With an ever-increasing demand for more conference and meeting room facilities, construction started in the winter of 2015 on the new Elm Grove conference centre. The Centre uses the most technologically-advanced equipment and can seat up to 140 delegates. The fourth floor Lime Tree Suite features a fabulous terrace with panoramic views towards the city, perfect for hosting drinks receptions, lunches and smaller networking events. 31 guest bedrooms are also available for clients who wish to book Elm Grove for several days.
This beautiful neo-classical Palladian villa was originally built for William, 2nd Earl of Bessborough, by William Chambers in the early 1760s as a country retreat and as somewhere to display his large sculpture collection. Inside the main house there are five inter-connecting rooms which were originally the dining room, sitting room, hall, library and bedroom and they retain many of their original features. After three generations in the Bessborough family, the 5th Earl sold the house to the Conservative Land Society for division into smallholdings. In 1861 they sold it to the Jesuits who purchased the property to use as their novitiate. The house was renamed Manresa House.
The Jesuits added two wings and a chapel in the 1860s and 1870s and a long gallery corridor was designed by Henry Clutton to link the two wings. The clock was also added at this time. The Chapel was designed by J.J. Scholes, who also designed Westminster Cathedral, and was deconsecrated in 1961. The most eminent Jesuit who spent time at Manresa House was the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins who was a novitiate there from between 1868 and 1870.
In the 1950s the London County Council (LCC) compulsorily purchased the land for housing. By 1962, the Jesuits decided that Manresa would no longer be suitable for a novitiate and they sold the House to the LCC who adapted it as a College. The ceilings and panelling were restored in the 1980s by University of Greenwich working alongside English Heritage.
From 1622 until circa 1790, Roehampton Great House stood on the site of Grove House and was the second largest house in Surrey. The eighteenth century fashions were changing and the wealthy people near London wanted a moderate-sized villa with pleasure rather than a vast mansion and park. Somewhere between 1779 and 1793 the Great House was demolished and Grove House, designed by James Wyatt for Joshua Vanneck, was built.
After numerous changes in ownership, the estate was inherited by Stephens Lyne in 1851. Stephens lived at Grove House with his wife Yolande Duvernay, a Parisian ballet dancer. On Stephens death in 1860 Yolande commemorated her husband by building a Romanesque mausoleum in the grounds; it was consecrated by the Bishop of London in 1864. Yolande was buried there in 1894 and the enclosed grounds contain the graves of the Claremont family who cared for Yolande after Stephens death.
The central feature of the landscape is the lake which dates back to the Great House. The bridge to the lake is an exquisite folly, contemporary to Grove House and consists of a stone balustrade with three arches and Coade-stone urns. The lake freezes in the winter and the College archive hold accounts of skating parties at the end of the 19th century and ice hockey matches played out between the Royal Flying Corps, who were stationed at Grove House, in World War One.
Within the grounds is a curious man-made grotto, behind which is an icehouse. Known as ‘Rooks Grotto’, and built somewhere between 1895 and 1912, it included pathways, caverns and cascading waterfalls. The icehouse was rediscovered in 1998 behind a bricked-up door and although no date can be fixed to its construction, it probably dates to the late 18th Century.
In 1921 Dr Claude Montefiore bought Grove House for £29,750 on behalf of the Froebel Educational Institute for Froebel College.