|HCC Site ID:||1264||Parish:||Sherfield on Loddon|
|Designations:||House LB II||Area:||23ha|
|Access:||Access to School||Ownership:||GEMS Education|
Location and Site
The site currently known as Sherfield School has been previously known as North Foreland Lodge School, Sherfield Manor, Buckfield House and Archer Lodge. It is situated on the A33, approximately four miles north of Basingstoke and twelve miles south of Reading. The property is encircled by Wildmoor Lane and the Sherfield Oaks golf courses. The low-lying land slopes very gently from south-west to north-east; the underlying soil is mainly gravel and with the River Loddon flowing around the eastern edges of the wider estate, the land is marshy in parts.
The first known house on this site was situated north-east of the present Sherfield School, much closer to the pair of lakes alongside Wildmoor Lane. It was called Archer Lodge (Tithe map 1841). It was sold with 258 acres in 1863 to John Bramston Stane who built a new mansion on higher ground and called it Buckfield House after the Buckfield Copse in the estate. It was in the High Victorian Gothic style and included a stable block to the north of the house. The garden lay to the south and west and was designed on a series of three descending terraces. The upper terrace was formally planted as a flowery parterre. The lawns below the main windows of the house were for croquet and tennis but also included a stone quatrefoil pond. Steps then led down to the lowest level where paths led to riparian walks around the two lakes. The north-facing house front looked over parkland towards the Reading road and Sherfield on Loddon village and rhododendron-edged avenues swept up to the house. It was a gentleman’s country property offering three miles of the very best fishing on the River Loddon (HRO10M57/SP626). In 1898, now known as Sherfield Manor, it was purchased by a wealthy South African with interests and contacts in diamond mining who engaged Fairfax Blomfield Wade (later known as Wade-Palmer) as his architect (Stuart Gray 1985). Wade remodelled the house in his Wrenaissance style and defined its proportions by setting it on a deep, balustraded terrace rich with vases, urns and flamboyant planting. No expense was spared in developing a fine garden; the original three terraced lawns were retained but the parterre planting was removed. New designed gardens were introduced at the Archer Lodge end of the garden: a 200 yard long pergola led to a rose garden and a French garden set within clipped yew hedges and a rock garden and cascades adorned the lakeside; around the lakes was planted an arboretum of quality trees. The walled garden was particularly lovingly developed with a fine range of glasshouses by Messenger housing palms, exotics, vines and hothouse flowering plants. This garden was important enough to be featured in Gardeners Chronicle in 1904 (GC p.235). The estate was sold in 1908 to a family called Liddell whose son Aidan Liddell was an early member of the Royal Flying Corps but was shot down in 1915 and died of his wounds. Having earned the VC for his courage he was buried in Basingstoke with a full hero’s honours (Daybell 2004). From 1926 until the end of the second World War the property was owned by successive Earls of Winchilsea. In 1928 the wife of the 14th Earl, Countess Margaretta [Finch-Hatton] commissioned Mrs Nora Lindsay to give advice on the herbaceous borders, the water garden, shrubs and the roses. In 1947 the site with only 50 acres of land was bought by a school, North Foreland Lodge (HRO112A03). They remained owners for more than 55 years and managed to conserve some essential elements of the spirit of the gardens while incorporating the necessary expansion of the school buildings and playing fields. During this period the Walled Garden was sold but eventually it was acquired by owners who undertook its restoration (Butt 2009). Realignment of the A33 resulted in the loss of a large slice of the front park and eventually the Victorian lodges were also replaced; fortunately the fine gates and one set of gate piers were repositioned at the new north and south entrances. The gates, the quatrefoil pond and the terrace, together with the house itself are all Grade II listed.
By 2004 financial difficulties forced the closure of North Foreland Lodge and the site was sold again; this time it was purchased by GEMS, the current 2009 owners, another independent school. It is now known as Sherfield School and the main building is once more known as Buckfield House (Sherfield School website).
Fortunately many of the fine attributes of the grounds remain. These include the overall setting of the mansion on its well-proportioned terrace within a recognizable landscape setting; the approach to the house is still made along a sweeping drive through a park, albeit with cricket pitch added, and the rear south view over the fountain lawn towards the quatrefoil pond, statuary and tennis courts is not dissimilar to the Edwardian period. In particular the very fine trees of the arboretum provide a stunning backdrop to the playing fields and emphasize the importance that the garden once commanded. Buckfield Copse, which is designated a SINC has been reined-in from too vigorous encroachment on the upper lawn but sadly the long rhododendron-edged walk through the woods to the southern boundary has been lost. The lakes are now fenced in with heavy, tall, park railings and it has not been possible to establish whether there is still access to the islands but they are a haven for wildlife and a particular sanctuary for toads (Loddon Toad Soc*). The greatest loss within the existing gardens is the Pergola, the Rose Garden and the condition of the long yew hedge. Although it is still clipped, the hedge has lost its shape and looks undernourished and straggly and the archways into the swimming pool area within the old ‘Versailles’ garden are mean and uncared-for. Vegetation is encroaching on the walls of the Walled Garden and the trees near the beautiful wrought-iron gates are beginning to obliterate the view of the Palm House from the school grounds. There are few vistas now to the wider countryside even from the terrace of the house; hedges protect the school from prying eyes and the bucolic countryside has been replaced with extensive golf courses. The approach to the house has suffered most from the demands of an educational establishment; the new lodges are unattractive and the school extensions and car parking areas to the right hand side of the front entrance are particularly utilitarian. Despite these losses, a visitor with no knowledge of the previous history of Sherfield would recognize at once that there had once been a significant garden through the proportions of its scale and the majesty of the trees in the arboretum. Hopefully as a setting for a school these attributes will be treasured.(HGT site visit 2009)
The national significance of this site lies in its listing as a Grade II property. As a group the house, terrace, pond, walled garden and gates make an impressive collection and together with other unlisted features such as the stables, the statuary, the garden terraces and the yew hedging they combine to make a site of considerable historical importance. There are few, if any, other extant examples in Hampshire of a complete house by Fairfax Blomfield Wade, who was in his time an architect much employed by the gentry and aristocracy. Sherfield School is a good example of his ‘Wrenaissance’ style with some evidence of his wrought-iron work in the gates.
