East Horsley, Horsley Towers

This drawing of East Horsley Park in 1839 shows it as Charles Barry designed it.

This drawing of East Horsley Park in 1839 shows it as Charles Barry designed it.

‘East Horsley Park’, 1839

There was a small tower with an onion dome over the front door, but during alterations in the 1850s Lord Lovelace added a porch in front of this entrance and a Great Hall, or Banqueting Hall as it was sometimes called, to the right of the porch. The large windows in this hall were emblazoned with coloured glass depicting the armorial bearings of the family.

The East Front as it is now with the Great Hall on the right  Image: HCPS

The East Front as it is now with the Great Hall on the right
Image: HCPS

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The arched trusses in the roof of the Great Hall

Image: HCPS

The great window in the Banqueting Hall Image: HCPS The great window in the Banqueting Hall

Image: HCPS

The southern aspect of the house now consists of three floors, but the original house had only two, as can be seen from the old photograph below, taken in the late 1860s.
Horsley Towers, southern aspect, late 1860s

Horsley Towers, southern aspect, late 1860s

Horsley Towers, southern aspect, present day  Image: HCPS

Horsley Towers, southern aspect, present day
Image: HCPS

Lord Lovelace married for a second time in 1865. His bride was a widow who had three sons, and another son was born nine months after the wedding. Perhaps there was a need for additional accommodation for his larger family, because soon afterwards another floor was added onto this side of the building.

The first addition to the house that Lord Lovelace made was the stuccoed tower (previously called the clock tower). From a photograph in a sales catalogue dated 1919 it looks as though the main tower was built of flint with brick quoins at the back and the two circular turrets on the front were also in brick. There is also evidence of a machicolated parapet at the top. The whole tower may have been encased in stucco during the 1920s or 30s, hence its later name, but it has now been restored to show the flint on the main part of the tower.

The west aspect of the house with the tower and the cloisters on the left  Image: HCPS

The west aspect of the house with the tower and the cloisters on the left
Image: HCPS

37 thoughts on “East Horsley, Horsley Towers”

  1. Tracy Bourke says:

    What a lovely building would love to explore!

  2. Laurie says:

    I remember staying here for a few days whilst on a course when I was an apprentice with the CEGB back in the late 50’s.
    Beautiful building, wasted on us youngsters then, but can appreciate it now that I am a little older

    1. June Pockett says:

      My father worked for the CEGB and attended several courses at Horsley Towers in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. I remember seeing group photographs taken inside and outside of the building.

  3. I was there a few years ago, sneaked in the back way to see where my grandparents used to work. I should have gone and knocked on the door. The women at the hotel did not know much. I later discovered that the stables and outbuildings are now part of the hotel. My father was born in one of those rooms, son of the Earl’s coachman. He lived there till the age of 12. The Earl died and things fell apart and they had to move. We are all horsey because of that place, my sons and I. Horses are in our blood. They reared horses for he Anglo-Boer War and WWi.

    1. Alan Davies says:

      Interesting that your grandfather was a coachman at Horsley Towers. My great grandfather, Robert Whiteside 1837 – 1905, was also a coachman there, and his wife Jane was a domestic servant. My maternal grandmother, Alice Durdle (nee Whiteside) was probably born there. Although born in Surrey, I have never been there, and live in the north of England now.

      1. Edward Francis says:

        Hi, I am an employee at Horsley Park and am always researching history of the property. It would be a privilege to be able to speak to you if you would be willing about your relatives time here.

        1. Brad says:

          Not sure how current the thread is, but have a lovely pen and ink sketch from 1877 drawn by the Lady in Waiting to Process Beatrice. Happy to share if anyone would like to see it.

        2. Clive Barker says:

          Hello Edward. Its some time since you commented on this site but I hope you might help. I am trying to find information and / or photos of Jack Collins who worked at there during the 1950s/ 60s possibly as a gardener. I am also looking for Ken Knox who may also have worked there. Any information would be welcome.

