The Park Hatch estate can be found in the hamlet of Loxhill, Surrey which lies in between the villages of Hascombe and Dunsfold. The former mansion house that is described below, sadly no longer exists, but much of the infrastructure and magnificent walls that surrounded the gardens still do. As the new custodians of the site on which the mansion stood, we are embarking on a life time project to restore as much as we can of the gardens and grounds which include 917 trees, and plan to build a country house that reflects in part, the Palladian style (but definitely not the size !), of the original house.
Little is known about Park Hatch during this period, although the etching below shows the North face of a large three-storey house built in 1763 with the Coach House in the foreground.
On June 29th 1814, the estate was put up for sale by auction. The auctioneers, Messrs Peacock and Son, described it as a “commodious mansion with detached offices, walled in gardens, pleasure grounds, orchards, fish ponds, coach house, kennels and stabling.” They went on to say that the estate was of particular merit for “…. a gentleman fond of field sports, for the present proprietor having spared no expense in preserving the Game, has rendered it in that respect almost without its rival.”
The then mansion consisted of four cellars (one of which we have uncovered and remains dry today), a hall, dining room, drawing room, and breakfast parlour on the ground floor; five first floor bedrooms, and five servants rooms on the second floor. The kitchen/brew house/wash house/larder was in a detached building.
301 acres of farmland and several “labourers tenements” were included in the sale. The land was 165 acres of lowlands and 136 of Upfolds.
The mortgage at the time was described as six or eight thousand pounds which seems a little imprecise!
Joseph Godman was the successful bidder.
Joseph was born in 1791 and his family were based in Chichester. Their early fortune was based around a brewing business in Winchester. This initial success was the foundation for the real money making venture – a brewing partnership between Messrs Godman, Martineau and Whitbread. Apparently they drew lots to give the new business one name and it thus became known as Whitbreads – a name that continues today.
Enriched by the success of this new venture, Joseph Godman decided to acquire a country estate, which brought him to Park Hatch. He died before the project was complete and his eldest son, also called Joseph took over.
It appears that the existing property was retained but massively extended on two sides. The architect was Henry Woodyer, who employed Thomas Cubitt to build the house – and it was he that produced the watercolour below, to show how the proposed building would look. The painting is dated 1850. Cubbitt is best known for building Osborne House for Queen Victoria.
The final building had a grander front portico, as shown below, with four palladian style pillars rather than the two originally designed. There is also a record of the toll road running to the south of the mansion being diverted in 1833, as Joseph felt it ran too close to the house. This explains the present shape of the current Dunsfold Road, consisting of two long straights, with a sharp 90 degree bend at the south west corner of the property.
By 1863, Joseph was in occupation but he died in 1873, so had little time to enjoy his new home. The conveyance shows the estate being passed to his sons, with the main house being inherited by…..Joseph (the third!) He died in 1896.
Joseph the Fourth took over and lived at Park Hatch until 1935. He was succeeded by Joseph the Fifth who vacated the property at the start of the second world war.
We have been in contact with Margaret Tasker, whose Father was the chauffeur at the house during this period. These are her reminisces :-
“My father was with the Godman family and was their chaffeur for many years. He was born in 1881, and was in the first world war. I do know if he was with them before the war,maybe after he came back from this war. He lived in a house in Burgate Lane with his first wife and daughter. This is on the way up to Burgate house.
My mother was in service at park hatch, when she was 13-14yrs old, she came from Co.Durham. I am not aware of the details, you know how these family details were kept secret!!! My mother and father obviously knew each other then, 1925 or there about. My father’s first wife died at 47yrs old, and somehow my mother and him kept in touch, as she returned to the North to become a nurse. He would drive up to the estate in Inverness which the Godmans owned, and would meet in Newcastle. Or so the story goes?!!
Anyway they did marry in 1937 in Guildford and lived in a flat over the garage, which I believe was the stables before. I was born there, and now I believe it is the coach house. I did go in there many years ago on one of my trips back.
He stayed with the Godmans until the 2nd world war, then it was taken over I think by the air-force, but anyway they never lived in it again. We moved down to one of the houses in New Road, and that was where we remained until his death in 1948. Years later we moved to Binhams Meadow in Dunsfold.
My childhood memories are of always going into the Park, and over into the garden of Park hatch and picking primroses in the huge garden. The corner cottage at the crossroads to Cranleigh and Dunsfold, lived the head gardener Mr Markwell, so I was always allowed to collect the flowers.
When I was a baby my mother had a bad car accident in New Road, and the people who lived in the Lodge towards Loxhill, each side was a separate house, their name was Hampshire. Well they looked after me for quite a long time, as my father was working.
I clearly remember the large pond, and the kitchen garden, which had greenhouses attached to one of the long walls to the big house. I would often go up with Mr.Markwell to help water this.
I suppose I thought it all belonged to us as it was on the doorstep, and a wonderful playground.
The photos I have of the house, I have the originals, but are framed on the wall of our house. Also many black and white photos of my father with the car he drove, some in the snow, which was higher than the car.
