Gilpins (The Vicarage)

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HCC Site ID. 1118 Parish: Boldre
Designations: NFNP, House LB II, AHBR Area: 6.029 ha
Access: No Public Access Ownership: Private

Location and Site

Gilpins stand on the eastern side of a hilltop, about 25m above sea level, on the southern edge of the village of Boldre in the New Forest and just over a mile from the centre of Lymington. The property consists of the house and garden, a stretch of meadow and a portion of woodland; in total 14.9 acres. The house and garden are almost level and have views over the meadow which slopes gently away to the south and south-east. The Lymington river lies very close west of the hill and immediately to the east of the garden is a small wood named Furzey Ground containing a divided public footpath and a stream running close along the garden’s boundary. A rough triangle of this woodland, bounded by the public footpath to its west and Hundred Lane to its north, belongs to Gilpins. The entrance to the property lies at the meeting of three roads: School Lane, Hundred Lane and Undershore Road. The boundary is largely brick wall on the roads with a stretch of fence along the tennis court and rough wire fence along the woodland.

Historical Development

The site and house were purchased in 1734 with a grant of £200 from Queen Anne’s Bounty (White 1878 p152) which was established to alleviate clerical poverty. The patron was William Mitford of the nearby Exbury Estate whose grounds are now listed II* on English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens thanks to the work of the Rothschild family between the world wars (English Heritage 1984).
Exactly how much land was purchased with the house is not known but by 1859 it included more than 17 acres of glebe and by 1878 more than 21 acres (White 1859 p385) (White 1878 p152). Probably, if this was the first use of the house as a vicarage, it would have been at this time that the area became known as “Vicar’s Hill”. Certainly the title is not used in a document of 1670, Perambulations of the New Forest, which is otherwise extremely precise in its naming of each small detail of the surroundings (HRO 52M87/221/6).
In 1777 Reverend William Gilpin arrived to take up the position of vicar of Boldre. The patron, William Mitford, had been a pupil at his school in Cheam and had offered his friend and former teacher the role (Warner 1830 p332).
There is some confusion in the historical sources as to when Gilpin moved into the vicarage. Perkins states that he “removed to the vicarage at Vicar’s Hill, Boldre in 1788, although he was vicar from 1777 until 1804” (Perkins 1935 p42). Gilpin’s curate, Richard Warner, in his Literary Recollections writes that “having made some necessary … alterations in the parsonage house, he retired into the country” suggesting that Gilpin resided elsewhere until the house was habitable (Warner 1830 p332). However Hampshire Treasures and English Heritage state that he lived there from 1777 till 1788 and across the road at Vicar’s Hill House (now Southlands School) from 1788 till his death in 1804 (Hampshire Treasures 1981 p16) (English Heritage 1986/1987). Vicar’s Hill House is a much larger property, owned by a Mr Cleaveland when Gilpin wrote his description of his home in Remarks on Forest Scenery * some time between his arrival and its publication in 1791 (Gilpin 1791 p238-239). Perkins also cites Cleaveland as the owner or occupier of the House in 1786 (Perkins 1935 p80). Of course, it is possible that Gilpin was welcomed as a guest until his own house was ready.
What is clear is that the previous incumbent, William Hawkins, had died a bankrupt leaving the vicarage house and grounds in a dilapidated state (Gilpin ed. Jackson 1791 p136). Reverend Gilpin spent several hundred pounds making the house habitable and at the same time treated the grounds to “a little artificial improvement” (ibid. p136).
He had already completed several tours on which he had made many observations regarding picturesque beauty. These were published during the 1780s and 1790s along with many other books and sermons (Perkins 1935 pp50-53). Gilpin’s views on the picturesque and its superiority influenced the way he saw the New Forest in general and his new garden in particular.