  4. Geoff says:

    I we’ll remember Horsley Towers from the 1960s when I attended several courses there.
    Most favourite was a two week course when it was sometimes possible to get a game of cricket on the Tower’s oval at the weekend.
    We slept in timber huts remote from the house…..cold in winter , fine in summer.
    Halcyon days!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Dennis Ogden says:

    My father worked for the Central Electricity Board and their London office was evacuated to Horsley Towers at the outbreak of WW2. He was a keen church organist. There was an old hand-pumped pipe organ built in to one of the rooms (a chapel?) and I was just old enough to pump it – with strict orders not to let the weight on the string rise up (indicating that the air supply to the pipes was failing). Being a boy, aged about 7, this was too much of a temptation. The weight went up, the pipes moaned dismally and dad was not pleased. Luckily it wasn’t an important occasion – probably a rehearsal. Happy days.

  6. john morrison says:

    I used to go there every summer holidays for 6 weeks from 1968 as my uncle was the bursar for the towers for the CEGB, Bill latter beautiful place and East Horsley a smashing little village. I remember the pub on the corner of the village on the Leatherhead to Guilford road The Duke of Wellington.

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  8. faye patterson says:

    I haven’t visited Horsley Towers but it sounds absolutely amazing! At the moment i am doing a project were you make a presentation on something known in Horsley, so i have chosen Horsley Towers.

  9. Roger Thorne says:

    I have just visited Horsley Towers as a two night stay with De Vers hotels the present owners.
    My memories of being ther in the late 1980’s attending a two week Contract Management Course run by the Electricity Council, came flooding back. The grounds and surrounding countryside is still marvellous but sadly the maintenance of the building leaves a lot to desire. I have only now picked up on a link with Sir Thomas Sopwith and the building, so much history.

  10. Sandy Hood says:

    My husband was one of the resident tutors at Horsley Towers in the early 1960s. Remember the courses on rapid reading? On visits during our engagement I stayed with the bursar in a house on the estate. The stables provided my fiance with a workshop where he made some of our first furniture in his spare time. Happy days. I remember the pub too. The row of shops hasn’t changed much. Does anyone recall the tunnelled access? Is it still used?
    Sandra Hood

  11. Clive Whalley says:

    I started my career in communication working for the Electricity Council who owned Horsley Towers at the time. I was in the Education and Training Branch and we were outstationed at Horsley. I designed training materials and had my design studio in the old master bedroom which we also used as a meeting room. I had a separate door with access to the organ loft overlooking the Great Hall. Another door opened into the ‘Pink Bathroom’ still complete with huge roll sided bath and early plumbing. My room had a fantastic fireplace and a set of carved oval plaques set into the ceiling. Some historians (I think) came one day just to see those. What a privilege to work in such a great historic house! I do remember the training college Burser and a number of the staff based there. I had great difficulties with my own boss at the time and the turors and administrators in the college were so helpful and supportive – Thank you all!

  12. Colin Stokes says:

    Well remember attending a couple of technical courses here at the Horsley Towers Establishment in the 1970s, whilst working for London Electricity Board. Sadly not housed in the main mansion, but in the wooded huts in the grounds, which I believe were installed as additional accommodation in the 1939-1945 war. Very cold in the winter period, as I remember. Did appreciate the drinks bar in the evenings, down the end of the cloisters. Glad to hear it has a new lease of life as a Country House Hotel–very suitable use for this interesting & quirky victorian mansion.

    Colin Stokes

  13. Duncan Hayler says:

    I worked as an apprentice bricklayer at Horsefly Towers in late 1982. I was lucky enough to work for James Longley Builders from Crawley. I remember matching up the flintwork and bullnose bricks on the garden walls. We had to used slaked lime mortar.
    We used to feed the huge carp in the pond. Such a lovely place.

