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Dale Park forms one of a series of large estates between Chichester and Arundel amongst which are Halnaker, Goodwood, Eartham, and Slindon. Its setting takes full advantage of a break in the South Downs and allows the house, on a steeply sloping north/south site, fine views to the south-west.

SITE HISTORY

The early history of Dale Park is connected to the Manor of Hyburden in Boxgrove as it is thought that the Manor extended into Madehurst. The estate of nearly 400 acres was purchased piece by piece, parish by parish in 1780 by Sir George Thomas Bt. (c1748-1815), MP for Arundel, who enclosed the park and planted extensive woodlands.

In 1781 Sir George had built and was living on the estate at a secondary house, Madehurst Lodge, when he married his second wife, Sophia Montagu, who was the daughter of Reverend John Montagu, Fellow of All Souls. Sir George remained at Madehurst Lodge until at least 1789 while the new house was being built from 1784 to the plans of Joseph Bonomi ARA. Conventional dates for the building of the house are 1784-88, but a painting by Samuel H Grimm in 1791 shows it to be by no means finished . The new house was said to be one of the most commodious in the county and the J P Neale print shows a gracious and well proportioned house with a colonnaded south front. Following Sir George's death. by 1823 his widow, Sophia, was again living at Madehurst Lodge and their eldest son, Sir William Lewis George Thomas (1777-1850), was residing at Dale Park. The estate was then sold to Thomas Read Kemp, Esq, (builder of Kemptown) in 1824 who was MP for Arundel for one year. It could have been a speculative purchase, particularly as the wealth of timber on the estate was a valuable resource to him in his development plans for Brighthelmstone.

By 1825 John Smith, MP, (1767-1842) had purchased Dale Park. John Smith was married three times and came from a wealthy family who owned the London bank of Smith Payne and Smith. Unfortunately for him and for the good name of the family, he met an untimely end. Having been very unwell but on the way to recovery, his wife, Anne, who was nearly blind gave him a large dose of laundanum in error. Despite the household's best efforts, he died shortly afterwards and such were the rumours that John Abel Smith, his eldest son, was forced to publish a memorandum to set out the truth of the matter . John Abel Smith (1802-1871) married Anne, nee Clark-Jervoise, the widow of R W Grey. He was MP for Midhurst in 1830 and Chichester from 1831 to 1859 and then again from 1863 to 1868. He and his family lived at Dale Park until it was sold to the Marquis of Abercorn in 1848. As well as Dale Park the sale included the estates of Tortington and Eastergate. Census returns in 1841 show that 20 of John Smith's family and staff were absent but in 1851 there was a full household. The Marquis had ten children, 6 daughters and 4 sons and the required number of staff to support such a household. In 1841 the outside staff included two gardeners, one of which was Andrew Dick who was still there in 1851, together with three garden labourers. There were 36 farm labourers in 1841 together with two gamekeepers.

By 1860 the Marquis had sold Dale Park to John Jack who changed his name to John Charles Fletcher and the family remained there for three generations. The church in Madehurst was restored in 1864, financed largely by Mr Fletcher, who was its patron and who paid for its new chancel . John Charles Fletcher died on 9 March 1875 and his son, Charles John Fletcher, JP, 18th Hussars, inherited and continued to live at Dale Park until at least 1914. Charles Fletcher married Helen Knox and had six children the eldest of whom, Charles Arthur (1871-1907) died of cirrhosis of the liver in London aged 36 (Add Mss 15,278). Their second son, Alan Francis, born in 1876, inherited the estate circa 1915. He was a Major, later Lieutenant- Colonel in the 17th Lancers who was lucky enough to survive World War I. As was the case with all the families who lived at Dale Park, the family had a London home at 10 Grosvenor Place. On 13 March 1931, Jimmy Dean of Slindon noted in his diary that there was a fire at Dale Park but the damage seemed only to be to part of the house and some outbuildings .

An account of Dale Park in 1936 noted that the estate owned the whole of Madehurst together with land further afield which Col. Fletcher sold when finances became a problem. There was an active social life at the house, with an annual ball being held, together with Christmas parties with a huge decorated tree. There was a cricket field in front of the house, presumably in the park, with a marquee as the pavilion. Colonel Fletcher had a private gallop for his thoroughbreds and the Head Groom lived at Batho's cottage. He kept five gamekeepers so there was evidently plenty of shooting. A poultry farm and dairy supplied the house and no doubt the produce was sold elsewhere too. Prior to electricity, gas was made for the house in the Gas House which was later converted and extended into a cottage called the Pink House. In 1836, the Fletchers were still is residence but in the same year the estate was sold to the Earl of Hardwicke who subsequently sold the agricultural land and woods in 1942 to Edward Green and the house to Col Ebenezer Pike. The estate and house came back into single ownership circa 1958 in the ownership of the Green family's company, J H & F W Green Ltd. It was then that the house was demolished and replaced by a new much smaller building. Although it was listed and believed by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to be of great architectural importance and in good repair (as confirmed by the photographs), the county and district councils did not object to the proposal to demolish . The estate remains in the same ownership today.

The majority of those who lived at Dale Park held public office, either as Members of Parliament or Justices of the Peace.

THE FAMILY OF SIR GEORGE THOMAS

Sir George's father, Sir William (died 1777) lived at Yapton Place and Ratton, as did his namesake and grandfather, George Thomas, Governor of Pennsylvania and Captain-General of the Leewood Islands (1753-1766) who was created baronet on 3 September 1766 and died in 1774. The family's fortune was established by the first Sir George in the Leeward Islands and with it came the wealth to purchase Yapton Place in 1749 and Ratton . Sir George the younger displeased his grandfather and father, by making an unsuitable marriage with a Mlle Salle from Geneva. This resulted in his being disinherited, retaining only the baronetcy . However, through his mother's marriage settlement, he kept estates in Antigua .

Further difficulties arose in 1799. Sir George was serving as a Colonel in the Sussex Fencible Cavalry (also known as the Light Dragoons). In 1794 he was ordered by the Government to raise men for the regiment at no cost, but was given an allowance of 25 guineas (£26.25) per man to purchase horses for the new soldiers. Col. Sir George and Lieut. Col. Christopher Teasdale were both charged by Major J C Worthington of the same regiment with retaining the profit from the sum allowed. The two men were court martialled at Edinburgh Castle from 22 March 1799 - 3 April 1799, and were honourably acquitted on the basis that Sir George had not ordered the remaining sum of £533 for 82 horses to be paid into his account and that the price of horses varied around the country. It was ordered that this sum should be paid to the Government apart from 10s per horse which was to be paid to Lieut. Faulder, the officer employed by Col. Sir George to buy the horses, to compensate him for travelling expenses.

At the end of the official printed verdict, Sir George wrote from London on 29 April 1799: From the foregoing statement and opinions, I have the satisfaction to know, I have been most maliciously charged, most inconsiderately tried, and most illegally censured.

In 1802-03 Sir George extended Madehurst Church (St Mary Magdalen) to the south. Letters proclamatory noted that Sir George had lately built a mansion at a cost of several thousand pounds but there was no pew or seating in the church large enough to accommodate him and his family. Both he and his wife, Sophia (died 1854), are commemorated by wall monuments in the church and he is buried beneath the alter. His eldest son, William Lewis George Thomas inherited the Dale Park estate on Sir George's death in 1815.

People associated with this site

Architect: Joseph Bonomi (born 19/01/1739 died 09/03/1808)

Features

natural landscape

icehouse

glasshouse

gate lodge

kitchen garden

kennels