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Beedingwood House taken mid to late 90s, showing the glazed front section pre-collapse and also the small round room circling the larger round room still in tact. The driveway and greenery are also much less overgrown. The house and estate was built for Thomas Anthony Denny and his wife Mary Jane Noel in 1876 in the St. Leonard's Forest area in West Sussex. Denny was an Irish businessman and in his own words he was a "pork philanthropist". A great loss befell him the following year after moving into Beedingwood with the death of his wife Mary in 1877. He resided quietly at Beedingwood and often donated large sums of money to charitable organisiations, most notably paying the Salvation Army's first year of rent at their London headquarters in 1881. T. A. Denny stayed in the house until 1893/94 when he married the evangelist Elizabeth Hope and subsequentally moved away. In 1894 the house's well-known owner, the Reverend E.D.L Harvey stepped down from his job as Rector at Downham Market in Norfolk and moved his family to Beedingwood. The Reverend Edward Douglas Lennox Harvey MA, OBE, Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant for Sussex, Chairman of Sussex County Cricket Club and Vice Chairman of West Sussex County Council, (of the wealthy Harvey's Bristol Cream family), was a very successful man locally. However he sadly incurred much tragedy in his life with the loss of his wife, 1 daughter and 3 sons. He remarried in 1911 and was the longest and kindest resident of Beedingwood, residing here for 44 years until his death in 1938 at the age of 80. Soon after the family sold the estate, probably due to the death tax. During the Harvey family years the gardens were featured in several publications of The Gardener, a long running gardening magazine. From the point of the Reverend's death, things started to go downhill for the estate. During the Second World War the house was used as temporary accomadation for various civilians, including evacuated children from London. It is well documented that in 1943 the Roffey Park Institute acquired the neighbouring Roffey Park estate along with the Beedingwood estate in 1946, and adapted the house to serve as auxilary accomadation and dining floorspace for the Institute. They added central heating and electricity to the house, aswell as the undignified 1950s kitchen block extension tucked behind and around the circular room on the north-east corner of the house. Mnay of the large victorian rooms were also divided up with cheap partition walls and many fireplaces were removed or boarded over. In the early 60s the Institute became a publically owned company, and by the early 70s dropped the rehabilitation side of the business, building new premises tacked onto the already converted Beedingwood stables. The local Health Authority took over the Roffey Park House Hospital and Beedingwood. In 1973 the house became exclusively the staff housing for the Roffey Park Hospital. In 1981 the Roffey Park Hospital was closed down, interestingly it was the first mental hospital in England to close due to the Care in the Community act of 1980. By the early 80s Beedingwood was becoming very expensive to maintain, and along with the now obselete Roffey Park Hospital, the Health Authority sold both the high maintenance estates in 1983. Beedingwood was used briefly as a nursing home for the elderly in the mid 80s, and planning permission was submitted for this change of use in 1987, however nothing much came of this. Both of the Estates were sold to a property development company around this time. Conversion of Beedingwood into 10 luxery apartments was scheduled for 1990. The developers tried to get Beedingwood and Roffey Park House listed in order to gain permission to erect a limited number of new dwellings in the grounds of both properties to compensate for the expensive renovation costs. The latter was successful, however it was decided Beedingwood wasn't worthy of listing status, due to too many original features having been removed. This decision was appealed but English Heritage upheld the decision once again due to too many of the house's original features being removed or stolen. The house's tourelle originally had a spire on top of it, however by 1955 this had been removed for unknown reasons. The house also had beautiful carved decorative barge boards, these had also been removed before 1955. Sadly site security was centered around the slightly larger Roffey Park House, earmarked to be turned into a major hotel, and Beedingwood began to suffer from leaking roofs, neglect, and thieves drawn to the valuable victorian woodwork, slate, and fittings. Due to the property market of the early 90s, the developers changed their plans for Beedingwood from 10 to 24 apartments and a maisonette. This plan required a large extension to be extended from the rear of the property, and the council considered this too large. A plan was then submitted for 19 apartments, a small new extension being built where the 1950s extension already was, and 7 luxery houses replacing original dwellings along the existing driveway. The council didn't object to this application, however legal technicalities required a further application to be submiitted to them, and the developer stalled. During this time Beedingwood was becoming an "open-house" and a rave was held one weekend in the empty house, and much of the interior including nearly every pane of glass in the house was damaged or broken. The council complained about the lack of security to the developers, and they watertighted and boarded the house temporarily. In the early 90s the company put the Beedingwood Estate up for auction, and it was sold to another property developer. He sold off most of the land to a housing developer, keeping Beedingwood, and they used the existing planning permission to build the 7 houses, sadly demolishing the coach house in the process. The conversion of the house never took place, the new owner apparantly wasn't interested in restoring the building, and was only interested in the land it was built on. He gutted the house's interior, removing the panelled ceilings, wooden panelling, plaster mouldings, bannisters, doors, bathroom fittings, fireplaces, and even the floorboards. The stained glass skylight was probably removed at this time too. Apart from the staircases, joists, and the carved screen in the greeting's parlour (installed too firmly to remove in one piece) the house was now internally a shell. The doors and windows were breezeblocked up and the house was left. From this point onwards Beedingwood went downhill fast, the thieves and vandals once again gained access and the missing slate and leaking roofs also helped to weaken the houses structure. By 2000 the house was beyond reasonable repair, the joists now rotten, and non-existant in the west side of the house and the new owners submitted an application to demolish the unlisted house and erect an apartment block on the footprint of the existing house, this application was approved and for the next 7 years Beedingwood was left to rot and decay further into a sad yet dignified state. The rotten timber front glazed section above the port cochere and front door collapsed in the early 2000's leaving a gaping hole in the front of the house, and on April 28th 2007 the house was found burning. By the time the fire was out the authorities declared the building dangerous and it was demolished the same day. Even in its decayed and neglected state, it was easy to see what a masterpiece this house really was. Credit should also be given to the victorian craftsmen who built the house, even after all the years of wet and neglect the structure was still holding up firm, indeed even after the fire it is said that apart from the damaged areas the building was still firm. No modern building would stand up to so much neglect. Beedingwood will be sadly missed by many. RIP Beedingwood 1876 - 2007. In August 2008 planning permission was granted for 3 large houses and triple garages to be built on the site. Text copyright Adam Pearson, 2008. If anyone has any memories, information or old photographs of the house i would be very interested to hear from you. I can be reached at adamant_ @ hotmail co uk Many thanks.

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