|HCC Site ID:||1283||Parish:||Wootton St Lawrence|
|Designations:||AONB, SINC, Relic||Area:||c 5,000 acres|
|Access:||Historic site||Ownership:||Agriculture The Manydown Company and BDBC /HCC Joint Management committee|
Drawing: Prosser 1833 Google online 24/1/2016
Location and Site
The Manor of Wootton was probably created for Ethelric the thegn in the year 958. Manydown – the name of the manor of Wooton – was held by the monks of the bishopric of Winchester at the time of the Domesday Survey, and remained so until the Dissolution. In 1086 it was recorded as Odetune for the Domesday Survey and was assessed at 20 hides. The lord of the manor was the Bishop of Winchester at that time. In 1332 the prior and convent received a licence to impark the wood of Wootton, and it was visited by royal huntsmen in 1361 and 1363. In 1377 the park was fenced. The woods in the parish were always very valuable and extensive, and between 1392 and 1398 cartloads of timber were sent from Manydown to William of Wykeham when he was reconstructing the Winchester cathedral nave. There were deer in the park in 1430. No pale is indicated on modern maps.
The Dean and Chapter of Winchester sold the manor to William Wither in 1449, whose family had lived at Manydown since the early part of the century. Ten years later, three huge oaks were sent to Winchester for the roof of the great hall of the priory, forming the main part of the deanery. In 1540 Henry VIII granted Manydown to the Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral until 1650 when under the Commonwealth Republic it passed into the hands of the Contractors of the Long Parliament and sold to William Wither. Following the Restoration, it was returned to the Dean and Chapter, without compensation being paid to the Wither family.
Manydown manor was situated west of the village of Wooton St Lawrence and surrounded by a park of 250 acres of parkland with 400 acres of plantations, The house was of considerable antiquity some parts of which dated back to the 14th century, and included a central well, with unique raising gear so that water might more easily be conveyed to the upper rooms. The house was built round a square court, called Cheyney Court, on one side of which was the old court room, where the ‘courts Leet and Custumary’ were held.
In 1789 Lovelace Bigg-Wither inherited Manydown Park, and rebuilt the south front in 1790. At the time, Manydown was one of a number of important estates located to the west of Basingstoke that were socially connected during the late 18th and early 19th century, the life of which was the subject of the most penetrating scrutiny by Jane Austen, providing her with the material to create her lasting legacy to English literature. Jane’s father was the Rector at Steventon, and Jane became a great friend of Catherine Bigg. In December 1802 Harris Bigg Wither proposal to Jane was accepted. However, family rejoicing was curtailed when next morning Jane announced her change of mind, and fled to her brother James and his wife Mary at Steventon.
Harris inherited Manydown when his father Lovelace Bigg-Wither died in 1813, and he rented it and moved to Tangier Park. His son – also Lovelace – inherited Manydown, and later also bought Tangier Park. In 1863 the last recorded court was held at Manydown and on the last day of that year Manydown House and Park were converted into freehold, alienated from the Manor and sold to the Rev Lovelace Bigg-Wither. The long association of the manor with the Wither family that began as early as 1402 ended when the estate was purchased by Sir Edward Bates in 1871. (For sale map see appendix II) Sir Edward was M.P. for Plymouth and had a significant number of trading ships operating out of Albert Docks, Liverpool. This shipping company eventually became part of the Cunard line.
In 1965 the manor house was demolished and only the stables, coach house and outbuildings remain – integrated into the farm operations. The walled kitchen garden behind Manydown Cottages, with its complement of glasshouses, fruit allées and potting sheds so clearly defined in the 1873 6” OS map and even as late as the 1930s, no longer functions as a fruit and vegetable garden. Mature trees – the remnants of the arboretum around the manor house screen the large agricultural buildings that have replaced it, and are an important element in this otherwise agricultural landscape significantly denuded of its woodland cover. That the estate woodland was still of significance at the end of the 20th century is exemplified in the fact that the architects for York Minster sourced oak from Manydown during its reconstruction following the fire in the 1990’s. However, the informal parkland trees shown in the 1873 OS map, slightly reduced in the 1932 OS map, and the lane to Malshanger through Lady Mead Row have now disappeared, its parkland trees felled and the land absorbed into the agricultural business of the estate, with the exception of Old Orchard Plantation. Original belts of mature trees although reduced to narrow bands, are important in this open landscape.
When the estate was broken up In the early 1970s and Tangier and other parts of the estate sold, ownership interests in approximately 820 hectares of land at Manydown were acquired by the Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council in association with Hampshire County Council –, with the specific purpose of managing the lands until they are required for the expansion of Basingstoke urban area as outlined in the 2011-2016 Draft Development Plan. The Inspector’s Report of the Local Public Inquiry, published in November 2005, was supportive in principle of Manydown as a long term sustainable western urban extension, but it also identified concerns with the proposal. These concerns included impact of development on this important downland landscape.
Today, the remaining 5000 acre Manydown estate based around the village of Wootton St Lawrence, is owned and managed by Edward Bates’ grand daughter Anne.
Manydown estate was granted a licence to impark the wood of Wootton in 1332 and it was visited by royal huntsmen in 1361 and 1363, and fenced in 1377. William of Wykeham was supplied with timber when reconstructing his cathedral nave in 1392. In 1449 William Wither purchased the manor, thereby starting a long and eventful connection between members of this family and Manydown, that ended some 400 years later in 1871. At the end of the 18th century Lovelace Bigg-Wither inherited the manor and rebuilt the south front in 1790. The life at Manydown was captured in the novels of Jane Austen, providing her with the material to create her lasting legacy to English literature.
The fortunes of Manydown were associated with the Wither family for more than 400 years. It represents many of the changes witnessed in Hampshire from Domesday until modern times, the legacy of which remains in the avenues, trees and boundary hedges now past maturity that are the historical markers of this long continuity of land ownership.
Landscape Planning Status:
Of special concern as part of the extension of Basingstoke urban area – subject of the Manydown Landscape Study in 2000
Research: EM Consultants for Basingstoke & Deane: December 2009