|HCC Site ID:||1105||Parish:||Ellingham, Harbridge & Ibsley|
|Designations:||House II||Area:|| Estate 2833ha (7,000 acres);
Park 365 ha (900 acres)
|Access:|| No Public Access.
Open for some Events & private hire
Location and site
The house, park and gardens are located north of Ringwood off the B308 Verwood Road from Ringwood to Fordingbridge. The house stands on an elevated position commanding views of the River Avon to the east and Ringwood Forest and Ashley Heath to the west. The house stands on an elevated site with panoramic views eastwards to the distant New Forest, with a vista westwards through the woods towards Old Harbridge Drove.
There has been a house at Somerley since 1653, possibly on the site of earlier messuages (VCH 1911, 606 & Hussey 1958, 109). A seventeenth century house was sited on flat land near the River. There was a formal garden to the west of the house, with the main carriage entrance to the east, approached from the south. A drive led from the east entrance of the house to the River Avon where a small canal had been dug to form an island. Another drive adjacent to the river led to a ‘Grove’ and an avenue of trees. When this house was demolished, the footprint of it and formal garden became the kitchen garden, with a gardener’s cottage built alongside, now referred to as Old Somerley. The present Somerley House and stable block were built for Daniel Hobson, on raised ground to the south and west of Old Somerley, to plans dated between 1791 and 1795 by the architect Samuel Wyatt (Hussey 1958, 109). Before completion it was sold, in 1814, to Henry Baring who added double ionic columns to the south face of the two-storey building. There are Repton plans for the gardens but it is not known whether these were carried out. The property was sold to Welbore Ellis Agar, second Earl of Normanton in 1828. A visit to the gardens in 1833 recorded that the house stood on a brow 60ft. above the river with water meadows below and pleasure gardens, avenues and ornamental buildings on more level ground to the northwest (Gardener’s Magazine). In 1850-51 a large picture gallery was built on the south side of the Wyatt house, the architect was probably Lord Normanton (Hussey, 1958, 111). Between 1868 and 1870 the third Earl, with architect William Burn, considerably enlarged the house including an additional storey, two single storey wings either side of the portico on the west face and enlarged service wing. Broad lawns were laid out and new terraces built on the east and south. Post-1945 the Victorian single storey wings were removed. It is thought that the many listed garden features were introduced by the fourth Earl (Hussey 1958, 111).
The extensive landscape parks are immediately west of the house and east to the River Avon. There are three ornamented architectural terraces, one the length of the house on the east and on the south an upper terrace with formal planting, with steps leading to a lower terrace. Beyond these is a broad lawn with magnificent perennial borders. The land falls away to the south east with further grassy terraces and lawns. North of the house beyond the stable block there are remnants of the early nineteenth century gardens including a summerhouse. The seventeenth century walls of Old Somerley now enclose a grassed open space. In 2004-05 a Zen garden was created just outside the walls (Price 2005). A nine-hole golf course occupies the land to the north west of the house.
A late eighteenth-century Samuel Wyatt house with nineteen-century additions, listed Grade II*. A picture gallery was built in 1850-51 by the second Earl of Normanton and further enlargements were made by the third Earl between 1868 and 1871, which were designed by William Burn. The kitchen garden is situated near the River Avon, on the footprint of the former seventeenth century house and formal garden. The park contains many mature trees and shrubs. There are architectural terraces, extensive lawns, flower borders and some formal planting with many listed stone features. There are magnificent panoramic views. A golf course is situated in the parkland to the north west of the house.
HGT Research: July 2005, updated January 2009
Click here to visit Somerley House website