The earliest reference to the property is found in the Tithe Land Registry of 1609. It was known as ‘Pennyhillfield’ and appears to have been common land used as a beacon warning site, part of the national system set in place to warn of the arrival of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
James Hodges, a civil engineer, born in Queensborough, Kent in 1814 began to build the first house on the site in 1849. It was completed in 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition, which celebrated Britain’s entrepreneurial and engineering achievements. Hodges came to Bagshot as a successful railway engineer at the time when the village was in economic decline because its coaching trade had been destroyed by the railways.
While James Hodges lived at Pennyhill he planted specimen trees to create a magnificent park and an impressive avenue running from the lodge in Higgs Lane. In 1873 he substantially altered his original house to match contemporary styles. He became one of Bagshot’s benefactors, founding the ‘Working Men’s Institute’ in the High Street with lecture, reading and billiard rooms to improve the lot of the working class. He was one of the promoters in 1846 of ‘Bagshot Gas & Coke Company’ and was also a manager of Windlesham and Bagshot Board Schools in 1870. In 1876, at his own expense, he provided the first piped water supply to the village.
James Hodges died in 1879 just before the arrival in Bagshot of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, Queen Victoria’s favourite son. The recently married Duke took up residence in the newly built Bagshot Park mansion house nearby and was shortly attending services at the parish church of St Anne’s, a hundred yards from Pennyhill Park’s original Higgs Lane entrance.
The next occupant of Pennyhill was Louis Schott, a banker born in Frankfurt but with British naturalisation. Louis died in 1901 and the house was then occupied until 1922 by his nephew, Louis Floershim, also born in Frankfurt and a naturalised British subject. He extended the house in 1903 in neo-Tudor style using Bath stone. He is noted for having taken an interest in local affairs. For a period during the 1st World War the house reputedly served as a rest house for officers.
From 1922 until his death in 1933 Sir Lyndsey Byron Peters KBE was living in the house. He was chairman of a War Office Committee, having made his money in rubber estates. It was probable that in his time the early house was demolished. Following his death, an unsuccessful attempt was made to sell the property, including the house, outbuildings and 102 acres to Surrey County Council for £15,000.
The estate was purchased byMr Colin Goldsworthy Heywood in 1935 and he is credited for the terracing of the formal garden on the south and east side of the house. He derived his inspiration from the Chateau de Villandry near Tours and he engaged the services of the famous French landscape gardener, Monsieur M.L. Sue of Paris, for the layout. It was an elaborate affair, combining fruit, flowers and vegetables in oblong and square beds, each surrounded by box-hedging.
Pennyhill Park House ws left by Colin Goldsworthy Heywood to his family (his nephews and nieces) on his death in 1972. They sold the property to Mr Peter Garbut and his son, Michael and in 1973 it was opened as a hotel. They later sold it to Mr Ian Hayton and the family still lives on the estate today.