|HCC Site ID:||1725||Parish:||Hilsea ward, Portsmouth|
|Access:||Public Access||Ownership:||Portsmouth City Council|
Location and site
Gatcombe Gardens are situated on the west side of Copnor Road (A288) in Hilsea, Portsmouth, about two miles north of the city centre. The gardens, in a densely populated residential area, provide a peaceful setting for the 18th century Grade II listed Gatcombe House, PO2 0TU, to the north-east, separated from the gardens by iron railings and a gate.
Gatcombe Gardens are what remains of a larger estate that surrounded the 18th century Grade II listed Gatcombe House which was built around 1780. Around this time, the then owner, Admiral Sir Roger Curtis was obliged to sell it to the military although he continued to live there until his death in 1816. He became Commander-in Chief of the armed forces in Portsmouth. In 1849 the House, lately occupied by his son, Rear-Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis, was put up for rent. The grounds were described as lawns, of upward an acre (0.4 hectares), a tree lined drive approached from the turnpike (London Road) with a Porter’s Lodge. There was also an orchard and two kitchen gardens, the whole comprising about 12 acres 2 roods and 25 perches, i.e.5 hectares. The house later became the Officer’s Mess for the Royal Field Artillery stationed at Hilsea Barracks, which were built to the north-west of the house. They moved out in 1921. An Ordnance Survey map of 1949 shows a tennis court adjacent to the house. The barracks became the home of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps until 1962 when the Army moved out and the site fell into disrepair and was bought by Portsmouth City Council in 1970. The major part of the estate was developed to housing and became Gatcombe Housing Estate, leaving the 1.62 ha of gardens as a green oasis for public access. It was redesigned in 2002 by Portsmouth City Council. The house became derelict until taken over by a private company and restored to its former glory.
The Gardens are entered either from Copnor Road to the east or Gatcombe Drive to the west Gatcombe House to the north-east is separated from the gardens by walls and wrought iron railings and gates leading to a turning circle to the front of the house at the end of the drive lined with Lime trees (Tilia platyphyllos).
Entering from Copnor Road through the decorative wrought iron Gatcombe Gardens gates, the path leads to traces of a small formal garden originally with four beds, much reduced. Bands of trees line the garden edges and there are several protected specimen trees in the green open space including three Black Poplars (Populus nigra) and a grand Wellingtonia Sequoiadendron giganteum) somewhat concealed within the bordering trees by the House. There is a 19th century domed rotunda in the south-west corner which came from the Italianate gardens at Critchel House in Dorset
Summary and Significance
An attractive public green space with some large, protected trees and the remains of a small formal garden. Early in the 19th century, Gatcombe House was the residence of Admiral Sir Roger Curtis who became the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces in Portsmouth. It later became the officer’s mess of Hilsea Barracks and is now the headquarters of a local company. Today Gatcombe Gardens provide a peaceful, wooded and well-used green oasis in a densely populated residential area.
A late 18th century house with parkland which for most of its life was used for military purposes. Sensitive restoration by a local company has saved the house from dereliction. Whilst the majority of the garden and parkland have been built on, a small area, redesigned to complement the setting of the house, has been preserved as a quiet open space for public use.
HGT Research, Urban Park Survey: June 2021
Hampshire Gardens Trust Information 2013
London Gazette Issue 21030 page 3141 19 October 1849
Portsmouth City Council – Parks, gardens and open spaces https://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/map-parks-open-spaces.pdf [accessed June 2021]
OS Plan SU 6503; scale 1:2500; revised Mar 1949; republished with modified grid reference system 1959