|HCC Site ID:||1403||Parish:||Steep|
|Access:||No Public Access, Private visits by arrangement||Ownership:||Private garden|
Location and Site
Stonerwood Park is located on the western side of Steep, Hampshire, with the entrance drive off Ridge Common Lane (past an erstwhile lodge). The site is rural, lying below the escarpment of Stoner Hill to the north and sitting at 400 feet above sea level. The house faces north west with far reaching views to the wooded ‘hangers’, towards Butser Hill and the South Downs to the south, with nearer views over gently sloping land and the gardens. Within the grounds there is a gardener’s cottage, built in 1918, and a walled Victorian kitchen garden. It is within the South Downs National Park.
A large ‘Jacobethan’ house, built by Rev. George Taswell in the early 1870s existed on the site with a garden around the house and set in parkland. It first sold around 1898 to Mr. [T]. J. Waller (VCH 1908 online). As described in the 1896 sales particulars, the garden included “Terraces, walks, winding pathways and parterres, interspersed with clumps and single specimen of cedar, fir, pine, cryptomeria, araucaria, cypress etc”. Additional land was incorporated into the gardens at some time after 1909 to enable the pleasure grounds to be extended. The estate sold again in 1913 to Mr. G.E. Woodman who, six years later, commissioned Unsworth & Triggs to build the formal gardens. Shortly thereafter, in 1921, when the estate was again offered for sale, consisting of the house in 27 acres (11 ha) of grounds, and agricultural and parkland of 262 acres (106 ha) (HRO 32M67/Z1/66), it was purchased by Mr. A.E. Blackett, a younger son of the 7th Baronet Blackett of Matfen Hall, Northumberland.
The sales brochure of 1921 states that “Two years ago the wonderful new gardens were added at a cost of several thousand pounds…”, most of the hard landscaping being constructed in the local Bargate stone with paving in Purbeck stone and connecting pathways of hoggin. Constructed in the Arts and Crafts mode, this was one of Triggs’s last gardens before his death and burial in Sicily in 1923 and his Italianate style is amply demonstrated with the use of fountains and terracing. The axial layout of the design extended the length of the garden through a series of ‘rooms’, dropping from terrace to terrace as the land fell southwards. Triggs transformed the sloping bank below the house into a seven foot high retaining wall with central, east and west sets of steps down to the lawns and a bastion at the eastern corner. A gap in the then existing mature conifer trees in front of the house allowed a view down the length of the garden, and probably accounts for the slight off-set of the main axis. Two symmetrical upper rosemary gardens had sunken circular ponds with fountains and alcove seats and viewing ‘belvederes’ in opposing corners. These gardens were flanked by a parterre rose garden to the west and a courtyard garden with gazebo to the east. Steps up from this courtyard garden led into a sundial garden with a dovecote sitting on a stone buttress of a pergola wall. The central axis continued down double-sided, curving steps to the ‘Italian’ garden with a semi-circular pool and rill leading to a round pond with a cherub, after Verrocchio, acting as a fountain. From here, the main axis was carried south between a long allée of scalloped yew hedging and generous herbaceous borders, culminating in an unusually shaped formal pond reminiscent of the Italian Baroque motif of segmentation of a circle by two concave curves, and with rills on either side. A Vicenza stone campana urn with putto in the centre formed the fountain. To the west of the allée was a double tennis lawn with a thatch and timber pavilion.
1932 witnessed the last sale of the old Stonerwood house (Lot 1, HRO 32M67/Z1/69) when Mr. A. Boswell bought it along with the rest of the then estate (87.6 hectares) and commissioned Baillie Scott & Beresford to build the present, smaller house. Pevsner (p495) identifies the new building as “… by Baillie Scott & Beresford for Alfred Boswell, (a Swiss musician, formerly Bussweiller) for whom Scott had designed The White Cottage, Harrow in 1908. Stonerwood is one of their rarer Neo-Georgian designs, with a canted central bay on the garden front”. The house sits on the footprint of the old house on the southern, garden side, aligning with the terrace and retaining wall.
Additional former occupants of the house include Lord Chesham and his wife Mary in the 1950s and the Earl of Rosslyn in the 1960s and 1970s. When Lord Rosslyn sold in 1977, the estate was largely broken up.
Maintained until the late 1970s, the gardens fell into considerable disrepair in the 1980s and early 1990s with removal of hard landscaping and most of the yew hedging. Sympathetic restoration by the current owners occurred however, from the late 1990s, under the direction of Adrian Bird, architect and well-known authority on Triggs. Forming possibly the largest Triggs garden in individual ownership, the structure of the original garden has been restored as faithfully as possible, although around the former tennis lawns (now a croquet lawn) yew has given way to hornbeam due to drainage problems and lawns have replaced herbaceous or rose beds in many areas owing to differing tastes and high maintenance costs. Outside the formal gardens, there is a woodland walk and a wide variety of native and exotic trees, deciduous and conifer, have been planted creating an arboretum. Mature trees from the Victorian period lost in the 1987 storm, such as sequoiadendron, cryptomeria, cunninghamia and cedar have also been replaced. The gardener’s cottage was extended in 2000 and the adjacent walled garden is maintained with a cuttings border, orchard area including olive trees, herb and vegetable plots, although parts of the wall are now in a precarious state. A glasshouse abutting the high wall contains citrus trees, a vine and orchids. A stable yard, hard tennis court and pasture occupy the former Victorian orchard.
Around 1919, Unsworth & Triggs designed and constructed a garden for the late 19th century ‘Jacobethan’ style house of Stonerwood Park. In the 1930s, the original house was replaced on approximately the footprint of the old, and more recently, the gardens have been restored as closely as practical to the original 1919 Triggs design with the addition of an arboretum.
HGT Research: May 2012. Further Research and update: March 2019
Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
32M67/Z1/66 Sales Brochure 1921
32M67/Z1/69 Sales Brochure 1932
Books and Articles
Betjeman, J. 1938. Baillie Scott and the Architecture of Escape. The Studio, Vol CXVL, n.547, pp177-180.
Bishop, W. 2014. Harry Inigo Triggs: Early 20th-Century Architect and Garden Designer. Hampshire Gardens Trust Newsletter, Autumn Issue, Celebrating 30 Years, pp16-19.
Fairfax, K. 2008. Going For Green [Stonerwood Park]. Period House Magazine, pp82-85.
Bullen, M., Hubbuck, R. et al. 2010. Pevsner Architectural Guides. The Buildings of England. Hampshire: Winchester and the North. Yale University Press.
Struthers, T., Box, F. et al. 2018. Buildings, Gardens and Monuments in Steep, pp6-7. [Stonerwood Park].
Triggs, H.I. 1906. The Art of Garden Design in Italy. Longman, Green & Co. London.
Whiteman, W.M. (undated). The Origins of Steep. Petersfield Papers, 4. Petersfield Area Historical Society.
VCH. Victoria County History. 1908. Page, W. (ed). A History of the County of Hampshire, Vol 3, pp77-81. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/hants/vol3/pp77-81.
Email Correspondence, 30 September 2017. Lyndon Taswell, Family Historian.
OS 2nd ed. 25” 1896
OS 3rd ed. 25” 1909
1896 Sales Particulars
1912 Sales Particulars
2011 Meeting with Current Owner
2018 Research by Frances Box, Steep History Group.
2018 Meeting with Adrian Bird, RIBA, Triggs Expert.