Monday, 19 September 2016

Thomas Cubitt at Denbies


Thanks for popping in.

Whilst in Denbies Vineyard in Dorking, I was interested to hear that the original house on the Estate was built and lived in by Master Builder, Thomas Cubitt.  The house had a commanding view of the beautiful North Downs, in fact, before the woodlands grew, there were views to Crystal Palace, St Pauls Cathedral and Windsor Castle. Sadly, the main house no longer exists but lights in the ground mark where the old house used to be.

Denbies House built by Thomas Cubitt

Thomas Cubitt was born in Buxton, Norfolk in 1788 and became one of London's leading Master Builders creating the East front of Buckingham Palace, organiser of the Battersea Park Scheme, housing in Belgravia, Bloomsbury amongst other areas of London, he part-funded the Thames Embankment, built KempTown in Brighton, Polesden Lacey and my favourite, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, Queen Victoria's holiday home.

Thomas Cubitt in Dorking

At the same time he was building Osborne House, he built his own almost-100 room house on the Denbies Estate in the Italianate style in square formation with almost a quarter of a mile of connecting glasshouses.  The interior was very similar to Osborne House. Cubitt fabricated bricks in his own brickworks for the house and used layers of sea shells for sound proofing. Materials needed for construction arrived by rail to his own station, now Dorking West. With Denbies being in such a high position, water was a problem despite the 457 ft deep well built by a previous owner which used horses to raise buckets of water maybe that was why hip baths were used in the bedrooms as there were no bathrooms included. Sadly, he died less than three years after it was completed in 1855, leaving £1 million.

Osborne House

Polesden Lacey

The estate passed through the generations but death duties became crippling with the family having to sell off parcels of land and the upkeep of the house became too expensive.  The family converted the laundry block which was easier to maintain and the house was left empty by 1947. Following a fire, the house was demolished in 1953 and a lot of the estate given to the National Trust because of the death duties. If you'd like to read about life on the estate, here's a great link with old photos of the staff needed to run it. Thomas' son George, 1st Baron Ashcombe, built a church not far from the house and if staff members attended the Sunday service, they were given an hour off during the week!

St Barnabas Church

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, as a child, spent some of her holidays at Denbies learning to ride as Thomas' Great Grandson Roland, 3rd Baron Ashcombe, was her Uncle.

During the War the Estate was used by the Canadian Military, there's even a tank buried within the grounds to this day.

Current House


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