ME: in Times Lit Supp

Trent Park, Cockfosters

published July 29, 2016
Saving Trent Park

Sir, – Lindsay Duguid’s review of The Long Weekend: Life in the English country house 1918–1939 by Adrian Tinniswood (July 1) mentions Philip Sassoon’s new house in Port Lympne but not his other house, Trent Park, in Cock­fosters. Here he entertained just about everybody who was anybody, including T. E. Lawrence, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin and Edward VIII. There was an airfield, a swimming pool, a golf course, an orangery and murals by Rex Whistler. It is its more recent history that is equally fascinating, though, if very different. During the Second World War the house was requisitioned by the Government and used as a secret listening centre where German officers were held. Their recreation rooms were bugged and everything they said was recorded, providing invaluable information. After the war it became an emergency teachers’ training college and when I was studying there, in the early 1970s, it was well known for specializing in the arts. (It remains the scene of my greatest achievement: my exhibition for the Finals, the zenith of my artistic career, for which I received extravagant praise from the critic in the Barnet Gazette: “His series of self-portraits are [sic] masterly . . .”.) It then went through various educational reorganizations before being closed and sold to a private developer. I learned earlier this year that a “Save Trent Park” campaign has been launched to ensure, among other things, the establishment of a museum in the house itself highlighting the crucial role it played in the war: a quick search on the internet will take anybody who is interested to the appropriate web page on

Beckley, East Sussex.