|HCC Site ID.||1402||Parish:||Steep|
|Access:||No Public Access||Ownership:||Private|
Location and Site
Island House is in the rural village of Steep two miles north-west of Petersfield. It is situated to the east of Bell Hill and south of Ashford Chace Lane on a south facing hillside, with views of the distant South Downs. The park and orchard areas of the old house are now separate dwellings and gardens. The original approach drive remains with an extension serving the properties north and east of the main house. The kitchen garden contains a dwelling, with an access drive south via Hays Cottages and is also under separate ownership.
According to the 1954 Sales catalogue the house was designed in 1903 by Unsworth & Triggs for land on Island Farm. The property was around 27 acres plus 47 acres of farmland (HRO 159M88/812). On the 1909 3rd edition O.S. map: a footpath formed the north east boundary linked to another footpath crossing the land to the south east that seemed to form the boundary of this side of the garden; Bell Hill and Ashford Lane formed the north east and northern boundaries and a double line of conifers separated Stoner House from its land on the south west. A lodge had been built at the Bell Hill entrance near the junction where the Lane branches off from Bell Hill. Another property, Island Cottage, just to the north east, had its own entrance from the approach drive to the house. Just beyond this entrance, the approach drive branched and formed a triangle to the front of the house and a side entrance. Off the side entrance and to the west of the house, a path led south down steps to a walled kitchen garden, roughly divided into 6 quadrants with a greenhouse facing south on the central northern quadrant. The house was built on an elevated N/S diagonal position above 3 terraces to the south and lawns to the east and west. A tiled loggia was an integral part of the south east front of the house. Steps on each terrace led to paths through deciduous trees that linked to steps south to the kitchen garden. Another path led east to steps in the south east corner of the house and the east lawn. On this map there is no indication of a bastion. North of the approach drive there was an enclosed orchard with a line of conifers beyond its west and north boundaries. It would appear that the original design of the garden was changed as the Ordnance Survey map of 1932 provides a different layout to the garden than that of the 1909 published map, which had features similar to those mentioned and illustrated in the 1912, Jekyll and Weavers book on Gardens for Small Country Houses. In this book, the oval pool is shown and the writers mention that ‘the curve of the stairs determined the outline of one end of the pool, and the similar shape of the other end marches [matches] with the plan of the lower terrace’. This terrace contained the oval pool and extended into a bastion viewing platform.The pool was designed to have water-lilies with a lower shelf about a foot below the surface and 15 inches wide all around the pool to hold baskets for the plants. Another illustration showed the Rose Garden on the west side of the house with a rectangular parterre divided into 12 beds with a central pool. It is noted that ‘the parterre is sunk about eighteen inches below the general level, and there are bands of turf above and below the retaining wall, but not among the flower-beds’. Visible in that picture is a pergola with stone piers similar in construction to the one at Triggs’ own house of Little Boarhunt (created in 1910). A photograph and note of the garden also refer to the use of straight and curved steps and ‘the value of rough piers to mark the break in the retaining wall’, although it is not shown exactly where these steps were (Jekyll & Weavers 1914, 60, 92-3,148-154). Very little else is known about the rest of the gardens at that time.
In 1954, the estate was for sale in three lots – the Lodge, Farm and as one lot the House, gardens, parkland and walled kitchen garden, which included Island Cottage and small farmery. The Lodge and Farm were purchased separately. The new owner of the rest subsequently divided the house and gardens into three properties – Island West, Island House and Island East, and developed the parkland as a private housing estate. Images within the sales catalogue showed mature gardens but little change to the basic structures of the gardens. A lawn tennis court was noted and the gravelled approach drive was ‘lined with an avenue of Lime trees that terminated in a carriage sweep on the Western side of the residence’. In the kitchen garden there was a four-division heated greenhouse with fruit trees, a range of frames, brick built tiled roof potting shed, tool shed and a soft fruit cage (HRO 159M88/812).
The Arts and Crafts gardens were divided between Island House and Island West, at some point the areas below the formal terraces, in both areas were turned over to kitchen garden use and subsidiary terraces or raised beds were constructed for growing vegetables (pers.com 2011). A swimming pool was installed and subsidiary buildings built on the second terrace at Island West, retaining walls were built on the remaining terraces and smaller bastions were constructed. A conservatory was added to the east of Island House. A boundary hedge divides the top terrace of Island West from Island House.
In 2011, The Island gardens are in a good state of repair, and the spirit of the original garden design remains although there is divided ownership between Island West and Island House. The hard landscaping also remains mostly intact, and is reasonably well maintained.
Island House park and gardens were designed by Unsworth and Triggs in the early 20th century. The house is similar in style to their design for Ashford Chace which is nearby. After the sale in 1954, the parkland disappeared as a consequence of housing developments; the main house was divided into three dwellings and separate gardens. The gardens around the main house show the influence of the prevailing Arts and Crafts style, in the sunken Rose Garden, and Triggs’ experience of Italian gardens, in the terracing of the site, the use of a bastion viewing platform, and the restrained oval pool reached by steps sweeping down on either side of the north end of the lower terrace.
The spirit of Unsworth and Triggs design still remains despite the division of the properties and gardens. The panoramic view can still be enjoyed from the bastion.
HGT Research: January 2013, updated 2017
Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
159M88/812 Knight, Frank & Rutley Sales Catalogue 1954
Maps all from HCC
2nd ed OS map 1896/97 3rd ed OS map 1909
4th ed OS map 1932 OS Raster map 2006
Aerial photo 2013 Mastermap 2016
Baillon, P. L. F. Island History, c2001 – a booklet
Jekyll and Weaver on line 1914 3rd ed. – Gardens for Small Country Houses
https://archive.org/details/gardensforsmallc00jekyrich Internet Archive
HM Land Registry document 2011
Pers. com. Wendy Bishop July 2011