HERITAGE OPEN DAYS 2017: “LET ALL BY-PASSES BE BYGONES”

With the theme for this year’s Heritage Open Days focussed on “Wheels in Motion”, this article looks back to a controversy that placed Dorking in the national spotlight as the town sought to cope with the impact of an ever-increasing use of motor vehicles.

Photo 1 Lovers' Walk
Photo 1.  “The Lovers Walk”

Dorking’s Glory

For years the Glory Woods had formed part of the Deepdene estate, linked to the grounds of the mansion by two private bridges passing over Chart Lane.  These woods on the hills to the south above the town were always held in great affection by townsfolk.  Indeed, if the nickname given to St. Paul’s Road East of “Sweetshearts Lane” and the humorous postcard by ‘Cynicus’ are to be believed, the venue was also immensely popular with local courting couples!

The Gift

In November 1927 the Duke of Newcastle, Lord Francis Hope once owner of the entire Deepdene estate, gave notice that he intended to gift the woods to the town in celebration of his son Lord Lincoln’s coming of age.

Arrangements were put in hand for a ceremony at a “thanksgiving meeting” on Sunday 28th July 1929.  Bills announcing the event had been printed and posted

around the town, a band had been engaged, schoolchildren taught hymns and councillors had speeches prepared.

Photo 2 The Duke of Newcastle 1866-1941
Photo 2: The Duke of Newcastle

 The Upset

Just days before the gathering, the Council received a letter on 25th July with the Duke announcing the intention to withhold the gift. That sudden decision and the controversy that ensued was quickly picked up by national newspapers.

The cause of this upset was the proposed “Dorking By-Pass”, part of the County Council’s intended road improvements. Nine route options were discussed, eventually narrowed to three.  One, took the new by-pass up the Ashcombe Road, over Sondes Place, through the Nower and then roughly parallel with Ridgeway Road to North Holmwood. .  It had the advantage of using agricultural land and requiring no demolition.  Another route considered utilising Punchbowl Lane but there were difficulties in cutting that road and it was deemed impractical.

The third, most direct route was to follow the current line of the A24, straight up Deepdene Avenue but then on through the very recently laid-out housing in the Deepdene grounds, constructed when the mansion and gardens were sold a few years earlier.  Unsurprisingly, there were many protests that this route would violate a “first class residential district”, requiring that “gardens and residences would be forfeited and the road bought within feet of homes”. In a letter to “The Times” the Duke spoke of the “mutilation of the Glory Wood”.

 The Town’s Choice

All the options were debated. As Colonel Barclay of Bury Hill allowed public access to the Nower a meeting attended by 800 ratepayers opposed the “western” option through his parkland by 369 votes to 196.  The Duke accused the local

Council of “dirty tricks” and the council members “while smarting under the indignity of the position” voted to put the Glory Wood by-pass route on the map. In 1931 a

Ministry of Transport enquiry confirmed the Deepdene route with the compulsory purchase of two acres of the Glory Wood plus other land.  The Duke commented that “naturally I feel hurt that Surrey County Council should take a slice off and utterly destroy the beauties of Chart Lane – a lovely lane”.

Photo 3 Chart Lane (A)
Photo 3: Chart Lane

Whilst no doubt still seething about the route, the Duke’s gift was finally completed in October 1929 when his agent handed to the Council the deeds with a letter describing how “In making this gift was my intention to do my best to preserve for Dorking in perpetuity one of the beauty spots in its immediate vicinity, but the proposed by-pass will not only take a slice off the Glory Woods, it will completely destroy one of the lovely lanes for which Surrey is famous”. At the Duke’s own request there was to be no public ceremony. The following day the assembled councillors voted a unanimous resolution thanking the Duke for his “generous gift, not only to the town but to the nation”.

Photo 4 Construction of the By-Pass
Photo 4.  “Construction of the By-Pass”

Construction Begins

The building of the road commenced in 1931 with an estimated cost of £102,250, employing hundreds of men, half of whom came from distressed areas of the country. Homes were demolished, front gardens were cut away and the Deepdene Hotel faced with the prospect of a busy road cutting directly through the grounds very close to the mansion.

