Cobham Park

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Mansion in Cobham Park

Cobham Park is a set of about 22 apartments in and around a converted country mansion and associated lawn, gardens, fields and woodlands in the mainly rural south of the parish of Cobham, Surrey in England. Its old extent[clarification needed] takes in the majority of Downside, Surrey, centred on a row of staff cottages.

A medieval predecessor was home to a local lord of the manor. In the 1720s a new mansion was built in the large grounds. John Ligonier, 1st Earl Ligonier made it his home and within a few decades it was bought by Harvey Christian Combe, of Combe Delafield and Co. brewery, a member of the Combe family and once elected Lord Mayor of London. Much of the estate, but excluding the main house, is owned by the same family. There are fields on the quite high left bank of the River Mole; much of it is protected Metropolitan Green Belt and the subject of other environmental protections.

History[edit]

Earliest records of a great house are in the 12th century when it was known as Down(e) Place. There are records of royal patronage from the late 13th century. The Downe family lived there for several generations, leading to the still extant name of Downside for the locality.[1] The house was later also known as "Downe Hall".

The house was rebuilt in the classical style in the 1720s by John Bridges. The design was based on an Italian villa of the 1680s. A description in Daniel Defoe's A Tour Through The Whole Island of Great Britain reads "... for the size of this House, there is hardly any other near London, which has more useful and elegant Apartments".[2] The grounds were also landscaped and the River Mole diverted.

In the 1840s it remained, according to historian Brayley, "a handsome and substantial building, nearly of a square form, and has a neat portico, which was erected some years ago in place of a veranda. It includes a good saloon with a coved and ornamented ceiling, (now a billiard room), a library, and other convenient apartments, embellished with a few marble busts, and some good pictures."[3]

In around 1750, John Ligonier, 1st Earl Ligonier occupied and bought Cobham Park and entertained William Pitt the Elder at a party soon afterwards. Ligonier appears to have used Cobham Park as a place of retreat and leisure (apparently he had a harem of four young women).[2] The house passed to a nephew Edward, who died childless twelve years later in 1782.

In 1806, Cobham Park was purchased by Harvey Christian Combe, a brewer, for £30,000 (equivalent to £2,400,000 in 2018). Harvey died in 1818 and left the house to his son Harvey, who died in 1857; the house then passed to a nephew, Charles Combe. The house was destroyed by fire in the early 1870s.

A new house was built on the same foundations and completed in 1873 to a design by Edward Middleton Barry, third son of Sir Charles Barry, architect of the Palace of Westminster. Pevsner does not appear to have liked the new house, describing it as "very ugly French Renaissance".[2] The Combe family left the house in the 1930s — Charles Combe moved to the opposite extreme of the parish, Painshill Park, in 1904. Later, family members moved into other houses on the estate, notably Cobham Court, Cossins House and Cobham Lodge.[4]

The house was then leased from the Combes by Eagle Star Insurance group (subsequently acquired by Zurich Financial Services) as a venue[clarification needed] and offices until 1958. In the 1960s and 1970s, various companies leased parts of the mansion house as office/conference facilities, in a creaking state of repair. In 1979 Logica leased the house and outbuildings. It later bought the freehold from the Combes and restored the buildings.[4]

Logica sold the house for £5.5 million in 2001 to Frogmore Estates who sold or leased it to Beechcroft (then a subsidiary of John Laing plc) who converted the house and outbuildings, and built new apartments on the site, to make a total of around 22 luxury retirement apartments.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Edward Wedlake Brayley; John Britton (1841). A topographical history of Surrey, by E.W. Brayley assisted by J. Britton and E.W. Brayley, jun. The geological section by G. Mantell. pp. 412–. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Ancient History of Cobham Park". andywebber.com. Retrieved 6 March 2008.
  3. ^ A Topographical History of Surrey, By Edward Wedlake Brayley Published 1850 (Page 410) [1]
  4. ^ a b c An Estate For All Seasons. A History of Cobham Park, Surrey and its Owners and Occupiers David Taylor, Phillimore & Co. (publisher), 2006

Coordinates: 51°19′16.32″N 0°24′35.10″W / 51.3212000°N 0.4097500°W / 51.3212000; -0.4097500