Broadfield House - A brief history
Broadfield House is a 19th-century villa-style house in the Broadfield neighbourhood of Crawley, a town and borough in West Sussex, England. Built in 1830 on the extensive land of the Tilgate Estate south of the small market town of Crawley, it was extended later in the 19th century and converted into a country club.
After World War II, Crawley was designated a New Town and had to prepare for rapid, strictly planned growth. Broadfield House was chosen as the headquarters of the Development Corporation, and became the base where all the decisions that shaped Crawley's future were made. The house, which is still set in parkland, has been listed at Grade II by English Heritage for its architectural and historical importance.
Broadfield House stands in Broadfield Park, a nature reserve with lakes and landscaped gardens. It is a stuccoed, bow-fronted building with two storeys. The Welsh slate roof has prominent eaves. A veranda supported on columns runs around the east and north sides and faces the lake in the park.
The entrance is on the north face, but the main facade is on the east side, fronting a driveway leading to the Brighton Road. The 1860s single-storey extension is on the west side, and has three bays with round-arched windows. The north side also has three bays. Most windows in all parts of the building are jalousies.
Records show that the first owner was the Rev William Serigson, but by 1839, the property was passed on to a member of the 'gentry', Thomas Briggs, and was used as a hunting lodge. In 1860, Broadfield House was bought by a wealthy city merchant, George Sandeman, thought to be one of the Sandeman Port family. Anne Sandeman sold the house to a Katherine Ashburner in 1864, but it was transferred to Phillip Sailard, an ostrich feather merchant and one of the major landowners in the Crawley area a year later. By 1901, Broadfield House was shared by two tenants, a Major Steele and a Dr Hitchin. The estate was split up around 1926 when Phillip Sailard's mansion became Cottesmore School and Broadfield House became the property of a retired diamond merchant. He sold out to a director of the Meredith and Drew biscuit company tens years later. An oil company was using Broadfield Houseas offices in 1939 but it was then converted by the London Carriage Company into a Hotel country club.
The famous acid bath murderer John Haigh (who had a work shop in old Crawley) called here one night in 1948 looking for a room. He was told him the hotel was shut, he used the phone there to find alternative accommodation. Haigh was with Dr Henderson that night. The last night Henderson was seen alive !
Business proved poor and the property was taken over by the New Towns Commission as headquaters for the Crawley Development Corporation in 1948. Broadfield House was converted into offices for Crawley Urban District Council, the local authority created in 1956 to govern the town.(This became Crawley Borough Council when the borough was incorporated in 1974.) Broadfield House remained the nucleus of Crawley New Town until 1975 when the commission was stripped of its housing assets. The house stayed empty for several years despite several attempts to sell it, it remained empty and unused.
Radio Mercury first started broadcasting in October of 1984 from the lovely Broadfield House. Their first frequencies were 103.6fm and 1521am but to further the reach and provide a better quality for listeners they changed to 102.7fm with an additional transmitter for Horsham on 97.5fm. From the very begining Radio Mercury was designed to be the local station for the local populations of Surrey and Sussex and they worked hard to make sure all were catered for. The music policy was predominately classic hits with some new releases with specialist programmes at the weekend designed to please devotees of soul and disco, country, nostalgia, classical and comedy. The first presenter on air was Ed Stewart. Other early presenters included Tony Myatt, Geoff Aspel (Michaels brother), Peter Young, Pat Sharp, Howard Pearce and Russ Williams.
The radio station later relocated to offices on the Manor Royal industrial estate, and by 2008 the building was mostly vacant. At that time a planning application was lodged with Crawley Borough Council to convert the building into 12 apartments. Permission was granted a few months later, however nothing progressed, the building remained looking rather sad and in need of some very urgent TLC.
See also Wikipedia on Broadfield House.
This beautiful, grade II listed building was refurbished (at huge cost) and opened as Discovery New School in September 2011. Unfortunately following poor Ofsted reports and alleged management issues the school finally closed its doors in April 2014, so another chapter in the checkered history of this grand old house closes. What next ?
On 19 August 2015 a planning application was registered with Crawley Borough Council for a change of use for Broadfield House from D1 (EDUCATION) to C2 (RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL). The applicant is the TBAP Trust. Click here to read more about TBAP. Work on the internal changes to the house started in Nov 2015
To view the TBAP letter to local residents and the Friends of Broadfield Park, click here. We look forward to working with TBAP in due course. You can see their Twitter feed entries here for the period when they were at the house.
April 2017, TBAP announce they will be ceasing operations in Broadfield House at Easter, apparently due to funding problems. April 2018 and the removal vans arrived and items removed, they even had a some open days to sell off some of the remaining items. The caretaker will leave and a security company will (hopefully) take care of the security of the building. So what next in the checkered history of this grand old house ? We understand its been passed back to the Dept of Education to find a new occupier and use, anyway the building is deteriorating, looking sad, unloved and in much need of tlc.
Watch this space . . . .
See more pictures in our Photo Gallery. If you have any information or pictures (old or new) about the house or park, that you would be willing to share on this website, then please contact us. Thanks.