|HCC Site ID:||1543||Parish:||Itchen Valley|
|Designations:||HE II*; House LB I; Various other listed buildings; SMR, SDNP||Area:|| 270 ha, includes
5 ha informal gardens
|Access:||See opening times||Ownership:||Private|
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Location and site
The Park is now within the South Downs National Park.
In the Middle Ages the land was owned by Winchester Cathedral. It was seized by Henry VIII and later sold to Edmund Clerke. A house seems to have been built there in the mid-16th century and there was almost certainly an Elizabethan style garden. Clerke’s descendents lived there until 1665 when it was bought by George Brydges, one of Charles II’s courtiers who upgraded the modest house for a visit by Charles II and Nell Gwynne. The present façade, attributed to John James, was created by Brydges in the 1670s followed by other early 18th century alterations to the interior.
George Brydges’s son, also George, died in 1751 and Avington passed to James Brydges, a cousin, then Marquess of Carnavon but who became the 3rd Duke of Chandos in 1771.
James Brydges carried out more major alterations adding three lead statues to the top of the portico and remodelled the sides of the wings. The interior was transformed 1768-71 and the church of St Mary’s was built in 1768 thus providing an ornament to the park. It was at this time that the landscape park was designed. 400 acres were emparked encompassing the deer park stretching towards Hampage Woods in 1785, 400 trees planted, the kitchen garden created together with other walls. The lake was also created from the marshy grounds bordering the River Itchen and lime tree avenues planted. The whole was to replace the family’s principal seat, Canons in Middlessex, which was demolished in 1747. A coade stone fountain was brought from Canons and placed on the lawn in front of the house. The house was refaced to make a suitable main facade to face the new lake.
The 3rd Duke of Chandos died in 1789 and the title died out. Avington passed to the Grenville family through marriage of a daughter to Richard Grenville, Earl Temple. More improvements were made including a cast-iron bridge with bronze decoration (early 19th century), red brick stables (early 19th century), a Regancy period bath house (1719-1812), a brick ha-ha (around 1780), a Pavilion (early 19th century, extended 10th and 20th century).
In 1822, Richard Grenville was created Duke of Buckingham and Chandos whose main seat was Stowe, thus Avington was a secondary seat. Also added in the early 19th century were two lodges and a carriage-drive lantern.
Debt forced the 2nd Duke to sell in 1848 and Sir John Shelley, brother of Percy Bysshe Shelley, bought Avington. He re-built the two iron and glass conservatories we see today flanking the south lawn, a previous wooden one having burnt down. The park remained in the Shelley hands until 1952 when it was sold to the present owners.
The landscape established in the late 18th century remains much the same today. Although the brick ha-ha is not very visible and the lake has been overgrown with vegetation, trees have been blown down and the ownership of some parts of the buildings fragmented, the scene described by Cobbett in 1830 is completely recognisable.
‘Here at Avington, everything is in such beautiful order; the lawn, before the house, os of the finest green, and most neatly ketp’ an the edge of the pond (which is of several acres) is as smooth as if it formed part of a bowling-green.’
‘…..beautifully situated amidst fine and lofty trees, fine meadows and streams of clear water.’
‘A very pretty park. The house is quite at the bottom; it can be seen in no direction from a distance greater than that of four or five hundred yards…A stream of water is brought from the river to feed a pond before the house. There are several avenues of trees which are very beautiful and some of which give complete shelter to the kitchen garden, which has besides extraordinary high walls.’
Cobbett’s descripton also describes much of the Duke’s farm.
2008: Taken from Notes of Sally Hocking, Hampshire County Council, 1990