Foxwarren Park, at Wisley in Surrey, is a Victorian country house and estate. On sandstone Ockham and Wisley Commons, it was designed in 1860 by the railway architect Frederick Barnes for brewing magnate and MP, Charles Buxton. It is a Grade II* listed building.

Foxwarren Park
The newly-constructed house was pictured in the Illustrated London News in 1860
TypeHouse
LocationWisley, Borough of Guildford, Surrey
Coordinates51°19′43″N 0°27′08″W / 51.3286°N 0.4521°W / 51.3286; -0.4521
Built1860
ArchitectFrederick Barnes
Architectural style(s)Gothic Revival
OwnerPrivately owned
Listed Building – Grade II*
Official nameFoxwarren Park
Designated22 September 1981
Reference no.1189110
Foxwarren Park is located in Surrey
Foxwarren Park
Location of Foxwarren Park in Surrey

From 1919 to 1955, it was owned by Alfred Ezra who was President of the Avicultural Society — he assembled a collection of rare birds and animals on the estate — in 1939 it housed the last known pink-headed ducks in the world. It was then owned by Hannah Weinstein and chosen for films and television series including The Adventures of Robin Hood.

History

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Charles Buxton, brewer, philanthropist and politician, was also an amateur architect.[1] Having rented a range of properties around the growing village of Weybridge in the 1850s, he purchased the site for Foxwarren Park in 1855.[1] He was heavily involved in the design of the new house, working with Frederick Barnes, known more for his designs for railway stations, particularly in Norfolk. The style is described as "harsh Victorian Gothic".[2]

The house has been suggested as the inspiration for E. H. Shepard's illustrations of Toad Hall in Kenneth Grahame's book, The Wind in the Willows.[3][4] The claim has also been made for Hardwick House[5] and Mapledurham House[6] in Oxfordshire, and Fawley Court in Buckinghamshire.[7][8][9]

The house was acquired by Alfred Ezra in 1919, who owned it until his death in 1955. He was an enthusiastic breeder of birds and created a large private collection of rare birds and animals on the estate. From in 1939 the journal Forest and Outdoors praised it as "probably the finest (private zoo) in the world"; in which state it had been since 1920 and remained so until the following year.[10][11] It hosted the known last pair of pink-headed ducks.[12]

During World War II, the estate hosted research facilities of engineering firm Vickers for Operation Chastise: development of Barnes Wallis's bouncing bomb.[13]

 
Maid Marian, Robin Hood and Little John in The Adventures of Robin Hood which was shot on location here

In the 1950s, the house and estate was owned by Hannah Weinstein's Sapphire Films which built a castle in the deer park and used it as the location for the successful TV series, The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Richard Greene.[14] a not dissimilar show, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, also used it as a location. Weinstein commissioned writers who had been blacklisted in the US as communists and this exile community included Christina Stead, who had a cottage in the grounds.[15]

In 1978, the house was used as the main location for the horror movie, The Comeback.[16]

Architecture

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The house is built of red brick, in a polychromatic design, with terracotta dressings and blue diapering.[2] The house is Grade II* listed.[2] The architectural critic Ian Nairn (d.1983) described the Model Farm attached to Foxwarren Park as "a true Struwelpeter mid-Victorian nightmare".[17] It has a separate Grade II* listing.[18]

The house's elaborate decorations and antiques may be those being compared to those of the subject house of Henry James' novel, The Spoils of Poynton:[19]

...out of a Philistine, a tasteless, a hideous house; the kind of house the very walls and furniture of which constitute a kind of anguish for such a woman as I suppose the mother to be. That kind of anguish occurred to me, precisely, as a subject, during the two days I spent at Fox Warren...

Notes

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  1. ^ a b Nairn, Pevsner & Cherry 1971, pp. 596–8.
  2. ^ a b c Historic England. "FOXWARREN PARK, Wisley (1189110)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Foxwarren Park, near Cobham, Surrey". www.victorianweb.org.
  4. ^ Michelle Nichols (10 March 2001), "Is this house the real Toad Hall?", The Scotsman
  5. ^ Davidson, Max (24 October 2015). "Secrets, scandal and Toad of Toad Hall: the properties with stories to tell" – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  6. ^ BBC. "Who spawned Mr Toad?".
  7. ^ "High Court fight over 'Toad Hall'". BBC News. 11 July 2011.
  8. ^ "Would the real Toad Hall please stand up - Creation Theatre Company". 23 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Wind in the Willows Centenary". Berks&Bucks Life.
  10. ^ J. Delacourt (1956), "Alfred Ezra", Ibis, 98 (1): 135–136, doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1956.tb03033.x
  11. ^ "Mr. Ezra's hobby is his private zoo. It is probably the finest one in the world.", Forest and Outdoors, 35: 117, 1939
  12. ^ Robert J. Hoage, William A. Deiss, ed. (1996), New Worlds, New Animals: From Menagerie to Zoological Park in the Nineteenth Century, JHU Press, p. 148, ISBN 9780801853739
  13. ^ "Dam good show from Brooklands to honour Barnes Wallis – Woking News and Mail". www.wokingnewsandmail.co.uk.
  14. ^ Michael Eaton (2016), "Notes from Sherwood", Lindsay Anderson Revisited, Springer, pp. 87–89, ISBN 9781137539434
  15. ^ "Walton on Thames – rescued by Rover and Robin Hood", The Studio Tour, 3 February 2015
  16. ^ Derek Pykett (2008), British Horror Film Locations, McFarland, p. 29, ISBN 9780786451937
  17. ^ Nairn, Pevsner & Cherry 1971, p. 67.
  18. ^ Stuff, Good. "Home Farm House and Barns, Elmbridge, Surrey". www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk.
  19. ^ M.C. Rintoul (2014), "Foxwarren Park", Dictionary of Real People and Places in Fiction, Routledge, p. 425, ISBN 9781136119323

References

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