|HCC Site ID:||1250||Parish:||Steventon|
|Designations:||SINC, EA-GWPZ3,EA Flood Z3||Area:||101 ha|
|Access:||Public Access only on National Garden Scheme Days||Ownership:||Private, Multiple dwellings|
Location and site
Ashe Park is the name of the house within the Ashe Park Estate. The estate lies in North Hampshire, approximately 7 miles west of Basingstoke and 1½ miles east of Overton. Ashe Park is not a listed building and should not be confused with Ashe House which is a different property a mile away in the hamlet of Ashe.
The ancient manor of Ashe was at one time in the possession of William of Wykeham, but through marriage it passed to the Fiennes family around 1500 and eventually by sale in 1707 it came into the hands of a local yeoman, Robert Reynolds (Page, VCH, 1909). Robert Reynolds’ daughter, Elizabeth, willed the estate to James Portal in 1763 (HRO wills, 1763). The estate was tenanted during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and there is little evidence of a designed landscape or garden having been created although Warner says that in the 1770s the house was enlarged (Warner, 1795). Milne’s 1791 map of Ashe shows the house within a fenced park with a long tree-lined access on the west and a further double line of trees east of the house which may be ‘The Walk’ which appears on the 1846 Tithe map (HRO maps, 1846). The Tithe map shows a walled kitchen garden and suggests that there was a pleasure garden around the house and serpentine paths within Kimbers Copse. Colonel Robert Portal who lived in Ashe Park from 1862-1888 extended and ‘re-modelled’ the exterior, making it into a comfortable Victorian residence with an estate of 1787 acres (720 hectares) attached (HRO sales, 1889) and (HRO photographs, 1915). The OS map of 1872 shows a fenced garden around the house within which there was mixed planting of trees to the north and an expanse of lawn on the south side of the house. A long L-shaped avenue bounded by trees led to the front entrance on the London road but there was no lodge. The sale details of 1894 describe the Pleasure Grounds as of mature growth, embellished with some fine Timber, Conifers, and Flowering Shrubs, and are of very picturesque character. There are extensive shrubberies with walks, Tennis Lawn for two or three sets, Parterres, shady lawns, Woodland Walks etc.’ The walled garden was ‘well stocked with Standard and Wall Fruit Trees in full bearing.’ There were further references to plantings of rhododendrons, azaleas and yews (HRO sales, 1894). In the twentieth century the estate changed hands frequently and the 1932 sale details (HRO sales, 1932) describe a hard tennis court and rose gardens, a well-timbered park and woodland belts for sporting game. The estate was bought by the Boyle family who lived there until 1975 (Boyle, 2007). A fire in 1938 had destroyed the roof at the west end and this was restored with a flat roof and parapet. The addition of forward projecting wings either side of the front door date from the 1950s and the resulting appearance has led to the house being described as ‘Georgian’ (NMRC sales, 1985). The fine Cedrus Glauca atlantica which still graces the south lawn was planted in 1934 to celebrate the christening of the owner’s son. The garden survived the Second World War, when a large number of Bank of England families were lodged in Ashe Park, and Captain Boyle added a terrace to the house when he re-modelled the building in the 1950s. In the early 1960s Lady Nell Boyle employed James Russell to design a small flower garden on the west lawns which was planted with roses, peonies and flowering shrubs within a tall beech hedge (Boyle, 2007 and York, 2007). This garden has not survived. The owner from 1975 to 1985 initiated commercial extraction of mineral water from springs on the estate (Hampshire Chronicle,1979). By 1985 the estate had shrunk to 42 acres which were offered for sale for £750000 (NMRC, 1985). A survey conducted by the Hampshire County Council in 1988 (HCC, 1988) reported that the estate was ‘substantially cleaned up from dereliction a few years ago but also altered. New walls, estate buildings converted although new owners removed mountains of rubbish, two swimming pools and many jerry-built buildings.’ A map was attached to the report which was hand-altered to show the position of the James Russell garden on the west side of the house and described in the record as a 1950 rose-garden. In the 1990s the estate enjoyed a period of revival: the grounds were re-landscaped to take advantage of the wide lawns, open views and pleasant parkland vistas. A polo centre was established and the Ashe Park mineral water business was successfully re-launched. There was extensive planting of mixed conifers and deciduous trees along the main road and within the park. A small lake was created from a spring in Little Cadbury Meadow and fields were turned to grazing for the horses (Knight Frank, 2005).
