Vanbrugh's country retreat
In 1709, the renowned architect, playwright, courtier and spy Sir John Vanbrugh bought the area then known as Chargate Farm and Wood. He built himself an elegant retreat and began to develop the garden.
The birth of Claremont
Vanbrugh sold the estate to Thomas Pelham-Holles, the Duke of Newcastle in 1714. He helped the new owner develop 'Claremont', working on designing the gardens and extending the mansion.
A formal garden
In the early years of Claremont, around the 1720s, designer Charles Bridgeman crafted a formal garden for the Duke. His most notable addition was the three-acre turf amphitheatre, painstakingly carved into 'Bridgeman's Hill'.
A more natural design
As the formal garden went out of style in the 1730s, Newcastle employed William Kent to bring it up to date. He replanted large areas and expanded the 'round basin' at the base of the amphitheatre into a serpentine lake.
Clive of India
In 1769, Clive of India bought Claremont. He commissioned 'Capability' Brown to build a replacement mansion and move Portsmouth Road further away. Sadly, Lord Clive died in 1774 before work was finished.
During the period 1816-1922, Claremont became a much loved home to British and foreign royalty. Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold added features like the Camellia greenhouse, but later owners made only minor alterations.
Breakup of the estate
In 1922 much of the Claremont estate was sold for housing development, leaving just the house and surrounding 210 acres of garden. Most buildings were demolished, but the house became a school in 1930.
The National Trust
Given to the treasury in lieu of tax, in 1949 the surviving 49 acres of the garden were passed to the National Trust. In the 1970s, a grant from the Slater Foundation allowed the Trust to restore the grounds.
Memories of Claremont
For nearly all the Duke of Newcastle's life, Claremont held a special place in his heart. It was somewhere he could relax away from his official duties as Secretary of State and Prime Minister.
Clive of India had big ambitions for Claremont but, despite his love for the estate, he was never able to live here. His new house wasn't completed until 1779, five years after his death.
Princess Charlotte wrote regularly of her great affection for her marital home. During their tragically brief time here, she and Prince Leopold spent many happy days together in the garden.
As a child, the future Queen Victoria lived a secluded and suffocating life at Kensington Palace. Staying with her Uncle Leopold at Claremont was a rare opportunity to enjoy some freedom.