One notable feature of the Rowlands Castle area is the existence of three large country estates – Stansted, Idsworth and Staunton – each with its own interesting history. This article focuses on the houses of each estate and other large houses within the locality. The associated land estates are described in The Three Estates.
Stansted House began as a hunting lodge in the 11th century. John, Lord Lumley built a house on the site which was visited by Queen Elizabeth on 23 August 1591. Robert Cecil described this house as “fayre, well builte without and not meanly furnished within, but want of water is a greate inconvenience.”
In 1185 there is the first mention of a park at Stansted. About the year 1214 Richard de Mountfitchet living at Stansted Castle joined with other noblemen to make a stand for their rights, because of the opposition by King John to the status bestowed upon them by William I. In the year 1215 on the 15th June, the Barons finally forced King John to meet them at Runnymede, near Windsor by the River Thames. There in the water meadows they forced the King to sign and seal their great charter, now known to everyone as the Magna Carta. The connection with this event is, that the same Baron Mountfitchet who owned the land at Stansted, also owned the land at Runnymede. Richard was one of the 25 Barons chosen in 1215 to govern the realm in the reign of King John. Alas, this story has a very sad ending, because in 1216, King John who could never forgive and forget sent a small army to Stansted, laid siege to the castle and eventually destroyed it, together with the slaying of some of its inhabitants.
It is most likely about this time that the first Stansted Hall or Manor House was built with stones from the castle. History does not record the exact date, but we do know that there have been various Halls on a site in the field below the present terrace walk, near the Church, since the 14th century. Stansted changed ownership many times over the following centuries.
In 1902, after a fire in c1900, when the old hall burnt down leaving only a tower, Stansted was rebuilt. To provide a sense of continuity and authenticity, various items were salvaged from the old Halls and incorporated into the new house. These included a small Cupola which was made into a Bell Tower and incorporated on the roof of the Kitchen Wing. Two of the larger Cupolas from the towers of the Jacobean Hall were brought across, one of which was placed on the Stable Block. Various other items were incorporated such as the two magnificent Adam fireplaces, a wooden fireplace surround and some 16th c. wood panelling.
The estate was sold by the Wilder family to Major Cecil Whitaker who sold on in 1924 to the ninth Earl of Bessborough. In 1983, the tenth Earl transferred the house and estate to the Stansted Park Foundation, which now owns and manages them as a charitable trust, charged with the preservation of the estate for the benefit of the nation. The history of Stansted Park from the 12th century is told in Lord Bessborough’s book The Enchanted Forest. Stansted is open to the public from Easter to September. The park is crossed from west to east by the Monarch’s Way long distance footpath.
A fine collection of paintings, textiles and furniture in the state rooms upstairs illustrates the history of the Ponsonby family, presented as if the Earl was still at home. Downstairs, the fully-furnished Servants’ Quarters survive almost unchanged from the 1903 rebuilding, and were in use until the 1950s.
Stansted Park is now a popular venue for events, weddings, and exclusive corporate use. The award-winning House and Grounds are a popular tourist attraction, a valuable educational resource, sustainably managed for conservation and used all year round. A yew maze has been planted in the lower walled garden,
Stansted Park also contains The Chapel of St Paul, which was built by Lewis Way in 1812-16. The chapel’s unique east window illustrates the wish of its founder to re-unite the Jewish and Christian faiths. Its stained glass Windows ‘tripple-arch’d and diamonded’ was an inspiration to the poet John Keats when he was writing The Eve of St. Agnes. The church was restored by Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel in 1926 and again after bomb damage in 1947. The chapel is no longer open for public worship and is in the care of the Stansted Park Foundation.
In the grounds of the house, along with Stansted Park Garden Centre and the Pavilion Tearoom, visitors can also take a ride on the Stansted Park Light Railway, a 7¼ inch (184 mm) gauge miniature railway. The railway opened on Easter 2005, and is designed to attract more visitors to the House. The railway uses locomotives and carriages designed and built by railway volunteers. The railway is rapidly expanding. The new extension is now complete and incorporates a 12-foot span girder bridge. A new locomotive shed is also being built.
Philip Robinson has written a presentation about the History of Stansted for which he retains the copyright.
This article is provided courtesy of the Stansted Foundation who retain the copyright.
In 1789 Charles, the eighth Lord Dormer, sold ‘the manor of Idsworth and Holt Northmarden, Idsworth Park and estates in Idsworth, Chalton and Holt Northmarden, Stoughton and Compton’ to Jervoise Clarke (1734-1808) of Belmont in Bedhampton.
