Dorking: Bury Hill and the Barclays

Bury Hill in 1914. Image: Courtesy of Dorking Museum

Bury Hill in 1914
Image: Courtesy of Dorking Museum

Lying on the west side of the town of Dorking, the Bury Hill estate was created by Edward Walter. He purchased Chadhurst farm in 1735 and bought up adjoining agricultural lands to build up an estate of 1600 acres which ran from Westcott and Milton to Coldharbour and the fringes of the Holmwood. On his death Bury Hill came into the hands of his son-in-law, Viscount Grimston.

Bury Hill was sold in 1815 in lots. Nearly a thousand acres were bought by Robert Barclay, a wealthy Southwark brewer. It remained in the Barclay family for 150 years. Barclay was a great gardener and botanist and he created pleasure gardens with large ornamental lakes. His gardener went on to found the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

The house was occupied by the military in the Second World War and the centre part was destroyed by fire on being converted in 1949, though the outer parts remain as apartments. The rest of the estate was then split and sold off.

Bury Hill lakes are now open for fishing.

48 thoughts on “Dorking: Bury Hill and the Barclays”

  1. Mary-Rose Barclay says:

    My great Grandfather was Arthur Kett Barclay who owned Bury Hill. As a child I used to visit my family at Bury Hill. This photo was probably taken by my Grandfather.

    1. Barry Marriott says:

      Mary Rose, I am researching Henry Wright who in the early 19th cent. lived for a time at Henstead House Suffolk, this was the residence of Charles Barclay. Is this part of your family? I believe the Charles Barclay I am looking at was amember of parliament. Can you help

  2. Nancy Grace says:

    Just found a postcard my Dad sent home in WWII it just says ‘my home just now posh eh?’ He was in the West Yorkshire regiment.

  3. patrick doyle says:

    My grandmother Margaret Edith Ison would have spent some time at Bury Hill. Her mother (and therefore my great grandmother)Neville Juliana, was born there I think.

  4. B. A. White says:

    C.H. MacLean, Esq. reporting on the poor law in Surrey in 1834:

  5. Mark Davison says:

    While metal detecting with the permission of the landowner in September 2011, in the area near Milton Court, Dorking, I unearthed two silvered livery buttons bearing the family crest of Arthur Kett Barclay, of Bury Hill. The buttons bear the motto: “In cruce spero” (I trust in the cross) and show the crest, a mitre (bishop’s head-dress) with tassels floating upwards. I would very much like to get in touch with Arthur Kett’s Barclay’s great-grand-daughter so I can send her a photograph of one of these livery buttons. My e-mail address is [email protected]

    1. Angela Barclay Browne says:

      Dear Mark,

      My mother is Mary-Rose Barclay great grand daughter of Arthur Kett Barclay. She would be very interested to receive photographs of the livery buttons.
      Many thanks
      Angela Browne

  6. ann taylor says:

    I am descended from Arthur Kett Barclay. His father Charles Barclay (my 3great grandfather) would be the C Barclay referred to above.

    1. Angela Barclay Browne says:

      Dear Ann,
      My grandfather is Charles Barclay. We have many family photos and would be happy to try and arrange to meet. We live in West Sussex on the coast.
      Kind regards
      Angela Browne

      1. humphrey barclay says:

        Hi Angela – I am from the baning branch and have many family photos as well, going back to the 1860s – would be very interested in a swap – best regards – Humphrey Barclay

  7. kathy atherton (Dorking Museum) says:

    The C Barclay who is referred to above as burned in effigy is more than likely Charles Barclay of Bury Hill, owner of the estate in the 1830s and local magistrate.

  8. Harold Moores says:

    Interesting details on Robert Barclay from your correspondents.Prior to Bury Hill Robert Barclay had a grand mansion on Clapham Common Northside, later occupied by Sir Charles Barrie, architect of the houses of Parliament. This house still stands and forms the left- hand frontage of the present Trinity Hospice. Barclay was an enthusiastic astronomer and had a large instrument in his garden. His immediate neighbour George Hibbert was also keenly involved in botanical activities, and on an 11 acre plot next to Barclay in Clapham had an exotic said to rival Kew in the early 1800\’s. Did one enthuse the other? For my own research on Hibbert I\’d rather like to know which. I have some reproduction images(drawings )of the Clapham properties but cannot tell whether they are of Barclay\’s or Hibbert\’s property. Are there any Barclay family papers of this era (ca 1780-1820)?

    1. David Mabberley says:

      Dear Harold

      As a botanist researching the networks of George Hibbert (who was against the abolition of slavery), i am intrigued by the Barclay connection you discuss. Were the images of their properties published anywhere, please?

