Ropley House

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HCC Site ID. 1386 Parish: Ropley
Designations: House LB II* Area: 11.3 ha
Access: No Public Access Ownership: Private

Location and Site

The village of Ropley lies on the western slopes of a ridge running approximately south to north and forming a watershed separating the basins of the Wey and the Meon rivers from those of the Arle and Itchen. Composed of good farm- and pastureland with a deep chalk layer covered with a skin of good brown soil, the area is also suitable for horticulture, and the village has been noted for its fine flowers. As a result, beekeeping once flourished here, with the honey being used for the production of mead. It is said that William the Conqueror obtained his honey from Ropley (Ropley 2000 – online). The coming of the Hampshire Hunt in 1745 and the railway in 1861 made Ropley a desirable place of residence.
Ropley House is situated on high ground on the western side of Ropley, where Berry Hill (formerly Berry Lane) meets Vicarage Lane. Standing about 250 meters from the A31 Winchester – Guildford road, it is among the largest and most imposing houses in the parish, across whose extensive grounds the Pilgrims’ Way was said to pass from Hook Lane to Brislands Lane (Mason 1989, 89).

Ropley House

Ropley House (click on images to enlarge)

 

Ropley House

Ropley House, Photos: January 2013

Historical Development

The Tudor house, on the foundations of which the present Ropley House stands, was an important building dating from around 1530 with herb and kitchen gardens, in the centre of which stood a sundial dating from 1652 (now lost), bearing the inscription: “As shade doth pass from line to line/By motion of the sun/So doth our age from time to time/Until our race be run.” (Hagen 1929 online). The present Grade II* listed Ropley House was built around 1735-50 in the Queen Anne style and was known originally as New House. From 1769 to 1857, it was owned by various members of the Duthy (Duthie) family, having been bought by John Duthy, sometime Clerk of the Peace to Winchester Court, Deputy Clerk to the Bishopric of Winchester, and Receiver General of Land Taxes in Hampshire until his death in 1784. He was succeeded by his son John Duthy, a solicitor and probably the author of ‘Sketches of Hampshire’ (1839) (Mason 1989, 89-90). The house of “Mr Duthie” is the only one to be named in the Ropley area on the 1791 Milne map whilst the Greenwood map of 1826 shows “New House” surrounded by parkland (OHM).
In common with many local residents, various members of the Duthy family were said to have been involved in the widespread smuggling trade at that time, and there was a reputed smugglers’ passage in the grounds of the house (Hampshire Treasures, 272). The Tithe map of 1836 and apportionment of 1840 shows and lists New House, garden, offices and pleasure grounds covering just over 2 acres (0.81 ha.), owned by Peter Duthy and M. Duthy and occupied by M. E. Haworth. Also forming part of the estate are a ‘Park piece’ and a plantation (HRO 21M65/F7/198/1 + 2). When offered for sale in 1844, the house is described as “… beautifully situated in its own grounds, and being upon a chalk soil, is extremely dry and healthy, and it is well supplied with excellent water by a force pump…There are Pleasure Grounds, Lawn, Shrubbery Walk to the Church, and capital Kitchen Garden. Stabling for Eight Horses, double Coach-house, and all other requisite Outbuildings…There are Three Pieces of Meadow Land, about 18 acres, immediately round the House” (HRO 67M87/11/45-46). New House was bought in 1857 by Jacob Hagen, a wealthy businessman who had spent 14 years in Australia before returning to England in 1853 (ADB online 2012), and from then on the house was to be known as Ropley House (HRO 67M87/11/50). The OS 1st ed. 25″ map of 1873 shows the entrance to the estate at the intersection of Berry Lane, Vicarage Lane and Hook Lane, from where the drive sweeps round to the front of the house. To the north of the house is a large rectangular walled kitchen garden, neatly laid out in rectangular beds, with fruit trees and a glasshouse in the NE corner, and outbuildings to the south and north. Surrounding the house are substantial grounds dotted with mainly deciduous trees, and with a shrub-lined walk leading to the vicarage to the east (HCC). By this time, following the death of Jacob Hagen in 1870, his wife Mary Hagen was head of the household (1871 census online), to be followed by their daughter Marianna, a great benefactress to the village who in 1883 had the coffee and reading rooms built as a social centre for the working men and youth of the parish, and was the author of Annals of Old Ropley, published in 1929 (Hagen 1929 online). By 1907, Miss Hagen had moved out of Ropley House (Kelly’s 1907), and little change seems to have taken place until the early 1930s when the house was put up for sale “in the most perfect order throughout having been overhauled, modernised and redecorated within the past twelve months.” Attractions included a double hothouse, fern house, beautifully timbered grounds and “lawns shaded by exceptionally fine old trees which give this place a really peaceful atmosphere” (HRO 157M89W/4/1862). By 1962, when the house was again put up for sale by the executors of Colin Forbes, the gardens boasted “spacious lawns with formal rose beds, lily pond…fine double herbaceous border enclosed by yew hedge; partly walled kitchen garden, espalier fruit trees. Soft fruit cage, cold frames. Large double heated Greenhouse and Potting Shed. The Land…is mostly permanent pasture. There is an area of parkland to the east and the north of the house “(HRO 75M82/86). In 1977, Ropley House was bought by Peter Knatchbull-Hugesson, great-grandson of Fanny Catherine Knight, one of Jane Austen’s favourite nieces. By the time of his death in 2008, the gardens had undergone considerable change: his wife describes how she had created “the enchanting gardens…Set against the backdrop of some splendid beech, walnut and horse-chestnut trees, and a couple of eye-catching maples, they include large areas of pristine lawn surrounded by hedge and shrub borders, and a romantic Japanese garden with a lake, an island and a flint folly.” Most romantic of all, she says, is her new ‘secret garden’, a quiet corner with a lawn cut in the shape of a shamrock, a reminder of her Irish roots in the heart of Jane Austen’s Hampshire (Country Life Jan 2010 – online 2012). Photos in the ‘For Sale’ advertisement in the Hampshire Chronicle of February 25 2010 show extensive lawns and mature trees around the house, a lake with island and folly at the back of the house, a belvedere of unknown origin, as well as extensive outbuildings.