The Dorking by-pass was completed early and opened without ceremony on 2nd June 1934 to accommodate the traffic attending the Derby.  “The Times” reported that “two thousand rhododendron bushes and thousands of other bushes and trees”

had been planted guided by the advice of the Roads Beautifying Association. It was claimed “that in a few years time this will be the most beautiful arterial road in the South of England”.

 “Let all by-passes be bygones”

However, even as late as 1934 the by-pass decision still rankled with the Duke, who wrote, “I have deeply resented the fact that the people of Dorking did not oppose the spoiling of Chart Lane and the hacking away of part of the Glory Woods, which I made a free gift of to the town.  It was a dirty trick on the part of the Urban Council to accept the gift on the 8th April 1928 when they must have known on that date of the projected scheme”.

That same year at a meeting of the Urban Council it was reported that the chairman “Major Chance appealed to the Duke as a sportsman to withdraw his allegation against Dorking and he ended with the fervent wish “that we should let all by-passes be bygones”.”

Photo 5 The new By-Pass at the junction with Chart Lane
Photo 5:  “The new By-Pass at the junction with Chart Lane”

Researched by a Dorking Museum volunteer

Main sources:
“The Times Digital Archive 1785 – 2011”
Dorking Museum archives  

Photographs are reproduced by kind permission:
No. 1 Private Collection;
Nos. 2 – 5 Dorking Museum collection.

 

 

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Hopelessly in Love

It was at “Delmonico’s” restaurant in New York in 1892 that the dashing aristocrat, Lord Francis Hope, owner of the Deepdene estate, met and fell hopelessly in love with a star of the American stage, May Yohé.

May and Lord Francis
Lord Francis and May as a young couple. From the John Culme Footlights Collection.

 

Money and Marriage

A pretty singer and actress, May Yohé’s arrival in London only deepened Lord Francis’ infatuation. Already spending the wealth of a vast fortune, that included the fabulous Hope Diamond, in an extravagant, irresponsible way, Lord Francis unwisely began financing ventures to advance May’s career. Inevitably, bankruptcy loomed for the owner of the Deepdene estate despite his being heir to a dukedom.

“He’s Hope, and it’s a cinch he has faith, seeing he married Yohe and she hasn’t a dollar in the world; so I guess it’s a case of Faith, Hope and Charity”
George Bernard Shaw, quoted in R. Kurin, 1950, Madcap May

Before long the press was speculating that the couple might marry, prompting his Lordship’s family to absolute horror at the prospect – with their reputedly offering him £300,000 if he would break off the relationship. Nevertheless, Lord Francis proposed, May accepted, and in 1894 they were married. He was to spend a part of their honeymoon, however, attending the bankruptcy court.

Musical May

May epitomised the naughty nineties
R. Kurin, 1950, Madcap May

May Yohe
May Yohe as Little Christopher Columbus, by Alfred Ellis, 1893. Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London

Still at the height of her career May Yohé, now Lady Francis Hope continued to act and sing in sensationally popular musicals both in Europe and the USA. The Hope family wanted nothing to do with her. May was deliberately snubbed by society ladies when attending events but this was said to have changed dramatically when the playboy Edward, Prince of Wales, took an interest in her – as he did with numerous female performers.

 

 

A ‘Second Honeymoon’

By 1899 there were newspaper reports of a failing marriage and separation. Despite still living well beyond their means the couple embarked on a world tour. A ‘second honeymoon’ it was said but it was perhaps equally a way to escape his creditors. The state of their finances was so poor that May, on engaging to perform in New York the next year, had to do so with the embarrassing stipulation that Lord Francis appear in the theatre lobby, to be seen by theatre-goers as they arrived and again during the interval!  The marriage, her career and his finances were unravelling at an alarming rate.

The most handsome man in the Army

captain-putnam-bradlee-strong
Captain Putnam Bradlee Strong. Copyright Brown Brothers.

On the return voyage to Southampton they encountered fellow passenger US Army Captain Putnam Bradlee Strong; described as “the most handsome man in the Army”. Before very long “New York’s finest lover” was wooing May. Lord Francis seemed oblivious but, in truth, he had appeared to be showing very little interest in May perhaps even encouraging the outcome.

