|HCC Site ID:||1472||Parish:||Romsey|
|Designations:||Lodge & garden walls LB II||Area:||Small|
|Access:||Access to roads round the houses||Ownership:||Private|
Location and Site
Lansdowne Gardens are situated on the northern edge of Romsey, a carrier of the river Test forming the northern boundary.
The land on which Lansdowne Gardens stands first belonged to Sir William Petty (1623-1687), the eminent 17th century thinker born in Romsey (www.en.wikipedia.org.com). Petty’s widow became Baroness Shelburne and in 1754 her grandson settled at Bowood in Wiltshire. Her great grandson, the second Earl of Shelburne became first Marquis of Landsdowne in 1784. He died in 1805 and the second Marquis of Landsdowne, a century after William Petty, rediscovered the site and in 1805-09 built a Pleasure Ground with encircling walls (Walls in half-circles and serpentine walls, (O’Neill,1896 oral and www.wikipedia.com). It may have been called Priestlands at this time. it is possible (papers in Romsey Abbey archives) that the walls were built to provide employment, as a form of outdoor relief. 400,000 bricks were used to build the walls which extend 6 feet below ground where they become at least 6 feet thick on a concrete base. They are mostly 11 inches high and there is an inner and outer wall in some places resulting in an unusual shape which from the air looks rather like a tam o’shanter. An article in ‘The Short History of Romsey and Neighbourhood’ (printed and published for Miss Chignell, 1896) states that there was a special design by a Scotsman so as to obtain as much sunshine as possible. There is an outer, straight brick wall along the Greatbridge Road with a stone portico entrance having a centre column of one single stone. The second Marquis lived in Southampton and often visited the gardens using the ornamental entrance (Published for Miss Chignell, 1896).
The Tithe Map of Romsey, 1845, shows the site ‘1840, Owner – Marquis of Landsdowne, Tenant James Elcombe, land use – Marquis Garden’ On the first edition O.S. map, 1867, the Pleasure Ground has become a nursery within the walled gardens. The ‘Gardens and Orchards: a General View of the Agriculture of Hampshire including the Isle of Wight’ (Vancouver, 1811) describes numerous glass erections, well filled with all the choicest plants of the day and a fine collection of ornamental trees and shrubs, the whole being the extensive nursery stock of Messrs, Elcombe and Son. The site on the other side of Greatbridge Road was also a nursery the whole belonging to the Elcombe family whose house lay on the site of what is now Boots in Romsey town centre.
In the 1960s the Nursery ceased to be used and the old Pleasure Ground with its walls was bought for development. A Frank Rogers appears to have been instrumental in the design of a most unusual estate of some 28 houses and bungalows sited within the curved walls with pedestrian-only paths threading their way round, buying one of the houses himself (personal communication from a current resident, 2008). Many of the houses have their back walls cut into the line of the curved walls which then continue on to the next house. It could be construed as vandalism to have cut into such magnificent walls but at least much remains of what was an outstanding small, walled Pleasure Ground. Between the straight outer wall, which would appear to be contemporary with the curved wall and the nearby houses, there is now a long grassed area.
The owners of the houses on the Estate, known as Lansdowne Gardens, own the freehold of their houses but the grassed verges and paths are owned leasehold between all the residents though it is not clear who is the lessor. The straight wall was leaning in the 1980s and required supporting; restorative work was carried out by Romsey Council and the current Council cuts the grass in the long strip by the straight wall but again it is not clear who actually owns either the walls or the grassed strip. The residents formed a company to manage the Estate and many of the residents have been there since the estate was built. The portico is also extant, although it doesn’t actually lead directly to anywhere.
17th century site, owned in the 18th century by Marquis of Landsdowne and a century later developed a pleasure ground with unusual encircling serpentine walls, with an ornamental portico entrance. 19th century became a nursery with land opposite, then bought in the 1960s for redevelopment. The Curved wall was cut into to construct houses but substantial parts remain with grassed areas and the portico.
Information: February 2008
O’Neill, J, Walls in Half-circles and Serpentine Walls
Vancouver, C, Gardens and Orchards; General View of the Agriculture of Hampshire including the Isle of Wight (1811)
A Short History of Romsey and Neighbourhood (printed and published for Miss Chigwell, The Library 1896)
www.en.wikipedia.org.wiki (Sir William Petty)
www.en.wikipedia.org.wiki (William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne)
Conversations with a resident (February 2008)