The house stands on the Clifftop, facing south, overlooking the English Channel. East Dene was originally built by the monks from the Abbey of Lyra, in Normandy in the 17th century. It was bought by a Mr Surman in 1826 and rebuilt. Mr Surman later became a monk himself and went to live in Rome.
Before he left East Dene, he purchased the wooden panels which can be seen in the main hall. These panels were looted from the ships of the Spanish Armada, and assembled in a house on the other side of the Island, but when the house was dismantled, he bought them and made good use of them here.
In 1837 Captain Charles Swinburne (Later to become Admiral Swinburne) and his wife Lady Jane, bought the house, bringing with them their son Algernon who was only a few months old.
It was said that Algernon was a little deformed in that his head was much too large for his frail body. He became one of the greatest of the Victorian Poets, with a G.O.M. of English Letters.
Algernon was a student at Eton, but was later expelled, he went on to study at Balliol College Oxford, to complete his education. On several occasions his health broke down, and his father would collect him and bring him back home to East Dene to regain his strength.
Some of his finest poetry was written at these times.
One of the visitors to East Dene during the days of Swinburne was Charles Dickens, who in the summer of 1849 rented Winterbourne, a large house close by. Dickens was considerably older than Swinburne, but he was very interested in the young poet, and spent much time with him. It is said that some chapters of David Copperfield were written at East Dene.
The Swinburnes sold the house in 1864, and it was bought by John Snowden Henry who was a Member of Parliament, and later became Governor of the Isle of Wight.
The Island was one of the mecca’s of society during the Victorian period, and among some of the distinguished guests entertained at East Dene were Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and the Czar and Czaritsa of Russia, who were popular in society until the Crimean War.
The Snowden Henry family left in 1900, and the property was vacant till 1904, when it was bought by the Convent of the Sacred Heart, a large Roman Catholic organisation with Convents and Schools all over the world. East Dene was purchased from the Convent in 1949, and has been a Hotel ever since.
This is a grade 2 Listed Building. Listing NGR: SZ5775578136
We thank with brief thanksgiving,
whatever gods may be,
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river,
Winds somewhere safe to sea.