On the wall north of the chancel in Thames Ditton parish church is a large baroque marble tablet, surmounted by a carved bust, and with a lengthy inscription extolling the virtues of one Colonel Sidney Godolphin.
This Sidney Godolphin was the first lessee to occupy Fords under a Tash lease. A number of letters preserved in the British Library addressed to him "at his house in Thames Ditton near Kingston in Surrey" prove that he was living here by 1722(52).
On 3 July of that year he decided to insure the house with the Sun Fire Insurance Office in the sum of £400 for the building and £100 for the contents(53).
The Godolphins had been for centuries a landowning family with great influence in Cornwall. The name in the Cornish language signifies a white eagle, and this bird was always borne on the family's coat of arms(54). Colonel Godolphin was member of Parliament for one or other of the Duchy's constituencies for almost fifty years, and died father of the House(55).
He was born in 1651, the son of a judge of the Admiralty. After the landing of the duke of Monmouth at Lyme Regis in 1685 he was commissioned in a regiment formed by the earl of Bath to quell the rebellion, and later served with the duke of Marlborough on the Continent, rising to the rank of lieutenant- colonel. However, the rigours of a military career was not suited to his health. He resigned his commission, and sought less austere employment in this country. He was appointed to a number of official posts, including, governor of the Scilly Isles and of Grenwich Hospital, and auditor of the revenues in Wales. He was also created a justice of the peace for the counties of Cornwall, Denbigh, Shropshire, and Monmouth. In the last two of which he had acquired extensive property by virtue of his marriage to a wealthy heiress(56).
By the time he took up residence at Fords he was seventy- one, by the standards of the day quite an old man. Although still quite active in political life, the last years of existence were marred by pain and suffering from ill-health, probably due to a stone. He passed away in September 1732(57).
The lease of Fords was taken over by his youngest and "most dearly beloved daughter", Ellen, who was unmarried and had lived with him and nursed him through his sickness. The fire insurance taken out by her father was then endorsed with her name(58).
|Monument to Colonel Sidney Godolphin on the north wall of the chancel in Thames Ditton church.|
It was Ellen who had had the monument placed in the church, and had dictated the following fulsome praise of her father which it displays: "It was his felicity to be valued and countenanced by his Sovereign, esteemed and loved by his friends and relations, and lamented and regretted by all who had the happiness of his acquaintance, and pleasure of his conversation, which he supported to the last with uncommon spirit and cheerfulness in all the intervals of his painful illness". It also says her action in erecting the monument was "in grateful acknowledgement of his indulgence and goodness to her at his death". In other words because he had left almost all of his fortune to her(59).
Ellen was now the mistress of the mansion. She was fortunate in that her cousin, Henrietta, was married to the duke of Newcastle, and lived in nearby Claremont. The two were on very good terms, and the duchess was often to be seen visiting at Fords, and Miss Godolphin at Claremont.
In 1735 the duchess wrote to her aunt: "I really hop'd long before this time to have seen you at Ditton - I have got a port of my own, which I have made great use of, & found great good from, it carry'd me the day before yesterday to Ditton, where I hop'd to hear some news of you and was told at the house, that you come next week - I am this minute going to Waybridge to dinner - If I am so unlucky as not to see you in June, I will make it up to you myself the first minute I can by waiting on you at Ditton. Claremont June ye 8th 1735"(60).
Ellen Godolphin died in 1754(61), and was most likely buried with her father in Thames Ditton church, but as has already been said, unfortunately the parish burial register for this period is missing.
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