      David Mabberley

  9. Angela Barclay Browne says:

    My great Grandfather Charles Wright Barclay was born at Old Bury Hill House , he met his future wife Florence L Barclay (nee Charlesworth) when she stayed at her aunts, Miss Maria Charlesworths, little house in the charming old fashioned Surrey village Nutfield. ‘The Cottage’ as it was known belonged to Arthur Barclay an elder brother of my great grandfather who lived at Nutfield Court. Charles and Florence married on March 10th 1881 in St. Annes Church Limehouse; a crowd of 2,500 people attended their wedding. Florence went on to become a very well known authoress writing many novels including The Rosary. My grandfather Rev. Cyril Charles Barclay often visited Old Bury Hill House with his wife Rose and Daughter Maryrose; they stayed their and enjoyed country weekends with friends and family in the 1930’s.
    We have many lovely paintings of Bury Hill grounds painted by my Great Aunts.
    I recently read that Barclays Bank of Hatton Garden, London took their staff on a day out at Old Bury Hill Fisheries, I wonder if they knew that they were in the ancestral home of one side of the Barclays banking family.
    We would love to get in touch with anyone who would like to meet up at Bury Hill for a get together and to share old photos of times spent their.

    1. Neville Bird says:

      I and my family are very interested in Barclay Family history, as Arthur Kett was my great grandfather; his youngest daughter Neville Juliana was my grandmother. Ann Taylor & Patrick Doyle are both related to me.

    2. Rosemary Stevens says:

      I have a bible that has come into my possession which has an inscription on the fly leaf mentioning a name Emily Barclay 1881. I have had difficulty finding any more information about her and in particular whether she was a relation to the Rev. Charles Barclay who was a vicar at Hertford Heath where I used to live.

      1. Angela Barclay Browne says:

        Dear Rosemary , my grt grandfather was rev Charles Barclay and his wife was Florence Barclay (authoress) who was vicar of Little Amwell Hertford Heath 1881-1920 , it is quite possible that his sister Emily Octavia Barclay owned the bible you now have , she was born in 1847 at bury hill house Dorking Surrey ,married 1868 Reginald More Bray (Barclay) in Shere surrey and died and was buried in shere Surrey 1926.
        I was interested that you lived in Hertford Heath ,my grt grandmother Florence Barclay started a mens bible class and i believe a Leyton bible reading class that lasted many years , as a farewell gift they presented her with a grandfather clock an exact copy of that at Hampton Court containing Westminster chimes , my mother Mary-Rose now has the clock , which is much loved . I hope to visit Hertford Heath myself this year. If you would like any further information please contact me.

        1. John Ghafur says:

          Dear Angela- My grand-daughter was christened in Florence Barclay’s Church at Hertford Heath where there is a plaque to her. I was fortunate to meet another descendant of the Barclays -Jill Whitcombe when she attended a talk I gave on Florence Barclay to the Ware Historical Society in 2010. I would love to meet you if you ever visit Hertford Heath again. Jill signed one of FB’s books and I would love you to sign one too. Regards John

    3. Paul Robb says:

      Hello Angela,
      I am a resident of Old Bury Hill House – my wife and I have lived for 11 years in the house that is one of the ‘wings’. It is a beautiful spot.
      I am always interested in the history of the house and the families that have lived here (hence looking at this website).
      I have at last plucked up the courage to make contact – I would so like to see the paintings of the grounds / house (and any photos if you have them). It is fascinating putting old pictures into the context of where we live now.
      Not sure how this could be achieved – do you have digital copies?
      Don’t want to put you to any trouble though.

      1. Hello Paul, just in case it is of use, I have many of the Barclay family members in my Family Tree, with research still ongoing as I write. If you are interested take a look at my website:

        best wishes


      2. Angel Browne says:

        Dear Paul , i would certainly love to show you our paintings and History of Old Bury Hill House , my mother MaryRose Willis nee Barclay who stayed there as child at family house party’s has memories of her visits and her grandfather was born there; she and i could come up from Worthing to visit you , if that would be convenient ? We are aquanted with Stuart and Rosie Glass who i believe still live in one of the ground floor wings ? Please contact me on email [email protected]

      3. Angel Barclay Browne says:

        Dear Paul , could you send me your email address , i would like to contact you re our visit to OBHH and lakes ?
        kindest regards , Angel Barclay Browne

  10. robert prime says:

    I believe my late father (same name)to be the elder brother of your g/mother Rose,whose parents were Robert and Sarah from Southwark

    1. Angela Barclay Browne says:

      My grandmother Rose Barclays parents were Robert and Sarah Prime from Southwark , that would make you my 2nd cousin and my mother Mary-Rose Barclay Wllis cousin ,your father Robert was my mothers uncle ; if you would like to meet up ,please contact me .

