Coworth Park, Dorchester Collection

Macfarlane Wilder was approached by the Dorchester Collection in 2006 to obtain planning permission for the restoration of this derelict late 18th Century house to be converted to a country house 6 star hotel with luxury gardens. Coworth House and immediate gardens had been derelict for 10 years, having previously been the residential home to Lord Stanley, the 17th Earl of Derby (1908-1948), then the residence of his widow, Alice Stanley, Countess of Derby (1862-1957), later sold to a Roman Catholic Convent school in 1957 and subsequently becoming offices until bought by the Dorchester Collection 10 years ago.

The grounds were completely overgrown and neglected. Several historic features including the Ha Ha, the Sunken Garden, the Northern Garden, the Lime Avenue, the Lord Derby Tunnel, the Upper and Lower Terrace, were well hidden beneath dense, impenetrable vegetation.

The scheme involved the careful and respectful rediscovery of the hidden beauty of Coworth Park with the challenge of adapting this to a new leisure use and a hotel grounds of the highest standards.


  • Project Name

    Coworth Park, Dorchester Collection

  • Location

    Sunningdale, Surrey

  • Category

    Heritage, culture, art

  • Landscape Architect

    Macfarlane + Associates Ltd

  • Client

    Dorchester Collection

  • Brief

    Macfarlane Wilder was appointed to develop a landscape masterplan for the areas surrounding Coworth House. The brief for the landscape design was to create a luxurious setting for the new use of Coworth Park House as a country house hotel, similar to those restored at nearby Tittenhurst Park, which also offers hotel and leisure activities within a wider parkland setting. The neglected gardens immediately surrounding the house were required to be restored and refurbished with avenues and vista lines re-established to give structure and meaning to the landscape.

  • Awards

    LI Awards 2012 - Design over 5 hectares - Winner


  • Project Team

    Architects:EPR, Purcell Miller Tritton Project manager: Buro Four Engineers: Bellamy Roberts, AKS Ward, Wallace Whittle, Considere Engineers Planning consultants: Gregory Gray Associates

  • Local planning authority or government body

    Runnymede Borough Council

  • Year Completed


  • Project Size

    14 hectares

  • Contract Value

    £4 million

  • Capital Funding

    £12 million


  • Planting

    The entrance planting seeks to merge with the wilder surrounding landscape by featuring at both ends a variety of Rhododendron and Azalea species. As the design progresses towards the entrance it formalises with round topiary of Buxus and Osmanthus species juxtaposed to tall rural grasses, creating a vibrant dynamic entrance. The evergreen topiary and grasses frame perennial planting to the front of the beds which are changed by the hotel on a regular basis to add theme and colour throughout the year. The existing trees within the stable courtyard were retained to create a centre point and the central dynamic hedge creates a pivoting feature around which curving planted beds rotate. The strong axis of a Taxus baccata sloping circular hedge creates a central plaza for a quiet seating or private event venue. A circular grass ‘bare foot’ path is framed by flowering Rhododendrons and the bright reds of Ucinia rubra and blues of Festuca glauca, while on the outer edge the rich browns and reds of Carex ‘Comans Bronze’ are set against the bright silver of the Convulvula cneorum and Panicum virgatum ‘Cloud Nine’. Planting to the roof of the sunken spa includes a sedum mat over the sloping areas as well as a variety of scented herbs including Lavandula stoechas, Mentha, Melissa officinalis, Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’, Thymus vulgaris ‘Silver Posie’. The fresh herbs are used within the spa for a variety of treatments. The landscape also includes 3.2 hectares of wild flower meadow. The mixture used is bespoke to the light sandy soil type with a relatively low Ph. Species used include Wild Carrot, White Campion, Knapweed, Ragged Robin, Devils Bit Scabious, Ox Eye Daisy, Cornflower, Corn Cockle, Corn Marigold, Fox Glove and Common Poppy. Several modern methods of construction methodologies and sustainable design principles were used including: no dig construction for both vehicular and pedestrian areas; natural reinstatement of pond ecology; biodiverse meadow hiding a GSHP; short crop rotation for biomass boiler; green roof technology over a spa building sunken within new land contours.

  • Materials

    The original Coworth Park House dates back to 1776 and was constructed in Georgian / Palladian Manor House style. The new entrance paving design, with an orthogonal layout, is respectful to the original geometries, creating a dialogue with the existing architecture. The rectangular design, with a smaller section with cobbles in the middle, creates a formal sense of arrival to the hotel. The Chinese Green green/grey sand stone, with lighter granite banding, complement the white cladding of the building.

  • Contractors

    Galliford Try and Elite Landscapes

  • Macfarlane + Associates Ltd

    Registered Practice - (6 - 10 Employees)
  • Approximate Map Location


    Sunningdale, Surrey

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