A plane tree south-east of his house drew Gilpin’s particular admiration, he declared it “one of the finest … I am acquainted with” and measured its diameter as more than 50 feet (Gilpin 1791 p50). Despite limited space, he and his friend William Mason composed a foreground of forest shrubberies to complement the picturesque views across the meadow and copse (GHS 2000 p4). Mason had applied his precepts of the picturesque to several other properties including Nuneham in Oxfordshire (ibid. p4). The result at the vicarage garnered high praise in print from Warner, who claimed that the vicarage “enjoys a view singularly beautiful, tho’ confined; while the small quantity of ground belonging to it, is laid out by the present venerable and exemplary incumbent with all … advantage and effect” (Warner 1789 p18-19).
The dates of Gilpin’s occupation of the vicarage are, again, a matter of some confusion. Hampshire Treasures and English Heritage claim that he was living at the neighbouring property, Vicar’s Hill House, at the time of his death in 1804 (as above). However, in a footnote to his Literary Recollections, Warner says “The day preceding [Gilpin’s death] … Mr Goldwin, his immediate neighbour, called …” (Warner 1830 p336). Perkins has Goldwin as the owner or occupier of Vicar’s Hill House on the west of the hill at this time (Perkins 1935 p80).
There is little record of what became of the garden under its subsequent occupiers and owners. In 1841 the house and grounds were owned by the vicar Charles Shrubb including the expanse of meadow running south as far as the sharp bend in Undershore Road (Figures 6 and 15). Reverend Shrubb owned a large amount of land in the new Forest at the time, nearly 30 portions on the tithe map. Much of this was occupied by tenants but the vicarage shows Shrubb himself as the occupier (HRO 21M65/F7/26/1-2). He had been the incumbent since 1819 (clergy database) and carried out some restoration of the house (Heath 1879 p73). His son, John Lane Shrubb, built nearby Boldre Grange in the 1870s which is now grade II listed.
Charles Shrubb died in 1875 and the property remained in his family’s possession but was occupied by the subsequent three vicars of Boldre: Edward Elers, Lionel Mylrea and Ivone Jones (White 1878 p152) (Kelly 1915 p75) (Kelly 1935 p78).
At some point during or soon after 1935 the Shrubb family must have sold the house and land as it was sold again in August of 1937 by George Alfred Erskine Clarke to Henry Gould Bush (Land Registry 2014 p2). Clarke was the owner of the neighbouring Vicar’s Hill House from an unknown date after 1927 until 1954 (Coles 1998 p221). By 1939, the house had become known as “Gilpins” while another half a mile away on Pilley Hill had become the new vicarage (Kelly 1939 p76) as it continues to be today.
Jackman and Masters estate agents made a first draft of sales particulars during the 1960s. These state that the vendors had laid out considerable sums on the garden and grounds as well as the fabric of the house (HRO 54M93/B28). By that time a heated open-air swimming pool had been installed with steps and a terrace and there was a kitchen garden, greenhouse and propagating house (ibid.). A tennis court had also been laid by this time, the portion of meadow on which it stands having been fenced in as an extension to the south of the garden between 1897 and 1909 (O.S. second and third edition 25” figures 9 and 11).
The existence of these estate agent notes suggests that the house and grounds were put up for sale though, with no final draft saved, it cannot be known whether the sale went ahead. The document from the Land Registry states that Henry Anthony Field-Johnson conveyed 4.76 acres of woodland east of the garden to Angela Sainsbury in December 1961 subject to a public right-of-way being retained (Land Registry 2014 p3). Jackman and Masters estimate the total area to be 14.5 acres, suggesting that the particulars were drawn up after this sale of the woodland. This area of wood was in the possession of Burrard of nearby Walhampton in 1841 (tithe apportionment book), is part of Gilpins now (Land Registry 2014 p4) but its owners and the dates of sale in the intervening years are not clear.
There are, indeed, few facts available for the subsequent years though we know that, in the 1980s, the plane tree was thought to be the largest in Hampshire (HCC 1981 p13) and that in 1985 “Gilpins” was for sale for £500,000 with 16 acres (Coles 1998 p41).
The current owner has been in possession since at least 1998 (Coles 1998 p41). The present house is 18th century with alterations made in the 19th century (English Heritage list entry), though it is not known exactly when it was built. It is thought likely that an earlier house preceded it (Perkins 1935 p81).

