In 1806, Harvey Christian Combe, brewer and Lord Mayor of London, decided to establish himself as a country gentleman and purchased the Cobham Park estate. His family played a significant role in the development of the village into a small town over the past two centuries. This highly illustrated book commemorates the bicentenary of Harvey Combe's arrival in Cobham and tells the story of his descendants and their contributions to the estate. 'Young Harvey', his son, was a typical Regency gentleman farmer, who enjoyed hunting and the turf; his sister built new schools and provided clean water for Downside. Later, their nephew Charles reigned as 'squire' of Cobham for nearly sixty years, during which time he rebuilt the house. Despite agricultural depression, heavy taxation and pressures to sell, the family have retained the estate. Today Dominic Combe, three times great-grandson of Harvey Combe, is restoring the parkland to its 19th-century appearance. As this book reveals, however, the Combe family are relative newcomers to Cobham, an area of ancient settlement. The 'down' in the park was probably home to prehistoric nomadic hunters.
Recent excavations at Down Farm have revealed occupation of the site in the Anglo-Saxon period. Before it became Cobham Park in the 18th century, the land saw many fascinating owners and occupiers, including a fishmonger granted lands for his 'faithful services' to Chertsey Abbey, a royal officer under Henry VIII, an apothecary to Elizabeth I, the Suttons, who had links to the famous episode of Gerrard Winstanley, and a gentleman of Charles II's 'privye chamber'. In 1728, the estate was purchased by John Bridges, who based the first Cobham Park mansion on Palladio's Villa Zeno. His architect was almost certainly Roger Morris, a pioneer of the English Palladian style. Lord Ligonier, a Huguenot refugee who became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, succeeded him. This entertaining book tells the absorbing stories of these and other colourful characters whose lives, actions, and changing fortunes all helped to make Cobham Park 'an estate for all seasons'.