What is the Dorset Hall Group?
The Dorset Hall Group (DHG) is campaigning to save Dorset Hall, a Grade II listed Georgian house on Kingston Road, Wimbledon.
The Hall has been sadly neglected in recent years and was latterly bedsits until around 2016 when it was found no longer fit for purpose, abandoned and then lived in by squatters. Owned by Clarion, the social housing provider, it no longer fits their purpose and their intention is to dispose of the house and the site.
Barbara Gorna, Chair of DHG, spotted the house and its name rang a remote bell. On investigation, she discovered that it had been the home of Rose Lamartine Yates the suffragette and social rights campaigner. In the 1930s the house had extensive grounds and was sold at a discount to Merton Council; Rose had stipulated that local people should be free to use the gardens ‘forever’.
It was not to be. The grounds have been built on and a nursing-home sits where the pond used to lie. Some gardens are left, and the house is still standing.
Merton should be proud of its freedom-fighters’ heritage. Rose Lamartine Yates hosted suffragettes freed from prison fresh from hunger-strike, and ran the WSPU – the local branch of the Pankhursts’ union. She was militant in fighting for women’s rights and dedicated herself to social justice.
The DHG got in touch with Clarion and after much negotiation have agreed a stay on the sale whilst the future of the building is discussed. It is in a sorry state with water pouring in through the roof to the ground floor. It’s been a tough call, but Clarion have now agreed to make the building watertight and scaffolding is due to go up in the third week of February 2021. The repairs will take around two months.
Who we are
Barbara Gorna is the founder of the Dorset Hall Group and is working along with her husband Simon Hood, a descendant of local politician and benefactor Sir Joseph Hood, and others to ensure the future of Dorset Hall. You can read more about Barbara’s motivation to conserve Dorset Hall for current and future generations in her blogpost on the Mapping Women’s Suffrage 1911 website here.
Please get in touch for more information and to join the DHG. We welcome enthusiastic supporters.
Firstly, we need an idea of the value of the site – and this costs money. Secondly, we would like the Hall returned to the community and used as part-museum and part drop-in centre for the community. We need to raise funds to progress our cause and hire specialist heritage architects to prepare a Conservation Plan for restoration and future sustainability of a Museum and Community hub.
There are so many ways in which Dorset Hall can be restored as a memorial to the women’s suffrage movement and usefully serve the community as Rose Lamartine Yates had wished.
How to get involved
Clarion are finally in agreement that we should work together on the site and develop a sustainable way forward. We are currently working on an action plan and have collected experts along the way including heritage specialists and architects. A leading City law firm has offered to help on the legal side. So we are getting there.
Please lend your support to this cause.