|HCC Site ID:||1797||Parish:||Colden Common|
|Designations:||SDNP, House LB II* SMR||Area:|
|Access:|| No public access to house and park.
Public access to Walled garden – Brambridge Garden Centre
|Ownership:|| Multiple, private ownership (house and gardens)
Old walled garden – Brambridge Garden Centre
Location and site
Brambridge House lies between the B3335 from Twyford to Eastleigh and the mainline Southampton to London railway. Entrance is from Kiln Lane. The house stands back from the B3335 road from Twyford. The river Itchen flows along the edge of the site and from early times there was a mill and a mill-house. Water has played a large part in the history of the site and the Kingfisher Stream, a tributary of the river, was used to form cascades within the gardens. The soil in the south of Twyford is loam and clay with chalk sub soil.
A mill has been associated with the land at Brambridge for several centuries, the area for a long time belonging to Magdalene College, Oxford. The land at Brambridge was acquired by Thomas Atte Welle (1460-1490). In 1530, a descendant of the first Thomas Atte Welle rebuilt or enlarged the mill house and the gardens were noted as ‘…certain ponds near said house (called maranos)… a total of 108 acres, with gardens and ponds of 2 ½ acres…’. Following the dissolution of the monasteries 1530-41, as recusant Catholics the Welles family lost possession of Brambridge several times, finally being granted re-possession of their estates by Charles II in 1661. It is during Charles II time that the important and still existing lime avenue was probably introduced. The Ogilvy Map, 1675, shows a mansion house on the site. The Taylor map, 1759, notes the long (lime) avenue, with a lane running diagonally across it. The will of Henry Welles, 1762, left his ‘mansion’ to his cousin Walter Smythe and after Welles’ death, the house was rebuilt from 1763 to 1769 in an Italianate style. The name Smythe is noted on the Milne map, 1791 and the present Kiln Lane is shown, removing the lane which crossed the long lime avenue. A map of 1806 notes the mill to the west of the house. The Kentish, Great Map of Hampshire, 1823, notes two semi-circular drives off Kiln Lane, as well as a long entrance avenue running from an East Lodge on the Twyford road. The mill disappears on maps, post 1806. The first Walter Smythe’s son, also Walter, died in 1822 his brother named as a life tenant until his death in1832 when the estate passed to the second Walter Smythe’s two daughters, one of whom inherited Little Somborne (also part of the Smythe estates) and the other, Georgina Charlotte, who inherited Brambridge Park. Georgina married George Craven in 1834, who died two years later. The Tithe map and apportionment of 1840 notes the many features of the large estate, including a kitchen garden, pond, shrubbery, stables etc as belonging to Georgina. Georgina married again in 1844 and moved away from Brambridge. The estate was passed to Georgina’s son William George Craven who put the house 1415 acres up for sale by auction in July,1860. The estate included farmland and cottages, woodland, water meadows and pasture together with the cascades and water garden features; an avenue of walnut trees, out offices, stable yard laundry, pleasure grounds, a Dutch garden and fishing on the River Itchen together with a kitchen garden and shrubbery walk. There was a lawn parterre in front of the house with specimen trees, the river ‘…flowing over tumbling bays forming cascades for nearly 3 miles…’ within 95 acres of Park. No buyer for the whole estate was found and half the land was sold separately. Shortly afterwards Sir William Fairbairn, the well-known Scottish engineer, bought the house and the remaining half of the estate. Fairbairn made major improvements to the house together with his son, Thomas Fairbairn and probably also improved the grounds.
An icehouse in Stubbington Copse is shown on the 1st ed OS map, 1869, with a second lodge to the north west of the house. Fire destroyed much of the house in 1872 though the shell remained. Matthew Digby-Wyatt was brought in to design a new, larger and more imposing house in the classical style. The 18th century garden front was largely unaltered except for added stucco dressings but the entrance was changed from the east side of the house to the waterside. Fairbairn died in 1874, and Thomas inherited. The house was again up for sale in 1892 with a full description of the grounds reflecting the description of the 1860 sales details. It did not sell and was re-advertised in 1896. There followed a series of owners.
