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

25 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.

  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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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!

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. 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 : )

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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 ?

  19. 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

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