CHILWORTH MANOR – A BRIEF SKETCH
The 1755 map of the Manor of Chilworth shows the village of Chilworth, its church and the original Manor House as well as numerous fields, farms and large areas of woodland. An unnamed building (in the shape of a letter 'E') is shown on the site of the present Chilworth Manor - the name 'Chilworth House' first appears on an 1806 Ordnance Survey map.
The Estate's connection with the Fleming name can be traced back to the mid-seventeenth century. Ownership of the Estate passed to the Serle family in the early eighteenth century.
The grounds of Chilworth House flourished during the Serles' ownership - a local guide published in 1818 described it as “...enclosed in a large extent of pleasure ground in which are beautiful gardens, shrubberies etc. - it commands a delightful variegated prospect for many miles around.”
Several 19th century maps show a bridleway running round the perimeter of the grounds and the Ancient Woodland. An 1865 map shows a roadway running through what is now Old Chilworth Village, past the Bee Hive cottages and finally linking up with the line of the Roman road which runs through Chilworth Common.
‘Tanners Brook’ on the western boundary of the Estate (associated with the local tannery) is probably the source of the complex network of drainage channels in the area now known as the Ancient Woodland.
By 1910 a path was established linking the western perimeter path to the area of secondary woodland.
Peter Serle (the younger) sold the estate to John Willis Fleming of Stoneham Park in 1825, who owned the adjacent estates of North Stoneham and Romsey. Chilworth House became the principal family home for the Willis Flemings, periodically, from the 1840s until its sale in 1946.
The Willis Fleming family were not always in residence at the Manor. During these periods the house was leased to a number of tenants over the period 1827-1925 during which time various improvements to the property and its surroundings were made.
All the elements of typical country house could be found on the site – formal gardens, herb garden, the Home Farm, kitchen gardens, stables, cottages for staff – even an engine house for providing the pumped water supply for the Manor. The tank and remains of foundations of the engine house are on the north eastern side of the Ecology Meadow. The water supply system for the Manor House is first shown on the 1865 OS map.
A simple, 'unsolicited testimonial' can be found in this extract from a letter written by a young man to his mother when he entered service at Chilworth House around 1900:
“...It was very good of Mr.Clark to send me to such a lovely place. When I reached this beautiful house I found 7 girl servants and the coach-man foot-man and a few others. The butler is more like a Gentleman”,
A late nineteenth century painting shows the house to be an ornamental villa - a cottage ornee, with a large service wing.
Additional changes were made up until the early 1900s. The house was substantially remodelled and enlarged from 1895.
Garden furniture and other ornaments were brought from North Stoneham Park.
Unfortunately, many of the formal garden areas as shown on this aerial photograph no longer exist:
However, The Deer Ring (a circle of conifers planted in the late 1890s) still survives today as an impressive and inspirational area close to the boundary of the Conservation Area.
(A recent occupant of the Manor used the Deer Ring as the basis of a ghost story!)
Chilworth House became known as Chilworth Manor around 1910 (OS Map, 25”, 3rd Ed. 1910)
During WWI the Manor House was used as a recuperation facility for Belgian officers and also saw service in WWII as a base for Canadian forces prior to the D-Day Landings. Traces of the WWII occupancy can still be found in two locations. The foundations of a Nissen hut are still visible in woodland known as “The Clump” and the circular concrete base of a machine gun emplacement can be seen behind the stone seat by the Lake in the Conservation Area. Another gun emplacement is believed to have been sited close to the Manor House in the area formerly known as the Rock Garden.
In 1946 the Manor was sold to John Young who used it as the site for a small factory manufacturing electric heaters. The Manor House became part family home and part office space. The factory was located on the site now occupied by the University's Engineering facility. Mr Young made novel use of the gun emplacement site beside The Lake. He constructed a summer house for his daughter which could be rotated (as per its original use for the machine gun!) so that his daughter could enjoy panoramic views of the gardens, orchard and the Manor House.
Ownership of the Manor passed to Southampton University in the mid-1960s, the building initially being used as a Hall of Residence. Over the next 35 years the Manor was transformed through a series of changes of use – one of which fortunately included the creation of the Conservation Area.
For more information about the Chilworth Estate, Chilworth Manor and the Willis Fleming family, please visit:
Other sources of information:
The Hampshire Gardens Trust “Research for Chilworth Manor – Site 1422 September 2006”
The Hampshire Gardens Magazine, Issue One, Winter 2008/09
All monochrome images © The Willis Fleming Historical Trust