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It was a warm sunny morning when we left Worthing - and even warmer when we arrived at Claremont Landscape Garden, near Esher.

The Homewood had to be visited by minibus from Claremont and the first group set off straight away while the rest of us spent time in the Tearoom, Shop and wandered around the beautiful garden until it was time for our trip to The Homewood.  There were many walks to choose from around the lake and to the top of the amphitheatre.   Some admired the view from the shade.

Claremont has a long history of owners, including Foreign and British Royalty.

The Duke of Newcastle bought the Claremont Estate in 1714 when he was 21 years old from Sir John Vanbrugh.  The Estate consisted of 1500 acres. The Duke of Newcastle was Prime Minister twice and Secretary of State for 30 years and came to Claremont as a retreat.   He employed garden designers and Claremont became one of the most famous landscape gardens in Europe.  He built a house on the site and many garden buildings were erected.  The only one remaining is the Belvedere Tower, which was used for supper parties.  The Duke liked to use the thatched cottage for gambling; the present one is a 19th century replica building.

One of his designers (Bridgeman) created the amphitheatre in 1722, which consisted of semi-circular tiers of grass.  The grotto at the end of the lake replaced a cascade in1738.   A pavilion designed by William Kent was built on the island in the lake in the 18th century.   This was used for al fresco dining (it had its own kitchen!).

In later life, The Duke requested that shrubbery be planted on the amphitheatre.  (The original amphitheatre was restored by the National Trust in the 1970’s.)

The original house was demolished when Clive of India bought the Estate in 1769 and a new one built north of the original house.   Clive died before his new home was completed.   It still exists and is now The Claremont Fan Court School (not NT).

Claremont was a Royal residence from 1816-1922.  Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg were married in 1816 and were given Claremont by Parliament as a wedding present.  Sadly, Princess Charlotte died in childbirth after giving birth to a still born son in 1817.   If the child had lived, he would have become King of England and there would have been no Victorian era.  There is a painting by Henry Howard at Petworth House depicting this event.

As a child Victoria loved Claremont and stayed with her Uncle Leopold.  After her marriage to Albert she spent as much time as possible there.   Parliament later granted the Claremont Estate to her for her lifetime.

In 1922 most of the estate was sold for housing development - apart from the house, which was converted to a school in 1930 together with 230 acres.

In 1949, Claremont was transferred to the National Trust with 49 acres through the National Land Fund.

Successful musical and theatrical events have been held at Claremont in the past, especially the fete champetre evenings (outdoor entertainment).

The National Trust continues to preserve this beautiful garden.

The Homewood is a Modern Movement house, just a short distance from Claremont.  There was a guided tour of the house and an opportunity to see the picturesque woodland garden.  The huge lounge looks over the garden.

The house was designed by Architect Patrick Gwynne when he was 24 years old.   His parents had bought a Victorian house with10 acres here when Patrick was a child.

Patrick attended Harrow School and it was here that he discovered modern design when he saw the newly completed house called High and Over in Amersham, Buckinghamshire and visited properties in Europe.  He worked in the office of the Architect Wells Coates.

He persuaded his parents to let him design a clean design house further away from the road and this he did, being completed in 1938. 

During the Second World War, Patrick, his father and sister went into the armed forces and The Homewood was let.  His parents died in 1942 and his sister married after the War and moved away, so Patrick lived here on his own but entertained friends and family.  

This design was ahead of its time, with the living area on the first and second floors.  The house was supported by outer columns with no supporting walls within the house.   Patrick hosted many parties and entertained his friends and many famous celebrities.  The lounge had a sprung floor for dancing, and which still exists.  Patrick constantly updated his home and garden.   All fittings were designed with clean lines (Patrick Gwynne didn’t like clutter).   There is an area outside under cover for picnics and it has a swimming pool.  There was also a sun terrace on the roof.

He didn’t marry and wanted the house preserved as he had left it and had discussions with the National Trust in1993 about the possibility of him leaving his home to the Nation on his terms - he wanted the house to be open to the public and a family to live there.    This was agreed in 1999. He died in 2003.

We welcomed the air conditioning in the coach on our return journey home, after interesting visits to two very different National Trust properties.

Text by Janet Paterson                                 Photographs by Anthony Hobden and Janet Paterson

The Mausoleum

The Belvedere

Looking across the lake and
amphitheatre to the Mausoleum

The Island Pavilion

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Claremont Landscape Gardens and The Homewood