Bramshott Court (Fir Grove)

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HCC Site ID: 1315 Parish: Bramshott & Liphook
Designations: CA, SINC, SMR (Aquaduct) Area: 29.54 ha (1955)
Access: No Public Access Ownership: Multiple Private

Location and site

Bramshott Court is located in the Parish of Bramshott and Liphook, east Hampshire, lies between Tunbridge Lane and the River Wey on a raised easterly bank above the river. Cretaceous Sandstones, the Hythe Beds, form the underlying rock; soils are both light and mildly acid.

Historic development

Originally it was part of the Manor of Ludshott. An unexcavated mound designated as a Barrow lies on the river bank within the garden (AHBR 23034). This has been exploited as a garden feature at least from the middle of the nineteenth century when it is first shown on a map. It is crowned with mature yews. A farmstead was on this site before the early sixteenth century. Outbuildings and a yard and timber framed barn with two wagon entrances existed until 1963.
In 1661 Henry Streeter left land abutting Tunbridge Lane in order to provide a burial ground for his fellow members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), a remnant of which can still be seen. His granddaughter Sarah married John Woods in 1709. It is Woods name that appears on the 1739 Ludshott Manor Map (B&LPS). The Quaker burial ground is delineated. From it a path leads straight through a wilderness plantation to a set of iron gates followed by a second set of gates in front of a house of two stories plus mansard. The wilderness is divided into quadrants and flanked on both sides by approach drives. Of this only the westerly approach drive remains though there is a westerly wing of Bramshott Court that looks to be of a late seventeenth or early eighteenth century date. None of the water meadow irrigation systems are shown as the map was mainly concerned with boundaries. Fir Grove was visited by Reverend Gilbert White on 8 July 1782 (HRO White). He recorded in his diary that the location and soils were good and the crop of grapes grown against walls was top class.
Sir James Macdonald bought the Lordship of the Manor of Ludshott in 1825 and had a large part of Fir Grove pulled down in 1832. On the Tithe Map of 1845 the remnant of the house, yard, barn and outbuildings remain (B&LPS T21BC/1). Both approach drives flank the former wilderness and now disused burial ground. A formally laid out orchard ends with the mound as an eye catcher. The Ordnance Survey first edition 6” and 25” maps follow the above map and add more detail The burial ground is flanked by conifers and the mound (Druids’Mound) is surmounted by conifers. In front of the remains of the house there is an enclosure which in the twenty first century is known as the Quadrangle. The earlier meadow irrigation system is shown and a long lake and small west pond have been dug out below the bank on which Fir Grove stands. These works can be dated between 1845 and 1869. Macdonald provided a small Catholic school, run in the barn as company for his invalid son.
In February 1910 Sir Archibald Macdonald sold 80 acres and Fir Grove Farm and the Mill House to Theodore McKenna for £4,000 (HCC 1910). The house was extended by a south facing and an east wing and the original west remnant refurbished. Fir Grove was renamed as Bramshott Court. Major works were carried out in the gardens and by 1915 when the McKenna’s asked Cubitt and West of Haslemere to find them a tenant, they had built two tennis courts, a croquet lawn, orchard and ‘extensive pleasure grounds’. Judging from the battered stone walls, curved stone steps and all the area immediately around the new house these, too, are of this date. Mrs McKenna informed the agent that in all their costs were £12,000. Such costs would have included the installation of water and sewage systems and electricity supply (HEM 1915). Theodore McKenna’s brother Reginald was married to Pamela the niece of Miss Gertrude Jekyll and any advice or plants coming the latter, would have been because of this connection. The discovery of a recent photograph album (B&LPS 2010) would suggest that this is so. Jekyll’s involvement is mentioned in the 1928 sales information. Gertrude Jekyll may not have kept a note or even charged them, being within the family.
By 1917 the McKenna’s had decided to sell; their regular winter tenant Mrs R G Walker who eventually was the buyer, on 7 February 1920 for £12,000 (HEM 1915). Mrs Walker also wanted to rent out the house and grounds for part of each year. It looks as though as part of the negotiations, improvements were carried out to the kitchen gardens as in 1919 three acres were stocked and enclosed with hedges. A Head Gardener’s House was built; There was a hothouse beside it and frames in front; beyond were a pair of glass houses. A boiler house, potting shed and fruit store backed onto the hothouse. Built by James Gray of Chelsea, these remain as does the pair of glass houses.
Mrs Walker commissioned the architect John Duke Coleridge in 1922-23  to add to the house and garden (B&LPS 1922). A library and picture gallery was joined via a corridor to the south of the old west wing. Overlooking the lake a large loggia was built and below,with a retaining wall with flying buttresses and little bridges over a leat. All these remain as do the two walled enclosures complete with raised beds. One features a well and the other, known as the Italian Garden, has a sunken stepped pool fed by a rill and wall fountain. This garden work relates to the J D Coleridge designs and there is no evidence of a Jekyll connection.
In 1928 Mrs Walker put  Bramshott Court and 86 acres up for sale by auction. It did not sell but in the sale details accompanied by photographs  (HRO TOP46/3/6) Gertrude Jekyll is attributed twice though there is no photograph to show her planting.
Eventually Bramshott Court was sold in 1929 for £10,500 to Lord George Cholmondeley, who again tried to let it. He then decided to sell the house and 74 acres in 1933 (B&LPS, T21BC/2/2).  These sales particulars give more detail about water and electric systems. They expand on the plants in the walls, carpets of narcissi and a list of the trees in the arboretum. The trees can be checked against those remaining today. He had a hard tennis court installled. The property did not sell until August 1934 when it was bought by Mrs JR Sofio. In 1937 the fourth edition Ordnance Survey 25” map shows all the features already mentioned buth there are no details of the leats and pathways in the water garden. Mrs Sofio, in turn, tried to sell but with the advent of World War II instead rented to the nuns of Nazareth House who were running a school evacuated from Portsmouth. They installed four statues of saints, against the south facing wall in the Italian Garden.
Between 1945 and 1953 Bramshott Court was run as a convalescent home by Dr C D Shepherd who seems to have bought it from Mrs Sofio, as it was sold by Dr Shepherd’s executors in 1954 having been valued for probate in June 1953 (B&LPS, T21BC/4/4). Philip Lyle bought it; in 1960 his heir Sir Ian Duff sold on to Pewley Properties, who divided the house into seven homes and built some houses in the grounds. In 1963 they demolished the medieval barn.

