- South Stoneham house in 1933 © Southampton Local Studies and Maritime Library, Gadd Collection
- The gardens at South Stoneham in the 1920s by kind permission of Southampton University, Special Collections
In 1773 Hans Sloane employed Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to bring a less formal look to the gardens of his 18th century manor house at South Stoneham.
The manor at South Stoneham near Southampton, Hampshire, lies at the head of the River Itchen estuary and dates back to the Saxon period. In the early 18th century Edmund Dummer, former Surveyor of the Navy, bought the land and built a manor house, with terraced gardens to the south, a pool and a bridge. To the north lay parkland and farmland. The architect of the house is believed to have been Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661–1736, Wikipedia).
Creating ‘sheets of water’
According to Brown’s account book (see online), Sloane (an MP and great-nephew of physician Sir Hans Sloane) paid him £700 (more than £1.1 million in 2015) to redesign the garden, making use of nearby water courses. That new approach is reflected in a sale notice for the property dated 1804, which describes the "Lawn, Pleasure Ground and Sheets of Water laid out by the late Mr Brown".
It is thought that Brown’s scheme involved widening Monks River (later Monks Brook), which was a small tributary of the River Itchen that flowed across the estate. In 1818 the estate was sold to John Fleming of North Stoneham. The estate map from that period shows a bridge across the water from the Glebe ground to the neck of land separating Monks River and the River Itchen. There are pools at each end of this sheet of water – labelled Salmon Pool and Fish Pond.
By the mid-19th century the Flemings had returned to North Stoneham and the new London and South Western Railway line had cut across the park and its avenue of elms.
The estate today
Most of the former estate is now owned by the University of Southampton, which bought the house in 1921 for student housing. The sale did not include the Salmon Pool and Fish Pond, which are managed by the charity Active Nation for leisure activities. The view created by Brown of sheets of water is now blocked by shrubs and trees.
Hampshire Gardens Trust: research.hgt.org.uk/item/south-stoneham
Capability Brown's account book, page 78: www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/libraries-at-rhs/collections/library-online/capability-brown-account-book
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.