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Esther Leslie and Sam Dolbear - October 11th, 2019

For Ernst Schoen and his family, flat 43 of Kingfisher Court represented a place of safety. Born in 1894 in Berlin, Schoen spent a number of years in the technical and artistic avant-garde of Weimar Germany. This culminated in 1929 when he was appointed artistic director of Frankfurt-based South West German Radio (SÜWRAG), where he would go on to produce and write experimental and politically engaged radio for a growing public, engaging many of his friends and comrades in the effort: including Hanns Eisler, Bertolt Brecht, Anton von Webern and Walter Benjamin, among others. After Hitler’s rise to power, Schoen – an antifacist and modernist – was twice arrested and twice imprisoned, first in Frankfurt and then in Hamburg. After a precarious escape from prison, Schoen made a home in London: working at the BBC and also with Georg Kepler in The Opera Group. He lived first in Belsize Park and then at Kingfisher Court with his wife Johanna von Roggendorf and their children Sasha and Nina. On Monday September 23, Sasha and his wife Leda Drucaroff had the honour of visiting the complex after so many years. It was an emotional day of reminiscences: we looked over old photographs, summoned the spirits of the cocktail bar, and heard of times gone by. 

If you have any memories or knowledge of Ernst Schoen, we would be very grateful if you were able to get in touch. You can hear more of Ernst Schoen on 4th December 2019 at the Bishopsgate Institute in London, when Esther Leslie and Sam Dolbear will be preparing a cabaret-lecture on his life and work.


– Esther Leslie and Sam Dolbear

e.leslie@bbk.ac.uk and samdolbear@googlemail.com 


Above: Sasha Schoen and Leda Drucaroff during their visit


Patrick Packer - September 10th, 2011

A couple of snaps you might be interested in



Patrick Packer - September 10th, 2011

One pertinent point I forgot to mention is that the name of Kingfisher Court was given by Hon Francis de Moleyn when he spotted kingfishers on the river on one of his earlier visits to the building site. This information was told to me at the time by his daughter Velentia.

In those days kingfishers were often seen there but as the years went by the kingfishers disappeared.
Regarding one or two of your comments, - the Restaurant and cocktail bar were original features when Kingfisher Court was built and for a while were well patronised, but I do not know when they were closed down.

The billboard I mentioned was at the entrance to the estate by the Lodge and displayed a magnificent picture of a kingfisher on a black background. It is stretching my memory but I can visualise the board as being about eight feet square. There was of course some advertising matter on the board but it was unobtrusive.

You mention the beech tree by the pump house - in fact this was a bay tree the leaves of which were used by one or two of the residents to provide food flavouring.

And I do remember Mr and Mrs Adler living in the flat you are now in.

You refer to a gas poisoning incident which presumably occurred after my time. For some reason I always believed that when the estate was built it had only electric heating. Was I wrong or was gas introduced at a later date?

In case you are interested, or you may be already aware, details of the Eveleigh-deMoleyns family are in Burke’s Peerage.

If it has been of help to it has been my pleasure.

Patrick Packer

Anthony Charlesworth - September 9th, 2011

Thanks you so much for getting in touch and passing on all that information. It is very interesting and nice to get details from the earlier days that are more accurate - a lot of the original history has come word of mouth, especially, it seems, regarding the actors!

I didn't know about the second property on the grounds so it is interesting to hear about that.

We got details of a 'Kingfisher Court Country Club' restaurant and cocktail bar from a very old leaflet/brochure we otained which looks like it was from when it was first built but I suppose it could be from a later period. Now we have your rental figures we can re-date it from that. The rentals ranged from £85 for a single bedroom flat to £250 upwards for 4/5 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms - it doesn't say if this is weekly or monthly but is certainly higher than the fugures you quoted.

The old tree you refer to doesn't exist any more. We have also lost several other trees over the years (I have been here since 1996) - the large beech tree next to the pump house and a couple of smaller trees on the lawn between the tennis court and back blocks - due to weather and disease.

I live in the flat you mention in the middle floor next to the pump shed, so it is interesting to read about the army officers. I was contacted a few years back by a previous occupant of my flat, who lived with his parents here from 1948 to 1966. His name was Mark Adler and his parents were Bernie and Flora. I have some cine footage of them from the 60's. He also mentioned some other names - Eva Smith (I think this was Mark Adler's grandmother who died of gas poisoning in one of the flats), Michael Cook (no.53) Barry Saunders (no.55) and Bill Biles (also no.55).

The large flats at the back of the property still exist but have been converted back into single flats (the double doors to the single properties still exist in the hallways). Similar door frames (but not doors) exist in another block at the north end of the tennis court, so whether these were previously converted into single flats we don't know.

