|HCC Site ID:||1270||Parish:||Steventon|
|Designations:||CA, SLIN (Local)||Area:|
|Access:||No Public Access||Ownership:|| Private residences,
Location and Site
Steventon village is about six miles west of Basingstoke and Steventon Manor lies to the south-east of the village close to the church of St. Nicholas. The present house is positioned on higher ground above the village which lies in a valley; the soil is chalk and flint with clay caps.
There have been four previous houses on various parts of the site which has led to a confusing history but much of it has been unravelled by Deirdre Le Faye in her book Jane Austen’s Steventon, 2007. The first manor was Norman, built around 1185. When this house was replaced by a new Tudor farmhouse, the original site became the farmyard; this site is now a clearing in the woods. The Tudor house was built in 1560 by a member of the Brocas family of Beaurepaire, but from 1648 the manor was occupied by tenant farmers who managed the estate. The farmhouse was occupied from the end of the eighteenth century by the Digweed family who feature in the correspondence of Jane Austen as they were friends of the Austen family (Le Faye, 1996). From 1794 the Steventon Estate was owned by Jane Austen’s brother Edward who had acquired the estate through inheritance. In 1854 the estate was sold to the second Duke of Wellington who sold it again in 1877 to Mr Henry Harris. He was a wealthy businessman who commissioned the construction of a massive new brick and stone mansion in the grounds but closer to the church. The architect was Alfred Waterhouse who was renowned for his large country houses built in the new French-gothic style. The Tudor farmhouse, with its attractive creeper-clad flint walls was retained as a feature in the pleasure grounds of the new mansion but was converted into stabling (HRO sales 1908 and OS 25’’ maps 1872, 1895).
The Victorian house stood until 1932 when, now owned by the Onslow-Fane family, it was severely damaged by fire and, with the exception of one wing and a service block, it was demolished and the fourth Steventon Manor was constructed around the old Tudor house (HRO sales, 1926; The Times,1932). Meanwhile the remains of the Victorian house were converted into one service unit and this is the core of the Steventon Manor which is seen today. The 1933 Onslow-Fane manor was large and set in immaculate grounds; the estate was famed for the quality of its farm stock and its shooting but was sold again in 1936 (The Times, 1936). During the Second World War the house and grounds were requisitioned by the Civil Defence Force (House, 2008) In the post-war years the property changed hands again but eventually became derelict. In 1969 the entire mansion was demolished (HRO, press cuttings,1970) but the stable block with the squash court was retained and used for agricultural purposes. In 1980 this block with five acres of land was sold off separately from the estate and permission was given for it to be converted into a domestic dwelling (Lane Fox, sales details, 1980). By 1987 the estate surrounding Steventon Manor was divided and sold into multiple ownership; the stable block was purchased by Mr Roger Hopkins who restored the Waterhouse wing and remodelled the rest of the block in a sympathetic style to create the modern family house which is today known as Steventon Manor (NMRC, sales 1987 and John D Wood sales 1993).
In 1887 Steventon Park had extended to 1600 acres and included several farms and most of the cottages in the village; it was a flourishing arable estate with important shooting rights and an enviable reputation. Although Henry Harris built a sizeable house, the grounds were unpretentious. Lawns surrounded the mansion and paths led towards the old Tudor house behind which were the formal flower gardens laid out with bedding plants in geometrically placed flowerbeds. Overlooking the formal garden were glasshouses for camellias, tomatoes and a cleverly constructed fernery. The gardens were bordered with clipped yew hedges and a sinuous walk led from here through the orchard to a new walled kitchen garden in the woods beyond. Newly popular rhododendrons were planted in the shrubberies and some conifers were placed in front of the church. The house commanded a fine vista north towards the North Hampshire Downs (Mabbett and Edge, sales details 1908). In 1932-1933 the Onslow-Fanes positioned their new house to make best use of the old Tudor manor and the views over the formal Victorian garden. Photographs show that yew hedges and topiary were kept tightly clipped, the fernery was a central feature of the garden and rockeries surrounded the pool lawn; facilities for tennis and swimming were provided but at a distance from the house (Photos, 1936). The walled garden, orchard and vegetable gardens were productive and well-maintained (HRO, letters,1947). The gardens survived the war but fell into neglect in the following twenty years. The demolition of both the Harris and the Fane houses led to the destruction of the lawns but these were finally cleared and levelled in the 1987 reconstruction. The site of the formal garden had now become part of the neighbouring property together with the walled garden and the wood (NMRC, 1987). The yew walks had become lines of mature trees although remnants of the topiary frames are still to be found embedded in the branches; the fernery became lost in the undergrowth. The garden in 2008 is much as it had been created in 1987: expansive lawns for easy maintenance; a swimming pool and hard tennis court hidden from view behind yew hedges; shrubberies and a few rhododendron bushes; a terrace surrounding the house. The vista to the north is now totally lost as the land immediately beyond the boundary has been allowed to revert to nature and tall birch and sycamore impede the view.
