Wellesley House was built in about 1850 on land which formed part of the farmstead known as The Lodge, or Twickenham Lodge. Quite why the house was built is not at present known, although it may have been promoted by a man called J Wright Nokes, a property speculator who made a brief appearance in Twickenham at this time: he had acquired the freehold of the land in 1846. The Lodge had been occupied since 1820 by Thomas Moxon (1762-1854). Moxon had married Ann, sister of William Loder Browne whose supposed ninth son, H K Browne was the well known illustrator who signed himself “Phiz”. Moxon had helped to support the family when the father absconded to America, abandoning his wife and 15 children.
What used to be the extensive grounds are today bordered by Wellesley, Hampton and Stanley Roads, containing the Fortescue Estate. The house was used as a school for most of its life: in 1852 Mr Thomas James Scalé's Academy was founded here.
R D Blackmore (the author of Lorna Doone) taught classics at the school for a short time, but found the boys to be unruly and he did not enjoy the experience particularly. Indeed, the boys' conduct was the subject of a letter in 1853 from the Headmaster to the Churchwardens of St Mary's, Twickenham. He wrote apologising for their unruly behaviour in Divine Service, asking for a special pew to be reserved for the use of 14 boys.
Metropolitan and City Police Orphanage
In 1874 Wellesley House was taken over and later enlarged by the Metropolitan and City Police Orphanage. The Orphanage had come first to Fortescue House in the London Road, Twickenham in about 1870, but needed more space.
The Orphanage was in the charge of a Superintendent, Walter William Alcock, and his family were resident. A son, also Walter was, at the age of 19, appointed organist at St Mary's Church in Twickenham. He later became organist at Salisbury Cathedral.
Fortescue House School
In 1937 the Orphanage was taken over by the Shaftesbury Homes, themselves moving from Fortescue House which they had used since 1878. Many of the boys stayed on, joining the boys from Fortescue House. The school now took the name of Fortescue House School. It was known as a 'barrack school' since the Shaftesbury Homes (from its various schools) provided 200 trained and disciplined boys for the armed services each year.
The school closed in 1971 and most of the buildings were demolished. When the house was taken down a number of pews from the school chapel found their way to St Mary's Church and panelling was taken to St Mary's School hall, in Amyand Park Road.
Roderick Cowan, The Happy Orphan: Samuel Victor Cowan, My Recollections of the Early Days of the M & CPO, 1872-80, Family Tree Magazine, November 2006, pp22/3