Black and white engraving
The mansion on the estate in about 1840, when it was owned by the Denison family

Denbies is a large estate to the northwest of Dorking in Surrey, England. A farmhouse and surrounding land originally owned by John Denby was purchased in 1734 by Jonathan Tyers, the proprietor of Vauxhall Gardens in London, and converted into a weekend retreat. The house he built appears to have been of little architectural significance, but the Gothic garden he developed in the grounds on the theme of death achieved some notoriety, despite being short-lived. The estate was bought by Lord King of Ockham following Tyers' death in 1767, and the macabre artefacts he had installed, including two stone coffins topped by human skulls, were removed.

Joseph Denison, a wealthy banker, purchased the estate in about 1787, and it remained in the Denison family until 1849, when it passed to Thomas Cubitt, a master builder. At the time, Cubitt was working on Osborne House for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and the mansion he designed to replace the old one was a more modest version of Osborne. It was still a substantial building though, in the Italianate style, with almost 100 rooms on three storeys.

The payment of death duties and the difficulty of maintaining a large estate during the Second World War forced the Cubitt family to begin selling packets of land. Cubitt's mansion was abandoned until its demolition in 1953, by which time the family was living in a Regency-style house converted from the housing that had been provided for the garden and stable staff in more affluent times.

What remained of the estate – about 635 acres (2.57 km2) – was put on the market in 1984 and bought by Biwater, a water-treatment company. Two years later the company chairman Adrian White established Denbies Wine Estate, using 268 acres (1.08 km2) on a south-facing piece of land to plant vines.


A farmhouse originally owned by John Denby in the mid-16th century, after whom the estate is named, stood at the heart of Denbies.[1][a] The lands were sold by William Wakefield (or Wakeford[2]) to Jonathan Tyers in 1734,[3][b] to be developed as a weekend retreat.[5] Tyers was the owner of London's Vauxhall Gardens – known at that time as New Spring Gardens[6] – and was responsible for developing that venue into a "fashionable place of evening entertainment".[3] A simple two-storey house in the Georgian style was built by converting some of the old farm buildings.[1][7] Set on top of a hillside about two miles (3.2 km) northwest of Dorking, the house had views of the Surrey landscape[8] and backed onto Ranmore Common.[9] Tyers installed a well beside the house; a note in The Gentleman's Magazine of 1781 gives the well's measurements, recorded on 4 October 1764, as being six feet (1.8 m) in diameter and reaching a depth of four hundred and thirty-eight feet (134 m).[10] On that day it contained water to a depth of twenty-two feet (6.7 m) supplied from a spring.[10] The front of the house had a pediment in the central wing decorated with a coat of arms; the rooms were not large but were conveniently situated.[11] According to historian Brian Allen the house was not architecturally significant and scant information is available about it; the garden established by Tyers, however, gained notoriety.[12]

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