Jervoise (pronounced Jarvis) had already, in 1780, purchased the Manor of Chalton and Five Heads. Like many such families, the Clarkes feathered their nest by judicious marriages to wealthy heiresses. Jervoise’s father was Samuel Clarke whose wife was Elizabeth Jervoise. Her family had owned extensive property in Hampshire and Wiltshire since the sixteenth century, and several of its members had been elected to Parliament. When Clarke inherited these Jervoise properties, the terms required him to add the Jervoise to his surname. He therefore became, oddly if euphoniously, Jervoise Clarke Jervoise. Jervoise himself then added further to the family wealth by marrying Kitty, the only child of Robert Warner, inheriting estates in Staffordshire.
Jervoise was succeeded at Idsworth in 1808 by his third son, the Reverend Samuel Clarke Jervoise (1770-1852), (rector of Idsworth, Chalton, Blendworth and Catherington, who had been joint purchaser of the estate with his father. The following year, Thomas, the eldest son who, like his younger brother, had been declared ‘lunatic’, died and Samuel disputed the will, claiming lands around Blendworth, including the site of the present house. The suit was not settled until 1826, when Samuel gained possession of the land, although the case had forced him to sell much London property. In 1811 he also sold off land in Staffordshire enabling him to consolidate at Idsworth by purchasing South Holt and Northwood Farms.
During the 19th century, the industrial revolution was having consequences even in rural Hampshire. From 1843 to 1848 Samuel and Jervoise had been in negotiation with the Direct London and Portsmouth Railway Company which was intending a compulsory purchase of the land on the west side of the estate, immediately in front of the house. Samuel had evidently tried unsuccessfully to petition the House of Commons against the ‘Atmospheric Railway’ although he and his son seem to have made plans from an early stage to use the proceeds of any sale to build a new house. At any event the family finally did very well from the deal, Jervoise noting in his diary on March 24 1848 that, in return for agreeing not to oppose the railway extension, he was to be paid £30,000, a sum worth many millions in today’s money. Plans were drawn up from 1847 for a house on a spot that offered vistas as was the Victorian style; on the one hand, up to the folly on Idsworth Down (of which little now remains and even less is apparently known), on the other across to Northwood Farm in Forestside. The architect was the ‘frank and plain-spoken’ Scot, William Burn (1789-1870). The first stone was laid by the Rev. Sir Samuel Clarke Jervoise with a silver trowel on 7 May 1849. An inscription in a bottle was placed under the foundation stone.
Idsworth House was organized as a substantial manor house on three floors, with a clock tower (dated 1849), and a lower wing on the north side that accommodated the servants’ quarters, the estate offices and stables. There were two detached buildings, a walled kitchen garden and extensive other gardens. Idsworth was the second of Samuel’s three Hampshire houses, designed in the Scottish Baronial (or neo-Jacobean) style in red brick in Flemish bond with bath stone dressings. The by now rather dilapidated Old Idsworth was demolished and much of the material used in the new.
By September 1851, the Well House was being built and a pump installed and by October planting was being carried out to east and west of the house. On the estate, the alignment of the roads was changed to enlarge the park of the new house. The line of Treadwheel Road, which until then had turned north-east at Woodhouse and passed right beside Treadwheel Farm, was moved south and straightened, extending the park. The road north from Woodhouse, which had previously made a series of loops east of a straight line, was also straightened to achieve the same end, while what had previously been a public road, running north from the farm, became the private front drive.
Further afield, Jervoise changed the course of Links Lane to its present route rather than heading west through what is now the golf course. It is said that this was in sympathy with his horses which found the incline up Bowes Hill not to their liking. If the feelings of the horses were considered, there was, of course, no need to consult in any way with the local populace before making these changes!
During the Great War, the house had been a convalescent home for Belgian soldiers with the family confined to separate apartments. After the war, austerity started to bite. In 1918, land amounting to 2,200 acres around Catherington, Clanfield and Horndean was sold, resulting in extensive building of bungalows and small houses in the Catherington/Horndean area. Three years later, the whole of old Idsworth was auctioned off by Sir Dudley Clarke Jervoise as a ‘Sporting and Agricultural Estate’. This consisted of a huge triangle of land and property from Finchdean and Dean Lane End in the south, east almost to West Marden and north to Woodcroft Farm, north-east of Chalton. Altogether it amounted to 1,851 acres.