A lot of work was done in the late 90's to remove the large block of garages that used to exist to the north side of the property (they still exist at the entrance and exit) and this was paved for parking spaces. The river bank was landscaped and the access road layed with tarmac. We recently had the tennis court resurfaced/fenced so this is looking good now after years with a cracked/weeded surface. The pedestrian paths have also been re-layed and gates and railings (which I designed) put up at the front (to keep out the unwanted drunken passers-by on late summer evenings!!). We also now have an electronic pool cover so we can close the pool.

We are in the process of getting a sign put back up at the entrance and want to make it in-keeping with the development, so if you have any more details of what was originally there it would be very useful.

Anyway, thanks again for your information. I plan to update the website at some point (but it all takes so much time!) so will include what you have provided.

Best regards,

Anthony Charlesworth


Patrick Packer - September 9th, 2011
Pleased to hear from you re Kingfisher Court - hope I can offer a little information. My comments relate to a period up to 1965 after which date my connections to Kingfisher Court ended. The site on which Kingfisher Court stands was originally occupied by two large houses, ‘Annandale,’ of which you are obviously aware, and ‘Overstream.’

‘Overstream’ was the home of a wealthy gentleman by the name of Staniforth who lived there with his wife and a retinue of servants until it was sold to build Kingfisher Court. Within these grounds was also Overstream Lodge, in which I and my parents lived, and was right next door to what is now Spur Garage.

Today, all that remains of ‘Overstream’ are the trees in the gardens of Kingfisher Court and the trees and lawns which front the estate. Kingfisher Court was built (circa 1936/37) at a reported cost of £25000 (if you can believe it) by the Hon Francis Alexander Innys Eveleigh-de Moleyns son of Arthur William Eveleigh-de Moleyns, the 6th Baron Ventry.

Your website mentions a social club and café in Kingfisher Court but this feature certainly did not exist -- not before 1965 anyway. Originally there was a restaurant and bar and the restaurant’s kitchen. Also there were two or three guest rooms available - these were situated in the corner of the southern block by the river.

And to my knowledge there never was any suggestion that these flats were built to house actors and actresses. Over the years I can remember only three show business celebrities living at Kingfisher Court for a short time.

Initially and for a few years the rent for a ground floor two bedroom flat was two pounds ten shillings a week and for the two large flats, eight pounds a week. These two flats were on the top floor spanning the block adjacent to the river. Are these two flats still there? - I doubt it. I remember a Mrs Radford was the sole occupant of one of these flats.

During the war the ground floor flat next to the swimming pool (I guess it was No.1) was bricked up and used as an air raid shelter and I well remember the uncomfortable nights spent among bodies sprawled everywhere. The only damage suffered by Kingfisher Court in the war was a broken window in the aforementioned guest rooms caused by the controlled explosion of a land mine which had been dropped in the area. A few incendiary bombs landed on the rooves but were dealt with quickly and a garage door was set afire by an incendiary (are the garages still there? They were outside flats Nos 20s and 30.

For a time during the war years the middle floor flat adjacent to the east side of the pump house was occupied by two high ranking American army officers from SHAEF (based in Bushy Park). I have reason to believe that one of these officers - Brigadier General Malcolm Grow - was involved in the planning of the invasion of Sicily.

The Squash Court was well used for a long time but eventually became neglected and dilapidated . I was interested to learn from your website that it was eventually purchased and converted to a house. I remember by the squash court was a mulberry tree with a prolific output of fruit - many a shirt was ruined by mulberry juice!

Looking at photographs on the web sites I notice a change in that there are now trees along the Bridge Road side of the bowling green. There used to be just one tree dominating that stretch - a very large old tree with a very large diameter trunk - it appears to be the tree in picture no.9 of your photo gallery but I believe that tree was cropped or taken down in the 1950s.

As I mentioned in my original e mail the gardens were kept in immaculate condition along with the tennis court and swimming pool but sadly when the caretaker/gardener/janitor retired in 1965 it became all too obvious that Kingfisher Court had lost a conscientious carer and when I paid one or two visits at later dates I was disappointed to see how it had been neglected and how tatty it was. However, by all accounts Kingfisher Court is now back to its former glory - I hope that is the case.

Older inhabitants of Molesey may remember the magnificent bill board standing at the entrance to Kingfisher Court by the lodge - it was a big picture of a kingfisher on a black background.

I was considering renting flat no.2 in 1951 but I moved to Blackheath Village in London instead.

Hope the above comments are of some use.


Patrick Packer - July 8, 2011

I was associated with Kingfisher Court from the time it was built (even before) until 1951 and have an intimate knowledge of its history. I would like to pass this information on to anybody who is interested.


Ian Silver - January 20, 2011

I lived in KFC in the early 70s - no 14. Anyone remember me?