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Cobham Park is a country house located in Downside Road, Cobham, Surrey, England. The house was the family home of the Combe family until the early part of the 20th century.
Cobham Park, Surrey, should not be confused with Cobham Hall (school) or the adjacent Park both of which are between Rochester and Gravesend in Kent, which is probably best known for its golf course "Rochester and Cobham Park Golf Club".
This summary of the history of Cobham Park is derived from Cobham Houses and Their Occupants and Cobham Park, A Short Account of its History. In abstracting, the story has been massively simplified and therefore should not be treated as a reference source.
Earliest records of a house on the site of Cobham Park date back to the 12th century when it was known as Downe Place, and there are records of royal patronage from the late 13th century. The house was later also known as Downe Hall.
A running theme of the traced buildings on the site is that they draw on continental European design, and that their design is older than the period they are built in.
The house is said to have been rebuilt in the classical style in the 1720's by John Bridges. The design appears to draw on an Italian Villa of the 1680-90 period. A description appeared in Daniel Defoe's "A Tour Through The Whole Island of Great Britain" which indicates that the house was quite splendid: "... for the size of this House, there is hardly any other near London, which has more useful and elegant Apartments". The grounds were also landscaped and the river Mole altered.
In around 1750, John, Lord Viscount Ligonier occupied and bought Cobham Park and entertained William Pitt the elder at a party shortly thereafter. Ligonier appears to have used Cobham Park as a place of retreat and leisure (apparently he had a harem of four young girls). Ligonier saw action in many battles and escaped without injury. He made Cobham Park his headquarters when setting plans against the threatened French invasion of 1759. Ligonier died aged 89, is buried in Cobham Church and has a memorial in Westminster Abbey.
Cobham Park was left to his nephew Edward. The next year he fought a dual in Hyde Park with Count Alfieri an Italian poet and divorced his wife Penelope. Apparently Count Alfieri once climbed into Cobham Park to visit the lovely Penelope, who had quite a reputation.
In 1806, Downe Place was purchased by Harvey Christian Combe, a brewer, for £30,000. Harvey died in 1818 and left the house to his son, Harvey who died in 1857. The house was to have been extended by nephew Charles Combe by adding wings to either side. However the house was destroyed by fire in the early 1870's.
A new house was built on the same foundations and completed in 1873 to a design by Edward Middleton Barry, third son of Sir Charles Barry the architect of the Houses of Parliament. Pevsner doesn't appear to have liked the new house, describing it as "very ugly French Renaissance". The new house cost £26,000 to build. It is reputed to be the third house in the country to have electricity - from a generator installed at Downside Mill.
The Combe family gave up Cobham Park as a family residence in the 1930's, Charles Combe having moved to Pains Hill in 1904.
In 1939 in anticipation of the war, the Eagle Star Insurance Group moved out of central London and brought a number of departments together around Cobham. Cobham Park became part of the Administrative Centre. The ceiling of the basement was re-enforced to create an air-raid shelter and a separate shelter was also constructed elsewhere in the grounds. Eagle Star left Cobham Park in 1958.
In the 1960's and 1970's various companies leased parts of Cobham Park as office space from the Combe family. Parts of the building began to suffer from lack of maintenance.
In 1979 Logica (now LogicaCMG) took a lease on the house and outbuildings. Subsequently, Logica bought the freehold from the Combe family and invested heavily in the restoration and maintenance of the buildings. Repairs included replacing rotten roof timbers, replacing eroded stonework and restoring the original oak paneling and decorated ceilings. By 1998, virtually every building on the site had been renovated and converted to office space. A few additions and alterations were made to the outbuildings, all in keeping with the original structures. Offices in the stables had the original partitions and ironwork, and the South Flats had storage for tack.
Logica sold Cobham Park outright for £5.5 million in 2001 to Frogmore Estates, a property developer and speculator. They subsequently sold or leased it to Beechcroft (then a subsidiary of Laing Homes) who converted the house and outbuildings, and built some new apartments on the site, to make a total of around 22 luxury retirement apartments. The agents for enquiries appears to be Hamptons, but there is also a dedicated sales website.
The developers appear to have executed a relatively sympathetic conversion. They are constrained to some extent by Listed Building status, but their plans appear to involve little structural change. An exception is the demolition of the "Squash Courts", an isolated brick and timber framed block that used to be used (by Eagle Star) as a dance hall both for staff and local residents. This was converted to office space by Logica in around 1985. This building has now gone - merely memories and photographs remain. In addition, various areas in the basement are having new and extended light-wells constructed.
Both the East and West Pavilions have also been removed. A Financial Times article in July 2002 may have given the impression these were erected by Logica, with the 'East Pav' replacing a conservatory. I believe that the pavilions were put in place long before Logica was on the scene; Beechcroft built a new conservatory on the site of the old orangery.
Here are some photos of renovated rooms and work in progress.
There have been some pens made from wood from Cobham Park collected as a result of normal pruning and park management activities. I do some woodwork and have made some objects from Cobham Park wood. Apart from buying one of the very expensive apartments, this is possibly the only way to own a bit of Cobham Park.
This site was put together by me, Andy Webber. I worked for Logica (now LogicaCMG) at Cobham Park from 1988 to 2001 and found it to be a very pleasant work environment. If you are interested, I have higher quality photos than are on this site. I also have a limited supply of booklets about Cobham Park that were compiled by David C Taylor for Logica.
David Taylor has done much research and has published several books about the history of the village of Cobham, its buildings and its residents. David has lectured to the Cobham Conservation Group.
David's books/chapters include:
David Taylor can be contacted at:
4 Cedar Avenue
Cobham Park has always been in private or corporate ownership and has never been open to the public. However, I have managed to collect a number of photographs taken by Logica staff before the house was vacated.
Click on a floor of the house in the picture below, or use the navigation links below the photo
Are you a Logibod or an ex-Logibod? Are you interested in getting in contact with old workmates? There are a couple of options available to you:
There are too many people to mention that have helped me to put this site together. However, here are some that have been particularly important in making this site possible.
Over the years, this page has helped a number of people and organisations. I'm pleased to have been of whatever help I could be.
This site is pulled together from various sources. I hope I haven't violated anyone's copyright - if I have I'm sorry; please contact me (see above) and I'll put it right.
You should assume that all the material on this site is under somebody's copyright. As far as I'm concerned you are free to surf, print and save copies for your own purposes. Please do not link to individual images - link to html pages instead. If you want to use any of the images in anything that may earn you money (eg image libraries, marketing, presentations) then please contact me (see above) - original copyright holders may want royalties or fees.
I have nothing to do with Cobham Park's current owners, occupiers or developers (and neither does LogicaCMG - contrary to impressions given by the local press).