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.

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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

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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