The Slaugham Archives

Dismal Castle, Handcross
The Slaugham Archive
Dismal Castle, Handcross

Dismal Castle was the keeper’s cottage on the Hyde estate located in a clearing deep in the woods and where Alan Ansfield used to live. It was originally known as Desmonds Castle, named after an early inhabitant.
In 1987 it was demolished and a replacement house named, appropriately, Desmonds Castle was built in its stead.
Picture added on 23 June 2013 at 16:39
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This cottage was occupied for fifty years from 1882 to 1932 by Mark Ashby (1848-1921), the gamekeeper on the Hyde Estate, his wife Emily, née Suter (1846-1932), and their eleven children, the last five being born in the cottage.
According to my notes, the name-change from Dismal Castle to Desmond's Castle took place in 1887.
I have another picture of the cottage with Mark, Emily and a daughter at the front gate, and some anecdotes from my late aunt from when she use to stay with Grandma who was looking after the three children born to her daughter, May Elizabeth, who died in 1924.
Added by Richard Ashby on 13 December 2014
I accidentally came across this website concerning Desmond Castle whilst doing research into the history of Lower Beeding and the Hammer Ponds.
My name is Alan Hawkins and I am the grandson of Frederick and Minnie Ansfield the tenants of Desmond Castle from the 1930s to 1964. Fred was a gamekeeper to the Warren family during this period.
I was born at Desmond Castle on March 18, 1944 to Edith Hawkins (née Ansfield). Edith was born to Fred and Minnie on June 3, 1921. Her siblings were Charlie, Nellie and Alan.
I have fond memories of Desmond Castle whilst growing up, spending my school holidays roaming the woods and accompanying grandfather Fred doing his gamekeeping duties. Sadly, Fred died of a heart attack in 1964 whilst gardening to the left of the cottage in the picture. Minnie moved to Coopers Wood cottages until her death in 1970.
I visited the new Desmond Castle in 2009 whilst on a trip to England. The new homestead looked at ease with the surroundings, and I saw that the kennels have remained. It has lost some of the wildness I came to know; in saying that, the place was alive with rabbits and I actually saw a deer among the trees.
If anybody wants to contact me concerning the Ansfield, Boniface, Mitchell, Agates families please feel free to contact me by email. I have a family tree on record going back to late 1700s

Alan Hawkins, Mornington, Victoria, Australia.
Added by Alan Hawkins (Australia) on 21 November 2016
This brings back memories of our monthly short back and sides, Fred was not only a gamekeeper but acted as the local barber for lads on the estate.
My father would march me and my brothers down Dismal, Fred would use the proverbial bowl and a pair of shears to cut our hair.
I also remember acting as a beater on Boxing Day for the pheasant shoot.
Great days.
Added by Mike Feist (Canada) on 24 November 2016
For Alan Hawkins in Australia.
My husband's father was Alfred Ansfield, younger brother of Frederick. and I have quite a lot of information regarding the Ansfield/Boniface families.
Alfred committed suicide weeks before his marriage but we have recently established through DNA that he was my husband's father. It is quite a long story spread over many years, but the only thing he would now like to find would be a photo of the family.
Regards, Joan Chatten

Added by Joan Chatten on 27 March 2017
My ancestors lived there in 1841. On census.
Whapham was their name.
Added by Mary Underdown on 12 May 2019
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