|HCC Site ID:||1264b||Parish:||Sherfield on Loddon|
|Designations:||Area:||1 ha (2.4 acres)|
|Access:||No Public Access||Ownership:||Private residence|
Location and site
The Walled Garden is situated on Wildmoor Lane close to the village of Sherfield on Loddon, four miles north of Basingstoke and twelve miles from Reading. It was once part of the Sherfield Manor Estate, now Sherfield School, whose grounds and lakes are immediately outside the Garden. The property lies within the Sherfield on Loddon Conservation Area. The area is low-lying with a high water table as the River Lodden passes within half a mile.
Some time after 1826 agricultural land on Wildmoor Lane was purchased by Mr Francis Pigott Conant who built a house on the site called Archer Lodge (Tithe map HRO: 21M65/F7/206/1-2). Following Conant’s death a new owner created a walled garden in this corner of the estate, close to two picturesque lakes (HRO:10M57/SP626, OS 1873 and OS 1896). This owner, J. B. Stane removed Archer Lodge, built a new mansion – Buckfield House, and enlarged the walled garden. This garden covered about two acres and contained a symmetrical range of glasshouses with a commanding view down a long path towards the manor house in the park (HRO:10M57/SP627). Following a sale in 1896 (VCH Vol 4 1911, pp 103-108) the property was bought by a wealthy South African businessman, James B Taylor. James Taylor was a partner of the gold and diamond entrepreneurs Julian Wernher and Alfred Beit (Emden 1935); he engaged the architect Fairfax Blomfield Wade to remodel the house and redesign the grounds (Stuart Grey, 1985 p.366, Cunningham papers). Wade was also an expert in wrought-iron work and there are several examples of his work to be found in the grounds of Sherfield School. In the park rare and beautiful trees were added to the pinetum and arboretum and a French garden and a Rose garden were designed, linking to the house to the walled garden by a 200 yard pergola. At the end of the long walk a magnificent Palm House could be seen through the wrought-iron gates of the garden. It was here in the glasshouses, greenhouses and hotbeds that Taylor nurtured his love of exotic plants, rare species and floral abundance which his fortune allowed (The Gardeners’ Chronicle, October 1904). The new Palm House and glasshouses were commissioned from the renowned firm, Messenger and Company of Loughborough probably to the specific design of Fairfax Wade. Messengers were famous, particularly in the Victorian and Edwardian period, for making greenhouses, verandahs, summer houses, cucumber frames, melon pits, mushroom beds, orchid stages, vineries and peach houses. Letters and documents now held by the owner Mrs Cunningham confirm that Taylor, Wade, Messengers and the builder George Trollope all collaborated in the construction of the new glasshouses. Albums of photographs now held by the Hampshire Record Office illustrate the abundance of flowers, fruits and exotic plants which filled the walled garden at this period (HRO: 87A02/1/2/3). The garden continued to be cared for until the Second World War when the then owner, the 15th Earl of Winchilsea, sold the estate to Mr Joseph Mitchell, a timber merchant. In 1947 Mitchell sold the mansion, some land and the walled garden to a school, North Foreland Lodge who retained the garden until 1973 (Cunningham 2009). The buyer hoped to be able to develop the garden site but having failed he sold to Mr Loren Butt who recognized the quality of the Palm House and the glasshouse ranges despite the derelict state in which they stood. Following extensive research he and his wife restored the garden and glasshouses, converting the gardeners’ bothies into a comfortable family home (Butt 2009). In 1990 the garden walls, the Palm House and walls to the vineries were listed by English Heritage Grade II (AHBR). The property was last sold in 2001 and since then a major extension has been added to the east end of the glasshouse range and a raised swimming pool has been constructed in the garden (BDBC Planning).
