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The first house at Hollycombe was a cottage ornée, built by John Nash in 1803 for Sir Charles Taylor (1770-1857). Taylor was close friend of the Prince Regent, later George IV, and a member of the 'Carlton Set'. The design drawings and plans survive (RIBA) and were executed by George Stanley Repton, at that time employed in Nash's office. 'New Pleasure Grounds' were laid out to the south of the cottage ornée by 1812 (Cowdray MSS 1698) and Taylor bought up land so that by the time of his death the estate extended to 2,000 acres (about 810 hectares).

In 1866, Sir Charles William Taylor (1817-1873) sold the estate to Sir John Hawkshaw (1811-1891), a prominent civil engineer involved in many major schemes including the Suez Canal. In the 1870s he developed the existing pleasure grounds into an arboretum, planting exotics along the wooded slopes above the House, but it was his son, John Clarke Hawkshaw (1841-1921), who was responsible for the major landscaping scheme executed in the late 19th century. He also extended the arboretum and woodland gardens by bringing areas of farmland into the gardens, as far north as Hillands Plantation.

After a fire in 1892, Hawkshaw extended the House eastwards, aggrandised it with Tudor-style additions and faced it with stone. He added a terrace extending the length of the House which carried on to a bridge eastwards across the public road. By a series of land purchases the estate reached 4,000 acres (about 1620 hectares) in extent. His son Oliver Hawkshaw (1869-1929) planted the Azalea Walk in the 1920s with the new Knaphill hybrids.

In 1936 the estate was sold to Lord Rea (died 1949) purchasing Hollycombe House with some 200 acres (about 81 hectares). The estate was then sold in the 1950s to the present owners who have continued planting a wide variety of ornamental trees and shrubs set in lawns. In 1990 they sold Hollycombe House and much of the parkland but continue to run the Steam Museum that they set in the arboretum. The property remains (2000) in divided private ownership.

Site timeline

After 1870: Although the gardens were developed during the early part of the 19th century the majority of the planting commenced after 1870.

After 1892: After a fire in 1892, Hawkshaw extended the House eastwards, aggrandised it with Tudor-style additions and faced it with stone.

People associated with this site

Architect: John Nash (born 1752 died 1835)

Designer: George Stanley Repton (born 30/01/1786 died 29/06/1858)


tree feature




Azalea walk.


Azalea walk

Planted: 1920 to 1929