|HCC Site ID:||1307||Parish:||Bentworth|
|Designations:||-||Area:||13.5 ha (33 acres); 19th century 540 acres (216 ha)|
|Access:||No Public Access||Ownership:||Private/Multiple ownership|
Location and site
Bentworth Hall is located about one mile south of the village of Bentworth, which in turn is 4½ miles northwest of Alton. The Hall and grounds lie between Tinkers Lane to the east and Holt End Lane to the west. From its entrance in Holt End Lane the drive climbs gradually across farmed parkland to a plateau, about 600 ft above sea level, where the buildings known as Bentworth Hall are situated. The entrance to the grounds is on the east side. A shelter belt of deciduous and conifer trees encircles the north, east and west of the buildings; to the south east there are sweeping views across fields and a valley towards Wivelrod and beyond. The soil is nearly neutral having a clay cap over chalk.
In 1704 the manors of Bentworth and Bentworth Hall were brought together and held by Thomas Urry and his descendants. They lived at Hall Place Farm, which represented the old manor house (Page 1911, 68-70). When the last Urry descendant (Mary Fitzherbert Brockholes) died in 1832, Hall Place Farm and the manor of Bentworth (comprising 540 acres (219 ha) of arable, meadow pasture and woodland, together with manorial rights over 3,800 acres (1538 ha)) were sold to Roger Staple Horman Fisher for £6,000 (HRO 10M57/SP322) . Little is known of Horman Fisher but almost immediately he planned the building of Bentworth Hall on Westcott Down, a part of the estate (Smith, 1988, 55). The house was described as a flint, Tudor mansion by Pevsner (Pevsner & Lloyd, 1967, 101). The 1841 Tithe Map shows an apparent conservatory to the rear of the house and a walled garden to the southwest (HRO 21M65/F7/18/2). The carriage drive approaches the house from the northeast.
In 1844 the estate was put up for sale. Features were described as ‘lawns on the east, west and south fronts with an elegant 50′ x 20′ conservatory’ and ‘finely disposed pleasure grounds, dressed with beds of choice American and other plants’ (HRO 10M57/SP323). Horman Fisher was still living at Bentworth Hall in 1845 (Times Archive online) but by 1848 Charles Bushe was recorded as owner and lord of the manor (HRO 107M89/21). The estate and lordship were up for sale again in 1848. The sales plan shows a major extension to the conservatory, trees marking the boundary of the park and woodland to the south of the house (HRO 10M57/TR2). The pleasure grounds were described as ornamentally and tastefully laid out and the kitchen garden surrounded by flint walls and abundantly stocked with wall fruit (HRO 10M57/SP324). The eventual purchaser in 1850 was Jeremiah Robert Ives JP from Norfolk.
In 1865 Ives died, leaving Bentworth Hall to his son Gordon Maynard Gordon-Ives, who in 1870 built and thereafter lived at nearby Gaston Grange (Smith 1988, 55). Ives’ widow, Emma, continued to live at the Hall. By 1871 (1st ed. 25″ OS map) the outbuildings in the stable block had been enlarged. Particular features were the walled garden and, to the rear and front of the house, a summer house and fountain. The 1896 2nd ed. 25″ OS map shows a further expansion to the outbuildings and a glasshouse within the walled garden. The two fountains still remain, though the rear summer house is gone. The 1851 – 1901 census forms suggest that the grounds were relatively low maintenance, since only a solitary gardener was listed as part of the household. A 1905 photograph of the southwest of the house shows an extensive lawn with a prominent cedar, further cedars to the side and a vase or stone planter on a pedestal. (HRO H20/51/1a).
After Emma Ives’ death in 1897, Bentworth Hall was let to a succession of tenants until 1923, including in 1905 and 1907 William Graham Nicholson JP and MP for Petersfield (Kelly’s Directories).
