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DROPMORE HOUSE
Hedsor, Buckinghamshire


Dropmore and environs

Oh Dear...

With so much local focus on the hospital, though deservedly so, it isn't particularly surprising that other potentially enthralling landmarks get overlooked by the would-be explorer. Whereas the lack of attention paid to Taplow Lodge is quite understandable because it no longer exists, the same cannot be said of another nearby location. From a UE viewpoint, this almost borders on sacrilege really...

If you continue north from the CRCMH, past The Feathers Inn and Cliveden, the road eventually becomes Heathfield Road. There's a small road on the left called Hedsor Lane. Dead opposite Hedsor Lane is an entrance gate which seems fairly disused, but has plenty of "stay out, we've got nasty dogs" signs. Any decent map will tell you that there's a big building inside called Dropmore, complete with no less than two lakes in its grounds.

Finding information about this once magnificent country house online is a very similar affair to that of Taplow Lodge (though we've been able to rectify that one a bit now). In other words, there's hardly any. It seems then, that much like the CRCMH, Dropmore today lies empty, and mysterious.

The scary thing is that hardly anybody has noticed.

Well, Shrine visitor Jo-Jo did:

"You talk about Taplow Lodge across the road that used to be derelict, but I can't believe you haven't mentioned Dropmore House! Please tell me you have heard of it - it's just further up the road. You can't see it, but there is about a mile-long winding drive way up to it! It's MASSIVE - and has the most amazing gardens you'll ever see in you life. I have only ventured in once, but it was a breathtaking experience..."

So, to take a further look and give a bit of an introduction to this curiously forgotten part of the landscape, we've enlisted Balraj Gill - our special investigative reporter - who's been roaming around the Dropmore area armed with a camera, just for you.

He was however very frustrated at the lack of already available images of the place. He couldn't find a single photo on the web (and neither could we) so he finally resorted to Slough Library where there was a single old B&W photo in a local heritage book, but even that didn't manage to fit in the whole of the building - though it did confirm that it must be very big.

Still, before we hand you over to Balraj for a little excursion, here's a bit of background on the estate...

 

History

Dropmore House and the surrounding estate was built on land purchased by William Wyndham Grenville in 1792. Grenville (born 25/10/1759, died at Dropmore on 12/1/1834) led a varied political life as MP for Buckinghamshire, Leader of the House of Lords, Speaker of the House of Commons, and even Foreign Secretary before becoming Prime Minister from 1806-1807.

The house itself was designed by Samuel Wyatt (1737-1807) who removed a hill to give a view of Windsor Castle from the windows (can you envisage that nowadays? - seems like it's light years away, even as the crow flies). Wyatt's work was expanded by Charles Heathcote Tatham (1772-1842) and, over a period of years, lawns and paths were laid out whilst trees and shrubs were planted to transform the 600 acre ‘wilderness’ into an area of exceptional beauty with lakes surrounded by an ornamental woodland and formal garden.

Little else is known after this except that the journal of J. Evelyn Denison, Viscount Ossington, describes a visit to Dropmore House where he once "went round in a bath chair to see the trees." Very nice.

In more recent years, whilst presumably unoccupied (or perhaps causing it to become unoccupied), the building was devastated by two fires and is a cause of concern from a safety point of view. Thankfully, unlike the CRCMH, the future of the Dropmore site looks rather less unstable.

Being a Grade II listed building (English Heritage Register No.GD1589), the estate receives (theoretically) a reasonable amount of legislative protection against modern nastiness. Indeed, an environment and housing review panel decided in November 2001 that the restoration of the house and estate be secured by negotiation with the new owners. Therefore, it looks in all likelyhood like the manor and grounds will eventually be restored to their former glory, which is a great deal better than a replacing them with a ghastly housing estate - a (seemingly rare) triumph in the quest to save Britain's heritage. But for now, much like the CRCMH, the whole estate appears to be lying dormant. Again, in theory at least.

Andrew Findlay from www.taplow.org.uk has this to add:

"The estate was owned by an Arab businessman for many years, but not actively used or maintained. The house and lodges fell into a state of disrepair. The whole lot has now been bought by a developer which is very worrying. A party from the Parish Council and the Hitcham and Taplow Preservation Society were shown round a few months ago and they took some photos at the time. A report on the visit is in the latest HTPS newsletter (not online)."

Intriguing? Well, here's what Balraj has discovered for you...

 

Mission Impassable?

On Saturday afternoon, 26th October 2002, I managed to take a few photos of Dropmore.

Trying to look over the fence to get a sighting is pretty fruitless as the trees and bushes seem to have been allowed to grow amok. Even if there was a man-sized hole in the fence, I doubt I would have the courage to hack my way through the trees.

On the far side of the Dropmore estate, at the junction of Littleworth Road and Wooburn Common Road. there is what appears to be an old outbuilding - probably used by the servants, though still big enough to be fairly impressive. This building is clearly visible from the road, but is now boarded up.

 
   
PHOTO 1
PHOTO 2
PHOTO 3
 
 
PHOTO 4
PHOTO 5

Photo 1 + Photo 2 - Close-ups of the outbuilding/lodge. As you can see, it is clearly not inhabited and has always appeared in this state for as long as I can remember.

