4 Alexandra Gardens: Villa Lavinia

4 Alexandra Gardens is currently split into two units, a three storey maisonette and a basement apartment. Until 2008 it was, with number 55 Alexandra Gardens, part of the Windsor Carlton Hotel with connecting doors at ground and basement levels.

When first built number 4 was jointly owned with number 3 and recent renovations in number 3 showed that there was a doorway between the two houses at top floor level – if the doorway was still there anyone using it would enter number 3 through a shower!

For many years number 4 was a boarding house, most notably from 1926 to 1941 when it was the “Windsor”, owned by Carrie Farrow who ran it with her aunt, Lavinia Smith. Lavinia was a long time loyal employee of J Lyons and Co and became supervisor of several Lyons Corner tea rooms, using a pony and carriage to visit the shops in her charge. Her niece, Carrie Farrow, a widow with a small son, Charles, also worked for J Lyons as a manageress.

“Windsor” in the 1947 Ventnor Guide

In 1934 (although by this time she had retired) Lavinia was awarded one of the 100 medals that were made to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first J Lyons & Co teashop. Lavinia met her husband Henry, who died in 1916, in Windsor in Berkshire, maybe that is the origin of the name?

The story that has been handed down their family is that when Lavinia retired, J Lyons offered to reward her for her long service and loyalty by buying a house on the Isle of Wight, for her and her niece Carrie Farrow to run as a guesthouse. J Lyons was funded by German Jewish business men, Barnett Salmon (Solomon) and brothers Isidore and Montague Gluckstein.

Lavinia Smith

Carrie Farrow

Carrie, Charles and young guests on the steps of number 4

The only condition of the guesthouse was that Lavinia and Carrie took in German Jewish students from Germany as well as ordinary holiday makers. It was rumoured that these students then did not go back to Germany, but instead to places such as Switzerland, due to growing unrest in Germany.

4 Alexandra Gardens was the property that was chosen, and was bought by auction in 1926.  Lavinia lived in an apartment in Grove Road, while Carrie lived in “Windsor”, 4 Alexandra Gardens, Ventnor with her four year old son Charles. Carrie and Lavinia ran the guesthouse together until it was too much for Lavinia. When she became ill with liver cancer she moved into number 4 and Carrie nursed her until she died there on 18th November 1941.

Over the years many people have reported a presence in the house and as recently as 2004 an image was seen outside the ground floor back room, could this be Lavinia?

A scene from 1935

We are not sure of the occasion in this photograph, or who most of the people are (if you can help please contact us) but we do know that the young boy in the middle of the picture is Charles Farrow and the woman to the right with long white dress is Carrie Farrow his mother.

The recent accident where a motorist demolished the gatepost outside number 1 unearthed the story of a previous collision, just after the Second World War. Del Pullman, who lived with his mother Ellen and father Arthur at number 4 ran the Windsor from 1945 having bought the house when it was empty after Carrie Farrow moved out.

Del was in the Navy at this time and was stationed at Portsmouth and was able to get home on a regular basis. He remembers the driver of an army truck who decided it wasn’t a good idea to take the truck down the cascade and reversed back up the road, straight into the gatepost. Mr Knight from number 1 piled the bricks up neatly in the road waiting for its repair.

Within a few days Del’s mother had an accident. She was in the basement, the dining room at the time, when Del heard her shouting whilst up in the top bedroom, he was painting his room with the only colour paint that was available at the time, battleship grey. He ran down to the basement to see his Mother in the floor of the basement. The joists had rotted away and the floorboards collapsed. The only part of his Mother he could see was from the waist up, her legs had disappeared under the floor. He managed to pull her out and fortunately she sustained no damage. However, the floor was not so lucky as a large hole had appeared and needed fixing.

That evening, under the cover of darkness Del hopped down to number 1 and removed the bricks from the destroyed pillar, little by little he brought them back to his mother’s basement and filled in the hole. After rendering the bricks with cement (it is unclear were he got the cement so soon after the war) he lost his balance grabbed the light pendent which came away in his hand revealing the live wire, instantly Del received an electric shock which throw him to the ground ruining the work he had just finished. Today, no doubt, the floor in the basement of number 4 has been renovated to the standard expected by building regulations, but are the bricks from the pillar still under there?

Sidney and Helen Pike outside the Windsor

Clive and Maureen Wakeling and the Greatest Little Show on Earth in 1957

Sidney and Helen Pike bought the Windsor in 1947 or 1948 and ran it until they retired in 1968. By all accounts Helen was an amazing cook, (she had been in service in London as a young woman, where she met Sid) and much of the food served included her own pickles, preserves and jams. Sid was a genial host, full of tricks and practical jokes.

Carnival week was important and the Windsor had its own float with guests (often regulars who came specially for Carnival week) taking part. Clive Wakeling remembers being part of the Shotgun Wedding as the irate father of the bride wielding a shotgun made by Mr Pike out of a broom handle and other bits of wood, and painted silver. His sister Maureen was the bride’s mother. Another was a caveman wedding, and one year the float was a punch and judy show on the back of a flat back truck.

In the late 1960’s was linked with number 5 to become the “Windsor Carlton Hotel”.

In December 2007 the doorway and covered walkway between 4 and 5 were blocked up and the buildings were once more separated.

The Late Victorian, full length mirror which now hangs in the hallway in number 5, was until this time, hanging in the hallway in number 4. The mirror was hung there shortly after the first time the hallway was decorated. When the mirror was removed in 2008 the original Victorian wallpaper could still be seen in pristine condition behind the mirror.

By January 2008 number 4 was sold. The lease and the freehold of number 4 were joined in September 2008 by the new owner, who renamed the house Villa Lavinia.

The original Victorian wallpaper


Here are some of the key names and dates associated with the house, gleaned from the Deeds, Kelly’s Directories and other sources.

29th July 1882 Date used as the base for the 999 year lease, probably issued to Drudge and Wheeler, the builders of the house
1883/84 Kelly’s shows the house was apartments occupied by W. Sheath
1885 Lease surrendered back to the freeholder Anna Maria May
Dec 1885 New joint lease for 3 and 4 issued to Samuel Wheeler
1886-1904 Kelly’s and the 1891 and 1901 Census shows that the house was lodgings run by Emily Sheath
Oct 1908 Harriet Seabrook bought the lease to 3 and 4 and continued to live in number 3
1910 Occupied by Miss Wearham according to Kelly’s
1912 Kelly’s list the occupants as C A Webb, Miss Hansen and Capt. Malcolmson
1918-24 Listed in Kelly’s as occupied by Mr and Mrs Meakin
1926-41 Kelly’s say it was a boarding house run by Mrs Farrow
1945-48 A Guest House run by Arthur and Ellen Pullman
1951 A Guest House run by Sid Frank Pike according to Kelly’s
1968 Mr Henry & Mrs Irene Carver, who owned number 5, linked the two houses together to form Windsor Carlton House, a small hotel
1975-79 George and Sheila Davies owned the Windsor Carlton, they introduced school parties and “Golden Rail” holidays
1979-86 Owned by Mrs and Mrs May – at this stage the hotel had 19 rooms
1986 – 2003 Owned by Richard and Caroline Woods
2003 Bought by Ann and Paul Hutchins which split numbers 4 and 5 into separate buildings again in 2008, remaining in number 5.
Jan 2008 Bought by the present owner.
Acknowledgement: We acknowledge and thank Jackie Long and her sisters for their information and pictures from 1926 – 1942 regarding their Great Aunt Lavinia and Grandmother Carrie.