Warnford

Hampshire
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Overview

In the 1770s the 11th Earl of Clanricarde hired Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to improve the landscape of his estate at Warnford.

The earl had bought the land near Warnford village, Hampshire, in the heart of the Meon valley, in 1754. The river Meon flows from north to south along the west edge of the park. His family, the de Burghs (they had changed their name from Burke), called the house Belmont and the park Senfoy.

Brown visits Warnford

Brown is known to have visited the property and his foreman, John Spyers, carried out a survey there, but there is no record of the dates or of payments. The earl did write to Brown in April 1773 to ask him to arrange a "view of Kew Gardens" for Lord and Lady Wandesford.

Newspaper reports suggest that the lake and pleasure grounds in the estate had been completed by the time of the earl’s death in 1782.

Diverting the River Meon

An estate map of 1811 shows that the River Meon was diverted as it entered the park to form a loop of water and then flowed on into a long tear-shaped lake, before exiting the park through a system of sluices. A circuit of garden buildings was created including a grotto, a hermitage and a bath-house, the design of which closely resembles an unexecuted Brown design for a lakeside pavilion at Rothley, Northumberland. These features and the lake still exist. It seems possible that the Spyers survey was implemented by Clanricarde.

A tithe map of 1839 shows an area known as the ‘Old Park’, which lies to the north of the road from Warnford to East Meon. It is possible that the village of Warnford, shown lying south of the mansion, had been moved as part of the landscaping plans to create parkland all around the house. The parkland is shown as being quite wooded on that map, while an illustration from the period shows the house in a landscape park typical of Brown's style, with the River Meon forming a lake to the south.

Later improvements to the estate

In the mid-19th century owner Edward Tunno created a new approach to the mansion from Portsmouth Road, over a bridge across the river. His successor, Henry Woods, added a formal garden to the east of the mansion, along with ornamental planting in the pleasure grounds. New views were opened up, making Beacon Hill visible to the west up on the Hampshire Downs.

Warnford Park was under military occupation during the Second World War. The house was demolished in 1956. The park and pleasure grounds are in private ownership and a new house has been built adjacent to the walled kitchen garden.

Sources

Hampshire Gardens Trust, unpublished research, 2016 www.hgt.org.uk

Dorothy Stroud, Capability Brown, Faber & Faber, 1975 edition, page 217

Historic England: www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001334

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 admin@hgt.org.uk.