The 3rd ed OS map, 1909 shows ‘waterfalls’ and a boathouse to the north with a new lodge built to replace the one close to Bram Bridge. The (walnut) avenue now has few trees. In 1921, on the death of the then owner, L G Baker, the estate was again put up for sale, at first as 210 acres of gardens, park and home farm and then sold in lots the main one being 126 acres of house, grounds, woods, a lime avenue etc. Farms and cottages, grassland etc were sold off separately. By 1927 Colonel Heseltine had become the owner of the 126 acres possibly living at Brambridge until his death in 1944. In 1949 the remaining parts of the estate were offered for sale as suited to scholastic, institutional or business use but they did not sell as a whole and were sold off in Lots, the main one being the house and grounds which was eventually bought by a property developer and the house converted into flats. The lime avenue was bought by a local farmer and the kitchen garden and surrounds became what is now the Brambridge Garden Centre. A tree preservation order on the 4 lines of lime avenue, 62 in a line, was issued in 1949.
Reports in the archive of Hampshire Gardens Trust (HGT) emphasise how much the remaining garden and its features were degraded. By 1992, the freehold of the flats and the grounds was held by Mrs Millar-Smith through Brambridge Estates Ltd, and by 2000 the fabric of the building was in very poor state. In 2004 the freehold of the remaining parts of the estate were acquired by the M25 Group and the GRII* building was reported at risk with an enforcement notice issued by Winchester County Council but although attempts were made to make repairs it would seem little was improved.
The main house and gardens were sold again. The grounds have been severely reduced in size but the trout Stream running through and tumbling over cascades, a few specimen trees and the remains of a striking balustrade are still impressive. Though in separate ownership, the old lime avenue viewed from the road from Colden Common and Twyford remains a very visual part of the former estate. Parts of the historic walled garden can still be seen in the Brambridge Garden Centre but it has not been possible to view the house and gardens to ascertain their current state.
Summary and Significance
Whilst seriously diminished, the setting is still very significant for the GRII* listed house particularly in view of the possible presence of some form of water garden since the 16th century. Though in separate ownership, the old lime avenue viewed from the road from Colden Common and Twyford remains a very visual part of the former estate.
HGT Research: April 2002 updated 2012, June 2019
Pipe Roll of the Bishopric of Winchester, 1208-9 p52
Archives of Magdalene College, Oxford: Otterborne 7-9 pp174-176, 11 September, 1528
Archives Corpus Christie College, Oxford
Old Hampshire mapped: Ogilvy 1675, Taylor 1759, Milne 1791,1806 map,
Great Map of Hampshire, Kentish 1823
OS maps, 1st ed 1869, 2nd ed 1896, 3rd ed 1906, 4th ed 1932
139M71/B16/1 Will of Henry Wells
139M/B16/1 Wells family history
46M72/E166 Letting of the Brambridge Estate 1822-32
F7/237/1 and 2/Tithe Map 1840
81M75/2/Sales details Messrs Drive & Co
F7/237/1 & 2 Tithe map and apportionment 1840
12M73/Z13 photograph of etching dated 1860 (from British Library)
81M75/2 Sales details 1892 and Q21/2/38 Sales details 1896
Q21/2/73 and 111MW/R16/27 Notice of residents of Brambridge House 1903
44M70/E17/3 and M84/F21b/1 Sales notices 1922
157M89W/244 Sales details 1949
Times on-line viewed 02/2017 : Sales Details 14 July 1860
Kelly’s and White’s Directories
British Library Shelf mark 136a.10(8) The Brambridge Estate: Sales Catalogue with map
John G Martin Hampshire Magazine, June 1968 pp 19, 20
Paul Hitchings Hampshire Magazine, August 1969 pp31,32
Katharine M R Kenyon Hampshire Chronicle, 5 April 1958
Attewell, B History of the Attewell family, 1260-1659, Lulu Press, 2016
Hampshire Gardens Trust Archive material, including Hampshire County Council correspondence
Information on pre-17th century information from Chris Corcoran