May 2012: Thomas Hope & the Deepdene – A Lost Landscape: Alex Bagnall

The subject of this talk is currently of heightened local interest. Thomas Hope was a remarkable man descended from a Scottish family who became very successful merchant bankers in Amsterdam and acquired enormous wealth. Instead of joining the family business, Thomas followed his passions for the arts and architecture. He went on the Grand Tour, returned to Holland, but then had to flee with his brothers to London to escape an invasion by Napoleon’s forces. This setback seems not to have unduly affected his wealth; he went on another Grand Tour, this time to the Middle East, and on return bought an Adam house in Duchess Street, London, which he re-modelled and furnished to his own designs. Although not to everyone’s liking the result was a unique and remarkable house in the heart of London.
Thomas then married, bought the Deepdene and he spent a fortune on it. The estate had been owned by the Earls of Arundel. Under Thomas’s direction the House was radically changed to his own classical style, the gardens were enhanced and the grounds embellished with temples and other structures. His brother Henry bought next door Chart Park which, on his death, came to Thomas who built the family mausoleum within its grounds. After Thomas’s death, his son added Betchworth Park and the result was one of the finest landscaped estates in the country.
Sadly this was not to last. The estate declined and was eventually sold. The house became a hotel and in 1939 was requisitioned for the railways. In the 1960s the house was demolished, Kuoni Travel bought part of the site for their offices and Dorking council acquired key surrounding areas, including the mausoleum which was later buried to make it safe. The area became overground, but it was always hoped that ‘the lost landscape’ and the mausoleum would be recovered. For some years now the council has been working with other groups to nachieve this aim which will create a Deepdene heritage trail from Cotmandene to Brockham and bring into being a major new amenity for our area. Alex who acts for the council on the project, outlined the plans for us and the outcome of a lottery bid is now awaited.  We very much hope it will be successful.