|HCC Site ID:||1230||Parish:||Ecchinswell and Sydmonton|
|Designations:||Grade II*||Area:||c60 acres|
|Access:||No Public Access||Ownership:||Residential/Commercial Stud Farm & Dairy Herd. Venue for musical events|
Location and Site
Sydmonton Court is a Grade 11* mansion located 2½ miles west of Kingsclere. It lies in the North Wessex Downs AONB on a shallow basin overlooking the escarpment of Watership Down. At the time of the Domesday Survey the hundred of Kingsclere comprised Ewhurst, Wolverton, Ecchinswell, and Sydmonton. The place-name is probably derived from the personal name Sydeman and OE tun (farm) A man of this name signed a charter relating to Ecchinswell in 931. By the late 11th century Sydmonton formed part of the estates of Romsey Abbey. In the 1530s the manor was given to the Kingsmill family by Henry VIII, who held it over 400 years – until 1978.
The estate map of 1757 shows a nucleated village located around the church to the south of Sydmonton Court. The house, church, stables and kitchen gardens with the farm comprise the core of the original village. The common fields were enclosed by agreement in the late 18th century and in 1780 purchases made to extend the park. By the early 19th century it would appear that the village was completely removed from the area of the Court, leaving only the estate buildings to the west and the Home Farm to the south. The mansion is an E shaped mansion with 16th,17th 18th and 19th century features and was entirely remodelled in 1837.
Sydmonton court stands in a parkland setting overlooking St Mary’s Church. The house is enclosed on the west by shrub and tree belts. A ha-ha defines the southern boundary of the parkland with 2 rectilinear gardens, tennis court and pavilion, bounded by formal hedges to the east. Beyond these gardens are allées of mature trees and shrubberies with serpentine walks leading via a sunken land to the lakes. To the north of the park are extensive paddocks and a polo field. Access to the Court is from the west along a mature lime tree lined avenue, across the public footpath that runs north/south past kitchen gardens, stables and other estate buildings, and into the parkland in which the mansion stands. The north/south avenue, defined by the high brick walls of yards and kitchen gardens leads to Sydmonton Farm. The estate extends three miles north to Knight’s Bridge on the river Enborne, and south across the valley including the gallops up onto Watership Down. St Mary’s Church (deconsecrated some time during the 20th century) is used as a musical centre for the present owner.
The chalk grassland on mainly northerly facing escarpment of Watership Down is of bio-geographical importance as the most northerly and westerly tract of chalk grassland on the Wessex chalk. Typical fast running streams and a complex of ponds are typical historical markers in this landscape. In the 1873 OS map, Sydmonton Park is identified as an area of rough pasture to the east of Ladle Hil and is the area indicated as a deer-park with pale on Isaac Taylor’s map of 1759. However there is no evidence of a pale to be seen on the perimeter, although field names are evidence of the extensive rabbit and hare warrens – featured in Richard Adam’s best-selling novel Watership Down.
Since 1978 the property has been in the ownership of Baron Lloyd Webber of Sydenham who is a successful musical impresario, and owner of the Watership Down Stud.
Recent proposals approved between 1995 and 2008 include:
. Erection of a conservatory,
. Construction of a ha-ha
. Removal of dam between the 2 fishponds to create a cascade
. Modifications to the house entrance
Mature trees – remnants of larger scale plantings – are scattered throughout the parkland, and reinforced with major new planting schemes. A large fishpond to the north east of the mansion roughly where one was shown in the 1837 Tithe Map, although it has been enlarged to create the modern lake. These ponds along with field and copse boundaries are important historical markers in a landscape relatively unchanged since the late 18th century.
Historic features known to be present:
FISHPONDS GARDEN TERRACE
HA HA (recent) KITCHEN GARDEN
PARKLAND SUNKEN LANE (Ladies Walk)
WALLED GARDEN WILDERNESS
WOODLAND GARDEN AVENUES
YEW HEDGES ICE HOUSE
Features recorded in archive (unconfirmed)
Statue 18C Park Pale – not confirmed
Sydmonton Court retains clear evidence of different periods in the evolution of the estate and is an example of 18th century estate ‘rationalisation’. It contains the elements of a 19th century landscape – open parkland, lake and pond, walled kitchen gardens and conservatory, small wilderness, and mature trees, with the main phase of development laid out between 1780 and 1900, The estate remained within the Kingsmill family for 430 years, until it was purchased by Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1978.
Significance: The estate is associated with one family for over 400 years who followed the fashoion of the day leaving the estate much as it was in the early 19th century. Since 1978 it has been owned by one of the most successful composers of popular music of the 20th century, and has been the setting of the Sydmonton Festival – a summer arts festival held periodically in St Mary’s Church in which shows such as Evita, Cats, Starlight Express, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Beautiful Game had their first public audience to a selected audience.
Landscape Planning Status :
AAP An Area of Archaeological Potential exists within the settlement of Sydmonton
AONB Yes – within the North Wessex Downs AONB
TPO No. Nor – surprisingly – is there any woodland identified as ancient semi- natural although Fishpond Copse and Glasshanger Copse appear as mature woodland on the 1810 OS map
Research: EM Consultants for Basingstoke & Deane: October 2009