Current Description

Much of the garden layout remains as it was in Gilpin’s time. A broad shrubbery lines the wall along Undershore road on the western boundary including a clipped cypress hedge next to and topping the wall. The main lawn lies south of the house extending from the bay windows, this was a croquet lawn in the 1960s (HRO 54M93/B28). In its south-west there is a group of mature yew trees. East of this is a rougher lawn stretching to the eastern boundary with a number of specimen trees including the famous plane tree whose diameter is now nearly 30m (100 feet) (Google Earth). North of this and east of the house is a further lawn leading to the swimming pool, a water garden and the eastern boundary. Below the south lawn there is a tennis court and beyond that a formally clipped laurel hedge. A stretch on the east of the meadow (approximately 160m by 30m) is fenced in and either grazed or mown with a number of trees and two ponds, fed by the nearby stream. The grounds are clearly well maintained.

Summary

The garden retains to a great extent the original design of Gilpin and Mason, devised and planted in the last quarter of the 18th century. At least one tree remains from that time, an already famous plane. The site is important as an example of the picturesque expressed in an artificial landscape as created by one of the foremost proponents of that movement.
HGT Research March 2014

References

Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
21M65/F7/26/1 – awards for Boldre tithe map
14M86/1 – c.1930, transcript of article Parson Warner and Parsons Gilpin and Woodforde by W.F. Perkins
14M86/2 – c.1930, photograph of painting of Boldre Vicarage, signed C.G. 1829
54M93/B28 – c.1960s, Sales particulars of Gilpins by Jackman and Masters estate agents
54M93/A13-A21 – 1960-1968, Jackman and Masters ‘A’ ledgers, indexed clients account books
HPP31/010 – c.1980, photograph of the vicarage (digital image)
42M87/221/6 – 1670, Perambulations of the New Forest
Maps
Aerial photograph of property from 2005
O.S. 1st, 2nd, 3rd editions 25” and 6
O.S. mastermap 1:2000
O.S. vector map 1:5100
O.S. 1:10,000 map from Digimaps
O.S. 1:2500 plan of Vicar’s Hill showing Gilpins and three neighbouring properties
O.S. Explorer series OL22
Tithe map – HRO 21M65/F7/26/2
Books
Cockram, J. and Williams, R. And Boldre Parish Historical Society, 2012. Boldre and the Great War. Self-published. (Lym library R940.342275)
Coles, R., 1998. Messuages and Mansions around Lymington and the new Forest. Lymington: P.C. Coles. (Lym library R728.0942275)
Garrow, D., 1825. The History of Lymington and its Immediate Vicinity. London: Simpkin and Marshall.
Gates, G., undated. Boldre Recollections. Self-published. (Lym library 942.275)
Gilpin, W., 1791. Remarks on Forest Scenery and other Woodland Views. London: R. Blamire. (Republished 1973: Richmond: The Richmond Publishing Company.
Gilpin, W. (ed. Jackson, W.), 1791. Memoirs of Dr Richard Gilpin together with an account of the author by himself. London: Bernard Quaritch. Carlisle: Charles Thuman and Sons.
Hampshire County Council, 1981. Hampshire Treasures. Winchester: Hampshire County Council.
Heath, F.G., 1879. Gilpin’s Forest Scenery. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington.
James, J. (ed), 1982. Comyn’s New Forest. Lymington: C.J. Newsome & Associates in conjunction with Lymington Historical Record Society. (Lym library R942.275)
Kelly’s Directories, 1885. Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire, Dorsetshire and the Isle of Wight. London: Kelly’s Directories Ltd.
(also 1889, 1895, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1907, 1915, 1920, 1923, 1927, 1931, 1935, 1939)
Page, W. (ed), 1911. The Victoria History of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight vol IV. London: University of London Institute of Historical Research.
Perkins, W.F., 1935. Boldre: the Parish, the Church and the Inhabitants. 4th edition. Lymington: King’s Library. (Lym library H914.227)
Warner, R., 1789. A Companion in a Tour Round Lymington. Southampton: T. Baker.
Warner, R., 1830. Literary Recollections Volume I. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green. (digitised by Google and uploaded by Internet Archive www.archive.org)
White, W., 1859. History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Hampshire. London: Simpkin, Marshall & co.
(also 1878)
Other Sources
Batey, M., 16.11.2007. Regarding Vicar’s Hill research. Letter to Peter Atkinson (in “Boldre” file supplied by HGT)
Burroughs, H., 22.06.1998. Regarding Vicar’s Hill Research. Letter to Peter (in “Boldre file supplied by HGT)
Garden History Society, 2000. A Day in the New Forest. (notes from visit during annual conference) (in “Boldre” file supplied by HGT)
Land Registry (downloaded 12.04.2014). Gilpins, Vicars Hill, Boldre. Extract from title register and title plan
Electronic Sources
English Heritage 1986. [viewed 14.12.2013] Register of Historic Parks and Gardens List Entry [online]. London: English Heritage. Available from: http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1301354
Clayton, M., (Senior Research Officer) 2013. [viewed 17.01.2014] Clergy of the Church of England Database [online]. London: King’s College. Available from: http://db.theclergydatabase.org.uk/jsp/locations/index.jsp
DC Thomson Family History, 2014 (trading as findmypast.co.uk). [viewed 14.01.2014] Census, Land and Survey Records [online]. London: DC Thomson. Available from: http://www.findmypast.co.uk/content/search-menu/census-land-and-surveys
New Forest National Park, 2014. [viewed 14.02.2014] Tree Work Applications [online]. Lymington: New Forest National Park Authority. Available from: http://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/treeworkapplications


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