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The history of Hatchlands Park

A view across the park to the 18th century, red brick house at Hatchlands Park, Surrey
The 18th century house at Hatchlands Park | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Hatchlands has been a family home since it was built by the Boscawens in 1756. In the years since it's filled many roles, but there's almost always been a family at the heart of the park. Learn more about the people who made this place their own and uncover a few of the fascinating stories from 250 years of history.

The building of Hatchlands

Frances Evelyn Glanville first met Edward Boscawen when he was a 27-year-old captain in the Navy. They were married in 1742, before he set sail again. In total, Edward was away for almost 10 years of their marriage. He was swiftly promoted and finished his career as an Admiral of the Blue fleet and a celebrated war hero.

Worth the wait

Fanny wrote to Edward almost daily, keeping him up to date with her search for the perfect home. Her heart was set on Hatchlands, but it was not for sale. Eventually Hatchlands did come on to the market and thanks to the considerable amounts of prize money that Edward had amassed they were able to purchase it in 1749 and commission the house you see today.

While their new house was built at Hatchlands, Fanny was actively involved in the project and wrote regularly to her husband with updates. She was particularly proud of plans for her garden walk.

‘I will just deign to tell you that I have purple lilacs, yellow laburnums, white Gelder roses, fine red cinnamon roses’

Robert Adam's designs

The interior at Hatchlands Park is the earliest documented work in an English country house by Robert Adam, the celebrated Scottish neoclassical architect, interior designer and furniture designer. The detailed plasterwork of the ceilings is likely to have been inspired by the Roman stucco ceilings that Adam had studied on his grand tour.

The Admiral was not able to enjoy the fruits of his and Fanny’s labour for long. While at sea he suffered an attack of typhoid fever. He was brought ashore and transported to Hatchlands where Fanny nursed him constantly until he died in January 1761, just two years after Hatchlands was completed.

A wistful looking stone statue of "Paris", sitting on a lichen covered plinth in the grounds of Hatchlands Park, Surrey
Look out for the stone statue of 'Paris' | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

Remodelling Hatchlands Park and Repton's red book

William Brightwell Sumner purchased Hatchlands Park from Fanny Boscawen in 1770. His family continued to live at Hatchlands for four generations, but we know comparatively little about their lives here.

Joseph Bonomi's designs

George Holme Sumner took over Hatchlands Park after his father’s death in 1796. Unlike William, who made few changes to Hatchlands, George made changes that you can still see today. George commissioned Joseph Bonomi to draw plans to extend and improve the house and then employed the famous landscape designer Humphry Repton to draw up a scheme to improve the grounds.

Bonomi carried out alterations to the south and west fronts of the house. His proposal for a new entrance on the west front was carried out in 1797. His other work included alterations to the Garden Hall and Staircase Hall.

Humphry Repton's designs

Repton produced his plans for Hatchlands in 1800 in one of his celebrated red books. They included introducing pleasure grounds, the laying of dressed lawns around the house with gravel walks leading to points of interest. He recommended a screen of planting so that Hatchlands would be:

'changed from a large red house by the side of a high road, to a Gentleman-like residence in the midst of a park’.

The layout of the garden and the park beyond remains much as he envisaged.

Arthur Holme Sumner was the last Sumner to own Hatchlands. Because of mounting debts, the family decided that they could no longer afford to live at their elegant but expensive home.

The grand Music Room at Hatchlands Park, Surrey, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfields in 1902.
The Music Room at Hatchlands Park, featuring a piano from the Cobbe Collection. | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Adding the music room and a new garden design

The physical structure of Hatchlands that you see today is largely down to Stuart Rendel, later Lord Rendel, who bought Hatchlands in 1888 and moved here with his family.

Gertrude Jekyll designs the garden

He constructed a new entrance on the east side, converting what had originally been Admiral Boscawen’s bedroom and dressing room into a Dining Room and Entrance Hall. In 1900 he asked influential garden designer Gertrude Jekyll to submit designs for a formal garden that is still here today.

The influence of Sir Christopher Wren

In 1902, he commissioned Sir Reginald Blomfield to design a music room. It was built on the site of an old courtyard, which used to be screened off from the garden with a high wall. Blomfield was not a fan of Robert Adam interiors and the new room was designed in an architectural style often described as ‘Wrenaissance’ or Edwardian Baroque, heavily influenced by the work of Sir Christopher Wren.

Harry (‘Hal’) Stuart Goodhart-Rendel inherited Hatchlands Park from his grandfather in 1913. He did little to change the main house but used his architectural skills to design the two lodges at the entrance to the park and was instrumental in the finished design of the Music Room. He is also responsible for the addition of the stone temple to the garden; the inscription it bears is to his mother.

Hatchlands Park during wartime

During the First World War Hatchlands was put to use as an auxiliary hospital, in 1917 it provided 14 beds. The hospital was registered as ‘convalescent cases only’ so probably provided little actual nursing care, instead receiving recovering patients from the larger Guildford War Hospital. Nearby Clandon Park had a much larger role to play in this area.

The War Memorial in the neighbouring village of East Clandon, was designed by Hal Goodhart-Rendel and erected in 1922. It remembers 14 men killed in action.

Housing evacuees

During the Second World War, as London experienced daily bombing, Hatchlands provided a safe haven for the girls of St Anne’s Convent School. When war broke out Hal swiftly arranged for approximately 90 children to be evacuated from their convent school near Croydon. The girls, aged from 7 to 13, started to arrive on 1 September. War was declared just two days later.

Lessons were held in the house and the girls slept in the East Wing, formerly the servants’ quarters. Meals were taken in the hall at the foot of the grand staircase and the Music Room was converted into a chapel. They were accompanied by the teachers and nuns from the convent whilst Mr Brewster, the butler, assisted with the running of the house. Over the war years the school grew bigger and lessons were taken in other local buildings.

Hatchlands Park and the National Trust

Against a backdrop of the destruction of vast swathes of Britain's great houses, Hal Goodhart-Rendel was determined that his beloved Hatchlands Park should be preserved.

Hal gave Hatchlands to the National Trust in 1945 but stayed here until 1959. An agreement was made that all 420 acres were to be held inalienably and open to the public, with Hal staying on as a tenant.

Hal lived upstairs whilst the downstairs rooms were open to the public at one shilling, with no charge for the grounds. His faithful butler, Brewster, enchanted visitors as the tour guide and the guidebook was intricately written by Hal to hand down his knowledge.

‘I have made it one of the objects of my life to improve Hatchlands and preserve it from sale, partly because I love the place, as I think you do; and partly because I think it is of national value. The National Trust thinks this too.’

- H.S. Goodhart-Rendel

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