Historic Dorset Hall Is Finally Saved From Ruin

Future plans now being hatched as work to make it watertight is finished

Dorset Hall from the back garden
Dorset Hall from its back garden

Historic Dorset Hall in South Wimbledon, the former home of suffragette pioneer Rose Lamartine Yates, has finally been saved from ruin with the completion of essential building work.

Scaffolding has now been removed from the Grade II-listed Georgian building watertight, and plans are being hatched for the future of the building in Kingston Road.

Campaigners have been fighting to save the building and then see it turned into a community space and “living monument” to Wimbledon’s place in the suffragette movement.

A partnership, which includes the National Trust, is now working together to plan the building's future. It is owned by housing association Clarion Housing, but had been empty and decaying for around five years after the failure of a project to turn it into flats.

The much-needed weather-proofing works have taken place since women’s rights campaigner Barbara Gorna set up the Dorset Hall Group last year, and the project won subsequent cross-party support from local politicians.

The Dorset Hall Group (DHG), now chaired by Simon Hood and with architectural historian Tom True on board, wants to see an appropriate community use for the building which takes into account its heritage as a refuge for suffragettes.

An appraisal of the options for the building's future is now taking place, involving the DHG, Clarion, the National Trust, the Architectural Heritage Fund, Merton Council and local community groups.

Barbara said: "This consultation is likely to take up to six months. DHG are keen to find a sustainable community use for this important historic building. The most important thing is that the building is saved."

She has detailed on her blog how Rose became secretary of the Wimbledon Branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the same year she moved to Dorset Hall, and made Wimbledon Common her platform for speeches on the need for the vote to improve women’s lives.

Dorset Hall became a hub of the women’ suffrage movement and a place of refuge for many leading suffragettes. Emily Wilding Davidson, who was trampled under the King’s horse at Epsom in 1913, was a frequent visitor and a friend of Rose Yates.

A Clarion spokesperson said: "I can confirm the renewals to the building to make it weather tight have now been completed. The work was carried out to a high standard, replacing failing timbers, introducing new lead detailing and re-slating large sections of roofing.

"We were also able to find more appropriate solutions to some of the repairs completed to the building back in the 1970s. The London Borough of Merton’s Conservation Officer had oversight of the project from start to finish."

Dorset Hall in Kingston Road

Dorset Hall with the scaffolding removed

Rose in Dorset Hall garden
Rose Lamartine Yates is pictured speaking in the garden of Dorset Hall

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February 28, 2022