  14. Lisa Curtis says:

    I recently stayed at the Hotel and it is truly amazing. We walked around the Grounds taking Photographs and tried to imagine what is was like in the 1800’s.
    Truly Beautiful : )

  15. Valerie Brown says:

    I worked for the C.E.G.B. at Battersea Power Station and attended a weekend conference at Horsley Towers in 1963. I met my husband there. He had to give a talk on his experience as an apprentice Engineer. Anyway we married 3 years later and now we live in Canada. I have wonderful memories of Horsley Towers. I still have the programme with everyone’s names. I am so glad that I kept it.

  16. Trevor Walhen says:

    While researching my book, I read that Horsley Towers was bought by Thomas Sopwith (famous for the Sopwith Pup & Camel) in 1912 for £150,000 spending another £50,000 in renovation. At a time when this amount of money could buy 40 or 50 nice houses in those days. The estate then included a private cricket pitch where local school teams were invited to play, with matches ended with a tea-party. The event of the year for these children was the Christmas parties. I believe there is a suite name after him for his contribution to the British Aircraft Industry.

    1. Norman Denison says:

      I’m currently researching Sir T.O.M Sopwith because of his acquisition in 1945 of Compton Manor at King’s Somborne in Hampshire. Can you remember where you got the information about his purchase of Horsley Towers or when and how much he sold that it for? Was it 1939, because his authorised biography states that he bought another property, Warfield Hall in 1939 and kept it until 1945.

  17. Keith collis says:

    This certainly brings back memories for me. I attended St Martins junior school in the fifties, also a Lovelace flint building and the school held their annual summer sports day in the grounds of Horsley Towers. I used to love walking through the long low tunnel to gain access to the rear grounds where the sports day took place. If memory serves me right there were two tunnels,one in and one out. I remember driving my own car through one tunnel because the other was closed being condemned unsafe and I think both deemed unfit to use by 1969. Every time I now smell creosote I think of the timber buildings used by the electricity board at the time. One year our school organised a trip to see the small museum displaying past and present electrical stuff housed in one of those huts. Fond memories indeed.

    1. Martin Hammer says:

      I also attended St Martins as you may well remember. My family moved to East Horsley when I was about 1 and we lived in Chalk Lane until my father died when I was 11, when we moved to a bungalow in West Horsley. I lived there with my mother and two brothers, until I was 20. When the Old Telephone Exchange (a Lovelace building was converted to flats my mother moved to one of them for her remaining years until she died in 1982 (I think, I’m not very good with dates). There was also another, undocumented, Lovelace building in The Sheepleas woods, an old hunting lodge we used to play near. When we knew it the walls were all standing but no roof and there was an old sort of stone made gate post top, quite large near it. I remember one day when we went there the gate post top had been rolled down a sloping field into some brambles, I expect it’s still there. The last time I visited there as an adult nothing remained of the lodge at all, just the trenches where the walls’ foundations had been. I expect it had been removed due to being a dangerous structure. I’ve now very happily retired to the Peak District and I thik I’ll remain here. I don’t particularly want to visit Horsley again for fear of being dismayed at all the building that has gone on since and completely changed what I remembered and loved.

  18. Rosalind Shepherd nee Williams says:

    I attended the village school from 1955 when my late father David Williams became Head of the CEA training establishment at Horsley Towers. I remember sports day, and the school coming to the cinema where projectionist showed cartoons etc and the Christmas party. We loved the organ in the minstrels gallery in the main hall. The library was amazing. We had a little rowing boat on the lake and played with the animals on home farm. An idyllic childhood. Ros Shepherd nee Williams.

  19. Suzi Davenport says:

    I am so pleased to have found this site. Thank you to those involved. My Grandparents lived in East Horsley. In the late 60s/ early 70s, I remember walking with my Grandmother to the shops when I was a child and passing Horsley Towers Gates each time. We would see Flamingos on our journey. I cannot find any reference to flamingos in East Horsley. Can anyone confirm that Flamingos lived in East Horsley, please ?

    1. Helen Skinner says:

      Hi Suzi. I was born in West Horsley in the 1968 and left for uni in1986 and yes there were pink flamingos on a private estate on the road between Horsley Towers and the main parade of shops. I remember standing at the gates with my dad and watching them all on the big pond (possibly a lake) at the front of the house.

