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The history of Dunsland

Small repaired walls surrounded by greenery at Dunsland
Repaired walls at Dunsland | © National Trust Images/Mel Peters

The estate at Dunsland was once home to a grand stone-built mansion, until a terrible fire destroyed it in 1967. Discover the history of this house and the fate that it sadly endured.

Key moments in the history of Dunsland House

An impressive house

With a history dating back to the Domesday Book (1086), the Tudor manor house of Dunsland would have been on par with the grand estates of Arlington Court or Saltram. The interior of the house was impressive in both scale and decoration, which can be seen in the remaining photographs, and the 1967 National Trust guidebook.

The National Trust

The National Trust bought the house in 1954 and spent many years restoring it. Not only had the beauty of the place been recovered but Dunsland was again beginning to play a part in the life of the local community and often hosted popular music recitals. The last of these were given to a packed audience on 14 November 1967. Three nights later the house caught fire and within a few hours was reduced to a smoking ruin.

A devastating fire

The cause of the fire was never fully established. Thankfully the Trust caretakers, who had worked for years bringing the house back to life, escaped with their lives – alerted to the blaze by their dog, Rover. Unfortunately, the house was deemed too expensive and unsafe to recover, and the National Trust made the difficult decision to demolish the remaining ruins.

Three firemen extinguishing fire at the gutted north front of Dunsland
The house burnt down in 1967 | © NT/G.M, Trinick

Dunsland today

Gardens and parkland

Despite its tragic history, Dunsland today is a beautiful and intriguing place. Look out for decorative building stones, a coach house, fishponds and other features of a bygone era that still remain, hidden by foliage. Its secret gardens and ancient parkland have become a peaceful haven for many rare plants and wildlife, such as lichens and insects.

Ancient oak and chestnut trees stand over the site where the grand house would have stood. Beautiful woodland has reclaimed the once cultivated ground, and nature groups such as the Holsworthy Beekeeping Society now use the site for their apiary.

Family walking in the woodland at Box Hill, Surrey

Discover more at Dunsland

Find out how to get to Dunsland, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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Recently planted trees in a field at Dunsland

Exploring the estate at Dunsland 

This tranquil, ancient parkland once befitted the grand house that stood in its midst. The park is home to a variety of trees and plenty of resident wildlife.