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What is The Deepdene?

From 1808, The Deepdene belonged to the famous connoisseur and collector, Thomas Hope. What Hope did at The Deepdene shaped fashionable taste elsewhere, not least in royal circles: Queen Victoria's Osborne House was derived from Hope's house. Disraeli wrote his novel Coningsby, a reflection on the politics of the 1830s, while staying at The Deepdene. A century later the park caught the imagination of Ralph Vaughan Williams, who successfully campaigned to rescue it from suburban development with the help of public donations.

The Deepdene owes its name to its distinctive topography: it contains a steep-sided, narrow dene, or dell, described by John Evelyn in 1655 as like an amphitheatre.

This picturesque, Virgilian retreat later caught the attention of Thomas Hope who remodelled the house in the Italianate style, but preserved the antique character of the landscape, introducing statues and a temple.

The latter commemorated the gift of Chart Park to the south of the house to the Deepdene estate, made by his brother in 1812. Parts of this landscape survive, but overgrowth means little is comprehensible to visitors. 

In 1817 Hope's young son Charles died of a fever on a visit to Rome. The grieving Hope built an immense, elemental tomb in a far-flung corner of his estate, with wide views of the surrounding countryside.

When Hope himself died in 1831, he too was interred in the new family mausoleum. Hope's son and heir Henry Thomas further remodelled the house in the 1840s and made major territorial additions to the estate including the Betchworth Park estate. The estate eventually grew to 12 miles in circumference.

Hope's legacy quickly dissolved, however: his famous London town house on Duchess Street was demolished in 1851; parts of The Deepdene estate became a golf course in 1897 and Dorking's suburbs began to encroach on its edges; the house was sold to Southern Railways and pulled down in 1969; the mausoleum was sealed in 1957 and, bizarrely, buried soon after.

Hope's reputation has been restored in recent years, culminating in the exhibition curated by David Watkin and Philip Hewat-Jaboor at the V&A in 2008.

The listing of the Mausoleum was upgraded to Grade II* in 2010, in recognition of its special importance. 

Volunteer Work

The Friends of Deepdene volunteers are currently working on six sites across the Hope Springs Eternal Heritage Trail including the Deepdene Estate and its Deepdene Trail.

Work is well underway in reviving the fascinating Hope Mausoleum at Chart Park, while the volunteer group - consisting of more than 25 members - are also working solidly on opening lost pathways and views at the Deepdene Terrace and Deepdene Gardens site.

You can view the Friends group's excellent work and how the project is inspiring them in this short video.

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