|By Ron Green with Tony Millatt and Brian Jay Mersea Island Museum
Recently, a lady visitor to Mersea noticed while walking along the Monkey beach, an ornamental metal gate in the wall of New Orleans garden. She wanted to find out about the old house Orleans which stood in the grounds before New Orleans Flats were built. So together with a friend she came into our museum to find out, and they got talking to Brian and myself.
It occurred to me that this was a subject that required research, especially as many years ago I had received from a Mr Head in
Tasmania an indenture giving a lot of the details. The earliest date I
found was for March 1821 (or could be 1827) and concerns a mortgage for John King who appears to be the first owner of Mersea Cottage as it was
known. John King died in 1827 and ownership passed to his widow and
son Robert. In 1827 Robert married Mary Ann Smith daughter of Benjamin Smith Esq. surgeon of Wivenhoe. The newspaper announcement at the time refers to R.S. King of West Mersea Cottage. West Mersea Cottage was
offered for sale in 1832. In 1835 Mrs King of Mersea Cottage gave
birth to a son. In 1836 part of West Mersea Cottage was offered to be
let. In 1838 a newspaper reported the West Mersea Regatta was held in front of Mersea Cottage and the gardens were thrown open for the admission of visitors. That same year Mersea Cottage was to let furnished and 'A hardway has been recently formed by which its inmates may embark with the greatest of ease'. This of course is still referred to as 'Kings Hard'. In 1845 F. Vanzeller, Consul General to the Portuguese Embassy took took West Mersea Cottage as a sporting villa for a number of years. On the 31st March 1851 John King's widow died and Robert Shaw King died the same year. In August 1858 Robert King's surviving daughters sold the cottage to James Molyneux Taylor. He died in 1870.
The next owner of Orleans Cottage, as it was now called, was James Considine of Chateau de la Roque, Ondres, France. He bought the cottage from Marianne widow of James Molyneux at auction paying £1,900.
In 1879 he opened the grounds and gardens 'Which are in good order' to the Girls Friendly Society. Count Considine sold Orleans Cottage in June 1880. The property passed to Emily Sarah Bilton wealthy wife of solicitor Alfred Bilton for the sum of £1,150. It was recorded that the house suffered considerable damage in the April 1884 earthquake. Bilton tried to sell the house in 1885 for £2,300 and again in 1891 for £2,100. Alfred Bilton, together with Mr Thomas Gilbert, was instrumental in the revival of West Mersea Regatta in 1889. A report on the 1893 regatta mentions Mr Gilbert 'Who has recently purchased Orleans Cottage'. He caused an uproar when he tried to fence off part of the beach in front of his property which up until then had been open to the public. Revd. Yorick Smythies took Mr Gilbert to court, but lost. However, as a result, Mr Gilbert gave Yorick Road and Beach Road to the people of the island.
In part 2 we will look at Orleans in the 20th century.
A drawing showing that Orleans was an impressive 'Cottage'.
The view from Kings Hard looking in towards Orleans and the church beyond. The ornamental gate can be seen in the wall, behind the small wharf on the beach.
Published in Mersea Life October 2017, local page 22.