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1858 - Stoke Hill Cottage is bought by Richard James Gilman

After returning to England from China in around 1858, Richard James Gilman bought Stoke Hill Cottage. He enlarged the estate and extended the accommodation.

The property now consisted of nine bedrooms, a bathroom, a dining room, elegant drawing room opening to a large conservatory, library, billiard room, study and offices. As befitted a Victorian gentleman’s residence, there was also a range of stabling with coach houses, harness rooms, poultry houses and a small farm. The property was renamed Stoke Mount.

Richard Gilman, as a young man, had entered the offices of Messrs Thompson, Tea and Produce Brokers in the City of London and eventually travelled to China, becoming a tea taster with the Canton based firm of Dent & Co. After spending some years in their service, Richard, in 1847, founded the highly successful and influential firm of Gilman & Co. According to an article written by his great great great nephew, Richard Gilman had “helped to found both the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank”. Gilman Street and Gilman Bazaar in Hong Kong are named in his honour.

Tea, in the mid-1800s, was a very valuable commodity. The most highly prized and expensive tea was the first crop of the season. Whilst Richard Gilman was living in Bishopstoke, an event which captured the imagination of the British public and became known as The Great Tea Race took place in 1866. Four ships competed in the race. The clipper Fiery Cross left Foochow China on 29 May and Ariel, Taeping and Serica on the 30th. Taeping was carrying a cargo for Gilman & Co. Astonishingly, Aeriel, Serica & Taeping all arrived in the Thames estuary on the same tide, after a voyage which had lasted 99 days and covered around 16,000 miles. Taeping tied up in the London docks twenty minutes ahead of Ariel, and about two hours ahead of Serica. Fiery Cross arrived two days later. Taeping was declared the winner.

Richard and his wife Charlotte were not blessed with children. When his wife passed away in 1869, he went to live with his sister at Bisham Grange in Buckinghamshire. He retained a large interest in his Far Eastern business operations until he retired in 1875.

By Chris Humby of the Bishopstoke History Society.

Read more about the history of The Mount