Southwick House

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HCC Site ID: 1569 Parish: Southwick
Designations: House LB II, Map Room LB I Area:
Access: No Public Access Ownership: Split ownership: Defence College of Policing & Guarding; & Private

Image:View of Southwick Park by Kip & Knyff

Location and Site

Southwick House and park are situated east of the village of Southwick and approximately six miles north west of Portsmouth. Historically the site has been in a strategic position, with the priory well placed to welcome pilgrims travelling to Winchester from Portsmouth, the later house providing convenient accommodation for monarchs visiting troops and the fleet in Portsmouth, and headquarters for the D-Day landings. It is in an undulating landscape at the foot of the chalk downs.

Historic Development

The Park came into existence in the 12th-century when a Priory of Augustinian Canons was founded there as a result of lack of space at Portchester Castle. While little now remains of the priory buildings one monastic fishpond has survived and a second, earlier, pond has been excavated. Where the land slopes to the River Wallington the Canons may have planted vines as the slope faces South. The land the priory owned was probably enclosed as a deer park.

After the Dissolution, the priory lands, like much of the church land in Hampshire, passed to the Earl of Southampton, who gave it to his supporter John White. At that time his lease would have certainly included gardens and orchards. The White family continued to live in the Priory buildings and proceeded to consolidate land around Southwick that extended to the top of Portsdown Hill. At the beginning of the 17th century the lands passed through marriage to Sir Daniel Norton. Norton is credited with replacing the decaying house, inherited as part of the priory, and building the fine Jacobean House seen in the 1707 Kip engraving. There is no evidence of a change of land use or of formal gardens during his tenure, or the tenure of his son, Colonel Richard Norton. It is the Colonel’s grandson, another Richard Norton, an actor and Theatre Producer, who acquired the estate in 1692 and had the Dutch style, London and Wise inspired, garden created. The Kip engraving shows a walk through formal parterres, initially grassed and then with a hedge edging, leading past a pond and fountain to an avenue out onto the fields beyond. The orangery is particularly recognisable and is similar to that at Chatsworth. Close to the river are formally planted vegetable beds on a lower terrace, bounded by canals running the length of the gardens. In the foreground, the paling boundary fence can be seen with the road entering over a bridge and through formal gates to a circular lawn and thence to the house and stables. At the bridge there is a second set of gates leading to the south up Portsdown Hill, showing that the wider estate was extensive and continued to the steep slopes giving sea views beyond. Recent evidence for this lies in the fact that Richard Norton left all his lands and possession to the state for supporting the poor. The will was contested by the Thistlethwayte relatives who eventually inherited the land. However, the fine gardens were taken apart and the contents sold off.
As the Thistlethwaytes had extensive properties elsewhere, it would appear that they used Southwick as a hunting lodge as there was limited change to the grounds until the beginning of the 19th century, apart from the possible damming of the west part of the river to form a possible duck decoy lake. When Thomas Thistlethwayte MP inherited the land, he replaced the Jacobean mansion with a Regency style house on a new, higher site. It was during this period that it is thought that Humphry Repton may have influenced the landscaping of the park, as the family were in correspondence with owners of estates that had been designed by him. In Repton style, immediately south of the house, parkland extended to the newly dammed River Wallington where a 400 metre long artificial lake was created. A Dairy Clump with buildings was south, south east of the house, screened with parkland trees and its own enclosed area. Almost attached to the west of the house were stables that were linked to the village by a tree lined avenue. Beyond the stables was the orangery and gardens that had paths to The Wilderness that practically extended to the village and incorporated the remains of the priory as well as containing the icehouse. Just south, between The Wilderness and the west end of the dammed lake are The Slopes, the remains of the Dutch garden. North of the house and stables was a further shrub and tree planted area. Although the house burnt down in 1840 and was rebuilt 3 years later, 19th maps show few changes took place until the Royal Navy requisitioned the property in 1941.
Its finest hour came when the house became General Eisenhower’s Headquarters for the D-Day landings. The grounds surrounding the house, particularly to the north, were lost to numerous training and accommodation buildings. The Park remained and became HMS Dryad, and was used as a Naval Recreation Centre, including a golf course in the parkland. The Dairy Clump buildings are now a golf clubhouse. In 2004, the functions of HMS Dryad were transferred to HMS Collinwood in Fareham and the site reverted to its original name of Southwick Park. Since then it has been home to the tri-Service Defence College of Policing and Guarding. In 2019, the Park was returned to the Thistlethwayte family.

Current Description

Southwick House is now a Grade II listed building with the map room Grade I and seems unchanged from when it was re-built in 1843. Its value as a garden, which is not listed, and connection with the landscape around it, however, has seriously deteriorated. A small grass terrace leads down some simple steps to a flattened area used as a croquet lawn rather than the sweep up to the house shown in the earlier prints. The view to Portsdown Hill is obscured by a beech hedge along the perimeter fence and overgrown trees and woodland beyond.
There are a number of individual trees that would have been planted in the mid/late 19th century as well as the beech Fagus sylvatica avenue from the village. To the west of the house are the remains of an ornamental garden of shrubs and fine trees that would have been more extensive before the accommodation building, ironically named Garden House, was put on the east end. Fine shrubs include some large camellias and rhododendrons . Exotic trees include Honey Locust Gleditsia triacanthos, Mimosa Acacia dealbata and that Victorian favourite a monkey puzzle tree Araucaria araucana. A sundial sits at the centre but it is not known how old this is or whether it came from the earlier gardens. On one side of the garden are the remains of the orangery that is known from the 1839 tithe map, and was in place before the house burnt down in 1840. This would indicate that the garden was part of that original design, although the pattern of paths implies the layout has changed. It is not clear what happened to the original orangery in the formal gardens that was put up for auction but which was still in-situ in 1770. It is now in a dilapidated state but was clearly a substantial building. More research would need to be done to ascertain whether at least some of the windows or stonework was re-used.


Southwick Park has been strategically placed in both peace and war time. It is famous for its 17th century Jacobean house and Dutch Garden with an engraving by Kip. A new house was built, and rebuilt in the 19th century, with a Repton designed style landscaped park and lake. In 1941, the house and park were requisitioned by the Navy and became famous as the headquarters for the DD landings in 1944. Although the park and gardens have deteriorated they still provide a setting for the Grade II house.
HGT Research: 2002, Barton Report ‘Southwick Park’ June 2020

Ornamental Garden – February 2020

Thuja – February 2020

Waterfall & Lake – February 2020

Our address

Southwick No Public Access Click for Disclaimer & copyright
50.87476953869873, -1.101851463317871

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