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Report - Bedgebury Lower school / Lillesden Manor pic heavy - text heavy too.


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Mookster and I decided we had to head east and sample the delights of the Kent/Sussex border. Lillesden Park, Near Hawkshurst in Kent was our first point of call.

You can scroll down to the pictures but for completeness here's some fleshed out background history.

Most reports I've seen borrow from the same text. It appears on Doctor Who Locations where there is a comment there that "Bedgebury Lower school actually closed down in 1999 as a school. We were all then told that the building was sold to a very wealthy family which by the looks of it either didn't happen or they weren't all that wealthy. Miss Wheelhouse was the headmistress at the time "
Miss Wheelhouse did a piece for Radio 4 sadly the audio is no longer available. It appears she still lives in a cottage adjoining the school.

According to "The Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens" @
By the C15 Hawkhurst had become a centre for the cloth and iron industries. The Chittendens, eminent clothiers in the C16, built a house in The Moor area of Hawkhurst; {it} is shown on {a} 1769 map as Lillizden.
In 1853, Lillesden was bought by Lieutenant Colonel Edward Loyd, a banker {who} immediately demolished the Elizabethan house, replaced it with a Victorian mansion {he} died in 1890 and his wife ten years later, at which time the estate of 199ha was inherited by their youngest son, Llewellyn. During the First World War Lillesden was used as a hospital for refugees and the war wounded.
In 1922 the estate was broken up and the house, with some 10ha, was bought by St Wilfred’s Boys Preparatory School. School remained in occupancy until 1936 when it was offered for sale and described {in the sales particulars} as ‘most suitable for a large institution, boys’ or girls’ school, hotel, convent or private residence’ with ‘beautiful gardens and grounds’
It was bought by St Cuthbert’s Girls School which was forced to move out four years later when the site was requisitioned by the War Office. {After returning in 1945} it expanded rapidly over the next thirty years as Lillesden Girls School and bought nearby properties...
In 1975 the School merged with Bedgebury Park, Goudhurst and Hollington Park Schools as Bedgebury Lower School and in 1998 (sic) moved to the nearby Bedgebury site.
Lillesden house and grounds were purchased for development and the other buildings including the lodge, stable block, kitchen garden and water tower were sold separately. In 2009 a planning application was submitted for ‘change of use and alteration to Lillesden House to form 14 residential apartments’ and ‘new residential “enabling†development comprising 4 detached and 6 terraced houses with new access road’

I checked on the planninng web site, where there was also a plan filed in the name of Marshall to convert the building to a single house approved in 1999.
The 2009 plan was turned down, appealed and the appeal also turned down in June 2010. On-line case documents show the school was sold to the present owner 2004 for £1.8m. These name both the Marshalls and the Church Education Corporation Ltd, of Bedgebury School. According to companies house Church Education Corporation was disolved in November 2005, and the main Bedgebury school closed in summer 2006, to the great upset of parents and pupils. In 2007 that school was purchased by the Bell Educational Trust and reopened as the Bell Bedgebury International School. The proceeds from that sale form the basis of an educational trust.

Reading the Documents for the 2009 application I came across a surveyers report

There has been significant damage to the property as a result of water penetration where lead roofing has been stolen from the property. {which} has caused significant damage to plasterwork, joinery and finishings generally in the immediate areas affected and below but also by dampness elsewhere in the building. There has also been further water damage caused by the systematic removal of virtually the entire pipework to heating and plumbing. This resulted in water running through the property in various places.
In addition to the removal of lead and plumbing, concerted efforts have been made to remove certain of the architectural features, notably the fireplaces. Unfortunately, whoever was attempting to carry out this theft had little or no knowledge of the way fireplaces are constructed and fitted and the result has been that virtually every fireplace that has been addressed, has been damaged beyond repair. It is therefore the situation that these fireplaces are destroyed and no one will now get the benefit of them.
All the above was in our original Report in 2005. From our {2009} inspection all we can say is that the situation is worse now than in 2005. The causes and effects are the same.

It's a sad read

There's also a report from Savils which puts the sale value of the apartments at £5.5M, and the cost of conversion at £7.2m, after the £0.9M the surveyors thinks that stabilizing the building will cost, and £1.8m it cost to buy it in the first place. No wonder nothing is being done.

OK Photos. And the story of our explore
1. General Outside view.

2. Graffiti which greeted us on entry.

3. Fireplace as described in the surveyer's report.

4. Effects of damp on plasterwork (1)

5. Corridor shot - notice how the the floor has been torn up to steal pipes and cables.

6. Mookster tests the only bit of sanitaryware surviving in the place

7. His abition was to get up inside the clock tower. From the road it reminds me of Trumpton.

8. We'd opened a door into a cupboard full of Pidgeon shit and were taking arty photos.

9. From this Window we could see the road, and while Mookster was taking pictures of the glassware I looked out of neighbouring Window and realised we'd be standing under the clock. Sure enough the mechanism was just above us.

While we we getting shots of the clock we saw a bloke out of the Window. We couldn't tell if he was a solo explorer, a theif or some kind of security, we kept quiet and he left.

10. Back at ground level, someone seemed to have set this shot up for me.

11. And the very photogenic Orangary

12. Even the way to the Orangary is photogenic.

13. According to English Heritage "Niches to left and to right of half landing at one time contained statues signed E G Papworth, 1861 and 1862 (probably the elder E G Papworth) but these statues were removed and sold in 2003. " The removal was against the wishes of the planning department. They were probably better looking than the two of us.

14. The full landing is home of the enormous mirror.

At this point we heard voices, and couldn't tell if was the guy we'd seen before or fellow explorers. We couldn't decide whether to leg it or not, so we hid and when it became clear they (4 of them) were explorers (Hello Stealth) we came out and they asked about the clock and we headed up to show them.

15. Effect of damp on plasterwork (2) You can see on the landing the plaster from the ceiling above has fallen in. The floor is iffy here and in many, many places. It lets daylight through it in rather more places than a floor should

At the top of these stairs we were confronted by the guy we'd seen earlier, who told us off for going into such a dangerous place (not exactly leading by example there. If the 6 of us had been there to rob the place we might have turned nasty. He was brave (or daft) but also polite. So we were polite back.
16. We left, passing by another dodgy floor on the way.

We didn't make it to the basement, the surveyer's report said they considered it too dangerous to go there. And the outlying class rooms didn't look especially interesting so rather than double back to look at them we headed for the car, lunch and another site.



grumpy sod
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