- Orangery at North Stoneham before conversion into a home Photo courtesy Hampshire Gardens Trust
- North Stoneham, Hampshire Record Office: 728.8: G F Prosser, Select Illustrations of Hampshire, 1833-9
In the summer of 1775 Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown carried out a survey and prepared a plan for redesigning the 400-acre estate at North Stoneham.
The park at North Stoneham, near Eastleigh, Hampshire, is sited on land that slopes at first steeply and then more gently eastwards from the Chilworth Ridge to the Monks Brook/Itchen Valley. A park and deer park were recorded at North Stoneham by the early 14th century, though the estate boundaries have changed many times since. In 1599 the land was bought by the Fleming family, who remained in possession of North Stoneham until the early 1950s.
It was John Fleming (originally John Willis) who hired Capability Brown to prepare a new scheme for the park some time around June 1775. Brown’s account book (see online) shows that a part payment of £1,000 (more than £1.5 million in 2015) was made to Brown, with a final payment of £400 (more than £600,000 in 2015) in 1778. The work was carried out by Alexander Knox and Andrew Gardiner, who had worked for Brown on other commissions.
Working out what Brown did
North Stoneham has been described as ‘a very high grade Brownian landscape’ but there are no surviving plans or descriptions from the period explaining what was done or how involved Brown was with the work. A few clues remain in the landscape.
It is thought that Brown may have been responsible for bringing the Shrubbery Pond into the landscape design because it was close to the house at that period. In the late 20th century a sunken wall was uncovered, which ran eastwards for about 150 metres from the east end of Shrubbery Pond towards the church of St Nicholas. This could have been a ha-ha (sunken wall and ditch), designed to keep deer away from the mansion.
Features likely to be by Brown
Other features that are likely to be Brown's include changes to the tree planting. The northern avenue of lime trees was broken up; tree clumps were created on the higher ground of Cricketer’s Hill; trees or shrubs screen the north side of the walled garden; and there was scattered parkland planting and a perimeter belt both north and south of the house. A serpentine approach drive typical of Brown's work was also laid out across Avenue Park.
Avenue Pond may have been an ornamental basin made to look more natural by Brown. There are a number of buildings in Brown's style from that period – including stables, an ice-house and the walled garden – but there are no records of his involvement or of their dates.
The main views at that time would probably have been to the west of the estate. Here the land would have graduated from smooth lawns and gardens up to gorse and heather covered parkland and then the common. The land to the north of the house (which was demolished in 1818) would probably have been used for farming. By 1791 a map shows clumps of trees dotting the park, but the two avenues of trees from the house are gone.
The estate in modern times
The Fleming family sold the estate in 1953 and the land was divided up into lots. In 1999 Hampshire County Council began the restoration of the Avenue Park section of the estate, to bring the landscape back to Brown’s original vision. That work included planting 30 new lime trees and joining them to the remains of an avenue that was thought to be part of Brown’s design.
The land is now in multiple ownership. The portion owned by Eastleigh Borough Council is now scheduled for housing development.
Hampshire Gardens Trust: research.hgt.org.uk/item/north-stoneham-park/
The Hampshire Gardens Trust research website carries research summaries. Full research reports are deposited at Hampshire Record Office and are catalogued as HGT [name of site]: www3.hants.gov.uk/archives.htm. Any other enquiries should be addressed to email@example.com.