Saving Dunford House

Nick Cobden Wright, Richard Cobden's great, great, great grandson writes ..on behalf of the Cobden family:

"Luck relies on chance, labor on character."
Richard Cobden

Our campaign and story is about saving the home of Richard Cobden - a prominent Victorian, dedicated politician, passionate campaigner, successful law-reformer, revered statesman...a man of the people.

His life and many achievements are noted below but the point of our campaign is to preserve and safeguard his roots, birthplace, heart, inspiration, solace, life, work, family...all represented at his home, Dunford House in Midhurst, West Sussex..

In 1952, due to growing maintenance costs and an insecure property market, Dunford was entrusted to The National Council and YMCA by the Cobden family.
The National Council and YMCA were chosen for their reputation in promoting wholesome, ethical and Christian values internationally. These were ideals very much aligned with Cobden's lifelong work and dedication to advance international peace, fair trade, education and tolerance.

Dunford House has now closed and after an unsuccessful attempt by the Cobden family to request the YMCA exercise their power of gifting the Estate to a charity the YMCA now intend to sell the remaining Estate on the open market as soon as possible (from March 2019 onwards).

It is critical we act quickly to fundraise and save Dunford from being sold to a 3rd party, redeveloped with all the Cobden legacy lost forever.

Here is our plan

We will set up a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) foundation to initially buy and renovate, preserve and safeguard Dunford House, Richard Cobden’s birthplace and home which is a site of national historical importance. The business case highlights how Dunford House will be a viable proposition for donors and how it will create a surplus to be self-sufficient in the future and enable the Foundation to serve less fortunate groups in society.

Our aims

To promote general educational purposes as per the Cobden family’s original trust deed intent underpinning Richard Cobden’s values of peace, unity and goodwill for the public benefit, in particular but not limited to the
young people and low- income groups in the local area and so they can enjoy a greater level of prosperity and wellbeing.

How we will achieve these aims

After a period of extensive renovation, by providing Dunford House as a conference centre of excellence  for seminars, courses, training events and meetings offering day and overnight accommodation packages as well as other income- generating offers.

By sharing and advancing the Cobden historical legacy with the local and wider Community showcasing the Cobden artefacts (antiques, portraits and items of historical significance) opening the House and Estate on various days of the year and establishing a tearoom for refreshments. 

By forming and connecting a network of different groups of people under the umbrella of a “Cobden League of friends” (anyone who has a passion for Richard Cobden and the House/Estate) so they can form friendships,
develop, learn from each another and increase social interaction and wellbeing.

A small Trust will be created with a wide ranging representation to cover the above aims 

Our values and principles
Our common belief is that the values of the Cobden Foundation can be the catalyst for change for the greater good of humanity.

-  Free trade – advocacy, internationalism and raising awareness in today’s world (as important now as
in Richard Cobden’s days)
-  Freedom of speech – celebrating diversity and inclusivity ensuring everyone is valued, respected and
has a voice (referencing Richard Cobden’s daughters Annie Cobden-Sanderson and Jane Fisher Unwin’s suffragette/suffragist activism)
-  Compassion, decency, trust, peace, goodwill, care for others, ethical, fairness, equality and
tolerance which are key for everyone involved in the Foundation 

Below is more background about Dunford House  

Dunford House began life as a humble farmhouse for Richard Cobden and his 10 brothers and sisters. They lived there in their childhood years and schooling started in nearby Midhurst.

However, after Richard’s father had to sell Dunford farm due to financial losses, they moved away from the area, although Cobden forever cherished the memory of his times there.

As a young man, he became co-owner of a successful Calico but soon found himself more engaged in politics. His travels had had convinced him of the virtues of free trade (anti-protection) as the key to better international relations.

In 1838, he and John Bright founded the Anti-Corn Law League, aimed at abolishing the unpopular Corn Laws, which protected landowners’ interests by levying taxes on imported wheat, thus raising the price of bread. As a Member of Parliament from 1841, he fought against opposition from the Peel ministry, and abolition was achieved in 1846.

Following the repeal of the Corn Laws, Richard Cobden was now a national hero but was so committed to the cause of free trade that he became bankrupt. 

A public subscription of £80,000 was raised in recognition of his services and in 1847 he used the money to buy back his childhood home and farm at Dunford for £3,500, that his father had been forced to sell.

On his first visit, he picked a leaf from a rose growing against 'the house were I was born'. Today this is preserved between sheets of plastic in the British Library. "We shall shine in roses" he wrote to his wife who was in London awaiting the birth of their third daughter, Jane. 

In time, the growing family decided to live at Dunford full time and by 1854 they were in the splendid Italianate villa, which we know today.

Another free trade initiative was the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty of 1860, promoting closer interdependence between Britain and France. This campaign was conducted in collaboration with John Bright and French economist Michel Chevalier, and succeeded despite Parliament’s endemic mistrust of the French.

For several years Cobden had been suffering severely at intervals from bronchial irritation and a difficulty of breathing. Owing to this he had spent the winter of 1860 in Algeria, and every subsequent winter he had to be very careful and confine himself to the house, especially in damp and foggy weather. On 2 April 1865 he died peacefully at his apartments in London.

On the following day Lord Palmerston said "it was not possible for the House to proceed to business without every member recalling to his mind the great loss which the House and country had sustained by the event which took place yesterday morning." Disraeli said he "was an ornament to the House of Commons and an honour to England."

He was buried at West Lavington church, on April 7 close to his birthplace on the original farm, which he had purchased and where he spent some of the last years of his active and benevolent life.

After his death in 1865, his beloved home was kept in our family for many generations while entrusted to respected institutions which continued the Cobdenite causes of free trade, peace and goodwill by turning Dunford House into a conference and education centre for furthering these views. Many successful seminars and events were held at Dunford, with the financial proceeds used to maintain the house and property.

When the Trust deed was set up in 1952 the House, other buildings, land, woods and Cobden family artefacts were donated or transferred to the National Council as a permanent and perpetual endowment in memory of Richard Cobden and his legacy. 

It is Richard Cobden’s legacy we are determined to preserve for future generations to enjoy.

Please help and join us with our mission to save Dunford House from developers.

Thank you for your support.

Please note that in the event the target is not met and our offer is not accepted by the YMCA then all donations will be refunded back to the donors. But we are really hoping with eberyone’s Support that we can make it.

To confirm to all donors:

I am Nick Cobden Wright and I am leading the Fundraising campaign with Chris Boxley. I am based in Gloucestershire in the UK.

As confirmed already, I am authorised to raise funds and withdraw them from this Gofundme site to a separate bank account for Dunford House.

The funds will be put towards renovation costs, as previously advised.

The withdrawal plan is to remove the money from the Gofundme account on a monthly basis so I can keep a tally/keep control of what has been donated and spent.

thank you for your continued support.

kind regards...Nick

Fundraising team: Cobden family and friends (2)

Nick Cobden Wright
Raised £25 from 1 donation
Kate Journiac
Team member

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