|HCC Site ID:||1818||Parish:||Kings Worthy|
|Access:||No Public Access||Ownership:||Private|
Location and Site
Abbots Worthy House is situated at the corner of the A33 and the Alresford road through to the Worthys, approximately two miles NE of Winchester. It lies in the South Downs National Park in a dry valley. It is also in the conservation area of Abbots Worthy. On its southern boundary the parkland extends towards the River Itchen.
Most of the land in Abbots Worthy had once belonged to Hyde Abbey. In 1801 some of it was sold to the Baring family (VCH, vol 4). Thomas Baring had Abbots Worthy House built in 1836 as the rectory for Charles Baring, in what was described in Kelly’s and White’s Directories as, ‘a Tudor Style’. The Tithe map and Apportionment (1840, HRO), note a substantial house with park-like grounds stretching south to the river Itchen. Pasture and a yard (which later became the walled kitchen garden), a house, malthouse and garden (where the stables were later erected) are noted. There is a walled garden with an orchard and gardener’s cottage on the opposite side of the Alresford Road, which was owned by Thomas Baring but occupied by Charles. The flint perimeter walls appear to be already in place, as well as many trees.
The 1st ed OS map 25” (1874-79) shows that the house has been extended, the present – day walled garden is still a yard and the walled garden across the road still has an orchard within it. A semi-circular drive, terraces, perimeter beds, walks and parkland with trees are also shown.
The house continued to be a Rectory until, William Cotesworth who was not a rector, is noted in 1885 (19th century newspapers, 23/11/1885). By the time of the OS map 2nd ed 25” (1896), the house and outbuildings have been substantially expanded. There is an L-shaped shelter belt in the SE corner of the grounds and two walled gardens; the original one across the road, with glasshouses and a new one in what was the ‘yard’, close to the house. By this time, George Lefevre is the owner (19th century newspapers, 12/12/1896). The 3rd ed OS map, 25” 1909 reveals more trees dotted throughout the park to the south, as well as between the road and the carriageway. There is a footpath on the southern perimeter of the gardens, with the river to the south. Lefevre died in 1928. The Times, 10/12/1928, notes that in his will Lefevre left reasonable sums of money to his gardeners, demonstrating that the gardens were important to him. The house was put up for sale in 1929, described as having 2400 yards of fishing, the whole site being 45.2 acres. Pleasure grounds, a terraced lawn, west lawn and summer house, pergola and flower beds are described with parkland sloping to the south. Pasture land and meadows all form part of the estate. The whole is described as 6.59 acres of residence and parkland, further parkland and 11 acres of water meadows (93M82/5 HRO). Abbots Worthy House returned to the Baring family (various references in The Times, 1930s-50s). In the mid-1950s the house was almost completely rebuilt in Regency style to a design by Claud Phillimore, with only the entrance porch remaining from the 19th century house (Sales Details, Times on-line, 17/06/1963).
In 1963 Edmund Baring put the estate up for sale, with fishing rights still nearly 2400 yards and over 50 acres of land, which was sold to Lord Eldon (Times 17/3/1963). Eldon in turn sold the house in 1968 (Times 13/06/1968), advertised with a swimming pool and tennis court. In 1978, there was a planning application for erection of further buildings, which was refused. The house was then occupied by Jennifer May and her husband, Lord Enfield, later Earl of Strafford, until their divorce in 1981, when Jennifer May married Sir Christopher Bland. The Blands continued to live at Abbots Worthy House until the early 1990s. It is following the sale by Sir Christopher in the mid-1990s that the grounds began a slow decline and ceased to be fully regarded as a setting for the house. However, the flint walls and many of the trees remained, as well as the basic layout of the grounds.
Permission was granted in 1995 for a mixed use of residential and a day nursery in the walled garden.
From 2001-2010, there were various planning applications for major changes, with new access roads and parking within the grounds, followed by further applications in 2010-2013. During this time, both the house and grounds continued the slow process of deterioration and none of the major development plans materialised. However, by 2015 a new access drive from Alresford Road had been introduced, the walled garden was sold off as well as the domestic stables area with access from Mill Lane and the house and remaining 5 ha of grounds were again put on the market. By 2018 the remaining 5 acres of house and grounds had been sold. A planning application for building in the walled garden was approved. Walking behind the site towards the Mill some of its 19th century aspect, though sadly neglected, is still seen. By 2020, the development within the walled garden was underway.
House and small landscape park early 19th century; several features and planting of post 1810 park and garden survived, early 21st century. The site is strategically situated between Kings Worthy and Abbots Worthy and adjacent to the river Itchen.
HGT Research: Updated September, 2018/20
Based on its location within the SDNP and its proximity to the River Itchen SSSI and SAC with recognised heritage assets it could be categorised within the higher grade of sensitivity’ (The Kings Worthy Landscape Sensitivity Assessment, 2014). Though degraded, it is a site that retains both historic and visual significance in Abbots Worthy.
Hampshire Record Office
Winchester City Council – various planning applications