Around 1765 Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was invited to landscape the park at the Great Testwood estate.
Testwood Park, near Southampton, Hampshire, borders the River Test to the west of Southampton and is very flat. It is believed that the Serle family employed Capability Brown to design a landscape as part of the changes they were making to the estate in the 18th century. There is a record of Brown dining with the owner, and Brown’s account at Drummond's Bank shows two payments – one made in 1765 and the second in 1769.
Changes in the 18th century
The manorial estate at Testwood dates back to the Domesday Book. During the 18th century the Serle family built a Georgian residence near the existing Elizabethan manor house and a smaller house on the southern edge of the park.
Thomas Milne’s map of 1791 shows Great Testwood Park as a pentagon-shaped area, with a drive from the road to the west leading directly to the house. By 1842, a plantation forms an arc from the walled garden in the north as far as the lodge on the south boundary.
This feature is still visible on Ordnance Survey maps. Parts of the line of planting now form a boundary between the park and the grounds of Testwood School.
Testwood estate today
The Great Testwood estate was broken up and sold off in 1931. The house was pulled down and the northern area of the park used for gravel pits, which eventually became lakes. In the southern area private housing and a school were built. A small part of the estate remains in private ownership and the rest of the parkland forms a nature reserve, which is run by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wild Life Trust.
Hampshire Gardens Trust: research.hgt.org.uk/item/testwood-park2-great-testwood-house
Dorothy Stroud, Capability Brown, Faber & Faber, 1975 edition, page 242
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.