The 1909 3rd ed. 25″ OS map shows a glasshouse placed outside (and not inside) the walled garden. The fountain and summer house to the front no longer appear, although the fountain to the rear remains. There are fewer trees on the lawn and in the southwest woodland area.
The estate was put on the market in 1924 after Cecil Gordon-Ives’ death. A photograph from the sales particulars shows little development to the southwest grounds since 1905. There is a glimpse of a structure on the west lawn (possibly a low wall). The grounds are described as being inexpensive and shady. This is the last mention of the entrance lodge. Emphasis is placed on the estate’s capital sporting attractions (sales particulars 1848 (HRO 159M88/386)).
Arthur d’Anyers Willis bought the estate and lordship of the manor in 1924 and it was sold again in 1932 to John Arthur Pryor (Times Archive on-line). At that time the estate was given as 462 acres (187 ha). Pryor was still listed as owner in 1943 (Kelly’s Handbook, 1943), though the house and grounds were occupied by Canadian and American forces during the 2nd World War (Strachan, 2010, pers.comm.).
In 1947 Herbert Berens purchased the estate and lived there until his death in 1981 (Times Archive On-line). In 1950 he built two substantial entrance lodges in the brick and flint style of the main house. In the 1970s the grounds were well maintained by three full time gardeners. Features included a sunken lawn, croquet lawn, rose garden, topiary hedges and herbaceous borders leading to a lily pond and a well stocked walled garden. After Berens’ death maintenance virtually ceased and the grounds deteriorated (Parfoot, 2010, pers.comm.). A photograph of the west garden taken at the time indicates the state of neglect. In 1982 the estate, comprising 54 acres (22 ha), was sold and divided up for multiple ownership.
Although the estate has greatly reduced in size since its heyday, the basic structure of the grounds has remained much as it was in the 19th century. The approach drive, the woodland areas and some mature specimen trees survive. The layout of the walled garden remains as shown on the 1871 25″ map. The breakup of the estate in 1982 led to the greatest change with young trees and hedging defining new boundaries and owners adding features according to their individual tastes. There are fewer conifer trees in close proximity to the house and some trees were lost in the storms of 1987 and 1990. Evidence remains of the military occupation during the 2nd World War. The sunken rose garden has been redesigned and now contains herbaceous plants. The 19th Century entrance lodge is no longer part of the estate (site visit 2010).
A Tudor-style mansion built in the 1830s on part of a large sporting estate. The grounds were not developed in any grand way throughout its history but original features remain, including old specimen trees, the approach drive, a walled garden and woodland areas. Now in multiple ownership.
HGT Research: August 2010
Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
10M57/SP322 Sales Particulars 1832
21M65/F7/18/2 Tithe Map
H10M57/SP323 Sales Particulars 1844
107M89/21 Notice of Meeting 1848
10M57/TR2 Sales Plan 1848
10M57/SP324 Sales Particulars 1848
H20/51/1a Picture of Bentworth Hall 1905
159M88/386 Sales Particulars 1924 & 1930
Personal communication (pers.comm.) Mrs Stella Strachan, owner, West Wing, Bentworth Hall 2010
Personal communication (pers.comm.) Mrs Ellen Parfoot, caretaker, Bentworth Hall 1972-1982
Ordnance Survey (OS) maps from Hampshire County Council:
1st ed. 25″ 1871-87
2nd ed. 25″ 1896
3rd ed. 25″ 1909
Kelly’s Directories of Hampshire 1903 – 1939
Kelly’s Handbook to the Titled, Landed & Official Classes 1943
Pevsner, N & Lloyd, 1967 D The Buildings of England. Hampshire & the Isle of Wight, London, William Clowes & Sons
Smith, Georgia 1988 Bentworth: the Making of a Village, Alton, Rodex Printing
Page, W.,ed. 1911, Victoria County History : A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 4
Times Archive On-line
accessed through http://www.3hants.gov.uk/library/reference-online ref-history.htm
[date accessed: various in 2010]