In the early 1870s, five houses were built along what we know today as South Eden Park Rd. At least some of the land, if not all, belonged to William Rudd Mace whose daughter Emily had married George Stanley Lutwyche. The houses most closely associated with them were Elderslie and Oakfield but there were also Chalfont, Homewood and Harvington. How did the whole area become known as the Harvington Estate?
It is all to do with the Petley family, Bertrand Theodore and Florence Ada, who lived there from 1919 and brought the name Harvington with them. Harvington was of particular significance to them since it was the name of the village near Kidderminster where they became engaged to be married. They took the name to Burmah for their house in the hill station at Maymyo and then back again for their house in Beckenham at the bend in South Eden Park Rd.
Harvington was described as an imposing red brick house with a slated roof, roughly square in shape with a frontage of sixty feet. A twenty-foot billiards room had been added to the original building but it had suffered some damage when a V2 fell near St John’s church over the other side of the fields.
The other two houses Homewood and Chalfont, were of white brick and perhaps the different lodges still there today, Harvington of red brick and the other two of grey materials reflect the different construction of the houses. Oakfield was described in 1904 as a picturesque building in Italian villa style. It was constructed of Staffordshire bricks with ornamental stone dressings and mouldings.
Harvington was thought to be the oldest, built in 1871 according to the date carved by the builders above one of the first floor windows.
As a young man Bertrand Theodore Petley became forest manager of Messrs J. W. Darwood & Co, Burmah, living far away from civilisation. He became known in Upper Burmah for the force of his personality and his intimate understanding of the country and its people. In November 1898, at Rangoon Cathedral, Bertrand married Florence Ada Chappell, daughter of the iron founder, Henry Pegg Chappell from Staffordshire. Their eldest son, James Bertrand, died from dysentery at the age of two years, four months, twenty days in Burmah but they had two more sons, Hugh Henry and Philip Theodore. Their daughter, Dorothy Florence, was born in Katha 29. 9. 1899 and baptised in May 1900 in Mandalay.
The following description of life in Katha comes from a history of the company. “The Katha forest manager lived in a ramshackle bungalow adjoining the native quarter. It poured heavily and relentlessly in the summer. Age-old newspapers and paperbacks were ravaged by silverfish and white ants. Heavy mosquito netting thwarted the whisper of a breeze. Overhead, a steady stream of bats flashed along the veranda and the occasional lizard would fall with a plop”.