 

By 1901 the marriage was over, an infatuated Captain Strong resigned his army commission to be with May. She finally, very publically, deserted Lord Francis, who sought divorce in 1902 to be rid of his “giddy and unfaithful wife”. No sooner than the divorce was finalised, May married Putnam Strong but it was to be yet another doomed relationship. Her stage career staggered on with performances trading on her being “the former Lady Francis Hope”. She had a role in the 1921 silent film The Hope Diamond Mystery, “A story by May Yohé”, that probably magnified the rumours of the diamond curse to their current level of fame.hope-diamond-mystery-poster

The final fall

May remarried several times and attempted various unsuccessful money-making ventures until ending her days on hard times, having to work as an office cleaner and a clerk. When she died in 1938 her ashes were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean.  Had things turned out differently, she might have become the Duchess of Newcastle.

Lord Francis remarried happily to Olive Muriel Thompson in 1904 and inherited the title, Duke of Newcastle in 1928 but by that time had already destroyed much of the family wealth and estates through enforced sales to meet his debts. The once magnificent Deepdene had never been the real residence of unlucky Lord Francis but had been rented out, its wonderful collections of sculpture and art sold off and the wider estate broken up and sold to pay off his debts. Even the Hope Diamond was sold. The Duke was to finally return to Deepdene, however, when he died in 1941 and was interred in the Hope Mausoleum.

hope-mausoleum-july-16
The Hope Mausoleum on the Deepdene Trail.

 

Researched by a Dorking Museum volunteer

Find out more
Watch some episodes of May Yohé’s Mystery of the Hope Diamond!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQalu12S9Cg

Key Source
Kurin, R. 1950 Madcap May: Mistress of Myth, Men and Hope London: Smithsonian Books
'Every reasonable effort has been made to trace copyright of the images used but the Deepdene Trail project will  welcome any information relating to the copyright ownership  of any unattributed material shown.'

Thomas Hope

The Deepdene Trail focuses on the Deepdene Estate’s owner in the early 19th century, Thomas Hope.

Hope recognised the potential of the Italianate style house and gardens created by earlier owner Charles Howard. Hope remodelled Deepdene’s house and lands connecting the two with striking features that remained for several generations and still resonate with what we see and appreciate today.

Early life

Thomas Hope was born in 1769 into a family of highly successful and influential bankers.   Thomas’ ancestor, Henry Hope, had emigrated from Scotland to Amsterdam and set up as a merchant in the second half of the 17th Century.  He had three sons who entered into the banking business and became very successful raising loans for the British government to fund the seven years war.

By 1762 the Hope & Company Bank had become Europe’s leading merchant bank with famous clients including the King of Sweden and Catherine the Great.  The family became the most powerful and wealthy in Holland and lived as royalty.

Thomas’s father John owned a number of large houses in Amsterdam, The Hague, and Country seats near Harlem and Utrect. John also had a prominent collection of paintings sculpture and antiquities which eventually became part of Thomas’s great collection.

NPG 4574; Thomas Hope by Sir William Beechey
Thomas Hope, by Sir William Beechey, oil on canvas, 1798, NPG 4574 Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London

Grand Tour

Like many wealthy young men of the time, Thomas embarked on a Grand Tour of the Middle East aged only 18. Thomas’ grand tour was particularly extensive lasting eight years and taking in parts of the ancient world previously largely unvisited. He spent 12 months in Constantinople and took in Egypt, Greece, Syria, Sicily, Portugal and North Africa.

This extensive travel enabled him to see early classical architecture first hand and to purchase antiquities and commission works from upcoming artists such as John Flaxman and Bertel Thorvaldsen.

His grand tour of the Middle East was commemorated in his novel Anastasius.  It took London by storm when it was anonymously published in 1819.  Lord Byron is said to have ‘wept’ that he had not written it.

London

The revolutionary fever which swept Europe in the early 1790’s threatened the Hopes’ world.   The internal struggle between the Prince of Orange and the new Patriot party further unsettled their business environment.  With the imminent arrival of the French republican army a number of the family left for England in 1794. Thomas and his brothers fled Germany to join them in 1798.

London was then the richest city in the world and attracted the talented and ambitious. Thomas became a partner in the bank but was not particularly interested in the world of commerce and devoted his time to travel.

Thomas Hope bought two residences in England, the Deepdene in Dorking and Duchess Street House in London.

