The last of the extensions and modifications to the house was in 1875, by which time it was a thriving Victorian household with substantial gardens. In the 1950s it was converted to apartments, its outhouses converted to dwellings and new houses built in the grounds.
The park was originally a medieval deer park. The present house was built by Sir Thomas Eversfield in 1605.
Detailed DescriptionThe current entrance to the park is off the Worthing Road a mile south of Horsham and is an impressive straight drive some 600 yards long bordered by a double line of lime trees, heading due east. The trees were severely damaged in the 1987 storm but the sale of the wood financed a replacement planting obvious from the immaturity of sections of the avenue. The original limes were said to have been planted by Sir Thomas Eversfield in the 17th century and were observed by Viscountess Wolseley at over 100 feet high 'that guide the eye up the slight incline to where.....the....house terminates the view'.
However, Winbolt (see later note) places the drive at the new turnpike road that was put in south of Horsham at around 1760, and which is the present road from which the drive starts. This seems more logical and the Viscountess does remark on other lime avenues. We surmise that the original approach road from the north may have included a lime avenue. The Viscountess also noted the two lugubrious camel heads, which still adorn posts on the walls at the top of the drive.
Shortly before reaching the gates of the main house the drive passes two rectangular ponds either side, somewhat overgrown but the original size and shape still visible.
In front of the entrance gates there is a north-south drive, which is probably the earlier route south from Horsham. Looking due north along the line of this route is the open land of the deer park, with a vestige of the previously planted specimen trees, oaks and sweet chestnuts amongst them. Woodland which masks the slopes down to the Arun river and Horsham is visible in the background. This old route north is still passable on foot or 4x4 but is private. It winds down the steep escarpment parallel to a deep gully, which was an even earlier route of the road. In the wood are two adjacent ponds called the 'cup and saucer ponds'.
Two cottages are visible on the edge of this woodland towards the eastern end. These are known as Hillside Cottages and the 1897 maps indicate an ice house existed immediately to the north-east of these and within the land sold with the nearest of the cottages in 1956. Close to the mansion are several specimen trees of note. There is a golden yew and a sweet chestnut ravaged by storm but still thriving, a fine tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and an evergreen oak (Quercus ilex) among other more recent plantings including a fine cedar (Cedrus libani).
Turning 180 degrees, and thus looking due south, this drive passes through modern and unprepossessing garage buildings before reaching, on the left, the first of a series of fish ponds with beyond it the western wall of the old Victorian kitchen gardens. Passing on south along the first fish pond one arrives at Garden Cottage, formerly Gardeners Cottage, the home of the head gardener probably until World War 1. Fresh water mussels were farmed in the first pond. The present owner of the Cottage is a retired local farmer, related to a pre-war Head Gardener and the provider of the recollections of the garden.
In the southern garden of the cottage is a blue cedar tree, clearly storm damaged but still very fine. The driveway passes through a farm gate beside Garden Cottage and becomes a farm track. On the right are further fish ponds and beyond them the few remaining traces of what were 'pleasure gardens' and an orchard including a hexagonal summer house, the stump of the central post being all that remains. Between the second and third fish pond there had been a palm garden and rockery but no trace now exists of the plantings and the area is now very overgrown. Down this route of the fish ponds which heads south-west from Garden Cottage lay Home Farm. An original building remains but this area is now a golf course.
Returning to the entrance drive and facing the mansion, which is now sub-divided into flats, the stables and various garden stores lie to the right, south side, and beyond those the walled Victorian kitchen gardens. To the left are open lawns with a variety of specimen trees. A driveway bounds this northern side and provides access round to the east, to a variety of houses and conversions, which have now overtaken the original grounds. Some of these driveways were put in when the property provided home base to Canadian troops during World War 2.
The various properties to the south of the mansion occupy or border between them the walled Victorian gardens. Much of the walls still remain but little of the gardens survive.
Some records may exist in family archives or at Chichester or Horsham that could help confirm the image of Denne as a thriving Victorian residence enjoying views on all sides, over the deer park to the north, to the east and south-western pleasure gardens and beyond the fish ponds leading to Home Farm and its pastures. To the immediate south was a busy and extensive walled kitchen garden with many glasshouses, and an orchard and extensive wooded areas beyond. Its most notable feature is the entrance avenue of lime trees from the Horsham - Worthing road.
- Flats (featured building)
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- Latest Date:
- Description: There is an impressive straight drive some 600 yards long bordered by a double line of lime trees, heading due east.
- Tree Avenue
- Description: There is a double line of lime trees, heading due east. The original limes were said to have been planted by Sir Thomas Eversfield in the 17th century.
- Description: Shortly before reaching the gates of the main house the drive passes two rectangular ponds either side.
- Description: In the wood are two adjacent ponds called the 'cup and saucer ponds'.
- Garden Building
- Description: Two cottages are visible on the edge of the woodland towards the eastern end.
- Specimen Tree
- Description: Close to the mansion are several specimen trees of note. There is a golden yew and a sweet chestnut ravaged by storm but still thriving, a fine tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and an evergreen oak (Quercus ilex) among other more recent plantings including a fine cedar (Cedrus libani).
- Description: Series of fish ponds.
- Kitchen Garden
- Description: Walled Victorian kitchen gardens.
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- Latest Date:
- Description: Remaining traces of what were 'pleasure gardens' .
- Description: A hexagonal summer house, the stump of the central post being all that remains.
Detailed HistoryDenne Park is one of three medieval deer parks owned by William de Braose, who lived at Bramber Castle and possessed the Rape of Bramber. It became part of Washington Manor and then had passed to the ownership of the Broadbridge family by 1499 until about 1605 when it was sold to Sir Thomas Eversfield, who built the present house, in whose family it remained until the 20th century, apart from a period forfeit to the Crown. The last of the extensions and modifications to the house was in 1875 by which time it was a thriving Victorian household with substantial gardens. In the 1950s it was converted to apartments, its outhouses converted to dwellings and new houses built in the grounds.
