The Oaks has a more varied history than most houses of its age. There used to be
a local tradition that it was built by the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, for
one of his mistresses. Sadly, this exciting local folklore is untrue. The house was
built in 1888 by Sarah Baker, née Smith, a local girl who had become the mistress
of a wealthy London businessman. Within a few years, Sarah had fallen on hard
times and was forced to sell up.
By 1907 The Oaks estate had been bought by Major Richard Mullens, 2nd Dragoon
Guards, who rose in WW1 to be Major General Commanding 1 st Cavalry Division.
Under Mullens’ ownership, the estate expanded to occupy most of the land in the
centre of Langham but from about 1930 he started selling off parts and finally
sold the mansion and remaining land in December 1935.
The Oaks was bought by the Adelphi School Company, set up by the writer,
literary critic and radical socialist John Middleton Murry to establish the Adelphi Centre
as a ‘university’ for the study of socialism and its practice in community.
The Centre soon collapsed amid dissention surrounding the outbreak of the
Spanish Civil War and Murry’s conversion to pacifism and in 1937 The Oaks was
handed over to the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) to house fifty-three Basque
refugee children and their teachers. While the children were there, the house was
dubbed ‘Basque House’. The children stayed until after the end of the Spanish
Civil War in 1939, when they either went home or to foster homes throughout the
The Adelphi School Company reclaimed The Oaks and Max Plowman, journalist,
poet and prominent in the PPU, arrived to re-establish the Adelphi Centre but
this time as a commune of working pacifists. When the London Blitz began,
Plowman arranged to house elderly and infirm evacuees at the Centre, using the
land for market gardening. Plowman died in June 1941 and in early 1942 Murry
decided to wind up the Adelphi Centre and establish a community farm
elsewhere. His decision coincided with notice that the house and land would be
requisitioned for the coming airfield.
The requisition did not materialise and in early 1943 the Society of Friends
acquired The Oaks with 34 acres to set up a Home Office Approved School.
Langham Oaks School housed 65 boys up to the age of 13, most of whom had
been through the courts. This school closed in 1956 and The Oaks was bought by
Essex County Council and renamed Homestead School. On Homestead School’s
closure in 2008, The Oaks was occupied by Ramsden Hall School of Billericay for
boys with special needs. It became independent of Ramsden Hall in 2015 and was
again named Langham Oaks, one of the SEAX Trust’s five ‘SEMH’ Academies.
New purpose-built premises were erected in the grounds and the mansion was
vacated in 2020.