Gatton Park & Gatton Hall
Gatton existed as far back as Saxon times, and it was still a manor when the Normans recorded it (as “Gatone”) in the Domesday Book some centuries later. There has been a house in Gatton Park since 1086 when it was owned by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, half-brother of William the Conquerer. The original building was an important manor house in 1220 and was also recorded as having a deer park in 1278.
Gatton was given parliamentary borough status in 1450 when the Duke of Norfolk was looking to improve his bargaining position during the Wars of the Roses.
As a ‘rotten borough’, Gatton was described by William Cobbett in 1830 as a “very rascally spot of earth”. It was a typical pocket borough used by its owning family as part of the trappings of the influential classes. In 1553, widowed Lady Copley actually voted centuries before women were legally entitled to vote.
Between 1751 and 1830 (when Lord Monson bought the Park) there were 5 owners. The most significant for the Park was Sir George Colebrooke. From 1762 to 1766 he commissioned Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to transform whatever formal gardens had existed before, into a classic English ‘natural’ landscape garden. Brown swept away the formal landscape that had been there before and replaced it with informal naturalistic plantings which accentuated the rolling landscape of the park. The main lake at Gatton Park was greatly expanded and the tributary lakes reshaped to include one of his trademark serpentine canals. The work at Gatton Park was completed in 1768 at a total cost of £3055, this commission was within the top 25% of Brown’s commissions in terms of value.
In 1765 Sir George Colebrooke added the so called ‘Town Hall’ that can still be seen today. This cast-iron Doric Temple and voting urn was a tribute to Gatton’s status as a parliamentary borough and was used to announce the election results.
The house fell into disrepair and was partly demolished by John Petrie (owner) some time between 1796-1808. The estate was sold to in 1808 to Mark Wood who had recently retired from service in India on grounds of ill-health and who was later created a baronet. He completed the demolition of the old manor and started rebuilding it in 1808 in an Italianate-style.
The Monson family owned the estate from 1830 to 1888 and Lord Monson made huge changes to St Andrew’s Church, the estate and parish church. Alterations were made to Gatton Hall from 1830 to 1841 Lord Monson employed the architect Sextus Dyball to complete the work. The house was now to become famous for the magnificent Marble Hall which had been originally designed for Charles IV of Spain which had been purchased by the fifth Baron on a trip to Rome in 1830 for the huge sum of £10,000 (approx. £620,000). The Marble Hall was a near replica of the Corsini Chapel in Leterano at Rome and built using the finest Italian marble and was renowned for its beauty.
The last person to own Gatton Park outright was Sir Jeremiah Colman from the family of successful food manufacturers and financiers based on the production of the famous Colman’s Mustard at Norwich. Gatton Park was owned by the Colman family from 1888 to 1948. Jeremiah Colman added the portico and columns in 1891. Colman was attracted to the Park due to its proximity to London and good communications, as well as the several hundred acres of land with game for hunting.
In 1934 disaster struck. A fire, starting in the cellar completely gutted and destroyed the famous house and Marble Hall along with many of its irreplaceable treasures. Sir Jeremiah Colman was abroad at the time but a great rescue operation took place. Mr Jones, a chauffeur, risked his life to assist in the salvage when a coping stone crashed through the roof and narrowly missed a number of firemen. A police constable was knocked unconscious in an explosion during the fire.
After the fire the Colmans continued to live on the estate and Gatton Hall as you see it today was rebuilt between 1934 and 1936 designed by Sir Edwin Cooper.
During the Second World War the Park was requisitioned and occupied by the Canadian Army and the British Military Police.
The core of the estate of Gatton Park today is home to the Royal Alexandra and Albert School, a voluntary aided boarding and day school. Gatton Park was bought in 1948 as the site for the merger of two charitable schools that were amalgamated by Act of Parliament as the Royal Alexandra and Albert School.
Part of the original estate not owned by the School was acquired by the National Trust in 1952. The site, leading up to Reigate Hill, is accessible by public footpaths. The former stone quarries can still be seen where Reigate stone was quarried along with chalk, for use in many local buildings.
The Royal Alexandra & Albert School
The school can trace its origins back to 1758 when a group of city gentlemen met and decided to collect up enough money to create a boarding school for twenty orphan boys. This opened in 1760 and twenty girls joined the School a couple of years later.
Gatton Park with its three lakes, serpentine and 260 acres of parkland provides the ideal setting for our school. Our purpose-built classrooms provide first class facilities for study. Purpose-build boarding houses provide comfortable, modern accommodation for Primary, Lower Secondary, and upper Secondary pupils.
Predominantly a boarding school, we provide continuity of education from seven to eighteen years. Unusually, we are able to provide the very best of boarding education at reasonable fees. As a state school, we are only able to admit children from UK or EU families.