & Georgy.

 

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