    2. Colin Sharland-Brown says:

      Yes I can confirm.I have lived in East Horsley for over 50 years,and the flamingos stay around 1 of the ponds in Pennymead Drive or Pine Walk.

  20. Peter Raven says:

    I first came to Horsley Towers on a Telecommunications course in 1966. It was an impressive arrival, being picked up from the station by the Towers transport, driven through the tunnel to the main entrance. The wooden huts were a disappointment after that but we had coffee breaks and all meals in the Great Hall.

    It wasn’t until the 1980s that I returned, this time as joint organiser with Mrs Kay Jordan,the Finance Tutor, for the new Information Technology Course. It was a highly appropriate location for that course because of the Tower’s links with Ada Lovelace, Lord Lovelace’s first wife, who is famous in the computer world for her pioneering role in discussions with Charles Babbage on the idea of a Universal Computing Engine. She was inspired by the idea and went to on to write programs for this theoretical machine. She also postulated that such a machine would be capable of having artificial intelligence, and this was in the 1840s. There is no record, but its appears likely that Charles Babbage would have visited the Towers. Indeed it is reported that Charles and Ada, both being mathematicians had worked out a “fool proof” scheme to bet on the horses. It didn’t work. Ada’s contribution has been recognised since a major programming language was given the name Ada in her honour. For added historic interest she was the daughter of Lord Byron and his wife Anne Millbank. Anne was also a mathematician

    The new accommodation and lecture theatre block had been built by then, and was much more comfortable to work in, but not the same historic atmosphere. We used the Great hall for larger lectures, but that had lost its atmosphere which the dining tables had given it. The bar burnt down sometime in this era, and moved into the main house. A sitting room in the west wing had Lord Citrine’s library. He was Central Electricity Board chairman from 1947-57. Did he work at the Towers at some time? I wonder what happened to that collection of books?

    We used Horsley Towers for a variety of committee meetings so I became a regular visitor coming down from The Electricity Councils Research Centre at Capenhurst, Chester

  21. Stanley L Rooney says:

    Visited Horsley Towers for the first time last week, having read much about it in connexion with the Lovelaces. I believe Lord Lovelace built the tower to include a room in which Ada could work. I was left with the impression the recognition of the connexion with Ada left a lot to be desired. Her work was outstanding while working with Charles Babbage on his Difference Engine never built during his life, but built by the Science museum in the 80s and standing at the entrance to the mathematics dept in the Science Museum. Her work on the Analytical Engine, also never built, earned her the recognition today as the first computer programmer. She set out its ability to compute complex mathematical procedures in the form of a programme, Babbage said she understood the analytical engine, recognised as the most complex machine ever devised, better than anyone else he knew. Her work was used by Alan Turing when considering early thoughts of a computer 100 years later. Babbages analytical engine was a mechanical computer comprising the components so familiar to us today. In the 1980s the Pentagon named their military computer language after her Ada MLT STD 1815 her birth year, Ada has been adopted as the symbol to encourage girls to consider STEM subjects. She is currently being considered for depiction on a £50 note. Horsley Towers was her marital home and I believe we should ensure her contribution to the furtherance of mathematics, computer science and proof girls are as capable of scientific endeavours is never forgotten.

  22. John Palfreyman says:

    Horsley Towers used by the Electricity Council to run Training courses for engineers and senior staff from all over the UK.
    Attended courses here in the 1960’s

  23. michael waller says:

    I joined the C.E.B.on fifth Feb.1945 aged 14 as a junior in the S.E.England transmission drawing office.All the office’s for different areas comprised wooden huts joined by a central corridor.It was a very happy period for the start of my working life and long association in the electricity supply industry.There were living quarters for male staff in adjoining huts and female staff in the main building.Meal tickets were 6p and dinner was taken in the main beamed hall with minstrels gallery,waiter service!Morning and afternoon tea was also taken there entailing a walk each way from the huts.Sporting facilities included tennis,badminton shooting range,fishing,table tennis,snooker.The ‘cloisters’ housed filing cabinets for London’s underground cable system.Happy memories indeed.

