The following information refers to the house and garden before the Heritage Fund Refurbishment Project 2016-2018
How Whitehall was built
Whitehall is a Tudor building and is made of wood. The oak trees used were cut down from nearby woods, probably in Sutton or Worcester Park. The wood was cut into planks at a carpenter’s yard, and put together to make the frame of the house. The carpenters scratched special marks on each piece of wood to show which bits fitted together and in which order. The frame was then taken apart and brought to Cheam where it was rebuilt on top of a low chalk and flint wall to stop dampness from the earth from rotting the wood. All the pieces of wood were fitted together with special joints held in with wooden pegs. The spaces between the wood were filled in with wattle and daub.
The Front Elevation
Whitehall’s appearance has changed dramatically since it was first built at the beginning of the sixteenth century, when the wealth of timbering and the continuous jetty would have been visible, pierced by simple mullioned windows.
The Porch and its upper room were probably added in the mid- or late-sixteenth century. This addition has sunk out of true over the years, and gives Whitehall its characteristic lop-sided appearance. The archway entrance to the Porch echoes the shape both of the depressed Tudor arch over the front door and of the wide door itself.
Dormer windows were added when the attic floor was inserted during the sixteenth century.
The weatherboarding was added by the Killick family in the eighteenth century , probably to resolve the difficulties of an old building. By that time the in-fill between the timbers must have become unstable and the cracks in the wall no doubt let the wind through.
The Rear Elevation
From the garden, the earliest visible structure is the central sixteenth century staircase tower. An elegant sundial on the tower was erected in memory of the first Chairman of the Friends of Whitehall, and is dealt with in more detail under the Friends Sundial page.
The wing to the left of the tower is the seventeenth century addition and, to the right of the tower, the nineteenth century kitchen and bathroom wing. The sloping roof of the lean-to fills the gap between the house and the listed boundary wall.
The Rear Garden
The land which runs from behind the house to the bottom of Park Lane once belonged to Whitehall. The lower part of the garden was sold in the 1960s. Elizabeth House was built on part of the site, and weatherboarded to blend in with the surrounding buildings.
An archaeological excavation in Whitehall’s rear garden from 1978 – 1979 revealed that there had been an earlier structure on the site. Although large amounts of Cheam Pottery were found,there was no evidence of a kiln.
The garden was laid out when the dig was finished to include a small circular herb garden, this has now been removed and the lawn has been extended Both front and rear gardens are maintained by an enthusiastic group of volunteers from the Friends of Whitehall.
A recent addition to the garden is a willow sculpture produced by artist Sarah Holmes during a demonstration of how to create art out of willow at one of the events held at Whitehall.
The well is probably the oldest constructed feature on the site. Investigations have shown that it was dug about 1400, about one hundred years before Whitehall itself was built, and probably served an earlier building. Evidence for this earlier construction on the site was found in the 1978-79 excavation. The well was dug through the Thanet sand to where the water lay in the chalk, and is about 65 feet (21 metres) deep. The water table has now dropped about twenty feet (6 metres) or more below the bottom of the well, which is now dry, but it probably had water to a depth of about 10 or 12 feet (3 or 4 metres) as late as 1900.
The present well-head is based on the last known photograph of about 1920. This reconstruction was built under a job creation scheme sponsored by Cheam Rotary Club.