Leigh House was originally known as Black House and stood west of St Clement’s Church, at the top of Elm Road facing the Broadway. It was demolished to allow the creation of Broadway West.
The house was probably built by Stephen Bonner in 1620 and the known owners were –
Sir Anthony Deane (c.1638–1720?), a shipbuilder, born in Harwich, who rose rapidly, and was assistant master shipwright at Woolwich by 1660, at the age of twenty-two.
In 1662 he met Samuel Pepys, a member of the Navy Board, who found him ‘a very able man, and able to do the King's service ‘ (Pepys, Diary, 18 Aug 1662). Deane instructed Pepys in the art of shipbuilding.
Deane's career as a shipbuilder declined when he went to London in 1674 to become a member of the Navy Board as commissioner of the victualling accounts. In 1675 he went to France by order Charles II, to build two yachts for Louis XIV.
He wrote Doctrine of Naval Architecture in 1670, which gives the clearest account, before the eighteenth century, of how the hull of a warship was designed.
His first wife, Anne, died in childbirth in 1677 and he then married a widow, Christian Dawes, altpgether he had fifteen children. He died at Charterhouse Square in London, probably in 1720.
Sir Anthony used the Leigh House as an occasional residence until 1670 when it was purchased by Thomas Printupp whose family appears in the earliest registers of St Clement’s Church. Later the house was owned by Elizabeth Stevens and Anne the wife of Sir Edward Whittaker (Admiral of the White) and then Charles Perry, Elizabeth and John Finch and Giles Westwood.
Following this it was owned by John Loten the Customs Officer for Leigh who in 1792 planted 2 cedar trees in the garden. One of these survives to this day – the other was a victim of the 1987 hurricane. A slice through the tree is on display in the Heritage Centre.
David Montague, owner of the Victoria Pottery also owned the house at one time followed by Francis C Barker, a speculative developer of houses for the aristocracy, and then F.J.C. Millar a local barrister – he donated the clock in the church tower. The last owner was Dr Watson who sold the estate to the Corporation for the building of Broadway West in 1926.
Dr Watson is mentioned in documents at Essex Records Office regarding property transactions including a letter from written from Leigh House to Midland Bank Ltd., Hamlet Court Road requesting immediate loan of £16,000 to be used in development of his property at Leigh Broadway and another mentioning continuation of Leigh Broadway through the site of Leigh House, purchase of the Rectory Estate, sale of the former Rectory to Southend Corporation for use as a public library, development of the estate including conversion of the old post office (in Elm Road) into 2 shops, sale of land in plots.
Dr Watson's surgery was in Oriel House, still surviving next to the Sarah Moore. He died in 1950 in his new 'Leigh House' in Broadway West.