Sulhamstead House
Sulhamstead Abbots, Berkshire

The manor of Sulhamstead Abbots was purchased in 1711 by Charles May, the forerunner of the famous May Brewers in Basingstoke (Hampshire). Unfortunately, he died of smallpox, three years later. His young son, Daniel, was brought up at Burghfield Mill House by his uncle but, just prior to his marriage, in 1744, he began work on the erection of Sulhamstead House. In a survey of 1748, it was apparently depicted as "a red square house with side wings, the centre square-turreted at each side".

The house was inherited, in 1753, by Daniel's nephew, John Thoyts, and the family became devoted benefactors to the folk of Sulhamstead for the next hundred and fifty years. During this time, they made many alterations to the building. John's son, William, largely turned the house into the building we see today in 1800. In 1851, his son, Mortimer George,  added rooms on the south side and the striking portico at the front of the building was raised to over, instead of under, the first floor windows. A Gas House was built in 1867 and the whole house, stables and cellars were lit by the same. Sulhamstead House also had its own laundry, which was situated on the first floor, but was later moved to one of the estate cottages, as the steam penetrated the whole house. In the 1890s, the house contained, on the ground floor: a large hall, double drawing rooms, a dining room, business or smoking room and Major Thoyts' dressing room; on the first floor: 8 bedrooms, 5 dressing rooms, 2 servants rooms and laundry; and on the top floor: offices, kitchen, scullery, pantries, housekeeper's room, storerooms, housemaids' pantries, servants' hall, butler's pantry and three menservants' rooms. Outside, there were larders, a dairy and an old brew house, a wash house and ovens. The cellarage extended under the house as far as the drawing room. Beneath the hall was a second kitchen. The stables were situated in the present bothy.

The 'White House,' as Sulhamstead is sometimes affectionately called, was sold by the Thoyts' to Sir George Watson in 1910. His family constructed the present swimming pool in 1935 but, on the 23rd October 1940, they left and the building became occupied by the War Office as the Commando Troop Headquarters. Late in 1941, it was entirely taken over by the Air Ministry for use as an RAF Elementary Flying Training School. The present large hard-standing garage housed a link trainer and was also used as an Officers Squash Court. Because of the lack of a purpose built landing field, the RAF utilised a nearby grass field.

Auction sales of part of the estate were held in 1943 and 1948. In April 1949, Sulhamstead House and Grounds (now reduced to 13 acres) were sold to the Berkshire County Council for use by Berkshire County Police as a Headquarters. The County Police, after 96 years at Reading, moved into the 'White House' in May 1952 when the Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell FYFFE, performed the opening ceremony. Purchase and adaptations were estimated to have cost 53,000, but it was considered money well invested. Sports grounds were included and thirty Police houses were built.

On the 1st April 1968, following the amalgamation, Sulhamstead House became the Thames Valley Police Training School. Certain alterations and renovations had to be carried out and finally, on the 26th August 1969, the first course was admitted to the building. In its present beautiful setting and with the various amenities available, Sulhamstead has proved an ideal situation for this aspect of Police work.

Edited from Notes available from Thames Valley Police and Emma Thoyts' MS. 'History of Sulhamstead'.

Sulhamstead House is now the Thames Valley Police Training Centre. The Police Force Museum there may be visited by appointment.


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