  11. Dr. Judith Carmel says:

    I am currently researching this property for a book on Surrey country houses (lost/destroyed). Any information/pictures/reminiscences/notes from family members or others originally/formerly associated with the Bury Hill estate up to the time of the partial ruin of the house, would be most welcome! Please do contact me. With many thanks



  12. Eleanor Barclay Taylor says:

    Hi, my mother was Margaret Barclay Murray nee Rogers. She was daughter of Magdalen Florence Rogers nee Barclay, eldest daughter of Florence Louisa Barclay. I have been researching the Scottish connections. An example…my 8th great grandmother Catherine Barclay was from very powerful Scottish families, royalty , Earls of Huntly, Darnley (Mary Queen of Scots) Catherine’s father built Gordonstoun. Loads more. A most interesting family to be connected to. Could anyone tell me what happened to the contents of Bury Hill re the fire ?

    1. Angela Barclay Browne says:

      Dear Eleanor I hope to be visiting Old Bury Hill House soon and will ask what happened to the contents re the fire , we do have some of the Barclay silver cutlery from Bury Hill passed down from Arthur Kett Barclay and several copies of the family portraits and original paintings which Maria Octavia Barclay painted of the lake and surrounding gardens whilst living at Bury Hill.I had the pleasure of meeting up with Ann Taylor in Romsey last year , perhaps a relation of yours ? I am a Great Great Niece of Magdalen Florence Barclay .

  13. Christine Ellen Barclay says:

    I am related to the Barclays of Bury Hill and would be interested to visit it some time and particularly to see the gardens as I am a keen horticulturalist. I have two volumes of The History of the Barclay family tracing our ancestory back to around 1066. There are several pages about Bury Hill with family trees detailing all the cousins.

    My Great Grandfather was Robert Leatham Barclay, Chairman of Barclays Bank. He lived on a large estate called High Leigh, Hoddesdon. The gardens and grounds were reputedly laid out by Joseph Paxton and it has a substantial Pullamite rock feature surrounding the ponds that drain down into the lake. Some of the land was given to people of Hoddesdon to create a natural park. This is called Barclay Park and we recently had volunteers from Barclays Bank helping to plant trees and shrubs in the new Jubilee Walk.

    High Leigh is now a Christian Conference Centre run by Christian Conference Trust and one can stay there. If you are coming to Hertford Heath please look me up, as I live in Hertford and own lots of Florence Barclay books and articles about her family and one of her daughters who helped Baydon Powell set up the Girl Guide movement. There is going to be a talk given about Florence Barclay, at the local historical society meeting, 8pm on May 8th in the St Andrew Centre, behind St Andrew’s Church, Hertford. It would be lovely to meet a distant cousin and talk about family history.

    1. Angela Barclay Browne says:

      I was very interested to read the comments made by Christine Ellen Barclay ,we hope to visit Bury Hill this year, our family still have items from the house including copies of many portraits of family ancestors .My sister Caroline Barclay-Willis is currently updating the Barclay family tree originally compiled by our Great Grandfather Charles Wright Barclay in 1884.My mother owns a few of Florence Barclays original manuscripts and and we have a few of her personal items , unfortunately we cannot attend the talk on May 8th Hertford , please could you let us know if there is ever another talk or gathering about Florence or Charles Barclay.Vera Charlesworth Barclay was my Great Aunt and i often stayed with her in Seaview on the Isle of Wight , she wrote many childrens books including the Jane books and in 1912 worked with Baydon – Powell ,she was the most significant woman in the scout movement at this time,she became one of the first Wolf Cub Akelas , she is on a First Day Cover commerating 100 years of scouting , printed by Benham of Kent.

    2. John Ghafur says:

      Dear Christine I was fascinated to learn of your links not only to the Barclay family((and Florence Barclay) but also to High Leigh and Barclay Park. My grand daughter was christened in the Hertford Heath Church where there is a plaque to Florence. I also give talks on Florence Barclay and was privileged to meet a relation Jill Whitcombe in 2010 when I gave a talk to the Ware Historical Society. As I live in Hoddesdon I would deem it a great pleasure to meet you and see your books and mementoes re the Barclay family. I also give talks on the Great Exhibition 1851 and was excited by the Paxton link you mention. Regards John

  14. John Bignold says:

    In 1961 my great grandfather,Arthur Bignold was presented by Major R.W.Barclay with a clock, commemorating 51 1/2 years as gardener at Bury Hill Gardens, I still have and takes pride of place at our house

  15. John Habron says:

    Hello to all you Barclay-ites!

