ABOUT THE PARK
Set within an area of 78 acres including an six acre lake, it is hard to believe that Dunorlan Park was once a private garden. But that is how the Park was born.
In the 1850s, farmland on the outskirts of the famous spring town of Tunbridge Wells was acquired by Henry Reed, a merchant, shipbuilder and evangelist who returned from Tasmania a very wealthy man. Reed originally hailed from Doncaster and fathered 16 children. No wonder he needed such a large garden.
After commissioning a large Italianate mansion in what is now the park, Reed decided to hire one of the most famous horticulturalists of his time to create his Dunorlan garden. He hired Robert Marnock, from Sheffield, whose design philosophy focussed on harmony with nature. Marnock adapted the lake to form a 'fine ornamental sheet of water' and created a 'luxuriant avenue of deodoras and douglas picea, leading from a Grecian temple to a handsome stone basin and fountain'.
When Henry Reed decided to move back to Yorkshire, he struggled to sell his Dunorlan home. The problem lay with the house, not with the garden. Two attempted auctions failed. Reed himself had been no fan of the mansion, complaining to his architect from the outset. But the architect refused to change his plans.
One of Reed's servants said the house was 'an architectural monstrosity'. Despite this, eventually, Dunorlan was sold and remained the home of the Collins family until it was requisitioned by the Army during the Second World War.
DID YOU KNOW?
The statues by Dunorlan's Grecian Temple were used for target practice by soldiers preparing for war.
The Dunorlan mansion survived the war, but caught fire a year later. It had to be demolished in 1957 because of the damage.
During the War, the Town Council bought the estate for £42,000, but did not take control of it until a decade later.
In 2003, a year after the park was Grade II listed by English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund approved a grant of £2.1 million to help restore it to the original Robert Marnock Design.