Photo 3 - Close-up of the side of the building. Here the fence looked as if someone had tried to gain entry, but unsuccessfully.

Photo 4 + Photo 5 - Far shots, taken from the other side of Littleworth Road. In the latter, note the hobbit-like house opposite.

Situated on Heathfield Road, opposite the junction with Hedsor Lane, is one of the entrances to Dropmore - which appears in the following photos...

 
   
PHOTO 6
PHOTO 7
PHOTO 8

Photo 6 - This is a shot of the gate. When I first had a close look at this gate in the summer, it seemed fairly disused. However, it now seems to have had a bit of clean-up. The piece of paper on the gate has a mobile number, which asks you to ring the number if you need access to Dropmore.

Photo 7 - Close-up of the sign on the fence. I'm pretty sure that behind it is a tree caught in the sunlight and not a ghostly apparition!!

Photo 8 - Shot of the track behind the gate. I'd love to know where it leads to.

Opposite Dropmore, between Hedsor Lane and Wooburn Common Road, there is track leading off Heathfield Road. About 150 metres down this track from the junction with Wooburn Common Road, you'll see a large, old red gate on your left that's open and half-broken. What makes this gate very strange is that the intact half has a huge dragon's head on it, which looks very fierce. I didn't investigate where the track led to, as there was regular barking from what seemed to be a very large dog (Damon:"or perhaps a dragon?" ). On the streetmap website, it shows this area as being woodland, with no buildings or tracks in there, yet on other maps, it shows that there is a building in there labelled "Saw Mill". What might possibly be in there?

 
   
PHOTO 9
PHOTO 10
PHOTO 11
 
 
PHOTO 12
PHOTO 13

Photo 9 - Close-up of the dragon. Unfortunately, the sun does its best to wreak havoc in this shot. When I first saw the dragon's head, I thought it was red. But on closer inspection, it (and the whole gate) has been rusted to that colour.

Photo 10 - Another shot of the Dragon. I love the long tongue hanging out of its mouth.

Photo 11 - This is a shot of the track behind the gate. I went up there about 50 metres, didn't see anything and so made my scaredy-cat excuses and left.

Photo 12 - A long shot of the Dragon.

Photo 13 - Another close-up of the Dragon. As you can see, this thing looks pretty fierce. A lot of thought obviously went into its design. It's a shame the other half of the gate is no longer there. Hopefully, some people may see these photos and know the story behind them - e.g. who built them?

Photo 14 - There is a sign on the other side of the track from the Dragon Gate which says "Abbot's Wood" in italics. The style seems out of place in the countryside, rather like what you'd see outside a provincial nightclub. It's obviously in need of a spruce up or replacement.

 
PHOTO 14

But what exactly is "Abbot's Wood"? I locked the doors and drove about 10 metres up the track, but got seriously spooked, reversed, and came back out again. I shall update you if you I manage to get any further.

Now we come to what appears to be the main entrance to Dropmore, on the same side of the road as The Feathers Inn, about half or three quarters of a mile north from the Feathers. It may no longer be in use, but judging from the ornate gates and the lodge beside it, you can imagine various 19th century toffs entering & exiting via here in horse-drawn carriages.

 
   
PHOTO 15
PHOTO 16
PHOTO 17
         
   
PHOTO 18
PHOTO 19
PHOTO 20

 

Photo 15 + Photo 16 - Photos of the main gate. It seems to have separate gates-within-gates on either side, to allow for people to enter without having to open the whole thing.

Photo 17 - Attempt to take a shot of the lodge from in front of the gate.

Photo 18 - A much better view of the lodge. It's amazing to see something in such a derelict state that hasn't been pulled down completely. At first I thought someone had done a deliberate demolition job on it, but there again, a substantial part is still standing. It looks as if it has just suffered at the hands of nature. Obviously not as well-constructed as the lodge on the far side of Dropmore (Photos 1-5).

Photo 19 - Another shot of the gates. I think this is a very atmospheric shot and if someone didn't know, it looks as if it's been taken from inside the estate.

Photo 20 - Close-up of the wall next to the gate. There is no barbed wire on the wall or the gate here, like there is elsewhere. This lax security is very troubling...

And finally, back down the road, here's three photos (21-23) of somewhere that needs no introduction.

 
   
PHOTO 21
PHOTO 22
PHOTO 23

It is obvious that there is activity going on at the site - look at the cables & bags lying around. I personally don't think it will be standing by Easter 2003. Very sad. Someone has put new barbed wire at the main gates, where these photos were taken from, so I couldn't enter if I'd wanted to. Anyway, with the sun shining in, the place looked very nice, but again there was a stillness which I couldn't put my finger on. Now just need to wait until Wexham Park Hospital becomes derelict!

Anyway, here's to further exploring!

Balraj
GillB@wyeth.com

October 2002

Webmaster's note: Hmmm... wonder if there's any connection between the Dragon Gate and The Flincher? Perhaps the people of Dropmore knew something of local phenomena that we didn't? Many thanks to Balraj for having a wander on behalf of The Shrine though - I know that I for one feel a lot more enlightened on the elusive realm of Dropmore now, and I've no doubt that it'll spur some of you to delve even deeper - and who knows what you might find?...


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