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.

 

 

Advertisements

Re-discovering Deepdene’s historic paths

From 12th of December 2016 we began work to resurface two more historic paths on the Deepdene Trail to help visitors find their way and get around. The paths had been opened by hand earlier this year by the hard work of the Friends of Deepdene.

Early Deepdene paths

From its earliest times there has been a path network throughout Deepdene that has encouraged visitors to explore.

In 1653 when Charles Howard became owner of the estate, Deepdene mainly consisted of the deep valley at the heart of the grounds that are the Gardens of Deepdene today. He created there, over the next 20 years, one of the first truly Italianate Gardens in England. This ambition was greatly supported by the steep sides of the valley into which he cut paths creating Italian-style terraces in the manner of a theatre.

Sir Charles has shaped his valley in the form of a theatre with more than six narrow walks on the sides, like rows of seats, one above the other. . .’

John Aubrey describing his visit to Deepdene in 1673

The Hope family’s path network

In 1807 Thomas Hope became Deepdene’s owner followed by his son Henry Hope in 1832 and it is from their time that the main paths of the Deepdene Trail were formed.

‘Here I was much gratified with a pleasing picture of landscape-gardening; the quiet of echoing dells; and the refreshing coolness of caves and subterranean passages, all which combined to render this spot a kind of Fairy Region. Flower- gardens, laid out in parterres, with much taste, here mingle the aspect of trim neatness with rude nature, in walks winding though woods and plantations and containing several ruined grottoes and hermitages, well adapted, by their solitary situations, to study and reverie.’

Timbs, 1822, describing Thomas Hope’s Deepdene in A Picturesque Promenade Round Dorking

The first path we are resurfacing formed a ‘serpentine’ walk through the woods that linked the Gardens to the Terrace. This drawing from 1825 shows the first version of this path in Thomas Hope’s time.

Deepdene_map_1825
Early path highlighted on map from Britton, J. 1826 Descriptive account of the Deepdene, the Seat of Thomas Hope Esq. © Reproduced by kind permission of the Lambeth Archives department

When Henry took over he completed this route. He also added a new path linking the parterre – the formal garden area that has always been a feature of the gardens at Deepdene – to the Middle Walk.

deepdene_paths_1870

These paths remained throughout the Deepdene, playing host to visitors such as Winston Churchill who came to see his aunt, the Duchess of Marlborough, when she rented the estate at the turn of the 20th century. Later they entertained guests of the Deepdene Hotel in the 1920’s and 1930’s. As the estate was broken up and the House repurposed as headquarters for the Southern Railway (1939-1966), however, many started to become less cared for and overgrown.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Friends of Deepdene

This year these two particular paths were uncovered by the Friends of Deepdene. The volunteers worked with us to locate and map out these historic routes then by hand they cut through the overgrowth revealing the routes we use today. Thanks to their hard work we can now relay the surface onto these paths allowing visitors to get around the Trail with more ease and follow these historic routes like visitors did in the past.

Join us!

Would you like to join the Friends on site and get involved in work like this? They currently work two days every week (Wednesday-Thursday). If you are interested in conserving this fantastic historic landscape, looking for a bit of regular exercise or are a dab hand with a pair of secateurs and willing to lend a hand, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact:

thedeepdenetrail@molevalley.gov.uk

Friends of Deepdene March-June update

In the last few months the Friends of Deepdene have stepped up their activities on the Trail and we welcomed fresh support for the team.

FoD barbecue
The team at the annual barbecue celebrating their hard work.

Trail blazing

One of the fantastic achievements of the Friends of huge benefit to the Trail has been the creation of several new connecting paths. These paths were marked out to follow historic routes located on old maps that in several areas had become impassable. With chainsaws, bowsaws and loppers at the ready the Friends have cleared these paths providing great new connections around the estate.

Outside groups lend a hand

The Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) Partnerships team and a MVDC apprentice joined the Friends on site and helped install some essential new steps on one of our new paths. It also gave them some idea of the work that has gone into the Trail by the volunteers.

The Gatwick Greenspace Group also joined us for a few days supporting the conservation of the landscape and helping clear invasive species like, Himalayan Balsam and bracken.

Most recently students from local Starhurst School have been lending a hand on site and learning new skills with our volunteers.

Staff at Deepdene Terraceb
Council team supports the Friends of Deepdene on site.

