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.

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Volunteers at Betchworth Castle
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Betchworth Castle

Deepdene Gardens

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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:

Find out more on the Friends’ website.

Our call for memories

In November 2015 we began a ‘Call for Memories’ about the Deepdene Estate, Dorking. We aim to gather stories and memories about the Deepdene Estate. These memories will form part of our records and interpretation of the ever-changing life of this great landscape.

frosty view

News so far

We have already been contacted by former Southern Rail employees who used to work in the house in the 50’s and 60’s, locals who lived in the new housing that spread across the Estate and even descendants of those who worked for one of the House’s last owners before it became a hotel.

These generous individuals have told us little snippets of their experiences of Deepdene – how there was a Southern Railway Home Guard made up from workers at Deepdene in World War Two, how a large computer was transported in pieces up to Deepdene House and how the large marble fireplaces were the only heating for the House in the 1950s.

As well as these stories shared in passing and via email we will also be recording memories as part of an Oral History Project in partnership with Dorking Museum.

The project

Brass plate from Deepdene House fireplace, the House was demolished in 1969.

An initial meeting for those who had a story to tell or wanted to learn how to help collect memories from others was held at Dorking Museum in late December last year. We were delighted to meet locals with memories to share and potential interviewees. A particular highlight was the arrival of a visitor with an actual piece of Deepdene House, a brass plate from one of Deepdene House’s fireplaces!


We were delighted that a group of volunteers signed up to learn about collecting, archiving and interpreting Oral Histories. These volunteers will be trained up by an expert from the Oral History Society in interviewing, editing and transcription techniques. The mix of audio and video recordings will then be archived with the support of Dorking Museum to preserve these memories for the future. A mix of the memories and stories will also be displayed in a variety of ways as part of the project including on the new project website (coming soon!) and at events such as our launch in September 2016.

Look out for updates on our progress in our quest for memories over the next few months.

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Visitors to Dorking Museum at our evening meeting December, 2015.



Visitors take a look behind the scenes

 “I was surprised at how much there was to see and hadn’t really appreciated [The Deepdene Estate’s] significance nationally.”
Visitor Feedback

November walks

Throughout November we ran our first series of behind the scenes walks for visitors showing them our plans for the new Deepdene Trail that explores the Deepdene Estate and will open in September 2016. The walks were illustrated by stories from the past provided by Project Manager, Alexander Bagnall.

Five walks were held: two shorter walks exploring the paths, old and new, of Deepdene Gardens and three ‘Hard Hat Tours’ that extended the walk to take in the mysteries being uncovered at the Hope Mausoleum.

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Alex leading the group in Deepdene Gardens


The shorter walks were run with Mole Valley District Council employees and Kuoni Travel employees, the ‘Hard Hat Tours’ were open to the public. We had a fantastic response, the ‘Hard Hat Tours’ were fully booked and we have a waiting list for the next set to be announced in the New Year.

 “The enthusiasm of Alex was wonderful and I was sorry his talk wasn’t longer.”
Visitor Feedback


The walks all took in the panoramas from the heart of the Cotmandene that in the past would have revealed to visitors their first view of the Deepdene Estate. Visitors also discovered the remnants of the 19th century kitchen gardens of the great Deepdene Estate still surviving on the Cotmandene.

Deepdene Gardens

Moving into the Deepdene Gardens we took visitors on a scramble through the new entrance to the gardens revealed by the hard work of the Friends of Deepdene volunteers. Over the next 10 months this will be transformed into an accessible entrance way.

After trekking through the tree and rhododendron-lined paths the route opened out to reveal the Deepdene Gardens. Alex delighted the visitors with stories about the garden’s, and estate’s, historical owners especially Regency arbiter of taste, Thomas Hope. He also highlighted how the landscape has changed through time from its earliest creators into the era of World War Two.

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Hope Mausoleum

For the adventurous walkers on our ‘Hard Hat tours’ we then descended down to Chart Park and the Deepdene Trail’s hidden gem – the Hope Mausoleum. Visitors discovered the sad tale behind its construction in memory of Thomas Hope’s young son who died, aged only 7 and that Thomas Hope is himself laid to rest inside Mausoleum’s vaulted chamber.