Saxons who settled along the coast of Sussex drove cattle and pigs north for seasonal pasture and particularly the swine pastures rich in acorns and beech mast, which were known as 'dens'. Gradually there was some clearance of land and more permanent settlements existed up to the 13th century. until the Black Death. This was a part of the Weald dominated by oak forest.
Denne Park is on a stone escarpment above the Weald and old diggings for the 'Horsham' stone abound in the park. Other large pits were dug for clay ironstone on the crest of the escarpment along the Northern boundary of the park. No specific details exist of probable earlier manor houses but the Manor of Denne was recorded in a settlement in 1499. Norden plans of 1617 show the local stone house built in 1605 (which was extended to the south in about 1875).
There are records of rabbit warrens established on the northern and eastern slopes by the early-17th-century and of a house to the east, on the site now known as Bourne Hill, which was the eastern lodge (although in some records referred to as the southern lodge of Chesworth House) in addition to Denne Lodge to the north. Chesworth, immediately to the north, had been disparked by 1570 and it may be surmised that a similar date applies to Denne.
An anonymous traveller between 1722 and 1729 records a house 'of Free Stone surrounded with good gardens and avenues and besides other good surroundings'. A record of 1770 notes over 2000 oaks having been felled in Chesworth and Denne leading to a suggestion by the then-Surveyor General that Sir Charles Eversfield's lease include a forfeit for every oak felled without licence. Sir Charles acquired a Crown Lease of Chesworth Park in 1725, it having been forfeited to the Crown in 1572 on the execution of the Duke of Norfolk for treason against Elizabeth I. Chesworth and Denne remained in the Eversfields' ownership until the 20th century. Sir Charles Eversfield used materials from the derelict manor of Chesworth to extend the house at Denne.
By the early-19th-century the Denne estate was noted as of about 230 acres. At that time the northern woodland of today was less dense, almost certainly without the softwood plantings, and the top of the escarpment was kept as a mown grass terrace for the people of Horsham to enjoy to stroll and view the town. The cricket field on the north-eastern quarter of the park was replaced by the current one in 1850 because the towns people complained of toiling up the hill to the ground. The 1948 Sale Particulars (footnote 6) certainly show wider boundaries than existed in 1956 and today.
The main clues to the later history are in the 1897 Ordnance Survey map which clearly shows the walled area and greenhouses. There was also a tennis court in the north-east quadrant of the walled garden, which we presume to have been a kitchen garden, and which was quartered by paths. The map of 1844 is suggestive of the walled garden but without much inner detail (nor the ponds and pleasure gardens to the south west). At the centre crossing point, in the south-west quadrant was a large glass house that was the winter garden, planted with winter roses and vines and including a swimming pool, the whole being heated. The north wall had store houses at the western end for apples, game hanging and gardeners' tools.
Centrally placed on the mansion side of the north wall was the stable yard with fodder stored in a building called Pineapple Cottage, still adorned on the roof with a stone pineapple, its upper floor previously being used as estate offices. Now Pineapple Cottage is a separate dwelling with windows through the wall of the garden. A small part of the old lean-to greenhouses still exists and what are probably footings for more of them, also one of the two boiler houses used to heat these greenhouses.
The kitchen gardens were subdivided by low box hedges. Remnants of a pineapple pit were found at the eastern end of the garden. At its prime the garden had a staff of 14. A path is still visible outside the western wall leading from Garden(ers) Cottage between wall and fish pond up to the gardeners' door into the garden. This was a 'nut walk' planted with a variety of nut trees. Although overgrown with ash trees the coppiced remains of Turkish hazels (Corylus colurna) are visible, the leaves as big as hands. The modern breech in the wall to access a house is south of the original gardeners' door and the fish pond was much longer.
Beyond the eastern wall was an additional pond, lined with York stone and still in existence. The source of its water is not clear as this must be close to the highest point of the land. However culverts exist, although covered, from here to the first fish pond.
The first fish pond was fed from the river Arun by a hydraulic ram pump (clearly marked in a 1948 plan) near Chesworth via six inch iron piping, a lift of nearly 250 feet. Little remains beyond a few pipes. The ponds actually drained south, starting with the rectangular driveway ponds feeding the first fishpond and that draining into the line of further ponds heading south-west to the golf course as now exists.
To the east of the garden wall were pleasure walks that have disappeared in the various plots of new houses built here. However a few chestnut trees appear to indicate the line of the old boundary of these gardens. South of the southern wall was a narrow strip of orchard before the boundary fence gave way to the pastures of Home Farm.
Beyond the immediate area of lawns, shrubs and specimen trees on the north side of the main house, the open grazing land is crossed by a number of footpaths and was the main area of the old deer park. To the east and south are various copses accessible by public footpaths leading to Bourne Hill House, now a separate property, but built for a mistress on the site of a previous lodge, including the bridleway through the copses so the lovers might meet more readily.
A description of the gardens appears in The Garden, in 1889. It depicts the house as covered with roses, clematis, virginia creeper and pyracantha. Specimen trees noted in the park include Thuja gigantes, Picea lasiocarpa, Cryptomeria japonica and the glaucus variety of P. nobilis (sic) as well as deodar and Lebanon cedars. The nice rockery is noted but no location indicated. The walled garden is described as though it were entirely a kitchen garden, the roses being placed 'in an old orchard'. The plant houses were 'well filled with varieties serviceable for cutting and decoration and freesias growing in pots'.
Jim and Helen Jewell
Sussex Gardens Trust