1939 to present: decline, dereliction and restoration

After the War, the CHATTELL family moved to Hammerwood. They recognised the problem of how such a large house could be usefully preserved, and eventually divided the house into eleven apartments, thinking that this would ensure its long-term preservation. The flats became vacant, however, as dry-rot mushrooms appeared on the walls. But when it was sold by auction in 1973, a pop group had another idea.

 

LED ZEPPELIN dreamed of a musical centre with a recording studio and living accommodation for the members of the group and their families. Plans were drawn but never executed due to their increasing commitments abroad and the worsening problem of the dry-rot.

 

Hammerwood made an appearance at the beginning of their film The Song Remains the Same, in which they were depicted driving up to the house whilst shooting up Nazis from inside a vintage car. Reputedly, one very large and loud concert (presumably an informal gathering) was also held at the house which attracted enough complaints from surrounding residents that it was not repeated.

 

During this time, massive vandalism took place and three tons of lead were removed from the roof, allowing thousands of gallons of water to enter in fourteen different places, which then fed wet rot. Dry rot galloped throughout the structure. The house was boarded up in 1976 and offered for sale over the following years. Whilst the group were criticised at the time, at least their ownership removed the house from the property market and the commercial developers, paving the way for a subsequent restoration.

 

Eventually in June 1982, Hammerwood Park was advertised for sale in Country Life. Its condition had deteriorated so much that only a sketch illustrated the full page advertisment with underneath those ominous words: 'In need of modernisation'. Photographs (see below) would have been too off-putting.

 

It was bought by the PINNEGAR family in July 1982. David Pinnegar had just graduated from Imperial College, London, as a physicist, aged 21. Having come from a family of conservationists and also being fortunate enough to inherit his grandmother's house, it was possible to sell that and purchase Hammerwood Park.

 

First Sight

Hazel Payne (1985)

 

Alone, unloved and empty

Stood the massive old grey pile.

To find it you would travel

Down a lane about a mile.

 

How sad we felt to gaze on it

No windows, roof or doors

Battered hard by wind and rain

With hardly any floors.

The damp and cold was everywhere

It chilled you to the bone.

We felt this never more would be

A cheerful, happy home.

 

This pile was found by three good folk

Who couldn't bear to see

This ruined house in such a state

So they obtained the key.

We'll do our best to give it back

Its former looks and grace,

Then open to the public

This fine and noble place.

 

These three good folk have kept their vow,

It's really worth a visit:

The house has doors and windows now

And teas are served within it.

Now Eileen, John and David

With Alan, George and Pat,

Deserve a medal for the work

And a feather in their cap.

 

Do go along, don't miss this treat

It really does look good,

There's lots to see and hear about

At lovely Hammerwood.

 

For more about the restoration, click here.

 

David married Anne-Noëlle (née Tamplin), daughter of the late Lt. Col. Tamplin, a Military Knight of Windsor, in 1990. Their first son, George, was born in 1991 and is represented by the cherub in the bi-centenary mural. Tom was born in 1993 and Edward in 1996.

 

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