Duchess Street

Duchess Street was to become the focus of Hope’s great zeal to reform the standards and taste of craftsmanship and design in Regency England – which he felt was greatly inferior to that of Paris.

Built by Robert Adam, Hope soon set about remodelling the house in a neoclassical style to house his growing collection of art, antiquities and sculpture. Hope believed passionately in Neoclassicism and its power to guide a path back to true beauty

The-Egyptian-room-drawing_household furniture and interior decoration by thomas hope
Design of the Egyptian Room in Duchess Street, London.  Hope, T. 1807 Household Furniture and interior decoration.

Through his remodelling of Duchess Street mansion, Hope was able to show the physical manifestation of his ideas by using the finest craftsmen he could find to build furniture to his own designs. The house was then open to the public by ticket bringing Hopes taste into the public consciousness. Hope also invited members of the Royal Society to visit to see how they ‘should be’ styling their houses, an attitude that did not go down well with all members!

 

‘Said to be the richest, but undoubtedly far from the most agreeable man in Europe . . .’
Lord Glenbervie, 1801

The Deepdene

Hope married Louisa Beresford in 1806 and by the next year they had bought the Deepdene. The House had been built by Charles Howard the 10th Duke of Norfolk between the years 1777 and 1786.  With the house came 100 acres of arable and pasture land and a beautiful set of Italianate Gardens behind the House.

One of the first additions to the estate was Chart Park, bought by Thomas’s much loved younger brother Henry Philip and gifted to Thomas in 1813. To commemorate this gift Hope built a temple overlooking the park and inscribed the Temple pediment with the Latin phrase ‘Fratri Optimo  H.P.H’ – ‘To the best of brothers, H.P.H’.

Hope seemed content with the simple 13 bay Georgian house at Deepdene for a number of years. It wasn’t until 1818 that the first building works are recorded – the construction of a Mausoleum. Hope’s youngest son, Charles had tragically died of fever in Rome and the mausoleum was erected to house his ashes.

Hope soon began remodelling the Deepdene: stuccoing the exterior, adding two side wings, a new entrance, hall, offices and stables.

Deepdene House 1825_A.Bagnall comp
Deepdene House, c.1825

 

‘The well-stored mind of Mr Hope (who to an extensive acquaintance with every branch of the Fine Arts, adds the happy faculty of Drawing with facility and accuracy) enables him to design numerous Architectural Improvements in the House and Outbuildings; and also to embellish the home scenery. Instead of the small red brick, common place House which was here when he first took possession of the Demesne, we now behold a spacious Mansion, of pleasing colour, diversified and varied in its features, replete with interior luxuries, and exterior beauties.’
John Britton, 1826 Descriptive account of the Deepdene, the Seat of Thomas Hope Esq. (unpublished)

Despite never achieving a peerage, Thomas’s contribution to the arts was recognised in his lifetime. He was buried in 1831 in the family mausoleum.

Legacy

Sadly Hope’s remarkable house was greatly altered by his son Henry Thomas who also had a great interest in the arts and architecture. The house shown in the many photographs records Henry Hopes remodelled Deepdene.  Henry also added to the Estate including buying Betchworth Park and Castle in 1834.  The estate at its zenith measured 12 miles in circumference.

Henry Hope died in 1862 leaving his estates to his wife. These were in turn inherited by his youngest grandson Lord Francis Hope.  Regrettably he was inept and was soon declared bankrupt and started to sell off the family jewels.  The Hope collection was sold in 1917 soon followed by the sale of the House in 1920.

The house became a hotel until the second world war when it was brought by Southern Rail – becoming its headquarters in the south east. It was eventually sold in 1966 and demolished in 1969.

The Deepdene Trail will revitalise the Deepdene Estate and restore some of the influence of Thomas Hope back to the landscape.

mausoleum 6
The Hope Mausoleum being repaired and conserved for the Deepdene Trail, Feb 2016.

 

 

By Alexander Bagnall, Project Manager of Hope Springs Eternal: The Deepdene Trail

 

Key resources
Watkin, D. 1968 Thomas Hope and the Neo-Classical Idea London: John Murray
Watkin, D. and Hewatt-Jaboor, P. 2008. Thomas Hope Regency Designer London: Yale University Press