The most significant feature of the modern garden is a Victorian fernery which is undergoing restoration in 2008. Nineteenth-century maps show that a glasshouse occupied the spot from 1895 (OS1872 and 1895) so it is likely that it was a glass-roofed fern house in the first instance. At some stage the glass was removed and it became an open fernery with large moss-covered stone boulders, a grotto and a rocky water-feature in the centre. Much of the rockwork is almost certainly Pulhamite but it is not known who was responsible for its design. A Tudor fire surround, probably removed from the Elizabethan house, is inserted in one corner with another arch inside it.(Author photos, 2008) . The fernery is recorded on the Hampshire Archaeological and Historic Buildings Record. The pleasure grounds of Steventon Manor have lost much of their historic significance since the break-up of the estate in 1987 and the fracture of the West Wood (a SINC) and the walled garden from the Manor. The views of the house from the village are now lost as are the vistas from the house. The larger site is of great local importance because of the complexity of remains of earlier manors and the close liaison which has existed between the Manor and the village.
At least four manors have stood on this site, one of which was designed by Alfred Waterhouse. For much of its history the the manor house was the centre of either a farm or an important shooting estate. The grounds of the present Manor have lost all traces of the earlier formality but a Victorian Fernery remains which is a remarkable example of Pulhamite rockwork and may be unique in Hampshire.
HGT Research, July 2008
Hampshire Record Office-HRO
Sales details,1908: 62A00/1
Hamptons sale details, 27 April 1926: 46M84/F86/3
Newspaper cutting 1970, permission to demolish Steventon Manor,: 141M83/290
Letters to J Ellis Jones re release of Steventon Manor: 51M76/P/5/51
Documents and photographs
Hopkins Papers: John D Wood sale details Steventon Manor, November 1993
Photograph of the garden and fernery at Steventon Manor by THB 1936
MacLean Papers: Lane Fox sale details, November 1980
Mabbett and Edge, sale details, 19 June 1908
Willis Museum, Basingstoke: photograph of Steventon Manor garden by THB 1936
National Monument Record Centre, Swindon: red box for Steventon, sale details for Steventon
House (the Rectory) and estate, Jones Lang Wooton 1987
Le Faye, D., Jane Austen’s Letters,(OUP,1996)
Le Faye, D., Jane Austen’s Steventon (Jane Austen Society, 2007)
The Times On-line, report of fire at Steventon Manor, 12 January 1932
The Times On-line, sale through John D Wood, 18 March 1936
The Times On-line, purchase by Hutton Croft, 13 May 1936
House, A., Hants Deputy Chief Fire Officer, email to V Joynt, 29 May 2008
Dr Sarah Whitingham, advisor on Victorian Ferneries: emails to VJ July 2008.
Author’s photographs, May and June 2008
All Ordnance Survey maps are from the HCC datasets.
The author is grateful to previous owners of Steventon Manor for their assistance and provision of photographs and memories, especially Mr David Stride, Mr Roger Hopkins, Mr Charles Bromfield and Mr and Mrs Peter MacLean.