|HCC Site ID:||1588||Parish:||Beauworth|
|Designations:||SDNP, House LB II*. SINC||Area:||Medium|
|Access:||No Public Access||Ownership:||Private|
Image: Eleanor Whitehouse
Location and Site
The Holt is situated to the west of Preshaw House on high chalk downland backing onto Dur Wood.
The Holt appears to have been rebuilt around 1689 incorporating an older Tudor house. Evidence of the rebuilding at this time comes from the initials AF together with the date 1689 found carved in a pediment and a William III coin dated 1696 was also found. The style was associated with the lesser gentry and superior yeomen, which persisted until the mid-18th century in England and even longer as the prototype of many Colonial houses in the United States.
Robert Kirby bought the nearby Preshaw estate in 1707 and left it for trustees to sell on his death in 1721, in favour of his brother-in-law, Augustin Fisher. Given the recorded link with Preshaw and the Long family from 1728 onwards, it is possible that Augustin Fisher is the AF carved on the pediment and that the house was included in the sale of the Preshaw estate to John Long in 1728.
The front of the house is pedimented and retained traces of the warm ochre wash prevalent in the 18th century. The back of the house is very different from the William and Mary cube of the front. At some stage a sizeable wing was added, with an intrusive water tower which was reduced and the wing remodelled during alterations undertaken by the architects Trenwith Wills and Wills for Mrs Leavett-Shenley in 1955. There is a second tower-like projection which looks like part of an older house. The idea of an older house is supported by internal evidence of ‘post-and-pan’ oak partitioning, which could have been the screen of an early Tudor hall on the ground floor, moved when the house was rebuilt around 1689 and returned at a later stage and placed at the head of the staircase. Christopher Hussey wrote in Country Life, 1964: ‘I have always approached it from the back, a drive that drops steeply through the wood into a grove of ancient yews scattered at first but soon …thick… It is probable that the thickets and ramparts of yews and box, which have obviously flourished on the chalk hillside for a very long time, were mostly planted when the house was given its present form at the end of the 17th century, to enclose a terraced garden behind the house.’ The article also refers to sweeping lawns and blue and rose pink borders as well as a semicircle of marble benches. Changes to the yew-hedged garden had been carried out by Mr and Mrs Walter Long in the early 20th century when they moved their main residence from Preshaw to The Holt. Mrs Leavett-Shenley had distinguished Anglo-American colonial ancestors and with her second husband built up a substantial and tasteful collection of art and furniture.
The estate has undergone considerable restoration with significant woodland pasture remaining, though there is on-going concern over tree management.In recent years there has also been delightful redesigns of the gardens by Kim Wilkie in particular the striking, iconic grass terraces sweeping upward in the shape of a bird’s wing in flight and a grassed mound with its deceptively hidden, winding pathway.
Summary and significance
Possibly incorporating an earlier Tudor house, The Holt was developed in the 17th century in a style associated with the lesser gentry. In the 18th and 19th century there were strong links with the Long family of Preshaw. Its significance lies particularly in the retained woodland pasture and iconic new garden features designed by Kim Wilkie.
Information: February 2003 update 2019