MMI London’s History

Learn all about the history of Coombe and the area that surrounds our school!


Photo taken by Diana Kelly

The Marymount London campus is a beautiful building with loads of history, as fellow Marymount girl Diana (Kirchen) Kelly discovered. Diana was an 8thgrade Marymount student in 1967-68. Although her time at Marymount was short, she always visits it whenever she is back in England. During her 2004 visit with her 8thgrade best friend, Joanne (Hamel) Ross, the Alumnae Coordinator Sarah Key pointed out the beautiful stained windows by the stairs in the house, explaining that they were the Guinness family crest, and that this family had owned the house many years ago. This sparked Diana’s interest in the history of the Marymount house. This article is purely based on Diana Kelly’s research.


Coombe Area History

Coombe, originally spelt ‘Combe’, comes from the Welsh or British word “cwm”, which means a ravine or hilltop. Coombe is located at the top of Kingston Hill, so the name seems fitting. This area is interesting, as some Roman artefacts have been found at the top of Kingston Hill. Throughout history, the Coombe estate had had multiple owners. During the reign of King Edward I (1272-1307) the united manors of Combe were owned by William de Nevil and were called “Comb-Nevil.” This was later handed over to Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset by King Edward VI, son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. However, later when the Duke of Somerset was beheaded in 1552, the estate was handed over to the Crown. Queen Elizabeth I later handed this estate over to William Cecil, Lord Burleigh. In 1753, the Coombe Estate was purchased by the trustees of John Spencer, Esq (later first Earl Spencer, ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales).


John Galsworthy family in Coombe

During the later years of the 19thcentury, Kingston was an area of retreat for families of solicitors and other professionals based in London . Author of “The Forsythe Sage” and many other novels John Galsworthy (1867-1933) were born in Kingston in a home called “Parkfield”, which is now known as “Galsworthy Care Home”, 177 Kingston Hill. The Galsworthy family moved to a different house on Kingston Hill built by John Galsworthy’s father. The house was named “Coombe Warren” and later named “Coombe Court”. Coombe Court was located between two houses on George Road, also built by Mr Galsworthy, that were called “Coombe Ridge (currently the Holy Cross School) and “Coombe Croft” (currently the Rokeby School). Sadly, “Coombe Court” was demolished in 1933, and replaces with several houses on the street “The Drive”.


Ballard, Coombe Warren (Marymount House) – William Edgar family 1873-1884

William Schindler Edgar was a magistrate with offices in Piccadilly. In 1873, “Ballard” house at Coombe Warren was built for him. The “Ballard” is a house that all Marymount Students know, as it later became Marymount International School. William Edgar’s family lived in this house from 1873 until 1884, where, following Edgar’s death in 1883 at the “Ballard” house, the house was sold. This was not the only tragic event to happen, as William Edgard’s 25-year-old son, Henry Ingle Edgar, committed suicide in the nursery of the “Ballard” house on March 13, 1876.


Ballard, Coombe Warren – Captain Benjamin Lee Guinness family 1884 – approx. 1906

Following William Edgar’s death, the “Ballard” house was purchased in 1884 by Captain Benjamin “Lee” Guinness (1842-1900). Lee Guinness, son of Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, M.P. and great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, founder of the famous Guinness Brewery in Dublin, was a member of the Royal Horse Guards, and retired at the rank of Captain. He was married to Lady Henrietta, daughter of Thomas the  third Earl of Howth, and they had three sons together: Algernon, Kenelm and Nigel.


Ten years after moving into the “Ballard” house, architect W.F. Potter was hired to expand the house, and a new wing, coach houses, lodge and stabling was added, as well as an expansion on the front of the house, as the size increased from 200 feet to 400 feet across. Soon after the expansion in 1894, Captain Lee Guinness died from pneumonia in 1900, at the age of 57.


In 1902 and ad was put up for the house to be sold. However, the ad did not work, as the house was not sold, resulting in another ad in 1904 and an auction in April of 1904. A detailed description of the house from the ad is as follows:


“Ballard,” Coombe Warren, delightfully placed, 170 feet above sea level, on gravel soil, commanding magnificent views, approached by a carriage drive 300 years in length, with lodge, entrance, and containing 21 bed and dressing rooms (additional bedroom accommodation if needed), bath-rooms, a fine suite of entertaining rooms comprising large entrance and sitting hall, drawing, morning, dining, billiard, and smoking rooms, boudoir, a complete set of domestic offices, with menservants’ accommodation; modern stabling for 15 horses, including several loose horses, extensive coach houses and 5 men’s rooms; exceedingly delightful pleasure grounds, with terraces, sunk gardens, wilderness, wild gardens, and small paddock, ranges of glass houses, and a covered tennis court, the whole extending to about 15 acres; the property in situate in a favourite residential district, midway between Norbiton and Malden stations on the London and Southwest Railway and in close proximity to Richmond Park, Coombe Wood, and Wimbledon Common.


The house was finally sold to William Cleaver sometime between September 1904 and June 1906.


Ballard, Coombe Warren – William Cleaver family – approx. 1906 – 1922

William Cleaver lived in “Ballard” house alongside his wife, Ida, two adult sons, two adult daughters and six servants. His two daughters both married at the “Ballard” house, and one of William Cleaver’s daughters gave birth to a son at “Ballard”. In 1919, Ina Cleaver died at the “Ballard” house, and in 1920 William Cleaver died at home as well. The house was later then sold to Charles Fletcher Lumb.


Ballard, Coombe Warren – Charles Fletcher Lumb family 1922 – 1955

The Charles Fletcher Lumb family lived in the “Ballard” Coombe Warren longer than any of the other families. Charles and his wife, Margarita (Johnson) Lumb, had a family of five children who lived in the “Ballard” house: Charles (1910-1977), Margot (1912-1998), Theodore (1913-1942), Raymond (1915-1940), and Bernice (1917-1977).


At two in the morning on Wednesday, July 15 1925, a terrible fire broke out at the “Ballard” house, destroying part the house. Luckily, everyone got out in time. According to reports, the servants wing was the only place that was not destroyed by the fire, however the expected damage cost was 20,000 to 30,000 pounds. According to Margot (Lumb) Gordon’s obituary, the renovations made to the house after the fire, included the addition of a squash court and badminton and tennis court. In 1955, Charles Fletcher Lumb sold the house to the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary, who were looking for a London location to start another Catholic girls’ school.


Marymount International School

On February 8th, the Times published a notice that “Ballard” Coombe Warren was sold to “a religious order” for “a finishing school”. The house and six acres were sold to the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary for 40,000 pounds.


According to the two anniversary booklets the 25thAnniversary Silver Jubilee booklet published in 1980 (researched and written by Sister Mary Catherine Walsh) and the 50thAnniversary booklet published in 2005 (compiled by Alumnae Coordinator, Sarah Key), the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary started looking for a location in the London area in 1954. The house they purchased was initially used for offices, classrooms and dormitories, howeve, over the years, changes were made to the area purchased. The chapel was built in 1956 where the former squash court had been. And the greenhouses and horse stables were torn down and converted into what we now know as Gailhac and Butler Halls, which opened in spring of 1959. Later in the year of 1959, a former orchard site was converted into Gerard Hall.


1956 marked the year that Marta Carrizona graduated as the first graduate of Marymount International School. Jerry Lee Bishop followed by graduating in 1957. The first graduating class was in 1958, which consisted of the following seven graduates: Joan Dickinson, Maria Eulalia Guillamet, Carol Kirchhoffer, Jo Ann Newton, Maria Isabel Picornell, Sally Stone, and Adelaide Wiley.