Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The lost and found world of Worcester Park House

Those of you who saw the aerial photograph of Worcester Park House on this blog (here, if you missed it) taken by Charles 'Biggles' Brown in the last year of its glory in the summer of 1937 may be interested to learn of the return of the 2010 Expedition to locate and explore the site.

The Expedition left in March but progress was slow and laborious due to the thick tangle of undergrowth and trees that have totally enveloped the area surrounding what was once this 30-room mansion built in 1795 with grand curving staircase, carriage sweep, extensive grounds, ornamental lake, walled garden, kitchen gardens and orchards. How quickly nature reclaims her own.

There are no paths or animal tracks and progress was initially hampered by horse flies, rusty Coke cans and an old sofa that required a detour. Soon the Expedition left the detritus of civilisation far behind and entered a dark world of tall trees whose canopies competed for light far above, huge fallen branches and ancient briars that reached out and tangled with the intruder's clothing as if to bar entry. No bird or small animal made its presence felt though at night strange beasts could be heard prowling outside the explorer's hastily erected shelter.

Imagine the elation when after ages of monotonous and uneventful passage there appeared a low pile of moss-covered distinctive red bricks. Then the leader of the Expedition stumbled upon what was clearly a fallen chimney stack that perfectly accorded with those shown on a 1905 photograph of the House.

Next a large galvanised water tank came into view, twisted and half rooted in the ground. The old tank could not have travelled far from the spot where it fell in 1948 on the night of the Great Conflagaration caused by careless squatters or other dossers. Expectations rose and were not disappointed, suddenly a large stretch of waist-high wall appeared, the crumbling rendering showed clearly this was the wall that faced the long dried-up lake. Between the two was once a manicured lawn where the elderly Wheeler sisters took afternoon tea at three-thirty served by two of their many live-in servants.

If you view the photograp substantial trees, you can see that the substation trees on the left are actually growing 'inside' the House. Standing inside this room the remains of other walls became apparent, now covered with ground ivy.

What is shown in the photo, then, is all that remains above ground of Worcester Park House.

The conclusion was drawn that this was the remains of the south-east wing but nothing more was found save a lone stand of late Snowdrops, descendants of those that once graced the well-tended flower borders in their heyday.

But supplies were running low, and the weather taking a turn for the worse, so the decision was made to begin the long trek back braving the briars and fallen logs once more but promising to return someday to search for the remains of orchards, the balustraded bridge, the old ice house located by Tim Trent on the Expedition of 2006 - and of course the Wine Cellar!

Slowly the old House gives up its secrets.