|HCC Site ID:||1195||Parish:||Ashford Hill with Headley|
|Designations:||(see below)||Area:||32.4 ha|
|Access:||Access to School||Ownership:||Boarding and day school/
Cheam School Educational Trust
Designations: House LB II, TPO (small fragments of the Kingscelere Woodland in Headley), Ancient Woodland Inventory,
Map 26 (Woods form the visual boundary of the property to the west)
Location and Site
Cheam School (formerly Beenham Court) in the parish of Ashford & lies between Kingsclere and Headley. The modern school is housed in a complex of 19th and 20th century buildings – enclosed within 80 acres of parkland and mature woodlands.
The manor of EDMUNDSTHORP BENHAM the name Benham deriving from the Benham family that held it in from the early 14th century. The park shows limited evidence of emparkment, although there is general reference in the archives to forest wardens and warreners. Edmondstrop and locality has been mapped at least since Taylor’s map of 1759. Beenham Court is present but not named. It is named on the 1768 J. Willis map, which shows field boundaries, roads and footpaths, many of which are clearly described on the Old Series OS maps of the early 1800s. No woodlands are shown on this map.
The early OS Old Series 1” map shows the entrance drive running west between the house and the stable yard roughly following the old track indicated on Willis’ map of 1768. The farm house overlooks a modest garden with a circular pond. The farmland is bounded by large blocks of woodland between it and Headley Farm, with a large pond in the home meadow.
The Kingsclere Enclosures map of 1841 details the extent of holdings at Beenham Court, indicating the presence of established blocks of woodland – Long Coppice, Beenham Copse and field boundary woodland referred to as rows. Sinuous field boundaries suggest ancient land boundaries supported by some field names. Until the sale of the property to Mr William Holden in 1875, the Georgian farmhouse was the residence of the May family who had farmed the land since 1832. The 1873 25 ” OS map confirms the layout of the manor house and its garden. During the late 1870s the old farmhouse was demolished and a new Victorian mansion was constructed (see photos in Appendix 2), the arboretum and shrubberies planted, the walled garden built, walks and fountains constructed by Mr William Holden. During the occupancy of Mr John Ashley Waller, until the sale of the Court in 1912 to Mr William Clarke. the long drive was constructed and access to the land relocated.
In 1912, Detmar Blow, (See Aslet p 244in Appendix. 1) an important Arts and Crafts architect, was commissioned by Mr Clarke to remodel the house and gardens. The revised design strengthened the south axis with a series of terraces and symmetrical ornamental pools replacing a late Victorian fountain, and created a strong east-west axis towards Beenham Court Copse, tying the formal gardens into the existing parkland setting by reorienting the long drive and reshaping the pond. Although a swimming pool now occupies the position of the bottom pool, the majority of Blow’s work is still intact. In the 1920s, the lower pool of Detmar Blow’s design was modified to serve as a swimming pool, tennis courts were built, and the loggia added to the south façade. In 1934, the estate was broken up and Beenham Court and 340 acres were acquired by the Principal of Cheam School as a suitable location for his expanding private school. Only 80 of those acres remain today, as farmland was sold off during the mid 1900s. Recent extensions to the school have been confined to the area formerly used for kitchen gardens, stables and outbuildings.
Fragments of ancient woodland survives from the wider Kingsclere Woodlands, and define the extent of the park boundary to the west. Specimen trees planted during the late 19th century enhance the setting of the manor. The parkland now is used as playingfields. The terraces and plantings that frame the buildings are well maintained and changes to the building footprint reflect modern needs and maintenance regimes.
Formal mature gardens provide the setting to the Grade 11 house designed in the early 20th century by Detmar Jellings Blow. Few of Blow’s projects were located in Hampshire, and Cheam School (Beenham Court) is of importance as a fine example of the work of this last Arts and Crafts architect, surviving relatively intact.
Detmar Blow’s designs are well documented – original drawings are located in the R.I.B.A archive. The historic development of Beenham Court is also well documented from the 1870s in original photographs – copies of which are located in Cheam School – some of which have been reproduced and included with the research documents.
Research: EM Consultants for Basingstoke & Deane: September 2009