Shepherd’s Cottage
Shepherd’s Cot (also known as Dowsetts Cottage, Hamlet Cottage or just the Cot), was a small single storey square in shape building, at the junction of Hamlet Court Road (formerly Sallandines Lane) and London Road (formerly Leigh Road). Built by Robert Scratton probably between 1811 and 1839 on manorial waste ground in the Manor of Milton Hall for his employees. Records show the first occupant was Mr Pledger a farm bailiff, the second, Mr Brett a gardener. From 1849 the Cot was occupied by Scratton’s Shepherd and his spouse, John Dowsett and Mary (née Walker) who had married on 27th October 1849 at St Mary’s Church, Prittlewell. The Scratton family were large land owners and good employers, those who worked for them were usually provided with accommodation on long leases at either a peppercorn rent or in exchange for obligations to perform additional services to maintain the property. Provision for trusted and loyal workers were made when they could no longer work through age. This usually involved accommodation and a small plot of land to derive income from, this would further include family members of employees. In 1869 Scratton sold a large part of his land for development and left his solicitor William Gregson in charge of his Southend affairs. Prior to the 1869 sale of land, Daniel Robert Scratton (Robert's grandson), made arrangements to protect his existing tenants by either providing an option to buy the leased land outright or to secure their leases so that these had to be maintained for the set period by the new owner, what we might call 'sitting tenants' today. Much of the land to north of the railway from Hamlet Court Road to the High Street was purchased by Thomas Dowsett (no relation to John) with his partners John George Baxter and solicitor Alfred Digby for subsequent development as the Park Estate and other building estates. With trusted, major developers like Dowsett, the deals were usually struck before the auction sale and the property withdrawn from the auction. In this case, the Cot stood on a parcel of land that Thomas Dowsett wanted to acquire and Scratton agreed to the sale with the condition that the lease on the cot would be maintained for the lifetime of its inhabitants, then John and Mary Dowsett. The land was likely sold as copyhold which meant that Scratton retained some ownership rights and control of its use. Effectively, Thomas Dowsett had bought land around the cot with a promise that the Cot would also become his when the occupants no longer had any need for it. John Dowsett continued to live at the Cot with his wife until his death in 1881 aged 74, because of the provision Scratton had made Mary stayed in the cottage and legally could not be called upon to leave in her lifetime. Daniel Robert Scratton died in 1902. Edward Joshua Scratton and his son (Captain Edward Scratton) were Scratton's adopted heirs who had been given the use of the Priory and its land during Daniel's lifetime on condition that the property would be maintained and pass to the local authority as public gardens upon the death of both heirs. Scratton's solicitor William Gregson continued to serve Daniel Robert Scratton's interests after Daniel's death. Gregson would have fought to maintain Mary Dowsett's right to use the Cot. The documents available online do not reveal who is attempting to sell the property but the most likely suspects would be Edward Joshua Blackburn Scratton and his brother, William Howell Blackhurn Scratton who by this time were in debt. In 1906 William Howell Scratton took his own life leaving Edward Joshua with significant debts attached to the estate. Thomas Dowsett died in 1906, his family acted as trustees in ensuring that his wishes were adhered to. It seems as early as 1904 negotiations with Mary had taken place to leave the Cot, owing to the development of Southend the cottage and the small garden...had become of considerable value, In January 1912 Mary Dowsett gave up the possession of the property. The solicitors had finally been successful in negotiating a deal in which Mary was suitably compensated for giving up her lease. We will never know for sure why Mary finally decided to give up the Cot, I suspect that while the Cot had been Mary's home for 50 years plus and would have many memories for her, the reality by 1912 was that it was no longer in the rural setting that she remembered and was surrounded with buildings. The road and junction had become very busy and there was the noise of trams to contend with. These may have been factors in relinquishing the Cot if she was offered the use of a dwelling with garden in a more pleasant area for the remainder of her life and at a peppercorn rent as compensation for her lease. That same year Mary left, the cottage was demolished and a ‘modern’ development was built which still stands to this day. Mary lived on residing in Southend till her death in 1916.

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1887 Painting of Leigh Road (London Road) Shepherd’s Cottage in the distance
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View of Shepherd’s Cottage Image from the Terry Herbert Collection
Later view with Hamlet Court School in the background Image from the Terry Herbert Collection
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