I always think these stories are worth recording for history,and my childhood is very clear to me.
The couple who lived in the coach house some years ago, and I cannot remember their name,her name was Geraldine, were doing some research on the house, and did have lots of photos, and I let her have copies of a couple of mine. I know she now lives in Bosham, and with my friends from Dunsfold maybe able to locate her?
Regards Margaret Gregory Tasker.1945 to 1957″
During the war, the property was occupied by Canadian troops – the 22 Armoured Brigade – who built Dunsfold Aerodrome (which is now the location for the Top Gear track and studio) located a couple of miles south of Park Hatch. There are still signs of their occupation on the site. Rows of concrete bases for barracks exist on the western edge of the land ………
and the officers latrines block remains (but only just)
At the East Lodge entrance, a tank maintenance facility was established, where the present owner of East Lodge, who was a boy at the time, recalls tanks being craned into the building through an open roof. The concrete base of this building remains in a small copse and is said to be many metres thick.
RSM Lockwood MBE recalls the building of Dunsfold Aerodrome at :-www.archive.org/stream/2BattalionRoyalCanadianEngineers/2_Battalion_Royal_Canadian_Engineers_djvu.txt
He describes arriving to find…”acres of beautiful crop and pasture land, broken at intervals by groves of staunch blue and red oak trees. It was one of the grandest pastoral scenes in the whole of England.”
We know little of what went on during this time and the once regular visits to the estate by ex servicemen who were billeted at Park Hatch appear to have ceased. We continue to search for more information.
What is clear is that the Godmans had no desire to return and maybe, due to the effects of post war austerity and the ridiculous death duties, they lacked the funds necessary to restore the house. The Surrey Fire Service used the property in the post war period.
In 1951, the entire estate was put up for auction. We believe the whole lot was acquired together. The purchaser was the Fourth Duke of Westminster.
Some time after this, the entire mansion house was demolished. Of the original four cellars (from the house built in 1763), three were caved in and filled with spoil and the fourth was bricked up. The front steps and some of the walls are all that remain of the original house.
The orangery was demolished but the heated floor and the undercrofts remain.
Following the death of the Duke of Westminster, the southern part of the estate was put back up for auction with John D Wood on 9 September 1958. The remaining part of the original estate – 1313 acres, four farms, and eleven houses – was sold later by the Duke of Westminster’s estate on 20 July 1972.
Lot 29 is described as “A most attractive site for the erection of a private dwellinghouse, (subject to planning permission) formerly the site of Park Hatch Mansion.” The lot included the stable block and walled garden plus 32 acres of pasture. The rateable value was £1. The catalogue included two photographs of the westerly and easterly views as below.
It would appear that Lot 29 was purchased by a property developer, who divided the estate into the three parts that exist to this day – Park Hatch, The Coach House, and the walled garden of Round House.
He chose to build a small chalet bungalow where once had stood the mansion, with an integral garage, kitchen and living room. This was bought by Mr & Mrs Corson, who extended the property in 1964, adding a second kitchen and dining room and converting the garage into a downstairs bedroom.
They also adapted the gardeners lean-to into the present Garden Cottage, as a home for Mrs Corson’s mother.
Here is Mrs Corson stood at the front entrance
In the 1994, Jan Pieter Veerman and his family moved in. JPV came back to see what we were up to in 2014. Here he is at the site.
JPV sent me the following from his Xmas letter in 2010:-
In England, I visited old friends on the Park Hatch estate. The house, deserted, overgrown and dishevelled, still not re-developed (4½ years on!) When it is (the plans are palatial bordering on the megalomaniac), the most likely new owner, I was given to understand, will be a filthy-rich Russian mafioso; in which case, the shutters will go down, the electric fences up, and the Khalashnikovs cocked. My all-time favourite dog Bas, who taught Erik to walk, laid buried in the grounds. Visiting requests likely to be met with a curt ‘Njet,’ a hail of bullets, or the jaws of a hungry Rottweiler. I dug Bas’s remains up, transported them, plus the heavy granite gravestone, to Isabel’s garden and re-enterred him there. Never done so weird an undertaking. At the first sight of animal remains, buried deeper than I’d thought (‘though vividly remembering the hard work at the time), I started talking to him, almost unvoluntarily. But his ghost cannot have been there: the ‘obolon,’ the small coin I’d pressed under his tongue when burying him, was untraceable – whilst all the other ‘imperishables’ were there. So he must have paid the mythical Ferryman to be transported to the Elysian Fields, and deservedly so.
In 2005, the site was acquired by a property developer who tried to get permission to build an enormous 25000 sq ft Footballers house on the site. This was eventually turned down on appeal.
Thus it was that on 5 January 2012, we became the new owners.
In August 2013 – we were visited by Mrs Joe Godman and her son Dominic, plus Caroline Hyman nee Godman.
Joe and Caroline are the siblings of the last Godman – their father Joseph – to own Park Hatch.
Attached is a photo of them on the original front door steps, plus some other great photos that I copied from Caroline’s home photo album.