Rookesbury Park

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HCC Site ID: 1593 Parish: Wickham
Designations: House LB II*, SDNP Area: Large
Access: No Public Access. Accommodation available by KG Adventure Ownership: Private

Location and Site

Rookesbury Park is sited on the B2177 to the east of the village of Wickham, which is about three miles north of Fareham. It has river valley views, with a sheltered pastoral rural character of the valley floor (Winchester Landscape Character Assessment). It is within the South Downs National Park.

Historic Development

The Protestant Garnier family is first heard of about 1530 when they were living in Vitry le François a small town on the River Marne in France. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1648, Isaac Garnier escaped to England. In 1691 he became Apothecary General to the College of Chelsea and in 1692 his 4th son Paul, became a tenant at Rokeby, Wickham. Paul married Eleanor, heiress of Charles Wyn who had bought several copyhold estates including High Rookesbury (Bygone Wickham Warwick D A). Mr Wyn’s house at Wickham was finished in 1692 and could have been the first Rookesbury. Bruce Tappendam in ‘A History of Wickham’ is of the opinion that the old house was Pye’s Farm but this is unsubstantiated. Paul and Eleanor both died in 1735.
Their son, George b 1703 became Physician to HRH Duke of Cumberland and in 1735 Apothecary General to the Army. One of his oldest and closest friends was Lord Chesterfield and George Garnier regularly entertained celebrities such as Hume, Hogarth, Churchill, the poet, Gibbon and David Garrick the actor in the old house at Rookesbury. After George’s death in 1760, his son George Charles Garnier took over the post of Apothecary to the Army and continued his father’s friendship with Garrick and other celebrities. He married Margaret Miller in 1766 and became High Sheriff of Hampshire in 1776. During this time the remainder of the Rookesbury estate was purchased from the Rashleigh family. The first son was drowned, the second son died of yellow fever whilst serving in the West Indies and the 3rd son William (b 1772), who became Prebendary of Winchester Cathedral, succeeded in 1796. (Chronicles of the Garniers of Hampshire Garnier A E). William demolished the old house as it was deemed to be inconvenient and in 1824 a new house designed by Charles Heathcote Tatham was built on rising ground and backed by woods, Grecian Ionic in style and of Portland stone. (Architectural Views of Noble Mansions in Hampshire, 1830). When William died his son, also William, inherited but he impoverished the estate through speculating in Federal Bonds during the American Civil War and the estate was mortgaged. William died childless and the estate was left to a nephew, John Carpenter of Devon, the son of his sister. A condition of the inheritance was that the name Garnier should be continued thus the 10th generation became Carpenter-Garnier. The estate was a little over 4000 acres in 1926 when John Carpenter Garnier died. In 1929 Miss Eileen Gunday took a lease on the main house and founded a school with 15 pupils. It was a school from then until 2012 when closed as no longer viable, except for during the 2nd World War when the house was requisitioned. In 1951 the estate was handed over to George Carpenter Garnier by his father to avoid death duties. The father died in 1960 and by 1979 the estate comprised a little over 1000 acres. (A Lecture by Col L Carpenter-Garnier 1979)). The main house became Rookesbury School which was leased from the Rookesbury Estate.
One particularly notable ‘Garnier’ in Hampshire was the fifth son of George Charles and Margaret Miller, Thomas Garnier ( 1776-1873) who in 1807 became Rector of Bishopstoke and in 1840 Dean of Winchester Cathedral. At his home in Bishopstoke he made a garden of rare plants and shrubs and was a friend of Joseph and William Hooker. When he became Dean of Winchester he continued his gardening skills to create a Deanery garden. (Notes from Jennifer Harmer). There is a modern homage to him via the Dean Garnier Garden, created in the Cathedral Close in 1994-5. Two unmarried sisters who lived at Beverley adjoining Rookesbury Park also had an ‘exquisite garden on which they spared no expense thus making it the showplace of that part of the county’, (The Chronicles of the Garniers of Hampshire).

