James Hudson built the mansion as an elegant family home. He named it Capenor after the much older house that used to exist east of the present location.
In 1890, Mr Hudson became High Sheriff of Surrey. Local documents record that he used to entertain the local hunt, the Surrey Staghounds, with an ‘elegant champagne breakfast in the hall’
in the presence of a ‘large influential company which included many ladies who viewed proceedings from the gallery’.
Our grounds are set in 25 acres, but the Capenor formal garden was originally laid out over 14 acres. The camellia terrace planted by Mr Hudson still comprises an attractive part of our grounds, while the original Capenor nursery is now privately owned.
Outlying buildings such as the lodge, coachhouse, bailiff’s house and stables were constructed around a central quadrangle with double gates, clocktower and weathervane. These properties have since been converted into private accommodation.
In 1896, Mr Hudson owned a sand mine on the property, from which secret tunnels may still remain. He eventually sold the house to Mr CD Rudd, who sent his third son out first on a prolonged big game hunting safari and then to join his two older brothers managing the network of stores in SA run by Rudd and Co. When running the firm’s new branch in Kimberley, Charles took on Cecil Rhodes as a clerk. Members of the Rudd family founded De Beers Mining Company which was later taken over by Rhodes. When gold was discovered in the Transvaal, Rudd withdrew from the management of De Beers and started Gold Fields of South Africa with himself as senior partner and Rhodes as junior partner. In due course GFSA became Consolidated Gold, jointly controlled by Rudd and Rhodes, and in the mid 1880s one of the richest companies in the world. After the two millionaire partners withdrew from Consolidated Gold, Rhodes concentrated on colonising the land to the north (Rhodesia) while Rudd retired to live off Hyde Park (later at Capenor) and to develop his own 50,000 acre sporting estate in Scotland.
Mr Rudd sold it to Mr Henry Brandt, a German merchant banker who used the property as a family home and to host community flower shows. He was also a successful farmer. According to Farmer and Stockbreeder, one of his Aberdeen Angus bulls won ‘first and breed champion’ in the 1938 Tunbridge Wells show.
The Sussex Cattle Society records that, in 1943, Mr Brandt sold a bull named ‘Capenor Colonel’ to John Dunn to start a herd, along with cows acquired from the Earl of Guildford. Today, John’s son Roger, of Goldstone Butchers, sells home-produced Sussex beef with a pedigree lineage that can be traced back to this transaction.
The acclaimed photographer, Bill Brandt (1904-1983), was Henry’s nephew. His high-contrast images of British society were internationally renowned, and included portraits of a parlourmaid
named Pratt, who worked at Capenor.
The house was requisitioned to be the Headquarters of the Royal Canadian Airforce and serve as the officers’ mess. During their time in residence they dug out the original wine cellars to extend the
basement along almost the entire length of the ground floor. During our renovations, we discovered some Spitfire parts there.
Various groups and companies took up residence including members of Thomas Cook’s family, a group of Roman Catholic monks, and a firm manufacturing wall planners for aircraft parts.
Records show that the Christian Apologetics course was taught at Capenor House between 1948-1951. Laporte Industries Ltd (formerly Fullers’ Earth Union Ltd) occupied Capenor sometime during the 1950s. They installed an experimental mine working on the land that turned out to be unsuccessful because the geological strata were insufficiently robust.
Capenor became the headquarters of the National Sunday School Union (NSSU) who subsequently changed their name to the National Christian Education Council (NCEC). It was during this period that the house was renamed after their wartime General Secretary, Robert Denholm.
TLP Ltd occupied the property and completely refurbished it to run as serviced offices.