In 1933 Dudley, the 7th and last Baronet, died leaving no legitimate heirs. Four holders of the title had expired within fourteen years and the death duties that resulted were disastrous for the estate’s finances, forcing the series of disposals. What was left of the estate now either passed to, or was purchased by (accounts vary), Major Arthur Clarke Jervoise. In December 1974, the Major died, ending the Clarke Jervoise’ occupation of Idsworth. He is commemorated in the church at Chalton and the family mausoleum can be found in the churchyard there.
In 1977 the property was advertised for sale, prospective buyers being offered ‘a fine Victorian mansion … ideal for institutional, educational and similar uses’. The prospectus boasted of five reception rooms, 28 bedrooms and nine bathrooms. In addition, there were outbuildings, gardens, cricket ground and pavilion, bungalow, squash racquets court, walled kitchen garden with cottage and four further detached cottages, ‘extending in all to about 19 acres’. Eventually the estate was divided up into nearly twenty properties and the Idsworth Park Residents Association, with most of the owners as members, was set up to manage the communal areas.
On the night of 17/18th February 1987, the house suffered major damage in a fire but, unlike Stansted and Uppark, the building survived. The ornate gold-embossed dining room ceiling collapsed and carpets, antique furniture and oil paintings were ruined but Burn, the architect, had been well versed in the then relatively recent practice of using wrought iron in construction and it may well be that the use of iron beams saved the building from collapse.
Editorial: Above text is an extract from a history written by Guy Phelps, who lived in what used to be the servants’ quarters of Idsworth House for sixteen years. He retired from a career in the media in 2003. With no background as a historian, he set out to find out what he could about his new home, using as a starting point a brief document compiled by a fellow resident.
Here is Guy Phelps’ full article about Idsworth: The Rise and Fall of the Clarke Jervoise Dynasty
As early as 1750 mention was made of a farm on this site in a will of that year and local historians consider it likely that a farm existed there around 100 years earlier. The first gardens on the site were begun by William Garrett who purchased the land in 1802. The park was purchased in 1820 by Regency politician and botanist Sir George Thomas Staunton as part of his country estate ‘Leigh Park’.
He was the MP for South Hants in 1832 and held the seat for Portsmouth until 1852. He re-landscaped the gardens to remind himself of China.
On his death in 1859 the estate and gardens were inherited by Staunton’s cousin Henry Cormick Lynch. Henry Lynch died just six weeks after receiving his inheritance and it was in turn passed to his eldest son George Staunton Lynch. In 1861 he in turn sold the gardens and the estate to William Henry Stone for £60,000. Stone had a new house built, Leigh Park House, which was finished in 1865 and most of the old house was demolished around the same time.
During World War II the house was used by the Admiralty and many people who worked there were billeted in the village. Commander Buster Crab, scientist, lived in Durrants Road and worked for the Admiralty at the house. A mystery surrounded his death whilst diving in the Solent when a body said to be his was found by fishermen.
Leigh Park House, Front Elevation Angela Fitzwygram, 1913.
Leigh Park was re-developed as a new suburb for those made homeless in Portsmouth by bomb damage which occurred during World War II. The estate and gardens were purchased by the city of Portsmouth in June 1944 and the gardens were transferred to the parks committee in 1950, subsequently established as the Staunton Country Park in 1987. Leigh Park House was demolished in 1959 and Leigh Park Housing Estate now surrounds the lower boundary, and the northern area is bisected by Middle Park Way with The Staunton Country Park on the southern side.
Tim Speller, of Staunton Country Park, has written a presentation on the Oils and Watercolours of Joseph Francis Gilbert 1830-4.
This article is taken from the booklet written by Mary Jane Lomer entitled ‘Round and About Rowlands Castle’ 2015, for which she retains the copyright.
Over a period of twenty years, Sir George Staunton, with the help of the architect Lewis Vulliamy, enhanced the grounds by adding follies and temples to the park and creating the lake known as Leigh Water. In 1827 he moved the Havant road a further two hundred yards east so that it ran past the Home Farm and not his front door. Under Staunton, Leigh Park became one of the finest estates in Hampshire, famed for its gardens and its park. Staunton added plants from China and other parts of the world to be grown in hot houses, conservatories and themed gardens.
Stone’s Leigh Park House was demolished in 1959. However the Gothic Library, part of Garrett’s house on the site, and the stables still remain and now lie within the grounds of the Staunton Country Park Farm. The Gothic Library was built in 1832 to accommodate the book collection of Sir George Staunton, one of the first people in England to translate Chinese into English for general use. It is open to visitors as part of the farm entrance fee and the stables (built by William Stone) are now a tea room.
This article was taken from The Staunton Park Genealogy Centre
Photo of the Gothic Library by Geni.