The Deepdene Estate, situated on the south-eastern edge of Dorking in Surrey, was once the home of one of the nations most enigmatic characters, Thomas Hope.
Thomas Hope (1769 – 1831), born in Amsterdam, was from a wealthy banking family that owned the globally influential Hope & Company Bank.
Thomas grew up around wealth, art, sculpture and antiquities and was widely travelled – his ‘Grand Tour’ of the Middle East lasted 8 years. In the 1790’s his family fled to England to avoid the French Revolutionary armies. Thomas bought a London house on Duchess Street which he soon set about remodelling and then he bought the house at Deepdene and surrounding Estate.
Thomas was an extraordinary collector, builder and designer of major national and international importance. He is regarded as a definitive Regency tastemaker and played a unique role in the arts as patron, collector, writer and designer being credited with inventing the phrase ‘interior design’.
The rise of Deepdene
The house and landscape Thomas bought had been first created by the Howard family. Charles Howard created an Italianate garden out of the Deepdene, one of the first in England, in the mid-17th century complete with terraces, grotto and even a laboratory built into natural tunnels in the Gardens. Several generations of Howards then developed the Deepdene further including building the house in the late-18th century that Thomas Hope eventually bought.
After a breif tenure in the hands of the Burrell family the Deepdene was purchased by Thomas Hope in 1807. After ten years of contented occupation Hope began a major remodelling. He remodelled the house into a unique structure that connected with the landscape of the Deepdene, constructed a Mausoleum for his youngest son Charles, who died only 7 years old and expanded the grounds by buying up neighbouring land. His brother gifted him the adjacent Chart Park estate to add to the Deepdene in 1814. To commemorate this gift Hope built a Temple on the high point of the park, Deepdene Terrace, in his brother’s honour.
On his death in 1831, the estate was inherited by his eldest son Henry Thomas Hope who further remodelled the House and expanded the grounds to include Betchworth Park, Betchworth Castle, Brockham village and part of Box Hill.
Henry passed the Estate to his widow, Anne, in 1862 and in 1884 the Deepdene went to their grandson, Lord Francis Hope-Pelham-Clinton, later 8th Duke of Newcastle.
The decline of Deepdene
Lord Francis Hope never lived at Deepdene, only visited, and was declared bankrupt in 1894. The house was then leased to the Dowager Duchess of Marlborough, the aunt of one Winston Churchill. The Duchess entertained at the Estate for many years but after her death in 1909, and with Lord Francis still in difficulties, the house and grounds began to be broken up and sold on. A grand sale in 1917 saw the loss of much of the house’s contents and in 1920 it was converted into a residential hotel.
The hotel declined in the 1930’s and when war broke out in 1939 it was purchased as a war emergency measure by Southern Railway.
Southern Railway set up their headquarters there and occupied the house throughout the war re-purposing the gardens as a communications hub complete with telephone exchange secreted into tunnels in the hillside. Southern Rail maintained offices there until 1967, when the house was sold to Federated Homes Ltd, a development company.
In 1969 Deepdene House was sadly demolished, however the striking features remaining of his picturesque landscape are being rediscovered as a major part of The Deepdene Trail.
The Deepdene Trail is born
The Deepdene Trail opened on the 10 September 2016, offering the beauty of The Deepdene Estate for all to enjoy. Mole Valley District Council is supported by the Friends of Dorking, a volunteer group who have been invaluable in working on the site to clear the gardens and uncover the tremendous horticultural features and views.