Current Description

At the present time, Ropley House is still in private hands under new ownership. Modern maps clearly show recent changes to the gardens: new plantings to the south of the tennis court and to the northeast of the house, and the lake to the east (bing.com online 2012; OS Mastermap 2011). Photos taken in 2013 from outside the grounds show a well-maintained property with extensive lawns and a fine collection of mature trees and shrubs, as well as a belvedere of unknown age and origin (2013 visit).

Summary

An imposing mid-18th century listed house in the Queen Anne style built on the foundations of an earlier important Tudor building. The garden was remodelled in the late 20th century, but the well-maintained estate retains its old walled kitchen garden, extensive parkland and many fine mature trees.
HGT Research: March 2014

References

Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
HRO 21M65/F7/198/1+2 – Ropley tithe map 1836 and apportionment 1840
HRO 67M87/11/13-14 – 1769 sale of New House to John Duthy
HRO67M87/11/45-46 – 1844 sale of New House
HRO 67M87/11/50 – 1857 sale of New House to Jacob Hagen
HRO 157M89W/4 page 1862 – sale particulars c.1936
HRO 75M82/86 – sale particulars c.1962-64
1841, 1861, 1871 Census online
Kelly’s Directory 1889, 1899, 1907, 1915, 1920, 1931, 1939;

Maps including electronic sources
OS maps from Hampshire County Council (HCC):
1st ed. 25” 1873
2nd ed. 25” 1897
3rd ed. 25” 1910-11
1:3000 Digital Millennium map 2006
1:2000 Mastermap 2011
(OHM) online Old Hampshire Mapped: Milne 1791, Greenwood 1826 –
http://www.geog.port.ac.uk/webmap/hantsmap/hantsmap/hantsmap.htm accessed 2012-2013
http://www.bing.com/maps – accessed November 2012
Books
Mason, Frederick, 1989, Ropley Past and Present London
Other Sources
Hampshire Chronicle 25 Feb. 2010 – sales particulars
Information from HGT researcher
Electronic Sources
(ADB) Australian Dictionary of Biography – http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hagen-jacob-2141
-accessed Nov 2012
AHBR 51827
Country Life online – online http://www.countrylife.co.uk/property/article/439363/Two-exceptional-country-houses-for-sale.html – accessed October 2012
Hagen, Marianna S., 1929 Annals Of Old Ropley (Hampshire) Alton – online version
http://ropleyvds.hampshire.org.uk/annals/index.html – accessed various dates 2012 -2013
Hampshire Treasures – http://www.hants.gov.uk/hampshiretreasures/vol06/page272.html – accessed 2012-13
(Ropley 2000) – Ropley at the Millennium http://www.ropley2000.hampshire.org.uk/ – accessed various dates 2012 – 2013
Times online – 28 Jan.1870; 20 March 1931; 25 April 1933; 25 May 1937; 31 Dec.1968; http://find.galegroup.com – accessed various dates 2012 and 2013
(VCH) A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3 (1908), pp. 55-58. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=41927&strquery=ropley accessed 15 September 2012


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Ropley No Public Access Click for Disclaimer & copyright
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