Swancourt, originally Leyfield (address Southlea Road)

swancourt aka leyfield

Leyfield and the Mocatta Family

(Listed here rather than in Southlea Road because it is so close to The Avenue.)

Leyfield was built in 1879 for Benjamin Elkin Mocatta, one of a long-established London family of Jewish gold bullion dealers and bankers. They were highly influential in finance and business, but also supported many charitable and philanthropic organisations, particularly in aid of the working classes and of Jewish culture. Benjamin and his wife Marion seem not to have spent much time in Datchet, being at their London residence for each census night from 1881 to 1911, and only the first of their four children being born here. Kelly’s Directory, however, listed B.E. Mocatta as the occupier until his death in 1914, and then Mrs B.E. Mocatta until her death in 1922.

No architect is yet known for this house, but whoever it was made excellent use of its site and aspect, placing it to be seen to greatest advantage on the bend approaching the river and village, all picturesque gables and chimneys. Every feature, from the red brick and hanging wall tiles, decorative timbering, varied gables and elaborate chimneys to the little balconies, is typical of fashionable houses in this area, and particularly in Datchet’s 1880 property boom streets: The Avenue, Montagu Road and Eton Road. But this house surpasses them all, demonstrating the family’s confidence in their wealth and style.

The Swancourt Flats

Leyfield was, of course, too big to survive as a family house and too close to the road to remain practical or very appealing. After Marion Mocatta’s death, and by about 1930, Kelly’s Directory lists five flats, as 1, 1A, 2, 3 & 4. This conversion saved the building which has remained very little changed on the exterior and has retained the rear garden with its splendid view of the back of the house. It seems that two front doors may have been built into the original entrance, to create new accesses, but it is hard to tell what else changed when the house was remodelled as flats.