Rotherfield Park (Historic England)

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HCC Site ID: 1344 Parish: East Tisted
Designations: HE II*, House LB I,
various buildings LB II, SMR
Area: 175 ha
Access: No Public Access except for NGS times Ownership: Private dwelling

Rotherfield, with East Tisted village on the Fareham road just south of Alton, forms one of the most complete and delightful instances of Picturesque theory put into practice. Mansion, park, village, and distant landscape were all transformed over a period of half a century by a family obviously imbued with the Picturesque and with building in their blood

So wrote Christopher Hussey in an article for Country Life in 1948. The family was that of James Scott who bought Rotherfield in 1808 – the only time the house has been sold in its long history. James Scott’s father William was a building contractor in Fulham. Like the Hollands in Hammersmith and later the Cubitts, Scotts of Fulham prospered from the westward expansion of London in the 18th century building Bedford Square and the Bedford estate and probably Montagu and Bryanston Squares for the Portman estate in 1811. The architect for the squares, Joseph Parkinson, was commissioned to rebuild the house at Rotherfield incorporating the new theories of romanticism as dictated by Sir Uvedale Price and Richard Payne Knight. In architecture, harmony with the landscape was the primary object and both commended the effect of successive periods of alteration and building. They both also advocated the picturesque possibilities of improving any nearby village, church or bridge.

Sir Uvedale Price and Richard Payne Knight were near neighbours in Herefordshire and both published works in 1794 that were widely read. Price published Essays on the Picturesque as compared with the Sublime and the Beautiful and Knight, with a dedication to Price, published The Landscape, a Didactic Poem. The term ‘pictoresque’ had been used in France in the early 18th century to refer to a landscape as being composed in the style of a painting and Pope in 1712 in his letter to Caryll, brought the word into English as ‘picturesque’. Price’s views on estate layout were summarised by the architect Blomfield, Price advocated a threefold division – the garden immediately round the house to be formal, the garden beyond to be in the landscape style, and the park to be left to itself.

The landscape, on the valley road approach to Rotherfield, whether from Farringdon in the north or Privett in the south, is little changed from the time of the Scotts original landscaping. Great beech woods on the upper slopes, pasture on the lower, church and cottages one side and the parkland of the estate the other. The drive way to the house follows a gradual curve, losing site of the house which comes back into view after crossing a bridge across a small ravine. Before 1815 the house seems to have been outwardly Georgian but incorporating the walls and courtyard of a Tudor building. This courtyard was turned into an immense staircase hall by the architect Joseph Parkinson, who added towers, pinnacles and battlements to the original building and refaced it in stone.

From the house, the view across the park towards Noar Hill, near Selborne incorporating the ‘managed’ landscape of cottages and church tower ( raised in 1846 ) is pure picturesque. To the north of the house is a wooded slope known as Plash Wood. It remains the same size as the wood shown on an estate map made for Sir Richard Norton in 1635 and then called Platcett, a name that is thought to have derived from the Latin plectia meaning twined or plaited hedge. The 1948 Country Life article describes the unusual beech aisles within the woods – there is only one explanation for the extraordinarily close planting and the uniform growth of the avenue trees: they must have been set to form beech hedges – pleached alleys- that, left to grow untrimmed at some subsequent date, drew themselves up in this extraordinary and beautiful way. The level of the forking indicates approximately the height of the original hedges. In assessing the age of the oldest…the vogue for pleached alleys must be borne in mind as well as the apparent age of the trees, which looks no more than 150 years. Clipped hedges had gone out of fashion after 1750 and historical evidence points to about 1725-50( Rotherfield was not lived in by its owner ) …when the pleaching may have been let go….but though Plash Wood as it stands may not be older than the middle of the 18th century, its name goes back …to before the Civil War…probably to Elizabeth’s reign. That makes the origin of the avenue at least coeval with Sir John Norton 1619-1689, who lies in the church…if not with the earlier Richard Norton (died before 1556), who is commemorated by a tomb erected about 1530. Not all of the 18th century trees survived the gales of 1987 but those that fell have been replanted. The wood is famous locally for its bluebells.

The garden around the house covers about 12 acres and is listed Grade ll by English Heritage. At 600’ above sea level it is very exposed but this prevents damage by late frosts which roll down to East Tisted. It includes an acre of walled garden, much of which is planted according to the phases of the moon; glass houses, including a dedicated peach and apricot house and a vinery.

In 1928 Norah Lindsay produced a planting plan for one side of the house. Much of this remains as do her notes in the Rotherfield archives.

Other features include a ha-ha, the remains of an ice house, a lime avenue, clipped yews, orchards and a nut maze.

HGT Research, April 2008

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East Tisted No Public Access except for NGS times Click for Disclaimer & copyright
51.0856453369981, -1.0067739430814981

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