Vernon Hill House (Vernon Hill)

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HCC Site ID: 1504 Parish: Bishops Waltham
Designations: House LB II, SDNP Area: c2.5 ha
Access: Access See NGS Ownership: Private

Location and Site

Vernon Hill House is north of Bishops Waltham, and to the west of B3035 road to Corhampton. Bishop Waltham is approximately seven to eight miles north of Fareham. The house is in the South Downs National Park.

Historic Development

Probably built as a small manor house in red brick, early parts date from the first half of 17th century. The original entrance porch to the North and a few small paned windows on the north-facing side of the house still exist. The name of the house was changed to Vernon Hill House in the mid-18th century when it was owned by Admiral Vernon who had bought it after his success in the battle of Porto Bello in the Caribbean. Admiral Vernon changed the exterior to make it more impressive changing the entrance from north to south to allow a carriage sweep. He had sash windows added to south-facing rooms and built a Georgian entrance porch with pillars and also erected the ballustrading. A fine staircase and a cornice in the drawing room were also installed. In the very early 19th century the house was used as a prison for French officers. In the mid 19th century the house was lived in by Sir Arthur Helps who added an east wing consisting of a large turret room and several smaller ones. About this time the red brick was covered with stucco. In 1867 the house was sold with ‘1300 acres consisting of gardens, pleasure grounds, shrubberies as well as several well-arranged farms and homesteads, productive water-meadows, cottages, fishing streams and capital shooting’. In 1919 the property was sold again with an acreage reduced to 218 but it still included two farms. In 1949 the house with now only 36 acres (14.6 ha) was bought by Peter Legh, who on the death of his father in 1960 became Lord Newton.
The garden had deteriorated during WW2 and although there were many mature trees, some at least 250 years old there was little else. Peter Legh’s wife, Priscilla, began a restoration which has continued to the present time.
Initially, a rose garden was planted on the flat ground to the north of the house, with a sundial in the centre, later replaced by a lily pond and fountain. Latterly, however, persistent damage by deer has led to most roses being removed with new planting.
On the south side, tender climbers were under-planted with bella donna lilies. Beyond the north lawn, a copse which was once a ‘jungle’, was planted with forsythia, viburnum and other shrubs. Against advice, Lady Newton created a camelia and rhododendron garden which did reasonably well.
Over the years, various small gardens have been developed such as a hot garden of reds/oranges and a cool one of whites. After 1992 and the death of Lord Newton, Lady Newton remarried and created a blue garden then a red and pink one, all divided by hedges of lonicera. Other additions have been a ‘phlox’ garden, a golden garden and a Mediterranean garden in a dry part of the kitchen garden. She also replaced a large rhubarb patch which had been there since 1949 with penstemons.

Current Description

Summary

An early 17th century house enlarged by Admiral Vernon in the mid-18th century. Post WW2 and in the same ownership, the garden has been restored and continually developed with interesting, individual small gardens.

Information: From ‘Vernon Hill House 2002’ by Priscilla Fryer


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