Dorking: The Deepdene

The Deepdene in 1917. Image: Courtesy of Dorking Museum

The Deepdene in 1917
Image: Courtesy of Dorking Museum

Situated on the south-eastern edge of the town, the Deepdene was the greatest of Dorkings estates.

Charles Howard established his house at Dibden and laid out its ornamental gardens in the mid-seventeenth century. His family had owned most of the Manor of Dorking for centuries. His grandson, also Charles, built a Palladian mansion on the site in the 1760s and continued to spend his summers at the Deepdene even after becoming 10th Duke of Norfolk in 1777. The 11th Duke chose to reside at other of his estates, however.

In 1808 Thomas Hope, one of the richest men in England, bought the Deepdene. He enlarged the house with orangeries, conservatories, a library and galleries, filling it with antiques, sculptures and works of art. The estate was further extended by the acquisition of the Chart Park and Betchworth Castle estates, which were incorporated into the Deepdene.

During the ownership of Hopes son, Henry, the grounds stretched twelve miles from Box Hill to Brockham. Further extension saw the mansion become the splendid Renaissance-style palazzo where Disraeli wrote part of Coningsby.

Towards the end of the century the Deepdene passed to the Duke of Newcastle who had married into the Hope family. He let it to Lily, dowager Duchess of Marlborough and her nephew, Winston Churchill, often visited her there.

In the 1920s the estate was broken up as Maurice Chance developed some of the grounds for housing. The house became a grand hotel. A bypass of the town, (one of the first in the country), ruined the gardens. Occupied by the Southern Railway throughout the Second World War, it never reverted to residential use. The Deepdene was demolished in 1967. Now a modern office block occupies the site and all that remains of the Hope treasure house is the family mausoleum which was, until recently, buried to roof level.

In 2015, a £1 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund was secured to revive the landscape and key architectural features on the estate once owned by Thomas Hope, who lived in Deepdene House during the early 19th century. In September 2016, The Deepdene Trail was opened. Visitors can now explore free of charge at anytime an amazing landscape full of history, nature and hidden treasures. The Trail has restored and relinked the picturesque Deepdene estates gardens, shaped over hundreds of years by influential owners and now reawakened and reconnected by Mole Valley District Council. Highlights include the wonderfully austere 19th century Hope Mausoleum, the formal gardens including the newly re-instated parterre, Coady our Coade stone lion, the magnificent grotto and romantic embattled tower. More information can be found on the Deepdene Trail website.

10 thoughts on “Dorking: The Deepdene”

  1. A newly published life of Maundy Gregory, the notorious 1920s honours tout, by Andrew Cook records how Gregory became a silent partner in Deepdene when it was a hotel, popular for weekend liaisons. It had 90 rooms and competed with rendezvous such as Skindles, Maidenhead.

    As such it closed in 1936, after Gregory was jailed for selling titles and the place\’s reputation declined.

    1. Yvonne Campbell says:

      I believe my family either owned or part owned Deepdene when it was an hotel in the 1930s. I am struggling to find out any information about that period though. I have the book you mention and was very interested in reading about it.

  2. Sally Svenson says:

    My new book, “Lily, Duchess of Marlborough (1854–1909): A Portrait with Husbands,” discusses Deepdene during the years between 1894 and 1909 when it was Lily’s home.

  3. richardloveless says:

    In 1969 with some friends from UCL we explored the old tunnels under the hill at Deepdene
    and found remnants of old radio equipment left presumably by the SR after the war.
    A vertical shaft led from the end of a passage back to the surface via a steel ladder.
    We did find out that the tunnel had been dug by an earlier owner as a route to view the other side of the hill.

    1. Stuart Wilsdon says:

      I’m in the middle of reading Ruth Scurr’s ‘John Aubery, My Own Life’ in which, in July 1673, Aubery in his capacity to survey the county of Surrey, visits his friend Sir Charles Howard at his home in Deepdene, who was first responsible for laying out the substantial gardens. In Aubery’s own words: “There is a cave on the left-hand side of the hill, thirty six paces long, four broad and five yards high, and two thirds of the way up the hill there is another subterranean walk through which there is a vista over all southern Surrey towards the sea”. Could this be the tunnel Richardloveless refers to in the earlier post above?

    2. Sam Dawson says:

      You will have been exploring the Southern Railways WW2 control bunker built within the folly tunnels on the west side of the gardens originally built by Charles Howard. Opposite it is the cave described as being on the left side of the hill. It is known as the East Cave and is a further folly tunnel 85 long (ie around 36 paces long). The third tunnel, the one that would supposedly have given a vista over the sea, was not completed, and when described by Aubrey and Defoe it was as a work in progress. In fact it collapsed, narrowly missing killing the diggers. It’s entrance was turned into a shallow decorative grotto, which can be visited today as part of the Deepdene Trail.

  4. Dear Sirs. I saw an article in today’s Daily Mail (04/04/2917) about the Hope Mausoleum and was fascinated as I grew up nearby in Westhumble at the foot of Box Hill! In fact, I used to walk my dog around the fields where the vineyards are now situated. I checked out on Google and found all the fascinating history of Deepdene House. It is a shame that these great old houses have now gone.
    Yours faithfully
    Jennifer Pritchard

  5. Clare Davies says:

    Hi! I live in North Holmwood and about to paint my Edwardian front door which is one of the Dorking Brickworks workers’ cottages. I wondered if there was an estate colour for my area, perhaps the Deepdene estate? Was Goodwyn’s Farm the home farm for Deepdene?
    I’d be grateful for any knowledge on the subject!

  6. David Canning says:

    Re: Maurice Chance
    I am looking for relatives of this gentleman. He sold land to Mole Vally District Council in 1938, with a covenant that it should remain as a benefit to the residents of Dorking for all time.
    Now MVDC are proposing a sale of some of this land. I gather that a legal challenge is needed to stop this sale.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *