Coles (Coles House, Cole's Farm)

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HCC Site ID: 1346 Parish: Froxfield
Designations: SDNP Area: 10.5 ha (26 acres)
Access: No Public Access Ownership: Private

Location and Site

Coles house and gardens are over ten and an half hectares (twenty-six acres), and are situated on chalk downland in a sloping valley to the north of the village of Privett in the parish of Froxfield. They are separated by Merepond Lane to the west from the adjacent, much larger Basing Park.  Its southern boundary flanks the Basing Dean Road and has farmland on its eastern and northern ones.  The Froxfield clay plateau provides soil with a great variation of pH that supports Rhododendrons and Camellias on its southern slopes.  This has been helped by the addition of imported soil, spent hops and spent bus tickets.  On the higher ground the alkaline content precludes lime-haters (Hellyer 1963, 460; Lawrence 1997, 13; South Downs, Integrated LCA online 2005; Winchester Mencap online 2010).

Historic Development

Cole’s farmhouse is probably of 18th century origin and the farm was part of the Basing Park estate from the late 18th to mid 20th centuries.  During the early 20th century a Head Gamekeeper and Head Keeper of the estate had been tenants.  In 1944-45, Brigadier Otho W Nicholson put up for auction some of the farms of the Basing Park estate but retained Cole’s Farm (HRO 38M82/22).  The old farmhouse with its outbuildings was altered and the name changed to Coles.  During 1946 and 1947 the Brigadier designed the garden.   It is a garden that is longer than it is broad which stretches from the 1953 redesigned house along a large expanse of lawn to the east and incorporated Cole’s Copse to the south where there is still a disused chalk pit (1950 OS map; 2011 Sales brochure).
In 1963, the garden to the west of the house was described as being separated into two distinct areas: ‘a formal rose garden with shaped beds surrounding a large stone urn and set in a lawn, which is flanked on either side by wide rose-filled borders and backed by a trim hedge of beech’; while a wrought-iron gate through the hedge led to an open woodland glade, with a pool at the far end, which is thought might have been the drinking pond for cattle.  To the east of the house, the carefully mowed undulating lawn swept almost the full extent of the garden, and was bordered by Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Camellias.  At the far end, and to the right, there was a summerhouse that was hidden from the house. Approximately half-way along the lawn and to the south, an opening revealed a large round pool.  Beyond the pool a rock garden has been built with Welsh sandstone purchased from Exbury.  It has been planted with evergreen Azaleas which, at the time of the visit, gave a fine display. The rock garden could also be accessed from the house by a short stretch of lawn that passed through a small formal garden with a rectangular lily pool at its centre.  In Cole’s Copse many old trees have been retained, more trees and shrubs have been planted, and paths have been created.   The road boundary hedge of the Copse has been planted with alternating sections of green and copper Beech (Hellyer 1963 460-63; Lawrence 1997, 13).  In 1975, the estate was purchased by Sara and Tim Watkins and, in 1996, was inherited by their daughter, Sara Walker (email October 2011).

Current Description

On visits in May 1998 and 2011, the sweeping lawn, Rhododendrons and Azaleas were still very much in evidence.  The summerhouse, large pool, formal pool and rock garden were still in place.  On the earlier visit, the old Copse had been carpeted by bluebells.   There are a number of greenhouses to the west of the house.  On the recent visit, most had fine displays of plants, although the larger one was partly used as a tea venue.  The latest developments include a Japanese Pond, a Spring Walk and an avenue of trees in the windbreak area (Winchester Mencap online 2010).  Another entrance from the Basing Dean Road has been constructed to the house, splitting the Copse into two sections with the disused pit shown on the current map between the new entrance and the dwelling on the corner.    In 2007, a planning application for a ‘replacement detached dwelling with associated access and parking, swimming pool and clock house/garage, following demolition of dwelling and outbuildings’.  A swimming pool had been added to the west of the house (Mastermap 2008).  In 2009, a further application renewed the previous decision to replace the current dwelling with a new house, garaging, pool house and spa (Sales 2011). When sold, the existing house was taken down and a very contemporary, architecture-designed one replaced it. The site has not been viewed since the house was replaced, but as the house stands on the highest part of the designed gardens, the sweeping lawn and rhododendrons are thought to remain.

Summary and significance

A post-war Rhododendron and Azalea garden created in 1946-47 by Brigadier Otho W Nicholson, former owner of nearby Basing Park Estate.  In 2012, much of the designed garden remained. House later demolished and replaced by a very conteporary architect design.
HGT Research:, March 2012/2020


Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
38M82/22   Sales details  1944-45.
Maps from Hampshire Country Council
1950  6” OS Map
2008  Mastermap
Other sources
Hellyer, A.G. L., ‘A Great Post-war Garden, Coles, Near Petersfield, Hampshire’, Country Life, March 7 1963.
Knight Frank Coles Sales brochure. 2011.
Lawrence, R., ‘The Gardens at Coles, Privett’, Hampshire Gardens Trust Journal, No. 16 Autumn    1997.
Electronic sources
East Hampshire District Council Planning Application 50191/001 [accessed 8/1/2011]
South Downs Integrated (LCA) Landscape Character Assessment, 2005 [accessed 2/12/2010]
The History of Coles Gardens  – Winchester mencap online III.pdf [accessed 2/12/2010]
Email: Sara Walker, October 2011

Our address

Froxfield No Public Access Click for Disclaimer & copyright
51.046729108445106, -1.0138535499572754

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