Hythe and Dibden Villas

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HCC Site ID: Parish: Hythe and Dibden
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Access: Historic – Summary Ownership: Multiple Private

Photo: Entrance gate to Langdown Lawn 2013

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the land which now comprises Hythe and Dibden must have provided a very agreeable landscape with gentle undulations and vistas sweeping down to Dibden Bay and Southampton Water.
The appeal of a country house overlooking what would have been a very attractive stretch of water, drew several wealthy merchants and retired colonels to build a string of villas in the Hythe and Dibden area. Robert Drummond at Cadland had found it possible to work in London during the week and retreat to Cadland for weekends and he must have been an inspiration to country house owners. The ferry to Southampton with a connecting train, would have provided them with the link to the life that they were perhaps reluctant to leave permanently behind.
Forest Lodge was built in 1730 and Langdown House was built for George Tate in 1797. By 1830 Dibden Lodge had been built for William Richards. Winterton Hall is shown on the 1842 Tithe map, as is Mount House. The predecessor to Westcliff Hall, Mount Pleasant House, is also on the 1842 map as are Langdown House and Dibden Lodge. Forest Lodge was in the next district.
Deepdene Brow, Furzedown House, Hollybank, Langdown Lawn and Langdown Lodge are all shown on the OS map for 1870 and it is known that Purlieu House was built between 1869-71. The new Westcliff Hall was built in 1884 and Windmill House in 1895. Dibden Manor was the final one to be built around the turn of the 19th century.
Some of the villas were built right by the water, others in the higher hinterland with views out to sea. The farthest west of the villas was Deepdene Brow and the farthest east was Forest Lodge, which until 1912 was in the parish of Fawley. Purlieu House was well to the south on higher ground. Westcliff Hall, Mount House, Winterton Hall were all close to the then shoreline.
The predominant feature of the late 18th century and early 19th century villas was parkland, though Dibden Lodge had a formal garden. Forest Lodge (18th century) and Purlieu House (latter part of the  19th century) both had lakes or fishponds. The owners of the later houses went in for plenty of trees and planting. Many villas had lodges. The railway carved its way through Dibden Lodge grounds but was forced to skirt Langdown House.
Villas which have disappeared under housing estates include Langdown Lawn, Langdown House, Mount House and Hollybank. The White House or Langdown Lodge became a District Hospital and Dibden Lodge became both housing and a recreation ground. Furzedown House had much of its land sold off in the 20th entury and what remained became the Fountain Court Hotel, continuing to this day (2013); only a fountain in front of the hotel is a reminder of the villa’s past.
Dibden Manor was built only about 1900 and the house probably looking much as when it was built, is still in a rural setting. Depedene, too, is still rural though little of the original grounds remain. Forest Lodge is probably the most intact of the houses (now divided into two dwellings) and surrounding parkland, again reasonably rural. Westcliff Hall was derelict for a long time after fires in the early 1990s. It has now been well restored (2013) and become a Care Home.
The swathe of villas surrounded by parkland and gardens, some overlooking Southampton Water is a unique phenomenon and as a result of this villa environment, which persisted in the main until the 1950s and 60s, Hythe and Dibden have a gentle, slightly rural feel with abundant numbers of trees and lawned areas even on high-density housing estates.

HGT Research: January 2001 (partially updated 2013)

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