Botley House

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HCC Site ID: 1770 Parish: Eastleigh
Designations: SINC, SSSI Area: 30 ha
Access: Public Access Ownership: Private

Image: HRO:TOP 37/2/2

William Cobbett bought Botley House in 1805-6. Between the purchase of the house and 1810 when he was sent to Newgate Prison, he added a grandiose portico to the house; built stables with a clock, stable yard and four tied cottages. He planted shrubberies, orchards and mature trees. In the walled garden the fruit trees were trained as espaliers; there were hot beds for melons and early vegetables. He was very much in favour of the formal garden, and not the ‘picturesque’. He advocated that gravel paths should dissect his gardens and shrubberies, be four feet wide and edged with box, and that the lawn or ‘grass-plat’ was an essential part of the beauty of the pleasure garden. He considered a greenhouse essential, preferably built onto, and entered and viewed from, the sitting room where early spring flowers could be enjoyed.

In 1812, when he was released from Newgate prison the family rented a smaller house at Botley Hill. This property had three quarters of a mile of high walls for fruit trees, and Cobbett spent £150 on plants and trees, nectarines, peaches and vines, and employed a gardener to prune and train them. In 1817 Cobbett fled to America and Botley House was re-possessed. When he returned to England his family were in distress with debts and lawsuits. He was allowed to live in Botley House for a short while through the kindness of the mortgagee, John Tunno. In 1820, John Tunno sold
Botley House to John Jenkyns, a lawyer who owned Botley Hill. In 1831 Botley House was almost buried by the locust trees planted by Cobbett, and was demolished.

Summary

William Cobbett owned and lived at Botley House in the early part of the 19th century, during which time he had a formal garden and extensively planted the grounds with trees and shrubs, so much so that in 1831 the house was demolished due to the overgrown locust trees. During his residence at Botley Hill, he planted the extensive walls with various fruits.
Information: April 2001

Reference

English Gardener, paras 55-6
Extracts from Barbara Biddell’s ‘The Jolly Farmer’


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