Combe Bank, Sundridge 895

Sevenoaks, England, Kent, Sevenoaks

Brief Description

Combe Bank has gardens and pleasure grounds of 60 hectares dating from the 18th century. These surround the house which is now used as a school.

History

The present house was built largely in the 1720s, on the site of an older house. Work on the gardens presumably stems from this time although most of the design dates from the 1740s. Extensive changes were made to the gardens after 1906. In 1924, the house and gardens were purchased by the Society of the Holy Jesus Christ who founded Combe Bank School for Girls.

Terrain

The house stands towards the eastern end of an elongated hill which runs east to west across the middle of the site.

Detailed Description

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

Gardens and pleasure grounds dating from the 1720s and, particularly, the 1740s, associated with a country house and set in a small park.

DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Combe Bank lies on the north-west side of the village of Sundridge which is itself located on the western edge of Sevenoaks. The c 60ha site is bounded to the east by Ovenden Road, to the south by Main Road, Sundridge, to the west by gardens, and to the north by farmland. Combe Wood, which occupies the northern section of the park, is bisected by the M25. The house stands towards the eastern end of an elongated hill which runs east to west across the middle of the site. The position offers fine views over countryside, particularly to the west and to the south, across the River Darent which flows from west to east along the southern edge of the site.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

The main entrance to Combe Bank is from the east off Ovenden Road, to the north of the stable block (listed grade II) which was built in 1809. The road runs along the eastern boundary but is sunken so as not to interrupt the views out. From here a short drive leads to the turning circle below the east front of the house. The drive from the lodge at Brasted in the south-west corner of the site, which led across the west side of the park and round the north bank of the lake, is no longer in use.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

Combe Bank (listed grade I) is a small, five-bay Palladian villa with two and a half-storey side bays under low pyramidal roofs and a two-storey centre with a pyramidal roof and central cupola. It was built for Lt-Col John Campbell by Roger Morris in 1721, extended to the north in 1807 by Lord Frederick Campbell when the drawing room and ballroom were added, and given further minor alterations shortly after it was purchased by Ludwig Mond in 1906. Further additions have been put on the north side since it became a school, and tennis courts and car parks added in the grounds.

The early C19 stable block (listed grade II) lies c 100m to the east of the house, on the eastern boundary of the site. It is built of coursed freestone under a low hipped slate roof and is arranged around a courtyard. It contains the remains of electrical installations by the physicist Michael Faraday who was a visitor to Combe Bank in the mid C19.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

Beyond the turning circle below the east front is a level lawn. The urns (listed grade II) which now stand round the house were, in the mid C18, arranged in two rows down the sides of the east lawn and were flanked by shrubberies. A pair of summerhouses marked the lawn's eastern edge, one of which remains standing c 80m east of the house although somewhat modified from its original form. A path from Ovenden Road along the eastern boundary provides a pedestrian entrance into the east garden via a cutting lined with flints and rockwork. Two rusticated stone arches (listed grade II), the remains of a tunnel, carry garden paths over the cut. A little to the west is a cave around which a rockery (now derelict, 2001) was constructed by the Mond family in the early C20.

Below the west front of the house is a levelled area of lawn; beyond this to the south are shrubberies.

The slope to the south of the house is terraced to give three level walks running east to west, separated by banks which in the mid C18 were planted with flowering shrubs. The top path, the Beech or Green Walk, planted in c 1810, leads to The Platform at its western end, an area which was planted in the mid C18 as a formal grove. The round temple which now stands here was put up in the 1920s, possibly on the site of an earlier feature within the grove. At the eastern end of the garden terraces is the base of a Victorian palm house.

A set of caves located c 200m south-west of the house were excavated into the west end of the rocky ridge below the south terraces in 1815 or earlier. Three descending stone arches form the roof of the entrance to the main cave. An icehouse (listed grade II), dug directly into the rock, forms part of the complex. The surrounding plantings, which suffered severe damage in the 1987 storm, date from c 1810.

PARK

The northern section of the park is entirely covered by the extensive Combe Wood (known as Comebank Wood to the north of the motorway) and the land between the house and the Wood, together with that to the east of the house, is under agricultural use and appears never to have been fully imparked. The Wood was cut through by a railway, now disused, the cutting for which was used in the late C20 to carry the M25. The land to the south and west of the house remains under grass and some mature park trees survive here. Lying to the north of the ridge on which the house and its gardens stand, and c 300m to the west of the house, is a lake, only the southern tip of which is visible from the house. Originally two smaller ponds, the lake was enlarged in 1745 as part of the mid C18 landscape works. Halfway along its northern bank is the rock-arch facade of a boathouse, while on the opposite bank is a semicircular stone seat.

KITCHEN GARDEN

The C18 walled kitchen garden stands adjacent to Ovenden Road, c 300m to the south-east of the house. Houses have been built within its walls (late C20).

