The original mansion was built sometime between 1849 and 1854, when Thomas Fowler Wood owned the land, this was added to in 1855-59 for the Quaker banker Henry Edward Gurney. He later became bankrupt, and so the house and lands were sold to Joshua Fielden MP of Todmorden in Lancashire. The architect John Gibson built the present mansion.
In Gurney’s time, one of the popular events of the year was the “Festival of Ragged School Teachers” for which he invited teachers from the East London Schools to meet at Nutfield Priory. A staunch advocate of education for all, he paid for special trains to bring them to Redhill and they dined and “enjoyed the gardens and grounds”. The lake (no longer within the grounds) was put in by Gurney.
When Joshua Fielden purchased the house, he set about pulling down and rebuilding most of it. The tower was of his choosing.
The bosses, wood and stone carvings, wood panels etc are all original, as are the beautiful marble fireplaces. The organ is also original, built in 1874 and has been carefully restored by the Shepherd Brothers of London and sings as sweetly today as it always did.
Married to Ellen, Joshua Fielden MP was very much a family man (11 children) and cared deeply for the welfare of others. It was his father “Honest John Fielden, MP” who was responsible for passing the Ten Hours Bill in 1847. This limited the hours of women and children in the textile industry to ten hours a day. The remarkable aspect was that the Fieldens were one of the largest textile mill owners in the country. His father and brothers were also socially minded. It was Fielden who had taken a larger part in advocating and assisting the passing of the Ten Hours Bill, which greatly improved working conditions in the manufacturing industries. He was also very involved with the repeal of the Malt Tax and many other social and industrial reforms. He was gradually to be looked upon as the “poor man’s social friend”. I have never heard of this expression before. I think it applies to his father Honest John.
For the last ten years of his life his constitution had not been particularly strong, and he had on a number of occasions travelled to Cannes in France for the healing properties of the air and sea. It was here on 9th March 1887 that he sadly passed away, the day after his 60th Birthday. When Joshua died, he left Nutfield in trust for his wife Ellen for her lifetime. She lived on for another 40 years and stayed at Nutfield for almost all that time until 1920, when she sold the house and moved to London.
By this time Nutfield Priory had been sold to a Mr. Ferris and stayed a private residence until 1930 when Mr. O Picton Davis purchased it and turned it into a luxurious, very expensive hotel with a 9 hole golf course around the lake. The hotel brochure mentions the “medieval monks” who used to apparently walk along the Cloisters and angle in the lake on Thursdays. Needless to say, Nutfield has never been a Priory in the true sense but one can dream.
During the Second World War, the mansion was commandeered and Canadian soldiers were stationed here. Later Nutfield was a base for the ATS Personnel and NAAFI Training.
The years rolled on and Surrey County Council purchased Nutfield Priory, later to open it as the first Secondary Modern Boarding School for severely deaf children in England . The first Headmaster was Mr. S.J Blount, who through his knowledge, expertise and love of children made the school a success and also a happy home.
With the school’s closure in July 1987, the house reverted to its 1930’s usage as a hotel, reopening a year later. Following sympathetic renovation, restoration and refurbishment the house has now been restored to its former glory and as a country house hotel, many people can now share in its beauty.