The Deepdene

The Deepdene
© Dorking Museum

The Deepdene was the grandest of all the estates in Dorking.  After more than 100 years in the Hope family it served as a hotel, and then the Southern Railway HQ during the war, before being demolished in 1967.

View from Deepdene Gardens 1870 © Dorking Museum

Situated on the south-eastern edge of the town, 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.

View of the Temple from Deepdene Gardens, 1909
© Surrey History Centre

In 1807 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 Hope’s 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 Lord Francis Pelham Clinton Hope, Thomas Hope’s great grandson, who let it to Lily, dowager Duchess of Marlborough and her nephew, Winston Churchill, often visited her there.

The Deepdene in Wartime
The Deepdene in Wartime
© Dorking Museum

In the 1920s the estate was broken up as Maurice Chance developed some of the grounds for housing, and 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 and beyond, it never reverted to residential use. The Deepdene was demolished in 1967 and replaced by a modern office block. The office block was converted in 2020 to housing.

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 the Coade stone lion, the magnificent grotto and romantic embattled tower. More information can be found on the Deepdene Trail website.

The Museum runs tours of the Deepdene Trail during the summer months – they can be booked here.

For more information on the Deepdene and the Deepdene Trail – buy Alex Bagnell’s book through our online bookshop.

Priced at £15.00.

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