The Mausoleum was not at its best as we are in the process of conserving and reconstructing the damaged architecture. The works aim to be completed by February 2016 and the Mausoleum will be a key feature of the new Deepdene Trail when it opens in 2016.

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“A buried treasure. . .”
Visitor Feedback

Look out for more walks next year!

Many thanks to our visitors, staff and Kuoni Travel for supporting the project and to our partners including Dorking Golf Club who also supplied our visitors with welcome refreshments.

Another set of behind the scenes tours will be announced in the New Year so keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates.

 What surprised you the most about the Deepdene Estate? – “That it existed!”

The story so far . . .

First Steps

The first steps towards the successful launch of our project Hope Springs Eternal: The Deepdene Trail began in 2011 with Alexander Bagnall, Mole Valley District Council’s Tree and Countryside Officer. But the story wouldn’t have the happy ending it does without the support of the Friends of Deepdene – a group of inspired locals interested in conservation and the history of the Deepdene.

Thomas Hope’s Mausoleum

Alex’s interest sparked in 2008 with the V&A exhibition about Thomas Hope, owner of the Deepdene Estate in the early 19th century. As part of Alex’s role at the time he was responsible for the Chart Park area. A physical remnant of Thomas Hope’s time was still just visible in the Park, the Hope Mausoleum.

Hope Mausoleum 2008
The Hope Mausoleum 2008 – this mysterious chunk of stone and concrete was all you could see.

Alex contacted the Mausoleum and Monuments Trust who helped start a campaign to save the Hope Mausoleum. As a result in 2009 the Mausoleum was partially excavated and a year later survey work led to the first look inside in over 50 years.

The Friends of Deepdene

Around this time Bryan, Surrey Wildlife Trust Warden for the Deepdene Terrace became Warden of Chart Park. Soon other locals became interested in supporting the conservation of the site and by the end of 2011 a group of volunteers formed – the Friends of Deepdene, dedicated to the conservation of the Deepdene Estate with interests in local wildlife and local history.

Alex worked with The Friends’ volunteers tirelessly over the next year to highlight areas of interest around the Deepdene in order to find out what could be salvaged of the once great Estate.

Uncovering the Deepdene Estate

In 2012 they cleared the Coach Road in Betchworth Park, opened up views to the Terrace from Glory Wood and restored the beautiful steps up to the Terrace.

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Volunteers working on the Deepdene Terrace steps 2012

They also uncovered the remaining shape of the Deepdene Gardens from the undergrowth with the support of owner’s Kuoni Travel, lots of hard work and a few good fires!

In early 2013, the Friends put their backs to the shovels with work at Betchworth Castle and at the Hope Mausoleum. Other works over the year included improvements to the Deepdene Terrace and a great effort to clear Betchworth Park of Himalayan Basalm, an invasive and destructive plant.

First success – Development funding awarded

This hard work revealing what the Deepdene Estate still had to offer allowed Alex to put in a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery in 2013. They awarded funding to the Mole Valley District Council to conduct surveys, consultations and other key activities to further develop plans on how to rescue the Deepdene Estate.

Alex oversaw the development work seeking supporters, working out what needed to be repaired and conserved and developing the community engagement plan. The Friends continued to maintain the Estate and find ways to return the land to its historic roots.

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The Friends returning areas of Chart Park to pleasant grassland alongside their new car – ‘Jude’

The Friends also gained two key pieces of equipment that year, a car generously donated for transporting tools – nicknamed ‘Jude’ – and a shipping container that they transformed into a storage area – the Bothy.

2014 saw further development of the proposed project by Mole Valley District Council and Alex alongside the support on site by the Friends of Deepdene. A range of partners and stakeholders came forward to ensure the project’s success (see details on our partners).

Project Success!

Earlier in 2015 the project succeeded with the award of a £1m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The funds will be used to repair key architectural and landscape features to relink the fragmented parcels of land of the historic Deepdene Estate. We will also engage the local community and wider public in rediscovering this Great Lost Landscape. The new Deepdene Trail which will open to the public in September 2016.

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A big THANK YOU to all the volunteers who supported Alex and the Council and to the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting us in making this project possible. On-going support from our will ensure the Deepdene Estate can be enjoyed by all its visitors for many years to come.

Find out more about the Friends of Deepdene  at: