Porche House 1962

Porch House had originally been one of the largest farms in Coleshill, but the farmhouse was rebuilt in 1806 by a London lawyer named John Sargeant. The date is on a drainwater-head at the back of the house, made by the Amersham plumber, Thomas Hailey. After the death of John Sargeant in 1812, the new house was let to a succession of wealthy tenants including Amelia Waddell. It was finally advertised for sale in 1831:

Delightful Country Residence. Coleshill, Herts, 27 miles from London, 1 from Amersham, 4 from Beaconsfield. To be sold by private contract, a freehold house and 80 acres of land, half pasture, land tax redeemed. The house, which is pleasantly situate, commanding a fine and extensive view of the country, is three stories high, 4 rooms on each floor, with underground cellars, a greenhouse communicates with the drawing room; attached are the usual outbuildings, with servants rooms over. There is a 4-stall stable and 2 coach-houses; adjoining is a farmyard and farm buildings. On the estate are two small cottages.


  Barbara Nugent (in doorway), Octavia Kingsley, Lucy Taylor and Laura Taylor

The new owner was Richard Griffin, who lived at Coleshill until his death in 1850. His widow, Elizabeth Jane Griffin, continued to live at Porch House and gave £50 towards the building of the new church at Coleshill in 1861. Mrs Griffin died at Coleshill in 1879. Porch House was auctioned in June 1880, when it comprised 'a modern, commodious family residence, capital stabling, coach houses, with coachman's and gardener's cottages, farmstead and 62 ½ acres of enclosed nicely-timbered park-like land'.2 The new owner, Neville Briggs, leased the house, first to Stephen Escudier, and later to Laura Taylor. Mrs Taylor was the widow of Tom Taylor, the playwright and former editor of Punch. Mrs Taylor died in 1905, leaving a son, the artist John Wycliffe Taylor, who died in 1925 and an unmarried daughter, Laura Lucy Taylor. Miss Taylor bought the freehold of Porch House from Charles Neville Briggs in 1906.3 She lived at Porch House with her two servants, Barbara Nugent and Jane Elizabeth Blake, both of whom had worked for the Taylors in London before the family moved to Coleshill. Miss Taylor died in 1940, aged 76, leaving Porch House to Hermanna Frida, widow of her brother, John Wycliffe-Taylor. Mrs Wycliffe-Taylor had recently moved into a new house in Coleshill, now called Walnut Tree. Not wishing to live at Porch House herself, she let the older house to Dick and John Weatherby, descendants of the family who had once lived at Coleshill House. At this time they were working at the top secret Bletchley Park in north Buckinghamshire. Mrs Wycliffe-Taylor finally put Porch House on the market in 1949. It then comprised eight bedrooms, two bathrooms, four reception rooms, a walled garden and 27 acres of land.

The purchaser of Porch House in 1949 was Frances Pauline Palmer, who later married Norman Ainsworth. The Ainsworths sold the former farm buildings to Maurice Weller, who built Porch Farm Cottage and Weatherby's on the site. In 1962, the Ainsworths sold Porch House to the actress, Mary Ure, wife of John Osborne and star of his famous play Look Back in Anger. When the couple split up in 1963, John Osborne married the writer and critic Penelope Gilliatt, whilst Mary Ure married the actor Robert Shaw. Mary Ure continued to live at Porch House with her new husband. The couple entertained many of the theatrical stars of the day. They were responsible for several unfortunate alterations to the house, including the removal of the porch and the construction of the bay windows on the north side. In 1970, Mary Ure sold the house to the present owner, Edmund Peter Wycliffe Helps, then of Bottle Cottage, Coleshill, a consultant at Charing Cross Hospital. Peter Helps's purchase was to some extent a nostalgic one, as he was the great nephew of Lucy Taylor and had been a regular visitor to Porch House in his youth.