Current description

Many parts of the garden remain. The mound topped with yews is still there though only a portion of the Quaker burial ground wall remains; of the wilderness there is no sign. The west approach drive is intact as is the so called Quadrangle but without its central fountain. Parts of the water meadow irrigation system can be seen and the mid– nineteenth century lake and little pond are in good order. Of the work carried out for the McKenna’s, some planting on the house walls and the little walls and steps near the house and the yew tree walk can be recognised. The hard landscaping of paths, steps, walls and enclosures are all intact and well-cared for as are the lawn tennis courts. The poplar avenue has gone and only the position of the two rose gardens can be ascertained. Where the herbaceous border was cannot be established. Within the so called pleasure grounds the rock and water garden is recognisable and the arboretum still contains its conifer collection. The gardens beside the J D Coleridge extension are in good order as are all the little bridges and buttresses. The hard tennis court is still there and now houses bee hives. The kitchen garden and glass houses can all be clearly seen.


Begun as an 18th century ‘wilderness’ attached to a burial ground; developed with the addition of a lawn, a lake and an orchard in the mid-19th century. Early 20th century additions including a water garden and arborteum and possible  Gertrude Jekyll planting. Two new enclosed gardens beside a house extension by J D Coleridge in the early 20th century and glass houses of 1919 by James Gray.

HGT Research:  August 2010  


AHBR  Archaeological & Historic Buildings Record
B&LPS Bramshott and Liphook Preservation Society
HEM     Haslemere Educational Museum
Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
Journal of Rev. Gilbert White of Selborne 1782
TOP46/3/6  Photocopy of Sale of Bramshott Court  1928
1739 B&LPS Estate map of Manor of Ludshott
1845 T21BC/1 B&LPS Map of Oakhanger Tithing
1869 1st ed 25” OS map Hampshire County Council (HCC)
1874 1st ed 6” OS map (HCC)
1897 2nd ed 25” OS map  (HCC)
1910 3rd ed 6” & 25” maps (HCC)
1937 4th ed 25” OS map (HCC)
Other sources
AHBR 23034 Bronze Age Barrow
B&LPS 1922 Plans for Bramshott Court for Mrs Walker by John Duke Colderidge FRIBA
B&LPS 1933 Sale particulars, Knight, Frank and Rutley, May 1933
B&LPS 1944-55 Dr C D Shepherd’s Convalescent Home Brochure
B&LPS 2010 Photograph album HEM  
1915 Register of Furnished Houses handled by Cubitt and West P1138 HCC 
1910  Conveyance to Theodore McKenna from Sir Archibald Macdonald

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