|HCC Site ID.||1764||Parish:||Ropley|
|Designations:||House LB II||Area:||1.56 ha, was 12.94 ha with parkland|
|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 (Ropley2000 – online). The coming of the Hampshire Hunt in 1745 and the railway in 1861 made Ropley a desirable place of residence.
Ropley Lodge stands about 20 meters from the A31 Winchester – Guildford road on the western edge of the village. The former parkland, now used for pasture, rises steeply behind the house to the north towards the now the privately-owned Mid-Hants Railway known as the Watercress Line.
Ropley Lodge was built in 1788 and originally stood well back from the road which used to run further to the south (Ropley2000 – online 2012) (Mason 1989, 93). It is likely that the cottage, garden and buildings lying due south on the other side of the road originally formed part of the estate, as the 1836 tithe map and 1840 apportionment show and list both pieces of land as being owned and occupied by Henry Mulcock, as well as Lower Kites Hill to the north of Ropley Lodge and Lipscombe Field to the west (HRO 21M65/F7/198/ 1+2). Despite its name, there is no evidence of it having been a lodge to an estate. By 1859, it was described as a “neat mansion with beautiful pleasure grounds containing many choice trees and shrubs” (White 1859). Henry Mulcock is one of Ropley’s well-known historical personalities: he is described by Marianne Hagen in her Annals of Old Ropley as a truly remarkable man who from humble beginnings rose to become a man of substance and position, a JP and the owner of several farms, who nevertheless led a very frugal life and on his death in 1875 left £130,000, some of which was to be used to feed the poor of the village annually at Christmastime (Hagen 1929 online). He was said to have accumulated much of his wealth during the Crimean War (Mason 1989, 100). On the 1881 OS 1st ed. 25″ map the house occupies a rectangular plot between the railway to the north and the Winchester to London road (the present A31) to the south. The house itself sits very close to the main road with access being via a very short semi-circular drive in front of the house. Conifers form a boundary along the road, and a large area of parkland to the north of the house is dotted with specimen trees and bordered by a tree/shrub belt on all sides. The gardens are criss-crossed with paths, and to the west of the house there is a long south-facing glasshouse and a long strip lined with trees or shrubs which may be an orchard. There is a small conservatory on the south side of the house. On the other side of the main road, another collection of buildings with a path leading to the drive entrance of Ropley Lodge is likely to have formed part of the estate before the road was moved further south. The 1896 OS 2nd ed. map shows few changes, but by 1909 the entrance to the grounds was by means of a longer drive further to the west, whilst further along the road to the east a second drive swept round in a curve to outbuildings behind the house; many of the paths behind the house disappeared leaving an open area to the north and east of the house, and another glasshouse and outbuildings were added to the west, as well as a walled garden. The conservatory attached to the front of the house had either disappeared or was much reduced in size ( OS 1909).
By 1924 Mrs. Wynne was living at Ropley Lodge (Hagen 1929 online). Between the death of her husband, Brigadier General John Wynne, in 1928 (Times online 1928) and 1937, the house was frequently advertised to let as a “pretty country house for holidays” with lovely grounds (Times online 1931). It was put up for sale by auction in 1938 “at the upset price of £1000”, and the estate divided into five lots (Times online 1938). By this time, the land to the south of the main road was no longer part of the estate. The parkland was divided mainly between lots two and three, with lot one including the house and the grounds “which are of a pleasing Old-world character, contain many fine Ornamental Trees, and include Lawns, Shrubberies, Lawn Tennis Court, Kitchen and Fruit Gardens, Vinery and Orchard, in all about 3 3/4 acres” (1.52 ha.) (HRO 44M70/E72/19). The house was bought by Dr Gillies, who moved himself and his surgery to Ropley Lodge having practised in Ropley since 1932. (Ropley2000 online 2012). He was sometime chairman of the Parish Council and of the Horticultural Society, and involved in a variety of village events, some of which took place in the grounds of his home (Mason 1989, 80).
At some point after 1945, the area to the left of the house containing the glasshouses and part of the walled garden was bought from the then owners by two ladies who built a bungalow, Wessex Cottage, which shares the entrance drive with Ropley Lodge. Doctor Gillies died in 1952 and some time in the 1950s the land behind the house, which rises up to the railway line, was also sold to a local farmer for pasture land by the doctor’s widow. About 1998 the present owners took up residence at Ropley Lodge (present owner 2014).
There are now two additional properties to the west of the house – Sunnybank Farm and Wessex Cottage, the latter sharing part of the access drive with Ropley Lodge. The garden of Ropley Lodge is much reduced in size and now “quite neglected”, containing a lawn, shrubbery and a Wellingtonia and screened from the A31 by a boundary of trees and shrubs. There are some very old apple trees and part of the walled garden remains, serving as a boundary between Ropley Lodge and Wessex Cottage. The hillside behind the house, now used as pasture by a local farmer, is dotted with mature trees – remains of the former parkland – among them Scots pine, an ancient Irish yew, a large holly tree, two Wellingtonias, box trees, and many mature beech. The trees suffered much damage during the storm of 1987. There is a tumbledown arch of unknown date leading from the garden up the hillside towards the railway, and another part way up the hill (present owner 2013; Digital Millennium 1:3000 map 2006; OS Mastermap 1:3000 2012; Bing map 2012).
A late 18th century listed house with parkland containing a fine collection of trees, few of which now remain.
HGT Research: August 2014
Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
HRO 21M65/F7/198/1+2 – Ropley tithe map 1836 and apportionment 1840
HRO 44M70/E72/19 sales particulars 1938
Census online 1841, 1851, 1871
Kelly’s Directory 1907,1939
White, Wm.,1859, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Sheffield
Maps including electronic sources
OS maps from Hampshire County Council:
1st ed. 25” 1881
2nd ed. 25” 1896
3rd ed. 25” 1909
1:3000 Digital Millennium map 2006
1:3000 Mastermap 2012
http://www.bing.com/maps – accessed December 2012
Mason, Frederick, 1989, Ropley Past and Present London, Scriptmate Editions
Telephone conversation with present owner of Ropley Lodge – January 2014
Information from HGT researcher
Australian Dictionary of Biography – http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hagen-jacob-2141
-accessed Nov 2012
(EH) – English Heritage – http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1093941 – online 2013
http://www.hants.gov.uk/hampshiretreasures/vol06/page268.html – accessed 2012-13
(19c BLN) 19th Century British Library Newspapers:; Hampshire Advertiser 30 Jan.1875 http://find.galegroup.com – accessed 2013
(Ropley2000) Ropley at the Millennium http://www.ropley2000.hampshire.org.uk/ – accessed Sept-Nov 2012
Times online – 21 Feb.1928; 2 July 1931; 8 July 1938; 12 May 1952; 31 Aug.1954 – 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 2012