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History of Marden Park

The woods were once part of Marden Park Manor, a centre of population which was almost wiped out by the Black Death in 1349. In the 17th century, the manor was purchased by Sir Robert Clayton, Whig MP and Lord Mayor of London, who created several plantations on the site. William Wilberforce, campaigner for the abolition of slavery, lived there for a time towards the close of the 18th century and letters written by him bear the address.

The estate passed through several generations of the extended Clayton family until it was sold in 1907 to a wealthy stockbroker, Sir Walpole Lloyd Greenwell. Sir Walpole and his son, Sir Bernard, kept a string of racehorses, and Marden Park Farm was built as a shire horse stud. In 1946 the mansion became the Convent of the Sacred Heart, a Catholic boarding school, but since 1985 it has been known as Woldingham School.

In 1888 the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment leased part of Marden Park to construct a rifle range. It was still in use in the 1930s, and probably during the Second World War. The remnants of the brickwork foundations of the ammunition huts can still be seen, as well as the target mound, which is in an area of open grassland.

In the late 19th century, a deep tunnel was built to take the Croydon and East Grinstead railway line, opened in 1884, underneath the site. The circular brick air shaft for the railway can be seen near the car park.

During the 1950s Great Church Wood was owned by the conductor Sir Adrian Boult, founder of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, who subsequently sold the wood to the Forestry Commission. Marden Park was acquired by the Woodland Trust in 1994.