Some of these images were taken with an early digital camera and are of low resolution. They are shown here as a record of what once was.
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What: Victorian mansion, later a nurses' home
Where: Colgate, West Sussex
Built: 1876 with extension c.1950.
Last Known Condition: Completely demolished
in 2007, housing now occupies the site.
Page Updated: June 2019
From the front drive, Beedingwood is a sad but magnificent sight, in the best tradition of Late Victorian architecture, her architect seems to have applied every adornment, pattern and style in his architectural vocabulary: gables, turrets, dormers, bays, bows, mullions, a porte-cochère and a distinctive round games room.
It seems criminal that such an architectural rarity has been allowed to reach this state, but even worse is the fact that even the most spirited attempts to save her have all ended in failure. For Beedingwood, years of putting off the inevitable are now taking their toll as month by month she edges closer to collapse.
Beedingwood was built in 1876 for Irish bacon merchant and Christian evangelist Thomas Anthony Denny (1818-1909) and his wife Mary Jane Noel. Unfortunately, Mary died the following year but Denny continued to live at Beedingwood until 1893, when he married Lady Elizabeth Hope and moved away
In 1894 the house was sold and became the home of the Rev. EDL Harvey MA, OBE, JP, his wife Constance, their family and twenty domestic staff.
Edward Douglas Lennox Harvey, who had recently left his position as
rector of Downham Market in Norfolk was keen to serve the community and was to fill the roles of
Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant for Sussex, Chairman of Sussex
County Cricket Club, Collyer's School Governors, the local Conservative Party and Horsham Magistrates as well as becoming a member of the District and County Councils.
Harvey's life at Beedingwood does not seem to have been an overly happy one, however, and was marked by the deaths of several family members:
in 1897 the family suffered the loss of a nine year old daughter, Marjorie to a sudden illness. In April 1908 the youngest son, Ernest Ian, drowned in a boating accident at Eton, which was followed by the death of his mother just three months later.
Harvey remarried, and Emma, his second wife bore him a son in 1913 but tragedy struck again the following year when his two
eldest sons, Douglas and Frank, both Lieutenants in the 8th Queen's
Royal Lancers, were killed in action near Messines.
The Reverend himself died in 1938 at the age of 80 and his estate was sold shortly afterwards.
In 1943, a group of professionals and philanthropists who had been
growing increasingly concerned at the rise in low level psychological
disorders brought on by the ongoing war came together to form the The National
Council for the Rehabilitation of Industrial Workers. This council had
a groundbreaking plan; to establish a residential rehabilitation centre
to help return workers suffering from overwork, nervous strain and
depression to full productivity. In 1944, the group aquired a house called
Roffey Park (across the road from Beedingwood) and set about converting it to serve as a hospital. Shortly
afterwards they acquired Beedingwood, which they used for auxiliary
medical and support staff.
After the war, the hospital continued its rehabilitation work, helping patients with neuroses and post-traumatic stress disorders. By the end of 1946 the council had converted the Beedingwood Estate's old stables
and dairy to serve as a research and training institute.
In 1981 the Rehabilitation Centre, by then known as Roffey
Park Hospital became the first in England to close under the Conservative Government's 'Care in the Community' programme. The estate buildings were sold: Roffey Park was converted into flats while Beedingwood and the stables became a management college. Shortly afterwards Beedingwood became surplus to requirements and was closed in 1983. The house was
sold in July 1994, and despite efforts to make it a listed building, it was soon stripped of anything valuable and left to decay.
By 2005, the building was a sorry sight; the
windows broken and blocked with wooden boards, the roof partly caved in
and the lawn covered with pieces of masonry and woodwork from inside
spake of years of neglect.
Sheds and Greenhouse:
To heat the buildings the institute had two large oil tanks installed in a shed which also housed a workshop and storage. Nearby are the remains of a hardwood framed greenhouse, almost entirely engulfed by vegetation.
probably built as kitchen and accommodation block, this austere brown brick extension dates from the 1950s. A van has been abandoned outside and seems to have had large sections of the adjoining structures collapse on top of it. This building is now the roost of dozens of pigeons, most of which narrowly avoid throwing themselves against walls, girders and occasionally people in an effort to get out whenever someone moves or makes a noise.
the round room probably originated as a game room but was used as a dining room by the instute. Photographs from the 1950s show a mural of nineteenth century town scenes painted between the picture rail and the upper windows; this has long gone but two interesting murals have been painted here since the place was abandoned, one showing Beedingwood as it looked prior to the collapse of the upper front room.
The floors of the central part of the house have all collapsed leaving it hollow up to the rafters, where fireplaces and dado rails now stranded halfway up mouldering walls. Descending into a maze of basement kitchens, pantries and stores which extends underneath the dining room is the only way forward. Here and there among the the jumble of skeletal chairs, bedsteads and chunks of masonry are small clues to the rooms' past uses: a worn wooden pestle, a coal chute, a balding broom head and a battered meat slicer.
Climbing up a bank of slate shelves we find ourselves in the main corridor, stripped of floorboards. From here onwards, the only way to get around is by balancing precariously on the joists, which are about 3 inches wide and full of protruding nails. A side passage with a tiled floor leads to the back door and opposite is a flight of servants' stairs, (we'll come back to them later). On the same side of the corridor is the grand staircase, now destroyed by the collapse of the upper front hall and opposite leading off the corridor is the drawing room. At the end of the corridor and running around the main entrance is a carved wooden screen evidently inspired by the parclose or rood screens found in many mediæval churches.
The south facing drawing room is painted in a calming shade of blue and sports alcoves and a large bay window.
In an age where smoking was almost universal among men, many a sizable house would have had a smoking room to which the gentlemen would retreat to smoke and relax in the evenings. This room is conveniently connected to the Gentlemen's Parlour by twin doors and is much the same in plan as the drawing room, minus the bay window.
The north facing greeting parlour, a large room adjoining the main entrance would have been one of the the most impressive rooms in the house, with a large window taking up most of the front wall, the carved screen running along another, and in the other two walls, doors leading to the ladies' and gentlemen's parlours and the smoking room.
Ladies' and Gentlemen's Parlours:
The Gentlemen's Parlour is a south facing room with doors to the smoking room and greeting parlour. This is one of the the best preserved rooms in the house and the only room with enough floorboards to walk on, although that isn't necessarily a wise thing to do given their rottenness. Next door is the Ladies' Parlour, slightly smaller, less ornate and facing north. The room is dark and damp and contains apparently little of note.
The servants' stairs are now the only way to the upper floors.
We perch on the joists looking around: they give a clear view to the hard, unforgiving floor 15 feet below but thankfully hold well enough for now.
The first floor would have been occupied by the family's bedrooms, bathroom and so-on, but most are inaccessible to us because there is a large hole in the floor in front of us. Climbing more stairs we reach the attic, originally used for storage and as servants' quarters, hence it is only accessible via the servants' stair. At this point we perch some thirty feet above the hard concrete floor below.
In the early hours of the morning of Saturday April 28th, 2007, a fire broke out in the central part of the house destroying the drawing room, entrance hall, main bedrooms and corridors.
Fifty firefighters from seven brigades took four hours to extinguishing the fire, which there seems little doubt was a deliberate act.
The building was deemed unsafe and was demolished the same day.
In the Summer of 2008, planning permission was granted for three large detatched houses and garages to be built on the site.
Bibliography and Thanks -
The Derelict Miscellany: website and all content © D. A. Gregory unless stated to be otherwise.