In a local context Sherfield School is now a useful local amenity: the school itself numbers over 400 pupils of all ages from pre-nursery to Sixth form; at weekends the grounds are made available to local clubs for rugby matches and the house is available for weddings and conferences. The lakes are an important sanctuary for toads and in spring they are the site of one of the country’s largest toad migrations. Buckfield Copse is an Ancient Woodland area. The ecology and biodiversity of the grounds is of enormous benefit to the schoolchildren who learn in that environment.
From Archer Lodge in 1830 to Buckfield House, Sherfield Manor, North Foreland Lodge and now in 2009 Sherfield School, this site has been one where an imposing mansion has blended well into its landscape. The main house was designed in 1897/8 by Fairfax Wade but the garden designer is not known. It was an Edwardian garden which fully reflected the wealth of its owner, the randlord Mr J. B. Taylor. In 1928 Nora Lindsay, the renowned plantswoman, gave advice on herbaceous and other plantings.
The once-impressive gardens have for the most part been lost but the skeleton of the garden remains and there are sufficient vestiges of it for its present young occupiers to appreciate that their school is the custodian of a precious landscape.
HGT Research: June 2009, updated September 2014
Hampshire Record Office
10M57/SP614 1826 sale details, estates at Sherfield. Wheeler’s Court Farm. Map
21M65/F7/206/1/2-1841 Tithe map and apportionment
10M57/SP626 1863 sale details Archer Lodge. Map
10M57/SP627 1888 sale details Sherfield Manor. Map
42M79/F5 1888 Will of John B Stane
87A02/1/2/3 Collection photographs, available on disk. c.1891, Lethbridge and Taylor eras.
112A03/H3 1907 sale details for Sherfield Manor
112A03/H3/2 Biographical details on James Taylor and Fairfax B Wade
46M84/F82/1 1920 Sale brochure Sherfield Hall. Map and photos
16M83/PZ13 1926 sale details Sherfield Manor and large estate map
202A07/131 1960s aerial photos of Sherfield Court and North Foreland Lodge, A4 size
38M82/120 2003 sale details North Foreland Lodge
HCC files: traced copy of 1841 tithe map, with apportionment.
Maps attached to all sale details listed above in HRO
Ordnance Survey maps:
1st edition 1872-1873, 25” ; 2nd edition 1899, 25”; 3rd edition 1910, 25”; 3rd edition 1911-1912, 6”;
Colour Raster 2008, 1:5000; MasterMap 2008, 1:5000
All Ordnance Survey maps from HCC/HGT datasets
OS Explorer 2004 Sheet 144
Bowditch, J., 1987 A Hundred Years of Sherfield on Loddon, a History of J A Manser & Son Ltd. Private, Basingstoke
Daybell, P. 2004 With a Smile and a Wave: the Life of Captain John Aidan Liddell, VC, MC. 3rd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and Royal Flying Corps.
Grigg, A., 1946 The Story of Sherfield on Loddon, Basingstoke
Martin, A. 1996 Report on the grounds at North Foreland Lodge
Pevsner, Nicholaus and Lloyd, David. 2002 Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Yale U Press, p.502
Stuart Gray, A., 1985 Edwardian Architecture, Duckworth, p.366
Newspaper and Journal articles
‘Sherfield Manor’ in The Gardeners’ Chronicle 1 October 1904, pp.235 and 236
Loddon Toad Society in The Echo 10 December 2001, report on toads crossing Wildmoor Lane
Spackman, A. ‘People who live in Glasshouses’, Independent 3 February 1996
Page, W. ed.1911 Victoria County History: A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 4, pp.103-108 Sherfield on Loddon Parish
19th Century newspapers on-line
The Times on-line:
Hampshire Treasures 03/12/08:
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council
Hampshire County Council
Press Cuttings Files. Sherfield on Loddon, North Foreland Lodge
Martin, A.J.O. 1996 Report on the Grounds at North Foreland Lodge
Mrs Janet Carter, Garden Historian
Mr and Mrs Loren Butt, earlier owners of the Walled Garden
Mrs Miranda Cunningham, the current (2009) owner of the Walled Garden