  24. Ruth Papworth says:

    I worked at Horsley Towers in the 50s as junior artist for the CEB. I worked for Mr. Graley. I had a very nice office and an adjoining toilet which was a beautiful mahogany flat seat which stretched the width of the little room and a lid lifted up in the middle to reveal the loo. A beautiful wrought iron handle pulled up to flush. I was not well one day and the matron responsible for the wellfare of the Boiler Makers on courses there, put me to bed in one of the bedrooms . Having rested I was able to make my way home later. I am 88 now but still have vivid memories of my Happy time there. Ruth Papworth, nee Hookham.

  25. Ruth Papworth says:

    I did reply before but it is not on this list ,so again:- I worked at Horsley Towers in the early 50s as a junior artist for the CEB under Mr Graley. I hand lettered name cards to go on the tables in the classroom of Battersee Power Station boiler makers, attending lectures there. I have a photo of the staff which I could send if you have an Email. I was unwell one day and the matron responsible for the welfare of the boiler makers, put me to bed in her domertries with a hot drink and hot bottle until I felt well enough to travel home.I really enjoyed my time there and thought it a great priverlege.Ruth Papworth
    nee Hookham

  26. Gordon Bates says:

    I was a tutor here from 1975 to 1994.
    The comments here bring back many memories.
    My job in 75 was managing communication courses for Electricity Board managers and supervisors lasting one , two or three weeks.
    I was recruited by and reported to Hugh Donovan “the Warden” , he lived in the house at the end of the drive.
    He in turn reported to David Williams at the Electricity Council Millbank London. He was succeeded by Peter Shaw as chief education and Training Officer for the Council covering the whole of the UK.
    The new buildings in the old orchard were built to replace the existing wooden prefab huts [ used for accommodation / teaching ] as a result of a massive ice build up in the heating pipes which shattered.
    There used to be a giant Cedar tree in the middle of the grass lawn ? I witnessed its slow and sad fall in the late eighties!
    The old wooden NAFFI bar was run by George famous for his Thursday night egg tricks and many parties with booze flowing free.
    I could write reams of paper here but enough methinks
    The regular daily journey using the two tunnels was always a pleasure.
    Privatisation wrecked the whole scene!!!!

  27. Jim Hill says:

    Horsley Towers and the Estate were a significant part of my childhood.. I was born in Effingham (next village along the A246) in 1946.
    My Grand parents lived at Grand View in Dirtham Lane which was the Eastern Boundary of the walled estate. Some of my earliest memories were being taken to see Red Squirrels then resident inside the walls,, I was probably about 6 or 7. As time went on and as I grew up, many happy hours were spent roaming the wooods of the estate, times were simpler and the freedom of those days is long gone today.
    In my early teens We would fish the Towers lake for Carp , usually late evenimgs when CEGB people had gone home.
    On the estate near Pennymead tennis Club was a pond in deep woodland, which we called the Black Pond which we fished for Rudd.
    My various fishing forays on the estate continued up into my later teens, one evening a very attractive young lady on a horse questioned me about the legality of us fishing there, Poaching perhaps!. I sugested she was trespassing riding on the Estate, perhaps!
    The privatley educated young lady was from a some what higher social class than the lad from an Effingham Council Estate.
    The attractive young lady, later became my wife some fourty years ago, still very attractive, still riding horses.
    . Thank you Horsley Towers.

  28. Dudley Smith says:

    When I was a teenager in the 1960’s, the gate to Pine Walk was always open and we were allowed to walk in the grounds and feed the ducks. Security didn’t seem to be an issue then, and we soon discovered that it was possible to sneak into the building and explore the extraordinary corridors by the tower. Some of them were quite spooky.
    Later, when we were old enough to go to the Duke of Wellington and got thrown out at 10 p.m., we would drive back to Pine Walk by going through the tunnel. There was no breathalyser in those days. I suspect that we were partially responsible for the gate to Pine Walk being closed. Happy days!

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