|HCC Site ID:||1741||Parish:||Empress Ward, Rushmoor|
|Designations:||Grade I listing||Area:||60 acres|
|Access:||Access to School||Ownership:||The Farnborough Hill Trust|
Location and Site
The original estate of Farnborough Hill had land west and east of the Turnpike Road which is now the A325 Aldershot to Frimley Road in Farnborough. Farnborough Hill Convent School lies to the east of the road and its site has a triangular shape with Ship Lane branching north off the A325 and Highgate Lane the south. The house is situated on top of a small natural hillock, that gives it a rural setting with views east over the parkland, and south to The Coombs hill. From the upper windows of the house there are fine views to the west. This area is described as the Hampshire lowlands (HCC ICA online).
In the late 16th century a Windmill is documented as existing on the site, which gave the hill its name (HRO 1M47/6). The first house, shown on Taylor’s map of 1759, was later owned by the Major General Grant (OHM online). When his son, James Ludovick Grant inherited in 1806, he purchased more land and planted trees and shrubs on the western estate (HRO 151M71/Z1 & Z2). By the time the second house was advertised for sale in 1819, it was described as having a ‘large and productive garden with lofty walls’ and 100 acres (40.5 ha) of land. Estate maps confirm the existence of an extensive park on both sides of the turnpike road, from which a number of large cedars and other ‘arboretum’ trees may have survived. This enlarged estate was finally sold in 1821, to Mrs Mary Foreman, who acquired more land. The Dean of Chichester, the brother of Mrs Foreman, inherited the estate when she died in 1834. He never lived there but in 1849 leased it to Thomas Longman, of publishing fame (Tipton 2011, 18).
When the Dean died in 1859, Thomas Longman, the owner of Longman Publishing firm, purchased the estate and made more land acquisitions and improvements. H.E. Kendall designed the new house and had it built on the highest point of the hill (AHBR 880). It was completed in 1863 (Gosney 2001, 50). The gardens around the house had lawns, flower gardens and terrace walks with lawn tennis and croquet lawns on the lower western slopes (Tipton 2011, 19). A new walled garden, north of the previous one, was constructed in 1872 to replace the large walled garden mentioned in 1819. On the western estate, the 1st edition OS map shows a large fishpond and two small ponds that had been constructed and more pathways that had been made. A cricket ground had been laid out and a lodge built in the south corner adjacent to the railway line.
After the death of Longman in 1879, Empress Eugenie purchased the 257 acre (104 ha) estate (BNA 1880 online). She also purchased land between Highgate Lane and the south Western railway line, and the farmland of The Coombs beyond the railway, with the purpose of building a mausoleum to late husband, Napoleon III, and her son, who tragically died in an ambush on military service (Smith 2001, 3). The mausoleum and Abbey were designed by the French designer Destailler and were in place by 1887 (BNA online 1887). The Empress was able to see the impressive dome of the Abbey from her new home and ensured trees did not obscure the view. By the time of the publication of the 2nd edition OS map in 1997-8, another lodge had been built off Prospect Road on the western plantation and another off the Turnpike Road, on the eastern side. By 1912, a cycle track was noted in the western road and an icehouse, north of the fishpond (3rd ed. OS map). The house was used as a temporary military hospital for wounded soldiers during the First World War and closed in 1919 (Times online 1920). A year later the Empress died and the estate passed to her nephew, Prince Victor Emmanuel Napoleon, who lived there for a few years before selling the house and eastern park to Farnborough Hill Convent School in 1927 (Tipton 2011, 20). The western plantation was sold for development and the northern area is now a housing estate (BNA online 1921, OS map Colour Raster 2016). In the 1950s most of the southern part of the plantation, except the south east corner, was purchased by Farnborough Urban District Council for a public park – Queen Elizabeth Park, a 24 acre woodland park (Gosney 2001, 51).
Since the ownership of the Convent, more buildings have been added to the north of the house, mainly designed by Albert Scott Gilbert, and inevitably the grounds have been adapted to school use (FUDC c1968/69).
Evidence from a visit in 2009, interpretation of a 2013 aerial view and the 2016 OS Mastermap, indicated that the framework of the terraces and gardens on the south and west around the original house remain much as shown in early photographs, without the elaborate carpet bedding. The south lawn has twin stepped seating areas in the far corners. The west terrace and steps to the garden have a religious statue in the centre of topiary hedging, the ground here dropping fairly steeply west beyond the statue. On the north end of the terrace there is another religious statue as a focal point. The trees and shrubs have matured and the dome of the Abbey is just visible from the parkland. Many of the parkland trees remain. A small graveyard for deceased nuns to the south of the house had been created with a lych-gate entrance. The former stables and garage have been adapted for school use. At the south-west corner of the lower terrace are brick vaults, originating from the second of the three houses at Farnborough Hill. The walled garden has a building within it.
Summary & significance
Originally a large estate that occupied a plantation of fishponds, cricket ground, cycle track, and icehouse to the west of the A325, is now a housing estate except for 24 acres (c10 ha) of the Queen Elizabeth Woodland Park in the south. The eastern part of the estate largely remains and is owned by Farnborough Hill Convent School. The house was designed by H.E. Kendall in 1860 with later school additions by Albert Scott Gilbert. Gardens and parkland occupy a significant green space in an otherwise build-up area. The house and association with Empress Eugenie, mausoleum and St Michael’s Abbey, designed in the French style by Destaillier in The Coombs, is an added dimension to the areas historical heritage.
Research: Hampshire Gardens Trust: September 2017
Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
1M47/6 Lease of land at Windmill Hill 1597
151M71/Z1 & Z2 Farnborough Enclosure Act + plan 1811/12
Maps (Hampshire County Council)
1st ed 6” OS map 1880-88 2nd ed 6” OS map 1897-98
3rd ed 6” OS map 1912 2013 Aerial views 2016 OS Mastermap
FUDC c1968/69 Farnborough Official Guide, 10th edition published by Farnborough Urban District Council (HRO bookshelves).
Gosney, J. , 2001, Farnborough Past & Present, (HRO bookshelves).
Smith, William, 2001 The Empress Eugenie and Farnborough, Hampshire Papers No. 22 Hampshire County Council.
Tipton, Elizabeth, 2011 Farnborough Hill, Hampshire Gardens Trust Journal Autumn/Winter Issue four, Hampshire Printing Services
AHBR – Archaeology & Historic Building Record – [accessed HCC 13/3/2017]
BNA online British Newspapers Archive [accessed 21/3/2017]
1861 – 27/7/1861 didn’t note the paper!
1880 – 29/9/1880 Hampshire Advertiser
1887 – 5/3/1887 The Graphic, London
1921 – 27/4/1921 Dundee Courier, Argus, Scotland
HCC ICA online – Hampshire County Council, Part 2 An Overview of the Hampshire Landscape
http://www3.hants.gov.uk/an_overview_of_the_hampshire_landscape-2.pdf [accessed 22/3/2017]
OHM – Old Hampshire mapped – http://www.geog.port.ac.uk [accessed 13/3/2017]
1759 Taylor map
1791 Milne map
Times online 1920 http://infotrac.galegroup.com/ [accessed 21/3/2017]
5/5/1954 1887 St Michael’s Abbey designed by Destailleur
Click here to visit Farnborough Hill web page
Click here to visit Farnborough Hill School website