The origins of Brockham Park are shrouded in the mists of time. It is known that buildings existed in the vicinity prior to any documented records of the house. For example, census returns show that Dairy Cottage, the oldest building in the present grounds, was built before 1634. However, it is thought that the present house was built in the mid-19th century, in approximately 70 acres of land, for a Mr William Oakley.
The first reliable records show that the house and land were sold to Mr George Alfred Brittain for £12,000 in 1873. Little is known of its seven year occupancy.
Lt. Col. Leopold Seymour purchased the property in 1880 for a price of approximately £12,890.
It was described by a son of Lt. Col Seymour as a "biggish square House faced with stucco and devoid of architectural merit and beauty". It was lit by oil lamps and candles. The park-like gardens contained a large range of glasshouses.
Additions made by Seymour to the property included a billiards room, model farm buildings, a laundry, and a covered tennis court. At this time the house was surrounded by wide stretches of lawn edged with flower beds filled with geraniums and lobelia. Dense shrubbery's composed chiefly of laurels filled with the intervening spaces.
Within a few years of the purchase of the house by Seymour, landscape alterations were made and conifers planted in a fascinating variety. The present front lawns and adjoining areas are thought to have been four or five fields, an area totalling twelve acres. Hedges were removed from these fields but the oak trees were left and this area was known as theSmallPark. It was so named because around the same time the adjoining fields to the north east of the house, some 20 acres in size with numerous oak trees, were called Big Park. A two-mile boundary was planted several yards deep with rhododendrons and laurel together with other evergreens, pine, acacia, lime, poplar and specimen trees. It is probably from this time that the estate was known as Brockham Park.
In the spring of 1882 the Seymour family moved out of Brockham Park to Merstham House which they leased for one year from Lord Hylton in order to allow extensive alterations to Brockham Park to be carried out. The principal entrance of the house was formerly on the west side of the building, and as the carriage drive to it followed a winding road to the north, no part of the gardens were private. The north was the approach, the west the main entrance, the east the tradesman's and servant's entrance and the south overlooked both by the east and west approaches. To remedy this the principal entrance was made on the north side, turning the space formerly occupied by a staircase into the entrance hall. An additional floor of bedrooms was constructed. The alterations changed the appearance of the house considerably.
The family moved back into the house in the spring of 1883.
Brockham Park was purchased in 1901 by Mr Robert Gordon ( a Justice of the Peace) for £24,000. Very little is known of the house and grounds during the period Mr Gordon was in residence.
During the time of the 1914-18 war the house and grounds were occupied by the army. Brook Cottage, at the southern end of the present grounds, was known as cast Iron Cottage because of its use as an army guard room.
The house and lands returned to private ownership when it was sold to Mr Graeme Alexander Lockhart Whitelaw, a steel millionaire, for £13, 816.
Mr Whitelaw was a garden and nature lover and made extensive garden alterations, bringing the layout of the grounds almost to how they are today. The changes included laying paths around the lawns and building terraces around the house. Beds and borders of rhododendrons and Japanese Maples were planted and flower beds made. The seed firm of Suttons was engaged to lay the two-rinkbowling green, subsequently considered to be one of the finest in England. Some structural alterations were also made during Mr Whitelaw's ownership. Electric lighting was connected and bathrooms installed. Indoor staff numbered 19 at this time. There were two butlers, three footmen, two housekeepers, four ladies maids, (one for each of Mr Whitelaw's four daughters) , one sewing maid, two parlour maids, two cooks, two kitchen maids and one scullery maid. Outdoor staff totalled about 12.
Mr Whitelaw died in 1938.
In 1929 the adjoining property was purchased which originally belonged to the Duchess of Westminster, comprising Deepdene Woods, Betchworth Castle and Coleshill Farm. This extended the property to around 150 acres.
Mr Paul Rykens, a Dutch Wine Merchant, bought Brockham Park in August for £16,000
In July 1939 the War Office requisitioned Brockham Park and it was the headquarters of the 8th Armoured Division from June 1941 to May 1942. In 1942 King George V1 inspected Brockham Park and reviewed the Division.
The Number 6 War Office Selection Board was established at Brockham Park in 1943. The house was used as offices, the tennis courts for lectures and demonstrations, and the stables for manual proficiency tests. Various huts were placed around the grounds, trenches and obstacles constructed and the woods used as an assault course.
Brockham Park was purchased by Beecham Research Laboratories in June 1945 for £25,000 to be its research station. It was formerly opened onthe 18th June 1947by Sir Alexander Fleming, FRS, in the presence of
Sir J Stanley Holmes MP, then Chairman of Beecham Group Limited.
A large part of the land was subsequently sold and the park was reduced to 27 acres.
Brockham Park was the headquarters of Beecham pharmaceuticals Research Division and its Chemothrapeutic Research Centre. It is famous for the discovery of the penicillin nucleus, 6- aminopenicillanic acid, and the subsequent development of the semi-synthetic penicillin's.
The site was sold in the mid 1990's for housing development.
Compiled by the Beechams Information Department.
By kind permission of Martin Cole and the Dorking and District Museum