Balcombe Place

Our History

 

OUR HISTORY

Balcombe Place forms part of the Balcombe Estate, owned and run by the descendants of Lady Gertrude Denman who was given the house by her father, Weetman Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray as a wedding present in 1905.

 
 
 Balcombe Place - One day we will swim on the front lawn again...

Balcombe Place - One day we will swim on the front lawn again...

Lady Denman, who recorded one of her hobbies as "bonfires" made Balcombe Place her home in 1914 when she and her husband returned from Australia - after famously naming the capital city, Canberra. Described as 'an energetic, progressive, liberal, feminist, unorthodox soul," Lady Denman was a phenomenal woman who fought for women's rights and pushed the boundaries of society.  In 1917 she became the first President of the National Federation of Women's Institutes, a post she held until 1946. She was also the first Chairman of the Family Planning Association and President of the Ladies Golf Union. (A keen golfer, Lady Denman laid a course where the ninth hole was so close to the plate glass windows of the dining room that her guests were never brave enough to hit the ball hard and she always won.)

 The Main Hall - The hub of the Women's Land Army during the Second World War.

The Main Hall - The hub of the Women's Land Army during the Second World War.

As Director of the Women's Land Army during the Second World War, Lady Denman donated Balcombe Place to the cause, allowing it to become the administrative headquarters of the Women's Land Army. This was a rather clever move as it allowed the house to be protected from the perils of war, yet allowed it to play an important role in the war at home. 

In 1933 Lady Denman was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) and a Dame Grand Cross (GBE) in 1951.

 Lord and Lady Denman - Hosting a shooting party.

Lord and Lady Denman - Hosting a shooting party.

Following the deaths of both Lord and Lady Denman in 1954, Balcombe Place became a prep school for boys until 1976. It then became a conference centre and was a care home from 1985 until 2017.