Claremont House 1790

Claremont House
34 Molesey Road
Hersham, Surrey
Near Esher
Claremont Landscape Garden
Portsmouth Road
Esher, Surrey KT10 9JG

The first house on the Claremont estate was built in 1708 by Sir John Vanbrugh for his own use. Vanbrugh a Restoration playwright, Kit-Kat Club member, and architect of Blenheim and Castle Howard was a man of many talents. This "very small box", as he described it, stood on the level ground in front of the present mansion. At the same time, he built the stables and the walled gardens, also probably White Cottage.

 Vanbrugh's gothic belvedereIn 1714 he sold the house to the wealthy Whig politician Thomas Pelham-Holles, Earl of Clare, who later became Duke of Newcastle and served twice as Prime Minister. The Earl commissioned Vanbrugh to add two great wings to the house and to build a fortress-like turret on an adjoining knoll. From this so-called "prospect-house" or Belvedere he and his guests could admire the views of the Surrey countryside as they took refreshments and played hazard, a popular dice game. In the clear eighteenth-century air it was apparently possible to see Windsor Castle and St Paul's Cathedral. The Earl of Clare named his countryseat Clare-mount, later contracted to Claremont. The two lodges at the Copsem Lane entrance were added at this time.

Claremont HouseWhen the Duke of Newcastle died in 1768, his widow sold the estate to Robert Clive, founder of Britain's Indian Empire. Clive, now a fabulously rich nabob, demolished the Vanbrugh house, because of its damp and low-lying site, and commissioned Lancelot "Capability" Brown and his future son-in-law Henry Holland to build the present Palladian mansion, upon the hill. Sadly, Clive never lived here, as he committed suicide in 1774 the year that the house was finished.

Among the many foreign royal personages who visited England during the 1814 Peace Celebrations was Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, six years older than Princess Charlotte. Leopold expressed his admiration of Princess Charlotte. He lobbied for the right to court Charlotte. His continued attentions to Charlotte eventually won out. The Prince Regent favoured his suit in the end and the wedding took place in the Crimson State Room at Carlton House on the evening of 2 May 1816. After a honeymoon spent at Oatlands in Surrey, the countryseat of the Duke of York, the young couple took up residence at Claremont House, a grand affair just one mile south-west of Esher, which had been purchased for them at a cost of £69,000. In addition, Parliament had voted to give the princess a dowry of £60,000 and an income of £60,000 a year. Prince Leopold and Princess Charlotte lived happily at Claremont House. Tragically Princess Charlotte died there as a result of a botched childbirth after only 18 months of marriage. Prince Leopold stayed on at Claremont House until he was called to Belgium in 1831.

Name: Charlotte Augusta HANOVER
Born: 7 Jan 1796 at: Carlton House
Married: 2 May 1816 at: Carlton House,London,England
Died: 6 Nov 1817 at: Claremont House,Esher,Surrey,England
Spouses: Leopold_I George of_Saxe-Coburg

Bridgeman's turf amphitheatre The gardens are owned by The National Trust and known as Claremont Landscape Garden. Featuring in its 50 acres of landscaped treasures of the 18th century: a turf amphitheatre, grotto, pavilion, bowling green and belvedere. There are statues, a dovecote, a nine-pin alley, a cammelia terrace, and something to see in every month of the year. The garden is renown for Bridgeman's 3 acre turf amphitheatre, rising above the lake, one of only two surviving examples of its kind in Europe. The 'landscape park' was formerly part of a larger estate. It had baroque layout by Charles Bridgeman for John Vanbrugh, who owned the estate until 1711. A belvedere (by Vanbrugh, c 1715) and a grass amphitheatre (by Bridgeman, c 1725) survive. William Kent began the transformation to the 'natural' style, converting the Kent's island and pavilioncanal to a lake and designing an island with a pavilion (c1735). The lake was serpentined and is overlooked by the, carefully restored, grass amphitheatre. How common to see three or four beeches, then as many larches, a third knot of cypresses, and a revolution of all three! Kent's last designs were in a higher style, as his ideas opened on success. The north terrace at Claremont was much superior to the rest of the garden.

Peter Pelham painted Claremont Landscape Gardens. A return of some particular thoughts was common to Pelham with other painters, and made his hand known. A small lake edged by a winding bank with scattered trees that led to a seat at the head of the pond, was common to Claremont, Esher and others of his designs. At Esher, 'Where Kent and nature vied for Pelham's love', the prospects more than aided the painter's genius-they marked out the points where his art was necessary or not; but thence left his judgment in possession of all its glory.

the lake from the amphitheater

John Papworth (1775-1847) who was a most successful landscape gardener had commissions for work at Claremont from Prince Leopold and Princess Charlotte and for work at many other stately homes. He was also a master at drawing perspective and at classical ornamentation as the plates in "Rural Residences, consisting of a Series Of Designs for Cottages, Decorated Cottages, Small Villas, and other Ornamental Buildings, accompanied by hints on Situation, Construction, Arrangement and Decoration, in the Theory & Practice of Rural Arch;" R.Ackermann, London 1818; attest.

Prince's CovertsPrince's Coverts are named after Prince Leopold of Belgium. Until Leopold became King of the Belgians in 1831 he lived at Claremont Park, Esher. The Claremont Estate was purchased by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests for Prince Leopold and Princess Charlotte on their marriage in 1816. During his time at Claremont, the Prince acquired in 1821 a considerable area of common land to the south, close to the village of Oxshott, where he developed his shooting estate. This is the area now known as Prince's Coverts. By 1823 it seems that Stoke Common, as it used to be called when attached to the Manor of Stoke D'Abernon before Enclosure, was well wooded and that all traces of heathland had disappeared. Prince's Coverts and the surrounding woodland areas known as Great Oaks and Woodlands Park are owned and managed by the Crown Estate.

King Leopold died in 1865 and the Crown re-acquired the Claremont Estate from his Executors in 1867. An important father figure to the orphaned Princess Victoria was her Uncle Leopold, her mother the Duchess of Kent's brother, who lived at Claremont, near Esher, Surrey, until he became king of the Belgians in 1831. Young Princess Victoria was a frequent visitor. Later Claremont House was a regular holiday destination for the young Queen Victoria. After her coronation she came to worship at the Church of St George in Esher. Queen Victoria acquired a life interest in the Estate but it eventually reverted to the Crown. In 1877 she honoured Esher with the gift of a drinking fountain still to be found on the High Street. Esher mainline station provides a 22 minutes service to London (Waterloo).

Line drawing, Lady with Tiara, logo
Top of page
Georgian Index Home
Front Door
Marlborough House
Marlborough House

Carlton House

Charlotte and Leopold
Cranbourne Lodge Graphic letter A, link to alphabetic site map
Site Map

©S.W. This site last updated March 2003 by the webmaster