    I am researching the life of Priscilla Barclay (1905-1994). I believe she grew up at Bury Hill and had an Alsatian dog called Helga (I have a photograph of her and the dog on the front door step, but it is conceivable that she may have been visiting). I think her father may have been Robert Wyvill Barclay.

    Priscilla studied at the Ecole Normale de Musique, Paris, then the London School of Dalcroze Eurhythmics, graduating in 1936. She gained an occupational therapy diploma and then became a pioneer music therapist. She worked for 21 years at St Lawrence’s Hospital, Caterham.

    Do you know anything about her? Anything at all?

    If so, I would love to hear from you.

    With thanks.

  16. Colin Weeden says:

    I am researching the life of Edward Neville Bray (1871-1954). He was one of the sons of Sir Reginald More Bray, a High Court judge and his wife, Lady Octavia Bray, nee Barclay, the daughter of Arthur Kett Barclay. The Brays were an eminent legal family, but Edward Neville Bray turned his back on this long tradition and became an electrical engineer and inventor, founding two firms of electrical engineers in the early part of the 20th century. He was also connected to the Lloyds banking family through his sister, Fanny Heln Bray, who married Charles Frederick Lloyd, a barrister, and the son of Sampson Samuel Lloyd, a former MP and chairman of Lloyds Bank. If anyone has any information about Edward Neville Bray, would they kindly contact me?

  17. Brian Butterly says:

    As part of our research into Powell corduroy School (dorking) formerly Dorking British School – there was a long standing benefactor in the 1930s Lt Col Barclay. Is this a relative/

  18. Phil Broomfield says:

    I am conducting a genealogical study on the Barclay family and have read this piece about the Barclays at Bury Hill.
    I would like to be put into contact with those people who have posted a message on the site which are descended from that family. Please can you advise how this can be done. Happy for my e-mail address to be passed onto the people to make contact with me.
    Best regards,
    Phil Broomfield

  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    The first bananas in England were sent to Robert Barclay and successfully grown by him at Bury Hill. After he died, his botanical collection was acquired by the Duke of Devonshire. The bananas we eat today descend from these and are called Cavendish (the Duke’s surname).

  20. Angela Barclay Browne says:

    All Barclay Old Bury Hill House family and anyone who has connections to the house , please can you write your memories of anything from the house or properties owned by the Barclay family including The Cottage owned by a brother of Arthur Kett Barclay in Nutfield Surrey , also any information on The Barclay /Perkins Brewery (now Courage ) and Barclays Bank 1 , 2 etc and Gurney , Freame and Buxton families that may have visited OBHH .
    it may be of interest to Barclay family decendants to know that Vera Charlesworth Barclay (daughter of Charles Wright Barclay and Florence , great grandaughter of Arthur Kett Barclay of Bury Hill ) started the Cub Scouts with Baden-Powell in 1916 and Vera Barclay was the first person to use DYB DYB DYB AND DOB DOB DOB (do your best and do our best ) , she has recently been celebrated on International Womens Day and Inspirational Women of World War 1. Vera Barclay is being remembered on 16 Dec , one hundred years to the day cub scouts started in in 1916 , my mother Mary Rose Barclay Willis will be representing her in the HOC on that day .

  21. Mrs Neville Bird says:

    Dear Angela, I am very interested with all your latest news, especially re Vera and the Wolf Cubs Anniversary. I am named after my grandmother, Neville Juliana Barclay, and as a female this draws comments! I discovered that Neville Juliana’s mother, Maria Octavia was the daughter of Ichabod Wright of Mapperley Hall , Nottingham. The Wrights were bankers and related to Langford Neville, so I think that is where my name comes from. Neville Juliana named her eldest daughter, Evelyn Neville.
    We have some of Maria Octavia’s paintings of Bury Hill in a beautiful old Victorian Screen and I have two albums of Neville Juliana’s paintings which are unique, she uses tiny photos of her families and friends and ornaments them with her paintings. eg young male friends are depicted as Knights in armour! One is of Charles Wilson who she marries. The Brays and Bovills and many others.
    I have copies of all Florence Barclay ‘s books, given to my father. She lived in Overstrand, Norfolk in later life and retired to Limpsfield in Surrey where she had been born. Her grave is in Limpsfield churchyard. Her aunt, Maria Louisa Charlesworth, lived as a child in Flowton, Suffolk where her father, Rev Samuel Charlesworth was the Rector. She used to visit a farm in Elmsett, a next door village to play with the children. Later she wrote a book about her connection with the family frorm the farm, we have this book as my son now lives and farms there!!