REFERENCES

W Angus, Seats of the nobility and gentry in Great Britain and Wales, a collection of select views (1787), plate 4

R Pococke, Travels through England during 1750, 1751 and later years 2, (1888-9), p 74

G Raybould, Combe Bank, Sundridge, Kent: A History, guidebook, (Combe Bank Educational Trust 1986)

Combe Bank Restoration Plan, (Land Use Consultants 1990)

Maps

J Andrews, A Dury and W Herbert, A Topographical Map of the County of Kent, 2" to 1 mile, 1769

J Sparrow, Combe Bank estate plan, 1773 (Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone)

OS Surveyor's draft drawings, 1798-9 (British Library Maps)

OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1871; 2nd edition published 1897

OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1869; 2nd edition published 1897

Illustrations

W Woolletts, engraving of Combe Bank, around 1760 (Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone)

F Wheatley, engraving of Combe Bank, 1787 (Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone)

Description rewritten: March 2001

Amended: March 2001

Edited: November 2003

Features
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The present house was built largely in the 1720s, on the site of an older house.
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  • Summerhouse
  • Description: Two elaborate wooden summer houses were erected to the east of the house in 1750. One of these still survives.
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  • Specimen Tree
  • Description: Many of the fine specimen trees (which have suffered minimal storm damage), the copper beech, weeping beech and monkey puzzles were planted under new ownership in 1907.
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Access & Directions

Directions

The site is 14 miles north of the A25, at the village of Sundridge.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Sundridge with
History

Detailed History

The present house was built largely in the 1720s, on the site of an older house. The foundations of the older house can be seen, down the slope from the present house. The owner transformed a large pond into an extensive ornamental lake to the west of the house in 1745, using an army of soldiers awaiting marching orders to fight the Scottish rebellion.

Two elaborate wooden summer houses were erected to the east of the house in 1750. One of these still survives. The cedar trees and beech walk were planted in 1790. At this time the house was extended and the original drive, which rounded the lake and led out to the London Road by Brasted, was abandoned in favour of a private road leading straight down to the village of Sundridge. In 1815 French prisoners of war carved out the ornamental caves, grottos and the house at the bottom of the garden, beech wood.

In 1907 Mr Robert Mond bought the property and extended it. The typical Victorian shrubberies, rockeries and grottos were embellished with formal gardens near the house, and walkways lined with beech and yew. Many of the fine specimen trees (which have suffered minimal storm damage), the copper beech, weeping beech and monkey puzzles were also planted at this time. A Grecian temple was bought and erected in the largely 18th century garden, a rock garden was created and many flowering shrubs planted.

The house has been a Girls' boarding school since World War 2. It was a private house until the early-1920s. It was then used as a convent until occupied by the American Army during World War 2.

When the house became a convent in the 1920s the estate was split up, the bulk of the land including the lake being sold off. It is now owned by the Marley Company. The ice cave was blocked off for safety reasons by the American Army during World War 2.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

Lt-Col John Campbell (1693-1770), later fourth Duke of Argyll, bought Combe Bank from William Ash in 1720 and the following year commissioned Roger Morris to build a new mansion. The family had close links with the Burlington Circle, Alexander Pope, and William Kent. Work on the gardens presumably stems from this time although most of the design dates from the 1740s. The fourth Duke's eldest son, also John, became Baron Sundridge of Combe Bank in 1766, eventually succeeding as Duke of Argyll on his father's death in 1770. The new Earl took up residence at the family home, Inverary Castle, and Combe Bank was given to the fourth Duke's third son, Frederick. John Adam (1721-92) was commissioned between 1775 and 1777 to prepare plans for altering the house, but these were not executed until the second half of the 19th century. Lord Frederick did however make some alterations to the house in the early years of the 19th century. He died in 1816 without a male heir and his daughter sold the estate to William Manning who, in 1830, became bankrupt and was forced to sell Combe Bank. It was purchased by Arthur Chichester who became first Lord Templemore in 1831. Chichester died in 1837 and his son only four years later, which led to the estate being put back on the market. It was purchased in 1845 by the Rev Augustus Clayton who lived at Combe Bank until 1864 when he sold it to William Spottiswode, President of the Royal Society. During his ownership some of John Adam's designs for internal decorations to the house were carried out. Although Spottiswode undertook some minor plantings, the structure of the grounds remained little changed from the mid-18th century (Land Use Consultants 1990). In 1883 William Spottiswode died and for a while his son Hugh tenanted Combe Bank before selling it in 1906 to Ludwig Mond, a leading chemical industrialist. Mond, and his son Robert who inherited in 1909, carried out extensive alterations to the gardens, building a rockery and a formal rose garden. Following the First World War Robert Mond put Combe Bank up for auction in 1921, divided into lots. The house and gardens did not find a buyer in the auction but in 1924 were purchased by the Society of the Holy Jesus Christ who founded Combe Bank School for Girls. The site suffered considerable storm damage in the late 20th century and remains (2001) in divided ownership.

Associated People

Just one person associated to Combe Bank, Sundridge

Contact
References

References

Contributors

  • Kent Gardens Trust