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Dropmore House - Past and Future

The Dropmore Estate, created by Lord Grenville at the end of the 18th century, at one time extended from Dorney to Egypt and included Burnham Beeches. The grounds around the house were renowned for an extensive pinetum, containing many rare species and considered to be unequalled in Europe, an Italian garden and a number of other interesting features, some of which are listed. The latter included a grotto, an ornate dog’s tomb, an aviary, an ice house, a lake, terraces, gates and a loggia associated with the Italian garden, as well as extensive decorative trellis work adjoining the main house.

On Grenville’s death the property passed to his wife and was subsequently owned by the Fortescue family, the newspaper proprietor Lord Kemsley, the University of San Diego and a diplomat cum property speculator. It is now in the hands of Corporate Estates.

It has been said that Grenville found a wilderness and left a paradise; the owner prior to Corporate Estates found a paradise, albeit somewhat run down, and after two fires (the first of which resulted in losses estimated at £60 million), left a wilderness. On acquiring the property, however, Corporate Estates began clearance to open up the major features of the estate as a preliminary to the restoration of house and grounds.

Plans were drawn up by Papa Architects for Corporate Estates in 2002. The proposals were comprehensive and included the restoration of the house and its subdivision into apartments, the development of the semi-detached property at Cabrook as a single dwelling, the conversion of the water tower into a house and use of the footprint comprising stables, outbuildings and other buildings to provide 18 terraced houses. In all, this makes up a grand total of 54 dwellings. Following an extensive landscape survey, outline proposals were prepared for the restoration of the formal gardens, lawns, woodlands and garden ornamentation as well as provision for new gardens in the curtilage of the house. The planning application was submitted in 2003 and permission granted in 2004.

On-site preparation for building work commenced in 2005. Currently two residents' car parks are under construction by MP Brothers and protection has been provided for natural features to be retained. The architect's research in the British Library revealed the original design for the listed Oak Lodge and detailed plans to restore the lodge to its early state are being prepared. Plans are also being prepared for Taplow Lodge, which falls within Wycombe District. In view of the large numbers and species of bats found in buildings to be demolished, the architects, in association with English Nature, propose to apply for planning permission to construct a large bat roost. An architectural historian is being appointed to assist in the restoration of the aviary. Detailed landscape proposals are also being prepared.

A feature of this development has been the provision by George Kalopedis, the architect, and the developers for involvement of the community and also their concern that the proposals shall be sensitive to both natural and built environments. In order to continue to engage the community in this project the architect proposes to have another open day when a conducted tour will be arranged for interested parties. The Dropmore Society will provide information on this.

It is difficult not to compare all of the above with the arrogant approach of the National Trust and Countryside Properties, regarding their development of an urban housing estate in Cliveden Historic House and Garden, which was entirely contemptuous of local opinion.

Bernard Trevallion