The property is accessed off Wildmoor Lane through tall wooden gates in the three-metre-high brick garden walls. The drive sweeps into a circular parking area in front of the new extension which is faced entirely with glass. To the right the old gardeners’ bothies have been converted into living accommodation and the glasshouses along the wall have been replaced by a long herbaceous border. To the left one small cold-frame remains, now sadly derelict. Entering the garden from the east end of the site gives a less-than-inspiring view of the rear of the new swimming pool which is partly surrounded by a raised brick wall and changing-room with rear wall painted yellow. A long metal pergola arch separates this part of the garden from the more formal lawned area in front of the Palm House which occupies a gloriously dominant position at the head of a long walk edged by hornbeam trees and leading to the beautiful wrought-iron gates in the walls. From their quality it can be assumed that these gates are likely to have been the work of Fairfax Wade himself. The view through the gates into the grounds of Sherfield School is now obscured by overgrown shrubs and brambles but the walls which are partly rat-trap bond are in good condition. Looking back to the Palm House from the gate the simplicity of the garden design can be appreciated; the line of hornbeams focuses attention on the Palm House and low yew hedges allow a view of the adjoining glasshouse range. A modern garden with small pond has been added at the west end of the glasshouse range but this does not detract from the lines of the buildings. The rootbeds can still be seen in front of the vineries and inside the glasshouses all the mechanical parts are still in perfect working order.
The walled garden of Sherfield Manor was at its peak in the first decade of the twentieth century; it was a showpiece of exotic floral abundance and the pinnacle of interest for visitors to the main mansion. Like so many other walled gardens it fell into disuse after the Second World War but it was fortunate to have been restored in the 1980s.
The Walled Garden is a superb demonstration of a sensitive restoration of an important example of late Victorian glasshouses. The known association of the architect Fairfax Blomfield Wade and the firm Messenger in the construction of the Palm House adds to the interest. The walls of the garden and the Palm House itself are listed separately (Grade II) as are the glasshouse ranges, the bothies and the rootbeds. The gates, which match the listed main gates of Sherfield School, should if confirmed to be the work of Fairfax Wade also be listed. The exterior of the garden walls along Wildmoor Lane provides a visually pleasing vista and walk in this corner of the Sherfield on Loddon Conservation Area.
HGT Research: June 2009
Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
21M65/F7/206/1/2 1841 Tithe map and apportionment
10M57/SP626 1863 sale details Archer Lodge. Map
10M57/SP627 1888 sale details Sherfield Manor. Map
87A02/1/2/3 Collection photographs, available on disk. c.1891, Lethbridge and Taylor eras.
112A03/H3/2 Biographical details on James Taylor and Fairfax B Wade
HCC files: traced copy of 1841 tithe map, with apportionment.
Ordnance Survey maps:
1st edition 1872-1873, 25” ; 2nd edition 1899, 25”; 3rd edition 1910, 25”; 3rd edition 1911-1912, 6”;
Colour Raster 2008, 1:5000; MasterMap 2008, 1:5000
All Ordnance Survey maps from HCC/HGT datasets
OS Explorer 2004 Sheet 144
Emden, P.H. 1935 Randlords Hodder and Stouton p.317
Stuart Gray, A., 1985 Edwardian Architecture, Duckworth, p.366
Newspaper and journal articles
‘Sherfield Manor’ in The Gardeners’ Chronicle 1 October 1904, pp.235 and 236
Spackman, A. ‘People who live in Glasshouses’, Independent 3 February 1996
Sturgis, M., ‘Making the most of the Greenhouse Effect’, The Daily Telegraph, 4 November 2000
Page, W. ed.1911 Victoria County History: A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 4, pp.103-108
Sherfield on Loddon Parish
Hampshire Treasures 03/12/08:
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council
Hampshire County Council
Press Cuttings Files at Basingstoke Public Library. Sherfield on Loddon, North Foreland Lodge
Basingstoke and Deane Council Offices: Electoral Register 2009 Bramley and Sherfield
Mr and Mrs Loren Butt who undertook the restoration and researched the history of the property.
Mrs Miranda Cunningham who kindly allowed access to original letters between Mr James Taylor and Messengers and George Trollope, also deeds of ownership for the property.