 

Deepdene Gardens

The new entrance way area to the Trail at Deepdene Gardens has been made much more visible from the road for walkers and there has been a lot of work clearing debris on the new paths.

gardens
Cutting new paths in Deepdene Gardens

The Friends have further widened the paths in the Gardens along the Middle walk and are cutting new spurs that will take visitors off the middle walk into the centre of the Gardens. They worked to carefully clean the flight of flint steps above the Grotto which they will be helping repair before the opening in September 2016.

The volunteers also helped support friendly archaeologist, Justin Russell of Archaeology South-East, who voluntarily performed the standing building survey for the WWII structures in the Garden.

Betchworth Park

At Betchworth Park the Friends have worked on de-frithing the lime trees (trimming the unwanted sprouting growth around the base), leaf-blowing and clearing invasive species. This already popular public path will provide a historic link through the wider estate from Deepdene Gardens to Betchworth Castle and Brockham.

Betchworth Castle

The Friends spent a couple of sessions out at Betchworth Castle helping Martin Higgins lay a new iron stone path next to lovely new railings commissioned by Martin for the Deepdene Trail. This key path has now made the unstable north side of the Castle accessible to future walkers on the Deepdene Trail.

Betchwroth railing
The new railing at Betchworth Castle.

Chart Park

At Chart Park the Friends have been keeping on top of the rapidly growing meadow and grassland, strimming, mowing and pulling out bracken. The area has been lovely throughout spring and early summer.

Helping the community

The Friends of Deepdene also spent a couple of days at Ranmore bike jumps clearing the area for users.ranmore blog

Join us!

Would you like to join the Friends on site and get involved in work like this? They currently work two days every week (Wednesday-Thursday). If you are interested in conserving this fantastic historic landscape, looking for a bit of regular exercise or are a dab hand with a pair of secateurs and willing to lend a hand, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact:

thedeepdenetrail@molevalley.gov.uk

 

Friends of Deepdene: Volunteer Update

The Friends of Deepdene have been providing essential support across the landscape of the Deepdene since 2011 but over the last few months they have been working particularly hard on The Trail.

The Hope Mausoleum

At the Hope Mausoleum the Friends donned their hard hats and high vis vests and spent time digging out the remains of the walls of the Mausoleum under the supervision of the Stone Masons PAYE. Their hard work helped reveal which elements of the stone work could be rescued and the extent of the walls that needed to be rebuilt.

The repairs to the Mausoleum are being carried out by PAYE, expert stone masons, on the advice we received from English Heritage to ensure the last surviving building by Thomas Hope is sensitively restored.

Chart Park

The Mausoleum sits nestled in the historic Chart Park – now mostly occupied by Dorking Golf Course. There are some areas around the Mausoleum however that the volunteers have been working hard to clear of brush and debris so that it can eventually return to grassland and wildflowers as it was in the early 19th century.

Chart park
Chart Park

Betchworth Castle

Further afield at the Eastern edge of the new Deepdene Trail lies the dramatic ruins of Betchworth Castle. Here at the end of last year the volunteers joined Castle owner, Martin Higgins, in moving young Yew trees growing on the slopes of the hill up to line the terrace around the Castle joining some ancient yews that still remained. This will strengthen the terrace which when the Trail is open will form part of a circuit of the Castle.

FoD volunteers at Betchworth 9.12.15
Volunteers at Betchworth Castle
Betchworth Castle 9.12.15
Betchworth Castle

Deepdene Gardens

mosaic stone_ Deepdene Gardens find_13.1.16  (1)
Mosaic Stone found in Deepdene Gardens

A major part of the Friends’ work has been in the heart of the Trail at Deepdene Gardens. The Gardens are still closed to the public as major works go on to repair key architectural features and open up the historic paths into the site for new visitors. The Friends have been working hard to open up these paths, cutting back the overgrown rhododendrons, digging out tricky tree stumps, even undertaking minor tree works with volunteers trained in using the chainsaw and bow-saw.

 

This fantastic transformation even uncovered an unusual stone find which is currently with Dorking Museum and we look forward to seeing if we can uncover more about which part of the life of this great estate it is linked to.

Join us!

Would you like to join the Friends on site and get involved in work like this? They currently work two days every week (Wednesday-Thursday) but we are looking at doing the occasional Saturday once the better weather sets in. If you are interested in conserving this fantastic historic landscape, looking for a bit of regular exercise or are a dab hand with a pair of secateurs and willing to lend a hand, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact:

thedeepdenetrail@molevalley.gov.uk

Find out more on the Friends’ website.