Testwood Park (Great Testwood House)

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HCC Site ID: 1042 Parish: Totton
Designations: LB II – Lodge and Mill; SSSI, TPOs Area: c2 ha
Access: Historic site – Public Access to Nature Trail Ownership: Private land, Water supply, Nature Reserve/Barker-Mills Estate
Southern Water, Hampshire County Council

Photo: Great Testwood 1905, Courtesy J Keehan

Location and Site

Great Testwood was an early manorial estate bordering the west bank of the River Test on the western outskirts of Southampton. It is a very flat site, lying approximately two and half miles upstream of the port limit at Redbridge, and close to the High Point to which the mean tide flows (OS 4th ed.). In the mid 19th century the estate was at its most extensive and included much of the land north of the pleasure ground and a walled garden (HRO 4M69/PD4). This northern part of the estate was bought by Southern Water in the late 20th century and, during a dig by Wessex Archaeology team, evidence of bridges and a Bronze Age settlement were found, indicating that the site had been a notable crossing of the river (Wessex Archaeology on line). Testwood Park and farm were maintained as a whole until the 1930s, when it was divided into several parcels which were sold. The area of the park was further reduced in the late 20th century, and now has been put to multiple uses.

Historic Development

The Great Testwood estate can be traced back to a reference in the Domesday Book. In mediaeval times the manor passed from the de Testwood to the West family by descent. It must have prospered because in Elizabeth I’s reign the manor house was rebuilt and then honoured by a visit from the Queen (VCH 1911, 549).
A survey of the demesnes in the mid 17th century includes a drawing which shows ‘…the mancon Howse, Courts, Gardens, Orchards, Hopyards,,Bowling Green, Barnes, Stables, Staules and Outhouses.’ (HRO 1M31/30).
At some time in the 18th century when owned by the Serle family, big changes were made. A Georgian style house was built adjoining the Elizabethan manor house, and a second smaller house on the southern edge of the park, which was named South Testwood House or the Dower House. Changes were also made to the parkland, and it is claimed that Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was invited to design a landscape. There is no conclusive evidence to support Brown’s involvement, although Stroud records that he dined with the owner and in the Drummond’s Account book there is a mention of a payment to Brown from Serle, one in 1765 and the other in 1769. (Stroud 1975, 242).
Great Testwood Park is drawn on the Milne map of 1791 as a fenced pentagon shaped area, with a drive from the road on the west directly to the house. By 1842, an area of the park had been set aside for a plantation planted in an arc from the walled garden in the north to the lodge on the south boundary (HRO 4M69/PD4). This is still clearly seen as a feature on the Ordnance Survey maps, and parts of the line of planting remain today as a boundary between the park and Testwood School grounds (OS 1st & 2nd eds). The diminution of the estate began in 1872 when Miss Sturges Bourne sold part to Lt. Col. Bruce and part to R W Arnold (HRO 4M49/87). In the early 20th century it is known that the gardens, which included a walled garden, were carefully cultivated by a staff of seven gardeners, and provision had been made for sports such as tennis, croquet and clock golf (Keehan 1978, 6).
Life at Great Testwood came to an end in 1931 when the estate was broken up into ten parcels and sold for a variety of uses. The park and houses were bought by Peter Vaudrey Barker-Mill and Testwood house Farm by Mr Mooney. Barker-Mill demolished the mansion and let the site to a commercial firm, which extracted gravel from the northern part of the park to make concrete, then a lake formed naturally. Private housing and a school were built in the southern area, and later an industrial estate occupied the north-west section. In the 1980s, Ken Mooney and Mr Green planned to develop the farm site with good housing, this was met with such great local opposition, that they abandoned their plans and sold the holding in smaller parcels.
At the end of the 20th century Southern Water bought the major part of the northern western area and has excavated more gravel pits for water extraction (Colour Raster map 2013). In 1992, the remaining area of parkland was purchased by Hampshire County Council and designated as a nature reserve. It is managed by The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wild Life Trust (Lower Test Valley trail).

Current description

Testwood Lakes

Testwood Lakes

In 2013, the land, formerly covered by Great Testwood estate, comes under the control of several authorities and has a variety of uses. The main ones are: the former gravel pits which became lakes that are used by Southern Water for water extraction, and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wild Life Trust which continues to manage the nature reserve. Only a small area of Great Testwood Park remains and much of it has reverted back to a natural state.


Great Testwood was an early manorial estate and late 18th century landscape park that continued until the 1930s when some of the land was sold for private housing, commercial use and gravel extraction. The mansion and accompanying Dower house were demolished. In the 1980s further land was sold mainly for water extraction and a nature reserve. Only a fragment of the former parkland estate is privately owned, and much of the land has been allowed to revert back to nature.

HGT Research: October 2013


Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
1M31/30 Volume containing survey of the manor of Testwood
4M49/87 Hampshire Deeds
4M69/PD4 1842 Tithe map of Eling
1791 Milne section 33
1871-2 OS1st ed. 6” & 25”
1897-98 OS 2nd ed. 6”
1913-43 OS 4th ed.
Keehan, J. Great Testwood Park Pub 1978
Stroud, Dorothy Capability Brown Revised edition Pub 1975
VCH, Victoria County History Vol IV p.549
Other Sources
Lower Test Valley Self Guided Trail
Electronic Sources
www.wessexarch.co.uk 12.02.2013
2013 0S Colour Raster

Our address

Totton Historic site - Public Access to Nature trail Click for Disclaimer & copyright
50.935779572794424, -1.507371962070465

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