The present owners are engaged in a long-term programme of restoration of the house and the garden (Joynt, photographs 2007). There are still some remnants of an earlier epoch. A line of evergreens underplanted with Butcher’s Broom can be seen leading away from the house in the direction of ‘The Walk’ and there are still two fine Wellingtonias and some shrubberies of rhododendron. The remains of a yew tunnel line the front drive and a fine avenue of limes connects this with the house. The walled garden remains in the same position as it was on the 1846 Tithe map of the estate – away from the house but on the edge of a slope where it catches full sun on its south-facing walls. The icehouse which was on the edge of Icehouse Meadow until at least 1975, no longer exists (HRO icehouses, 2007). Planting of tree belts continues to provide shelter, timber and conserve the long-standing reputation of Ashe Park as a ‘well-timbered estate’.
The significance of the Ashe Park estate and grounds lies in its historic associations with well-known local families, especially the Portal family who owned it from 1763-1894 and Jane Austen who visited the house in the 1790s and mentions Ashe Park in her letters. In landscape terms it is an excellent example of a contained sporting estate with a long line of owners who valued the estate for the pleasure of spending time there shooting, fishing and hunting. Kimbers Copse is designated as a Site of Interest for Nature Conservation being a site of ancient woodland. At times of heavy rainfall the source of the River Test can be found in the estate, and the ample supply of spring water has allowed commercial extraction to take place in the late twentieth century.
Summary Ashe Park has enjoyed a long history as a manor and park and even boasts some periods of Royal tenure. Significant changes were made to the house in the late nineteenth, the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Although the house was ‘georgianized’ in the twentieth century, it sits well in the landscape and the setting is appropriate to this style. There is no evidence of a formal designed landscape of any epoch; much of the remaining planting dates from the late Victorian period with new tree planting dating from the last ten years. As a result of its elevated position it delights in the ‘borrowed landscape’ of the North Wessex Downs with a foreground of woodland and forest; these views exemplify the aesthetic value of the Ashe Park estate.
HGT Research: April 2008
Page, W., Victoria History of the Counties of England Series: A History of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, (Constable, 1911), volume 4: p.200
Portal, Sir F., Portals: the Church, the State, and the People, (Oxford, 1962) Warner, R., History of Hampshire, (London, 1795), volume 1, p.317
National Monument Record Centre: Red box for Overton, Savills sales details 1985
Hampshire County Council: Hampshire Historic Landscape and Gardens Survey, 1988
University of York, the Borthwick Institute: James Russell Archive. Clients’ files, Correspondence, an OS map of Ashe Park, the plant list and planting plan. JR/1/57
Maps All Ordnance Survey maps are from the HCC datasets.
All historic maps are from Old Hampshire Mapped at: :http://www.geog.port.ac.uk/webmap/hantsmap/hantsmap/milne1/milne1.htm
Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
Tithe map 1846, 21M65/F7/8/1 & 2
Portal Collection, will of E Jones 1863, 5M52/E79
Sale details Ashe Park Estate 31 July 1889, 46M84/F6/1
Sale details Ashe Park 1894, 5M52/E79 Photos old house c.1915, HPP38/0354/0416/0417 Sale details 7 June 1932, 46M 84/F6/3
Report from Hampshire Chronicle, 1 June 1979, 141M83/290
List of icehouses no longer existing, 64M96/8/1
Sale details, Knight Frank , press release 23 June 2005, accessed 27 February 2008 http://www.knightfrank.co.uk/press/documents/05pr381-AshePark.DOC
Boyle: conversations with Captain Michael and Lady Nell Boyle, December 2007
Author’s photographs: October and December 2007