The Sales of Oatlands
There were several public auctions of the Oatlands Estate in an attempt to raise funds for the debt-ridden owner at the time. The first, in 1822, when the Duke of York decided to sell it all following the death of the Duchess in 1820, fell very short of the duke’s hopes and expectations with most of the lots on offer failing to meet their reserve.
In "Oatlands and The Golden Ball", the late Michael Blackman mentions an auction catalogue for1824. but we have so far, not located this catalogue and it seems unlikely that an auction actually took place. We do know that in 1824 , Edward Hughes Ball Hughes began the process of purchasing the Estate (his brother in law, Henry Frederick Alston, acting as his agent signed an "agreement to purchase" dated 4th of October 1824) but it was fraught with delays, mainly due to “rights of title” issues. Frustrated, Hughes finally told his solicitors to “ignore all objections” and concluded the proceedings with the conveyance in October 1827 – but, by then, the Duke had died - at a cost of £145,000.
Hughes, who had married a 16 year old dancer named Maria Mercandotti used Oatlands for his honeymoon in 1823, but the marriage collapsed and he ‘disappeared to France’ in 1828 to escape his creditors (having accrued massive debts from his gambling habit and excessively lavish lifestyle) and was forced to sell Oatlands to raise funds,
The Estate went up for sale again in 1829 but, as with the auction of seven years earlier, there were many lots that were "bought in" - despite what the newspapers reported.
With his main creditors temporarily pacified, Hughes continued to live beyond his means (and these were considerable) and it soon became clear to him, and particularly to his solicitors who were handling his affairs here, that Oatlands had to go.
The Estate was finally disposed of in 1846, but it still needed four sales in that year before all the lots were successfully sold, having been broken up into strips for building, with the exception of the mansion and its grounds and St George's Hill. At the first of these sales, held on the 19th of May, every plot on which what we would consider as “the village of Oarlands” was sold – thus Oatlands has, to all intents and purposes, a very clearly defined ‘date of birth’.