  22. Angela Barclay Browne says:

    Dear Neville , my great great grandfather was Arthur Kett Barclay and his wife Maria Octavia is my great great grandmother , his son Charles Wright Barclay( born at Old Bury Hill House Westcott Dorking Surrey, is my great grandfather and his wife Florence Louisa Barclay (nee Charlesworth ) famous author The Rosary etc is my great grandmother , i would be very interested if we could exchange email addresses and perhaps meet up with you at Bury Hill House , my mother Mary Rose Willis (nee Barclay ) who stayed at Bury Hill as a child would come too , we could bring some of the lovely watercolours we have of OBHH and lakes , look forward to hearing from you , Angela Barclay Browne

  23. Brian Butterly says:

    Robert Barclay was a generous benefactor to Powell-Corderoy school (Dorking) in the 1930s. He furnished a Christmas tree, presents for children and decorations each year. He was highly appreciated by the whole school and the governors.

  24. John Hurst says:

    Hello my name is John Hurst , can anyone give me any information on Pam Barclay , married I believe an Ian Reid and died in Co Galway about five years ago I believe she would have been about 82 years old . I went to her funeral and would like to know a little about her , thank you .

  25. Angel Barclay Browne says:

    Barclay family members . I was contacted by Mr Mike D’Cruze from Perth , Western Australia on Saturday 23 February , he has an antique mantle clock he purchased some years ago , which was presented to Robert Wyvill Barclay in 1901 upon the attainment of his majority at age 21 . He has now decided to sell the clock and would very much like it to go to a descendant of Robert Wyvill Barclay , please contact me through this forum if are interested in the clock , thank you .

    1. terry wooden says:


      I wonder if you ever discovered what happened to Robert Wyvill Barclay’s clock? We – the Westcott Local History Group – have only a passing interest. We knew of its existence from reports of the 21st birthday celebrations, and it would be nice to close our file on the Barclays of Bury Hill with information about its present whereabouts.
      Terry Wooden

  26. Stephen Mitchell says:

    In the 1950’s my father Frank Mitchell , started to clear the lake which mostly covered with reeds. Using a cable and tractor we hauled tons of them out onto the shore, picking the fish and snakes out and putting the fish back in and letting the snakes loose. Clearing the reeds took ages ( and the smell of rotting reeds was horrendous) . Father built a hut which mother would sell sandwiches and choc bars. Father got half a dozen army collapsible punts which he patched up and hired them out. I had an canoe which I used to go fishing. There was a pair of swans on the lake,but they wouldn’t let the cygnets stay when they became adults and chased them off. Over time we cleared some areas, and replanted other areas. As a 7year old weekends and holidays,driving the tractor round cutting the grass and hauling wood (no health and safety in those days) No zander in the lake in those days. Cabin on the island to sleep out and acres of grounds to play in,what more could a boy want?

    1. Angel Barclay Browne says:

      Dear Stephen , my name is Angel Barclay Browne and my great grandfather Charles Wright Barclay was born at Old Bury Hill House in 1853 , my great great Aunt Maria Octavia Barclay painted some beautiful pictures of the lake and house which we inherited through the family. In the 1950’s the house was still owned by the Barclays but was soon sold off to developers i believe and sadly a fire destroyed the middle of the house,around that time , did your father Frank Mitchell work for Barclay or the developers ? My mother ‘MaryRose Barclay’ used to attend the occasional ” Thursday to Mondays” with her parents Cyril and Rose Barclay ,when she was a tiny child and once was brought down to have a picnic by the lake by her Norland nanny .We hope to revisit the lake and house later this month .

  27. Jill Benson says:

    As a child I spent some of my holidays with a couple called Beryl and Edward – friends of my parents – who lived in the cottage at the entrance to Bury Hill Fisheries. I have vague memories of going up to the ‘big house’ for tea, or the like. Does anyone remember Beryl and Edward? They moved to the Isle of Arran.

    1. Angel Barclay Browne says:

      Dear Jill , did Beryl and Edward live in a cottage near coachouse area or The Malthouse ? I have a map of the area which I can send via wattsapp if you send me your number ? What years were they living there and do you remember what year you visited up at OBHH ?
      Kindest regards
      Angel Barclay Browne

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