The Park

An 18th century Estate Map showing the old house and land stretching to Fareham as it includes not only Rookesbury but the whole of the Rashleigh estate. The map was restored by Hampshire Record Office in 2008/09 and will reside in the Hampshire Record Office with a copy on the walls of Rookesbury School. The Milne map (1791) shows a house in the SE corner.
The OS map Old Series 1” Map (1810 and before the new house is built) shows a park setting and an avenue of trees to the N and E. There appears to be one large ‘lake’ or fishpond and one smaller one. The Greenwood map (1826,( not clear if drawn after the new house has been built) also shows the areas of water. In a Review in ‘Architectural Views of Noble Mansions in Hampshire ‘ (illus. Hewetson J, 1830), ‘ The building stands on rising ground backed by exceedingly fine woods; and commands a most cheerful prospect over the pleasure grounds…. Two fine lakes, artificially formed, …on the east… the windows open to a most delightful flower garden, arranged under the direction of Mrs Garnier…. In the flower garden is a beautiful grotto, communicating with a romantically wooded glen, where secluded paths wind, as they rise, to the opposite height, upon which an elevated Tower is now building’. Tappendam in ‘A History of Wickham’ refers to correspondence which shows that the house was in a very unfinished state as late as 1871 owing to the employment of a rogue builder.
Another Estate map,1869, shows a large park with a long entrance avenue from the Wickham road to the house, passing a large fishpond to the west. A further smaller fishpond lies immediately to the west of the house near what is later noted as Rookesbury Farm. From the house and outbuildings there are serpentine paths running eastwards with a tree-lined avenue to the NE (not apparently leading anywhere) and to the SE a four segment walled garden, lying in woodland. The 1st ed OS map 6” 1870 notes one lodge at the entrance to the long avenue another to the west passing via the farm and small fishpond and ‘lodges’ in the NW corner of the estate.
The 2nd ed 25” 1897 shows a conservatory to the east of the house as well as glasshouses and a sundial in the walled garden (no longer in segments). The Tower lies in the woodland well to the east of the house. Garden details of 1935 (HRO47M63/179 document of parties for letting) list all the usual Victorian features of the walled garden and ancillary buildings necessary for running a large family estate.
Later maps (3rd ed 1909/4th ed 1936-42) show few changes and even to the present day. The modern maps, however, show a cricket pitch to the S and a caravan site in woodland N of the old park. The walled garden has become ‘Rookesbury Garden’. The fishponds remain.
Sales particulars of 1928 (HRO47M63/166) state that the strawberry and market gardens of S Hampshire are believed to have originated on the Rookesbury Estates in 1845 in an area known as the Hundred Acres. In 1967 the house was listed Grade II* and in 1973 the Tower was demolished.

Current Description

The park is as described in 2008 but the school was forced to close in 2011/12. The house is still used as a wedding venue.

HGT Research: 2008


Warwick D A ‘Bygone Wickham’
Garnier A E ‘The Chronicles of the Garniers of Hampshire’ 1530-1900/B1076 HRO
Tappendam‘A History of Wickham’ B ISBN 95289940X (self published)
Other sources
Notes from Jennifer Harmer
Oral from David Crossley,, Estate Manager of the Rookesbury Estate
Lecture notes by Colonel L Carpenter-Garnier for the Wickham History Society 1979
Listed Building record AHBR Hampshire County Council
Taylor 1759 Old-Hampshire Mapped
Milne 1791 Old-Hampshire Mapped
Greenwood 1826 Old-Hampshire Mapped
OS 1″ Map 1810  Old-Hampshire Mapped
OS map 1st, 2nd and 3rd eds – Hampshire County Council

Our address

Wickham No Public Access. Accommodation available by KG Adventure Click for Disclaimer & copyright
50.90216677805141, -1.1677265167236328

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